This is going to be a short follow-up, expanding a little on some of our recent articles on the Club Focused Instruction (CFI) methodology espoused by Ernest Jones and Manuel de la Torre. I have continued down the rabbit hole, absorbing more from Ed LeBeau’s book, and any other information I can find on the subject. One video that I enjoyed was from another de la Torre disciple, Bob Brue. The 45 minute segment linked below is from 1994 and was humorous as well as informative.
If you are struggling at all with inconsistent contact and looking for a common sense, simple methodology, CFI could be it. The more time that I spend on this, the more enthused I become. In this post, we’ll provide some background on CFI, run through a drill that I developed in my own practice, as well as some further reading and videos so that you can see some of this for yourself.
Background on CFI
Club Focused Golf Instruction (CFI) has been around for nearly 100 years as an alternative to the more common body focused approach. This method focuses on the golf club instead of body mechanics. Research has shown that club focused instruction allows players to learn faster and play better.
The manual “Club-Focused Golf Instruction” brings together the work of World Golf Hall of Fame instructors Ernest Jones and Manuel de la Torre along with 20 years of experience from Heartland Golf Schools to provide a guide to this superior approach. Manuel de la Torre focused on 3 swing tenants – the ball is struck by the center of the clubface, the clubface is square to the direction of the target line at impact, and the club is swung at the direction of the target.
In his book, Ed LeBeau lays out the 9 principles of CFI, along with the physics, application, and how to demonstrate and teach each one. CFI posits that playing good golf is less a matter of physical ability but more a matter of mental clarity. There is too much to detail in this quick post, but I’ll summarize:
- Direction: the club needs to swing along the target line. Think of throwing a ball – the arm moves/swings toward the target. We do this automatically.
- Force: The force exerted on a swinging golf club, is tangential to the arc of its swing. The clubhead moves in a circular path, creating a swing arc around the body.
- Setup: Based on the application of force, the shaft and clubface must be perpendicular or square to the target at address. The body’s center should be aligned with the shaft.
- Clubface Control: A neutral grip is necessary because centrifugal force will return the clubface to its starting position at impact, when the clubhead is delivered back to the ball.
- Center Contact: The swinging club will act like a pendulum and return to the starting point if the center of the swing is maintained.
- Distance Control: A golf ball will travel further as the speed of the clubhead increases, by increasing the size of the arc that the club swings.
- Visualization: At address, the golfer visually identifies the target and holds the image, allowing the subconscious to calculate the size and direction of the swing, as when you throw a ball.
- Swing: The clubhead travels on a longer arc than the hands; the length of the shaft has a multiplying effect on the speed that can be produced by the swing.
- Producing the Swinging Motion: When we visualize the club’s movement, our brains can direct the body to perform the associated tasks without conscious direction of the body.
The “Creeper” Drill
My “you had me at hello” moment with CFI was when Ed LeBeau stated “if you have hit a good shot then you have ability. What you want is repeat-ability!” I have been working through some of the fundamentals of CFI – the neutral grip (I switched from a very strong, overlap grip to a neutral 10 finger grip), staying centered throughout the swing (my swing relied on good timing due to excessive lateral movement), and swinging down the target line.
There are many good drills and ideas for ingraining the movements. Ed LeBeau prescribes 20 slow motion practice swings without a ball, followed by 20 7-iron pitch shots with a ball, daily, to ingrain the feelings. Of course, I couldn’t stop there and needed to develop an additional routine of my own and came up with what I call the “Creeper Drill.”
The concept is that I’m performing practice swings without a ball, and then tricking myself into making the same movements with the ball there. My goal is to hit it with the practice swing and shift focus away from the ball, to the target itself, as you would when throwing a ball. I’m sure that this drill is not new or radical in any way, but I honestly have not come across this before.
Here’s how to perform the “Creeper Drill” – I use an 8-iron:
- Put your golf ball at the far end of the mat.
- Start at the other end, take your setup and make your swing, focused on swinging down the target line.
- Repeat this four times, but with each swing “creep” a little closer to the ball, so that by the 5th iteration, you set up over the ball and make the same swing, this time with the ball in the way.
I have been doing 20 of these a day and am at the point where I expect to make center contact on the 5th ball every single time. I’m also doing variations reducing or randomizing the number of practice swings before I get to the ball. Obviously we are all different and your mileage may vary, but this is just what I needed to help carry the feelings over into my swing. If you decide to try it, let me know how it works for you!
Understanding the Golf Swing
by Manuel de la Torre
Summary: Manuel de la Torre was a leading teacher of Ernest Jones’s swing principles, emphasizing a simpler approach focused on developing a true swinging motion rather than complex body movements. The book covers the philosophy of the golf swing, analysis of ball flights, techniques for special shots like pitching and chipping, the mental side of golf, and understanding golf courses. It argues that if the club is swung properly, the body movements will take care of themselves, so golfers should focus on the motion of the club rather than their bodies. The book blends golf philosophy and practical advice for golfers of all levels, from beginners to professionals.
Club-Focused Golf Instruction
by Edward LeBeau
Summary: Club-focused golf instruction focuses on the golf club motion rather than body motion, an approach used by only 5% of instructors. This method, championed by Hall of Fame instructors Ernest Jones and Manuel de la Torre, allows faster learning and better play. LeBeau combines de la Torre’s expertise with educational principles into a powerful instruction manual bringing together decades of club-focused instruction experience. Scientific studies have verified club-focused instruction’s superiority for improving player performance over traditional body-focused methods.
Ernest Jones Swing the Clubhead Method
by Ernest Jones
Summary: Ernest Jones’ 1922 and 1930 golf instruction book focuses on coordinating the motion of the body to develop an efficient, compact golf swing. Jones emphasizes keeping the wrists firm, maintaining proper posture, and clearing the hips through impact. The book uses photographs and drills to teach ideal positions in the takeaway, backswing, downswing, and follow-through. Jones advocates swinging smoothly in rhythm, letting the clubhead accelerate naturally rather than using pure muscular power. This technical guide provides step-by-step lessons on building sound fundamentals into an effective, repeating golf swing.