Golf Tips and Tricks
With Steve Loesher
Director of Instruction, Nike School of Golf
Wednesday, April 14, 2004; 10:00 AM
Are you trying to become the next Phil Mickelson?
If you are looking for advice on proper swing technique, club selection or tee accuracy, you may find your answers here.
Steve Loesher, the Director of Instruction at the Nike
School of Golf in Reston, Va. will be online Wednesday, April 14 at 10:00 a.m. ET to talk about tips and tricks to help you improve your golf game.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
The rain this week is starting to taper off and it's starting to warm up outside. Getting ready for a round of golf this weekend? We would like to welcome Steve Loesher, Director of Instruction at the Nike School of Golf in Reston, Va. Steve, when giving lessons, what is one of the most common mistakes you see in a golf swing?
: THanks for having me. Looking forward to helping everyone today. This is a bust time of year for golf lessons. The most common fault that I see in giving lessons is a poor grip.
Most golfers have, what is golf terms is called, a weak left hand and a strong right hand. The club face has a tendency to stay open at impact or close very quickly to shut the clubface down. This, obviously, makes it difficult to hit the ball straight.
Steve, what did you think of that story today in Swing saying to start lessons on the green instead of the tee? My lessons started on the tee, and never really left it. Of course, I'm not too hot still.
Steve Loesher: Yes. I think starting your golf lessons on the green is a good idea. It helps the golfer get acclimated to making contact with the ball. Working your way from the green backwards is actually a good way to learn. Plus, putting is 42% of golf!
Read about five lessons one golfer had to learn about the game in the Post article From Zero to Tee in Ten Days.
I'm a duffer who falls on my back foot often and then slices or chunks the ball. Any way I can correct that? Am I simply not completing my swing?
Steve Loesher: Well, yes. The reason why your are slicing and chunking the ball is the fact that you're not transfering your weight from your right side. You need to make sure that when you finish your swing all your weight is on your left and you are facing your target. Try this simple drill. Without a ball, take the club back about 80% of your weight should be on your right foot. Then, when you swing forward, make sure that you transfer your weight to your left side and hold that position for about ten seconds. You can do this drill anywhere. You don't need to be on the driving range. Keep doing it until it becomes second nature to you.
Clubs are ready, it's getting warmer but choosing a course is the difficult part. Scout out area courses with our interactive map.
I Have a nine year old grandson who is a good golfer. What should I be doing to help him improve his game?
Steve Loesher: The most important thing for someone at that age is that he's having fun. Get him involved in a good junior program that offers classes, camps. There are a lot of junior golf activities out there these days such as junior tours, local junior tournaments, etc. That way, if he enjoys it, he'll be more likely to continue with golf.
Golf City, USA:
I see all these infomercials for this club that breaks if your swing speed is too fast. Do gimmicks like this one actually work or is it a waste of money and time?
Steve Loesher: I think that the clubs that break ... the one that comes to mind is the Medicus is a good idea. I'd make sure that you watch the tape that they send and read the instructions, because there are some bads habits that you can form. But, if done correctly, it can be a good tool, or practice aid.
Im looking for a driver that doesn't cost too much. I went to one of the local golf outlets and saw these clubs that were twice as long as some of the standard Big Bertha's and didn't quite cost nearly as much. Can you suggest a good driver to play with that doesn't cost more than a house payment?
Steve Loesher: There are a lot of good golf clubs out there these days. Several companies that I've dealt with in the past are Tour Edge, Square Two, are good golf clubs and can be inexpensive.
I'm a new golfer and have a problem topping the ball and hitting grounders. I've taken lessons, but still can seem to get under the ball as I should. Any advice?
Steve Loesher: If you have a place where you can hit off of grass, take a wood golf tee and set a ball on it up as high as you possibly can. Take a swing and should be able to knock the tee out from under the ball. The ball should drop straight down on the ground. If it doesn't, then at least it will give you the feedback of how much you are rising (lifintg out/up). This usually helps a person get a better sense of how much you are moving. Sometimes this will give you a better sense of where your body is. If you've had lessons before and still have this problem, the logic of what is happening has been explained to you. What you're not doing is getting a physical sense of what's happening. Unfortunately, there could be a number of things that you are doing to cause this.
I'm submitting my question early, as I won't be around when you're on today. My question concerns the Moe Norman (aka "Natural Golf") swing. If you're familiar with it, could you please comment on what you feel to be its strong and weak points? For example, I've tried it, and I think it's easier on the lower back.
Steve Loesher: I am familiar with Natural Golf. I think that it's good idea for some golfers. The whole purpose of Natural golf is to cut down on all the movements of the golf swing. In a sense, it tries to simplify the swing, which can help your back, etc. If it works for you, stick with it.
You have your tips to help you improve your game, join us at noon to talk with the editors and reporters of Swing to talk Washington Area Golf at noon.
Steve-Is it imperative to roll open your left hand though the hitting area with driver?
Steve Loesher: If the grip is correct, then you really shouldn't have any noticable sensation of your wrist rolling. The best way I can describe it is that you'll have the same sensation of hitting a backhand in tennis. The thing that concerns me when I hear that is to be careful not to "flip" your hands over too quickly.
Could you give some advice on what a good pre-round warm-up should look like? If you are short on time is it better to hit a quick bucket or focus on the chipping/putting green?
Steve Loesher: Spend the time chipping a putting, because that's about 60% of the game. But, you do want to also loosen up your golf muscles. Take a club or two and swing repeatatively to loosen up your back, shoulders, wrist. Be careful to stand away from your foursomes and others!
I am interested in GOOD lessons for beginners; something that my girlfriend and I can learn the game together and not develop bad habits. Can you recommend several local programs, professionals, or sites for basic lessons in golf?
Thank you kindly.
Steve Loesher: Nike Golf Learning Centers are designed to help develop beginning golfers. Our "Tee It Up" programs take the beginning golfer through every phase of the game starting with the golf swing, putting, chipping, woods, etc. We take you on the golf course and walk you through every possible scenario. That way, when your done, you'll have a good expectation of what it's like to play. For those of you who are not local to this center, look for similar programs in your area. It's important that you have the opportunity to get on the course as a part of the learning experience.
Short version of a long ? I am a decent golfer. 2 friends are just beginning to play. We play at non crowded times. Never on weekends. Course "marshalls" are driving me crazy. We even left one course because of the threats. We let people play through but my friends are learning and often find the woods. top their shots etc. Both are saying the heck with it because golf courses only want the good players. Any suggestions? Thanks
Steve Loesher: Yes. I would tell the management of the golf course that the marshalls are not being reasonable. That's not their job. You're doing all the right things. You've paid your money, so you have a right to enjoy your experience. Not all golf courses are like that. Here are a couple of other suggestions. Before you go out, give yourself a maximum number of shots you're going to take per hole. A good rule of thumb is double par or give yourself a maximum number of shots to get to the green. Once you reach that, pick up your ball and move to the green. The whole point here is not to get frustrated. A matter of fact, at the Nike Golf Learning Center we have a list we give to our students that's called "It's O.K." ... it's o.k. to move your ball, it's o.k. pick it up out of a bunker, it's o.k. to take it out of the rough, etc. These are not the rules, but just some ways for the beginner to have fun and make golf as easy as possible.
So after reading all the stories in Swing today and reading the chats you are ready to take up golf, but not sure how much it costs. We decided to do the math for you in the article What's It Really Cost to Play Golf?
I was given the advice that since 75% of shots (including putting) are 150 yds and in, that should draw a lot of your focus. Given that, I was told I should start taking my 3 wedges and writing down in a little notebook how far each goes with a quarter, half 3/4 and full swing, so I know from 120 or so in, exactly where I need to be. These seemed like extremely simple advice but it has helped me tremendously.
Also, though I have never been to your school, I am a scratch golfer and still take 8-10 lessons per summer. My biggest recommendation to everyone here comes from the fact that I know, and we all know, guys who spend thousands of dollars a year on the latest and greatest clubs but wont spend $100 on a couple of private lessons. Why is this? Do you find people are too embarassed to work with someone? I cant believe these guys who will buy new irons and woods, and still cant break 100.
Steve Loesher: Yes. I'm surprised that people will not invest in lessons vs. spending hundreds of dollars on new equipment. I was a Division I college golf coach for 11 years and have taught golfers of all abilities. Everyone needs help in some capacity, even tour players get constant supervison with their swing. Sometimes clubs can make a difference too. A mixture of both is probably the best thing. The advice you were given regarding practicing your shots from 150 yeards in was very good advice.
What would be the first tip you would give a beginner? (I mean a real beginner)
Steve Loesher: Definitely get lessons to as not to form any bad habits early. Your first instruction should be from a qualified teaching professional. But, as a basic rule, making sure that you have the proper grip, good set up, and proper weight shift, etc. will help you to get off to a good start.
My husband, who is a fairly good golfer, is having problems with his swing. He would like to take lessons but how do I find a good instructor? Should I look for certain credentials? Thanks for your help.
Steve Loesher: Yes. Ask when you call a facility, of course I would recommend a PGA Professional. And, there are plenty of good instructors in Northern Virginia. PGALinks.com has an area on their site called "Play Golf America" and it will tell you where you can find a PGA Professional in your area of the country. PGA instructors go through years of training before they teach. Other golf instructors generally don't have the same level of experience. Of course, I'd recommend that you come here!
How should the club face on irons be square to the target? I think I open the face at address.
Steve Loesher: You should concentrate on the bottom of the club at address (not the top). Have someone stand across from you to help insure that you are setting the clubface square to the ball. It's not uncommon that when golfers look down the perception of where the clubhead is, is actually misaligned. It could be something in your setup, or your grip.
Still haven't had enough of the golf chat? Share your golfing stories and any hidden gems you have discovered while enjoying a round of Washington Area Golf.
I have been playing golf for 14 Months and carry a 14 handicap. is it better to practice at a driving range or on the course. I have just started taking lessons. I Love this game!;!;
Steve Loesher: Both. Because being on the driving range is great to focus on the swing, learn your distances and shot patterns, etc. Definitely get on the golf course to get acclimated to all the different things that can happen, such as differences in terrain. Plus, when on the golf course, we all have a tendency to be a little more anxious. So, it's good to learn how to get more comfotable out there.
Do you have a website where I can learn more about your school?
Steve Loesher: Yes. Nikegolflearning.com
South Riding , VA:
Hey Steve, do you have any recommendations for someone who wants to play in local tournaments in the area? Thanks
Steve Loesher: Yes. There is the Northern Virginia Golf Association, which runs local tournaments. There's the VSGA (Viginia State Golf Association) that also runs tournaments statewide. Most golf course offer tournaments which most people can sign up for. There are also local "tours" for amateurs. You can find all these on the internet. Most states, counties, etc. have similar programs.
Are there any specific things to keep in mind when hitting on downhill, uphill or sidehill lies? What tendencies does the ball flight have when hitting from these types of lies...ie..hook...slice...draw...fade? It sure would make the game easier if I knew which way to aim these types of shots in order to find the green or a safe landing area.
Steve Loesher: With an uphill lie or a sidehill lie with your club above your feet, the ball will have a tendency to go left. It just depends on how steep the incline. The opposite is true on a downhill lie when the ball is below your feet. The ball will have a tendency to go right. The thing to understand is that you really can't prevent this. So, you have to adjust accordingly with your aim and setup.
Up hill lie - adjust alignment accordinly, as we already said, and leave the ball in it's regular positoon, make your stance a little wider and align your shoulders with the incline (parallel). The general rule is to also take one more club.
Down hill lie - the general rule is to take one less club. The difference here is to put the ball in the middle of your stance and try to swing with the incline. Most people have a tendancy to pull out of the shot too soon because of the lie. Try not to get too anxious.
Some golfers have said don't continue to hit of mats at practice ranges, but there are not many places you can hit off grass for practice. Your comments please. and do you know driving ranges that use grass? Thanks
Steve Loesher: Practicing off mats I don't believe is a problem. Generally, you're working on techniques and trying to get a consistant swing. It is true that mats can ge a little more forgiving. Oakmar has grass tees that are open only on certain hours. Woody's also has grass tees that are open certain hours. But, not many do.
What should I expect to pay for private lessons?
Steve Loesher: $40-$50 for a 1/2 hour lesson is pretty common in this area. The higher the price does usually mean that instructor has more experience. If lessons are less than that, I'd be cautious about the instructor's confidence in his/her ability. Rates usually have to do with demand. Rates will vary by area of the country, of course.
Falls Church, VA:
I tee-off with a 3-wood usually because everytime I hit my driver, the ball barely gets above the ground. Or it pops up. Slicing isn't a problem for me, but it seems like I rarely get the ball high enough in the air with the big club. Thoughts?
Steve Loesher: I can't tell without really seeing your swing. Usually, golfers swing harder with their drivers which creates a steeper, over-the-top swing. The steeper the swing, the higher the ball is going to go. The driver swing should be more of a sweeping motion. The length of the club sometimes forces a steeper swing as well. Try and slow down and not swing too hard. When you set up with the driver, try to keep your right shoulder down and your right should a little bit behind your left shoulder. This can help you to flatten the swing a little bit. But, stick with the 3-wood until you feel comfortable with your driver.
two words: Longer drives. Tell me how.
Steve Loesher: There are a lot of things that create distance. Flexibility, i.e., turning your shoulders more is one. The left should should get over your right knee. The length of your swing is another, meaning the width of arc of your arms. A very common problem is releasing the club too soon. You'll want to swing through the ball, not at it. Visualize hitting past the ball.
I am a novice player who would like to improve my game. I have taken a few lessons and hope to take another this summer. My problem, like most people is finding time to practice. In order to improve a decent amount, how many times per week would you recommend practicing? And how should I make the most of this practice time?
Steve Loesher: Practicing two to three times a week is the best thing. Usually, when I give people lessons, there are a lot of things that you can do at home, too. And, that does count as practice. There are a lot of things that you're just trying to get used to, such as the grip, transferring your weight, etc.
As a newbie, but enthusiastic, golfer, what would reccomend I get for my first golf club set? Do I need every type of club, or will just a few woods and irons do? Also, do you recommend golf lessons for first timers just wanting to go out and have fun?
Steve Loesher: You can buy clubs that are called "starter sets" that have half the clubs of a normal full set. This is fine when you're starting. And, yes, getting a lesson or two can help to get off to the right start and keep golf fun. Otherwise, golf can be very frustrating for the beginner.
Unfortunately, that is all the time we have for today. We would like to thank Steve Loesher, the Director of Instruction at the Nike School of Golf for joining us today and we hope to see you back for the chat at noon on Washington Area Golf.
Steve Loesher: Thanks for having me. You're all welcome to join me here at the Nike Golf Learning Center at Reston National Golf Course. Get out there and play and make sure you have fun! Hope to help you out in the future.
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