Over the next several months I will be offering you instructional tips from my teaching philosophy that will make your golfing pursuit simple, easier, more effective…..and more fun.
All of this pursuit and accumulation of knowledge bears out the quote to me while I was competing in the 1963 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach by amateur Richard Davies of Annandale Golf Club in Pasadena, CA. He then was the reigning British Amateur Champion. Davies said, “Regarding the fascination of this game called golf, it is the quest.” How true he was! Let’s begin the quest together!
I’ve always felt that a golf professional should exhaust his or her potential as a player. From the time I turned professional in 1957, I tried to play as many Tour events as I could without jeopardizing my club professional responsibilities. I played in more than 200 Tour events, including 15 Los Angeles Opens, 16 Bing Crosby Pro Ams, 8 U.S. Opens, and 6 PGA Championships during my competitive career which extended well into my employment as Head Golf Professional at Bel Air Country Club in 1962. Competing at the highest level in golf provided me with a unique insight into helping others become more accomplished players.
While working as an assistant golf professional at Merion Golf Club and because I was required to give lessons, I discovered what was to become a very important facet of my life: Teaching gave me a sense of satisfaction that I did not feel from playing. There was a sense of giving that tournament golf did not provide, and I decided to devote myself to learning how to teach others this great game.
I start every lesson by asking my student what he wants to accomplish. This two way communication is essential to the learning process so I want to ask each of you to read my teaching with that thought in mind, “What do you want to take away from this experience?”
Any golfer’s quest to improve and learn is bound to evolve his or her basic fundamentals. There is no escaping the fact that sound fundamentals will build a strong and reliable foundation on which to build a repeating and effective golf swing.
There are 4 pillars that are the underpinning of every golf swing:
- Set Up
- Hand Action
We are first going to present and dissect the “Set Up” in its entirety, explaining each of the six essential, and four elective elements. All of which are designed to make us feel more like a modern day Ben Hogan who was without peer in his “Set Up.”
Speaking of Ben Hogan, in 1957 at the U.S. Open being played at Inverness Club in Toledo Ohio, I found myself in the player’s locker room at the adjoining urinal next to the Great Ben Hogan.
I said to myself, “This is hardly the place to encounter an immortal!”
During my tenure at Merion Golf Club, I was drawn into the “Hogan Mystique” by the legend surrounding his 1950 U.S. Open victory there. Francis Sullivan, a Merion member, was Hogan’s personal and legal counsel and one of his best friends. Sullivan became like a surrogate father to me and served as godfather to my son Michael. Through this relationship, Ben provided me with a set of clubs (1959 model), which were duplicates of his personal clubs. I played with that set of irons for twenty-five years.
All the elements in the “Set Up” are designed to make us effective, efficient and more consistent. No guarantee however! The guarantee comes from how you swing the club and contact the ball, but a solid “Set Up” position will increase your rate of successful ball striking.
The 6 Essential Elements are:
- Ball Placement
- Stance Width
- Weight Distribution
The 4 Elective components of the “Set Up” consist of:
- Looks at the Target
- Forward Press
Mind you these elective features are purposeful but not essential. They will however be of great value in developing a comfortable pre-shot routine that will help you perform in pressure situations.
Posture should be as natural as possible. Normal posture has us stand perfectly erect, not slouched. A great way to gain a sense of normal posture is to address and grip the club in mid-air, standing erect with the club raised up and in front so that it is easy to get the relationship between grip, club and body. Then, lower the club to the ball with the arms and hands, measuring the distance to the ball while simultaneously tilting the straight spine forward (toward the ball) at the hips with the weight settling evenly between the heels and the balls of the feet. Coincidentally, the head will naturally move a bit forward (toward the ball) and the rear end backward (out, away from the ball) as the body naturally finds its center.
When properly postured, you should feel solid, stable, athletic, and poised to move.
I look forward to seeing you on the next tee in a couple of weeks time.