Maximize Your Game Improvement

In 1968 I completely changed my golf swing. I was already one of the top 15 amateurs in the USA, BUT I wanted to be #1 or #2 and I knew I could not achieve that goal without changing how I hit the ball. So I committed to making the changes and did so with the help of Bob Toski.

After an intensive 2 day training he sent me back to college with this advice and warning. “I want you to play 9 holes a week for the next 6 months BUT I want you to hit all the balls you can the other days. You need to develop NEW muscle memory and rid yourself of the OLD muscle memory….That will only happen if you hit as many balls as you can as often as you can….then once a week I want you to take what you have worked on out on the course and TRY to use it”.

“It will be hard because everyone will want you to play and accuse you of just being a ‘range rat’….If you don’t do what I am advising you will go right back to your old swing and all the work you have done here with me will be wasted. If you do what I am saying YOU Will become a great ball striker and achieve your goals!”

I did what he said and became a great ball striker and co-#1 amateur in USA with Lanny Wadkins in 1970 and later rated second best ball striker on PGA Tour for years by Dave Pelz.


Here are some things that, after having given 10s of thousands of lessons over the years, I have observed others struggling with in their pursuit of improvement.

  1. First is the need to ask questions about what the coach is trying to get you to do and what you tend to do and whether you are getting it.

The coach’s job is to give you a move or change that will improve your results down the road….your job is to ask how it will help and why. As you are working on the changes, ASK if you are even close to doing what the coach desires for you. Too often the student will say they understand what they are working on yet Never ask if they are even close to doing what the coach wants. It is up to YOU to Ask or the coach will think you get it and usually the student isn’t really getting it because they have not asked the questions about what and why.

  • Second, be prepared to be patient. The golf swing is really a complex maneuver and not a very natural one for most people. Refining your technique requires developing new muscle memory and even harder is the need to get rid of OLD muscle memory. Old habits die hard but can be changed! Make sure you done followed the advice in step1 and then put yourself to work. As Jack Nicklaus’ teacher Jack Grout said in his book….The teacher won’t hit you over the head with a magic wand(paraphrased). That is the reason Bob Toski told me to hit all the balls I could for 6 months. Get rid of the Old habits and develop new muscle memory. He had given me the information and I had asked questions but then it was up to ME.
  • Thirdly, don’t set your expectations too high! I always give this warning to students before they go out to play after their lesson or after a long winter of work and spring arrives. You will naturally expect to play good after you have been working on something and having success on the range BUT you will need to get accustomed to using your skills on the golf course. The natural tendency is to revert to old habits the minute you try to perform on the course. The wisdom of Bob Toski in telling me to hit all the balls I could daily and then once a week to take what I had worked on out to the course is something I appreciate even more now that I have been teaching for so many years.

I hear this all the time: “I hit it good on the range but couldn’t do it on the course.” As I say to them, it is not whether you can or can’t BUT rather you do or don’t!

The expectations of playing well and reaping the rewards of your changes and new skills will force most people to “to try too hard” to reach an end result and inadvertently will let the old habits creep right back into action. Muscles have a mind of their own and until new memory is developed and old memory is erased the chance of the old reappearing is always a possibility.

Always remember that the mind controls the muscles and getting them to listen will take a lot of concentration and practice.

The expectations of doing well is always a mind over muscle issue. That battle can be won with self-awareness of the issue.

Rory Mcllroy said after winning the British Open a few tears ago that he was able to win because he was able to mentally stay focused on a FEW simple swing thoughts while hitting and not let his position in the tournament in NOR let the final results he wanted to get enter into his head and just stay focused on his PROCESS. He was in control of his muscles by reminding them of a few things he had been working on and NOT let the outcome or his expectations rule the moment.

To get the most out of your time spent trying to improve your skills please remember the 3 most common problems I have observed over the years and talked about above…Understand what you are trying to do differently and why and ASK Questions of your mentor, Lower Your Expectations, Prepare to be PATIENT and lets get your games to the next level!