Setting the Record Straight

John Stahlschmidt
PGA Director of Instruction
JW Marriott Camelback Golf Club
Scottsdale, AZ

More Information

In thinking about this month’s column, I’ve decided to discuss 3 lessons I have learned in teaching the game of golf over the past ten years. My goal in doing this is to educate you, the reader, on these different topics spanning from more efficient practice to old clichés that never seem to die.

Lesson #1 – We don’t top the ball because we look up.
On many occasions, while in the middle of a lesson after rolling a shot across the ground, a client will utter, “I took my eye off the ball.” My mentor always made a bet with his students. He would say, “I am going to film your next swing and if you can look up on your next shot, the lesson is free.” Well, he has never given away a free golf lesson to this day. Topping the ball has nothing to do with not keeping our eye on the ball. It has to do with a variety of other issues that I will not get into this month.

Lesson #2 – I have to slow my swing down to hit it better.
This is something else I have heard over and over. The reality is, if you are not striking the ball to your potential, there is something mechanically wrong. Another mentor of mine would always say, “You know what you get when you slow down a fast lousy swing? A slow lousy swing.” Now this statement would never come out of my mouth to a client due to its brash undertone, but the reality is that courses today are longer than ever and we have to simply hit the ball farther to have a chance. My advice, come to me for instruction and we will work on technique in order to hit it long and straight without slowing your swing down.

Lesson #3 – More practice will make me better.
Ever heard the statement practice makes perfect? I always say practice makes permanent not perfect. The lesson is simple. If you are out beating ball after ball without the proper game plan, you will only ingrain poor habits. Also, through research, we have learned that the human brain (for most people) can only focus on one specific task for roughly 45 minutes. I always tell my clients when practicing, hit balls for 45 minutes and then take a break. After the break, work on a short game related topic for 45 minutes and then call it a day. Let’s face it, in today’s busy world, who has time to practice more than a few hours anyway.

In the months ahead, I will bring more of these lessons to life. In the meantime, keep it in the short grass and remember to fix your ball mark on the green plus one.

John Stahlschmidt is the PGA Head Instructor for the TOUR Academy TPC Scottsdale. Comments: email John at