An old saying tells us the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In golf, not all steps are equal, and the wrong ones can send your progress backward. After teaching over 20,000 lessons to more than 2,000 golfers in the last 30 years, Tim has learned a few keys to guarantee you travel the longest yard successfully.
Sometimes, the toughest trip is from the lesson tee to course. Tim Krumnow, PGA Master Professional – Precision Golf Academy Director of Instruction
An advocate of reducing variables when learning a skill, Tim gets players swinging strongly before facing the complexity of on-course play. He guides players to the next long step from the lesson tee first tee box on a golf course and even beyond. Each step builds the players self-confidence to make the 6,000+ yards ahead, a winning experience.
THE LONGEST YARD: STEP ONE
Take the First Steps Indoors
Learning the golf swing is very similar to learning to play a musical instrument. Learning any instrument takes work before stepping out to perform in front of friends and family. Likewise, appearing on-stage at the driving range to without any clue on mechanics isn’t the way to go public. Our bodies need time to learn and adjust to new moves without the pressure of performing, even around total strangers. Repetition is essential, but only if the swing is worth repeating.
The first small step to real improvement is learning mechanics without on-range consequences. Instead, get stage-ready by performing proper fundamental motions inside where poor or erratic ball flight doesn’t become the focus. Recognize that any worthwhile improvement starts with an appraisal of the golf swing. An experienced and credentialed personal coach can chart a course and prioritize changes based on this assessment. Just as a music teacher can hear the music behind the screeching violin, your golf coach will guide you past the fundamental faults no matter how painful.
The First Step
Applying improved mechanics with confirmation is like playing scales where notes are now linked together smoothly. Contrary to popular mythology, the first step does not mandate hitting range balls. Confirming correct movements is most effective with instant video feedback during practice sessions. Make sure your coach guides your selection of drills and training aids, given the large number of resources available. The goal is a transfer of visual perceptions into physical motion, feel into real.
The final key inside step one is repeatable motion with minor consequences, playing the whole song in the studio. A confident repeatable swing is built by correcting impact errors with slow motion and indoor-grooved swings. Before buying the Mega Bucket-O-Balls, you must be able to perform the new move without focusing on mechanics — with a normally-paced swing. If you hit 10,000 balls outside without gaining the feel-to-real connection inside first, the outcome will likely be even more faulty motions.
THE LONGEST YARD: STEP TWO
Step Forward from Training to Trusting
After you have developed and perfected new motions indoors, you eventually have to take it where the wind blows free and there is an audience on both sides. But taking even the sweetest full swing to the tee box before you trust it to create solid ball flight is like headlining the Sydney Opera House before rocking the hometown high school gym. Begin at the practice facility with focus and intentionality.
Transition most quickly by working the short shots with wedges around the green. With more loft on the club, the margin for error is greater and more forgiving. Going right to the driver is not a wise idea, and early success with shorts shots will elevate your confidence. This self-belief is the key to moving from training-mode to trusting-mode. For most players, this may be the most difficult step in traveling the longest yard. If the ball begins to go sideways (a simple situation to monitor), the prescription is simply more correct swing repetitions indoors with video, mirrors, drills and training aids.
Training aids at the practice range allow the brain to accelerate from training mode to trusting mode. Using the aids as reminders of the proper motion while working on better ball flight develops trust. This is where embarrassment needs to get left in the trunk along with the persimmon driver. All of the previous work has solidified swing mechanics, and the goal is to now apply mechanics while observing ball flight. As ball flight becomes predictable and positive, the two-way path between the indoor instruction bay and outdoor range should be a well-worn one as you progress steadily from one correction to the next.
Before you initiate each swing, the last key to incorporating trust is to develop a routine focused on a target, developing rhythm, and maintaining your focus on non-mechanical keys. Practicing your routine on every striped range ball will lead to a dependable swing, despite on-course jitters. In fact, great players deal with tournament pressure by relying on the rhythm of their routine and occupying their mind with the process of their routine, rather than negative thoughts.
THE LONGEST YARD: STEP THREE
Take the Journey Together
In the teaching bay, we are in a controlled indoor environment designed expressly for engraining proper, fundamental swing mechanics. However, the beautiful-but-perilous golf course demands far greater competence and confidence. The final step from the practice range to the tee box is an on-course playing lesson. To play golf well requires the ability to reproduce the correct swing motions without conscious thought. With a high level of self-trust established first inside and then on the range, attention can now shift to scoring. Variables such as club selection, mental approach, and uneven lies can be mastered.
The playing lesson is a vital part of the learning process for both student and swing coach. The information gathered and insight gained is valuable and concrete because it takes place on-stage at the golf course. The coach can observe the students tendencies more precisely. Time together on-course also reinforces the importance of the pre-shot routine in full-swing, short game and putting. Simple, non-mechanical thought deflates any stress about technique. To score effectively, the majority of the focus needs to be on routine, alignment, and the target.
Video captured during the playing lesson is a powerful learning tool. The video is replayed after the round to show the student their alignment, as well as demonstrate their ability execute swing keys. As a double-edged sword, video does not lie, boast, or belittle when it comes to reviewing swings taken on the course. Like an audio recording of a concert performance, the notes don’t care whether they are on pitch or not.
Follow-up after the playing lesson is the final stage. Video review leads to specific observations and recommendations for improvement, as well as a record for future comparison. Feedback is certain to elicit grins and groans, but cannot be surpassed for reinforcing the visual to physical connections needed. The well-constructed playing lesson from a PGA Professional is the final and vital step students need as they travel the longest yard from the lesson tee to the first tee.