Golf instruction truths: What you can actually learn from watching golf on TV

Instructions

Yes, tour players are way more talented than you are, and they do things physically you can only dream about. And yes, the angles they show on television might not always provide the most technically relevant look at a swing.

But you can improve your game by watching the best players play, provided you use the correct filter. “As long as you understand that video—and still images like you see in a magazine—have their limitations and what those limitations are, there’s still a ton to see and learn,” says Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher Brian Manzella. “You’re not going to necessarily see the small movements of the hands down by the ball, but you can get a great sense of the overall body motion.”

Manzella pointed to this Brooks Koepka fairway bunker shot as an example.

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“Slow motion gives you an awesome sense for how much the good player completes the backswing, and where exactly they get to at the top,” says Manzella, who is based at English Turn Golf & Country Club in New Orleans. “At real speed, that’s harder to do even if you have a trained eye, because the swing is happening really fast and you lose where things are happening in space relative to each other.”

Assuming you can roughly correspond with Koepka’s physicality (and that’s a big if), you can immediately go out and try to copy his top-of-backswing position. “Just make sure you pick a golfer you can relate to in terms of body type,” says Manzella. “You need to be able to look at the person and say, hey, I could do that. Personally, I’m not built like Brooks, but when Patrick Reed does something, I think, I could do most of that.”

Brooks Koepka 2019 PGA Championship - Final Round
(Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Brooks Koepka plays a fairway-bunker shot at the 11th hole during the final round of the 2019 PGA Championship.

What a clip like the one above of Koepka really reinforces is what tour players aren’t doing—a point that often gets lost when amateur swing enthusiasts get caught up in comparing tour motions.

“One of the things I always tell people is that if you could inhabit the body of a tour player for one swing to see what it felt like to hit it that good, you’d probably be disappointed,” Manzella says.

“You’d say, that’s all there is? The average guy is doing way, way more stuff. Koepka looks so smooth and effortless because he’s doing things much more efficiently. Your swing has a bunch of downswing compensations that are happening because you subconsciously know that if you don’t do them, you won’t hit the ball. And since there isn’t much time to get it all done, it looks way more rough and violent. So instead of looking at what to add, start looking at these swings in terms of what you can subtract from what you do.”

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