With the weekend warrior in mind we created Bump and Run, a weekly Q&A with some of the game's top instructors. Each Friday, a teaching professional will occupy this space and answer questions directed toward improving your game. This week it's Charlie King, director of instruction at Reynold's Plantation and author of a new e-book, The New Rules of Golf Instruction, which you can download for free at newrulesgolf.com.
Director of Instruction, Reynolds Golf Academy, Reynolds Plantation, Greensboro, Ga.
- Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers in America
- Athlon Sports Elite 8 Golf Instructors
- Author, New Rules of Golf Instruction e-book (2009); Golf's Red Zone Challenge with Rob Akins
'The New Rules is a way of contrasting the standards in teaching against a lot of the things that have happened in the past that aren’t up to snuff,' says King. 'For example, a new rules instructor in the full swing will identify the essential skills and teach those skills. An old rules instructor has a model or method that they force everybody to do.
'The old rules is method teaching. An old rules instructor barely teaches the short game because they don’t believe you can get people to practice it; a new rules instructor will create a contest and inspire people to work on their short game.'To submit a question to King or one of our teachers, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and check back every Friday to see if your question got answered.
Let's say I come to you with a slicing problem. How will you, as a new rules instructor, teach me to eliminate my slice?
As a new rules instructor, I’d ask you some typical questions, and before I put you on video I’d explain to you that learning golf is like learning to swim: You don’t take somebody and videotape them attempting to swim, put them up against Michael Phelps, and tell them here’s how they stink in comparison to Michael Phelps. That’s what we do in golf: We take somebody, put them up against this model we have, and tell them they suck compared to the model. An old rules instructor makes you try and look a certain way, while a new rules instructor teaches you the universal skills in golf.
And what are those skills?
In golf, there’s seven essential skills. There’s preswing, impact position, what the body does, width, swing plane, clubface awareness and rhythm. So when I look at your swing, I’ll tell you what you’re good at and what you’re potentially missing. I look at your path and clubface and explain that when you’re hitting a slice, it means your clubface is pointing to the right, and your path may be off relative to the target. I have to make you understand how to hit it to the target so I’m going to explain clubface and swing plane quickly, and give you a drill to help you become better at clubface awareness.
With a model lesson, or method lesson, they might not even deal with these things. They might say that’s a sign of you not doing the things we teach. So here’s how you need to change your setup, the start of your backswing, top of swing, etc. Now that person has a high potential of leaving confused because there’s too much information.
The universal thing I teach with the body is that the body provides a center for your golf swing and resistance for your arms to swing from. It’s not all that different from what a field goal kicker’s body does. There’s not just one way. I can work with people who are tilted like Freddie Couples or Colin Montgomerie, or people who move off the ball like Rocco Mediate. They both work. A new rules teacher does not dictate style to a golfer; a new rules teacher teaches skill. If I focus on skill I’m going to have a hire success rate, because I’m making them more skillful. If I make people look a certain way, I may not be making them better, I just may be confusing them.
What’s the one essential skill every golfer must possess if they want to get better?
I’d have to say grip, because if you’re not holding onto the club properly you can’t do anything with it. The one that golfers don’t have, however, is impact. They scoop at the ball, lift it, or throw the club to try and get more speed. My job is to make them understand that golf is an energy transfer game, which means your left wrist should be flat to slightly arched and your right wrist bent back – like you’re smacking something with your right hand – at impact. The club is leaning forward as you come into impact; there’s no exception to that when it comes to good players hitting irons. You do not find anybody that’s any good who’s shaft is straight up and down or leaning backwards.
Solid contact to me is what gets people really addicted to golf. When you can hit it really solid, you enjoy the round. You say, ‘I didn’t score well today but I hit it good. I may have hit a couple in the woods, but I hit them hard.’
How do you ingrain the feeling of solid contact?
The thing I’ve had a lot of success with over the years is I’ll take the club away and have them take their right hand out and smack my right hand. I’ll put my right hand out flat, and I’ll say, ‘Go back about halfway like you’re going to swing a golf club, and smack my right hand.’ Then I have them take the back of their left hand and smack my hand. No one comes up and flips at my hand. They’ll backhand me with their left hand, they’ll smack with the right hand.
I use that to tell them to get their right heel off the ground, because they might stand there flat-footed. So I’ll say go ahead and let your right side go along with your hand, let your right heel come off the ground and let your knee come in. Now I have them put their hands together flat, almost like a grip, and have them hit my hand with both hands. That’s what golf is. Golf is an energy transfer game, it’s not a throwing game or scoop it up in the air game; it’s about energy transfer.
If I can get them to understand that the reason they’re flipping their wrists is because they’re trying to lift it up in the air or they think golf is a throwing game, they’ll have a chance to hit it solid.One of the seven essential skills you mentioned earlier is preswing. What are the fundamental keys to a good setup?
For posture, bend at the hips. Now, a lot of people ask me, 'What's the difference between bending at your hips or bending at your waist?' If you go two or three inches down from your waist (belt), you’ll feel where your hip bones are. You’re bending from your hip bones and hip sockets whereas if you truly bend from your waist, you’re bending from your spine.
Good posture sets you up for success, for a better turn and body pivot.
What's the biggest setup fault you see with amateurs?
A bad grip, which has an effect on the clubface. Once your face is open and you miss it to the right, you’ll start coming over the top. A bad grip definitely leads to swing flaws, for sure.
Is there a step-by-step process to getting your hands on the club properly every time?
There are three functions to a good grip. Function No. 1 is to get the heel pad on top so you’re sure you’re able to hinge the club. No. 2, put your right hand on in a 'shake hands' position, which gives you a better chance of squaring the face. No. 3, create a hook with your right forefinger, which allows you to have support for the club at the top of the swing and throughout the entire swing. Hinge the club, square the face, support the club
Three functions of a good grip. Function No. 1 is get heel pad on top so you’re sure you’re able to hinge the club. No. 2, put right hand on in shake hands position, which gives you a better chance of squaring the face. No. 3 you create a hook with your right forefinger and that allows you to have support for the club at the top of the swing and throughout the swing. Hinge the club, square the face, support for club – three functions of a good grip.Charlie King Instructional Videos