Golfers the world over know Michael Breed thanks to his “Golf Fix” instructional program on Golf Channel, which airs in Australia via Fox Sports. His infectious enthusiasm for teaching the game oozes through the screen, as his ability to communicate meshes naturally with his knowledge of the golf swing. As Steve Keipert discovered while Breed was in Queensland for the PGA Golf Expo, the American’s energy doesn’t wane when the TV cameras are switched off.
AGD: How can everyday golfers get the most out of their practice sessions?
Michael Breed: You have to define a practice session for them. What happens with a lot of coaches is they tell their player, “Here’s what you do: your clubface is open.” And then they send them on their way. What you have to do is tell them, “Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to practise this drill slowly for 20 minutes and then do this drill with a little bit more speed for an additional 20 and then we’ll go into a full swing. And in that hour, that’s what you’re going to achieve.”
You have to define the practice session and then you have to warn them of what’s going to occur. In other words, if you go out to the practice tee and you start working on something, if you go out there with somebody, somebody’s going to offer something. You have to warn them of the pitfalls of what’s going to happen when they go to practise. And if you do those two things, you’re typically going to get the best out of your students.
What I always remind my students is that I don’t go to my plumber if I have problems with my teeth. I go to a dentist. I remind them that when they go out there, they’re going to read books or see videos or listen to somebody and just because those people sound very smart doesn’t mean that’s something they need to be thinking about when they’re making this particular change in their swing.
We see your work on “The Golf Fix” and Golf Channel here in Australia and your energy really resonates. How vital is the ability to have a sense of delivery as well as a basis of knowledge?
In all the studies that everybody has done – and I’ve done a fair amount of work in this – communication is only seven percent verbal; it’s 93 percent non-verbal. So when you get into non-verbal cues, one of the most important things you can do is have passion, enthusiasm in your presentation. I’m genuinely passionate about what I do. I wake up every day loving life. I love life. I love life. I will hate to not be alive because I love life. My passion is important but my genuine passion, my genuine enthusiasm is what is really important. And I think that’s why other people that try to do what I do and have high enthusiasm where it sometimes doesn’t work out, it’s disingenuous. I’m just fortunate that I really, really want to help people. And I really, really love my job. And I think that combination is why I do what I do on television.
How do you teach an audience through television versus in person?
One of the most important things in teaching in the television space – because you don’t have the ability to receive questions from somebody or see that quizzical look in somebody’s face – is you have to work with questions that have been asked before. It’s almost like mind-reading. You’re trying to predict questions that have come from prior times working on a particular move or putt. I also think there are some similarities, and one of them is you have to present the material in an understandable way and try to make it make sense. Because what you’re still doing is trying to develop a trusting relationship. When the person can make sense of what you’ve said, they will come back and watch again. If they can’t make sense of what you’ve said, they will not – and that’s true if you’re on the practice tee with somebody or speaking in front of a camera. The relationship of trust has to be established.
And then the final thing is, you have to be able to do what you say you’re going to do. In other words, if I say, “Do this, this and this,” and then I hit a golf ball, that ball had better go straight. Because if that ball curves off, they’re not going to trust you.
How has teaching changed during your time?
The quest for knowledge has never changed and the quest for success has never changed, but the things that people use in order to do that have changed. There’s far more devices, technology has advanced and there are many more of both. There’s always been technology but there’s never been the amount of technology that is applicable now. And the phone has had a huge effect on what goes on with instruction away from the instructional platforms. Now on the internet, people can research a lot more information. They don’t necessarily read it out of Golf Digest.
What are the challenges of teaching golf today?
The amount of information that is out in the public. That is a big challenge – trying to get people to not get distracted by all that stuff that’s out there because they will get distracted. And I suppose that’s always been out there; I just don’t think it’s been out there as readily available. If you wanted to find out what Henry Cotton had to say in his thinking on a golf swing, you had to get up and go to a library to find the book. Now, you get on the internet and you can get that information literally instantaneously.
How do we give new golfers signs of progress faster?
Well you have to establish realistic goals first. If you don’t establish realistic goals, then they will become frustrated because what they see is people hitting golf shots that are going where they look. And that becomes the expectation level. What you have to do is establish what is a realistic goal so the expectation level is appropriate. That’s the most important part of the process.
Which mistake surfaces most often among golfers?
Most players play in an open-faced position. Most players don’t know how to get the clubface into the right spot. And I think they focus on what happens with the motion of the shot and not what the clubface is doing through the swing. That’s probably one of the biggest challenges.
Which single tip do you hand out most often?
I think the golf swing is largely a misunderstanding of the positioning of the wrist and how the wrists move through the swing. The wrists, to me, are really the [club]face; they can affect speed but it’s really the face. So for me, an understanding of what’s happening with the wrists – or the lack of understanding of what happens with the wrists – is the greatest reason why people struggle and are inconsistent. So I would say the tip that I would provide the most is the positioning of how the wrists are supposed to be based on the shot desired.