Golf Coaching Philosophy
“Pressure isn’t an issue when you know you will enjoy the game regardless of how you play.”
One Big Idea
My golf coaching philosophy has a single guiding principle.
I help you learn how to enjoy your game – regardless of how you play.
Read that sentence again, especially the second part. Mainstream golf instruction is offering something different.
There are thousands of good golf instructors out there, all of whom will try to help you improve your experience of the game. But the solution they suggest is based on an assumption.
To feel better, you need to play better.
So that’s what they offer. A diagnosis and a fix. And sometimes it works.
Unfortunately, there’s a catch.
Golf is hard. There are a whole heap of variables that neither you nor your golf instructor are in control of.
The golf instruction industry turns a blind eye to this fact. If one technique, method, strategy or concept doesn’t work, they will happily sell you the next one.
And the next one. And the next one…
The focus is primarily on ‘how to. . .’ The most important questions a struggling golfer asks are put off or ignored completely.
Why do I play?
What is most important to me about the game?
I used to enjoy playing more than I do now. Why has that changed?
Mainstream golf instruction has another guiding principle:
‘To keep enjoying the game, you must keep improving.’
But who does that mantra serve? Golfers who are looking for an enjoyable experience of the game? Or the magazines and websites selling instruction programs and the companies selling training aids and vastly overpriced golf equipment?
If shooting under par regularly was the key to contentment and well being, Tournament Professionals would be the happiest people on earth.
Having spent ten years of my life trying to earn a living from playing the game and having many close friends with a Tour Card in their pocket, I can assure you that is not the case.
Golf Is Hard
I think we can agree that we are all looking for something similar when we play.
A rich, enjoyable, fulfilling, satisfying experience.
You might think that playing great golf is where that feeling comes from. Most golfers do. After all, isn’t that why you practice, work at your game, read books and magazines, watch all those YouTube videos?
But think back to the last time you played well. How long did the feelings of satisfaction last? How long did the seeking stop for? How long was it before the doubts started to creep in, before the questions started again?
I wonder if it was a one off?
What did I do differently this time?
Will it be there next time I go out?
Can I do it under pressure?
Golf is a hard game to play well consistently. The best players in the world have days, weeks or even months when form deserts them. If you judge your experience of your game solely on your ball flight or the numbers you write down on the scorecard, your relationship with the game is likely to be an uncomfortable one.
What you have done for my game is astounding.
I am so happy I stumbled across your website!
Your help and guidance about my thoughts being totally inside out has not only changed my golf but my life. I put it into practice everyday.
When I’m playing golf I feel I have an advantage over everyone I’m playing against because for the most part I know what is going on with my feelings for the first time in my life!
Whether I birdie the first five or bogey the first five I know my thoughts aren’t ‘reality’ and my golf is so much more free for it!
I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination but I am getting better at noticing the thoughts I give energy to.
Just thought I would fire you an email to let you know you helped me on my way.
I’ll be riding my clarity all the way to the top!
So, if you are caught in the trap of trying to fix your experience of the game by following the recipe dished out by the mainstream golf instruction industry, you have my sympathy.
Been there. Done that.
As I mentioned, I played full time golf for 15 years as an elite amateur and then a professional on the mini tours. When I finished playing I spent ten years continuing my education in the physical and technical elements of the golf swing and learning about the golf business. I was part of the establishment. I know how it works.
I have given thousands of golf lessons, taken hundreds of lessons myself. I have observed and talked to some of the world’s best coaches. I have played golf with some great players. (You can read more about my early journey in the first few chapters of my first book.)
It might surprise you to learn that many of these golfers (and their coaches) are also struggling. When you get trapped by the belief that getting better at golf is the only way that you can feel better about the game, about life and about yourself, your options seem limited.
Finding the secret to better golf seems to be the only way to enjoy the game again.
I was lucky. I found the keys to the cage.
From my time talking to golfers and other sports people about the games they play I came to see that being good at something is not necessarily the same as enjoying it.
During these conversations, it’s clear that what golfers and other athletes are really looking for is to reconnect with the feelings of enjoyment and freedom they experienced when they fell in love with the games they play. When ironically, they were far less skilled than they are now.
Just a quick update.
I had the best round today that I have had for a very long time.
Only a friendly game between us oldies, 35 points!
I know it’s not brilliant but I feel I am getting there at last.
Thank you for your help and support.
The End of the Search
Think about it logically. You are probably a more proficient golfer now than when you first became keen on the game.
But somehow, your enthusiasm was stronger then than it is now? You couldn’t wait to escape the confines of education or work and get out on the golf course again to learn and play.
If true fulfilment was found in better technique, more knowledge and more theories and concepts, wouldn’t the opposite be true?
My golf coaching philosophy is based on simplification. In exploring and eliminating the beliefs and concepts accumulated over the years. In stripping away the theories and conditioning that obscure the feeling of your authentic swing.
We learn physical movement by doing it, not just by thinking about it. Your body and mind get conditioned by experience. In simple terms, the more you do something, the better and more efficient the movement becomes.
We should be tapping into this efficient, natural way of learning, rather than putting obstacles and speed bumps in the way in the form of complicated swing theories and concepts.
How Important is the Golf Swing?
So, why does so much of modern golf instruction focus on either fixing or perfecting the golf swing?
I believe the answer lies in a philosophical misunderstanding that Western society and culture has been living under for the last 300 years.
The success of science and technology has led to a materialistic and mechanistic view of ourselves and the universe.
Since Newton’s time, we have been successful in explaining the patterns and regularities of nature in terms of laws and equations, causes and effects.
There is no doubt that this process has been highly beneficial in refining and improving many aspects of the way we communicate, travel, work and live.
So much so, elements of the scientific community are of the belief that we are close to explaining everything we can ever know about nature, including our own experience. This success has led to the employment of the methods of science and technology in areas where they are less helpful and appropriate.
I’m not sure that conceptualising your golf swing as a machine that needs to be fixed, controlled, perfected and polished is the right way to enhance your experience of the game. We don’t regard other sports or performance arts such as dance or music in this way.
So why do we do it with golf?
Golf is a mind and body game. You cannot separate the mental from the physical. The way you feel about the game, indeed your feel for the swing itself is subjective.
Aspects of it can be measured and analysed after the fact, but a swing that is physically similar from one day to the next can feel very different. Unfortunately, this subjective aspect is overlooked and golf instruction mainly addresses the physical and technical.
Unless you understand how your thoughts, feelings, perceptions and sensations – your experience of the world is created, you will run into problems.
You cannot understand the view if you don’t understand the nature of the window you are looking through.
When I was playing, I believed that if I perfected my swing mechanics, the mental side of things would take care of itself. But a human being is not a machine.
The perceiving, thinking and feeling aspects of our experience are primary. In fact they are all we know.
Relegating them to secondary aspects of learning and operating doesn’t make sense.
Learn the Swing, Then Forget About It
Don’t make the same mistakes. If I was starting over, I would do things the opposite way round. I would spend time learning about myself and the way my mind works, then allow my golf game to develop and evolve based on that understanding.
Trying to do it the other way round is much harder, and a lot less enjoyable.
I ended up with a golf swing and a game that works pretty well and that has given me a great deal of pleasure over the years. But I do occasionally wonder about what might have been if I had realised the truth about the way the mind works ten years earlier than I did.
It has been helpful to my golf coaching that I can play the game to a decent level.
It’s harder to explain how something works if you can’t do it yourself. I know what a good golf swing feels like. I can’t give this feeling to someone else directly, but I can point them in the right direction.
This is partly due to a better understanding of what is important in a golf swing, and partly due to an understanding of how my experience of that golf swing is created.
Technology means it has never been easier to get high quality information about exactly what is happening during the golf swing. Awareness of what is actually going on is more important than knowing what you think should be happening.
When you understand the basic ball flight laws, how your golf swing works and know the feelings of it, you can forget about the ‘how to’ and just get on with playing and enjoying the game.
To me, getting to this point is what golf swing instruction and indeed all golf coaching should be about.
Action Steps –
So, where do we go from here?
In my experience, there are a couple of ways to get to the point where you can just step onto the golf course and play without having a head full of concepts and strategies, worries and fears.
There is a direct path. And a longer, more circuitous route. Both can be effective and which one you choose will be down to personal preference.
The direct path goes straight to the truth about what that feeling of freedom, enjoyment and confidence really is and where it comes from.
It is the quickest and most straightforward, but does require some openness and courage to explore deeply held beliefs.
The scenic route sets off in the other direction, taking your ideas and concepts about the game one at a time to see if any of them might be getting in the way.
One by one they fall away until you are left with nothing but a deep realisation of who you are and why you play.
You feel this realisation as happiness, peace, contentment, as love for the game. It isn’t dependent on results or outcomes, on how you play. It runs deeper. Maybe this is what keeps you coming back?
If you would like to learn more about a different approach to learning and playing the game, please get in touch to arrange a discovery call.
If you would like to read another article before you get in touch, please follow this link.
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