I want to highlight what can go wrong with bad coaching. The story is true, but I have changed some details to protect those involved.

John was an excellent golfer. He was only 12 years old and had already broken par. He was cocky and confident and could hit all the shots. He was annoying to play with because he’d give everyone a hard time, he just couldn’t understand why golfers had such a tough time with the game. He really thought the game was easy.

At 15 he almost won the Club Championships. He got a little unlucky on the last hole, an opponent sunk a long putt and he three-putted. I know these days that young kids do this kind of thing all the time – but 20 years ago this was quite a feat.

John wasn’t too fazed by his last hole debacle. He wasn’t too concerned with winning – he just wanted to be the best he could be. His play attracted the eye of the local golf pro. He’s a summary of their first conversation.

Pro: You played well out there today.

John: Thanks. It wasn’t too bad.

Pro: If you come and work with me we’ll tighten up your swing and you’ll be on the Tour in no time.

John: Sounds great. When do we start?

All this seems harmless enough – a young pro wanting to help a junior golfer reach his goals. But things didn’t work out too well.

For the next 3 years John worked extremely hard on his swing. He took video of it and would study it day and night. He would compare his swing to the best players of the day – trying to iron out any kinks and working hard to ensure his swing was as close to perfection as possible.

And he practiced like a madman. Every day. Day after day he would rise early, stretch and do a workout (he never missed a day). He’d make his lunch (always healthy) and head to the golf course. The practice fairway was his friend. He had stopped playing the game because “his swing wasn’t ready”. 500 to a 1000 balls a day, working and honing that technique.

By now the alarm bells should have been ringing. John played infrequently, but when he did he couldn’t break 80. Nobody questioned it as it seemed John was doing everything correctly.

Slowly and surely John lost his game. All of the lessons, all of the tweaking and all of the conscious thought destroyed his game. By 20 he was useless. By 25 he’d given up golf.

The thing that really annoys me is some golfers around his club still talk about him. And the general feeling is that it’s all John’s fault.

– he wasn’t good enough
– he lacked talent
– he wasn’t disciplined enough (despite giving it everything)

But nobody questions the system. Nobody blames the pro for letting it happen.

If you’re not careful, you can lose your golf swing. Correct that. If you’re not careful you can lose your golf game. Taking lessons, practicing hard and being disciplined is no guarantee. If you don’t go about the improvement cycle in the right way you can do more damage than good.

Next: Better golf coaching

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