Coaching golf for over 15 years has taught me so much about people, coaching styles, the way students learn and what is the most effective way to integrate swing changes.
On the surface it should be pretty simple. Student books a golf lesson with a local pro, gets some tips, goes to the course and plays the golf of their life.
But as we know this is rarely the case and if it does happen in this order you can presume that it won’t last unless there’s some substance or permanence behind the changes.
The difficulties students face making permanent swing changes are endless:
- Have you carefully selected a coach and are you aware of the type of tuition you are about to receive?
- Do you have a rapport with your coach?
- Does your coach articulate things in a manner that you understand?
- Do you intellectually understand what your coach wants you to do?
- What are your previous swing concepts and how do they match or contradict what your coach is telling you?
- What are your physical limitations?
- Do you REALLY REALLY REALLY want to change your action? (This one should be considered deeply before ever having a lesson as half hearted rarely works).
- Do you want to/have time to integrate the change when you leave the lesson?
- Has your coach provided clear instructions on how you should integrate the changes?
- Are you as a student truly prepared to take the swing change to the course? Or will the fear of playing partner’s opinions or a water hazard on the right of the first tee make you weak at the knees and cause you to revert back to your old move.
I can go on and on here but I will spare you the pain. But what this does provide is a little bit of context around the conversation of golf coaching and whether or not a swing change has actually worked or not. Unless a student can tick all of or at least the large majority of the above criteria they are doomed to fail.
So when I hear a student say “the lesson didn’t work” I always look at it with the above framework and a large grain of salt.
So what do I know works well and who are the students who make the most progress. Well it obviously has everything to do with what I have written above but perhaps most importantly a student needs to be patient. It never ceases to amaze me how the students that say “I’m ready to do this, I’m taking my time, I’ll do what we need to do” are always the students who get there the fastest. They don’t constantly react to each swing, each ball flight each moment. They trust the process and inevitably get where they want to go fast!
It’s the students who want it tomorrow who never ever get there. They are the students who run immediately over to the golf ball on the teaching mat after having the new concept explained expecting to execute immediately. They want to play well this Saturday in front of their playing partners and often care too much about what those playing partners think. They have limited understanding of what it truly takes to become sustainably better and to obtain a swing change that’s permanently integrated.
If I sound like I’m being critical of students this goes equally for coaches who are often guilty of the exact same thing; a lack of clear structure around their coaching, no patience, forcing their students to get better immediately and blaming the student if it doesn’t happen.
Change and progress take time and as the Buddhists say “through the teacher AND the taught IS the teaching”. It needs to be a symbiotic relationship if we want to get optimal results. We need to move away from the ‘quick fix’ culture and into a new paradigm. I think this is perhaps the biggest influence on the lack of golfer improvement over the past 40 years.
So we can all take a deep breath, believe in the process and the best results of both the coach and student’s career will come in good time.