What is the best way to teach golf?: An Interesting Conversation

By Wayne | blog

Chris:
The fastest way to get good at golf is to focus on the target and try to hit it while constantly making adjustments and trying to figure out what works for you. You learn much faster that way than having some teaching pro hammering swing thoughts into your head or repeating the same movement over and over again. Learning golf is about making mistakes and finding an individual solution, not about repeating a swing method over and over again. It´s not about hitting some lines on a video screen, it´s about being able to hit golf shots on the course under pressure.
 
Wayne:
Good for you. When you keep making the same mistakes and stop getting better, or get worse, just stay out there and keep hitting. The world is full of 15 handicappers with the same philosophy. The lines show you where you are moving and when. The swing thoughts are based on the swings of the greatest players who have played the game. If you don’t need help, that makes you one of the exceptional ones.
 
Chris:
Ironically the greatest players who have played the game all swung differently. Kuchar swings completely different compared to Nick Watney for example. What they all have in common is that they have a swing that enables them to get the clubface square onto the ball. Their style however is completely different.
 
As I said I´m not saying to aimlessly hit golf balls and keep repeating mistakes. I´m saying that you need to practice efficiently and find what works for you through trial and error. That´s the fastest and best way to learn a new movement. A good golf instructor should guide you along the way, but not force you to swing according to a certain method. It´s about having a functional, individual golf swing and not about going down a checklist of positions. I know tons of guys that have technically sound swings, but can´t break 80 consistently because they are stuck in an endless internal thought process of trying to achieve a pretty golf swing. They have a nice looking swing, but can´t play golf.
 
The 15 handicappers you speak of aimlessly hit balls on the range and occasionally try out a tip they read in golf digest. Of course they will always suck.
 
It´s about variable practice.
 
Constantly changing clubs, constantly trying to change shot shapes, always varying targets and yardages, hitting it high and low etc… while always making adjustments. If you do all that for thousands of hours you´re going to have a pretty damn good and efficient golf swing.
 

Wayne:
It’s not “ironic” that the greatest have had incredibly different styles: it is the nature of the game. I am guessing that you are not an instructor, because if you were and if you spent 8 hours a day trying to help people hit any shot with decent contact you would not be rambling on about ”shot shapes”, hitting “high and low”, and other advanced items that the average player cannot begin to fathom much less accomplish. Seriously, if you watched me teach an average day you wouldn’t be saying what you are saying. You are assuming that the golfers you are talking about have some clue as to what propels a ball forward, and that if they just kept at it the way you are suggesting that they would improve and eventually have a nice, functional, efficient swing. Sorry, but that is not the case. And I don’t buy your statement that you know “tons of guys” with “technically sound” swings who can’t play golf. That’s ridiculous. The swing hits the ball. If the swing is sound the ball will be struck well. That says nothing about course management, short game skill, putting and other matters that determine score, but it is not the fault of too many swing thoughts or “going through a checklist” that creates a 15 handicap. The problem poor players have is that there are too many problems with their swings for one or two thoughts to make them a lot better, so they are forced to think of too many things when they swing. If they eliminate some of the necessary thoughts to get down to a usable few they just don’t play very well because there are too many errors to correct with just that many thoughts. That is where efficient practice comes into play. If the player does not have the right things to practice, and doesn’t have the proper concepts in place to make sure he doesn’t get off on the wrong track, then the practice will lead nowhere. You should go and hang out with a reputable instructor for a day and see first hand what a teacher deals with on an hourly basis. You would walk away with a different take on things, maybe not for yourself, but in general for lots of people who struggle with the game and will never get better without help.
 
Chris:
Quoting Wayne:
“You are assuming that the golfers you are talking about have some clue as to what propels a ball forward, and that if they just kept at it the way you are suggesting that they would improve and eventually have a nice, functional, efficient swing. Sorry, but that is not the case. And I don’t buy your statement that you know “tons of guys” with “technically sound” swings who can’t play golf. That’s ridiculous. The swing hits the ball. If the swing is sound the ball will be struck well.”
 
Golf balls aren´t very smart, they don´t care if you lifted your left heel on the backswing or were “on plane” in the backswing. All they care about is clubface angle and swing path at impact. According to you, if the “swing hits the golf ball” then we would have never heard of Bubba Watson or Phil Mickelson. There are tons of college players with better swings than them that don´t hit it as good. How do you explain that?
 
The common belief of modern golf instruction nowadays is that if you dropped a kid that never played golf before on an isolated island with a golf course and golf balls he´ll never become a good golfer without a golf instructor and video camera. That´s just laughable. What almost all the best ballstrikers that ever lived had in common is that they didn´t have a swing coach and figured out what worked for them on their own.
 
As I said before I´m not against golf instruction if it´s done right…, I´m just against trying to force people to swing according to a certain method. If a guy moves 6 inches off the ball in his backswing, but manages to consistently hit the ground in the same spot then I won´t tell him to be more centered because that´s what modern golf instruction says how it should be. If he doesn´t consistenly hit the ground in the same spot then I´ll guide him to find an individual solution. I won´t tell him “stay centered and do it exactly like this” and then have him repeat that thousands of times. If he manages to hit the ground in the same spot by being centered then that´s his solution, if he manages to hit the ground in the same spot by moving off the ball then that´s his solution. The fastest way to learn new movements is not by repeating a “perfect” solution over and over again, it´s by having a clearly defined goal and then finding an individual solution to the problem through trial and error. When you learn to walk you don´t have a walking instructor with a video camera. You learn how to walk by falling.
 

Wayne:
Where do you get “the common belief of modern instruction…” from? Did you poll all the instructors alive today who own and use a video camera, or a Trackman? I’m an instructor, I guess I’m modern, and I use whatever tools I have at hand to help people because they need all the help they can get. It is obvious that a good teacher will not try to force a student into a “method”, as you call it, especially a talented student. But every teacher has to have preferences and will move the student in a certain direction based on core beliefs developed from experience as to what makes the golf ball go. If you watch my videos you would understand that I look at the swings of the great players because they are great. Their swings produce results and thus are worth looking at to see how they operate. I draw the lines to establish “initial conditions” and then observe what the swing does from start to finish. That’s just science. If a move is unconventional and still works then the fact that it is successful means that no one can say “you can’t do that and be good”. I may tell someone “he can do that, but you would be better off doing it this way”, because that is the truth. Some techniques are more complicated than others but work due to the player’s talent level and work ethic. Not everybody has those items and if you think that all styles are equal as far as what the average player can use and improve with then again, you need to watch someone teach for a while. Your “old school” argument just doesn’t fly. Tiger has had an instructor and has used video since he was a kid. Not everybody does, but the fact that he does means that his way is just as good (or maybe better, since he is by leaps and bounds better than anyone else in the “modern” era) as yours. I have no idea why you picked my site and me personally to sound off to. If you have watched what I do you would know that I have never suggested that there is a perfect way to swing. In fact, the whole idea behind the swing analysis videos is to see just how different these great players swung the club and to gather up commonalities for lesser players to use to help themselves.

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