A Dose of Reality
To start, bitch slap was not the right term.
No tour teacher is omniscient and no tour player is ever 100% correct in their choice of teacher.
I think we can agree on that.
Before I weave into the trail of destruction that some tour teachers have bestowed upon their most lucrative clients, it behoves one to equally mention the blind leading the blind practise of tournament players teaching amateurs.
To make this point, one only has to look at any tour player Twitter feed over the past two weeks to conclude that whilst players have amassed great knowledge and skill to deftly and powerfully control a golf ball, their skills to teach the game can be assumptive and rudimentary (assumptive: ‘if I can do it, you can too’- rudimentary: ‘let’s look at the wheels and not the engine).
Bug eyed amateurs will hypnotically look at tour players in the same way the uneducated and ignorant gawp at TV evangelists on Sunday mornings.
With tongues lolling out, the unwitting club golfer tries anything a player says no matter how universal and non-specific that advice may be.
It’s entirely accurate to point out that as diverse in technique that Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan were, they probably caused equal amount of misery on the golf course.
Both great players, but for money, each propagated the exact opposite teachings of one another based on the ‘brand’ of their swing and not the client needs.
Golf is unique in this.
If associative pilots and co-pilots, surgeons and doctors acted in the same way, the body count would be innumerable.
‘Swing du Jour’ – that’s what the players on the range used to say at Lake Nona….what is the ‘swing of the day?’
I know this to be true on two accounts.
In the first instance, I was there having worked, trained and been one of DLGA’s youngest academy directors for three years.
I saw the majority, and I mean the majority, taught ‘leg resistance’.
I saw the majority, and I mean the majority, taught ‘set and turn’.
I saw the majority, and I mean the majority, taught ‘steepen like Nicky Price’.
And I saw the majority, and I mean the majority, taught to chop down on the ball and putt like ‘Isao Aoki’.
If all you have is a persuasive hammer, every problem will look like a subservient nail.
In the second instance, one past student of mine, and not the obvious one, to this day gets so angry, tearful in fact, about the experimentalist attitude taken toward his career during those times of unaccountable theory.
When I first started consulting with him, the player in question was so neurotic about swinging it the Leadbetter way, he in fact had no swing at all.
His mind had become impregnated with so many swing du jour’s, he simply couldn’t take the club away from the ball.
After performing kenosis, I helped the player win on tour within six months and doubled his previous 7 years earnings with Leadbetter.
When you respect individual nails, you can select your hammer.
David Leadbetter had taught some players excellently, but that does not mean you stick a manacle on all the others or ‘swing du jour’ the rest.
The paradox is this, if you’re going to sell licenced golf academies around the world, you have to take a communist view to a capitalist venture.
I.E. you must franchise a uniform swing model as well as McDonalds franchises the Big Mac.
When that burger becomes boring, you bring out the ‘A’ Swing.
And now to specifics
‘Brandel should realize the time, passion, study, commitment and the amount of devotion that coaches put in to help their students succeed. I say this because I and my assistant Adam Schreiber spent countless hours in the late ’80s and early ’90s on the range helping Brandel to try to reach his goals. It certainly was not for the money, as I think the check is still in the mail.’ Leadbetter.
The first sentence is admirable but alas a half truth.
The role of a great teacher is to fire or sack oneself on a regular basis.
Let me say that again……….louder…
‘The role of a great teacher is to fire or sack oneself on a regular basis.’
What do I mean by this?
Well, I will defer to the difference between Bob Torrance and Butch Harmon to that of overly zealous tour teachers.
On many occasions, Ernie Els being the classic story, Bob saw nothing and then said nothing.
Butch, who gratefully wrote the forward to my second book Kinetic Golf, is often maligned by let’s say, ‘striving’ tour teachers, as being overly simplistic.
He is another such teacher who would preferably tell you to go and chip and putt rather than stand their seeking a problem to justify ones existence on the payroll.
The zealous teacher, with reams of certifications or equal amounts of ambition, cannot for the life of them figure out how he has authentically become the number one tour teacher this century.
Which eloquently ushers in my next observation.
‘Consultant teachers, come in, see the problem, fix the problem and then leave.’
‘Teachers on payroll (often by the uneducated tour player), come in, see the problem, fix the problem and then hang around to become part of the problem.’
If you’re a tour player, you might want to read that again and add about $400,000 to your bottom line.
To make this point of justified existence, I turn to Tiger Woods.
Butch Harmon mentored and taught Tiger Woods to have a better club face and swing shape.
Hank Haney taught Tiger Woods to have better path, plane and face.
The next teacher peed his pants upon being asked and then fully capitulated into teaching Tiger Woods a luke warm, geometrically promised version of a Morad / Stack and Tilt golf swing in 2010.
Capitulated you say?
Yes, because any golf instructor, less zealous and more lucid, would have said:
‘Actually Tiger, due to your physiology (the significant difference at that time between his shoulder and hip width), the thesis of this particular swing will not work for you and alas may lead to anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) surgery’.
Of all the bloody swings you could teach Tiger Woods, it was the single worst technique you could have agreed to. A one axis, deep, shut, titled, stuck, shut, pitched genuflexion through impact.
The role of a great teacher is to fire or sack oneself on a regular basis. Not get hired no matter what.
David Leadbetter and Adam should not have been so charitable with their time.
They should have been effective and left the damn range.
If the player is so neurotic they ‘need’ a coach 24 / 7, you’ve either created this dependency as a coach or you’ve sold your perpetual services to become an employee. Both are erroneous.
Magazine Lists and Instructor Validation
A few years ago I wrote to both Golf Magazine and Golf Digest asking not to be sent the questionnaire that may qualify you for their Top Teacher List.
I believe it was 2011 when Golf Digest voted me top male teacher in the state of North Carolina. An accolade that on face value I was happy to accept.
My moment of pride quickly burst however, like it so often does, when I read that I was second best teacher in the state. Who, what, how?…this must be some mistake!
Yes, it seems that 90 year old Peggy Kirk Bell had beaten me to the punch. Peggy Kirk Bell, a Hall of Famer, owner of Pine Needles and a lady who I have the greatest respect for had denied me my premiership.
It may be incredibly arrogant to think that I was a better teacher than Peggy during this time, but for reasons I cannot discover, I remain a cynic.
There are two ways in which you can validate an instructor’s effectiveness:
- Numerically via a measuring device.
- Was the client’s condition improved or regressed?
These are NOT mutually inclusive. Just because numbers change this does not guarantee lower scores or more repeatable physical patterns.
Anyone who follows me on social media will know there is no bigger champion of my associates in the PGA teaching profession than I.
Without teachers, we have no game. Get that in your damn head.
But this isn’t to say that Brandel Chamblee’s points aren’t valid, they are.
- The teaching profession was largely a theorized landscape. Tour players could serve their version of reality like Jack and Hogan while teachers could move away from biomechanics just to mechanics (do you follow the distinction yes?)
- Whether it was Mindy Blake, Stack and Tilt, Morad, Homer Kelly, David Leadbetter or Mac O’Grady, each one sliced the swing into finite templates to be stamped, branded no less, onto the pupil or sold as a system. This is 100% true – what I call ‘Template Teachers’.
- YouTube set the teaching world free. The teachers who were safety tucked upstairs and pedestalised, untouchable and unchallenged, now gave way to the people on the ground doing ‘it’. Challenge everything, don’t become a disciple.
- Trackman could (although not the only scientific measurement by a long way) be used to create a hierarchy of teachers.
You can only judge a teacher during their time with a player. Some teachers on tour are great friends of mine. They are truly dedicated and would know when to step back and pace.
‘Did I improve the clients condition, or didn’t I?’
The final adjudicator is always the client, a professional golfer or otherwise.
To have never encouraged a nation of golfers the freedom of expression in favour of a quasi-panel of social media and certification luvvy’s is either the height of stupidity or protectionism for the publication staff.
The best golf teachers are often in the shadows without clothing deals or extortionate pricing.
If you want to find those, put the magazines down and ask their past and present paying customers.
All views are copyright of the author – Nick Bradley 2020.