Golf is a game of great tradition. The old course at St Andrews has been around since 1964 and the first Open was held in 1860. In this time we have seen massive changes to the way golf is being played at all levels. Some of this advancement is due to equipment changes (clubs are no longer made of wood!) but also down to wider accessibility of lessons. But how have we evolved as coaches, to make golfers better?
I have listed the 3 main reasons I believe coaching has evolved and how we are making golfers better.
Technical golf swing instruction has changed dramatically, even in the last decade. The golf swing in a technical breakdown (where the club should be, how we move, certain positions) was inundated with ideas and theories based from great players and great coaches. These theories of how to swing a golf club has none to very minimal scientific backing or proof – they typically come from the coaches experience as a good player, or from a coach who has observed a good player.
If a golfer had won a bunch of tournaments and had a “pretty” golf swing, this was often analysed by coaches who then went back to the everyday golfer and tried to replicate some of those positions. The theory behind this was “well if that player hits it how they do, then you can too by copying them”. This analysis of elite golf swings was taken place using very basic cameras to start with, which recorded at a low frame rate, before technology advancements meant higher frame rates and even 3D recording.
HOWEVER… this way of teaching and coaching is slowly being eridicated. We are now starting to understand how players are swinging the golf club through science. We have a huge understanding of what some of the very best players in the world are swinging the club through research, not through some old mans eye! This research which is being conducted by some very clever people in biomechanics and human motion, has helped us understand how golfers swing the club faster and more consistent.
If you are interested in learning more about golf science and research, here are some of the very best in this field:
- Dr Phil Cheetham
- Dr Kwon (the godfather of golf biomechanics)
- Chris Como
- Mike Adams
- Dr Scott Lynn
The last topic links greatly into technology and how that has helped coaches evolve. Technology advancements helped scientists and golf researchers understand golf movements much greater then ever before. Early golf research was using cameras followed by hours upon hours of digitising to generate 3D outputs. To process one golf swing would have taken many hours of processing, clicking frame by frame to identify different body parts. However, in todays 3D world, we can process a golf swing within seconds using automated software and much more powerful computers. So it has helped us understand the golf swing much better, but more importantly is has done it faster.
If you have used our 3D and pressure technology, think how quickly the data has been fedback to you… the sensors (in the plate or the vest) have measured, transferred to the system, made to look pretty in a graph, number or animation, ready to record another movement… all within seconds!
Another massive technology advancement is in launch monitors. We are very fortunate enough to have both Trackman4 and GCQuad, two of the worlds leading launch monitors. But, what happened before launch monitors became accessible?
Think about how important it is as golfers to understand how and why the golf ball is moving through the air. No one cares how pretty your swing looks, if the golf ball is curving 100ft offline! But how and why is the golf ball curving? What is creating the golf ball to move through the air in the way it does? Launch monitors greatly improved our knowledge on how the golf ball moves through the air and why it landed in the spot it did. This has directly affected technical changes.
Think about driver ball flight… thanks to launch monitors, we know now that a high launching, low spinning ball flight is key to hitting consistent bombs. But how do we create these ball flight… well we need to hit up on the golf ball with little loft (low spin loft) which creates high launch and low spin. Before launch monitors, we could not 1) even understand this was desirable and 2) had no idea what our club parameters were!
Using Trackman and GCQuad, we have your club parameters and ball flight data within seconds of you hitting the ball. This in turn helps us understand more about your golf swing and why your golf ball is moving how it is. Without these technologies, we are making an educated guess on how you are moving the club and affecting ball flight.
In my opinion, this is going to be the biggest advancement to golf coaching within the next 5/10 years. We know and understand what movements are more effective in the golf swing, the club and the ball. We can measure these using 3D, pressure and launch monitors. Using these measurements, we can identify areas in which you need to improve to get better at this game and more importantly how you are going to make these improvements… But how do we transfer this across to you so you learn it faster, with more repeatability?
This is where the skill acquisition researchers come in to play. Research around how we learn tasks and skills has already been widely recognised by teachers and coaches of all sports. Previously, we did not have much understanding of how people learned new skills in sport. However, this was come a long way through research into sports coaching. This is where for example biofeedback has been proven to be successful in transferring learning to a student quicker.
Although the research in this field has made us 100x more aware of how best to transfer movement capabilities to students, I still believe there is a lot of learning here to take place.
So there we have it, my 3 biggest areas in how coaching in golf has evolved. Would be interesting to read this article in 5 years time to see if anything has changed!
Any questions as ever, please do not hesitate to get in touch.