Building a dependable golf swing is a developmental process. Therefore, any golf improvement plan should be designed in a way that provides a logical framework for continuous progression. This requires the presence of three ingredients:
- Means to assess golfer performance and identify improvement priorities: the four objectives of the golf swing
The success of any shot is measured by the sum of four objectives: centered contact, hitting the ball the desired distance; hitting the ball in the desired direction; and hitting the ball on the desired trajectory. The omnipresent “rub-of-the-green” factor notwithstanding, if a given shot fulfills these four objectives, the outcome will be successful. In a coaching scenario, golfer performance can be measured versus each of these objectives; the area that requires the most attention can then be prioritized for improvement.
- Means to benchmark and track progress: technology rules
Technology has touched virtually every aspect of our lives; golf coaching is no exception. Personally, I use a tool called “TrackMan”, which is a radar-based launch monitor that provides objective data relating to more than 20 aspects of club delivery, ball launch, flight and landing. Many “old-schoolers” contend that they can ‘see’ everything that my “gizmo” does by observing ball flight. The plain, simple fact is, this is not true. Any golf coach who is not incorporating these technologies into their programs is selling themselves and their students short. I’m not in the business of selling TrackMan launch monitors; TrackMan is just one of a host of tech-tools that every golf coach should be investigating. I chose TrackMan because its measurement capabilities are focused directly on the relationship between club and ball. I like to say that TrackMan answers the most important question in golf: “What is your club doing at the moment of impact?” Not only is it more accurate than my own eye, it provides instant verification of progress in quantifiable terms. Lessons tend to stick better when you can prove that they are working.
- Means to implement improvement strategies: five skill areas
Once the improvement priorities have been identified through observation and measurement, they can be addressed by developing corresponding skill areas. A golf swing is a singular motion that encompasses five skill areas: grip, stance & balance, weight transfer & body rotation, path, plane & face angle and finally, timing & coordination. Obviously, golfers want to improve in all of these areas – which is a rather hefty task, one that would be better tackled in progressive steps. Thus, the skills development model described here serves the practical purpose of providing both trainee and coach with a ‘guiding light’ to help maintain focus in training sessions. A golfer should not leave a session feeling overwhelmed with “information”; you should feel like you have a roadmap that outlines a logical progression.
Chain-reaction learning – the magic of golf teaching
The interesting thing is the “chain-reaction” learning that occurs when we connect a specific objective to a specific skill area. Developing any skill area will have a positive effect on the whole. Say, for example, that our improvement priority (objective) is distance management. Our skills focus would likely involve the skill areas of stance & balance and weight transfer & body rotation. I have a “toolbox” filled with drills, exercises and imagery that relate to these skill areas, so we can experiment with guided discovery, as long as we “stay grounded” – continually reaffirming/reinforcing our focus on the specific task at hand. As a pleasant side-effect, execution of the other objectives – in this example, consistency of contact, direction management and trajectory management – tend to improve as well, without investing additional mental and physical effort.
Is it magic? It might seem that way, but it’s really just a case of using the right tools and a logical approach. It’s a combination of prioritizing areas of improvement and focusing on them in sequence. This helps break a big job down into manageable chunks. Then, when we see measured progress in real-time, we begin to believe in our improvement. In turn, we develop greater trust in our instincts and intuition, our foundation grows stronger and the fruits of our labor multiply exponentially.
Until next time, trust your aim!