Part 2: Imbecile Golf Coaching

Jem provided some interesting comments about the previous post. I really appreciate his comments, they challenge me and help improve the quality of the content delivered. So this is not a bashing session, just a way to continue the discussion and improve on the coaching.

Here are Jem’s comments with mine below.

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.

Cameron: Maybe. It’s a very modern mindset to want to see your swing. I can remember way back in the early 90’s thinking that seeing my swing would be the be all and end all. I couldn’t wait to play my swing over and over with the VHS player. But to be honest, I’m not sure it was everything I thought it would be. It’s one thing to “see” it and another thing to do something meaningful with what you’re watching.

What did golfers do prior to the invention of video recorders? Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Ben Hogan – they probably didn’t see their swing that often but turned out to be pretty good players.

As the saying goes “what you feel and what is real are two different things”

Cameron: This is why watching your swing on video can be an issue. When you’re awake and can feel your swing in the moment there is no right and wrong. It’s real. When you’re sitting back and watching a replay there’s too much room for interpretation. We also tend to look for mistakes (the pros are experts at this) even if there’s nothing really going on.

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?

Cameron: This kind of thing has caused more harm to the golfing population then any other. The golfing world is full of so much advice about fixing the swing and giving greater understanding – has it really helped?

For the amateur player, all this stuff just gets in the way. A golf pro will gladly tell you everything wrong with your swing during a lesson. He’ll give you drills and point out in minute detail your faults. Has this really helped you? Or just left you frustrated with a lighter wallet?

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.

Cameron: If by “helping” you mean give them more knowledge about their swing/performance/results then I agree. But improved performance I’m not sure. For the weekend warrior I don’t know how knowing your driver spin rate is 3400 rpm is going to help that much.

It potentially helps the golf professional sell you another golf club because the technology tells a different story.

Pro: “Your launch angle is all wrong. You need to reduce your spin rate and lower your ball flight. Here, try this, it’s a new driver that should do the trick.”

Yes, it’s interesting to use and experience this kind of stuff. But does it help or is it a nice distraction?

The top players will do anything to gain an advantage. If a player think it helps, then by all means go for it – but most likely it’s more placebo then any real cause. And then maybe another trip back a month or two later for another injection of false confidence.

Does your friend feel that he would have learned more watching a video of a golfer worse than him?

Cameron: In this case I don’t see the point of using video at all. It was a waste a time and a complete cop out from the pro. He was too lazy to make an effort and give the guy a meaningful experience. This is why the 76 year-old called him an imbecile.

I am not sure learning works like that? Look at books by Anders Ericsson for info

Cameron: Ericsson has written extensively about learning and in particular “deliberate practice”. This is something that I’ve become fascinated with and have some views on it.

You’ll have more chance of achieving deep practice by performing the motion. That is, hitting the ball. I’m convinced that very little meaningful learning will take place with your eyes glued to a TV screen. Hogan said that “the secret is in the dirt”. I’m certain that his way of saying play the game.

I have two examples of deep practice that have worked well for me.

1. Hitting balls in a horse paddock as a kid. I spent hours going back and forth. I was alone with just my thoughts and feelings. I can still remember vividly some of the amazing ball striking sessions I had.

2. Hitting balls into a net at home. This came shortly after I was about to walk away from the game – got myself tied up in knots from a scientific study and too much coaching (a time when I had a lot of video lessons). The net sessions were awesome. I couldn’t see the ball flight so I was forced to use other senses. When you start to really feel and hear your swing practice goes to a new level –  it goes deep.

There was no video and no abundance of technical thoughts. I was hitting the ball and in a trance of learning/performance. Was fun too, spent hours lost in the task. Taking a video of my swing, watching it, then trying to implement something never had the same meaning.

Ultimately I agree though that pros must focus on improvement of the ball flight, then everyone is happy, by whatever means!

Cameron: Again, this tends to be a traditional mindset. Golf is more about ball flight. Playing the game, learning and enjoyment are high up on my list. Deep satisfaction and meaning is hard to come by through ball flight (hitting the ball). It’s a big game, and there are so many more possibilities out there if you’re willing to explore. Most don’t. They’re stuck in a traditional mindset of “my golf swing is everything”.

By all means use video and the latest technology. But don’t forget that you’ve still got to pull the trigger and hit the ball. And the best way to do this is to play the game.

Final thought: We all have a built in video camera and it’s called awareness. Most will not put their trust in themselves but rely on an outside piece of technology. Sad, coz your awareness is the best coach of all.

Resources: Previous post here.

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  • Andrew

    Reply Reply June 20, 2012

    One of the great exercises from Cameron’s workshop was when we went out to the range and we were asked to hit some balls while just noticing our thoughts, physical feelings without judgement or assessment. Just to be curious and open to learning rather than trying to fix something. I felt this created the best state for allowing improvement.
    I can watch a video of my swing and see at the start of my downswing I come over the top and compare it to a pro who doesn’t but if I have no awareness as to the cause trying to correct it is futile. If I have awareness at the start of my downswing my left hand tenses my wrist cups and causes an over the top path, if I am aware of that happening I have a chance to correct it. Maybe video can highlight a fault and show the golfer where that awareness should be directed, but probably not necessary.

    A quote I read from Jackie Burke

    “I’ve never seen video that could show you what’s in a guy’s brain, have you?”

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply June 21, 2012

      Andrew: One of the best things with awareness exercises is the fault will often fix itself. Shining light on the cause is the best way.

      Many won’t like it because Pesky will be trying to have his say. Automatic or natural learning kills Pesky’s influence. It’s hard to put your trust in yourself (and ignore all the traditional wisdom) but it’s a step in the right direction.

      I’m pretty sure your golf has taken some nice steps in the last year. Thanks for posting,


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