5 of the Best Golf Lessons I’ve Ever Had

 As a PGA Professional, I’ve spent 100’s of hours on the range giving golf lessons.  However, it’s the golf lessons I’ve received over the years that I enjoy passing on to my students…I hope you enjoy and find value in 5 of my favorites below:

1)  If you notice a guy at the end of the range hitting one shank after another, but he keeps looking over his shoulder and appears to have a grin on his face, and you wonder how anyone could be that happy about hitting the ball sideways, then the same person meets you on the 1st tee and wants to play you for $20 per side….DO NOT TAKE THE BET!!!!

Lesson:  In my experience, 90% of all golf bets are won and lost before anyone hits their 1st shot. 

2)  In small towns, like the one I grew up in, guys (and girls) learn how to shoot 66 wearing steel toed boots, cut off jeans, with grips that haven’t been changed in 10 years, and clubs with bent shafts that all seem to have a nickname like ‘Betsy’ or ‘Betty Sue’ or ‘Thunder’.  They play on circuits known as the ‘Manure Tour’, and most golf clubs (read: 9 – hole courses in which the roughs are more likely ‘mowed’ by sheep than by machine) have 20 – 30 members who always seem to play 1 stroke better than they need to on any particular day. 

Lesson #1:  You never know what you’re capable of achieving unless you set the bar higher than you think you can ever reach. 

Lesson #2:  When Lee Trevino stated that “Pressure is playing a $20 Nassau with only $10 in your pocket”…I can relate.  Also, reread Lesson above about 90% of all bets are won and lost…

Lesson #3:  If a guy is smiling while hitting shanks on the range and he’s wearing steel toed boots, just leave the course…quickly.

3)  In that same small town, as a 17 year old kid ‘swimming among the sharks’, I was 4 holes up with 4 holes to play in the finals of the Cedardell Match Play Championship, one of the ‘Majors’ on the ‘Manure Tour’.  I was practically holding the trophy, and practicing my victory speech, while teeing off on the 15th hole.  Over the next 5 holes, I made 5 consecutive pars…and lost when Mr. Loux rolled in his 5th consecutive birdie putt on the 19th hole to beat me 1-Up.

Lesson:  Too many to list…perhaps the best and worst golfing moment of my life all wrapped up into one.  When it first happened:  be gracious in defeat…keep your chin up…never let them see you cry.  Years later reflecting back:  appreciate the genius and greatness in others, even when it works against you…use setbacks to become better than you were yesterday…in life, you can always use one more birdie, even when you think the game is over.

4)  We all have experienced those ‘special’ rounds, the ones seared into our memories because of how we played or where we played.  Maybe it’s playing Pebble Beach, or winning the Club Championship.  I’ve been fortunate to have several…playing Waterville Golf Links in Ireland, early one crisp, cool morning, as the sun was coming up and a light fog was rolling back out into the ocean…the entire golf course all to myself…my clarity of thought, about golf and life, was absolutely incredible that morning.  Or, shooting 63 at Village Greens on aerified greens, feeling like I just couldn’t miss a shot no matter what.  Those rounds are magical…spiritual…those rounds are few are far between.  We all wish they would happen more often…or do we?  I think we need to experience dozens if not hundreds of ‘normal’ rounds to truly appreciate those rare experiences that we’ll remember and treasure forever. 

Lesson:  Relationships are like that, you know.  We meet hundreds of people going about our daily lives.  Those people play a vital role in our happiness and well-being, so we can’t take them for granted.  But when you meet someone extraordinary, like that perfect round, you have to treasure that person forever…they don’t come along every day.   

5)  I’ll never forget the 1st time I touched a golf club.  Nor will I ever forget the 1st time I saw a golf club in my son’s hands.   In the blink of an eye I went from student to teacher, from son to father, from inspiration to admiration, from trying to hit a ball myself to trying to duck out of the way before being getting hit. 

Lesson #1:  Life is good…

Lesson #2:  But life goes by way too fast…grab your clubs and go play some golf today.

Q & A with Mark Tolle – The Chicago Golf Trainer

Mark Tolle is the owner of Chicago Golf Fitness.  He has over 18 years of experience in athletic training, rehabilitation and fitness.  He prides himself on being up to date with the most current fitness techniques and training.  Mark uses an individualized program for each client and his goal is to assess problems and improve function.  I recently had the opportunity to interview Mark about some ways you can use fitness to improve your game.

 Q: In your experience, what are the most common deficiencies or limitations you witness in the average golfer that has the greatest influence on keeping them from optimal performance?

A: The most common physical limitation in an average golfer that I see has to do with mobility and flexibility in the upper back and hips.   It is very important to have good mobility and flexibility in both of these areas.  Mobility and flexibility technically refer to 2 different things, so often times the approach to improve both are a little different.  A key point to recognize is that it’s not all about stretching.

The upper back (thoracic spine) is designed to rotate and if you have restriction in that area, your shoulder turn in the golf swing will be limited.  One of the key factors in a good shoulder turn is posture, as well.  So if you have poor upper back posture (curve forward in set up) it is more difficult for the spine to rotate as needed in the swing.  Then what happens when you go into your backswing is your body tries to get the needed rotation from somewhere else and creates compensations.  The one significant compensation that occurs is over rotation through the low back (lumbar spine).  This leads to back pain because the low back is not made to rotate like the upper back.  Then of course you don’t perform a good fundamentally sound swing.

Mobility and flexibility in the hips is also a common limitation I find.  I actually measure the range of motion in the hip and find that internal rotation is often times very limited. If this occurs on the backside hip it limits a good hip turn and can again lead to compensations elsewhere such as the low back, as well as changes in the spine angle of the golf swing. 

Every golfer that wants to improve their game needs to have these 2 areas assessed, and if limitations are found, work hard to improve them. 

Q: Everyone likes to hit the ball further…what are a couple of the methods or recommendations you use to get your clients to achieve greater clubhead speed and power?

A: Club head speed and power in the golf swing is created by a combination of factors.  I think of the golf swing as a sequence of loading and unloading of body parts.  I always think back to an educational seminar on golf and fitness I attended.  I remember there was an individual also in attendance that had a background in physics and biomechanics.  She wasn’t a golf or fitness professional and didn’t really play the game.  However she understood the swing and could break it down and explain it with the best of them.  My point being is a good golf swing is dependent upon efficient use of the levers in the body, and control of the forces that are generated in the swinging motion.

Often times the golf swing and its power development has been described as a whip.  In other words, the club head speed at impact is like the powerful crack of a whip.  You load the whip with the motion of the shoulder, arm and hand, and it transfers to the tip at impact.  A similar thing happens with the golf swing.   So to achieve greater club head speed you need efficient use of the levers (mobility/flexibility) and control of forces (stability) that pass through to the club head at impact.  

One of my obligations as a golf fitness professional is to aid the golf professional by helping his student have the mobility/flexibility to load the sequence of the golf swing and the stability to control the forces so they can be transferred out to the club head. 

The way I help create more power in the golf swing is to work with the teaching professional so that I can improve the golfer’s mobility where it is needed.  That way the professional is able to put the golfer in better positions in the golf swing.  Also I improve pelvic/core stability so that they can then control and transfer more power to the club at impact. 

 Q: If someone is already engaged in a ‘typical’ fitness routine at the gym (for instance, use of cardio equipment like a treadmill, typical exercises and lifts with weights like bench presses, curls, and squats, etc.), what are the major components of a ‘golf-specific’ training program that they are still lacking? What makes your program(s) different than the advice they might find in a typical mens or womens fitness magazine?

A: I look at fitness and performance from 2 different perspectives.  First, and generally speaking, there are many people’s lives that can be improved and in many ways, by just becoming more fit.  I know that by just losing weight, becoming stronger or more flexible, they will feel better be healthier and play better golf.  I always support any kind exercise over nothing.

However, by using a fitness or sport specific coach your results are going to be better and longer lasting.  I often times use the phrase, “if you layer fitness on top of dysfunction the body will eventually give out”.  What this means is, if you just exercise with all disregard for how your body functions your performance will suffer and your body will give out.  You need to make sure you have good posture.  You need to make sure the right muscles are doing the right job (no compensations).  You need to make sure your joints have good mobility. These and many other reasons justify the use of some type of fitness coaching.

With my golf specific training, I provide an in depth functional movement screen, an injury prevention screen as well as a golf specific analysis.  I always speak with the teaching professional if they have one, and if they don’t I recommend one.  What this does is give me a clear path as to what needs to be worked on.  Swing faults many times have physical limitations as a cause.  So watching a lesson, and speaking with the teaching professional ensures a team approach to golf performance.  Even though there are many good tips in magazines or floating around online, you truly benefit to a higher degree with this type of personal team approach.  Everyone is different, so general training may often times be a waste of time if you are looking for improvements in your game.

 Q: Obviously, everyone is unique. But, on average, what do you think the typical woman needs to focus on as it relates to golf specific training? What does the average man need to focus on?

A: When training women golfers I take the same approach when performing the physical screens.  That way I still can know what the biggest roadblocks are to acquiring an improved game.  Typically women need to work more on strength in the upper body, trunk and legs.  Getting stronger can do wonders for a women’s golf game.  They tend to have pretty good mobility, however they have trouble controlling that mobility.  So strength and stability is an important factor for women.

Men on the other hand tend to have mobility/flexibility and posture issues.  A good mobility program for the upper back & hips can make a big difference in their golf swing and game. 

Q: What are some of the results, both in terms of golf and overall lifestyle improvements, have you witnessed as a result of following your programs and utilizing your training? Is it really possible to improve your golf game by improving your physical abilities?

A: It has been a great pleasure to work with golfers.  I’m always grateful to have the opportunity to help out fellow golfers, and anyone that wants to improve their lives.  I have had golfers lose weight and be able to walk a golf course, where they couldn’t before.  I worked in outpatient rehabilitation for 15 years and was able to help many injured golfers return to playing.  Many golfers hit the ball further and generally play better.  I have helped golfers with back pain get back on the course and even lower their handicap.  I especially enjoy working with the golf professional in a team approach to help take golfers to the next level.  I often feel as if I have a moral obligation to reach out and help as many people as possible improve their lives. 

I not only believe it is possible to improve your golf game with fitness, but I think it should become the norm for golf schools, golf academies and all golfers.  Not only for the “Good Of The Game” but for the “Good Of Our Bodies”

Q: I’m sure several of our golfers will be ready to start a golf fitness program after hearing your answers here. How can golfers contact you for further information?

A: I can be reached by telephone at 773-965-4959 or e-mail at mark@chicagogolftrainer.com.  I also have a website and blog that provides additional information that can help with any questions.  I do offer free, no obligation consultations where golfers can meet me and find out how they can improve their individual game.  Also I have an e-mail newsletter people can sign up for. I can be followed on twitter at “golffit” as well.

5 Ways to Break Through a Scoring Plateau

I was stuck.   Thousands of range balls for months on end, and nothing.  Not even half a stroke improvement.  My game had simply stopped improving.

Since all else had failed, and frustration was setting in, as a last resort I took the Taoist approach:  I quit trying.   Sort of.

Instead of hitting range ball after range ball, focusing on various parts of my swing, I concentrated instead on ‘peripherial’ activities like shotmaking, trick shots, hand-eye coordination, and practice games.  

That’s when it happened.  My drives got longer.  My irons became more precise.  My putts started dropping.  My scores improved.

How could this be?  I wasn’t working as hard…wasn’t sweating as much…wasn’t toiling away for hours on the range.

Truth is, I hadn’t really stopped working as hard.  I was simply working smarter – working on things that actually led to an improvement in my scores rather than simply an improvement in my swing.  The new ‘games’ I was using on the range was stimulating my creativity and allowing me to transfer my swing improvements into scoring improvements.  

My realization: Changing the practice/training approach is the trigger for blasting through a frustrating scoring plateau.

Since then, I’ve experimented with dozens of rut-busting methods.  Here I list five of my favorites.  I invite you to give them a shot.  For maximum benefit, use only one technique at a time, and give it enough time – perhaps rotating every 4 weeks.  If you’ve been golfing consistently for a year or more, you’ll change the look of your game—and your scores.

Identify Your Weaknesses

Every golfer, regardless of handicap, has probably experienced a sticking point: a time in which your scores simply aren’t improving.  In all liklihood, you’re only practicing or reinforcing your strengths.  Find your weaknesses and strengthen them, and you’ll be able to shoot lower scores.  Your weak link is easy to locate: It’s usually the area of your game you enjoy practicing the least.  After all, it’s human nature to avoid uncomfortable situations, or situations where we’re more likely to fail.  Unfortunately, the game of golf always finds a way to expose your weaknesses, ofter at the most inopportune time. 

The fix:  Once you indentify your weaknesses, practice them in towards the middle of a practice session.  Always start your practice sessions with something fun, so you look forward to starting and mentally get ‘into’ the practice early on.  Then, switch to one of your weaknesses…bunker play, flop shots, chipping, 3 foot putts.  End your practice session with one of your strengths or something you feel more comfortable with to regain your confidence and leave the range with a sense of accomplishment.

Example:  One of my weaknesses is distance control on 10 -20 foot breaking putts.  Two of my strengths are short putts and lag putting from 30 – 40 feet.  Therefore, I’ll often begin a practice session hitting some long putts to get a feel for distance control without the expectations of making the putts, merely getting them in the vicinity of the hole.  Then, I’ll play 2-3 ‘games’ that test my abilities and performance in my weak zone – those 10 – 20 foot breaking putts.  Then, I’ll end the practice session by making 25 3-foot putts in a row to regain my confidence after it’s inevitably wained after struggling through my weakness. 

Think Small

Most golfers try to increase too much too quickly.  The improvement and adaptation process should be gradual, especially as your ability levels increase. A psychotherapist might call it taking baby steps.  I prefer the old adage ‘one shot at a time’.   In order for this to be effective, however, you have to establish a benchmark for improvement.  But once you do, it’s the simplest way to see both immediate and long term gains when you’re stuck in a rut.

The fix:  Establish a benchmark, then spend a month trying to improve upon the baseline score.  Psychologically, increasing your measureable performance is tangible proof that you’re making progress, and that can avoid mental ruts, which are much more common than physical ruts.

Examples:  On day #1, measure a 30 foot chip.  Hit 25 chips to the target one at a time, trying to convert the putt for an ‘up and down’ after each chip.  Record your success.  For example, on day #1 you may get 5 of the 25 ‘up and down’.  Practice your chipping for a week, then repeat the test.  In week #2, you may get 7 out of 25, in week #3 you may convert 10 out of 25, and so on.  It may not seem like much, but consider in the example I just used that you just increased your chipping 100% in 3 weeks, results not atypical from those I often see in my students. 

Avoid Swing Thoughts – Practice ‘Feel’

When we’re concentrating on the individual movements of our swings, it’s often unrealistic to expect an improvement in the quality of our shots.  To improve your scores, you have to eventually convert swing improvements into shot improvements.  Better players often refer to this as ‘feel’.  Stimulate this process by practicing in a manner your typically not accustomed to…a process I refer to as ‘shot practice’.  

The fix:  I always tell my students…Imagine Michael Jordan practicing his jumpshot alone in the gym.  He may work on getting more flex in his knees, more snap in his wrist, squaring his forearm to the target.  However, when Michael got the ball in a game with 3 seconds on the clock and the game on the line, defenders running at him from all angles, I bet he never once thought to himself “all right, lets make sure I really bend my knees this time.”.  Yet that’s how many of us play golf…it doesn’t make sense.   Shot practice will increase your feel and actually tell you if the swing thoughts you’ve been working on are ingrained enough (or effective enough) to allow you to perform a variety of shots when necessary on the course.

Examples:  Divide your bucket of range balls into groups of 5 balls.  Focus on a particular type of shot for 5 balls at a time without focusing on a particular swing thought.  For instance, hit 5 hooks with a 5-iron as if you had to work a ball around a large oak tree.  Hit the next 5 balls with a pitching wedge as if you were hitting into a 30 mph headwind.  Hit the next 5 balls with a lob wedge as if you had to hit it over a large bunker and have the ball land softly on the green.   Hit the next 5 as if you had a wide open par 5 and you had to get home in two. 

Lie to Yourself

In my opinion, confidence should be manufactured, not acquired as a result of a performance improvement.  If you wait too long to see your performance improve, your confidence will be lacking.  On the other hand, if you enter a situation with a high level of confidence, you’re likely to plow through obstacles and ultimately find success.  So, where does confidence come from?  The space between your ears…and you can ‘invent’ it whenever you want.  I often do it by lying to myself initially until I believe it to be true, then one day it just seems to come to fruition.

The fix:  Repeat a mantra to yourself at the beginning of any practice session.  Do it every day for 30 days until you truly believe it.  In no time, you’ll actually

Examples:  When I arrived at St. Charles Country Club for my 1st assistant golf professional position, I probably wasn’t in the top 10 players in the entire club.  I lied to myself every day for 30 days…”I am the best golfer at St. Charles Country Club.  I can beat anybody”.  After about 4-5 months of hard work and ‘believing’, I could hold my own against anybody in the club.  I often have my students repeat things like:  “I’m the best putter in XYZ Ladies League”.  “I’m the best player in my high school conference.”  Not only does this keep someone in a positive frame of mind, but it often inspires them to achieve things they otherwise didn’t believe was initially possible.  Don’t be afraid to set your goals high. 

Play Practice

When you only practice one area of your game, your body and mind quickly adapt and will figure out the path of least resistance to perform the required task.  Instead, practice golf like you play golf…move around and don’t try the same shot more than once in a row.  After all, on the course you may hit a driver, followed by a punch out from under the trees, followed by a 9-iron to the green, followed by a chip shot, etc.  Practice golf in this same manner.

The fix:  Take all of your clubs out of your bag.  Vow to spend a couple of practice sessions in the next month using your imagination to play your favorite course on the driving range. 

Examples:  On the driving range, I’ll imagine standing on the 1st tee at Village Greens.  I’ll take out my hybrid and try to hit a gentle fade around the fairway bunker I’m imagining 220 yards away.  Next, I’ll hit a 9-iron with a slight draw to a pin I’m imagining on the left front of the green.  If I hit a bad shot, I’ll next imaging the chip shot I have to hit close to the pin.  Etc.  

Note: Sometimes you need to overhaul your routine to get your game to the next level.  I wish you the best of luck in your game improvement program.

Link-Up-2-Golf-4-Women – The Cliffs Notes – Putting

Green Etiquette:

 On the green, we if we make a ball mark we should fix it by taking a tee or divot repair tool and stick it in green around the perimeter of the ball mark, pulling the grass back up towards the center.  Tap the green flat again using your putter.  At all times, we are trying to keep the green as smooth and well conditioned as possible.

Green no-no’s: 

Don’t talk while others are hitting, don’t walk in someones line (area between their ball and the hole), or have your shadow draped across someones line while they are putting.  Otherwise, have fun.

Being Helpful:

You may ask, or someone may ask you, to TEND the flagstick if putting from a great distance.  Hold the flag in the hole until the person putts, then quickly remove it so their ball doesn’t hit the flag and they incur a penalty.   In addition, we should be ‘reading’ our putts and prepared to hit when it’s our turn (person furthest from the hole putts next).

Marking and replacing the Ball

Once the ball is on the putting green, you may mark it with a coin or other flat object, clean it, and replace it.  Often, we do this out of courtesy for other golfers who we’re interferring with because we’re closer to the hole.  Mark the ball behind or to the side, and sometimes you’ll be asked to ‘move’ your mark…line up with some point in the distance and move your mark the width of your putter head, reversing the process when it’s your turn again.


Putting Grip: 

Take your ‘normal’ grip if you want, or experiment with extending one or both of your second fingers down the side of the club to reduce excess wrist movement.

1st Requirement of Good Putting:

The path the club is swinging in at impact determines direction.  Our club should be traveling along our intended target line through impact.  One of our favorite games to play is to place a couple of tees on the inside and outside of the clubhead with approximately 1/4 inch clearance, and try to hit some putts while avoiding the tees. 

Our second favorite game is to build confidence and clubhead path awareness by practicing 1 foot putts…if you miss, you instantly know which direction your club was traveling in.

2nd Requirement of Good Putting – Technical Ability

Fortunately, the putting stroke is the easiest stroke to learn…unfortunately, the goal of putting is to get a 1 inch ball into a 4 inch cup.  This requires precision and efficiency.  Precision and efficiency are attained when you utilize the fewest moving body parts, namely the arms and shoulders.  Any movement below the waist and any movement in the hands and wrists should be eliminated.  Set up to an imaginary ball without a club, and, while keeping your knees perfectly still, swing your arms and shoulders back and forth…you’ll notice no wrist or hand movement.  Strive for the same feeling with a club in your hand.

Excess lower body movement is a killer…notice how Prince’s legs have moved.

Excess hand and wrist movement is a killer…notice how Prince’s arms have stopped moving and the club has ‘flipped’ his hands and wrists.

 3rd Requirement – Distance Control / Reading the Green

Reading the greens refers to the art of looking at the putting surface to determine whether the sloping ground will cause the ball to curve (known as the ‘break’ of the green), or require a change in velocity due to going uphill or downhill. 

Without proper distance control, you cannot ‘read’ the break of the greens.  When attempting breaking putts, select an alternative target (indicated by the tee in the photo below) and start the ball rolling along that line.

The slope, or break of the green will take it back towards the target.   

 To hone your distance control, play a game whereby you space tees about 3 feet apart and roll balls as close to each tee as possible.  Hit to a further tee only when you have ‘mastered’ the previous distance.  Vary your putts uphill and downhill to gauge the affect of slope on speed control. 



















Practice Like a Pro – Day #11 – My Favorite Putting Game

Practice like a PGA Pro…no, not Tiger Woods.  Me…Brandon Evans…a local PGA Pro with a fun job which occupies 8-12 hours of energy per day, 2 kids and a beautiful wife at home who I love spending time with, an affinity for landscaping, and too little time to practice golf. 

Day #11 – My favorite Putting Game

Focus:  Putting

Description:  Practice with a purpose…I can’t stress it enough.  My favorite putting game accomplishes several objectives:  short putts, distance control, putting under pressure with consequences.

The game requires a bit of set-up.  From the hole, measure 6 feet (approximately 2 putter-lengths), 9 feet, 12 feet, 15 feet, and 18 feet marked by a tee placed at each location.   Then, beginning at the front of the hole, mark a 1/2 circle to the sides and behind the hole of one putter length (see photo below).

The game is played like this:  Hit consecutive putts beginning at 6 feet, the 9, then 12, etc.  5 putts (one from each location) equals one round.  I usually play 5 to 10 rounds to complete a session.  If a putt is holed from 6 feet, you earn 1 point.  2 points from 9 feet, up to 5 points from 18 feet.  If a putt is missed, but stops rolling in the 1/2 circle (at least to the front of the hole, not more than 1 clublength offline or beyond the hole), you earn 0 points.  If the putt comes up short of the hole or rolls beyond the boundaries of the 1/2 circle, you deduct 1 point.  Keep track of total points for each round and totals for the session.  

Objective:  10 Rounds – max score.

Time:  I completed the drill in 15 minutes, with 12 points being my highest total for a single round and a total of 76 points for the entire drill.

Bonus:  Play the game with a friend like my assistant Prince below for extra challenge and fun.


Link-Up-2-Golf-4-Women Beginners Class – Cliffs Notes – The Golf Grip

Holding the club properly is essential for both comfort and function…a bad grip will cause unnessary pain and frustration.

For a right handed golfer, the left hand is placed on the top of the club, the right hand beneath the left.

For beginners, we stress two key positions for the left hand:

1)  The left thumb is extended down the top or center of the club

2)  The fleshy pad of the left hand rests on top of the club.

The easiest way to achieve these positions is to hold the club in your right hand near the bottom of the grip at a 45 degree angle extended in front of you, then grip the club with your left hand as if shaking someones hand.

You’ve accomplished the correct position if you can extend your left arm in front of you, remove the last 3 fingers of the left hand, and hold the club securely with your second finger under the club and that fleshy part of your palm on the top of the club. 

The right hand is added to the club by placing the creases in the middle of your fingers under the club and wrapping your hand around the top so your right thumb extends down the center or top of the club…the left thumb with disappear to some extent. 

You can ‘connect’ your hands in one of three ways, all of which depend solely on comfort…the baseball or 10 finger grip (1/2 will feel comfortable with this one), the interlocking grip (1/2 will feel comfortable with this one), or the overlapping grip (most won’t feel comfortable with this one).


Link-Up-2-Golf-4-Women Beginners Class – Cliffs Notes – The Set-Up

Setting up to the ball involves finding an athletic stance combined with ‘natural’ positions not influenced by a club or a golf ball.

We strongly recommend practicing and becoming familiar with YOUR natural set-up position without the use of a club.

Feet are approximately shoulder width apart.

Knees are slightly flexed…women tend to revert to straight legs…knees flexed so front of knees are over the balls of your feet.

CRITICAL:  You MUST bend forward from your hips, not your neck and shoulders.  To reinforce the feeling of bending from hips, attach one end of a club to both the back of your head and the base of your rear.  Bend forward, maintaining contact with both body parts.  Most people do not bend from the hips, and as a result do not set themselves properly to swing towards the ground. 

Once bent forward from the HIPS, allow your arms to hang straight down from your shoulders.  NOTE:  your arms always meet in the middle of your body, always meet extend away from your body, and always meet in the same place directly beneath your shoulders.  Once a club is in your hand and a ball in front of you, you DO NOT deviate from this position…it is your ‘natural’ position based on your body dimensions and comfort.  This is also our way of determining the properly length equipment suitable for YOUR set-up and body.  The equipment fits you, not vice versa!

The ball is to be placed in the middle of your stance (with two exceptions, driver off a tee and chip shots…to be discussed later), because the middle of our stance represents the lowest point of our swing (hands are their lowest in the middle) and therefore offers the best chance of getting the ball airborne.

Link-Up-2-Golf-4-Women Beginners Class – Cliffs Notes – The Equipment

Notes from Class #1:

If your husband requires a note so you can buy new golf clubs and stop using his hand-me-downs, I will provide one for you.

In general, the longer the club, the further it’s designed to hit a ball.  As clubs get shorter, they also have more loft to hit the ball higher.

There are 4 main types of clubs:

Woods – Usually contains #1 wood also known as the driver, #3 and sometimes #5.

Irons – identified by the # on the bottom, usually includes #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, and P or Pitching Wedge for most womens sets.  Beginners sets include every other iron to save money.

Hybrids – Recent technological advancement, designed to replace irons like #3, #4, #5 which can be difficult to hit…hybrids are generally easier to hit than ‘long’ irons. 

Putter – Useful for rolling the ball and mini-golf.

Looking to buy clubs, look for a ‘cavity-back’ iron, or hollowed out backside…they are much easier to hit.

Golf shoes are useful but not necessary…athletic cleats like soccer or baseball shoes are not allowed on golf courses. 

Golf gloves help protect tender hands and prevent slipping – highly recommended – buy glove for your top hand (left hand for a right handed golfer).

In your pocket at all times:  Tees, ball marker, divot repair tool, scorecard, pencil, provisional (or second) ball.

In your bag at all times: towel, extra glove, extra balls, plenty of beer.

Marking or drawing on your golf ball is not only beneficial for identification purposes, but also the ‘cool’ thing to do right now.

Practice Like a Pro – Day #10 – Putt Through the Gate

Practice like a PGA Pro…no, not Tiger Woods.  Me…Brandon Evans…a local PGA Pro with a fun job which occupies 8-12 hours of energy per day, 2 kids and a beautiful wife at home who I love spending time with, an affinity for landscaping, and too little time to practice golf. 

Day #10 – Putt Through the Gate

Focus:  Putting

Description:  Your putting success, especially with regards to short putts, is usually determined by your ability to start the ball on the intended target line and hit the ball off the ‘sweet spot’ of your club.  One of my favorite drills accomplishes/teaches both of these objectives.  I will usually practice this drill about once every two weeks, and will often use this drill immediately before heading out to the course for a round of golf.  

Practicing golf (especially short game) should also incorporate the sense of pressure and/or accomplishment.  To perform this drill and add ‘pressure’, set up two tees about 1/4 to 1/16 of an inch on either side of your putter head, depending on your skill level (see photo below).  Your objective is to hit 25 putts from about 15 feet away from a target without touching either tee on your through swing.  If you swing without touching a tee you get 1 credit…if you touch a tee, you start the drill all over again.  Pressure arises as you get closer to your goal (25 putts) knowing if you clip a tee you have to start all over.

Objective:  Hit 25 putts.

Time:  This drill took me 1 attempt at 1/8 of an inch clearance and about 9 minutes.

1000 1st Swings – Games Kids Love – Pick Up the Balls

Sometimes, getting a kid to actually hit a golf ball can be a chore, especially when they’re under the age of 5 and have their own agenda for the afternoon.  Parents often become discouraged when their kid isn’t ‘paying attention’ or showing an interest in hitting ball after ball…How are they going to become the next Tiger Woods unless they hit 100 balls today, right?  Wrong.

Our Golden Rule for kids is that they must be shown that GOLF = FUN.  With this in mind, we should look for ‘teachable moments’ when your kids are on the course or around the driving range, even if they don’t look like they’re interested in hitting balls or listening to formal golf instruction.

On a recent trip to the range, I watched my 1 1/2 year-old become fascinated with the fact that she could empty an entire basket of range balls in about 5 seconds simply by tipping it over and watching all of the balls scatter about the range.

What did we accomplish during the ‘golf lesson’?

1)  She worked on her fine motor skills as she carefully put the balls back into the basket.

2)  We worked on our math skills as we counted each ball she put back into the basket.

3)  We learned that if we make a mess, we have to clean up (can this skill be transferred to other areas of her 1 1/2 year-old world?).

4)  We were so thoroughly entertained by this game of dumping balls and picking them up, we learned that GOLF = FUN.  The formal lessons and marathon practice sessions so my little girl can get that college scholarship 16 years from now will have to wait another day.  For now, we had a terrific day on the golf course.

As a parent, don’t try to force your child into playing the game of golf.  Instead, let them explore and become comfortable around a golf course, all the while teaching them that GOLF = FUN.

Take your kid to the course today and teach them about this game we all love!  

1000 1st Swings – Games Kids Love – Wash the Clubs

As I’ve mentioned before, our only objective for kids under the age of 5 should be to make sure that GOLF = FUN.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, kids just don’t want to hit golf balls or even so much as listen to their parents if they’re trying to spew ‘formal’ golf instruction.   

If the kids are really obstinate or in a bad mood, remove them from the course immediately and go get some ice cream…we don’t want to ever hold a child ‘hostage’ at a golf course while Daddy has to finish up his 4th bucket of range balls.

However, sometimes, when all seems to be lost, you can engage younger kids in a fun game of ‘Washing the Clubs’.  Kids seem to be mesmerized by the club washing buckets at the driving range, and will often gladly take your dirty clubs and clean them up for you.  My 1 1/2 year-old loves to wash clubs…so much so, she actually runs over to a fill divot or even the practice bucket on our range to dip her wet club in the sand just to get it dirty again.  What does all of this accomplish?

1)  Children learn the importance of taking care of their equipment.

2)  Children learn that cleaning up can be fun sometimes (is it possible to transfer this concept into cleaning their rooms???…yet to be determined)

3)  You can teach your children about the different clubs and numbers (“Can you clean Daddy’s 9-iron?  See it has a 9 on the bottom.  Can you clean Daddy’s 5-iron?…and so on).

4)  Children become so fascinated, you’ll be able to finish that 4th bucket of range balls while they’re going up and down the range offering to clean everyone’s clubs.

Next time you’re at the range, introduce your children to the club washers down at the range and see if they don’t show an interest in cleaning clubs.  If so, you may accomplish the most important lesson of all…GOLF = FUN.

1000 1st Swings – Games Kids Love – Ball in the Middle

When it comes to ‘formal’ golf instruction for kids, most of the time you have to ‘trick’ them into performing a task by disguising it as a game.  After all, the primary lesson we try to teach kids is that GOLF = FUN.

One of the early concepts that children need to understand is the concept that club path = direction of ball flight.  Now, this is pretty boring stuff if you’re trying to describe it in adult terminology, but an absolute blast if you play the ‘Ball in the Middle” game.  As the name suggests, tee up 3 golf balls (distance apart determined by the skill level of the child), and make a game out of hitting the ball in the middle.

Not only will this game teach them hand-eye coordination and groove a club path that’s (somewhat) headed towards a target, but it also teaches discipline (for younger kids) because they have to wait for the ball in the middle to be re-teed despite the tempation of two other golf balls already on tees just begging to be hit.  My 2 1/2 year-old son demonstrates below…it’s one of his favorite games, and he really has a sense of pride and accomplishment when he’s able to hit the ‘Ball in the Middle” as you can tell by the grin on his face.  Try it with your kids the next time you head for the range, and you’ll notice an improvement in both aim/accuracy, but also the concept that GOLF = FUN.

1000 1st Swings – Games Kids Love – Tee it Up

I’ve mentioned it several times in the 1000 1st Swings posts, but it bears repeating…Rule #1 for any parent should be to make sure that GOLF = FUN in the minds of their kids.  Too often, ‘formal’ instruction kills a childs enthusiasm and curiosity at precisely the time when they can be conditioned to equate a trip to the golf course to an exciting, engaging activity.

There is not a creature on earth with a shorter attention span than a 1 1/2 year-old, so bringing my daughter to the driving range can be a harrowing adventure.  Granted, she’s not strong enough to actually lift a club while swinging, and she can’t understand/comprehend even basic swing instruction…so what value would she derive from going to the course?

It’s NEVER too early to learn that GOLF = FUN.

On a recent trip to the course, I engaged my daughter in a simple game of trying to put a golf ball on a tee.  It occupied her 1 1/2 year-old attention span for about 10 minutes (that’s the equivalent of 2 weeks in adult time), during which time she:

1)  Learned the word ‘Tee’, which she repeated incessantly.

2)  Worked on her fine motor skills as she tried over and over to put balls on the tee and then knock them down with the end of her club.

3)  Learned the difference between a red tee, a blue tee, a white tee…you get the point.

The bottom line…I had a wonderful time watching her play with tees and golf balls, and I’m sure that somewhere in her subconscious she is beginning to view the golf course as a cool, fun spot to hang out.

Golf doesn’t always have to be about grips, backswings, and follow-throughs…it’s a game with several facets (terminology, rules, etiquette)…take your kids to the golf course and follow their lead (as long as they are safe and respectful of the course and fellow golfers) as you search for opportunities to teach them about this game we all love.