5 Things I’ve Noticed That Are Changing About Golf Coaching

October 6th, 2012 by John Graham Leave a reply »

Golf Coaching appears to be going through a phase. I’m not sure how to define this phase but the fairly recent influx of access to technology and information seems to be causing ripples. This new information, in some cases, has lead to some interesting observations. Here are 5 that I have noticed.


1)   Information no longer separates New coaches from Experienced coaches.


The amount of sharing of quality information has dramatically increased. This has allowed the younger coaches I run into these days, to have incredible amounts of information at their finger-tips if they simply do a little work and seek it out.  They are able to learn significant amounts of information and factual information very early on.


When I was a younger coach, I truly believed that the best coaches in the world knew information that I didn’t have and that was one of the reasons why they were the best. I believe the perceived information gap between new and experienced coaches is disappearing. In fact, if anything, more new coaches think that experienced coaches have poorer information than they do. I don’t think this is much of a surprise as my boys of 9 and 8 already think they know more than me as well. =)


In this case, I am simply talking about the information. I am not talking about the experience. Experience will be discussed next.


2)   Experience still kicks Informations Butt


I’ve said this before recently but I’ll say it again. Information is not How. Once accurate information is learned, applying that information or not applying it now becomes the skill of the coach. Can the coach take newly presented information and work it into their belief system and adapt? Can the coach take newly presented information and use it to make their students better? This is where experience plays its biggest role.  Watching how players adapt to the words, pictures and feelings presented by the coach is what the experienced coach has over the new coach. They most likely will have a hierarchy of fixes for problems based on their past success rates. This should allow them to introduce solutions sooner and target root causes better. An experienced coach with great information is what we should all aspire to.

3)   Coaches Exposing Coaches


There’s no question in my mind that social media and the internet have allowed greater critique of coaching information and technique. Not a day goes by that some coach somewhere doesn’t post a video or magazine article of another coach talking about something that the posting coach disagrees with. The question is, is this something that should be happening or shouldn’t it? In other words, is it appropriate to expose another coach’s bad information? Once again, I have gone back and forth on this one and once again experience has to lead the way. I have certainly leaned toward letting the person know that maybe they should consider looking into other information to see if it changes their perspective. To be honest, in the past I would do it to try and seem more knowledgeable than the other coach with the indirect desire to help more golfers with better information all over. That was when I mistakenly thought information is what separated coaches.  I think it is a good thing for golfers when more coaches know accurate info. The manner in which some coaches go about this may not be the most useful to that end.


4)   Facts and Data Collection are a big deal


There are many, many coaches these days investigating golfers, the learning environment, the body, the golf swing, you name it in an attempt to better understand how to help golfers.  It is astonishing the minutia that some of us will go to better understand things (guilty as charged). I love the theory and the minutia and connecting the data to enhance understanding. Once again, the question is, How helpful to golfers is it compared to other things? I have a few friends that excel in critical thinking and reasoning and I look forward to my conversations with these individuals. To me, it’s brain food and I love it. Not every coach needs this type of info in my opinion. At the end of the day, the best coaches are the best coaches for certainly more than what they know. They provide things that others can’t provide and we may not even be able to define what those things are. We just know that their players keep improving and that great players seek them out. There is so much information available to those that are looking that I think you have to make some choices. I don’t believe 1 person can be expert in all of them. The goal is to find the experts and bring them into your coaching circle when their expertise is needed. I can promise you that you can find them on twitter for free.


5)   Fact based goals or Feel based goals


Is the goal of the coach to improve the player while using accurate information or is the goal to simply improve the player? I go back and forth on this question. I struggle between my desire to be accurate over all else and my desire to improve the player. If I tell my player something I know is wrong and it helps them, is that a bad thing? Do all players need to know what is right or what is wrong or do they need to know how to improve? Experience, I believe, is the answer to these questions. An experienced teacher can determine what is best for the person in front of them and help them with pictures or feels that allow for success under pressure. For me, I tend to be willing to say whatever I want to produce a result and then go back and fill in the facts. For example, to do what you want you can picture this or feel that. Know that if you actually do this picture or feel the true outcome would be this. As long as this feel or this picture produces the results we both want, I’m content using it. The true definition of ownership is can they do it under pressure. If the facts produce that result that’s great. If the feels produce that result that’s great also. We have to remember that our job is to improve the player. How we do that is where we should be spending our time.



Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it. Please feel free to share this with your friends and students by using the social media buttons at the top and bottom of this page. Also please consider sharing your opinion in the comments section as well.





  1. cindy meyers walker says:

    this a very astute article and so spot on. i worry/ consider all the issues you bring up. i have taught using gary wiren’s original ball fkight laws for 3 decades. it is so hard to acept/integrate the d plane theory.

  2. Great entry JG. I have been observing many of the same effects. Experience is a bit over rated in playing the game, but perhaps underrated in teaching this great game.


  3. bryan@nobackswing.com says:

    good stuff John. is there anybody you recommend following on twitter for this sort of coaching information/insight? also, will you be at the world golf fitness summit?

  4. John Graham says:


    I will be there just Thursday and Friday and not sure how long during the day. Might just do the morning sessions. A little up in the air right now. I’d follow the list I’ve created called ‘golfpros’ that will be a great start. You can find its members on my profile on twitter.com


  5. John Graham says:


    I certainly understand what you are saying. Do you find it harder to explain the new ball flight laws or getting players to accept them?


  6. Don Parsons says:

    Nice blog John Graham.

    In working with my players, I favor getting results. In many cases, I don’t explain things that they I don’t believe they need to know about. They are paying me to be the expert and trust my knowledge. Together we figure out what they want to do and I provide the plan to get it done.

    When it comes to ball flight laws, I DO explain them clearly and ask them to repeat them back. I also inform them that they will have others tell them that I have it backwards. As a player years ago, I intrinsically learned that the face was a BIG influencer of starting direction. It wasn’t until recently that we had the technology and science to back it up.

  7. Jason Sutton says:

    You and I have talked about this at length in the past year. Just having the information does not always lead to getting results from the average golfer. You still must have application, communication and bedside manner so that the student can understand it and trust you as their coach etc. That only comes from lots of time on the tee (experience). Experience coupled with the correct info is a great combination that the best teachers possess. You wrote it and explained it perfectly. Well done

  8. Mark Strong says:

    Nice work John; extremely fair and unbiased. I couldn’t agree more.

  9. John Serhan says:

    Thanks for another great piece of thinking. It is certainly something a lot of coaches ponder. I have done sessions for trainees and you wonder if they know more than you and what your place in the world is but the rapport and communication with students and the underlying wish to improve people never gets old. Love your stuff!!
    On D plane and the old laws, I still see the old laws apply but just relative importance has changed with the trackman etc information (I am a trackman user). The big difference being face dictating start line (or 80% etc) rather than path. Speed angle of attack and certredness of contact are all still there. Do you need to explain spin loft and spin axis depends on student? But just using 2 tour sticks for path and face can so easily explain many of these things. Thanks again for your great work.
    Regards John S

  10. Jay Reid says:


    Great article once again. Knowledge is more available but knowledge is only as good as the person sharing it. I agree with jason in that great information and plenty time on the tee is the best. The other thing is the same knowledge does not work for everyone. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Alasdair Watt says:

    Very good John. Isn’t it interesting that even with the old incorrect ball flight laws ,players such as Nicklaus still got the ball to react the way he wanted,though explained that his left starting fade was produced with a face that was aiming slightly right of target.Bottom line ,he’d experiment until reaching the desired ball flight,even though not quite doing what he thought. I think the correct info is very helpful,but it may be even more important that as coaches , we get results. Always enjoy your perspective.


  12. Michael says:

    Thanks John. A friend of mine has poor motor co-ordination, is clumsy and overweight. He understands swing mechanics but is unable to execute all the movements in one fluid stroke consistently. His swing will be impaired by either lifting his head through impact, overbalancing on downswing or follow-through, not enough weight transfer and shoulders turning early leaving an open clubface at impact. He knows all these faults but can’t eradicate them. He’s good at identifying what he did to hit a poor shot and tries to make adjustments for the next shot. He has golf lessons and the coaches teach him swing mechanics. No coach has advised him or given exercises to improve his balance. His improved swing mechanics have helped him to limit the number of double and triple-bogey scores but he won’t break 100 until his balance improves and is able to execute the weight transfer effectively and consistently. Why isn’t any coach willing to tell him this?

  13. John Graham says:


    Can’t speak for other coaches. Has your friend requested work on his balance?


  14. Michael says:

    No, he hasn’t John. He generally likes to let the coach decide what to focus on. At the moment the coach is addressing his backswing which is too steep for a driver. His steep swing is okay for mid-irons but it gets him into trouble with the hybrids, woods and driver. He is doing a good job of sensing when his backswing is getting steep and pulls out of it sometimes. However, even when his backswing is good something else will go awry to spoil the shot. I think he needs to work on balance and tempo more to develop a more fluid swing rather than worrying too much on swing mechanics at this stage.

  15. Peter Knight says:

    John, these are accurate observations. There is an evolution each coach goes through. First is the thirst for information about all things technical, as though this alone is what makes a coach great. Next the coach recognises there are other aspects such as physical, mental and strategic development. Finally the coach begins to coach the person. This requires an understanding of people, golf, cause-effect and learning. Sounds like you are there with your last point; ultimately all the player wants to do is improve.

  16. Sara_PGA says:

    Excellent topic and thoughts here. As a younger coach I particularly value and enjoy your honesty and perspective. Thank you for your part in intruducing me to the social media world; without it I wouldn’t have much experience OR information!
    Thank you,

  17. Ken Pierce says:

    Mr. Graham,
    Thank you for this great information. Coming from the golf fitness products side of the equation, our goal is to help golfers get their bodies moving better a little bit at a time, so that they get the “feeling” of how their bodies are supposed to work in the golf swing. There is so much information out there on golf biomechanics and fitness that the average golfer is confused as to how to begin a program and wondering if they could even keep it up long enough to do any good at all. There are so many trainers and coaches with their own theories (sometimes to the dismissal of all others) that it is hard to sift through all the information and decide what is best for a particular golfer. Our goal is to make it as simple as possible to help them get started. If the will is there to continue…they will improve. That goes for teaching as well. A golfer has to determine if the dedication and possible lifestyle change to improve their gold swing and/or “golf fitness” is worth it for that 4+ hours and 18 holes of enjoyment on the weekend. For the more advanced golfer, the answer is simple. Work harder for a better outcome on the course. Thanks again for the great info that elicited many great comments. Hope to see you at the WGFS in Orlando. Ken Pierce GolfGym.com

  18. Jeffery Passage says:

    JG, nice article. I appreciate your writings. Information is great. Knowledge is great. Experience is great. Even hard-core swing and ball flight data are great. But what I have found (from this hacker’s viewpoint) most valuable is the teacher who can best paint the picture for the student. What is most important is if the student’s goals (type of shot, distance, quality of impact, score, etc.) are achieved. If the teacher teaches by unconventional means or methods, so be it. I would rather shoot 75 with Eamon Darcy’s swing than 95 with Tiger’s swing. Thanks again. Jeff P.

  19. Simon Fagan says:

    Fantastic! I for one strive to continue to learn and apply new knowledge while not forgetting and using what has worked in the past. New information is not always the best thing for the student IMO. Sometimes a new feel is all that is needed to create the proper change. I do educate my students but try to be sure they need and are ready for new information to get the desired result. After all that is what they come to me for, to sort out the information that is available and prioritize what they need. The same information that is available to new teachers is also available to golfers on the internet and they can become educated but not experienced. Sometimes they have the info, they just don’t know how to apply it. Well written and great observation!

  20. Brian Ridley says:

    Hi John

    So very true some great thoughts there!


  21. Stan Moore says:

    Information is necessary to improve as a teacher. However, knowing how to use that information is the key to getting results for your students.
    Being that everyone is different, you can apply one way to a golfer and another way to a different golfer to get the results needed. That is what makes teaching such a beautiful art.
    Experience will allow you to make those artful strokes.
    Thanks for the article John.

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