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Corrective Teaching

by Donald Crawley

Contributing Golf Writer and Director of Instruction for The Boulders Club Voted as a TOP 100 Teacher in Golf Magazine, and Director of Instruction at the Boulders Golf Academy, Carefree, AZ.

Donald Crawley Boulders, AZ (Sports Network) -- What on earth does corrective teaching mean? "Corrective" means to improve upon something, something that's not correct. In our world, we are speaking of the golf swing. Is there anyone out there who needs to correct a little something in their swing? Hello!

I have always endeavored to teach a more correct swing in order to improve your ball striking. To correct anything at all there must be change. Humans, for the most part don't like change and are adverse to considering it, usually dismissing it as "too difficult," especially in sports. It feels uncomfortable, different to all else that you have become accustomed to doing. In order to achieve this more correct movement, you have to feel something different. Often, the recommended change feels weird, uncomfortable and unusual, but only for a little while. After you have a hit a shot more solidly, the "it feels good" part of your game kicks in. Nice.

Stephen Ames
Stephen Ames won over $600K at this year's Skins Game.

I am going to draw from some recent observations at the PGA Tour stop in Scottsdale, following our latest article. On the practice tee, either before or after their round, these world class players, gentlemen making in excess of $1m per year for golfing their ball, so to speak, were making changes in their swing. They were trying to correct their mistakes, the ones that they noticed but none of the fans or announcers did. They were making corrective changes. I prefer to call these mistakes "tendencies" that were contrary to their intentions on the course. To improve their swing action and ball striking, they were practicing a corrective move. Yes, it is the word of the feature, and the day.

Allow me to use the example of Stephen Ames, who won at Disney on Nov. 4th and this past weekend at the Skins Game. The day of observation for Ames' negative tendency was Oct. 18th. I don't know how long he had been working on this corrective move, but it was obvious that it was a big part of his practice regimen. Mr. Ames would grip the club and stand completely erect with his spine vertical. He would extend his arms and club five feet off the ground at chest level. From there he would take a practice swing, rotating his shoulders and swinging the club around his torso on a completely horizontal plane, sort of like a baseball player waiting for his turn at bat. To get the picture, imagine that Stephen is playing tee ball and swinging at a ball on a five-foot tee. His next practice swing would be the same move, except he altered his posture by tipping at the hips at address so that his spine was angled some 30 degree to the vertical. He was feeling the same rotary swing (think tee ball) on a different plane. Then, he addressed the ball and tried to emulate this move. He was applying 'corrective teaching' to himself.

This corrective practice obviously helped Ames, since two weeks later he racked up his first win in 17 months, his third ever, and $825,000 to boot. His comments were that he had revamped his swing to avoid constant niggling back pain. Makes sense to me. Makes sense to Ames' win column and bank account. Makes sense to his body.

The following comments are based solely on my one-hour observation of Ames' practice session on that day. I do not claim to know all that he has worked on. His instructor, Sean Foley, gets all the credit but it was obvious to me what he was working on that day. This is my professional teaching opinion, and some have accused me of having a keen eye of the golf swing, which may have something to do with observing multiple swings each day, eight hours a day for 30 years!

Ames tended to lift his arms, rather than rotate them in the correct plane, in the back swing. His body may have had a similar tendency...lift rather than turn...which wouldn't help his back. The end result was that the club appeared to lay off with the face a little closed at the top of the backswing. When the club is in that position at the top, there will be a strong tendency to either pull, hook or block your shots. Not a good combination to hit greens and make birdies. Coming down the stretch he flagged a 4 iron from 204 yards and that shot put him in position to win. The actual winning shot was a 65 foot bunker one to three feet of the hole, coupled with a par on the 18th to win the trophy.

Another observation was made of a well-known player who shall remain nameless, and was trying to correct a tendency. He was hitting balls with a shaft stuck in the ground next to his left foot. If his hips slid rather than turned, he bumped into the standing shaft. I am sure that was his intention as it is an old drill used by the pros for years. However, the change he was making was producing a diverse and unproductive result. In an effort to stop his 'slide' he was hanging back with a reverse shift, or, as we call it, a reverse C with his upper body. The more he hit, the worse he hit. He was unable to turn through the shot correctly. With curiosity, I checked his score the next day, day two of the event. He missed the cut. The point being made is obvious - you may not be on the Tour but you have to be careful and make sure you are making the correct changes.

If you want to get better, you have to change, you have to correct mistakes, and you have to overcome your otherwise natural and unproductive tendencies. This doesn't mean you have to change everything. This doesn't mean you need a complete makeover and overhaul of the entire swing. But you do have to consider change. Be open to corrective teaching. Be open to change. Go see an expert, don't just fiddle by yourself. Come visit me in Scottsdale where it's warm and sunny. I will be correcting those swing tendencies at the Boulders every day through the winter.

Donald Crawley
Donald Crawley

Donald Crawley, Director of Instruction at the Boulders Golf Academy at the Boulders Resort & Golden Door? Spa in Carefree, Ariz. Crawley, a veteran of 29 years of teaching experience, is the newest contributor to The Sports Network with regular features that range from tips on improving your game to etiquette at the course. He has established 40 golf school sites in the United States since 1980,previously as vice president and director of instruction at John Jacobs? Golf Schools, consultant to the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, and presently at the Boulders Golf Resort in Arizona.

Crawley is recognized among the "Top 100 Teachers in America" by Golf Magazine and one of the "Best Teachers in Arizona" by Golf Digest. As both a Class A U.S. PGA member and a British PGA member, Crawley has been recognized for his outstanding teaching abilities. In 2002, he won the Southwest Section PGA?s Teacher of the Year Award. He also received the Horton Smith Award for education in 2000. In addition to teaching over 60,000 students, Crawley has co-authored video instruction tapes with John Jacobs and BBC/ABC golf telecaster Peter Alliss.

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