Editor's Letter: Undercover Lessons
Spieth and McCormick: Dom Fuore/Phone: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images
Cameron McCormick is working with Jordan Spieth on the expansive range at Cam's home course, Trinity Forest, in Jordan's hometown, Dallas. They've been doing this since Jordan was 12 years old, so there's an obvious level of comfort. We've mic'd both player and teacher, and three high-definition video cameras are rolling. We're a fly on the wall, listening in while we watch. They're ignoring us and totally into the lesson.
Jordan hits a 6-iron that carries 200 yards, with a ball speed of 129 miles per hour, a 20-degree launch, an apex of 108 feet, and a right-to-left curve of 48 feet. We know this because we also have them hooked up to Toptracer technology, and our video shows the gentle draw. It looks like a perfect shot, but Jordan is clearly dissatisfied.
"That is an alignment thing," he says. "It's the exact amount of curve and height that I want, and I'm expecting it to start at the right edge of the building [on the horizon], which is where I'm lining up, but I don't think I am." (The arc is actually a bit left of his target.)
"Gotcha," says Cam, as he moves in. "You are aimed there, but the previous attempts at high draws were not successful based on contact. ... You added more face in the delivery, and it gives you the impression that it might be alignment, but if you hit it again, I think you'll deliver the club correctly."
We feel like we're eavesdropping—it's all about tweaks and nuances when the current No. 4 player in the World Golf Ranking meets No. 5 on Golf Digest's 50 Best Teachers ranking.
At the end of Jordan's 37-minute private lesson, Cameron turns to the camera and breaks down the key points they worked on and how you can apply them to your swing. It's the start of a new series of instruction videos with top teachers and tour pros called Undercover Lessons. The cover story, "A Great Round Starts With A Great Warm-Up," gives you the basics, but for the full curriculum, check out GolfDigest.com/schools to get an All Access membership that includes:
▶ Video on demand, kind of a Netflix for golfers with hundreds of original video lessons by the game's best teachers.
▶ Interactive live lessons.
▶ An exclusive digital site where you can post your swing and get it analyzed by a Golf Digest-ranked teacher, with an evaluation from one of our 100 Best Clubfitters.
▶ A year's subscription to the magazine.
▶ All delivered, anywhere, anytime on your devices—mobile, laptop or smart televisions.
"Jordan knows what he feels that I can't see, and I see things he can't feel," McCormick later tells me. "Through the years, there's become an efficiency to our communication—what's said is lean and agile. First lessons are in the construction phase—building swing movements that create ball flights. Then we move into the maintenance and corrective phase in which the teacher looks for what's deviated from the blueprint, and we work on putting it back in place. Spend more time on skills than on swings."
What separates Golf Digest's video lessons from the tips on YouTube is the quality, clarity and sophistication of the learning. "It's all about connecting the dots," Cameron says. "At first, students just see the stars when they look to the sky; they don't see the constellations. Coaching is about completing the picture. The genius of the masters like Butch Harmon and Harvey Penick is in knowing what to say and what not to say to effect the change in behaviors and ball flight.
"Jordan has been an impatient learner, intolerant of error. Even as a kid, he held himself to a standard that he didn't yet possess. He's always pushing for solutions. The average golfer needs a bit more of 'good things come to those who wait,' but Jordan wants improvement now and has the capacity to deliver it.
"When teaching a top player, you have to be quick and responsive because they have the physical attributes to effect change immediately. It's fun to watch. Average golfers are physically challenged and time poor. Average players might have only two hours out of the 168 hours in a week to work on their game. Top players have unlimited time."
No matter where you fit on that continuum, we all have a lot to learn. May the capacity of Jordan Spieth be with you!