Lisa Schwinden, PGA Master Professional Teaching & Coaching
Having a Teaching Philosophy is critical for an instructor in any discipline to be effective. Here is my Teaching Philosophy from my 2019 PGA Master Professional Research Project submission:
“My teaching philosophy focuses on three important factors in the golf swing: relaxing, getting the clubface to toe up and having an effective weight shift. My commitment to growing the game is evident in the types of group lessons I run. Groups that historically have been put in the category as ‘others’ in golf demographics and have been ignored by the golf industry are who I target to grow the game. These include beginners, women, girls and seniors. My passion to bring the game to these groups is what drives my love of the game.
Creating a comfortable environment where the golfer is able to relax allows the best opportunity for learning and retention. It is crucial that the golfer does not feel nervous, embarrassed or uncomfortable during a lesson and creating this environment is key to the experience. A golfer that is not comfortable in your lesson is very unlikely to return for additional lessons and very likely to quit the game completely. At the beginning of the lesson and throughout, not only do I ask questions about what the golfer’s goals are and his/her experience, injuries, etc., but also about them, their work, their hobbies, any connections we may have to create a relationship and make them feel at ease. To relieve the stress of taking a private lesson, many players start the lesson with some kind of warning: ‘I’m the worst golfer you’ve ever seen,’ ‘there may not be any hope for me,’ or ‘I think I should just play tennis’. These phrases allow players that are uncomfortable to warn me about how bad they are to lessen their stress level as they often think a private lesson is designed to pick apart everything they are doing wrong in the golf swing and judge their ability. It is crucial to let the player know how many great things they are doing and to reassure them so they feel they can improve and golf is a game they can find success in.
Feeling relaxed at the lesson is important and also translates to being relaxed in the swing. Arms that are tense and tight cause two major swing issues: poor direction and poor contact. When the hands and arms are tight and tense, the clubface is not allowed to open correctly during the take away creating a closed or shut club face. Once this position is off in the take away, getting the club face to return to the golf ball in a square position is difficult and the ball is likely to spin right or left depending on the position of the face at impact. Poor contact is caused when tense and tight arms shorten during the swing. When the arms shorten, the golf ball is topped. Arms must be relaxed to fully extend and hit the golf ball on the downswing. The common golf advice ‘keep your left arm straight’ is often interpreted incorrectly and resulted in a straight, tense and stiff left arm that is unable to turn the club, extend or create any clubhead speed.
Weight shift in the golf swing is crucial to create good contact. Beginner and intermediate golfers, who often receive free advice from their playing partners, are frequently told after any thin or topped shot to ‘keep your head down’. For players that don’t understand the concept of hitting an iron on the downswing, keeping your head down is often performed by shifting less weight to the lead foot during the swing. This creates a cycle of issues that make good ball contact extremely challenging:
- A new player is often tense and nervous creating tight, tense hands and arms
- Tension in the arms does not allow them to fully extend in the golf swing, creating a topped or thin shot
- After a topped shot, this player is told to ‘keep their head down’
- The player shifts less weight to the lead foot during the swing and if the arms are relaxed and extend, the golf club strikes the ground before the ball creating a ‘chunked’ shot.
- Due to the discomfort in a chunked shot, the arms tense-up in the next swing, creating a topped shot
- Player is told to ‘keep your head down’ and the cycle continues.
To make solid contact with the golf ball, players need to perform 2 important actions:
- Relax the arms and hands allowing them to fully extend during the swing.
- Swing the weight to the lead foot during the swing so that more than 50% is on the front foot at the point of contact and 100% is on the lead foot in the finish position.
When these two actions occur, the arms extend fully after the golf ball, hitting the ball on the downswing, creating a divot after the ball resulting in better golf shots. Without a proper weight shift, consistent ball contact is difficult to perform.”