I had the distinct privilege to work along side Rick Nielsen during the late 90's, I was the General Manager and Rick was the head Professional at a local Golf Facility. Rick's background, starting with his Bachelor's Degree in Golf Management and ending with the various Professionals he's worked under make him one of the Premiere Golf Instructors in the Met Section. Looking at his bio you can see that he's worked with and under a virtual "Who's who" in the annals of Golf instruction. From the late Bill Strausbaugh to Mike Hebron.
When and where did you start playing golf?
I started playing golf on Long Island, NY at the age of 13. I was a caddie at St George CC and was fortunate to be able to play there a couple times a week. I played at local golf courses and eventually played on the high school golf team.
When and where did you start teaching golf?
I first started to teach at Columbia CC in Chevy Chase, Maryland in 1982. I was in the Professional Golf Management program at Ferris State University in Michigan and was doing an internship for Bill Strausbaugh. Bill (Coach) was a very influential teacher and was very active in the PGA. He helped me with my golf game and I observed as many of his lessons as possible. I gave clinics at the club as well as junior lessons.
How long have you been an Authorized Instructor of The Golfing Machine?
I have been an Authorized Instructor for eight years. I was first exposed to The Golfing Machine about 15 years ago while working with Mike Hebron at Smithtown Landing on Long Island. He is a GSED which is the highest rank one can achieve with The Golfing Machine. Mike would use concepts of The Golfing Machine at his golf schools. Since I assisted in these schools I was able to learn and apply those concepts. This helped me establish the foundation that I later used to attain my authorization as a GSEM (Golf Stroke Engineer-Master.
I was authorized by Michael Jacobs who is a GSED at Rock Hill CC on Long Island.
How does your knowledge of The Golfing Machine help you teach your students?
The Golfing Machine describes and explains the geometry and physics of the golf swing. Once learned this knowledge provides the flexibility to help just about anyone because the system is based on science. Also, the Golfing Machine is a step by step system of instruction. Once a student masters a particular aspect of their stroke they progress to the next step. Homer Kelley states that his system of instruction allows for individual “My Way” stroke patterns because there is no “The Way” to swing. With 24 components and their variations there are literally countless ways to swing effectively. Each golfer has their own best way to swing. This is where the Authorized Instructor comes in. The most important thing is to find the stroke pattern that works best each student..
What would you like to tell an instructor considering becoming an Authorized Instructor of The Golfing Machine?
The Golfing Machine is the most complete system of instruction available. If an instructor is serious about helping people then becoming authorized is a great place to start. Bill Strausbaugh told me once that “Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn”. It’s not easy but that’s what makes it worthwhile. Some of the AI’s I know are the most sought after instructors in their area and in some cases in the world.
Tell me about one specific problem one of your students had and how you used The Golfing Machine to correct the problem?
I had a first-time student just the other day that has had trouble for many years with a bent left wrist at impact due to over-acceleration. After explaining the concept of clubhead lag, which Homer Kelley calls the “secret of golf”, we worked on understanding the difference between address and impact and how educated hands can sense the drag of the lagging clubhead thru the use of certain pressure points. We used a mop and dragged it across the ground to create the feeling of a lagging clubhead. We started with small swings and eventually made some larger strokes. As the student became more aware of his hands he was able to use his pivot to do the work rather than the effort of the arms, like swinging a rope. The student commented that it felt like the slower he swung the harder the hit. It’s all about subtraction not addition.
Who has had the greatest influence on your teaching ability?
Michael Hebron, Homer Kelley, Ben Doyle, Michael Jacobs, Greg McHatton and Bill Strausbaugh
What led you to become a Certified Pilates Instructor?
After a back injury a friend suggested I try Pilates. I took Pilates lessons for about 2 months and found my back getting much better. Along the way I was intrigued with the Pilates system of exercise. Pilates uses physics and leverage and has a particular order to the exercises which increases the effectiveness. Basically you can get a great workout in a short period of time. The muscles being strengthened were exactly the same muscles used in the golf swing. The Pilates exercises improved my flexibility as well. After doing Pilates for a few months I found that my swing had improved. I felt a greater connection to the ground and better balance. I decided to get certified in Pilates so that I could help others to improve their bodies in order to make more effective golf swings. I started Power Golf Pilates (powergolfpilates.com) which is a golf specific Pilates program that I use with my golf students. There are a number of Tour Pros who use Pilates such as Tiger Woods, Camila Vellegas,Rocco Mediate, Anika Sorenstam as well as top athletes in other sports.
How has your Pilates certification enhanced your teaching curriculum?
A student can combine a golf lesson and a Pilates in one visit. When I work with a student and see a weakness or imbalance I’ll use Pilates to improve those areas. Pilates improves strength, flexibility, balance and will reduce the likelihood of injury. Pilates targets the core muscles which help in making a stronger pivot. The stronger the core the stronger the pivot.
Posture is something I feel is important. If a student has poor posture he is unable to make an efficient pivot. Without a strong pivot there is little chance of getting power. Pilates can be extremely effective at improving posture by strengthening muscles in the back and abdominals. So, along with doing Pilates at the Golf Center, I will give students specific Pilates exercises that they can do at home. I have found that students who do Pilates make greater progress than those who do not. Adding Pilates to my lesson program has greatly improved my ability to help students reach their goals.