Getting By With a Little Help
John Hughes, PGA

Problem Area: Fundamentals
Series: Instruction Feature

Published: Thursday, November 11, 2010 | 11:29 a.m.

Today's golf instruction encompasses many different theories, philosophies, and models. The bottom line to all of the types of instruction you receive is being able to feel the difference between how you currently perform your swing and how you want to perform your swing.

Many people practice with, and many instructors teach with swing aids. A valuable asset in your improvement process, swing aids should provide your body with the feelings necessary to eliminate a swing flaw and engrain an improved swing. There is a plethora of swing aids on the market, with many more soon to hit the market as our sport evolves. Some of these tools actually do provide benefits for long lasting improvement. Yet, some of these contraptions are better off staying in their shrink-wrap packaging. With all the choices available, how are you to know which swing aid is good for you and the improvement you are trying to make? You first have to determine what part of your swing you are trying to improve. Not all swing aids will help you with every part of your swing. Some aids will only help you with a specific portion of your swing.

Consulting your golf instructor is the first step in determining a swing aid that is correct for your improvement process. Once you and your instructor have determined which swing aid might be correct for you, it is now time for the aid to pass a few simple tests. One test is whether the aid is easy to use physically, as well as being easy to comprehend why you are using it. If you have to place your body in a contortion to use it, or it takes reading a 30 page manual before using it, you might not have the energies or motivation to practice with that aid, no matter what the benefit. Ease of use, as well as ease of understanding how to use it is an important criterion in determining a good swing aid.

Another test is if the aid is easy to carry and store. If the aid can easily fit in your golf bag, it probably is a good swing aid. The bigger the aid, the more room required to store, set-up, and use the aid. Obviously, there are great swing aids that are large in size of heavy in weight, designed to remain on the practice facility. You normally are not going to purchase such an aid; rather, it is available for you to use while practicing or during a lesson. A good swing aid that you can carry with ease allows flexibility for not only location of use, but also when you use it.

A very important test that most golfers do not think about, along with some instructors, is whether the swing aid provides immediate kinesthetic feedback. In other words, the aid should tell you through an immediate feeling, whether you are performing a swing correction properly. Swing aids should work similarly to a young child insisting on touching a hot stove. When they finally get their way and touch the stove, the heat of the burner gives an immediate feedback through a kinesthetic reaction. Most likely, the child will learn that the stove is hot and will not touch it again. Swing aids that are the most effective work in a similar manner. Unfortunately, golfers need to touch the hot stove many times for the body to begin to understand its actions and the reaction it can cause. Repetitive motion using immediate feedback response has proven to be a very effective way for a human of any age to learn a particular skill.

Swing aids can be pricy. However, most swing aids on the market today began their product lives as everyday household items reconstructed into useful gadgets and tools of improvement. Henry Cotton had his students hit solid rubber tires at the turn of the twentieth century to improve their impact positions. We now use a vinyl bag filled with towels and rags to enhance an impact position. The "swingyde" found its origins as a coat hanger. If you can not afford a swing aid, chances are you can engineer a very workable alternative with things lying around your house. In choosing an instructor, look for an instructor who invests their time, money, and professional reasoning in the use of swing aids. An instructor can only do so much in showing you and telling you to do something.

The bottom line is you have to feel what your instructor is telling you. Insure that an instructor is using swing aids that help you "feel" differences between what you are taught to achieve and how you are currently swinging the golf club. The easy way for you to remember whether a swing aid is good for you is to keep in mind that an aid does not have to look space age in design or be expensive in cost. They just have to provide you with a difference in feeling to be effective.

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