Down The Fairway: McMahon’s simpler technique gets the point across
LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Hall of Fame member Kay McMahon has been giving golf lessons for more than three decades. But eventually, she realized that her students weren’t getting the right message.
“My philosophy has been an evolution,” she said. “If you look at my notes from the late 1970s, you will see a lot of what I’m teaching now, but not in the same format. Parts of what I’m saying now were there, but over the course of many years, I realized people weren’t getting it. It was way too complicated. I wanted to get my teaching technique down to the brass tacks and make it simple.
“The more lessons I taught, the more simple my technique has become. I’ve been refining it over the last five or six years, and I just renamed it.”
For the record, McMahon’s breakthrough teaching philosophy is called Empirical Formula Golf 8.5. She has broken her lessons down to 81⁄2 major points to make the game much simpler to understand.
“Four of my [basic tenets] are to be followed even before you begin your swing,” she said. “Most amateurs do them out of order, so I came up with the acronym, GCAP. The ‘G’ stands for grip. Once you get the right grip, you go to ‘C’, which stands for clubhead. You must make sure your clubhead is square or perpendicular. The ‘A’ stands for alignment. You want to make sure your club is perpendicular to the leading edge of your toes and to your target. Then the ‘P’ is for posture. If you do the first three things right, you will already be in the right position or posture with the club in your hand. One of my students said the ‘P’ meant that she could now pray. I told her the ‘P’ also stands for now you get to play.”
McMahon, a member of the Northeastern New York PGA Board of Directors who was named to the 2010 Golf Digest Top-50 Women Teachers list, says her basic rules can be used from the putter all the way to the driver.
“You should develop the same pre-shot routing for all your clubs,” she said. “Pick up the club, get your grip, and then set the club and your feet in the right position.”
McMahon’s first four rules are quite simple. The next 41⁄2 are not that hard to understand, either, but they are much easier to comprehend when she’s showing you how to do them in person rather than just talking about it. She demonstrated many of her theories at the recent Northeastern Women’s Golf Association annual meeting at Albany Country Club. I attended that meeting and really enjoyed her presentation. She wouldn’t release the rest of her new teaching plans until I called her this week.
Basically, McMahon believes that once you are set up, your arms and the shaft of the club should look like the letter ‘Y’. The clubhead is in the middle of your stance. She wants her students to take the ‘Y’ in one piece and turn their chest 90 degrees away from the ball. But she points out that despite modern theories about firing your hips to get more clubhead speed, the average golfer should not try to deliberately turn their hips.
“The average player turns their hips too much and come over the top on their swing,” she said. “The hips will move on their own when you bring the ‘Y’ back.”
Without getting too complicated, McMahon talks about creating an ‘L’ (for leverage) by bending the right elbow into the L position without bending the wrist, which should remain flat. With her swing technique, players can swing as hard as they want, as long as they remain balanced.
“If you keep the club within the box that you form with your body lines, you can swing as hard as you want. But you must know where the clubhead is, and you must stay balanced,” she said.
”The driver impact position should be the same as your putter. People talk about releasing the club, but technically, releasing the club simply means to bring it back to square. Period. Everyone is really trying to hit the ball straight. You really shouldn’t be trying to roll your wrists over. The club will do that by itself because of centrifugal force.”
McMahon doesn’t talk about taking the club inside or outside the line in the swing patch, because the average golfer has no idea of how far to take the club either way. She simply uses two swing plane sticks and tells her students to keep the clubhead between those sticks.
“I tell them to keep it on the road. If they go outside the road, they land in a ditch,” she said with a laugh.
McMahon vows she can improve the average player’s game quite quickly with her new system. She also includes lessons on the short game, where students simply keep the ‘Y’ intact for both their chips and pitches.
“Technically, a chip shot is just a one-lever system where you are using one joint,” she said. “You can have 12 different shots with four different clubs, or you can have 15 different shots with five different clubs by using the face of the clock with your ‘Y.’ ”
McMahon also uses her same system with putting.
“The more the ‘Y’ stays perpendicular to the ground, the better you will roll the ball,” she said. “If you swing up on the ball during a putt, will have spin on it, and the ball won’t roll into the cup as easily on either side. Often, the ball will roll over the cup. The good putters hit the ball flat.”
McMahon said she gives lessons occasionally at Mill Road Acres in Latham, but the best place to learn her techniques is at her eduKaytiongolf facility at the Cranwell Resort in Lenox, Mass.
It’s only about an hour’s drive from the Capital Region.
“We don’t call it a golf school, because we’re getting away from the stereotype of a school,” she said. “I like to call what we have a golf education company. People think of two, three or four days of classes in a school, but we have all kinds of teaching plans, and we also let people form their own groups, as well as individual lessons.”
McMahon teaches just as many men as she does women, and works with both inexperienced and experienced players, including fellow club professionals.
“I’ve got kids from 4 to 86,” she said. “I love my beginners, but I also enjoy working with more exper-ienced players, and even pros.”
For more information on McMahon’s unique instruction company, call 669-1551 or visit her website at www.eduKaytiongolf.-com.
Local women from the Northeastern Women’s Golf Association will play in their first major event of the season, the NEWGA Four-Person Scramble, Wednesday at Pinehaven Country Club. There will be a 9 a.m. shotgun start.
Following are the pairings for the teams, most of which have all their members from the same club.
1 — Anne Van Buren (Pinehaven), Mary Ellen Burt (Mohawk), Nan Lanahan (Pinehaven), Mary Ellen Milos (Pinehaven).
6 — Anne Hartranft (Pinehaven), Judy Mysliborski (Pinehaven), Flo Liberatore (Albany CC), Jan Vincent (Catskill).
7 — Sharon McBride (Catskill), Dona Meo (Catskill), Marina Tompkins (Catskill), Chris Moore (Catskill).
8 — Kathleen McLaughlin (Shaker), Dee Cocca (Shaker), Jane Goldsmith (Shaker), Rachel Bartlette (Shaker).
9 — Leona DeLong (Burden Lake), Eliz-abeth Heller (Buden Lake), Oli Williams (McGregor), Robin Peters (Leatherstocking).
10 — Suzie Mansfield (Ballston Spa CC), Sue Kahler (Ballston Spa CC), Heidi Harkins (Ballston Spa CC), Pat Joseph (Ballston Spa CC).
11 — Diana Ramos (Pinehaven), Sandy Weckter (Pinehaven), Diana O’Hare (Pinehaven), Joey Laiacona (Pinehaven).
12 — Pam Farhart (Twin Cities), Sue Herrick (Twin Cities), Sue Johnson (Twin Cities), Sue Murphy (Columbia).
13 — Margaret Surpitski (Burden Lake), Pat Grillo (Leatherstocking), Carol Burke (Burden Lake), Mary Ellen Trumbull (Burden Lake).
14 — Judith Finley (Columbia), Beverly Ginbsburg (Columbia), Beth Gavin (Columbia), Diana Coughlin (Colulmbia).
15 — Ilene Gaffney (Cobleskill), Linda Kolnick (Cobleskill), Cheryl Potter (Wiltwyck), Jackie Quinn (Wiltwyck).
16 — Mary Ellen Carptner (McGregor), Melinda Bucknam (McGregor), Christine McKnight (McGregor), Betty Bellinger (McGregor).
17 — Heather Morrison (Burden Lake), Jen DiIorio (Burden Lake), Donna Heskitt (Burden Lake), Betty Cushing (Burden Lake).
18 — Lynn Cummings (Pinehaven), Sue Wronowski (Shaker Ridge), Selena Balick (Pinehaven), Diana Meckler (Wolferts Roost).
u Local club professionals from the Northeastern New York PGA will participate in the Pro-Am Scratch Championship Monday at Saratoga National Golf Club.
u The weekly Eastern New York Golf Association event will be at Burden Lake Country Club Wednesday.
u Western Turnpike Golf Club will play host to the Tyler DeMarco Foundation’s Fore Hope Golf Tournament June 28. Entry fee for the four-person scramble will be $125 and includes breakfast, golf, cart, lunch, all-day complimentary beer, soda and water, a gift, and a grand buffet dinner. Special prizes and contests include a $10,000 hole-in-one contest. The tournament benefits the fight against childhood cancer. Call 557-7597 for more information.
u The 22nd annual Kingsway’s Make-A-Wish golf tournament will be held June 3 at Mohawk Golf Club. Benita Zahn of NewsChannel 13 will be the honorary chair. Entry fee for the four-person scramble will be $175 and includes lunch, golf, cart, beverages on the course, dinner and a chance to win prizes in several categories. There will be a 1 p.m. shotgun start. Call Jean Barnoski at 393-4117, ext. 206, for more information.
u Golf newcomer Chris Gannon collected his first-ever birdie on the 16th hole at Briar Creek while competing in the D&L league.
u The Saratoga Center for the Family will hold its annual tournament June 12 at McGregor Links Country Club. Proceeds will support the center’s mission of providing programs to treat and reduce abuse and family dysfunction. Entry fee is $125 and includes golf, cart, breakfast, lunch and beverages for the 9 a.m. scramble. Call Terry White at 585-6648 for more information.
u Zach Scala of Ballston Spa (third, 77-74-151), Aaron Simone of Niskayuna (fourth, 78-75-153), Calvin Beckwith of Saratoga Springs (fourth, 82-71-153); and Davis Jensen of Loudonville (79-74-153) were the top local players in the boys’ overall division of the New York State PGA Junior Championship last weekend at Leatherstocking Golf Club. The top players in the girls’ overall division were Grace Ziamandanis of Slingerlands (11th, 84-89-173) and Madison Braman of Loudonville (11th, 87-86-173).
Dave Gazzillo used a 5-iron to post a hole-in-one on the 15th hole at Mohawk River Country Club & Chateau.
Chris Samarija holed out with a 6-iron on the 140-yard fourth hole for his first career ace at Van Patten Golf Club.
At Brookaven Golf Course, Paul Lundy wielded a 7-iron for his hole-in-one on the seventh hole.
Syed Alam hit a 7-iron for his hole-in-one on the 134-yard third hole at Eagle Crest Golf Club.
Also at Eagle Crest, Jeff Osborn’s wedge shot landed in the cup for an ace on the 143-yard sixth hole.
Nick Alex from McGregor Links Country Club holed out with a 7-iron on the 140-yard eighth hole while competing in this week’s Eastern New York Golf Association tournament at Queensbury Country Club.
Tom Patterson eagled the 17th hole at The Edison Club.
John Leirey eagled the third hole on the blue nine while playing in the Arsenal league at Western Turnpike.
Brian Kubicki eagled the second hole at Mohawk River Country Club while playing in the KAPL league.
Doug Cornell eagled both the third and eighth holes while competing in the Jimmy Dees league at Ballston Spa Country Club.
Bob Weiner chipped in for eagle on the 13th hole at Van Patten Golf Club.
Nick Silvano eagled the 109-yard 16th hole with a gap wedge at Eagle Crest Golf Club.
Mike Young eagled the first hole at Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course.
At Schenectady Municipal Golf Course, Dave Renadette eagled the ninth hole while playing in the Bellamy Construction league.
Also at Schenectady Municipal, Dan Nicholas eagled the 16th hole while competing in the Tuesday Seniors league.