I have made a point to see most all of the highly regarded golf instructors in person as part of my "golf education."
Learn more about me by visiting my Golf Lessons website.
Here are just a few highlights from his 60+ year career in golf:
Click here to learn more about Manuel's book, Understanding the Golf Swing.
If you have been fortunate enough to have taken a golf lesson from MANUEL DE LA TORRE in his over 60-year career as a golf professional, then you have been asked questions by Manuel. Here are some examples:
My education began in 1983 and has been the key factor in my success as a golf instructor and PGA golf professional. The best teacher that I have seen is Manuel de la Torre. To me the "best" means having the most complete knowledge of cause and effect; it means developing a cohesive concept which can be explained in a precise and understandable way; and it means being able to work with all students from those who are making their first swings to those who have won on the PGA and LPGA tours. The bottom line is for the teacher to achieve results with a student.
Manuel's student is most likely to leave a lesson with a confident and uncluttered golf mind. His student can't wait for the next round of golf. Manuel de la Torre learned to teach from his father, Angel de la Torre. Angel learned from and was friends with Ernest Jones, the British golf professional who wrote Swing the Clubhead. Manuel was the first recipient of the National PGA of America Teacher of the Year Award in 1986, was inducted into the World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame in 2005, and was inducted into the PGA of America's Hall of Fame in 2006. Among Manuel's fellow Hall of Fame inductees in 2006 was Jack Nicklaus.
I have spent more than 100 days of my life watching and listening to Manuel de la Torre teach golf. Most of these days began by 8:30 a.m. and continued through a dinner at night where Manuel was still answering questions about the lessons of that day. This experience began for me on September 26, 1983, and I wrote a page of notes about the lesson I received from Manuel that day. At the end of the day of lessons, I showed Manuel this written summary of his lesson with me. He read through it and stopped at the third point where he took my pencil and crossed out one word. The sentence read: "Simply swing the club forward with the arms (the upper arms) from the top of the swing through to the finish in one, uninterrupted motion." He had crossed out the word "through," and he asked me, "Through what?" He had spent a good portion of the lesson with me on removing the tension and effort that I exerted to try to hit the ball hard and far, but with one word I tried to sneak it all back in. I have that sheet of paper framed, and while Manuel did a good job of crossing out that one word, I know that I still put it back in on too many swings.
Manuel's concept of what the student needs to do to produce good shots is very simple. It is all laid out by the ninth page in Manuel's book, Understanding the Golf Swing. The concept has not changed in all of these years, but the subtle explanations, the everyday life examples, the innovative ways that Manuel has to get the student to perform in a better way are still being developed in every lesson that is given.
My intent in writing this book is to give a glimpse of what it is like to take a golf lesson with Manuel. This text is the result of many years of note-taking that took place on the practice tee, and I tried to keep the feel of that situation where the student is asked questions, ponders the answers, changes intentions, is given explanations, reaches new understandings, and generally produces better swings. All of this in a brief space of time. During a lesson, Manuel will ask the student to use his or her mind to try to become associated with the perfection that is a swinging motion. Manuel will often have more belief in and respect for the abilities of the students than they have in themselves. This will usually change by the end of the lesson as the student understands and knows that he or she can really do it.
While respected by many of the noted teachers of today, Manuel is sometimes considered an "old-timer" who is good with beginners, but not quite modern and up-to-date with his teaching. I have enjoyed seeing and learning from many of the most highly-regarded teachers in golf over the years, and I can say that Manuel is the most sophisticated and coherent golf teacher that I have ever seen. He is not a self-promoter and is always more concerned about the student than his own reputation.
There are few times in our lives when we have the opportunity to work with and learn from a true master. I've had that opportunity as an LPGA touring professional; Manuel de la Torre is that master. Upon graduation from college, I decided to embark upon the adventure of playing professional golf. I was lucky to book two thirty-minute lessons with Manuel the summer prior to getting on the tour. I had taken golf lessons many other times, but after those two half hour lessons, I was never more energized and excited in my life. The golf swing, as presented to me by Manuel, made so much sense. The questions he asked me during those lessons were tough ones as I'd never really thought about the swing prior to that. When I didn't know the answer to his questions, he asked more questions until I finally arrived at the answer he was looking for. Then and only then did I start to understand the swing upon which I would build my career. Now, thirty years later I reflect back on those two lessons as the beginning of my adventure – not so much the playing of professional golf but, rather, the learning of the nuances of the game and the swing, and teaching the golf swing that I have learned from one of the masters of our sport.
Lessons with Manuel are amazing experiences. Unlike so many other lessons I've taken in my life, I've never been challenged to think and to understand the why of what was being taught as I am, to this day, with Manuel. Manuel wants his students to understand the golf swing as a simple concept, but he also knows that though the concept is simple, the execution of it may not be. From that first day on Manuel's lesson tee, I saw the beauty of the swing concept he was teaching. It made so much sense; could it really be that simple? And if it made so much sense, how could I not embrace it? Manuel relates the golf swing to many other things we do in life: performing other sporting motions, driving a car, drawing a picture, as well as using our minds prior to any action we take. That is the beauty of Manuel's concept of the golf swing as well as the genius of his teaching. Manuel's brilliance as a teacher doesn't stop with only the motion of swinging the golf club. His insistence on his students using their minds properly has always been important in his teaching as well. Sports psychologists have been utilized in golf instruction for the past twenty years or so. Manuel talked about using your mind properly well before that.
After retiring from a twenty-two year career of golf on the LPGA tour, I've taken Manuel's concept of playing golf and swinging the golf club to the lesson tee as I now teach and coach, passing along the knowledge I've accumulated from him through all these years. I've found that Manuel's swing concept holds up across the board, from beginners to advanced players. I now consult with Manuel as much on how to teach as I do on how to actually swing the golf club.
In the book Learning Golf with Manuel, John Hayes gives the readers a glimpse into how remarkable Manuel is as both a teacher of the golf swing and as a person. Each chapter captures the essence of not only what Manuel teaches but also his innate ability to connect the golf swing to other common everyday things we do in life. He is truly a man who loves teaching the golf swing. As a student of Manuel's, you always have his undivided attention. There is nothing more important to Manuel during a lesson than his student, and he wants that student to understand what is being taught. People have told me that they think taking a lesson from Manuel can be intimidating. Looking at him physically, intimidation would probably be the farthest thing from a person's mind. Manuel is patient yet persistent, asking many questions to help his students understand. His persistence and his questions allow the students to find the answers, making his teaching style a challenging yet wonderful learning ground.
As a teacher using Manuel's swing concept and teaching style, I found John Hayes' book, Learning Golf with Manuel, to be a great resource and complement to Manuel's own book about the golf swing. John has captured not only the content of what Manuel teaches but has accurately recorded conversations Manuel is likely to have with a student during a lesson. As someone who has taken lessons from Manuel for thirty years, so many of the chapters brought me right back to the teaching tee at Milwaukee Country Club and the times I've worked with him since 1977.
Manuel de la Torre is a humble man who has devoted his life to teaching the golf swing, and I am so fortunate to be a student of his. I've had golf lessons with Manuel over the phone, in the rain, in the snow, early in the morning and late at night. Manuel loves giving golf lessons and talking about the golf swing! I've heard Manuel say to people who tell him he could charge $1000 per person for a lesson instead of his customary $40, "I'd rather give one thousand people a lesson for $1.00, than one person a lesson for $1000.00!"
That is the answer of a true master.
I'll never forget the first time I interviewed Maunel de la Torre. It was the early 1990s and we were in his office overlooking the par-4 first hole at Milwaukee Country Club. He said, "Look out the window and tell me what you see".
Wanting to impress the golf instructor I had heard so much about, I described in vivid detail the bunkers and trees a golfer would have to negotiate to reach the green, which also was fortified by bunkers. I even threw in a slight dogleg and how it would influence the tee shot, just how great were my powers of observation.
"(I) Enjoy your book. It makes you feel like you're there with him. I'm convinced, after 38 years in the business, he's the best there is."Jim Hartman, retired business executive and amateur golfer in California.
"When I got it I was in a slump and had broken 80 only twice in the last 16 rounds. I read the book and shot 78, 76, 79 and 76."Mark Croft, PGA Professional and teacher – Yuma, Arizona.
"I just wanted to tell you as a long time de la Torre follower, your book is awesome. I will use your book as a reference and guide for a long time."Jonathan Breit, business executive and amateur golfer in Florida who has taken lessons from Manuel de la Torre since 1965.
"You have not only captured here the essence of a number of key lesson points in a technical manner, but you have also captured the personality / atmosphere of the lesson. I cannot tell you what it means to read your book!"
I DON'T LOOK AT THE KNUCKLES ON A PLAYER'S GRIP. WHY NOT?
Manuel has called the grip the most neglected fundamental. He recommends that a golfer always take the grip visually, that he knows what to look for and check it every time when placing the hands on the club. "You can't go by the feel, because the feel changes from day to day," he said.
He noted that when it is very humid outside, the golfer's hands often feel puffier, and therefore, the grip may feel different. The golfer is urged to ignore the "feel" and put the hands on in the correct position. This "feel" is a subjective thing in the mind of the golfer anyway. Manuel has even given a student the words to say to himself in this situation: "Little hands, you do not feel so good today, but I am going to put you on the club in the correct position and leave you there." Manuel added that, after a few good shots, the grip will begin to feel better to the golfer and the shots will not be spoiled by the grip.
In Manuel's book, Understanding the Golf Swing, he describes the grip position this way: "The V formed by the thumb and index finger of each hand should point to the center of the body." He also notes, "When the hands are opened [after taking the grip]: a) The palms should face each other. b) The fingers will point vertically downward. With the hands in the position described, they are in balance:
When the hands are in balance, they do not work against each other, they always complement each other.
Manuel admits that he "is death on grips with juniors and beginners," and he will often not let these beginning students swing until the grip is in the correct position. With experienced players he approaches it very differently and will only change the grip when he feels that "the grip is the cause of the problem" with the ball flight. He explains that experienced players have often built in compensations over the years to accommodate their grip, and changing the grip could bring about a long period of poor shots. This may not be the best route to take to help that player get better.
A "grip check" has been recommended for teachers to use when checking on the student's grip. The student takes the grip and then holds the club out in front of him or her with the shaft horizontal. The teacher should stand facing the golfer and hook the two middle fingers of the teacher's left hand (for testing right-handed golfers) over the trailing edge of the clubhead. Now, ask the golfer to let his or her arms be very relaxed, but do not go slack with the grip. Then the teacher exerts a gradual pulling force to stretch the relaxed arms of the golfer. This is similar to the force that the swing should exert on the golfer during the forward swing. If the grip position is neutral, then the clubface will remain square, no matter how much pulling force is exerted by the teacher. If the grip is not in balance with the clubface, then the clubface will twist either open or closed depending where the V of the left or right hand is off-center. If either V is pointing to the right of the golfer's center, (for a right-handed golfer), then the clubface will twist to a closed position during the grip check. If either V is pointing to the left of the golfer's center then the clubface will twist to an open position when the force is exerted during the grip check.
While visually checking the V's formed by the thumb and index finger on each hand is the recommended method for taking the grip, Manuel has explained that the grip check is the ultimate way to be sure of the correct position for each individual and to convince the player that a grip change is necessary.
"I don't look at the knuckles on a player's grip. Why not?" asked Manuel. He explained to the teachers that depending on the size of the hands, they may look and see a different number of knuckles on the left hand. This is not the ideal method for the golfer to find the correct position for the grip.
NOW, VERY SLOWLY, PUSH MY CLUB BACK.
In Manuel's concept the golfer is asked to swing the clubhead to the end of the backswing using the hands. This means that both hands should be used equally during the entire backswing. A problem can be seen in the backswing when the grip-end of the club goes out away from the golfer while the clubhead is being flipped inside behind the golfer during the early part of the backswing. When the club is moved this way, it is said to be "laid off." You can say that the club is not being moved in a swinging motion - that the golfer is using leverage, where both ends of the club are going in opposite directions rather than in a swinging motion where everything is moving in the same direction, at the same time, and at the same rate of acceleration.
Manuel describes the cause of the problem as left-hand dominance (for a right-handed golfer), or you could call it top-hand dominance. The solution is for the golfer to use the right hand as well as the left during the entire backswing. Some students may improve by starting their backswing correctly, but after a time the right hand gives up and the left-hand dominance occurs, and the club will still get "laid off."
Manuel has many ways to help a student to become aware of and correct this backswing problem. In one of the most effective ways, Manuel, after the golfer had addressed the ball, held a club level to the ground with the grip-end pressed lightly against the back of the student's right hand. The shaft of the club being held by Manuel angled slightly inside the target line in the direction that a correct backswing would go. Then he told the student, "Now, very slowly, push my club back." He explained that, if the student used left-hand dominance, the student's hands would go outside and around the club that he was holding. When the student pushed Manuel's club back as he asked, it forced the hands to move in the correct direction and the left hand could not work around the right hand, using it as a pivot point.