Learn Like A Junior!

How to master fundamentals like a beginner

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Traffic cones are, again, one of my favorite training aids! I like to use them to enhance the turn of the body on the backswing.

If anything, what I want to feel at the top is a sensation of throwing the cone behind me, not to my right side.

If I'm in a good position at the top of my swing, getting into the right position at impact is much easier. Just turn and lower the arms.


MIRROR YOURSELF

Every golf club you hold has a natural arc it "wants" to swing on; this is called the swing plane or the swing path. In the above photos, you can see that the clubshaft is on a very similar arc near the top of my swing and in the followthrough of my swing. To some degree, I've mirrored my backswing with my followthrough.

This can be done naturally by doing the following exercise. Grip the club lightly and start swinging it back and forth in a half-swing motion. Don't stop the club, just keep going back and forth like a pendulum. Now, feel where the club wants to go and allow your body to turn with it and your wrists to start breaking and forming an "L" position on both the backswing and followthrough. Increase to a three-quarter swing. As you do this, you'll start to feel where the natural arc of the club is. Then simply take the feel and hit some shots!


HIT SOME BALLS IN A ROW

In training any new feel or movement in a golf swing, it's best to stay athletic. In this case, I mean get your "thinking" brain (left side) out of the process and let your "feeling and sensing" brain (right brain) perform the task and make natural adjustments. When we practice one shot at a time, it's really easy to overthink and interfere with what you're trying to learn. Instead, line up five or more balls in a row, and hit one after another in a very rhythmic sequence. Good shot or bad shot, keep going, and you'll find your body will naturally make adjustments to perform the task you're working on.

INSTANT TIP: 
See if you not only can hit balls in a row, but do it while ramping up your clubhead speed. Start with a close target and work away from it. You'll get a better feel for what swing length and speed produce what distances.

NEVER STOP LEARNING

Teaching juniors is always fun, mainly since they're used to being in learning mode. In fact, most of their time is spent learning new things, whether in school, at home or on the golf course. I love that they're always asking questions, looking for new answers. As adults, we're not quite as wired to learn like many juniors are. In fact, some of us are so set in our ways that it has become very difficult to break bad habits and learn something completely new.

This is precisely why learning to play golf (or learning to get better, for my experienced students) isn't always about hitting hundreds of balls on the practice tee. I'm a big believer in teaching my students why things happen when they do, and getting them to understand how to fix swing errors and start making lasting improvements on their own.

After all, when the time comes, nobody is going to hit a shot for you—not your teacher, not your caddy and definitely not any of your playing buddies. We each have to hit every shot on our own, so I teach my students to become not only good learners, but good teachers, as well. I want them to know the reasons why they hit slices, hooks, topped shots and so on because, if they know the root of the problem, they'll be able to fix it themselves enough to make it through the round.

If you struggle with becoming a student as an adult and you find it hard to break old swing habits, or maybe you're reluctant to start with a new outlook on learning to play golf, consider what it takes to become your own teacher! Examine what swing faults you may have and the reasons they occur, and talk with your instructor about the swing fixes. Approach your swing lessons as lessons on becoming not only a better golfer, but a better teacher, too! This change in perspective will help you ask better questions and actually allow you to become more engaged in the learning process. The more you know about why things happen in the swing (both good and bad), the better you'll be able to teach yourself the right stuff.

No matter how good you get at playing golf, there always will be room to get better. Think of yourself as a teacher, and you'll never stop learning!

Dan Martin, PGA, is a Top-25 Golf Instructor and teaches at Rustic Canyon Golf Course in Moorpark, Calif. For more information, visit danmartingolf.com.


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