Cover image for Golf school : the tuition-free tee-to-green curriculum from golf's finest high-end academy
Golf school : the tuition-free tee-to-green curriculum from golf's finest high-end academy
McLean, Jim.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Doubleday, 1999.
Physical Description:
xvii, 264 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library GV962.5 .M35 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Get the benefits of Jim McLean's four golf school curriculums--the Full-Swing School, the Short-Game School, the Management School, and the Mental School--without the four-figure cost. Jim McLean is known as golf's complete teacher, and his golf schools--at The Doral Resort in Miami; PGA West in Palm Springs; Grand Traverse in Michigan; Legend Trail Golf Club in Scotsdale; Royal Links in Las Vegas; Mariner's Point in San Francisco; and Deer Creek in Toronto--have been rated the best in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Blending McLean's expert advice with over two hundred photographs detailing the syllabus of his exceptionally popular teaching facilities, Golf School is the must-have instructional for the tens of thousands of McLean's graduates and an irresistible and affordable golf bible for all those who dream of one day breaking eighty. Golf School is for every level of play. High handicappers and beginners can all benefit from McLean's detailed study of the fundamentals of golf--grip, stance, posture, aim, and alignment. Low handicappers will be drawn to the author's advice on the mental game, course management, and how to become a "player"--someone capable of firing rounds in the sixties. In addition to the basics and the more advanced elements of the game, McLean shares his secrets for attaining consistency on the links with pre- and post-round practice tips and homework assignments designed to complete between rounds. No other golf instructor has brought the golf school experience to the written page. For the first time, golfers will be able to attend a golf school tuition-free with one of the greatest living teachers from the comfort of their own backyards.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Two stars of the Golf Channel's Academy Live bring their arsenals of advice to the printed page. McLean covers all aspects of the game, devoting sections of his book to the full swing, the short game, course management, mental golf, and the power game. His approach--the eight-step swing--is fundamentally sound, of course, but a bit complex for amateurs to grasp easily. Thus, the process of learning the eight steps and then grafting them together in one fluid motion is easier to tackle via video instruction than it is in print. That caveat aside, McLean offers plenty of print-friendly tips, and his sections on "death moves" (swing errors that must be avoided) are especially helpful. Along with Butch Harmon, Jim Flick, and David Ledbetter, McLean is one of the marquee names in contemporary golf instruction, and this volume nicely encapsulates his approach. Pelz is among the leading short-game gurus in golf today, and his Golf Channel program may be the best of the cable channel's many instructional programs. The short game--pitching, chipping, putting, sand play--is the most difficult part of the game and the least practiced. Pelz, a physics major, begins with an extended discussion of the various aspects of wedge play, including a bit of autobiography and some reflections on why average golfers do so poorly in this area. There may be a few too many charts and graphs in the introductory section to hold the interest of all but the most committed students, but once Pelz gets down to specifics, his advice is succinct, to the point, and easy to follow. If the high handicappers of the world would limit themselves to one instructional book this season, they would be wise to make it this one. --Bill Ott



The reason you bought this book--or are even looking at it--is that you're a golfer, or you want to become a golfer, and you want to get better at playing the game. Golf is an infinitely complex game, full of pleasures and rich rewards at every level but difficult, if not impossible, to learn without expert help. In a perfect world, each of us would have a skilled personal instructor who would help us develop a concept of swinging and playing and who would regularly coach us through the physical and mental drills, both off course and on, that would help us learn and improve. The tour professionals, the best players in the world, now all have coaches with whom they work on a regular basis. Unfortunately, that kind of help is not available to most amateur players, usually because they do not have the time, the money, or the access to quality instructors. Given that, the next-best approach would be to attend a Jim McLean Golf School. There a student receives personal and personalized instruction in all aspects of the game from a cadre of Master Instructors who are the best in their field. They take each student through a comprehensive curriculum that covers exercises that will help him or her play better, swing mechanics, instruction on playing different shots, the correct mental approach, and on-course strategy and game management. The schools last from one to six days and offer a variety of specialized subjects, ranging from schools that cover the game in general to those that concentrate on areas like power, the short game, scoring, and playing. At any of these schools, students are given an evaluation of their current skills and then provided the tools to improve them. With a very low student-teacher ratio and the use of video and the latest in computer technology, the golf schools offer an ideal learning situation. Students leave the school not with their problems solved but with their problems identified and the means to cure them. The rest, as in any endeavor, is up to the individuals and their willingness to put in the time and effort to develop their game to its highest potential. The problem is that golf schools, quite frankly, are expensive, especially when you factor in travel, lodging, and meal costs. They also require students to carve out a specified period of time. Fear not. If any of this is a problem for you, this book is the answer. Between these two covers you will be given all the instruction you would receive in all of McLean's schools. And it costs you only the price of the book. You will be taken on a step-by-step journey through a school, just as if you were on site. You will receive the same variety of instruction from McLean and his instructors that you would get at the school. And you will receive the same instruction in the specialized schools that you would get if you attended them. The beauty of it is that you can learn at your own convenience at your home course, in your back yard, or in your living room. You can take your time in studying the text, the instructional drawings, and the photographs. And you can visit the school every day for as long as you like. When you finish the book, you will be in virtually the same position as when you leave a Jim McLean Golf School. You will have the tools to improve your swing and your ability to play the game better. There is no one secret to playing golf well, no magic panacea. As with any activity you want to do well, playing good golf requires a measure of devotion, time, and effort. You might call it work, except that golf is a game, and even working at it is fun. And after you have read and studied this book and applied the lessons contained in it, you will have a gigantic head start in playing this game to your potential. What and How You Will Learn Before beginning to read and work on the actual instruction in this book, it's important for you to understand what golf is and what it isn't. Golf is a game in which you use no more than fourteen clubs to send a small ball into a cup at different distances, over all kinds of obstacles, in the fewest number of swings. Golf is not an accumulation of tips, and the ability to play it well is not based on helter-skelter thoughts that usually have no bearing on each other. Unfortunately, that's the way a lot of golfers try to find improvement. A tremendous amount of information is out there now through the Internet, the Golf Channel, all the televised instruction shows, the golf magazines, and even tips in newspapers. That's not to mention the advice from your buddies in your Saturday foursome. Every golfer, you know, is a teacher. And since most amateurs really don't have any clear concept of the golf swing, they also don't even know what they are doing or trying to do. As a result, they tend to listen to anybody who is walking up and down the range offering advice. None of this bodes very well for somebody trying to improve his or her game. I always say, "Too much information can be worse than no information at all." Golf is a game of fundamentals, of basic positions and motions that you must learn before you have a chance to play the game well. These fundamentals essentially apply to your grip, your body motion, and the club, and a wide range of subtopics apply. It is my job in this book, just as it is in our schools, to make the golf swing--all of the different swings you use in golf--as simple as possible and to make your thoughts and concepts clear. This book can't make you a great player, but it can teach you to learn to play better golf. It can help you learn the fundamentals of golf and how to maximize the assets you possess. In other words, you may not have the physical skills or body structure of Tiger Woods or Ernie Els or Annika Sorenstam, but you can learn to play as well as your own talent and body will allow. So always keep in mind that I can't teach you, and this book can't teach you, everything it takes to get better. Neither can a session in our schools. Your improvement depends for the most part on you and how hard you're willing to work to improve. This book provides the guidelines, the knowledge that will help you do that. It's up to you to put that knowledge to its best purpose. If you're willing to accept that responsibility, this book will help you become your own best teacher. The Four Ways to Learn In my system of teaching, I use a four-step process for learning golf, which I believe is the same for any sport. The first step is through verbal communication. Your instructor tells you what to do, or in this case you read the words in the book. The second is through visual demonstration, in this case through the pictures in the book. Or watch the really good players at your club or course. Or go to a PGA Tour or Senior PGA Tour or LPGA tournament and watch how the top players in the world swing. Their swings will vary, but if you look closely, you'll see that all their fundamentals are basically sound and they end up in startlingly similar positions in the critical area of the swing, the impact zone. It's a simple matter of "monkey see, monkey do." Children, for example, learn by copying. They don't need a detailed explanation of what to do. They just see a motion, copy it in their minds, and do it. The third way to learn is kinesthetic, or feeling what your body is doing throughout the motion you are making or are trying to learn. This is the most important factor in learning to play golf well. Whether you are stroking a three-foot putt, playing a soft pitch, or hitting a full drive, you must ingrain a feel for the motion you need. They call it "muscle memory," although it's really an image or sensation in the brain that enables you to recreate a swing consistently without having to think about the mechanics involved. That lets you focus on your target and the shot you want to play. And the fourth way is through drills. Drills are great because they isolate small segments of your swing that need improvement. Also, once you learn the drill, you don't need the teacher. Unfortunately, most golfers who have played for any length of time without good instruction have learned the wrong swing. That means that not only do you have to learn a new swing, you first have to unlearn the old one. At a very high level, Tom Kite is a classic example. Tom grew up with a backswing that he took too far to the inside and then too far inside to outside on the forward swing. The result was a low, swinging hook that ran a long way and worked well on Texas hardpan. But as soon as Tom played in his first professional tournament at Westchester Country Club, an old-line course in New York, he realized that his method was not going to work on the PGA Tour, where courses often require high shots into elevated greens. So he began working with Bob Toski on changing his swing to get that higher ball flight. That violates the old theory that says, "If you don't have it when you come out here, you're not going to find it here." Probably only someone with Kite's determination could have pulled it off. That was in 1972, and as far as I know, Kite is still working on swing changes. I worked a lot with Tom over the last several years, especially in 1992, 1993, and 1994. In 1992 he won the U.S. Open with a swing in which he felt he was taking the club back straight to the outside, virtually lifting or elevating the clubhead vertically. Then he swung down feeling like he was trying to hit his left leg on his follow-through. The question is, did his swing really look like that? Of course not. The point is, that was the feel he was trying to ingrain to get further away from that early, flat, inside-out swing. That's why change is so difficult. You often have to exaggerate a motion, or feel that you are exaggerating it, to do it correctly. To move an inch, you might have to feel like you are going a mile. As Ken Venturi, the former U.S. Open champion and renowned golf analyst for CBS television, says, "When you make a change, it will most likely feel bad. That's good! If it feels good, you probably haven't changed a thing." We make changes and we learn the golf swing through the use of drills. Remember, a drill is effective because it isolates a small area in your swing. This book is loaded with drills that will help both your full swing and your short game, and I encourage you to use them. It's easy to go to the practice tee and just beat balls, but that's usually counterproductive. More often than not, you're just ingraining bad habits. Working with drills may not seem to be as much fun, but believe me, you'll develop a better golf swing much more quickly. That's when you'll really start to have fun. A System for the Individual Golfer Our philosophy, in our schools and in this book, is that we don't teach a strict method. Certainly I have a system and a strict method of how we teach. However, I leave a lot of room for individual differences and allow my teachers to use all their creativity. We don't believe, as some other schools and instructors do, that everybody is going to fit into the same golf swing. Everybody is built differently, so there are lot of different ways to make a golf swing and play golf and do it well. But keep in mind those fundamentals: grip, body motion, and club action. You can do it your own way as long as you stay within the parameters or limits where we find good players who have been able to do it very well. I call those parameters the "corridors of success." Once outside those corridors, virtually nobody in the history of the game has succeeded. I recommend an immediate change for super-poor body positioning or an off-plane downswing. In that sense, then, we do have a system of teaching, and you could classify me as a system teacher. I worked a lot with Ken Venturi over the years, and probably the most important thing I learned from him was consistency. In other words, if you go to one of our teachers, you're going to get the same fundamentals, the same concepts, year in and year out. I believe our system offers the most solid foundation there is. It is based on fundamentals, yet we allow those individual corridors to success. The way we break down and analyze the swing is different from the way most instructors do it. We look for specific things. We look at fundamental positioning of the body and fundamental positioning of the club. We look for the "death moves," actions or positions that are so far outside the corridors that they will cause you to hit poor shots forever. These are the faults we change right away in our students. I believe that all top coaches have a system, even though most of them say they don't. They're afraid to be called method teachers. Often these same instructors teach specific locations in the golf swing and you have to swing in an exact model action. To me, that is very restrictive teaching. However, having a method or a certain way of teaching does lend clarity to your message. It provides consistency to what you are telling students. Even if it doesn't fit everybody, the students who come back are going to receive the same message. To me, that's a whole lot better than having teachers who are in the search mode themselves. One month it's one concept and the next month another. That's very confusing and leads to a total loss of confidence in your students. I've seen many method teachers become very, very successful and really help people. Restrictive method teachers can't help the vast majority of golfers, but some golfers can get valuable information. Jimmy Ballard is definitely a method teacher, and he was extremely popular through the '70s and early '80s. He had many top Tour players going to see him, and his schools drew well. He's still very popular today, and that's a long span of time. By the way, I learned a lot of great things from Jimmy myself. He had a certain message that many golfers liked. I see that same thing in Ken Venturi, who has a certain idea of how the golf swing should be made, or Jackie Burke, Bob Toski, or the late Gardner Dickinson and Claude Harmon. I've seen a lot of other teachers who changed their messages every few years or maybe more. I'm always worried about going to a teacher who tells you one thing one year, and when you go back the next year he says, "Oh, you know what, we're not doing that anymore. Now we're doing something else." That's terrible instruction. I've come up with a system that leaves room for individuality, and I'm very comfortable with it. I've taught it since 1985. We don't change. Our schools operate in a consistent pattern, but within the parameters I've outlined we judge each individual separately and give him or her the help that best fits and is most likely to lead to improvement. That's the way I'd encourage you to study this book. I've tried to make it easy for you to search out the information that will best help you with your individual problems. That said, there are a number of things we recommend and teach that will help everybody at any level, from the beginner to the Tour player. The first is a series of stretching drills that are specific to golf and will prepare your body for practice or play. Jason Jenkins, who is on our staff, is a kinesiologist and has helped devise some nice warm-up exercises. Another is something that we pioneered in the '80s, when I first started doing schools. We began having our students do body drills without a club, folding their arms across their chests and coiling and uncoiling to increase their awareness of what the body should be doing in the swing. That wasn't being done anywhere else at the time. Setup, which is the way you stand to the ball, and alignment, which is how you aim the club and your body before the shot, are pretty much standard for every good player. There may be some variations to accommodate differences in body structure and shot tendencies--whether you want to fade the ball from left to right or draw it from right to left--but every good shot stems from a setup and an alignment that are basically the same, no matter what your particular swing might be. I call this the "universal fundamental" setup. The correct grip pressure is critical to a smooth and effective swing. So is a relative lack of tension in the body at address and throughout the swing. Usually these two factors are interrelated, and they apply to all players, no matter their individual swing tendencies. All of these factors are dealt with in the pages that follow. Three Steps to Improvement The Jim McLean system we use in our schools really boils down to a pretty simple three-step plan for getting better. Every instructor goes through this simple pattern with every student as we make necessary changes. Those steps are (1) What am I doing now? Today, on this date, what exactly am I doing? Not what I hope I'm doing, not what I think I'm doing, not what I was doing last year, but what I'm actually doing at the moment. (2) What should I do instead? If a Supreme Being appeared and granted me any golf swing I wanted, could I demonstrate it or even explain it? Probably not. More realistically, what should I do to correct the flaws I have and improve to the point where I have a swing that works effectively? (3) Finally, how do I make the change? Here is where this book comes in. In it are the concepts that will help you make the necessary changes. Of course, that requires a very clear understanding of your golf swing and your areas of strength and weakness. Most amateurs don't have that understanding, simply because they've never taken time to analyze carefully what they do right or wrong, or because they don't know what in the swing causes good or bad results. Ideally, use a good camcorder and a VCR so you can tape your swing, and use the information in this book to critique it. Remember, there are three other areas of the game for your self-critique as well. In our schools, we use video and a computer system to determine your swing faults. You can't take advantage of that, but you can take your own video and compare it to the positions you see in the photographs in this book. And you definitely should sit down for an hour or so and honestly assess how you play golf. Ask yourself some hard questions, and don't fudge on the answers. Here's a sample list: What is your best score in the last year? What is your best score ever? What is your current handicap? What is the lowest your handicap has ever been? How often do you play? Do you warm up and hit practice balls before you play? How often do you practice? What is the average length of your practice sessions? What percentage of your practice time is given to the long game and to the short game? Are you a good driver? How many fairways do you hit per round? How far do you carry your tee shots with a driver? What is your average driving distance, carry and roll, under normal circumstances? (Be honest with this because it's critical. If you're not sure, go out on a fairway late some evening, hit several balls, arid step them off.) Do you hit the ball high (too high?) or low (too low?)? Have you always been a good driver--or a bad driver? What type of driver do you use? Is the loft and the weighting correct for your typical ball flight? What are your normal shot tendencies? Do you fade ball slightly from left to right? Do you slice it badly? Do you push the ball to the right? Do you draw the ball slightly from right to left? Do you hook it? Do you pull it to the left? Is your normal shot a combination of any of these? What is your bad-shot tendency? How is your iron play? How many greens do: you hit in regulation each round? If that number is low, is it because bad driving leaves you in a poor position, or is it because of poor iron shots? How good or bad is your short game from off the green? From a reasonable distance around the green, how many times do you get up and down in two, out of how many chances during the course of a round? Do you have trouble pitching the ball? Are your chip shots finishing too far from the hole? What percentage of your bunker shots do you get out and on the green on the first try? What percentage of the time do you get up and down in two? What is your biggest problem in the bunker, skulling it over the green or hitting the shot fat and leaving it in the sand? How good a putter are you really? How many three-putts do you average each round? Do your long putts tend to wind up long or short? What percentage of your three- and four-foot putts do you make? Do you tend to miss your putts to the right or to the left? Do you have trouble reading greens--are you often surprised when the putt breaks less or more than you anticipated? How good is your course management? In retrospect, how many strokes did you waste with ill advised shot selections?  How many strokes do you waste by taking low-percentage gambles instead of playing the high-percentage safe shot? How many times a round do you play a shot that you haven't practiced or are not particularly skilled at, rather than a safer shot that you know you can make and that will put you in a decent position for your next shot? How does your on-course ball-striking compare with that on the practice tee? Are you able to relax on the golf course, or are you extremely nervous? What techniques do you use to relax? Do you visualize your shots? Do you have an image of your golf swing? How mentally tough are you? How do you handle pressured situations? Does self doubt creep in? Do you become overly nervous under pressure? Do you let your mind wander to the consequences rather than focusing on executing the shot at hand? These are the basic questions you need to ask yourself. Many others will help you further analyze your swing and playing tendencies. Armed with honest answers, you then can find information in this book that will help you work on and improve your most serious problems. Excerpted from The Golf School: The Tuition-Free, Tee-to-Green Curriculum from Golf's Finest High-End Academy by Jim McLean All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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