Editor’s Note: Following is the sixth and final instruction piece in digest form from Top 30 instructor Tom Patri’s 2005 book, The Six-Spoke Approach to Golf. Tom is one of the most respected teachers and coaches in the game, and we’re honored to add his deep passion and knowledge to Golf Tips.
Looking back at my book Six-Spoke Approach, which was published in another century, the thing I’m most proud of is that it has stood the test of time. You see, fundamentals tend to do just that: they are both constant and lasting.
If you ever have the opportunity to acquire and read The Six-Spoke Approach, what will ring true about Spoke Six is that it may come across as a bit “old school” in a modern world of instant gratification. Good, sound fundamentals and getting a bit dirty by digging answers out of the ground through the sweat and blood of hours upon hours of repetitive movements will never be a mindset I’ll apologize for as a coach.
I say often to my most dedicated student I’m a coach, not a crutch. Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice does, and plenty of it.
After 36 years of standing on the lesson tee with over 50,000 lesson hours under my belt, I believe more now than ever that 99 percent of all swing ills can be traced back to the setup (I like to call it The Launching Pad). I feel strongly that a miscued ball fight and most swing faults are in fact the effect, that within the setup lies the answer — i.e., the cause.
A bad grip, a bad ball position, poor alinement, poor spacing: all can cause a major golf swing malfunction. If I were to change one thing about Spoke 6 today, I would be much more aggressive about preaching setup, setup, setup!
When I walk down the practice tee at LPGA, a Web.com, a PGA or Champions tour events, I almost always see players with an alignment stick, umbrella, or club shaft on the ground working on their alinement. When I walk down the tee line at any of the three clubs I teach at, I rarely see an alignment aid on the ground. The best players in the world think they need to continually work on the fundamental of alignment. The club member rarely understands the vital impact of that long-standing fundamental.
I will never stop preaching fundamental compliance. I tell all my regular students that if, during any hour session, I don’t coach some aspect of the setup, fire me!
During any golf lesson, as the session begins before your coach gets rolling, ask he or she first to please check all aspects of your setup condition. Bill Strausbaugh Jr. one of golf’s all time great fundamentalists (former PGA National Teacher of the Year) used to often say to me “from tiny acorns giant oak trees grow.”
Spoke Six is also a collection of a great drills and “how-tos.“ I’ll repeat another Strausbaugh Jr. pearl: “I may bore you, but I’ll never confuse you.” From that I often tell my students the No. 1 trait of all great players is that they are boring. Confused? Don’t be. By “boring” I mean they do the exact same thing over and over again.
In closing, please go on a mission to build a rock-solid set of fundamentals.
I would like to thank all the loyal readers of Golf Tips. I have received so many wonderful e-mails full of kind words. Thank you again. I hope my Six-Spoke Approach can become your blueprint for success — that you will use it as a fundamental reference manual.
Though this special Golf Tips series winds up, I’ll stick around. Please tune in each issue for more articles from yours truly.
Tom Patri is founder of TP Golf. He teaches at The Esplanade in Naples, Florida. He also spends limited time both on Long Island, New York and Maryland from June to October. View his teaching and coaching bio at www.tompatri.com and reach him directly at email@example.com or (239) 404-7790