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Good Tips and Bad

Good Tips and Bad
By Dr. T. J. Tomasi
Keiser University College of Golf Senior Faculty and Director of Research

good tips and bad

Of course, as a teacher, I recommend that you take lessons from a qualified teaching professional – but most do not. It’s estimated that only about 10 percent of the ~26 million golfers in the U.S. take lessons. What is even worse is much of the information a golfer acquires comes from other golfers, which is like taking business advice from someone you met in bankruptcy court. This situation begs the question “Is there any way to evaluate the validity of a swing tip?” The answer is certain characteristics of a good tip can quite easily be judged.

1) The closer the tip is to impact, the more difficult it will be to implement it on time. Thus, the best tips occur at address and during the backswing, in other words, while the club is quiet or moving slowly. The rule is “Be suspicious of any tip that takes place during the high-velocity downswing.”

“If you wait – it’s probably too late.” While we like to think of our brains’ reaction time as being very fast, it is actually fairly slow.  So trying to time swing moves, such as rolling the forearms during a .25 second downswing, is not as easy as most think it is. Here’s a test you can take to judge how fast you react. Once you take it, you’ll have a new appreciation for why, like the Mad Hatter, you’re always late.

Catch a Falling Ruler

Dr. Roy Walford describes an interesting test for your reaction time, in which you catch a falling ruler. Here’s how it works: Have someone hold an 18-inch ruler by the tips of the index finger and the thumb, so it hangs from the 0-inch mark in front of you. Then you place your index finger/thumb with a 3.5-inch spread at the other end, ready to pinch the falling ruler. With no advance notice, your helper drops the ruler, and you react.

Repeat this exercise three times, then average the score.

  • 20-30 years old = 12 inches [180 milliseconds to react]
  • 40-50 years old = 8 inches [225 milliseconds]
  • 60-70 years old = 5 inches
  • Over 90 = listen for it to hit the ground, but since most are deaf at 90, you won’t hear it.

According to Walford, as you age, the reaction time slows, so you catch the ruler ever later in its fall.

2) Avoid tips that tell you to change your motion while you’re doing it; for example, “fire the right knee towards the target.” Any time you ask your body to stop one motion and start another, you run the risk of mis-timing.

3) Be careful to make a distinction between an internal and an external tip. This rule of thumb revolves around the difference between focusing your attention on an internal process, such as moving your arm or leg, versus focusing on something external to the body, such as moving your club or hitting the target. In general, research shows that it is better to rely on swing thoughts that involve the ball, the club, or the target rather than those that ask you to move a body part, such as the hands or the shoulders.

Playing Versus Learning Tips

Please note that there is an important distinction when rating the effect of swing tips that guide you while you are playing and those on the lesson tee. To learn the move, you can experiment with how much and when to begin, then adjust over multiple trials in a benign environment with no penalty for failure. Then, you practice your new move until it becomes automatic, a sign that you no longer have to think consciously about it while you play.

The Takeaway: Unfortunately, many golfers try to play the game the same way they learned it, a mistake that makes it very difficult for them to leave their training moves on the driving range. A key to good golf then is to know the difference between practice swing keys and playing swing keys, so that you’ll never make the mistake of using an active practice swing key while you play.

If you’d like to study with Dr. Tomasi and other PGA Master Professionals, contact The College of Golf today.