An expert coach has his say

I found an email from Scott Barrow while cleaning out my inbox. Scott has been a mate for a few years and we both share an interest in coaching and thinking outside the box. This post offers two different perspectives which I hope you find interesting. Scott is not a golfer, but is coming from an outsider’s point of view. I also present my thoughts and comments throughout the article. Enjoy.

SB: For me, part of what we are talking about is the difference between knowledge and knowing.

In golf, an example of knowledge is the analysis from identifying so called technical flaws in the swing. It’s thinking, it’s theory, it’s fixing in relation to an ideal. Knowing, on the other hand, is feeling what is actually happening in the moment, observing it and finding easier and more effective ways to hit the ball while still putting it all the context of the name of the game – getting the ball in the hole in minimum shots. While there is a relationship between knowledge and knowing for golf, no one said we had to be picture perfect doing it! And there’s no evidence that says a universally perfect model exists or even correlates with ongoing improved performances. If you wanna get good at something, then practice that something. So in golf, working on your swing might get your swing better. Might. But it’s not automatic that your game will get better.

CS: This is profound and probably sums up my thoughts in one paragraph. Having a picture perfect swing is no guarantee that you’ll suddenly start playing better. I know far too many golfers who have spent years going down the track of “fixing golf swing” only to be left disappointed. I also wasted years fumbling around, working on my swing and jumping from tip to tip. It was the most boring and unsatisfying time in my golf career. When I learned to focus on other stuff, like really playing the game, not only did my scores improve, but so did my swing. What Scott is talking about here is far deeper than anything you’ll find in a golf magazine or see on the Golf Channel.

SB: To declare from the outset, I am not an experiences golfer. Not even a half good or regular one. But what I am is experienced in coaching, learning, skill acquisition, movement and performance.

CS: Golf needs more outsiders to come in and shake it up. There are too many long held beliefs that are ingrained from the establishment. Learning to listen to others is not going to destroy the game, it’s only going to make it better.

SB: I’ve always been uncomfortable with the typical golf coaching approach.

I think it’s a brilliant business model.

CS: He is saying that typical coaching doesn’t work too well and you have to keep coming back for more and more lessons.

SB: Somewhere along the line striving golfers became convinced that the prerequisite for good golf is a perfect swing. They’re always in fixing mode. Rarely just going with what they’ve got. How dis-empowering is that!? The devil’s greatest trick. The thing is, this fixing and “I lack” mindset kills enjoyment and our ability to take responsibility for performing right now. As the saying goes, If not now, when? “When? When I just get my backswing right, then redirect my downswing, clean up my impact and then I’ll be right…..” Traditional golf coaching has reduced the game to just one part of the game. A large part of it granted, but just one part of many.

CS: As long as you think your swing is no good you’ll always be searching and always feel you’re behind the 8 ball. From here you’ll struggle to let go and really enjoy playing the game. It’s not easy to take a leap, but it sure beats the alternative. The alternative sucks! I’ve been there and don’t want to visit anytime soon.

SB: I actually feel there are plenty of shots in golf that don’t require anywhere near a technical ideal, but more of an ability to feel the swing and make clean contact. In fact the top skill acquisition expert in Australia, Damian Farrow says research supporting the idea of a biomechanically ideal template in any sporting action doesn’t exist, even for simple, stable motor skills like putting!

CS: Did you read that? Is that making sense? If research is saying the “ideal” template doesn’t exist for putting, why are we spending so much time trying for the “perfect” swing. It’s a waste.

SB: Yet most golf coaching I see is for only 2-3 shot types in the game.

CS: When I was having golf lessons all the time I rarely got past the 6 iron swing. The coach would place my swing on video and then we’d sit for 20 minutes analysing each part. We never (and I mean never) ventured to the golf course, or spoke about knock down shots or how to curve the ball or chipping or lob shots or how to play a plugged lie in a bunker. It was one-dimensional and it was so boring. We never really got past the set-up position.

SB: Video can be used and can definitely help but its the way it’s used that either causes the problem or adds to the solution. If it’s used to support the development of body awareness during, and general awareness of, the swing then great. But if it’s used to “teach” mechanics then forget it.

CS: Learning technique from video is almost impossible. Two good mates spent the best part of 5 years trying to use video to build the ideal swing. “Get me on!” was their catch cry when they started hitting the ball well and wanted to see their swing. Sadly, they never really worked it out and to this day will tell you they wasted most of those 5 years.

SB: In any movement, trying to really “understand it” IS the problem. Understanding will assist motivation to change and work on stuff, but it’ll also get in the way of doing. Understanding is thinking, and thinking can’t get it done subconsciously during movement. It can’t FEEL, it can’t compute fast enough. You can have some principles and touchstone points but that’s about it. Unless they are converted to things to feel and be aware of during the action, they get forgotten in effective, efficient movement anyway.

The question for the golf learner isn’t “how do I do the movement?” but “what is the movement?”. And the movement will be dictated by the task – your intention. So in golf, what is the task? Example: To get the ball to the right hand side of the fairway level with that bunch of bushes.

CS: There’s some really good stuff in there. Best you read it again to get a full understanding of what Scott is saying. It is brilliant.

Instead of saying, “I need to swing back slowly, cock my wrists, complete my turn, shift my weight, rotate, release my arms and follow-through” you need to start thinking, “I need to hit the ball to that target. What club will best to the job?”. I know many golfers will struggle with this attitude. But it’s the way forward. It’s going to be the future of coaching. There is too much evidence supporting its viability.

SB: Try this awesome process framework:

1. Task
2. Intention
3. Attention
4. Action
5. Perception
6. Reflection

Regarding top players using certain methods, they’re often not that different to us normal players. Top players in all sports including golf try and use things all the time that either don’t work or are unproven, in their quest to uncover something that really makes a difference. Again sometimes the idea is logically great and romantic, but the results don’t justify it or can’t be attributed.

And improvement of the ball flight? Well I love and believe in the idea of the ball flight telling you everything about a swing and impact. But again, it’s a large part of the game but only one part. To perform well in an accuracy sport like golf requires an accurate, consistent swing of course. But the two questions I offer are:

1. What is the best way to achieve this, and
2. What context does the swing sit in with regards to the overall objective of “getting the ball in the hole”?

CS: There are some huge learning insights there. If you get this stuff (and apply it) I firmly believe you’ll be taking a step in the right direction. Your game will take on greater meaning and you’ll get more from the time spent on the course. It’s also a tough lesson – we all get caught up with our swing and score at times. So it’s a work in progress, two steps forward and a step back. This is reality and all part of the learning process. There are no quick fixes or magic cures. You have the answers, they are inside you. But to let them out you must start approaching golf with a different mindset.

SB: Until next time “Be the ball Danny”

CS: This was Scott’s attempt at humor. Non golfers tend to think us serious golfers are all like Caddyshack. Maybe we are.

[order_box_2 width=”80%” + border=”4px”]If you’d like to explore these concepts further (plus a lot more) then check out our Golf Success Blueprint package. Scott and I hosted a half-day seminar and took 12 golfers through their paces. We challenged their thinking, mindset and the way they played the game. There is footage from the indoor presentation plus over 1.5 hrs of the outdoor practical session. This is some of the best golf learning footage I’ve seen. It was brilliant to sit back and watch golfer’s light up as they “got it” and were able to apply the lessons. Comes with manual and two DVDs. For the full story visit the Golf Success Blueprint page.[/order_box_2]

References: Visit Scott’s website.

Comment using Facebook


  • cam280

    Reply Reply October 23, 2012

    G’day, just finished reading the book “Rookie On Tour” by Carl Paulson. This guy worked so hard on his swing and making it on the PGA Tour, I soon realised that working hard is an honourable quality but it hardly got the job done. If you want to become the best you can be you have to work smart not hard. Towards the end of the book he started to look at his stats compared to players that were making the cut and were making plenty of cash. The difference was obviously scoring averages and yes its all about getting that little white ball into the hole!, time and time again in the fewest amount of strokes. Overall any serious golfer should read this book, it gives you an injection of inspiration. Walter Hagen sums up how to play golf to Par,i.e. “It only takes one good shot to make par” therefore it must only take two good shots to make a birdie?. The thinking is in the way you respond to your shots, if you get down on your self and beat your self up your almost certain of a bogey.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply October 25, 2012

      Haven’t read that book – will look it up for sure. To make it on the PGA Tour you have to be exceptionally good – probably way better than most up and comers realise. Also no doubt that the best players are able to get the ball into the hole a little better than the rest. This, as I have been saying for a long time, is playing the game. The swing is only part of the puzzle – it’s not the whole game and never will be.

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply October 25, 2012

    “CS: Did you read that? Is that making sense?…”

    I think this highlights what the problem is: the gulf between what Scott is saying and what the average golfer needs to hear. And thats where I reckon Cameron comes in. He can bridge that gap. He can translate the theory into practice for the average guy and “tell them what to do” because he “gets” it from both sides which is quite unique. But you have to trust him and do what he says. Most won’t, some will. They’re the brave ones and they’re the ones who will soar the heights that the average guy scratching around in the dirt every weekend will never experience. Its not about how much talent you’ve got – nothing to do with that at all. Its about how much GUTS you’ve got to TRUST. I took too long to realize that and lost out as a result. All the best Cam and thankyou. I learned a lot from you – not just about golf but about myself too. At the end of the day thats what golf is really all about in my opinion. It shows you YOU. You might not like what you see but at least its the truth.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply October 25, 2012

      GP: I think it’s a team effort. When I first started this I knew something was wrong but wasn’t that clear on the solution. Years and lots of words later we’re definitely closer. I also see you GP as someone who can bridge the gap between me and some of the others 🙂

      Bravery needs to be taught more. And not to hit driver on every hole or to go for each shot. We need to be brave to stand up and walk our own path – to question the status quo and be prepared to do things our way. In the end it is up to the individual – there is no magic and certainly no getting away from feeling uncomfortable. I feel sorry for those that “scratch around in the dirt” because they’re missing out on so much. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. That’s for sure.

      Thanks Grayden.

  • Steady

    Reply Reply October 25, 2012

    Truth be known being told what to do and finding out for yourself are poles apart. Cameron gives you the blue print or the foundation to play golf yet the player must as GP states trust that it will work. Instead of telling you he guides and there in lies the difference.
    Let me tell you it does work.
    As Grayden says YOU must TRUST. Golfers are too quick to look for a fix/tip. It don’t wokj that way.
    The real mind game is between each shot. Golf Takes approx 4 hours plus a round yet going through your routine and playing is approx 45 minutes. The other 3hours 15 is often spent on metal gymnastics and wasted energy on analysing God knows what.
    Ta Steady

  • Lukey

    Reply Reply October 25, 2012

    Steady and Grayden you have both hit the nail on the head and that is a simple little word called TRUST and is one that I struggle with from time to time.Having said that though I continue to strive toward trusting completely what I do and I know given time I will get there.
    Cheers Lukey

  • Steady

    Reply Reply October 25, 2012

    I went out and played 9 holes today. I noticed something strange when I played. The Pin placements were front, middle or back. I scored well wether my the pins were front/middle or back. My question to all is that When golfers, in order trying to score can we get pin bound? The reason I ask is, I sunk more putts from a comfortable position wether it being uphill or left to right putt.
    The short game guru Dave Pelz once sais it’s not how close you are to the hole but where you putt from.
    Ta Steady

  • Steady

    Reply Reply October 27, 2012

    I’ll rephrase my question. I play fairly aggressively. I think the light is always on when coming into greens so I shoot at the flag. My question is regarding strategy – Can we as golfers become fixated into thinking of hitting it close to the flag,is this is going to equate to lower scores?
    On Thursday I didn’t aim at the flag but just below or to the safe side of the green.
    I have found that most pin positions are placed near bunkers or areas of danger enticing the player to going for the sucker pin.
    I hope this helps. Ta Steady

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply October 27, 2012

      Steady: I reckon we need to play a little more conservatively to tough pins. Many over judge their ability in this regard. I play at a pretty tough sandbelt course – the greens are hard and fast with deep bunkers that eat into the edge of greens. There are certain pins I would never go at. I find it quite funny to see higher handicappers go for the pin – the funny bit is I’m hitting a wedge and they’re often hitting a 5 iron.

      There is nothing wrong with playing safely every now and then. You’ll also find that a shot played pin high, but safe, is actually a lot closer than it first appears.

      I know this sounds really negative, but it is typically the best way to shoot better scores. It’s also much easier and avoids the disaster holes where double and triple bogeys can creep onto the card.

  • Lukey

    Reply Reply October 27, 2012

    Played in the last day of our championships today and played the absolute worst I have played in I don’t know how long and just left the course not knowing what to do.To say I am frustrated is a total understatement.
    Cheers Lukey

  • allan kenny

    Reply Reply December 16, 2012

    very good it sure gets the brain cells working & and certanly puts a different slant on the actual course management an thiking about the shot at hand not the actual shot and huw to acheive same.Allan

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field