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What is a Golf School?

IMG_3140There are hundreds of golf schools in the United States alone. But what exactly is a golf school? I guess that depends on your definition.

In my opinion, a school should have a vast client base and numerous teachers who are knowledgeable about golf. These teachers should have tournament experience so that they can relate to the student. When I started at Doral in the fall of 1991, we had five teachers but quickly grew to what you see today. I came after Jimmy Ballard who ran his school at Doral in the 1980’s. I was inspired by Jimmy because he had about eight teachers and hundreds of students attending multi-day schools. He was extremely successful at Doral.

I also attended Jimmy’s school in Alabama many years prior. I thought that school was very unique in the sense that it was not located in a populated area, nor was it an easy location to get to. He had a very large client list and diverse staff from all over the world. Despite those obstacles, Jimmy ran 2 and 3 day schools for many years.

Running a school takes years of research, hiring great people, marketing, choosing a great location, developing a diverse and large client base, and creating an exceptional experience that make your students return year after year. I strategically chose the locations of my schools and earned the trust of the owners of each facility. I make sure that each of our teachers are fully certified and are personable enough to connect with our students on the course. We have state-of-the-art facilities, experienced and knowledgeable teachers, a fantastic location (I mean, who wouldn’t want to come to Miami in the winter?), and awesome staff who will cater to your needs.

Additionally, golf schools should include programs that have at least one full day of teaching. Most of our schools last between 2 and 4 days. I even have a  6-day golf school that I have been running for decades. At our Doral location, we have over 20 teachers in the winter season in addition to 10 PGA assistant professionals. That said, it is important to me that the JMGS philosophy is taught at all of the schools, including the junior academy in Texas.

This leads me to my next point about running a golf school- having your own unique teaching philosophy. Think of a teaching philosophy as building a brand. At our schools, we teach various ways to improve your swing. For example, you will learn the Eight Step Swing, the X Factor, the 25% theory, the Elimination theory, the Y Factor, the Power Line, and other exclusive ideas and concepts. Our theories are unique to our school and this is one of the many qualities that separates us from the rest. Other schools may teach one style and that may work for them. We believe in giving you these perspectives to help you become a well-rounded player.

The key to implementing your teaching philosophy is making sure that all of your staff members know it like the back of their hand. Though I have a few academies that have only 1-3 teachers, everyone knows the JMGS philosophy. Part of our JMGS philosophy is that we keep reinforcing the fundamentals. We do not believe in teaching the latest fad that someone tweeted.

To conclude, running a golf school takes a lot of work. Anyone can say that it is easy to run a school. Given the fact that I have been doing this for a long time, I can honestly say that it takes a fabulous team and possessing a collaborative nature to ensure the success of the school.

I would love to hear your opinions of a golf school and any ideas you may have. Write back to me on what you think constitutes a golf school.

-Jim McLean

What is a Golf School?

Load, Unload and Expload

I wrote this cover piece article way back in 1995 for Golf Magazine.  I am happy to say that it’s the 20th anniversary of the Load, Unload and Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 1.13.25 PMExplode article.  Now with BodiTrak (Pressure Mapping) even those most pessimistic doubters and anti weight movement teachers have to concede that great ball strikers and all PGA tour players load pressure into the trail foot in the backswing for a driver.  They then unload quickly back to the lead foot, and explode out of the ground through the the impact interval.

Let me briefly explain how you build body velocity and maximize your power potential by using the most dynamic and athletic motion possible. I’ve always called it “natural athletic motion” simply due to the fact that many golfers are not naturally athletic. In fact what comes naturally to many is dead wrong. It’s a swing speed killer. In fact I’ve called the reverse pivot one of the “DEATH MOVES” (Eight Step Swing book) in the golf swing and there are numerous other poor body motions that can deprive any golfer of there potential.

An athlete in any sport knows how to load the body. Even the first human spear hunters knew how to load the body to spear the family dinner. The tribe did not send out a non athlete to spear the saber tooth tiger. They would have either starved to death, or been killed themselves. They sent out somebody who could throw that spear long, and accurately. Same in all ball and stick sports. So the laws of human athletic motion have been set in stone for millions of years. Unfortunately many don’t have it naturally. We have to be taught.

The load in golf happens very early. Most golfers do not know this. As the club head first moves away from the target the pressure in the feet moves. And, by the way, top teachers and players have known this for 100 years. I boditrak_product_image01just used that Load, Unload, and Explode phrase to highlight my article on weight shift in a power golf swing. So the first move with your long clubs is best thought of as a move to the side, or a move away from the target. That’s opposed to staying on the lead foot or lead side. It’s also opposed to an immediate twist of the hips which always leads to the classic “reverse pivot”!   It’s hard for me to believe that some modern day teachers don’t see this? And they teach the one pivot point swing with the driver. How can there be one pivot point when you have two feet touching the ground? It goes counter to any definition of a true turn. You can only turn on a single point, not two separate connected points. Your spine is something you can turn around, but it does not touch the ground. So the loading process must occur over either the lead leg or the trail leg and you get to choose. I teach my students to load the trail leg!

Now in working with Terry Hashimoto of BodiTrak we discussed many ideas and I gave him a term he loves and that he now uses in all of his BodiTrak presentations. The word is “brake”. I told Terry that I saw the trail leg as the brake of the back coil. You load quickly into the trail side, but that side and particularly the trail foot acts as a brake. The brake is the ball of the trail foot, never the toe.  In other words once you feel pressure and the complete loading action the brake effect occurs and only then do you unload weight or pressure back to the lead side. This actually happens as the upper body (spine) and arms are still completing the backward coil. In the X Factor (TM) we call this the X Factor Stretch. This is a huge power accumulator. Once the player has made the athletic load, then made the early unload, he or she can fully filename-1(3)explode through impact. The hips will actually rise in this impact interval using what most golfers now refer to as the “vertical forces” in the golf swing. Interestingly there is also a lead side brake which occurs when the full shift or linear forward target side move is completed and the lead hip reverses direction away from the target

BodiTrack measures the linear forces with a trace and as expected the better golfers have power traces, clean linear back moves, while weak golfers use the body entirely ineffectually. There dead before they have even started the forward movement of the club. They might find their way back to impact but it will not be as powerful if they had understood and employed athletic loading.

Jim McLean

Load, Unload and Expload

Guerin Rife Blog

Guerin Rife invented the grooves on putters. I worked with Guerin on putter design for The Rife putter line. We originally hooked up with Spalding, but Spalding folded. Guerin then started his own company.
Grooves are now big on the tour. Many companies now use grooves. I wonder if Guerin’s patents held up?? Maybe he is getting a percentage. I don’t know. When he first told me grooves on a putter would really help the ball roll better, I did not believe him. We did a ton of testing, and to my surprise we could see a difference.
Not long after, I flew over to the Dominican Republic with Ian Baker Finch where we did an infomercial for the Rife Putter Company. We shot the infomercial at beautiful Casa de Campo. Rife sold a ton of putters, and a Rife rep was at every tour event. Lots of tour players experimented with Rife putters and used one of the putter designs in tournaments. Most of the time the tour player could not say anything because they have lucrative contracts with major companies.
I don’t see many Rife putters now. I do see Guerin’s nearly exact designs being done by major manufacturer’s and being widely used on the PGA tour.
It’s an interesting story on a surprising design feature in modern golf, only it was done back in the 1990’s in a scientific way. Putters from a hundred years ago had grooves, but I don’t believe it was meant to roll the putt better than a smooth face.

Guerin Rife Blog

The Elimination Theory

I got this idea from watching great teachers. Some had different pieces of the concept. In talking to some very smart tour players and playing myself in tournament golf at the amateur/professional level I saw many ways to practice. I also saw how coaches in other sports broke down their coaching into smaller and easily performed drills. I went to see some great coaches in other sports and I read a ton of biographies too. What they did in other sports was so obvious. It hit me after I had been teaching for 3 years in New York, 1978. I had been teaching 7 months of the year at Westchester CC beginning in 1975. Combining the playing, the teaching, and the studying I processed the information into what I called “the elimination theory”.  I even trademarked that concept because I knew it was groundbreaking in golf instruction. Instruction_Bay_042I started using it in my teaching at that time.  My great friend and great teacher Carl Welty used indoor instruction very differently than anyone I had ever heard of or read. Carl was always a huge influence with my teaching. I always considered  him to be so far ahead of the teaching field.  I expanded on the indoor techniques Carl used into indoor/outdoor instruction and then by taking away things that my students did on the golf course.

I thought to myself that eliminating targets and even taking the golf club away would free up the student and that I could use this new “progression system” to the benefit of my students. There was no ball flight result as soon as I went off the range and took them into my first teaching nets. You couldn’t see where the ball went. I realized this was a huge mental benefit to teaching because it eliminated the idea of “if my shot went good I swung good”. It also eliminated “if my shot went bad, I swung bad”.  I could win either way in changing swing problems.

When teachers or golfers instruct solely on ball flight they can have a huge detriment to long term improvement. Too much focus on where the balls goes vs getting your swing mechanics in order usually means a quick fix and often does not get to the heart of the problem. I could see that obviously impeding success in many instances.

I wondered what else could I eliminate?

The progression took place this way:

TAKE AWAY THE GOLF COURSE, GO TO THE RANGE

TAKE AWAY THE RANGE, GO TO AN INDOOR NET ROOM

TAKE AWAY THE BALL, JUST MAKE YOUR BEST PRACTICE SWING (it’s often not as good as the student thinks.). FILM IT

TAKE AWAY THE GOLF CLUB AND MAKE GOLF SWINGS ON VIDEO.

TAKE AWAY THE ARMS, FOLD THEM ON THE CHEST.

My friend David Glenz (1987) and I introduced body drills in our first VHS tape (THE 10 FUNDAMENTALS OF THE MODERN GOLF SWING). I’m pretty sure it was the first time anything like this progression had ever been shown. Body drills and better body movements have been a staple of my teaching since that time.

Once I get my students using better body technique I know they will swing the golf club better and we can progress much faster from that point forward. I don’t get ahead of my students, or their current golf swing situation. My teachers at JMGS do not over complicate the process and by eliminating we get great results.

I wrote about THE ELIMINATION THEORY in “The Eight Step Swing book” and I have had many teachers comment on the help it has given them ever since. I’ve spoken on this subject worldwide. It’s sure worked for me and my staff of instructors. Indoor/outdoor instruction is a combination that we use at all of my teaching facilities.

I’ve used my elimination theory for decades. It’s certainly one of the best teaching ideas I’ve ever had in this game.

The Elimination Theory

Gifted players I’ve worked with:

erik-comptonWho has been the most naturally gifted player you have worked with?  When he was 52 or 53 Greg Norman came to me for some guidance with his swing, and I would stand and watch him hit balls in total amazement. We worked on setup, grip pressure and pre shot. He almost won The British Open during this time. I went with him to a U.S. Senior Open at Crooked Stick where he could have won only Fred Funk went off the charts.  Greg would hit one perfect driver after another, long and accurate with the same shot shape every time. It was so great to watch him and see his enthusiasm for the game.

Bruce Lietzke was another. He didn’t need to have the strongest work ethic due to his immense talent, but he won the Greens in Regulation category on the PGA Tour three times (1984, ’89, ’91) and was #1 in overall driving 9 times, combined length and accuracy, plus very near the top every other year he played. His swing was so repeatable. He won effortlessly. I was lucky to live with Bruce at the University of Houston and on the mini tour before he went on the PGA tour. The game was easy for Bruce. He never practiced.
And I have to say Erik Compton. Considering what he’s overcome and where he is today, he has to be extremely talented. Eric has had 2 heart transplants. The first at age 12 and then another at age 27. He was recently the runner up in the U.S. Open. Again, Erik is another non practicing genius.

Lexi ThompsonAlexis (we call her Lexi) Thompson too. She is a great athlete. However Lexi is a ball beater. She works extremely hard. In my years with Alexis I tried hard to not over teach. I kept things she did naturally. I encouraged a long, full golf swing and a super strong driving game.

Who do you think has, or has had, the most perfect swing technically?anthony-kim-
Ben Hogan. But I also think Anthony Kim should get a mention. You can’t believe how good he was. He was very self-assured and knew how good he was, but he was all done at 24. It’s a great shame because I loved to watch him swing the club. Tiger Woods too between 1990 and 2002.  Are there areas of coaching you vehemently disagree with?  No, because if something works for someone, no matter how bizarre or unconventional it is, then that person has got to stick with it. There are so many methods and philosophies out there, and some may work for one person but not another. The proof is in the pudding – does this method/approach help the student play better golf, and has that method stood the test of time?
Theories are constantly changing or evolving. For decades, everyone said you had to hit up on the ball with the driver. And that’s certainly true for a lot of people. But research shows others actually do better hitting down on the ball with the driver.

Gifted players I’ve worked with: