Golf Teaching Methodology

Mike Wydra’s Golf Teaching Methodology

Over many years of teaching golf lessons in San Diego to a wide variety of students, I feel that I have a unique perspective on how the learning process in golf actually takes place. There are endless complications and variations on a common theme, but to improve your golf, there are two things that are necessary to accomplish:

  1. You must truly understand what it is you are trying to do.
  2. You must get your body to do that.

Although this may seem obvious or overly simplistic, the means by which these two things are accomplished varies from person to person. As a result, I would like to outline the three different types of learning to accomplish these goals that I see in my students.

1. The Verbal Learner

This is the person who comes to the lesson with an open mind and a high level of attention. Normally very intelligent, this person listens intently to all the information that is provided during the explanations of positions and/or movements. Then a wonderful, almost magical process takes place when the student internalizes this information and translates it into a message sent from the brain to the body parts. The sending of this message results in an attempt to hit the ball with a different action that should produce the better or desired result. If the result is sufficiently improved, the student “tells” himself to keep doing that thing. If the result is not sufficiently improved, the student “tells” himself to refine it by doing more or less of what he is trying to do. This give and take is healthy and requires a keen attention to the process of elimination.

Moreover, when this student gets on a “good run” and begins hitting many high quality shots in a row, the strong reinforcement of his beliefs produces a longevity to the motions. Most verbal learners truly enjoy the process of hitting balls on the range and are highly articulate in describing what they are trying to do, especially to themselves. Their word pictures, such as “pull the handle of the club down toward the left thigh” are highly descriptive and informative, especially when on-course adjustments are necessary. Finally, these students also benefit by keeping a written journal outlining what they are trying to accomplish and what actually is accomplished at each practice session.

2. The Visual Learner

This person also listens to the information that is provided verbally in the individual lesson. However, the internalization of the information does not result in a clear enough message being sent to the body parts. They often describe an “information overload” during or after a one hour lesson. There are too many thoughts and concepts swirling around in their minds to be able to select a clear and concise way to make the next swing. A visual learner from Texas who had never taken instruction remarked to me after his first lesson that the experience was “like taking a drink out of a firehose”. Young visual learners tend to be highly imitative. They want to stand next to you and copy your movements, position for position. A child who is a good mimic will usually improve quickly.

Adults who are visual learners need to see themselves either in a mirror or in a video as much as possible. Their ability to compare what they are trying to do with what they are actually doing is invaluable to the adjustment process. They often express extreme surprise that they are not doing anything remotely similar to what they are attempting to do. As a result, they often experience initial frustration, but by simply continuing to look at it, they can make a change. All visual learners should use the mirror first, because of its immediacy, and then move to video analysis later. What I mean by this is that if you use video too early, you will simply see yourself in a position you do not like and wish you had done something differently. The time lag, however small, between when you do it and when you see it makes a huge difference to the visual learner. He needs to start in the mirror and look at himself constantly as he moves from one position to another.

The second step is to look down and then glance up in the middle of the motion at his reflection. Finally, as he becomes more advanced, he can look down and take the club all the way to a position he desires and make an assessment of its correctness. Once mirror work has been mastered, the move to video and its high-speed definition will be seamless, less frustrating, and even more instructive.

3. The Tactile Learner

This person, in my opinion, possesses the greatest potential to become a truly accomplished player, but also experiences the greatest frustration when he fails. Most of the people who you hear have “given up the game” are tactile learners. The problem arises when two things they are trying to accomplish have occurred, but the third does not. They have listened to and internalized the information acquired at the lesson. They have also sent the message from their brain to their body parts to get in the correct position or to make the correct movement. However, usually because they have done it incorrectly for a long time, their body simply does not know what the correct position feels like. As a result, after every bad shot they think they are just “not good at it” or “can’t do it”. They also tend to be very critical, often saying things to themselves like, “Come on, what’s the matter with you? Try harder! This person needs to understand that there are many positions in the golf swing that are unnatural and counterintuitive.

If you had never played golf and were getting started you would be, in effect, “getting the good stuff in”. However, someone who has played incorrectly for some time is also in the process of “getting the bad stuff out”. As a result, this person desperately needs to know what it feels like to put his body into the correct positions to be successful. There are some golf devices on the market that can help with this endeavor, but in most cases I simply will grab onto them and put them into the place that they need to be. Like the visual learner, they often express extreme surprise that the position they now feel is so completely and diametrically opposed to what they have been doing. However, once they have experienced some success, their relief that they are in fact “good at it” and “can do it” is overwhelming. They often develop an almost religious fervor to not simply understand but truly “feel” the position they need to be in and usually retain it effortlessly. This makes them able to repeat incredibly well, even under pressure, and therefore become formidable opponents.

Having read this, if something seems to strike a chord about the way you look at your own game, simply realizing there are different ways to learn is an important concept. On some level, it will also reduce your frustration and help you to become more patient with yourself during the learning process. Also, from my point of view, making a guess about which kind of learner you are would be a dangerous assumption. As a result, I will always give you verbal, visual, and tactile instruction. Your job is to begin to know and understand yourself. Once you have a real inkling about the kind of learning that resonates with you, your potential to develop and improve will last forever. Click here to schedule a lesson




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