My GolfTEC Journey
Chances are that you’ve heard of GolfTEC before. With 140+ locations and over 200,000 clients, GolfTEC certainly has a large footprint. You’ve likely heard a playing partner mention them or know someone who has stopped by for a swing evaluation, custom club fitting, or has taken a series of lessons from one of their many locations.
My interest in GolfTEC came primarily from seeing so many of the locations throughout the US. I travel to a variety of cities every week and I’ve seen numerous GolfTEC locations here and there over the past few years. I’ve also heard a few people praise their capabilities and I’ve talked to others that have recommended their approach to lessons. All of these things, and a desire to revisit and improve my swing, resulted in a swing evaluation and a series of lessons for me at the GolfTEC location inside of Golfsmith in Raleigh, NC.
A Little Bit About My Game
Before I talk much more about GolfTEC, let me tell you a little bit about myself and my game.
Not long ago I decided that it was time to get better. I want to be a better ball striker and I want the ability to do it consistently. I honestly don’t care a whole lot about my score or my handicap – I just want to go out and know that I’m hitting the ball well and that I can incorporate intentional strategy in my game.
I typically get out to play at least a few times a week and when I’m traveling (almost every week) I usually take my clubs with me. Over the past few years I’ve averaged around 100 rounds a year.
I’ve seen my scores steadily drop with the obligatory stalls and combinations of both forward and backwards progress. Earlier this year I watched my handicap steadily drop and then rise again. My typical rounds hover around a score of 90 – certainly nothing to get excited about.
Searching for Progress
I’ve never been much for lessons, they’re just not something that I had ever really put much thought into. The only golf book that I’ve ever read to intentionally try to improve my game is The Inner Game of Golf (which I loved). I always flip straight past the technical articles in all the golf magazines and I usually go deaf when anyone offers up advice on the course. When it comes down to it, I just trust my body and mind to do what they need to do.
As I saw my stats stall near the beginning of Winter, I decided it might be a good idea to take a series of lessons. If I chose the ideal method for myself, it would probably be to travel to the Himalayas and study with a Zen Golf Master for a few months.
In the absence of a trip to the Himalayas – I started to look into the unique approach of GolfTEC. I was intrigued by the scientific approach that GolfTEC uses, so I decided that I would give GolfTEC and their “Proven Path” a try. I called my local GolfTEC and arranged a Swing Evaluation Session to see what they had to offer. My thought was that I would do the Swing Evaluation and a series of 5 or so lessons to see where they could get me.
While hitting into a net is far cry from getting me excited, the GolfTEC approach looked interesting. I was interested to see if a combination of some good coaching, a repeatable process, and some good technical capabilities could improve my game.
The GolfTEC Swing Analysis Session
I arrived at the Glenwood GolfTEC location inside the Golfsmith store in Raleigh around 30 minutes before my session and dropped my clubs off at the front desk. While the GolfTEC locations all have various layouts – the store in Raleigh has the advantage of being in one of the largest Golfsmith’s in the country.
In addition to the standard GolfTEC equipment and setup, the store also has a large putting area, a chipping and pitching area (complete with some sand), 10 or so driving bays with launch monitors, and a few golf simulators for club fitting.
After hanging out a bit, I arrived to start my lesson and meet my instructor – Robert Gamble. Robert is a 2010 and 2011 Outstanding Achievement in Instruction recipient and he is the City Manager / Director of Instruction at the GolfTEC Glenwood location in Raleigh. The Swing Analysis session started with an introduction to GolfTEC, their method, a tour of the facilities, and an overview of the equipment and technology that we would be using for the session and my upcoming lessons.
Discussing Improvement Goals
After going back to the bay, we immediately started talking about the goals for my game and what I wanted to get out of my upcoming sessions. I explained that I really felt like my game was ok with the exception of solidly and consistently getting off the tee. I’ve come to the realization over the past few years that when I play well off the tee I feel great regardless of the rest of my game. I’d much rather hit 14 or 15 solid drives than put up a low score. I commented that I had no hesitation in tearing down my swing and totally re-constructing if it would lead me on the path to becoming a good player.
Analyzing My Swing On Video
Shortly after our discussion we attached the g-SWING gear and I continued to hit a series of 10 or so shots with my 6 iron. I have to say that it’s a bit odd to hit into the net from close range at first, but I felt like it only took a few swings to get acclimated. It appeared and felt like I struck all of the balls well and the 10 or so shots gave Robert plenty of information to use in analyzing my swing on video.
After taking that first handful of shots, we were immediately able to get to work. As Robert went through the videos he told me that “we had a lot of work to do” and he took a few minutes to show me the the swings that I had just taken frame-by-frame on video.
It’s simply amazing seeing yourself on video. Although my ball flight appeared to be good – the video was telling and I knew that there would be a lot of areas for improvement.
Going Through the Videos
Robert sat down with me and we analyzed the series of shots that I had taken through the video review software. We reviewed the videos at different angles and at various speeds with Robert annotating the realities of my swing and what was happening with the various mechanics.
We started with the “moment of truth” – my swing and body position at impact. We then worked our way from start to end – the address, backswing, top of the swing, downswing, impact, extension, and finish. Throughout the review Robert placed various PGA players beside my video so that we could compare and contrast my swing with great players.
In reviewing the videos it was clear that my most glaring fault was the over-extension at the top of my swing and the lack of shoulder turn throughout. The g-SWING System collects data constantly throughout the swing and the data is available and synchronized with the video. By analyzing the data we were able to identify areas that needed tweak and areas that needed lots of work.
After the video review Robert continued to highlight areas that were in the most need of improvement. This data led into an expected timeline for improvement and resulted in alternatives that were presented for an improvement plan and lesson options.
The Path To Improvement
While I was still hooked up to the equipment, we decided to take the remaining time and go through a few drills and exercises to start to rebuild my swing.
We started with a few quick tweaks to my stance and alignment that were easy fixes. For me this was a slight widening of my stance, a little less bend in my knees, and a slight tilting of my shoulders to get my head behind the ball. The stance and alignment tweaks gave me with a solid foundation to build on and these changes were easy for me to absorb.
The significant modification of this quick lesson was next.
In reviewing the videos, it was clear that my club face was very open almost immediately on my takeaway. This is one of those things that I would have never noticed even with the video without Robert guiding me. Reviewing the stills from the videos showed that this had a ripple effect through my swing and resulted in minimal shoulder turn and a compensating over-extension of the club.
Robert walked me through a few drills using an auditory feedback tone that indicated a square takeaway and correct shoulder turn. I found it difficult at first to get the correct turn and to keep the club face closed on the takeaway – this feeling was certainly one that I had never felt through all of my prior rounds of golf.
After a few minutes of drills with the feedback – I was able to consistently get the correct takeaway and hit a few solid shots. The improved takeaway had a significant effect on my overextension and put my swing on a much better plane than my default tendencies.
Selecting Drills / My Homework
Robert continued to give me drills to work on for my stance, alignment, and takeaway. We practiced the drills for a few more minutes until it appeared that I had the concept and had felt the difference between my old and new swings. After going through the drills, we talked through my plan for the week and agreed to set up an appointment for the next week to review progress and do a 30 minute lesson followed by a 30 minute practice session in the bay.
At the conclusion of the session, Robert provided me with my Session Report that outlined my goals, timeline, improvement plan, swing summary, some key stills, and my login information for the online Player Performance Center. We walked through the Session Report and I left GolfTEC with a clear plan for what I needed to be working on. To close things out for myself, I stopped by the bays inside of Golfsmith and hit shots with my new stance and takeaway for about 20 minutes with mostly promising results.
The Player Performance Center
A few selected swing videos, key audio discussions, still images, motion data, summary notes, and resulting drill instructions from the Swing Analysis Session were immediately uploaded to the GolfTEC website.
With a provided username and login, I was able to access the videos and information by the time I arrived home.
Swing Analysis Summary
I walked away from my Swing Analysis Session with a high degree of confidence the fact-based approach and scientific method in use at GolfTEC is superior to what I would have received with a single pro-aided practice session out on the range. While I was skeptical at first – I was able to immediately see the benefit of using the data-collection methods, video analysis, and side-by-side comparisons.
Being able to see and reference the information that was provided in my Swing Analysis Session has been a very nice feature and I have accessed this information multiple times throughout my lessons.
The GolfTEC Lessons
After my initial swing evaluation – I continued to go through a series of 30 minute lessons and video-based practice sessions. All of these lessons followed the same general layout and structure…
1. A discussion of how things had gone since the last lesson.
2. A video-based review of where my swing was currently at.
3. Discuss and demonstrate a few items to improve (with video).
4. Discussion of takeaways and drills from the session.
5. A short practice session on my own with the ability to review videos of swings.
After each of the sessions I would spend an addition two to three range sessions and play one or two rounds of golf throughout the week.
Each of the lessons that I took seemed to fly by. Thirty minutes isn’t a long time and it feels like it goes by incredibly fast.
I always felt as if I was following an overall master plan that Robert had for improving my swing and that we were just taking the next one or two steps in moving me to a better foundational swing.
While there were many times that I would have gladly accepted two or three more tips or things to work on – the one or two items to improve in each lesson felt like the right approach. The few things that we worked on for each session were easy to focus on and practice between sessions.
My Specific Improvements
The three areas that we focused on throughout the lessons were primarily related to the open clubface during my takeaway, the over-extension of my backswing, and my outside-in swing path. All of these problems (and their modifications) can be clearly seen in the video stills below.
Drills and Homework
I kept a detailed log of each practice session and my rounds between lessons. In almost all of these logs, it’s clear that the initial application of the improvements resulted in a dip in performance that quickly led to a fairly significant breakthrough. At the end of each session Robert warned me that I would be frustrated – but to stick with the guidance that he gave me. I followed the advice and it paid off.
In reality – the application of the concepts came fairly easily. This usually was apparent after a single range session. In almost all of my logs there is a clear distinction where the first half of the range session was frustrating and the latter half resulted in quite a bit of progress. To my surprise – the rounds of golf that I played between sessions were almost always enjoyable. Although I expected the rounds to be frustrating – they rarely were. It’s amazing how trusting the advice ultimately results in more confidence after committing to make the change.
There were times that I went back to revisit the audio, video, and drills from the lessons and when those items resulted in me seeing or hearing things that I didn’t initially pick up or retain during the lesson. The Player Performance Center allows you to review selected videos, audio, data, instructor notes, and drills that are applicable to each lesson. Although the website has suffered a few outages and is generally hard to navigate and use – having the capability to review the content of the lesson is extremely valuable and a nice added benefit of the way GolfTEC approaches their lessons.
Where I Ended Up
In the end, I’ve attended three months of lessons (roughly every other week) – significantly less than my initial improvement plan recommended (25 lessons over 12 months).
I absolutely feel like my swing has improved significantly and that I have a much deeper understanding of my golf swing than when I first walked through the door at the beginning of the year. To be honest, I didn’t expect any big breakthroughs and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how significantly different my swing is than when I started.
My Thoughts on the Entire Experience
After my series of lessons, I’m a believer in the GolfTEC approach. While I have an appreciation for what Robert and the GolfTEC approach have been able to do for my swing from a quantitative standpoint, I’m also a true believer in the qualitative approach that is prominent in books like The Inner Game of Golf, Quantum Golf, and the concepts spread throughout the classic book Golf In The Kingdom.
I’ve really come to appreciate that the quantitative approach and qualitative approach of improvement can peacefully co-exist to improve the entire system of how I approach the game of golf.
While I’ve focused on the resulting swing thoughts and techniques that I’ve learned from GolfTEC while on the range, I’ve also been focusing on the qualitative approach of awareness and reflection during the rounds of golf that I’ve played between lessons. I feel that the GolfTEC lessons have resulted in an increased awareness that has helped me trust my swing as I focus on improving all aspects of my golf game.
If you’d like to check out more about GolfTEC, you can read and view more of the details on their approach on their website.Find this author on Google+