Lesson Notes

Since I arrived in Texas, I found a local golf pro that I’ve been working with fairly regularly. I’ve been getting lessons nearly weekly since early May. I’ve been making some fairly significant swing changes and have been working extremely hard on that.

I’ve seen momentary flashes of where I’m going and I like it, but it’s a lot to digest and a lot to change so it’s slow going. Because of that, I started taking notes at the conclusion of each lesson so that I can help myself to remember what we talked about and to review before each range session so that I have an idea of what I want to work on.

I thought it might be useful if I shared my lesson notes with you, both so you can see what I’m working on, but also because you might find that taking notes after your own lessons has benefit as time goes on. A few times now, I’ve reviewed my notes and have realized I actually forgot key pieces of teaching. This helps me to make sure I stay on plan and don’t drift away from the important stuff.

The lists for each day are my raw notes as I took them at the conclusion of each lesson (I put them on my iPhone right at the range before I left). Following, in italics, are any explanations that I added for this post to give context to my thoughts. Some of them will seem nonsensical without a frame of reference.

May 7, 2011

  • Straight back, hinge, miss Mike. [To keep me from yanking the club to the inside, Mike (my pro) stood off to my right side and told me that the club should not hit him as I take it back and hinge my wrists]
  • Stand farther from the ball. [My previous pro liked me to stand closer to the ball. My current pro wants me to be further away, which gives me more room to swing my arms]
  • Width at the top, elbow not so close.
  • Finish with left knee straight, club handle pointed left. [We're trying to fix a bit of a lazy finish position]

May 14, 2011

  • Straight back, make it go up. [This key is a continuation of the "miss Mike" thought from the first lesson and is possibly the most significant change I'm making. I'm taking my hands straight back, hinging the club earlier, and taking it straight up, not pulling it around behind me]
  • Don’t get hands away from body. [I tend to take them back away from me on the back swing and then get them too far in front of me on the down swing.]
  • Keep hands closer going back and get them inside (behind) coming down, not starting outward.
  • Finish with hands higher, chest turned left, right foot more on toe.
  • Grip with left thumb on top, not on the side. [My grip had become faulty, probably in a subconscious effort to make it stronger to help me flip the face square at the bottom]
  • Do drills for takeaway, and coming down.
  • Stop watching club on takeaway. [This is an awful habit I've developed, initially in a simple effort to check back swing positioning. Now, I'm having trouble stopping and when I let my head move to watch the ball, it throws me off. I'm getting better, but not there yet.]

May 27, 2011

  • Fat shots come from flipping through impact. [In my case, I tend to open the club face at the top of the back swing, forcing me to need to flip it closed to have a chance at hitting a decent shot. Sometimes, this leads to fat shots when my timing is off.]
  • Stop opening up the club face. Keep it square. [Cupping my wrist at the top was opening up the club face and causing me to have to manipulate it and rely on timing to get it square. This is one of the biggest causes of my inconsistency.]
  • Hands straight back, closer to right thigh.
  • Don’t take club head back inside. Practice against a wall. Club head should only gradually come away from the wall on takeaway.
  • Don’t get arms so far away from body on the down swing.
  • Don’t let left wrist cup on the way down or at the top.
  • When coming back down to parallel, right wrist should be pretty bent (with lag). Club face should be square (what looks like closed from my view). Definitely not with the toe pointing straight up. [More on this in a subsequent post, but when I was learning the game, it was popular to teach that when the club shaft is parallel to the ground on the takeaway, that the toe should point straight up. Now, many people say that the club face should be square to the swing plane, or facing the ground somewhere out toward the target line.]

June 4, 2011

  • Keep left wrist flat at impact. [My flipping action at the bottom leads my right hand to dominate and let my left wrist break down. This is one of the things that makes me hit the ball so high. I'm actually adding loft to every club.]
  • Let club face keep closing past impact. [This is a key to help me keep from wanting to open the club face at the top and keep it open past impact.]
  • Keep working on straight back and club moving up.
  • Stop cupping left wrist and opening the face on the way down.
  • Hit little half shots to work on left wrist. [It's tough to get this move at full speed. Hitting half shots is a good way to feel it.]
  • At the top, work on dropping right elbow instead of starting with shoulders and hands moving out. [This leads to me coming over the top and pulling the ball left, something I've been fighting for a long time.]
  • Lead with left wrist coming into impact but don’t stop turning.

June 11, 2011

  • Coming down, feel as if someone is standing in front of me, pushing my hands back behind me (to the inside).
  • Don’t let the face open coming down.
  • Keep working on straight back, let it come up. [This is the same takeaway key from day one. I've made great strides there, but sometimes I lapse back into old habits.]
  • Don’t slide hips right. Practice with bag off my right side and don’t bump into my head cover. [Sliding to the right keeps me from getting a good hip turn and subsequently prevents a full shoulder turn.]
  • Stop watching the club go back. [After 5 weeks, this change is proving to be the most difficult]
  • Stop cheating on the finish. Get all the way through. Turn the hips past the target. Let head come up.
  • Rehearse the move from the top at home and before every shot. Don’t flip the club at the bottom. Try to keep the back of the left hand facing the target past impact.

There you have it. Five lessons worth of notes. This is everything I’m working on, and I have the blisters to prove it.

I’m curious to know if you take notes from your own lessons or even just from your own practice sessions. Drop a comment and let me know.


  1. Frank says:

    Hi Mike. The way I fat-finger the phone it would take me 2 hours to do the notes. I use the voice recorder occasionally. I am looking into taking some lessons from GOLFTEC at Golfsmith. Just a few. The nice thing is that they are video recorded and you can re-play them at home as often as you want. I had a spinal injection on Friday to manage back pain. It feels a bit better, so I’m going to try it out tomorrow afternoon at Fossil Creek.
    Who is your instructor? Where are you taking instruction? Keep us posted on your progress.

    • Mike Gray says:

      Hi Frank,

      Best of luck with the back pain. I know from first hand experience that it can really put the skids on any kind of play or practice. Even mundane life tasks can become a real chore.

      My pro is Mike Tschetter at Leonard Golf Links in west Fort Worth. I really like his style and I think he’s really helping me to understand my swing more and to remove some bad habits that have been there for a long time. I feel like I’m getting a good grasp on how parts of the swing work together and am learning how to diagnose things that are going wrong according to my tendencies. For instance, I now understand that when I hit a fat shot, it’s usually because I’m flipping my wrists before impact. Other people hit fat shots for a variety of reasons, but in my case, that’s usually the cause.

      • Frank says:

        You’re an inspiration Mike. I have signed up for lessons at Fossil Creek with Troy Lewis. I have developed some weird swing issues over the last few months and I need someone to look it over and get me straightened out. I’m carrying a 15 and should be closed to single digits. My first lesson is Friday.

  2. Chris Sellon says:

    Hey Mike,

    This is great not only does writing them down help for posterity’s sake, it also seems to help you think about each little issue more thoroughly. This is something that has crossed my mind but i’m notoriously lazy about keeping up on doing it after every lesson. I plan on giving it a solid effort judging by how in depth you were able to analyze every drill.

    -Chris Sellon

  3. Geoff says:

    Kept a daily golf diary from when I returned to golf in 2009 up to mid 2010. It was an assist in going from 34 to 19 handicap in that time. Have since began to do the diary again now I have reached 14 and within sight of the target of ten. Would endorse others who consider it to try it and see that it is well worth the effort.

  4. Tom Worrall says:

    I remember first starting golf myself, and having lesson after lesson teaching me the correct stances and techniques for every shot. Then one day I stopped playing for about 5 years.

    When I came back to it earlier this year, I completely forgot most of it and everything felt unnatural. What I wouldn’t give for notes on my old lessons….

    I now need to do it all over again.

  5. Sarah Hill says:

    I’m really impressed by your detailed notes and willingness to dedicate your time. Have you ever considered golf school? My brother attends College of Golf at Keiser University in Florida and things are looking pretty good for him.

    • Mike Gray says:

      I have considered it in the past, Sarah. I don’t think it’s right for me at this point, but in the future, who knows? I will definitely keep it in mind over time, though.

  6. Mike,

    We have some of the same faults.

    I take it inside right away with a wrist roll. Then go straight up with a false shoulder turn. I then come down steep, flip it, and hit shots weak and to the right.

    That’s it in a nutshell lol!

    Hang in there; put the work in and the changes will take hold.


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