Imbecile golf coaching

“Let’s just put your swing on video and then have a look”.

These were the first words spoken to an older golfer when he went for a golf lesson recently. After the video was taken the golf pro pulled up some footage of Tiger Woods to make some comparison.

“You’re an imbecile”, said the golfer. “I’m 76 years of age and how on earth can I swing like Tiger Woods?”.

It’s not a bad question. Video coaching can be entertaining and at times useful, but it’s a bit of a cop out. Coaches hiding behind technology is a worry. Although it seems like a good idea, having all your so called swing issues pointed out doesn’t make the improvement process any easier. I can remember when I first starting taking lessons with a prominent coach – each session started with video and markings drawn on a screen. Yes, it’s interesting and kills some time, but did it help?

I’ve gotta say no. The hard part is taking what you see on the screen and doing something useful with it. Knowing that your back swing is too long is one thing, learning to do something about it is another. But it goes deeper than this.

Why is a long back swing bad for you? Should you change it? Video instruction is an outdated “fixing” mindset – the pro’s always looking for something to fix. Yuck. The fixing mindset forces you to always be thinking about your technique and swing. Double yuck. There’s very little room for exploration and enjoyment. And you are certainly not encouraged to buck the system and just go play. Triple yuck.

My playing partner yesterday was the 76 year old lesson taking golfer. He hasn’t had another lesson because he said he didn’t enjoy it and was made to feel inadequate. I don’t blame him. What in the world does Tiger have in common with him? I bet this coach teachers everyone the same way. Boring. Imbecile is not too far off the mark.

Where’s the fun?
Where’s the learning?
And what on earth can be taken away from a lesson like this?

He was interested in my thoughts about coaching. I told him that I make golf learning a bit similar to riding a bike and driving a car. There’s not so much emphasis on technique and more focus on learning, performance and fun.

“I’ve been saying this for ages! Golf should be made simpler, not harder. This sounds like something I’d be interested in”.

Perfect. Another client. I really hope the coaching industry works this stuff out eventually – but not too quickly, because they’re good for business.

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  • Luke

    Reply Reply June 12, 2012

    The pro at our club is very prominent nationwide and people travel from miles around to see him. I was struggling majorly in the winter and so I stumped up a sickening amount to go see him for half an hour thinking that if he’s this well renowned, it should at least be worth the money. He started by setting up all his video equipment and telling me to hit shots for ten minutes. He then spent the next ten minutes comparing me on screen to Ernie Els telling me that I was flipping, was over the top and that I basically stunk but if I stuck with him for the long term, there was potential there. The last ten minutes he had me doing a drill that basically involved pulling the handle (very bad) and had me shanking every shot. “Don’t worry about the result. That’s the move. Go away and practice that and come back to me in 2 weeks”. Lesson over. A few days later I got back to my Bob Rotella books and found this blog and saved my sanity. I never went back. Now I’m swinging a lot more freely and playing a lot better. Am I still a little over the top and a little sucky? Probably. Am I still a mid handicapper? Yes. But at least I’m getting it round and enjoying myself and I know I’m improving. I also know that these things have started to straighten themselves out naturally since I got rid of the tension, dumped the swing thoughts and freed myself up. All of which is infinitely preferable to spending several years not being able to play the game on a course while paying through the nose for swing changes and questionable advice which will most likely not hold up long term.

    I don’t want to be too cynical but modern golf instruction sucks. For all this guy’s popularity, I’ve not heard of a single one of his students at our club making any significant long term improvement. Yes, it is down to the student as well and the fact that most of us don’t have nearly enough time, athleticism and know how to practice and ingrain proper swing changes is another story but golf coaches should understand this and adjust their teaching accordingly. Unfortunately most of them don’t know how or aren’t interested in doing so. Take away their video camera and their array of gadgets and they’re lost. Fortunately Cameron and a very small minority of other coaches have something else to offer…

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply June 12, 2012

      There will always people who take lessons but never improve. Most of these people will never work at the game so they deserve mediocrity.

      Others will bust their gut but get nowhere. It’s these people I feel sorry for. Terrible coaching is to blame – most of the time the coach cares, he’s just too ignorant to know better.

      A select few coaches are scam artists. They don’t care and will say anything to kill time. They also hide behind the belief that any failure is the pupil’s fault.

      “they didn’t work hard enough”
      “not enough talent”

      Golf coaches should be judged on results not popularity contests. Coaches need to be pushed harder. Ask questions and challenge them.

      If you’re not getting better it’s time to ask why.

  • Lukey

    Reply Reply June 13, 2012

    I had a similar circumstance some years ago where he got me to have half a dozen swings then spent the next 25 minutes or so explaining where I was going wrong got me to hit another half a dozen balls (badly) declared I was underway then promptly stated that is it(lesson over)But what he did not bank on was I like to get value for money and I told him in no uncertain terms that I did not pay good money to hear him waffle on so give me a proper lesson or go jump for your money.Needless to say he gave me the lesson I wanted but I never went back.
    Cheers Lukey

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply June 14, 2012

      Lukey: I find this quite sad. A lesson offers tremendous opportunity for both. Fun, learning and talking golf. For the pro it offers the chance to build a relationship and a client for life. Sadly, many don’t get it and will shovel anything at you, take your money and send you on your way.

  • Jem

    Reply Reply June 13, 2012

    Interesting points, but I would add that in order to learn some/many people need the visual aid of seeing their swing in order to learn more about how to improve it. As the saying goes “what you feel and what is real are two different things”. And when a visual aid to learning is combined with an explanation of the resultant ball flights, development is often enhanced. Would you not agree that in order to improve a skill people need to understand the techniques they are poor at and then set about a plan of improving and strengthening them? Yes in a fun way, but technology like video and launch monitors really do help many and can be fun at the same time. If they didn’t work, top players wouldn’t use them. Does your friend feel that he would have learned more watching a video of a golfer worse than him? I am not sure learning works like that? Look at books by anders Ericsson for info. Ultimately I agree though that pros must focus on improvement of the ball flight, then everyone is happy, by whatever means!

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply June 14, 2012

      Thanks for posting. I’ll get back with a more detailed response. Briefly, I’m not against video – but I think it is overused. Cheers

  • Lukey

    Reply Reply June 15, 2012

    I agree that video is not necessarily a bad thing because I have used it myself before but in a very simple way.I had a problem where everything seemed to be going left of target so I had my wife video me to see if alignment was a problem or something else and realised that my alignment was ok but I was pulling the ball a bit so the simple fix aim further right.Furthermore to my previous post I would like to make it clear that any amount of talk from a pro is not going to solve my problem we talk then we do (hit shots) and if at the end of that I’m happy it is then considered money well spent.
    Cheers Lukey

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