Common Sense Learning from the Experts
By Russ Christ
Numbers don’t lie.
In fact, statistics tell us that of people who play 50 rounds of golf or more a year, only three percent of them actually see a real person for help, as opposed to reading an article like this one.
Why not do both?
Golf instructors Scott Sackett and Tyler Kirkendoll would like those numbers to change. They are experts (some students may even toss around the word “genius”) in what they do: helping people improve their golf games.
We asked Sackett, a GOLF Magazine “Top 100 Teacher” since 1997, and Kirkendoll, a bio-mechanics expert at Moon Valley Country Club in Phoenix, to share their thoughts on a variety of subjects including leverage, grip, the pelvis or “core,” adjusting to a new move, getting behind the ball and the both believe that improvements are easily within reach of even casual golfers.
Kirkendoll has a total understanding of range of motion and muscular structure. His strength is his ability to recognize how to help golfers maximize capability. Over the course of his 21-year career in golf, Sackett, currently the director of instruction at the PGA TOUR Golf Academy, has worked at Legend Trail Golf Club in Scottsdale, Dobson Ranch Golf Club in Mesa, Fiddlesticks in Tempe and Doral Golf Resort and Spa in Miami.He currently teaches at McCormick Ranch in Scottsdale. Students for both men include PGA and LPGA players, 20 handicappers and even PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem.
Readers may be surprised and occasionally find humor with the knowledge these two notable teachers have accumulated, so we decided to turn on a tape recorder and find out firsthand.
This piece is the first in a series of articles that will run in Arizona, The State of Golf and on the AGA’s website (www.azgolf.org.) Topics will include Sackett and Kirkendoll’s
candid observations on equipment, posture, body type, physical conditioning, swing mechanics and scoring improvement.
What’s Non-Negotiable in a Golf Swing?
1. Creating Leverage
Sackett: Anything you do with authority in any sport requires you be behind the object, whether it’s hitting a tennis ball, hitting a home run, throwing a ball 100 miles per hour or hitting a golf ball.We’re not single axis people.We have a right leg and a left leg. If you’re right handed you have to shift your weight from the right to the left, load and unload.
You have to be behind the object if you’re going to hit it with power. Period. Not open to discussion.
Kirkendoll: What we call that factor in a mechanical way is shortening the radius. If I’m going to propel an object, the body always pulls. It doesn’t push. With a golf swing the thing that transfers the speed to the tip of the club is the rapid deceleration of the center of the body.
On one level you have to be in front of the club at some point, but at impact, as speed is transferred to the tip of the swinging mechanism, you absolutely must be behind it. It’s a simple law of physics. Unfortunately, most golfers are in front of the ball, and they start their swings in front of it. The result is a weaker swing.
Where Should You Start?
1. Encourage a Strong Grip
SS: I like a “V” at the right shoulder, but not at the chin. The grip is really important. The average person can error huge with a strong grip, but you can’t error as much with a weak grip.
2. Control the Pelvis
TK: Control your center. That’s No. 1. If the goal of the golfer is real change, then he must learn how to control the pelvis. The secret of the downswing is that it starts from the core, or center, of the body.We divide the body into three major zones: the pelvis, the shoulder girdle and the arms (as a structure). The proximal pieces dictate the positions of the distal pieces.What I mean is that your hips tell us the possible range your shoulders can go through, which tells us the possible range your arms can go through. If I can move your hips I can move your arms, but not necessarily the other way around.
3. Have the Upper Body Tilted Back Behind the Golf Ball at Address for Virtually Every Club
SS: When I do my golf schools, 95 percent of the students stand over the top of the golf ball. That’s dead wrong. But the good thing is once you can get someone tilted properly it’s virtually impossible to do a reverse pivot.
TK: The perception among most people is that they are behind the ball. But the good instructor is going to give them feedback. It’s trial and error. The teacher says, “We need to get you behind the golf ball.” They try it and the teacher says, okay, but “not exactly.” The student eventually responds from the feedback given by the teacher. “If people’s perceptions were accurate, they would do the right thing; but, perceptions do not reflect reality. Once a player understands how to get behind the ball, and learns to hit it from there (not easy for most people at first) golf becomes much,much easier.”
How Do You Get the Average Person to Feel Comfortable with a New Movement?
SS: I always try to tie a visual into it. Everyone knows what good looks like. If they know it looks good they’ll get there. But, when I move you, and I don’t care what I move, that golf ball is going to be in a new place. You have to find it again. And that’s where some of the frustration comes after a lesson…learning to “find” the golf ball with your new swing sequence.
TK: I agree. Have them look at the video if necessary. If they accept the video and once they understand (the change) they’ll say something like, “wow, how did I ever hit it?” Then I’ll answer, “You know, that’s what I was thinking.”
One wonderful teaching technique is called “exercising the contract.” Here’s where you were and here’s where you are going. “Do you feel the difference?” If you’re a feel player, when you’re at your best you get to the point where you feel very little. You look at the situation, you conjure up a response that is appropriate and then you execute. The idea is to keep doing it because like anything, the more you experience it the less sensitive you are to the difference and the more “comfortable” it becomes.