Get in the Swing of ThingsAcademies help golfers right their wrongs on the course

Matt Callaghan works with his student, Kylie Strijek, at Twisted Dune Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township.

Matt Callaghan and Bruce Chelucci have flipped a popular cliche around: they preach what they practice.

The veteran instructors run excellent teaching facilities in the area. The Matt Callaghan Academy operates at Twisted Dune Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township, while Chelucci's New Jersey Academy of Golf unfolds at Blue Heron Pines in Galloway Township.

The basic ingredient for both? Swing preparation.

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"You can't expect to hit a good shot if you haven't set yourself up to do so," Callaghan says. "You want to educate people about why things work, not just give them a swing tip."

It's not surprising for Callaghan and Chelucci, who ran clinics together several years ago, to hold similar viewpoints. Their philosophy of preparation concerns the most important part of the swing.

A teaching clinic attacks fundamentals, which Callaghan recently displayed with a student. After watching just two shots from the player, he designed a drill. Placing alignment rods on an angle, he helped the student improve his positioning and point his shot at the target, which would be the green on a real course.

Next came posture. A couple small adjustments had the player standing comfortably over the ball, weight distributed properly. A tweak in the grip followed, with a relaxation of the thumb on the player's left hand.

The next sequence involved taking the club back perhaps 3 feet and hitting the alignment rod. It was set so that the player had to use a swing plane closer to his body to draw the club back. Result? The player naturally began to pivot, the beginning of a sequence that would allow him to get hips out of the way of the downswing and propel his body weight through the ball.

Callaghan prescribed several drills before the two would meet again. The ritual will help this golfer swing with his whole body, not just his arms. This was just one of many small adjustments a player can make to improve.

Chelucci says many golfers cannot make their swing bottom out in the same place every time. That is a product of an inconsistent swing arc.

"One drill that's effective is to stick tees in the ground and make the golfer take swings to hit it out of there," he says. "You start it up higher and then as the player progresses, you lower the tees. You want to be able hit the ground in the same place every time."

And then there's the mental game. Bad memories often cause bad shots.

"Anxiety exists in a number of forms," Chelucci says. "You could have a situation where someone has hit a lot of balls in the water and the threesome he was with made a big deal about it, so now he's nervous when he has to clear the water."

The solution usually involves picturing the successful shot and forgetting variables, such as past failures.

The teaching facilities are a natural extension of the golf boom that floods courses with varied levels of players. Many are self-taught and picked up pointers from friends or family members. They also invest in the aesthetics: nice new clubs, shoes, shirts, associate memberships, etc.

For less than the price of a round at a high-end daily fee course, they also can invest in themselves. What better way to enjoy the new equipment than to increase distance and accuracy and reduce scores? The joy of making solid contact brings players back to the courses.


Chelucci will hold a short-game clinic 6 p.m. Friday, June 21. Pitching, chipping and putting stations will be set up around the driving range. Cost is $25. Both academies have announced special pricing for clinics in a group setting. Both also will operate throughout the summer and at least most of the fall.

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