David Leadbetter Opens Academy At Whistler, BC
by Scott A. Sumner
Golfers watch the Golf Channel quite a bit and it is often you will see golf instructor par excellance David Leadbetter on one of the segments. We all want to improve and it was my good fortune to have a 2 hour lesson with Jeff Saager a 13 year veteran of the David Leadbetter academies. Sager is a specialist in opening new locations and the Whistler site which opened in July of this year is the first in Canada. Saager usually works closely with David Leadbetter's personal clients when he is in Orlando. "I usually greet David's clients when they arrive usually by helicopter. My job is to get them warmed up, shoot some video and then bring them in to David," states Jeff Saager. Incidently these clients include Ernie Els, Nick Price, Charles Howell III and others who can afford the $5000 per hour rate.
Jeff also has his own clientele and after a very quick study of my swing suggesting some simple changes I could work on the that would help me the most. The procedure at the beautiful range area at the end of the Chateau Whistler course is to warm up, hit some balls and give the instructor a chance to see the swing and ball flights. Next it is out with the digital video camera to record my swing from many angles and then download to the lap top computer for viewing. The unique part of their approach is they can pull up swings of their clients and on a split screen compare you. My comparision was with Ernie Els. "Ernie is about your height," said Sagger. The similarities end there was my response. Jeff Saager talks about my swing. "The bottom of your swing needs to be more consistent. With your upper body you go to the right and back to the left. It's a tilt motion left and right. Your swing favours a ball up on the tee as you are hitting up. A couple things you do before you hit the ball should make you more consistent at the bottom of you arch. Number 1 is a slight change in that left hand grip. Take and move it down across your hand and not so high up into the palm of your left hand and that will help you sensing a little more wrist cock. One of the big things we talked about was trying a little bit better angle of your body at address. We tried to achieve this by bending forward more right at your belt line. That new feeling will let you create more of a turn of your body and less of a tilt. The main thing we want you to understand is when you tilt your right side will get very high and then you have to tilt back and it will cause the release to get to early. The result is we hit up on the ball too much and we change the loft of the club due to the hit. We are making it nice and simple. Create a little bit more angle and feel like a level turn of your body. If you turn level you turn back level and your release will start to get more forward. Our key here is then we are keeping the hand in front while before the hand was coming back. So this would lose the power in this area. Now we are trying to create a little more consistent power up in that area. Some nice simple things. Create a nice level belt. Just think a level turn and have some fun with it. The exercise that we did that might help you is sensing when you turn back, keep the belt level. Start to create some more coil."
"Most people just go and hit balls for an hour and half and they really don't understand what they are trying to do. They are just trying to hit the ball. The real question is why do I hit this way. Your belt line is tilted up mostly due to the way that you stand. The inconsistency at the bottom of your arch. You want a little more wrist cock and create more of a turn to generate power and consistency. The David Leadbetter Philosphy Its dedication with David Leadbetter. He was here for ten days with his family and constantly had TV crews and press," said Saager. "There is a one year certification program to become an instuctor at the David Leadbetter schools. Every year you have to be recertified. There are 28 David Leadbetter facilities in the world now with more planned. The goal is to make sure if you go to Orlando or China you get the same quality of instruction. This year we will do summer tours with the Fairmont Hotels in Canada and we will be in Toronto."
"Whether you are a professional or ameatur we look at three things. Our system is called preparation. It involves your grip, your posture, how you stand at the ball and the allignment of your body. A lot of things happen that create bad shots. This is the important part. In your situation your body has not enough angle here so it slouchs at the shoulder too much. That makes it difficult to turn or coil your body. The second thing we look at is called the pivot or understanding how to create centrifical force in using your body correctly. It's like if I understand how to turn my body through, its going to move my club. It is the engine of the golf swing."
"The last thing we look at is positioning and really thats understanding the club shaft angle and the club face through out the swing in relation to your body. This is something that you do pretty well in your golf swing and thats why when you hit it the ball goes fairly straight each time. The bottom of your swing isn't consistent but the direction is. Usually the swing path determines the ball direction. You do that pretty well. This is important aspect we give students. When you swing it stays pretty close to these angles. There is not a lot of change. Pretty good angles. Some people have a problem with their direction. They dont understand the plane. Your plane is pretty good but the primary thing is your posture. You favour the right side of your body. You kind of sway over with your lower body. When you go back, see how the right side is higher than the left side. You get back behind the ball and lose some of the power before you make the impact. This is really why at the bottom of your swing its kind of inconsistent. Your lower body slides way over and then slides its way back. You get up on a lot of shots. It's due to the tilt. You may think you are favouring youre right leg but really you are trying to create more of a turn. It's causing more of an upward hit on the majority of the shots than you would want. The majority of shots are on the ground, and you want to use a desending blow. Your body creates this tilt and a more ascending blow versus desending. It's a swing which would create a shot up on a tee. The height and the shortness of your shots is because the club head is released before you hit the ball. I think your ball position is fine. You are starting to understand what you want to have happen with your body. If you slouch in your shoulders you have no angle in the belt line. Its very difficult to turn. Look at Ernie Els. See how his body turns back. Watch his angle that he creates. The majority of his weight is behind the ball which creates power," stated Jeff Saager.
That is a lot of information about my swing and how I can improve. Really it is amazing how much you can learn by looking over your swing in slow motion on screen. I think the thoughts of Jeff were bang on with me and now it's my job to work on implementing his ideas. The David Leadbetter will email you 10 minutes of your swing or send it on VHS or DVD. Incidently the cost of a 2 hour private instruction is $350 CDN. Other options include a four day golf school with over 15 hours of instruction, an 18 hole playing lesson and two 9 hole playing lessons with three students, 5 nights accomadation with breakfast and lunch for $5,340 single occupancy. There are many other options available for the avid golfer. I recommend getting some good understanding of your swing, so your practice can be focussed on impovement.