This is a subject that creates a lot of debate around the water cooler for PGA professionals. As a matter of fact, there is a whole industry talking about golf development; golf professionals giving one off lessons in succession and calling it a development plan. Now I know I may step on a few golf professional toes here but it is time to stop the confusion for you as a consumer of golf knowledge and pursuer of golf nirvana.
Let me first say, there is nothing wrong with golf lessons or instruction, it is an essential piece of the puzzle. However, do not let a PGA professional con you into thinking that by selling you a series of 5 lessons for the price of 4 is by any stretch a golf development plan. This book of ‘goods’ often pursued by the frustrated golfer is nothing but the figurative and over-promised golf nirvana. Ok, hopefully I have your attention, so let me explain the difference.
Golf instruction in its typical form is you showing up to your club or to the driving range looking to get better, or maybe you’re frustrated by the poor performance of your driver during your weekend games. Here is the typical golf instruction model dialog:
Instructor: “How’s it going and what brings you here today? What do you want to work on?”
You reply: “I hit my driver like s@%t over the weekend and I am tired of sucking.”
Instructor: “Well let’s take a look, I bet I can fix you in 5 swings or 5 minutes whichever comes first!”
You reply: “Great! I knew something was wrong with me.”
Instructor: “Golf is an easy game, when you know how to hit like the pros on tour. Let me show you what I know about the best players. I do a lot of reading about what the best players do and I am sure I can have you swinging like them in no time…”
You reply: “ I have always wanted to swing like Tiger Woods or Nelly Korda, it looks so easy. I should be able to do this. I wasn’t an athlete so this is why I play golf, you don’t have to be athletic, so it should be easy.”
Instructor: “Yea, golf is easy, I can tell you everything the pros know and you will be able to do it, even though you are not an athlete with little spatial or proprioceptive awareness. No problem, trust me, let’s do this!”
You reply: “I know, I should be able to do this. I am a smart person. Let’s do this!”
The Golf Development process is about the discovery of where you are as a golfer, athlete and your knowledge of the game, to build towards your goal or goals. Whether you are a beginner, recreational golfer wanting to win a club championship, or a high-level player pursuing nirvana of playing in college or winning on the PGA/LPGA Tour. Golf is a hard game, it has many variables, many are not in your control, and in fact you can say, you will never hit the same shot twice. Understanding working on your golf swing mechanics is important, it is only a piece of the puzzle. So, when you are working on the range with an instructor hitting the same shot, same club over and over, no wonder you get the illusion you are better than you are. However, under the guidance of a coach with a development plan you become aware that golf is about understanding your skill ability that translates to golf performance.
At The Golf Performance Center, we call these “lead” factors. Golf is a hard game played in unpredictable conditions. Discovering what skills you have or do not possess yet is an important part of the process of developing an appropriate plan of development for you. In order to build a plan of development, you first need to assess where you are, then understand why the things are what they are. At GPC we do this by having every player go through our Player Development Index Assessment and the 5 Elements of Success Evaluation. The PDI assessment tells you and your coach what skills you have, the 5 Elements evaluation tells you and your coach why your skills may be the way they are. By starting with your interview to get to know what your goal(s) are, it becomes transformative to build a plan of action around a baseline, building over time the skills needed to perform to your nirvana of golf.
Here is what it sounds like when you show up to a professional(s) at The Golf Performance Center (GPC) or a certified GPC coach.
Coach: “Hi, how’s it going? How are you doing on your development plan? Are you still working on your correctives so that you can move properly, to ensure you can get into a better posture? You know, when you have better posture it leads to better rotation, which leads to better path control, which leads to better clubface control, which leads to better ball control, which leads to lower scoring. So it is important that you work on those correctives to keep your improvement going.
You: “Man, this is hard to do. But it feels good when I am done.”
Coach: “Yes, the easy is hard, but this is critical to build foundational skills so that you can hit those beautiful high draws and fades you want to hit on the course. And by the way, it helps when you can separate your upper body from your lower body, because on your putts you won’t have as much swaying during your stroke, leading to you making better contact and making more putts!”
You: “I had no idea that how my body functions can determine how I play better golf. I didn’t think golf was a sport or required me to be physical.”
Coach: “Golf is a ballistic sport, every full golf swing you take, you use 100% of your body at 80% of its maximum capacity. It is a big stress on your entire system.”
You: “Wow, I never knew that. No wonder I am exhausted after playing 18 holes, good thing I rode in cart!”
Coach: “This is why we focus on working on the whole player and not just golf swing mechanics. Once you have the functionality, layering on skill just takes time, experiences in practice and on the course, and patience with yourself, not to be too critical, golf is a hard game.
You: “I never knew. However, I do know where my skills are now and I am excited to work on my plan for improvement. It is good to know that I am not broken and do not need fixing!”
Coach: “Golf is a game of discovery, regardless of skill level, and is unpredictable. You can hit the perfect shot, hit a sprinkler head in fairway and bounce out of bounds, add to scorecard please! You can also hit the not so perfect shot that heads for out of bounds, hit a tree and bounce into middle of fairway, then dribble the ball onto the green with the next attempt and make a birdie! Golf is a never ending pursuit of improvement . As your body changes, whether from age, injury or improved movements, so goes your golf mechanics, so goes your skills, so it is a constant that the better you move the better you will maintain your golf skills.
If you are not convinced that coaching is better for you, please stop by The Golf Performance Center, let us take you through our Player Development System, then you can decide whether or not your instruction is working. There is one thing I know for sure, you will learn something that will bring you closer to your golf nirvana!
Enjoy Your Journey!