By Kiel Christianson
SwingFix delivers the world's greatest golf instructors directly to your computer, laptop or tablet.
In Jason Helman, we bring you one of Canada's best. Jason has compiled a career of nearly two decades in the golf industry as a player, swing instructor, and coach.
In 2010, he was named both the Ontario and Canadian PGA Teacher of the Year, and in 2011 he was recognized by Golf Digest as one of the top five teachers in Canada.
Currently, Jason is the Director of Instruction at the Greg Norman designed Wyndance Golf Club, just North of Toronto, Ontario and he also is the director of Jason Helman Golf.
Five Questions with Jason Helman
1. First off, talk briefly about your golf instruction philosophy and how you preach it at your facility.
HELMAN: I try and approach golf as more of a long-term experience. I don’t work from a one way fits all type of mentality. I look for and identify the most critical aspect or deficiency the player has and try to work on that one specific issue until we obtain a better outcome. There may be some other smaller things that come along with that one specific issue and I will definitely touch on those as they need to be implemented. We’re all different and have certain skill sets or abilities that we’re better at than others; all I try and do with my students is to ensure they’re improving or developing those skills to their highest efficiency. It’s unfortunate, but we live in a 'right-now' society and have the ability to obtain whatever we would like if we have the means to 'purchase' them. The problem is that we can’t do that in the game of golf – you can buy new equipment every year and never really get any better. Eventually you’ll come to the conclusion that you require help to learn. We spend eight years in elementary school, four years in high school and another four to six years in university developing our skills and learning. That’s approximately 26 percent of our life learning presuming the average lifespan is 70 years old. However, when it comes to wanting a golf swing, our expectations can sometimes be unrealistic, whereby we take a 60-minute lesson or a couple more, and then we think we’ve got it. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Therefore, I’ve created and implemented coaching models that involve instructional sessions along with practices where the student will work with the coach in either the practice setting or on course in a more consequential environment to learn the game.
2. What attracted you to the SwingFix platform and how effective can this method be for golfers?
HELMAN: When I was first recruited to the team of instructors, I looked at the platform and found that this was an easy way for students to choose the instructor of their choice and be able to communicate with them no matter where they are in the world. It’s a great cost-efficient way for golfers who may have never received instruction or had their swing analyzed on video to understand all of the things that they’re doing correctly along with a few suggestions to improve their swing. The SwingFix site allows me to see their swing, and with the technological advances in phones, tablets and cameras these days, we can provide a quality analysis on an ongoing basis to develop and build a solid coach/student relationship. This provides the student the opportunity to interact back and forth so that everything can be clarified and the student has a complete understanding of any necessary adjustments required for their skill advancement.
3. In your opinion, what is the secret to taking the "range game" to the first tee?
HELMAN: Oh, where do I start? It all starts prior to the player even getting to the course. It comes from an understanding that you’re playing golf that day, so prepare yourself mentally and get your schedule organized to play. I see so many people racing down to the range after they have just arrived minutes before their tee time. They’re still in a frantic state of mind and their brain is going a hundred miles an hour. This rarely results in a great start on the first tee. So, get yourself to the course with 45 minutes to spare so you can go through a proper warm up. Hit the putting green first to get the speed of the green, go and chip a few balls to get the feel of the ball coming off the clubface and then go to the range. The key is to hit a few different clubs and keep switching, I go 8, 6, 4, hybrid, 3-wood, driver, then hit the shots I would expect to play in the first three holes, and I’m ready to go. The 'range game' usually boils down to understanding your tempo and how your body is feeling that particular day. Certainly we’ve all had an 'A-Ha!' moment where we said, 'Wow, I didn’t even feel I swung at that and it went really far.' This is your biomechanics or kinetic sequence working efficiently. I try and get my students to understand and identify what it feels like to swing at an 80-percent capacity and be able to dial that in whenever they get to the range and then learn how to calm themselves when they get to the first tee, figure out the tempo in their rehearsal, execute to the best of their ability, accept the outcome, and move forward.
4. Is there a particular training aid that you tend to use most regularly and with the most effectiveness?
HELMAN: I use a variety of aids that provide effective feel. I’m really fussy when it comes to training aids, so I am sure to test them for any breakdown vulnerabilities. One of the first things that is so important in making a mechanical change is the effective impact position, so I turn to my trusty 'SKLZ impact bag' to have students achieve the new or proper feeling at impact. I use my 'Orange Whip Trainer' on a daily basis for tempo, which helps students develop the ability to feel where the energy of the club exits and it gets the hands and arms under control in a smoother sequence.
5. Is there a way students who have worked with you most often dramatically improve and achieve that coveted five-shot drop in scores? Power, consistency, short game, management, playing more golf, etc.?
HELMAN: Definitely. One of the most frequent phrases I hear is, 'Putting is the best part of my game.' This is of course all in relation to the number of greens hit in regulation. When I ask how many putts they have per round it’s usually mid to high 30s, which is average to above average. I prefer to work on the short game and on the putting green first and around the green in the beginning to help students develop their skill sets and put some new go-to shot selections in their bag. After they achieve some success and build trust in their skills, I progress back to 100 yards. I have an easy system that can be acquired through efficient quality practice that develops an understanding of how to make the ball fly the correct distance consistently. This is where I have seen the most dramatic decreases in handicap. Once we’ve achieved some of this we can work on some full-swing issues that may be causing some penalty strokes from the tee or poor decisions on the course that lead to an undesired outcome. This is all relative to what the student’s objectives are in the game and how much they can commit, so a program is really customized on an individual basis to match the goals they would like to achieve.
Take a lesson with Jason Helman.