Stan Takes on a New Student – Philip Horn

February 17, 2010 Stan Utley 1270 9 Comments


There are probably a lot of you out there who are wondering exactly how or what I teach in a given lesson. Well, Philip Horn, a Managing Director with Wells Fargo in Los Angeles with whom I gave a lesson to in December, has been gracious enough to allow me to share his session with all of you. Philip, who is an avid golfer, starting playing when he was nine-years-old and quickly fell in love with the game.

Horn says, “I have a passion for the game, and since moving to LA I have played golf all over Southern California, and wherever my business travels take me in the U.S.”

When Philip came to me for his lesson he was already very knowledgeable about the game of golf and carried an 11 handicap. All of that is great, but there were still several issues we needed to work on. Mainly he had lost all confidence chipping and pitching his ball around the greens.

Philip’s main issue around the greens was that he would swing the handle of the club away big in the back swing. He would also keep his right elbow stiff and in front of his body which caused the handle to move outside a good swing plane. Since he moved the grip back big and to the outside in the takeaway he would pull the grip hard through during his downswing. Since the reaction to his backswing was to accelerate the grip end of the club in the through swing this did not allow him to release the club head back to the ball with any consistency.

The first thing we worked on to correct his chipping and pitching move was to get Phil to swing the club head instead of swinging the grip-end or handle.  I also had Phil focus on the fact that his right elbow needed to fold back along his right side during the takeaway so the club comes more from the inside. During the downswing, we tried to get Philip to feel like he was throwing the club head at the ball by casting the club head with his left thumb.  The result is that the club head will contact the turf with the bounce first and then the ball. Additionally, we had to work a little on Philip’s lower body. Even when pitching or chipping the ball, a small pivot or turn of the lower body is always necessary. To achieve this, allow the left leg to straighten and the right knee to turn into the left and finish up with your body standing tall and facing the target.

We also worked on Philip’s bunker play. When in the bunker we focused on four keys for success. First, at address we focused on keeping Philip’s spine tilted left or towards the target. Secondly, we worked on a big body-turn during the takeaway accompanied with loose and snappy wrists. And lastly, we worked on finishing the swing with his weight forward and completely off his right heel.

So, during our lesson back in December we worked on two main points, Philip’s pitching/chipping and his bunker play with a small emphasis on his full swing. About a month after our session I was curious to hear what Philip had so say; so, I sent him an email with a few questions. His responses are below:

What is your handicap?
Philip: My Index is currently an 11, but I I expect to be single digit due to Stan’s help by the end of Februaary.

What did you take away from your time with Stan? What are you working on?
Philip: From Stan I learned a repeatable technique that makes sense to me. His teaching style is simple, and it is one that I can now practice all the time, because I understand the technique I am trying to execute.  I work on this technique every other day and keep my 58-12 wedge and a range tube of balls in my car at all times.

Have you improved? How has it helped you?

Philip: I have improved my up and down’s to better than 50% per round, (sandies, chippies). In fact, our group now calls them Utley’s (as they know I went to Stan for personal instruction), and they are all reading his books. I went from blading shots over the green or chunking chip shots to hitting crisp clean shots. My time with Stan is one of the best investments in my golf game I have ever made. I do not fear chipping and pitching anymore and saw immediate improvement. I was properly chipping balls after 6 minutes with Stan, yes 6 minutes. I have the confidence now to be more aggressive and am at the point where I expect to get it up and down.  In our weekend group, we now keep track of Utley’s counting them just as we do sandies, birdies, and other junk bets.

Any other comments?
Philip: If you are serious about improving your short game, and by serious I mean being able to invest in yourself, go see Stan as he is the Short Game Guru Man!

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9 Comments Leave New
david holloway February 19, 2010

Stan Utleys books on the short game make so mch sense.I would love to be able to get coached by him,
Im a struggling mini tour player,and i know if i had a better short game,it would take me ont a different level.
one thing i wish to ask Stan is,Is it possible to make yourself into a great short game player,meaing tour standard.
sure you need the right fundimentals,but after that,if you spent all day at it would you get to that standard.

    Stan Utley March 1, 2010

    Dave…anyone who has the commitment and patience to work on game improvement skills can reach tour standard. Drills and measuring improvements are important. But, so much is about the mental preparation in approaching shots so that you “see” the results you want to achieve. I like to think that fundamentals give you a solid foundation…but knowing you can hit the shot you want every time (confidence!) is the critical difference on the PGA Tour.

    Good luck!


Valerie Witte February 24, 2010

Having never “golfed” before…minus the two times I was kicked out of Adventureland for over swinging the club resulting in a loss of a golf ball into the freeway, this article makes me realize that maybe just maybe if I saw Stan he could help me enough to safely get through the many obstacles that Adventureland mini golf has to offer.

I don’t know that much about golfing in the real sense but this makes me want to go to the local golf course here in Denver and give it a try.

Thanks to Phil Horn for sharing your experience, and thank you to Stan Utley for making it seem easy to work on my short game.

    Stan Utley March 1, 2010

    Thanks very much for your comment. Golf is about committing to one of three things…having fun, getting better, or both!



Bart O’Shea March 20, 2010

I have read all three books. The Art of the Short Game has helped tremendously. Thanks. What I took from the book about bunker play did not have a big body turn but instead focused on a mostly arm based swing. Have I missed something or was this specific to what Dave needed to accomplish? Thanks. Bart

    Stan Utley April 5, 2010

    Bart…in any lesson I give, I try not to say more than a student needs for improvements in their game. Based on most of those with whom I work, they have the fundamentals of the swing and general idea of what they want to improve firmly in their minds when we first talk. What I do promote, and hope most of my students will adopt, is a big hip turn with little weight shift in the takeaway. I hope this helps answer your question.


jim arthur March 23, 2010

stan, do you have any lesson openings in June?

    Stan Utley April 5, 2010

    Jim…if you haven’t heard from someone at as yet, please drop a note to John is my brother, and he handles my lesson calendar.


Rob from Michigan April 20, 2010

Hello Stan, My sand game has improved greatly due to The Art of the Short game! Thanks so much! However, I cannot say the same about chipping. I have a mental “Yip” issue with Chipping, yet my pitching is wonderful.
I chip around the practice green like Raymond Floyd, but out on the course I lose my tempo (and my mind) and start jabbing at it. Any suggestions on improving “on course” tempo or swing thoughts to take beyond the practice green? The confidence just isnt there yet.
Thanks much!