Michael Breed is not just a golfer who has been voted to America’s top-50 and top-100 instructor lists by various golf magazines, nor is he just the instructor who was selected as the PGA of America’s National Teacher of the Year in 2012. He is “Mr. Golf Fix” - perhaps the most well-known face in golf instruction - who has probably given more golf tips than any other instructor, during his nine years of doing "The Golf Fix" on Golf Channel.
So it was an interesting opportunity during the Arnold Palmer Invitational to ask Breed about what he believes MUST happen in the golf swing, as well as what absolutely MUST NOT.
“What MUST happen to be successful is that the path and face have to oppose each other, to curve the ball," he said. "How the body dances with the club is individual.”
While that is the requirement for directional control, the one for distance is that there should be, in Breed's words, a “clean collision between the club and the ball.”
Other than the requirements for direction and distance, the rest is a painting, everyone does it a little differently.
As to what MUST NEVER HAPPEN, Breed believes that aspect is most related to the mental aspect of golf.
Mentally, a golfer can't “think poorly while striking the ball and expect a good outcome.”
“I’ve seen loose and tight grip pressure, laid off and across the line positions, different weight distributions, but when the club comes through the ball it’ll do pretty much what the (good) player wants it to," he said.
He added that one physically cannot give such instruction as “you must never bend the lead elbow” because some leading players have done just that and succeeded on Tour.
When asked whether he uses any of the sciences, such as biomechanics or anatomy, in his teaching Breed responded in the affirmative.
“For me, as a coach, I do need to understand how the body works and I do understand biomechanics and I am reading all kinds of different things," he said. "I would say the hardest part of my job, which is also the most fun part of my job, is staying up to date with all the information that is coming out because there is constantly new information that is being presented.”
“Ultimately,” said Breed, “I am trying to help people play their best golf, not THE best golf.”
Many “first mover” golf instructors like Breed are trying to keep up with the information being disseminated by researchers on various aspects of the golf swing. And herein lies the problem!
Many golf researchers only study a small part of the entire golf swing, based on their interests and their existing knowledge. For instance, many health-care professionals have researched injury in golf. Some more biomechanically inclined researchers have focused on the interaction of the feet with the ground or have looked at the forces and torques in the hands. The health-care professionals such as orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists and chiropractors can only tell the golf instructor what might be wrong but cannot offer swing solutions. Similarly, the golf swing researchers can only say what skilled golfers do which relates to better club speed but cannot explain how to achieve those movements.
Many golf instructors, attempting to translate research findings into something useful to give their students, have asked them to make some specific swing changes without knowing how those change might affect the rest of the body. Hence the ever increasing inconsistency and injury in both the PGA Tour and for the average golfer using some of these movements.
Some instructors probably read all the information they have access to and then simply ignore it, either because it is too complex to understand or not worth teaching, based on results they see from other early adopters.
Golf instructors should further their education in all the sports sciences, to know for themselves what does and does not matter. It takes a deep understanding of all the important movement sciences – musculoskeletal anatomy and the mechanics of injury, biomechanics, exercise physiology and even nutrition to be able to put together a holistic picture of how best to help a student.
Without this knowledge, golf instructors could be inadvertently promoting inconsistency or injury as they teach “modern” and even “post-modern” movements.
Kiran Kanwar is the developer of the Minimalist Golf Swing, a science-based movement which is based on decades of research, graduate-level education and teaching experience. She is a Ph.D student in biomechanics and structural anatomy and is a Class A member of the LPGA.