Winter is a great time to either improve or maybe even change your swing, providing that you have a clue as to what to do. As the old saying goes “A problem defined is a problem half solved.” I believe this saying, but I wonder if the author ever played golf 🙂

(Editor’s Note: You’ve packed away the holiday pounds and want to get healthy again. Combine it with golf and follow Tom’s advice!)Once things are defined specifically, you can undertake your training by studying and practicing, or through taking lessons. It can be done on your own if you take the time to educate yourself. If you prefer professional guidance, contact me for lessons.

Here’s an outline of the basic intellectual requirements and training facilities for your winter improvement plan.



I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been emailed questions like:
“Tom my driver keeps going right (or left) , what do I need to do to fix it?”

First of all, there’s not enough ball flight information to even begin to define the problem.

Here’s a list of terms that you need to learn to classify your ball flight so that you can begin to define your problem. To identify and name any shot, all you need to know is whether it starts right or left of the target, and which way it curves.

Pull Hook: starts left of the target and curves left
Pull: Starts left of the target and flies straight
Fade: Starts left of the target and curves to it
Over-Fade: Starts left of the target and curves across the target
Slice: Starts at or right of the target and curves right
Straight Shot: starts at the target and flies straight
Hook: Starts at or left of the target and curves left
Over-Draw: Starts right of the target and curves across the target
Draw: Starts right of the target and curves to it
Push: Starts right of the target and flies straight
Push Slice: Starts right of the target and curves right

Reading your ball flight in these terms tells you all you need to know about swing path and face angle at impact. When you know that, you can start making adjustments for corrections. Without it, you’re shooting in the dark.

You also need to have a representative sample of swings to identify a pattern. I would feel comfortable with around forty swings.

Outdoors you simply need some sort of marker to define the ball – target line, then observe where the ball starts and how it curves. Indoors, you need a quality simulator to give you that information. The one we use at Plum Creek, the PGA Simulator gives you that information; Flightscope and Trackman are also reliable simulators. Those are the only brands that I’ve done in depth research on – there may be others that are also decent. Just make sure that the data is reliable before you spend time and money on your practice. Do your homework.


Once you know where the ball starts and how it curves, you can start defining the base problem.

I say the base problem, because there are usually multiple problems associated with bad swings. The main problem, or base problem, needs to be identified and addressed first, then branch problems need to be identified and fixed.

Here’s a real life example.

I had a gentleman that came to me because he couldn’t self-correct a problem he was having due to his “erratic club face position at impact” – his definition of the problem not mine – that was causing a pull hook, or a fade.

He was confused.

After watching him take about ten swings, I saw that the problem was twofold – the base problem was that he was hitting the ball in front of the circle; the branch problem was that he didn’t understand the relationship between the club face and swing path that causes the ball to curve. He had been making compensating  adjustments without any real knowledge about cause and effect.

We all swing down and out on our downswing on an angled circle. You can call it whatever you care to call it, but it’s still a swing made on an angled circle, and it  bottoms out at some point in your swing. If your ball placement is correct for a draw, which is my preferred flight for about 90% of my students, the ball is behind the circle – or back far enough in the stance to hit the ball before the low point of the circle.

This particular student was placing the ball too far forward in his stance – in front of the circle – and was swinging across the ball. When he closed the club face dramatically to avoid a fade, he was hitting pull hooks. When he then over-compensated by opening the club face, he was hitting fades.

We practiced getting the ball placement correct first, the base problem. Then we worked on swing path, and how to position the club face in relation to his swing path and the target line to produce consistent curvature in his ball flight, the branch problem.

There is a hierarchy of correction that needs to be followed in sequence, or you’ll drive yourself nuts making small compensating tweaks that work for awhile then break down. You need to thoroughly understand the elements of your own swing method in order to make corrections that will withstand the test of time. Do your homework.


This is a piece of cake after you’ve classified your shots and identified your base problem. You simply need to structure your practice to include drills that reinforce the neural pathways that you want planted in your brain for your correct swing, then you need to practice a few times a week.

Much of the practice can be done at home – providing you have room to swing a club. But you should make your way to a simulator or a dome to check your ball starting direction and curvature a couple of times per month to make sure that you are practicing correctly.

Here’s an unmitigated plug – if you are a self-corrector, it’s very inexpensive to hit  balls at our simulator, so going there often would help your swing and be easy on your wallet. Whoever is working in the shop will get you set up on the simulator.

If you’re not into researching your own swing method, or if you would like a total swing makeover, get ahold of me for lessons and we’ll get it done together.

Make next year your best year.

Love your practice, enjoy your golf,