One Thing At a Time

I wanted to tell everyone a story about a student I (Tim) have been teaching the past few months. Of course, as always, story is to help those who read it…

I have been teaching a young man from Edmond, OK for about 2 months now. His father called me and asked if I would take a look at his game and determine if I could assist him. This young man is a student at the high school down the road from our course and plays on the golf team (he’s a freshman). The tie I had with his father was I played on a Pro-Am team with him last year in a tournament I play in yearly. He remembered my game and “history” and wanted to know if I could possibly help him. I told him I’d see…

I met the young man at his golf course and played nine holes with him.

My assessment was as follows:

  1. Pretty good short game – (you guys knew I’d look at that first).
  2. Swing was inside to out with almost no release – reason was very poor balance and body positions would not allow for a good release in his positions.
  3. Because of swing he was hitting weak left shots with almost no distance (He is left handed)
  4. He was having to hit mid to long irons to all par fours – his friends his age were outdriving him by 40 yards +++.
  5. His grip was good – his set up – hands too low, head too far forward, weight center (balance) was toward the toes, and very little knee flex because of this.
  6. There were other issues… but most others were minor.

His stroke average for the year was 78.5 and best round was 75. So – I told his father we could start working together. I’d do some work with him.

Little history about the young man –

  1. He has no idea who Moe Norman is.
  2. He has no idea what a single axis swing is.
  3. On his golf team, he plays with many good players including one whose father plays on the PGA tour.

So we started.

The first thing I did with him was reviewed the fundamental positions. He had a good grip, so we went to set up. He was leaning way too far forward (toward the ball) on set up. I showed him the correct position, videoed him before and after we made the change to show difference and had him demonstrate to me. He hit about 10 balls during the hour lesson – mainly just set up and tried to get comfortable. Then set up again, and again and again and again.. hitting only a couple of shots. I asked him what it felt like, what he saw, etc.. This was the first lesson.

Lesson #2 – I saw him a week later. When I saw him, he was back to his old set up…. (not the one we had worked on). I set him up again in a proper set up (single plane of course) and went through the exact same process of the first lesson – no more.

Lesson #3 – Saw him about 10 days later. He had made great process in the setup. His lead arm was now above his trail, his shoulders were square to the target and his balance was over the balls of his feet – MUCH better than where we started. I checked these positions and had him hit a couple of shots.

Each shot he started from a good set up. So we went on. His takeaway was slightly inside and the face of his club was slightly hooded on the backswing. I showed him the proper takeaway and where the club should be at waist high. He repeated that position (probably 200 times) during the lesson – he hit very few balls… I showed him on video, we checked, rechecked, he described the feelings.. etc… Lesson ended.

Lesson #4 – 2 weeks later – he came to the academy. I checked his backswing – was inside and hooded. Showed him the correct position. His quote was he knew where we were supposed to be… I answered “Great – show me”. He showed me correct position in a drill – then when hitting a ball – brought the club inside… I had him drill to correct position again and told him to continue to work on it… that’s it, no more… (To be honest, think he was a little frustrated, but he was starting to get the hint we were not going on until he fixed what we were working on).

Lesson #5 – Week later – he came to the academy. Perfect single axis set up – perfect back swing. Absolutely on plane to the top of his swing… but he was over swinging and his elbow was flying. You should have seen his face when he saw his perfect backswing… Now a dilemma… I knew we needed to shorten up his swing and get his elbow in a much better position (no flying out like Jack Nicklaus). I discussed with his father and we decided to wait – not because he couldn’t handle it, but he had a big tournament the next week and this change was sure to cause a lot of bad scoring (big change and dramatic different feeling in swing). So – I did the next best thing. I discussed where he needed to have his elbow at the top of his swing and why. He understood it was to make sure his elbow was in front of him at impact rather than “trapped” behind him which will happen if the elbow “flies” in the backswing. So we worked on impact with trail elbow in front of him.

Next Week – His tournament – Par 70, 30 mph wind, 36 hole Conference tournament.

He shot 70, 69 (1 under) – finished top 5 – hit 75% of the fairways and 80% of the greens (yes, he did not putt well……but we haven’t got there yet…)

Reason I tell this story….

As you see – when working with this young man, I worked on ONE THING and only ONE THING at a time. NO MORE. Not because he couldn’t handle more, but because any golfer who wants to get better has to MASTER one thing at a time, and only ONE thing at a time. If you don’t, you will get nowhere. The entire process will be confusing and misleading. If you progress in this manner – you’ll be amazed how much better you get FAST.

This young man was an interesting “case” as he didn’t know what I was going to teach next… he hadn’t studied “ahead” as many of those we work with. Not that this is bad (in fact, we think it is great to “read ahead”), but you still must work on one thing at a time. No matter how much you want to skip ahead, it doesn’t work… skipping ahead only causes confusion and problems (big problems) in the swing.

Moral of story:

  1. Get something to study to view the “perfect” model of the swing. Check your swing against this model.
  2. Get someone to look at your swing. You can video your own swing (view yourself), send it to us for comments, etc.. or see us in person.
  3. Take ONE thing at a time. No matter how good a student you are, you can only work on and master one thing at a time. Some will master faster, some slower… but if you do one thing at a time – you will master the fundamental positions.
  4. Check your swing often and know the model well enough that you know when you have “mastered” a position. You will, you’ll be surprised how fast you can do this and be even more surprised how mastering just one thing will dramatically improve your swing.
  5. Don’t put a time frame on fixing your swing. Some positions will come faster than others, but they will come with time.
  6. GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY – as Moe always said…..

Good Luck – Remember – Always practice with a purpose (one thing at a time).

8 thoughts to “One Thing At a Time”

  1. Inspiring Tim, Tells us exactly the process you want us to do. WE must be more patient to ourselves and simply don’t hurry it and enjoy the journey. Gonna be more fun that way I think. Kudos to your young student wait till he gets it . Score 65 around the corner👍🏻😎

  2. Love it. After 20 years of trying to do this myself, (obviously not very good trying) I decided to take GGA up on the gold membership for just this reason. I need someone to analyze my swing and tell me where my faults lie. I made a commitment to myself to go back to the beginning and master one thing at a time. I am looking forward to the process and working with GGA to get my swing on track and be even better next golf season. The very first lesson showed me my shoulders were rotating too level, and now This is my first assignment….to rotate properly in the backswing. I have a feeling this will take care of a few other issues during my down swing.

  3. I like your approach to learning. Good story! I went to the course yesterday to work on putting. Ou greens are dormant, rolled, and painted, — like greased lightening. Last round I had 37 putts! Unusual for me. Right before I got on the practice green, I saw your putting lesson with the mirror, string, and the tee gate. My session was a real confidence booster. It reaffirmed that my stroke was sound. 10 in a row through the gate and in the hole, — after some practice. Then I worked on speed control. I sank a number of 20-30 footers and was within a foot or two just about every time. Thanks for the great drill I did the same using the felt tip. John Calore.

  4. Awesome ..
    Thank you for the teaching.
    Lucky young man!
    Reminds me of a GREAT story when I coached my brothers 13-14 year old baseball team.
    Something about proper warm up during practices (Every practice) and proper sequencing of your practices.
    Jogging, stretching, then throwing, relay drills every practice.
    Then infield outfield and finally hitting.
    First game. Opposing player jacks a drive in the whole in right center…
    My brother and I jump up and yell RELAY, RELAY to third.
    They executed it flawlessly. Nailed the guy at third by 8 feet, wasn’t even close.
    Everyone was shocked.
    The kids came into the dugout beaming!
    About five innings later, same game… exact same thing happened ( I guess it was ordained)
    Shot to the gap in right center, again my brother and I jump up and yell in unison, Relay, Relay to third…
    Both relay’s were actually double relays as the opponent had hit the ball that far, and they are only 13-14 year olds.
    Again, nailed the runner at third, wasn’t even close.
    My brother looked over at me and said, Tim, this really works!
    The players now believed in their coaches.
    It was amazing!
    Thanks for the reminder.
    I have “Graduated” to working on the shift before position 3.

  5. Great lesson – I skipped position 1 and am now paying the price – difficult to break old habits. It requiring a lot of patience on the part of the coaches because I continue to make the same mistake continuously

  6. Great story Tim but obviously this young lad had got a lot of ability to start with if he’s stroke average was78.5. And having youth on his side. My experience is nowhere near his but one I would like to share. I am 62 and have been playing golf on and off since my teenage years. But really regular from my late twenties. My first club handicap at the age of 30 was 21. At the age of 59 my handicap was 22. In these years I had paid out on many hours of PGA instruction to the point of being told you hit the ball like a pro and the next shot like you have just picked up a golf club. His advice was to Just go play and practice and I think he gave up on me. My best round off 22 had been in a friendly to shoot 84. Then 3 years ago just by chance I came across Todd on YouTube. I tried copying what he was teaching and there was a improvement in my driving. I had my leg pulled over how I was setting up, but started having the last laugh when winning the money. So I became a gold member about 2 years ago, it coincided with lockdown here in England. I bought a net and started to study the lessons, practice and send in videos. I know it might sound silly but sending in my first video was hard because I didn’t want to look bad and get a knock to my confidence. But once past this and having great response and help, I spent lockdown practicing. When golf was opened up and we could start playing again my handicap dropped for the first time in 30 odd years. In one season I dropped from 22 to 14.6 and on a good day can shoot below my handicap. This winter I’m working on my nemesis, the short game. Always been totally hopeless from 50 yards in and chipping. I was just a nervous wreck every time I stood over one. But with two birds and one stone and determination practice and sending in my videos I can feel it coming. So a big thank you to at Graves golf and the Gold membership although attending a school is a bit too far off my bus route you guys are fantastic. And can even make an old hacker from over 3000 miles away into a better player from a 22 handicap to 14, something 30 years of frustration couldn’t do.

  7. Thank you Tim.
    I’m one of the students you speak of….all over the place. ADHD GOLFER. Getting very mixed results…..yes I’ve made progress but then big regression. Except in short game. Short game is like art for me. I stay focused, on form and the results show. I’ve recently sent in video, Trent made sense on the take away. I’m working on it. I believe I’ve solved the double jointed leading elbow. It’s nearly automatic in the set up. Received Domino Effect DVD. Better understanding of sequence to results forced me all the way back to day one! Not complaining, excited to get it right. Trying to get out of my own way.
    Merry Christmas to you and Yours, Ringo

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