David Gil was 19 when, in 1998, he started working as a golf professional in Almenara (Sotogrande), creating the first CAR academy in Andalucía.
He subsequently travelled to England where he worked at the David Leadbetter Academy. On his return, he created the Sotogrande Junior Golf School, where players who went on to become top professionals have been coached.
Always linked to education, in 2010 he became involved in an international project in Sicily, where he was closely associated with Italy’s national teams and coaches.
With a masters degree in management and golf course management, David worked in golf operations for Andalucía’s leading courses. In 2018 he joined “TGA Golf Academy by Michael Campbell”. In summer 2021, he created his own golf academy, DG Golf Academy, based in Marbella and Switzerland.
Technical and Theoretical Evolution in Golf Classes
In frequent conversations with my students, one of the common topics is how golf products have evolved in recent years. As that is an obvious and well-established reality, in this edition I would also like to highlight the high-quality evolution of golf teaching, and the way many top golf academies in Spain operate with their hard-working teams.
For me, apart from improvements in golf products (clubs and balls), the quality of teaching is a key element in a golfer’s level of play, and in the results we see today among both professionals and amateurs.
Much of this is due to swing analysis systems and technology, and I hope that in the future all golf courses and academies will be able to make them available, as it provides us teachers with a great deal of real-time information to capture and view movements of the body and club during the swing – which would be impossible without high-precision cameras. Above all else, however, they help the player-student understand much more about technique and what is happening during their swing, via data and graphs.
I remember how, in 1999, we brought the A-Star swing analysis system to Spain from the David Leadbetter Academy in England. At the time it was the most comprehensive one available, a major advance for the time, but nothing like what we have today.
The Most Common Faults
In 23 years as a golf teacher, I have met many players of different levels and ages and, in general terms, covering a diverse range of abilities and skills. Nevertheless, a very high percentage have asked me for help to improve these three aspects:
-Lack of Distance
-Lack of Ball Flight (Height)
-Lack of Consistency
1. LACK OF DISTANCE
Players who have good swing speed but who see others who are less athletic and less fit, and even have a slower swing, but achieve more distance than them.
For this topic I will highlight two points that you need to pay attention to.
Stance and Placement of the Ball
It is hugely important not to cross over in your stance. What does this mean? Well, that your body (especially the shoulders) is not to the left of the target.
I have always – and increasingly – been in favour of a stance that I refer to as strong for the long game. In other words, for a right-handed player seen from behind, you have a perfect view of their left side (shoulders, hips and foot), slightly more forward than the right side. All this will help ensure a good turn, which is necessary to achieve distance.
The Line of Your Swing
Imagine a tennis player making a drop shot: at greater speed, what they generate is more spin on the ball but not more distance. This happens a lot among golfers who have a bad swing line, in many cases caused by a bad stance. They try to accelerate the swing, sometimes desperately, but without any success in gaining more metres. If you swing in out-in mode, at higher speeds you generate more spin on the ball but not more distance.
This fault can also cause:
-Slice shots (spin from left to right)
-Topped shots (for vertical angles)
-Flop shots (with a driver or wood off the tee)
2. LACK OF FLIGHT (HEIGHT)
Hitting the ball low constantly can cause you many problems out on the course. The direct consequences are:
-Shots that come out too strong from the face of the club – impossible to stop on the green with an iron.
-Topped shots with fairway woods.
You should be aware that having a bad stance is always going to create problems, whatever your ultimate mistake. That is why we will always take this factor into account as the first swing element that needs to be controlled correctly.
How to Work on Ball Flight with Irons
It should not be too vertical. If you block your upper part on the upswing, the club will be at too much of a vertical angle, which can lead to it becoming stuck in the ground and failing to brush the surface or point of impact. The face of your iron needs to be at the correct angle when striking the ball, thus lifting the ball – with the angle not too tight and the shot remaining low.
Try to achieve greater rotation of the upper part of your body, without moving from your axis, so that you bring the club to a more neutral (flat) position that is not too vertical. Always start with a three-quarter swing. I recommend hitting practice swings that brush the ground: this way you can work more on the bounce of your club.
Note: If you swing the club to a very flat position, due to excessive rotation you won’t touch the ground on descent. This would not be ideal when hitting irons on flat surfaces, but would be the correct option when using a driver off the tee.
How to Work on Ball Flight with the Driver
Angle of Attack
It seems logical that moving the ball forward, towards the left foot, would help you gain height. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. Many players try to do this without realising that the upper part of their body is pointing to the left – and they’re already in trouble.
The swing will cross over, and in many cases the angle of attack will be so vertical that it will cause a lobbed shot.
Place the ball in the centre of the stance. These days there are drivers that enable you to modify the degree using a key – so that's not a problem.
-Place the ball on a high tee (that is, with at least half the ball protruding from the head of your driver).
-With a strong stance that will facilitate turn (as explained in point 1), drop your right shoulder lower than the left, so you can simulate the exit angle you want for the shot.
-The head of your driver should be placed about five centimetres (two inches) behind the ball in the stance to ensure impact at a positive angle.
-Weight should be distributed in a similar proportion in the lower body – and never too much to the right side.
3. LACK OF CONSISTENCY
In many cases, poor results are not always due to hitting the ball badly, but rather to a lack of consistency in hitting fairways and greens.
This can be quite exasperating, as the direction of your shot is not what you planned from the tee, or your shot to the green has not been the correct distance.
The vast majority of top players find it easy to move the ball with different effects. However, while this is essentially obligatory for players at the highest level, amateurs will need to work on their natural shot or effect.
Hitting the ball straight is almost impossible. For this reason, with my students I aim to find the effect they are most comfortable with, always recommending one from right to left, which will also provide greater distance.
In most cases, this is no longer a question of swing technique and more one of tactics: when players go out onto the course they need to set a strategy for themselves. Not everything is technical in this sport, and you also have to work on this aspect with your coach by actually playing a round.
How to Work on Shots from the Tee
On the practice range, work on specific situations, mark limit points to the right and left, simulate fairways, and try to play with your effect between those marked points.
How to Work on Shots to the Green
Today many practice ranges have target greens where it will be easy for you to work on your distances. Try to practise shots at different heights with different clubs to the same target and keep in mind one detail: a normal practice ball will always travel slightly shorter than a good game ball.
It is important to visualise what you want to do before executing the shot, as this will give you much more confidence.
In this issue, as always, my objective has been to summarise two technical deficiencies (distance and flight/height) – common problems among players at all levels, but not easy to improve. The third point (consistency) is a key factor when it comes to tactics and strategy, a subject I will return to in future lessons.