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 »  Home  »  Regional Editorials  »  Long Island, Metro NY  »  NY Instruction
NY Instruction
By Terrence Jordan | Published  12/5/2006 | Long Island, Metro NY | Unrated
Instruction - Winter Issue 2006
 Learning to Listen
[ Mike Hebron ]

Listening is the process of decoding and interpreting verbal messages. If we can’t say “I don’t know,” it is hard to learn. If you think you know, it’s hard to listen. You may agree or you may disagree, but if you are using good listening skills, progress is possible. Listening skills create curiosity.

Before books and printing, the primary techniques used for acquiring knowledge were experience and listening. The practices of seeing (or reading), writing, and thinking are exercised from within the person, but an outside force often interferes with our mental powers to listen to the things that are being said.

Listening has the problem of a lack of “associated control.” When we learn to read, our eyes control the speed at which we read. When we write, our hand controls the speed. In thinking, our thoughts travel at the speed capacity of our mind. But when listening, our mind thinks four times faster than the average person can speak. That’s a lot of thinking!

At times, golfers may not understand what’s being said and are too embarrassed to say so. This can cause poor listening. I suggest that golfers ask for the information to be repeated in a different context.

When we learn to adjust our speed of thinking, we have added two valuable elements to our ability to learn. First, we have disciplined our mind to the present; and second, we have become a follower.  The mind performs in time. It wants to steer our thoughts either into the space of past time or into the future, avoiding the present.

 Listening transforms communication into the art of understanding. Listening is more than hearing. Hearing is merely the physical component of listening.

Learning to listen is learning to follow. We must follow what the speaker is sharing. How many people do you know who want to be followers? Probably not many. People with good listening skills don’t try to listen to two things at once. They are not thinking of what they are going to say while someone else is speaking. They do not miss opening remarks. They listen from the start.

Good listeners are not judging what the speaker is saying against their own beliefs, but are open to what is being said. Golfers often wonder why they work so hard and make such little progress. For the answer, they may only have to look at their listening skills.

Listening takes will power. It requires actions that will train the mind to behave itself. Listening is not a passive act. Good listening requires keeping our eyes on the speaker and checking our every tendency towards permitting our minds to wander. Our eyes, ears, and mind must be working together if we are to hear what is being said and not what we think or believe is being said. Good listening saves time. Good listening is time well spent. Good listening leads to new perceptions that can be the foundations of long-term learning. How would you rate your listening skills during golf instruction?

Getting the Backswing in Motion
[ Eileen McCaffrey ]

Many golfers struggle with different aspects of the golf swing.  One of the most prevalent problems golfers have is with the start of the backswing.  When starting the backswing, make sure you do not take the club too far inside.  Here is a simple way to determine if you are too far inside and how to correct it.  Take your golf club and set up to a target on the ground—a ball, tee, or a pattern in your carpet at home.  Place another club on the ground with the butt end of the grip against the outside heel of your right foot and the head of the club extending to your right (for right handed golfers) creating a parallel line with your target line.  While looking at your target on the ground, start your backswing by turning your shoulders and arms back and stopping when you think the club in your hands is parallel to the club you have set on the ground – your hands will be about waist high.  Once you have done that, turn your head and check to see where your golf club is.  If the club in your hands ends up on the right side of the club on the ground, you are too far inside.  Take notice of your right elbow—it is probably bent, which indicates you are not turning properly but rather picking the club up with your hands and pulling the club back.  Your body turn is being stunted because of the bending in your right elbow.  To correct this problem you need to “extend before you bend.”  When you start your backswing, make sure your shoulders and arms turn back as a single unit, maximizing full extension of your arms.  This allows for a good shoulder turn.  It is necessary to exaggerate this at first so you get a good feel of the right arm staying as straight (not stiff) as it was in your set-up.  It is imperative to have control of your golf club – whether you are putting or executing a full swing.  If the start of your backswing is incorrect, your chances of making a good full backswing will be difficult.  If you practice the above, you will start to train your body to make a full and consistent backswing.  Remember, golf can be fun, so enjoy the game and always loosen up before practice or play.

Playing From Hilly Lies
[ Tim Garvin ]

Unfortunately, many golf courses are not flat and practice ranges usually are.  The uneven lie is always a hot topic of any lesson that I give.  Players often wonder if there is anything different that they should do when the lie of the ball is less than perfectly flat.  On an uphill lie the ball will tend to go higher and it will be harder to transfer your weight to the left side (for a right-handed golfer).  You should take an extra club, place the ball in the middle of your stance, align your shoulders with the lie, and make sure to finish up the hill.  On a down hill lie the ball will go lower and have a tendency to go right.  You should take a more lofted club, align your shoulders with the lie once again, and place the ball slightly forward.  Downhill lies are tough shots for most amateurs and the goal should be to advance the ball with height.  Sidehill lies pose even more problems to amateurs.  When the ball is above your feet you should aim right, as the ball will have a tendency to move left.  The ball should be in the middle of your stance and you should make sure that your weight is distributed forward, because gravity wants to pull you back.  On a sidehill lie when the ball is below your feet, aim left as the ball will go to the right more. Make sure your knees are bent enough to get under the ball.  If you have any other problems with uneven lies, please see your PGA professional for more help.

The Importance of Impact
[ Peter Stern ]

Impact is a very important and often misunderstood part of the golf swing. After all, a good-looking swing is all for naught if it’s not good at impact.  Conversely, an ugly swing can yield good results if it’s correct at impact.

If you’ve ever seen a golf club strike a golf ball in super slow motion from a high-speed camera (as they show during tournaments on TV) notice how the ball “smooshes” against the clubface for a millisecond. This is called trapping or compressing the golf ball. A few things have to go right in order to trap and compress the golf ball. 

1) You have to hit the ball solidly, meaning you have to put the ball on the clubface (ideally the center of the clubface). If you hit the ball thin, fat, on the toe, or on the heel, the ball can literally go anywhere.

2) Not only should you put the ball on the clubface, but ideally on a square clubface. This is easier said than done. If the clubface isn’t square, the ball won’t go straight. 

3) The shaft of the club should be leaning towards the target with the hands in front of the clubhead.  Most golfers have the shaft of the club leaning away from the target, which only aids in adding loft to the club (effectively turning a 5-iron into a 7-iron).  This will cause either high shots that lose distance or fat and thin shots that go nowhere. 

Think of the golf swing as a domino effect—you have to fix causes to fix problems. If your club isn’t consistently returning to the correct position at impact, there are fixable causes that you should work on immediately.

Are You Connected?

[ Jason Peterson ]

Fundamentals may be boring, but they really deserve some serious attention when working on your golf game.  One of the first flaws I see with amateur golfers is a poor grip.  Unfortunately, it is one of the things that people are least likely to change.  I have heard countless times, “We can work on the swing but I don’t want to change my grip.”  I’m not here to change how your hands connect together or argue about where the “V” points.  What I want to illustrate is the proper connection to the golf club.


The connection of your left hand to the golf club is vital to solid contact and distance.  During the downswing the head of the club droops down because it is the heaviest part of the club.  This forces the shaft to flex and exerts an upward force on the grip end of the club.  This flex in the shaft is important.  The picture on the left is an example of what I see the vast majority of people do with their left hand.  I have cut away a portion of the grip so you can see where the shaft is in relation to the left hand.

As you can see there is a portion of the left hand that is not in contact with the shaft.  The very butt end of the grip is resting inside the palm of the left hand.  What happens in this position is the club will slip slightly when it goes to flex.  You are guilty of this mistake if you have ever ripped a hole in your glove near the palm of your hand.  This picture is of a more stable position for the left hand.  Here you can see that the entire left hand will be positioned on the shaft of the club.  When the club flexes here it will be more stable and actually flex more.  More flex equals more distance. 

For any of you who are accustomed to holding the club too far off the grip this new position will no doubt feel as if you are choking up on the club.  What you may not realize is that a grip that is on the club will always produce a better shot than a grip that hangs off the club.  So I ask you to evaluate how you hold the club and the next time you go to hit balls, try moving your grip down the shaft to produce the results you are looking for.