SCPGA California Golf Summit

Last week I attended a teaching seminar at the beautiful Virginia Country Club in Long Beach. I have been to dozens of these over my 30 year teaching career as an attendee and, more recently, as a presenter. For many years too, I have had a vested interest. As a member of the SoCal PGA Teaching Committee, I have a role in continually providing opportunities for golf professionals to “get better together”.

The Summit was a chance to learn and grow. And did I ever. I am more fired up than ever especially when it comes to keeping my instruction simple, helping students stay uncluttered, and not try so damn hard.

The main takeaway for me was, teach less. Put games and drills in place and trust that learning will take place.

Here are a few quotable moments from many…


“Giving a lesson gives greater satisfaction than playing.”
— Eddie Merrins, PGA “The Little Pro” graced us with his ability to deliver a clear message. His history in the game is unmatched. I respect his longevity and continued enthusiasm.


“Perfection gets in the way of greatness.”
— Sean Foley, turns out he is more of a life coach. Beautiful.


“Find the least invasive way to get the outcome.”
— Mark Blackburn, PGA


“Let it occur, less trying, show me some texture.”
— Jamie Mulligan, PGA


Superstar host of the event added live music to his gig including the drummer from the band No Doubt. EXTRAordinary presentation. Not one single mention of mechanics. Bravo!


Amy Alcott and John Cook told wonderful stories with assistance from interviewer Charlene Bendt, PGA


“Life lives in the present. Stress lives in future.”
— Dr. Tim Brown
Sports medicine expert, health and well-being coach on Jamie’s assembled team


“Good coaches don’t say a lot.”
— James Sieckmann, PGA
9-time Nebraska Section PGA Teacher of the Year


Practice with a Pal



Practicing with someone is surely one way to get better faster. Companionship is one aspect that you miss out on if you never practice with a buddy. Having someone else there who’s encouraging and fun to be around is almost always a good thing.

A buddy can help get the practice session going and keep it organized. A thoughtful buddy can help put a contest in place so that competition can be had. He can help you know when to continue and when you are done.

Folks just don’t practice enough in the first place. Nor do players take advantage of practicing with a buddy. It’s even better if your practice partner is better than you. This causes you to have to pay attention. It can pressure pack the practice because you don’t want to lose. It can help you stay with the practice session a little longer because it’s fun and no one wants to leave. All factors that will contribute to you spending productive time working on your game.


Swing vs. Hit


Often, I am asked for that one big piece of advice. This is it…

Swing. Don’t hit.

It’s really that simple.

The ball is not the target.

We are all instinctively “ball bound”. Attention on the ball, trying to hit the ball, trying to make the ball go up are all symptoms of the urge to do something to the ball. This instinct or urge must be overridden with a commitment to swing through and let the ball get in the way.

I have students drill, starting with little tiny chip shot swings, with their eyes closed. The reason is I want them to learn to trust their golf motion. I want them to learn that you don’t use hand-eye coordination to hit a golf ball.


Nutrition, Rest and Hydration | Easy Bogey

Excerpt from Easy Bogey: How to Break 90

I had turned pro and started my teaching career. One morning, I was stopped by one of our Members in the cafe. He said, “Bob. You gotta help me. My swing is all messed up.” I asked what was up. He told me he had been 1 over par with four holes to play and finished with three doubles and a bogey. He ended up with an 80.

“I don’t know what happened. My swing just fell apart there at the end.”

Hmmm. I thought.

His name was Pete. “Pete, what time did you go to bed?”

“1:30” he said and told me he had been out drinking and dancing.

“And you played at dawn?”


“Carried your clubs?”


“What did you have for breakfast?”


“Did you eat during the round?”


“Drink any water?”


By then he figured out where I was going with the coaching questions.

“Do you think I just ran out of gas?”

“Let’s see. You got four hours of sleep. You didn’t have breakfast. You carried a twenty-pound pack on your back for like five miles. You didn’t hydrate and you didn’t eat anything along the way.”

“Your swing isn’t broken. You were one over after fourteen holes.”

Here is the moral of the story and a bit of perspective. Amateurs do things amateurishly. A big part of my wonderful job is to gently demand that they do things more professionally. This includes being well rested, properly fueled and hydrated. Please do.


Freedom from Tension



Tension is a killer. Tension and tightness, in the arms, hands, and shoulders will rob you of any chance for reliable ball-striking much less effortless power. We are all trying to hit the ball when we should be swinging. Loosening up allows the swinging weight of the club to fly on the wings of centrifugal force. The clubhead will practically return itself to the back of the ball, but not if you’re are tight in any way.

Relax your grip. Relax your forearms. Relax your shoulders. And seek to keep them free from tension all the way through the swing to the finish.

Good players look so effortless. It’s because they are not using effort. They learned as kids and understand that the golf club can not be wrestled with. It demands gentleness and punishes the use of sheer force. The club rewards balance, rhythm, and grace. They make a commitment to remove the tension that interrupts the swinging momentum of the club. This swinging is the key to consistency and effortless power. Yet, we strain.

Loosen up. And when you think you are loose enough, loosen up some more.


2016 Teacher of the Year Nomination

The PGA of America’s Southern California Section sent me a letter.

I am extremely honored. Thank you.

I look forward to continuing to serve our guests, teach, and coach at Sycuan Golf Resort and support the SCPGA by presenting at teaching seminars and writing articles.

Thank you Clint Higgins, PGA Director of Golf at Sycuan for originating the Nomination, for believing in me, and for giving me the freedom of movement to practice my craft.

Thank you to all my fellow Team Members at Sycuan for supporting me all these years.

And thank you to all my clients and friends for wanting to study the game, and find that getting better is always worth the time and effort.teacher-of-the-year-letter

A Little Victory

Practice: the word nearly everyone loves to hate.

Practice often means some repetition and drill, but it doesn’t have to be arduous.

The formula: one successful rep is followed by another successful rep. Practice time must be filled with success. After each shot, you want to say to yourself “Yep!” This signals a little win; a little victory.

Don’t Level Off

Take your game to the next level using the barometers below.

Level One: NEW. The brand new golfer, typically, just wants to hit the ball, not embarrass themselves and not hold other golfers up. He understandably has no idea about golf history, rules or etiquette, and feels like golf is really hard. Level one people are just starting out. That’s cool. We were all novices at some point.

Level Two: RECREATIONAL. We have a lovely group of ladies that play our par 3 course every Wednesday. Most are purely recreational golfers. They are in it simply for the casual competition, fresh air, companionship and exercise. (Note: many of the gals walk with a pull cart…Way to go girls!) They are not really pursuing better golf. Nor is my wife. And I have no problem with that. It’s beautiful actually.

Level Three: ENTHUSIASTIC DABBLERS. This big group is the one I am most concerned for and excited about. The level three golf fanatic plays regularly, almost always warms up briefly, eagerly watches the Golf Channel and thirsts for any possibly useful pointer he can get his hands on. Unfortunately, I have seen countless level three players get comfy with their skills and stop doing the work it takes to actually improve. They dabble. They stagnate. Slowly but surely their scores worsen especially as they get older. This is not okay. Eventually it’s too late. Don’t be lured into comfort or too much concern over net results and chit winning. Always KEEP TRYING TO IMPROVE. Push for the next level.

There are other levels to explore. Don’t level off. Start now, preferably with the help of a PGA Professional, to actually study and practice the game more completely. You will be glad you did.



Bob Madsen, PGA
Sycuan Golf Academy


Previously, we have discussed two types of practice: Repetition & Drill and Pretending. Now we have Games. All the different kinds of practice are tremendous. All have their time and place.

Note: Lessons must help the student determine the best method of practice to utilize given the content/theme of the lesson. See your PGA Professional!

Games consist of:

  • Goals
  • Limitations/guidelines
  • Reasons to participate (purpose)


Let’s look at these one at a time. A goal is what you are trying to get to. For example, “Let’s see how many out of _________ we can make from ________.” In the blanks you would fill in the limitations, i.e. ten balls from three feet. Last and most important there must be a purpose(s). The purpose might just be to “have fun with my practice buddies” or to “take my mind off my swing and body parts” or to “improve my short putting.”

Importantly, games involve competition, risk and incentive. They require among other things: guts, determination, a winning attitude, some risk, unwillingness to lose, victories, losses, thrills, excitement, mystery, hope, fear, optimism, rules to follow, courtesy to others, care of the practice ground, safety and being gracious in defeat.

Now go make up some Games. More like a kid.



Bob Madsen, PGA
Sycuan Golf Academy

Golf is Already a Better Game

According to the United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews Scotland.

Rule 1. The Game

The Game of Golf consists of playing a ball with a club from the teeing ground into the hole by a stroke or successive strokes in accordance with the Rules.
Golf is not broken. There are only three parts; 1. Begin at the starting line; 2. Continue golfing until your ball goes in the hole and 3. Low score wins.
Golf is so simple that 6 and under is now the youngest age group in tournament golf. Kindergartners understand it, go out and have fun.

I remember in the 70’s seeing a riding cart two fairways over. My Dad was entertained by the sighting and commented, “Look. Those people are riding!” Golf is so uncomplicated that you could walk 9 holes with just a few clubs in an hour and a half. No sweat.

Leaving the quest for more distance aside, play the forward tees and see if you can shoot the round of your life. Play with a softer graphite shaft and enjoy effortless power. Have the family go to the range. Send a few. Laugh at Dad when he misbehaves and slams his club.

I have one student who keeps track of the wildlife. Not her number of strokes. That might not be most people’s idea of a good time, but you get the idea.
Holing out is a good thing. Might as well unless you are playing Match Play and the stroke is conceded.

Practice chipping and putting. It’ll help you with part 3 above. There is nothing wrong with golf. I enjoyed my fifth trip to Scotland recently with my delightful traveling companion Jack Gibbard. The Forgan family of Nairn took wonderful care of us as we played 12 rounds in 10 days. Never really did keep score. Played semi-intense Four-Ball Match Play, walked, talked, marveled at the surroundings then ate and drank and laughed when we were done.

Now, if you want to get a whiff of “how golf lost its way” refer to Geoff Shackelford’s book The Future of Golf which I highly recommend. The book is well written and filled with significant and valid points backed up by extremely reliable opinion.

I just wanted to share my own two cents and not be all doom and gloom.
The Game is mostly just fine. And if we ALL actually fixed an extra ball mark or two our obvious capability of messing it up would be slightly less obvious.



Bob Madsen, PGA
Sycuan Golf Academy