Golf Teacher Hall of Fame — Manuel de la Torre

Five minutes. That’s the margin by which 15-year-old Manuel de la Torre, along with his mother and brother, made it out of civil-war-torn Spain and onto a ship to America. That was 1936, and Manuel’s father, Angel–the first Spanish golf professional–was in New York awaiting his family’s arrival.

In contrast to that wild journey, de la Torre’s five decades as a club pro have been all about consistency. Milwaukee Country Club hired him in 1951, and that’s where you’ll find him today. His good fortune has kept him humble, with his lesson rate of $80 per hour ranking among the lowest of golf’s top instructors. But his standing is now officially among the highest, as this month his peers will induct him into the World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame.

De la Torre’s teaching philosophy derived from that of the late Ernest Jones, whose book Swinging Into Golf is gospel to many teachers. De la Torre is the foremost practitioner of the Jones method, which tells golfers to use a swinging motion, not a hitting motion.

Pro to Pro
My dad was the pro at Lake Shore Country Club in Glencoem Illinois, for 30 years. And he was a great teacher. We often compared notes–what was working in our lessons, what wasn’t and how we could improve our communication with our students.
I have two main philosophies, both from my dad, that haven’t changed in my 50-plus years teaching. First, I never tell students to do something that can be overdone; the more they do it, the better they should get. Second, I never teach anything that I haven’t tried myself.

As de la Torre takes his place among golf’s best teachers, he explains a few of his favorite lessons.

Imagine this
Don’t be intimidated by the complexity of the golf swing. It’s similar to some everyday tasks. Think of chopping wood or hammering. You hold the implement with your hands and use your arms to apply the power. Same for golf. As you swing, picture one of those activities. You won’t think technique; you’ll swing the club back with your hands and then forward with your arms as though it were one motion.

Swing it forward
To me, a swinging motion is backward and forward, not up and down. That’s why I always use the term forward swing instead of downswing. After all, you’re trying to move the golf ball forward, not down into the ground. I tell my students that the club is pulling in the direction of the target–that’s an effective image to have through the hitting area to achieve full arm extension.

Stop the scoop
I also think up is a bad word in golf. Many golfers try to get the ball up from a greenside bunker, but if you swing properly, the sand will take care of that. (Remember, you don’t actually hit the ball.) If you’re stuck on up, you’re likely to scoop, which leads to mis-hits. Instead, try to splash the sand into the face of the bunker. This will encourage you to swing through the sand, not into it, which pushes the ball into the air.

Best Teachers Ever
Manuel de la Torre is the 12th inductee into the World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame. Founded by GOLF MAGAZINE eight years ago, the Hall also includes Tommy Armour, Peggy Kirk Bell, Percy Boomer, Jim Flick, John Jacobs, Ernest Jones, Davis Love Jr., Harvey Penick, Paul Runyan, Bill Strausbaugh Jr. and Bob Toski.
GOLF MAGAZINE’s Top 100 Teachers amd a panel of golf historians and journalists nominated a list of 40 instructors for consideration. the candidates were evaluated on the following criteria:
1. Unfailing dedication to students
2. Knowledge shared with the teaching community
3. Demonstrated professionalism
4. At least 25 years of teaching professionally

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