Coaching the Elite Golfer

Coaching the Elite GolferCoaching the ‘Elite’ Golfer – One Coaches Experience(not me)

“A relatively new relationship with a tour player came to an end this week (sometime in 2010) after a run of missed cuts.  A few emails back and forth failed to resolve anything but I thought I’d share the experience perhaps as a warning or to add some awareness to those who aspire to teach at this level.”

“I’ll try not to go into too much detail regarding the work we did together but will share the resulting facts as a basis for this piece. This player was struggling for distance, especially with driver. With an average carry of 248 yards he knew he was lagging behind his contemporaries.  His Trackman numbers read -5º Attack Angle, HSP -5º with a Club Path erring a little on the negative side but close to 0º. For those unfamiliar with Trackman terminology, HSP stands for Horizontal Swing Plane, which is the direction the plane is pointing at low point and Club Path is the direction the plane is pointing at impact (see D Plane).  A negative Attack Angle is a downward strike and a negative HSP or Club Path is a direction to the left of the target (positive numbers are directions right of the target).  With tour average Attack Angles less than -2º it was clear what was required.  He was swinging down on the ball too much for the distance he wanted based on his swing speed.”

Fast forward to a final practice a couple of weeks ago and we saw these numbers 0º Attack Angle, HSP 1º & path around 1º. This change in numbers picked up close to 30 yards carry, the one issue he was having was controlling the face. Here’s a picture of his Trackman Data:

Trackman Data

Come to present day once again and I receive the dreaded email… I’m too inside, shut face and too short… the ‘method’ you teach just doesn’t suit me… All this after a 6 degree change in club path and a 5 degree change in attack angle with the appropriate increase in distance associated with better impact conditions.  Supposedly, this ‘method’ always has too much downward for the driver. Some might want to investigate that point again.

Getting back to the players concerns about face control, “I’m going on record to point out that I highlighted the precise reasons for this on numerous occasions.  From very early on, I had to keep on at him to not pull the clubhead inside which tended to alter the left wrist condition he set at address, de-lofting and making it more difficult to avoid a closed face and impeded left wrist cock at the top of the swing. For a while he got this pretty well but didn’t seem to appreciate the importance of fighting this habit.  Looking back, I must consider what I could have done to convey this matter in a more significant way.”

“So, what happens when the player starts to struggle a bit? The whispers begin from other coaches and players. You(the coach) become the scapegoat, your beliefs become the problem and you lose a player. You start to question what you could have done differently and you question your desire to constantly put your neck out on the line . From there it goes one of two ways, either the information you gave was bad or the player just couldn’t do what you wanted, it’s a lose/lose.

If you’re at all thin skinned with a tendency to producing grey hairs at the slightest worry I have three words for you.”

Don’t do it.