Golf Lessons – Feedback vs. Outcome

October 8th, 2010 by John Graham Leave a reply »

FeedbackIt interests me why some player’s have an innate understanding that improvement in golf comes with time and practice.  Other player’s seem shocked when they can’t hit the ball perfectly after a year of self help instruction.  I hear this phrase often, “I don’t understand why I can’t improve in golf like I did in all the other sports I’ve played?” Usually this phrase comes from younger men that have played many stick and ball sports and recently took up golf.

These men are coming to grips with the difference that is golf.  In all the other sports they’ve played, they are reacting. In golf, there is no reacting. In golf, you must be proactive.  The ball just sits there waiting for something to happen. The ball doesn’t know when it will happen. The ball doesn’t care where you aim your feet or what your back swing looks like.  The ball only know a few things. It knows where the face was pointed, what direction that face was moving, how fast it was moving and where on the face the ball made contact.  Let me say that again. The ball does not know or care about many of the things we struggle to perfect.

Golf seems to turn athlete’s into mechanical perfectionists incapable of feeling what is going on.  I’m not really sure where this comes from or why.  Clearly there are a couple of things I am trying to control in the golf swing.  One is the club and the other is me.  Some focus on only one and seem to forget the other.  There also seems to be a fascination with where the ball went.  So much so, that it prevents an athlete from being able to determine where the club head is.  How does a rational adult come to a place where they don’t consider the location of the club head as an important factor in learning the game? That’s the piece that’s going to hit the ball!  Learn from it to determine what your body is doing to put it in that place.

I believe if more students focused on feedback vs outcome, they would improve more quickly.  What is it that I am feeling? What is it that I am doing? Why is my practice swing smoother and better than my real golf swing? Aren’t people asking themselves these questions?  In my experience, almost none are.

As 2010 comes to end, consider adding this to your New Year’s resolution. I will resolve to pay attention to what is happening when I swing and I’ll seek out a golf professional with a proven track record.




  1. Andy Gordon says:

    Great Blog again. could not agree more. The golf swing should be built around 2 things the club and the playing field. ie the golf course. This doc by Michael Hebron is one of the the best descriptions of the club and why it should be the main focus in golf improvement.

  2. Meindert Jan says:

    Along that same line you have the women that refuse to make practice moves/swings because they think it makes them look stupid or it’s a waste off time and are just as obsessed with just the result as men ….

    Let’s all try to find ways and motivations to turn that around, I think we can well use each others help

  3. John Graham says:

    Along that same line you have the women that refuse to make practice moves/swings because they think it makes them look stupid or it’s a waste off time and are just as obsessed with just the result as men ….

    Let’s all try to find ways and motivations to turn that around, I think we can well use each others help

    I am just about ready to give up on the whole lesson thing. I am slowly working toward a model based on long term relationships and coaching. It’s just a matter of time.


  4. John Graham says:


    Yes, that was an excellent paper. Thank you for sharing that. I hope all of you click on that link and read it.


  5. John,

    As you know, I’m early in my journey in golf, but I consider myself very lucky to have found you and others like you so early on. I feel I’ve managed to avoid a large heap of frustration and plateau by concentrating on feel and deliberate practice. I was also intrigued by your discussion on Twitter about the learning environment and lesson model. I’m of the opinion that the current teaching model prevalent in golf has evolved because it’s the model that is easiest to sell rather than the one most likely to garner results. One has to ask oneself do Pros with a truly talented youngster they wish to develop teach that player in half hour or even hour long blocks? I think not. Who then does the teaching model serve? I suspect it exists to maximise revenue for whoever is selling the lessons, be it club or pro themself.
    It’s fantastic that you are seriously intending to offer a new learning paradigm. We can only hope that your vision gets the wider recognition it clearly merits.

  6. I read Quantum Golf earlier this summer & can recommend it highly to anyone who wishes more information on this approach to the game. Other titles to explore include Extraordinary Golf by Fred Shoemaker, Every Shot Must Have a Purpose & The Game Before The Game by Lynn Marriott & Pia Nilsson,as well as Zen Golf & Zen Putting by Dr Joe Parent. Tim Gallwey’s the Inner Game of Golf is next in my sights.

    Incidentally, I heard all of these coaches on the excellent Golf Smarter podcast, which is well worth a listen. It was free, but sponsorship issues led to it being a freemium model – free show every other week, with subscribers getting a weekly show, and access to the archive (last 3 months of free shows on iTunes). The Golfer’s Mart at has individual episodes at $0.99 each (and has Dr Parent, Lynn & Pia, Fred Shoemaker)
    The host invites guest suggestions from listeners, so I shall continue to suggest you as a guest; your vision clearly merits as large an audience as possible.

    The Golf Geek.

  7. John Graham says:

    Dr Geek,

    Thanks. I’m having a very tough time solving the problem of things I want to do, flexibility I need to do them and time needed to complete them. I still believe that effective golf coaching needs to take a turn down this road because, like you said, when real talent shows up, coaches change the rules. At the very least, I can say that I did. Not to say that we didn’t start out with lessons but it did move into a coaching situation at some time.

    I will keep everyone posted on how it goes.

    Thanks for reading,


  8. John Graham says:

    Dr Geek,

    Thanks again for the plug. Hopefully, I’ll get the call to the ‘big leagues’ some day. You’ve done some great reading there. The Pia Nilsson book is on my list for winter time.

    Thanks again for the continued support. How does the weather where you are behave for the next 6 months?


  9. Thank you for the “Dr Geek” appellation – I rather like it ;-)
    Weather’s not so good here in some ways, often cold but dry, but with pretty high rates of snow. I plan to play when I can and spend a fair bit of time at the range & on all weather putting/chipping green when I can’t. How’s the weather with you?

  10. John Graham says:

    Dr Geek,

    The weather here is getting worse every week. We’ve still had some nice days but the future is quite clear. Snow and cold will come. No way around it.

    I feel terrible that I haven’t replied to your email. Things just keep coming up that make extended effort a challenge. Hopefully, I can get things positioned so I can reply very soon.


Leave a Reply