My Golf Instructor

The Only Moment that Really Matters in Golf

It is absolutely ASTONISHING to me that the majority of golfers are playing a game that requires movement of a ball and they have no comprehension of what causes the ball to move the way it does. What's criminal is the lack of proper instruction or instruction at all on impact, when it should be the FIRST thing taught. Instructors spend time on things like posture, grip, pivot and weight shift in the first lesson and all the while, the student has no concept of what it is they are actually trying to accomplish. This is my favorite subject in golf and I could probably bore you with hours of reading, but instead I'm going to summarize what I feel you NEED and MUST know NOW to improve your game.

What Moves The Ball?

"What moves the ball?" This was the question asked to me by Michael Hebron in 1992 when I was a very distraught collegiate player standing on his lesson tee in desperate search of answers. I was also in search of a decent golf instructor or rather one who wasn't afraid to say what he thought and assist in learning, rather than forcing upon the student a method. I quickly deemed Mike the "mad scientist". His research and knowledge was overwhelming and definitely became the basis on which I built my own teaching style. What I liked best about him was that he looked right at me and told me I was "no good." For years I had been told I had a "pretty" swing and had spent too much money and time with instructors who didn't offer any concrete advice.

Such as my personality is, I appreciate brutal honesty and a straight shooter, rather than someone who strokes my ego. After giving all the obvious answers as my students do..."the club head", "speed", "my swing", "the club face", I was finally embarrassed enough to give up. "The ball moves itself" he told me. Talk about an "AH...HA" moment! When I thought it through it made sense. After all, I remembered learning in school about compression and seeing a basketball collide with the floor, compress or flatten on one side and rebound off. In 18 years how many students have given me the correct answer to Mike's question? NONE. That's right not one! My students are routinely shocked when I give them the answer and explain not only what happens to the ball at impact, but also how your body and club should align at the moment of collision.

Moment of Truth

Impact of the golf ball - the moment of truthImpact is the moment of truth

For centuries expert players have deemed impact "the moment of truth." This is because the ball does not lie. The ball does exactly what you and your golf club tell it to. The ball is your best friend in golf because not only does it do what you ask, it also tells you exactly what you did during your swing, be it right or wrong. When you do it right, if feels so good because the ball really does compress and push itself off of your clubface. When you do it wrong however it feels hard, clunky, jarring and can even sting because rather than let the ball push, you are pushing or trying too hard.

The point is that it doesn't matter if you look like a beast before or after the hit, as long as you look like a beauty at the moment of impact. -- Seve Ballesteros

Impact is fleeting. It happens fast, very fast. Thank God for the advent of video because there was a lot of guess work going on in the world of golf instruction. Instructors relied 100% on what good players or they themselves felt. I was fortunate to start my career with video and to this day I am still very moved (in a not so pleasant way) by teachers that say they don't need it or it doesn't do the student any good. There is no way you can see what is happening between the ball and club face without slow motion. With the leaps and bounds in technology we now have launch monitors like the Trackman which we used when I was at the Midwest Golf Lab. Launch monitors tell us that the ball stays on the club face for 300 milliseconds. That tells us that in an entire round of golf, your club is only touching the ball for less than 1/2 a second, so you'd better make sure it is right!!!

Many Factors

When talking about solid contact, there are many factors at play that you need to understand. These include the path of the club head, the direction of the face, the point of contact on the face and the angle of attack. Think of the sweet spot as the size of your thumbprint located on the center of the club face and the lower half (for an iron). It is a very small area to which you are trying to connect with the back of the ball (also very small). Centerdness of the hit is everything. If you are unable to make these two small points meet and miss by merely 1/4", this could mean a loss of 8-10 yards depending on the speed of the swing and the club. Missing a 1/2" towards the toe or heel can slow the ball speed by 3-9 mph.

Learn to Hit it Pure

To make everything align properly at impact, i.e. the club face, the angle of attack, the club shaft, and the path of the club head, your body obviously needs to be moving in such a way to make it all possible.

Maria Palozola

Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.

Who is Maria Palozola?
- Top 50 LPGA Instructors in the World
- A Golf Digest Top 10 Teacher in Illinois
- A Golf Magazine Top Teacher in the Midwest
- More about Maria
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