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Using Trackman has made me LESS technical as a teacher

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Early in my teaching career, I was told that in order to a successful instructor I had to have great communication skills and possess a talent to describe a highly complex motion in an understandable way to my students. In the 20 years that I’ve been teaching golf, the technologies that instructors now have available to them have only made that lesson more important.

My goal for the swing and its “repair” is to make it as simple as possible for the golfers to understand, whether it is in the articles I write or the lessons I give to my clients. The goal of every teacher is to bridge the gap between giving the student too much information and just the right amount.

With the advent of systems like Trackman and FlightScope, golf instructors are now armed with an enormous amount of data to help them understand what is happening to the Nth degree. While having this information at our fingertips is awesome, it can also cause problems for less experienced teachers. I know from experience that whenever I have more data on hand, it can be very easy to give golfers more information than what is necessary. However, I will tell you that when a teacher truly understands the correlations within the data, it can help instructors make their lessons less technical than ever.

With anything new, there is always a learning curve. But over time, anyone who studies can learn to dissect all the data and assimilate it into his or her teaching style. People tend to criticize what they don’t understand, and using the latest technology will test you in the beginning. But I promise, once you have the “aha” moment, you will be on your way to doing things on the lesson tee in a much more efficient way than ever before.

Years ago, when there was only video, teachers tended to become too position focused, and I think that has carried over to the current crop of young teachers using club and ball flight analyzers. They tend to focus only on pleasing the machine, and sometimes try to force their students into achieving the perfect numbers associated with tour players. While it’s nice to try and copy what better do, it is not the ONLY way a golfer can be successful. Using club and ball flight analyzers in this manner will easily boggle the minds of even the smartest of students.

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Above: Justin Rose uses video and Trackman to improve his swing with instructor Sean Foley. 

So how do you use club and ball flight analyzers in the best way possible?

In the past, I was overcritical of positions that I thought I saw on camera that might influence factors like the club’s swing direction or the club’s face angle at impact. Now that I can actually see the club’s true path and the face-to-path relationship, I have found myself less focused on what things look like and more focused on what the swing actually produces consistently from the stroke pattern side. No longer do I obsess over things like a student “picking up the club” on the backswing if the downstroke plane is within certain parameters at impact. Often, when I let golfers have some freedom to do what it is natural to them, they achieve a “fix” that is much easier to implement in both the short and long term. There are exceptions to the rules, but generally if I see a decent player whose path and face are under control to some consistent degree, I’m not overly concerned how they got there.

So what do I do if golfer’s angle of attack is a touch down with the driver? As long as the player produces ample distance for the desired level of play and has adequate ball control from side to side, then the player will be fine. What some teachers forget is that the numbers only support or refute what the player is feeling, and are there to give the teacher feedback while making a swing change. The more I understand the data, the better I will get at fixing the one thing that will affect the other seven categories that are a touch off. Find the cause and the effects will take care of themselves.

Over time, instructors will find that they are not so worried about idiosyncrasies shown on video, but more focused on the one simple piece of the “data pie” that will fix it all. From there, it is all about how the player can improve his path, angle of attack, dynamic loft or whatever you as the teacher decide is in the student’s own best way. The best teachers use Trackman or FlightScope in a way that helps players learn through self-discovery. They don’t try to fix every single data point individually, because that makes things way too complicated.

Teachers need video in order to audit positions. They also need club and ball flight analyzers in order to audit the things they cannot see with video. The secret is putting the two mediums together to offer a “fix” for each student regardless of ability level. Use technology to fix the causes, not the effects of a golfer’s swing, and I bet that your students will play better and look forward to more lessons.

Read More Tom Stickney II : What Flightscope and Trackman can tell you (and me)

 

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. dman

    Jan 14, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    thanks for posting this! i have been thinking this for some time now. i recently got a lot better, because i finally understood what impact was supposed to feel like. for years i had been seeing instructors that were helping me get in the ‘right positions’, and while this undoubtedly has a purpose, it left me very frustrated as to why i wasn’t getting better with a good looking swinging. at the end of the day, it’s the position of the club at impact that matters! i think lessons should begin with and always refer to what is happening at the bottom of the swing and how that effects the ball. i never understood it until recently, and i was a scratch golfer!

  2. Pebo

    Dec 4, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    I call my Trackman “The Truth” starting there makes learning simple. Geometry and Physics. Love this article. Video is two dimensions of a three dimension motion. I am old enough to remember when teachers using video were nut cases….. Progress is sometimes slow.

  3. Martin

    Dec 4, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    Great article! I did a fitting of a new 5wood and I really got good numbers according to the fitter on the trackman. My swingpath (I believe it was) was around 2-3 (he said that was a sign of me coming from the inside) and my face angle was 4-6 (I might be mixing the two datas here, sorry for the confusion) and it produced a nice draw. He said that the launch angle was a little low, I think it was 10-11, but I noticed that the smash factor was really close to 1.50(on the last shot it actually was 1.50). After reading your article I wonder how my low launch still “is the correlation between the club-head speed he or she delivers at impact and the subsequent speed imparted to the ball when the it leaves the club. This gives a rough estimate of how “efficient” a golfer is at impact”. Would be really interesting to hear your opinion on this thing. Really like your articles!

  4. Damon

    Dec 4, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Great article! I find with my students on Trackman that using visual markers like alignment sticks to help get a player focused on start lines and using more feel-oriented thoughts helps tremendously with self correcting numbers. It’s such a misconception that Trackman is overly-technical and promotes chasing zeros and perfect numbers. Really refreshing to see an instructor on the same page!

  5. Scott Anderson

    Dec 4, 2013 at 6:56 am

    Makes perfect sense…having been self taught I know the relative importance of positions in my swing but I also know that I’ve worked thru a dozen positions during my transition to being a better player and more than one set of positions allowed me to strike the ball properly. Never have totally erased my Furyk. At the top” but I don’t obsess about it anymore because I consistently strike the ball.

  6. Graeme

    Dec 3, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Fantastic article.
    Being position focused and not paying much attention to ball flight is a bad combination.

  7. Ian Pont

    Dec 2, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    Interesting article that impacts on many sports where coaches use technical feedback to fuel outcome improvements.

    What struck me about reading this was that it is HOW you feed the information to a student rather than WHAT information you feed that student, that becomes the most important factor. It isn’t the sheer amount of data analysis that’s vital. Instead, it is a complicit understanding by the coach to interpret the information suitable for the student – and this can only be done with training drills that help the student to actually make impactful changes.

    Technique, and thereby the processes of the movement, drive improved skill levels through greater acquisition. However, it is the drills that create the outcome the student seeks.

    It is clearly a mistake for any coach to overload a student with information. The information should only ever be enough for the student to ‘buy in’ to the changes needed and how they are achieved.

    Paralysis by analysis, is a common fault of coaches who are unable to differentiate what a student needs versus what they want to share. Technology often skews a coach towards unnecessary inputs.

    Simply put, develop a process that is robust and teach that. Within that framework, flexibility of student can be applied through benchmarking, rather than by a definitive solution. However, any anomaly doesn’t disprove a framework. It merely underscores the fact that there is sometimes more than one way to get to a great outcome.

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If you want to become more consistent, a better ball striker and hit longer golf shots then this is the video for you. This video will show you exactly what your hips pelvis should be doing during your backswing, downswing and through impact. Having great control of your pelvis and it’s movement will help you have greater control over your golf swing.

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Playing in your mind vs. playing out of your mind

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Comparing the recreational beginner to the elite player

As a player, I know there are rounds of golf where I feel like I worked extremely hard to achieve the results and there are also rounds that are effortless and just plain easy. Why do we go through these peaks and valleys in golf?

As an instructor and player, I want to explore a deeper understanding of what it means to be playing out of your mind vs. playing in your mind.

I want to address both beginners and elite players on their quest for better play. All beginners and elite players must understand that, as players, we are all experiencing ups and downs. The bottom line is that some handle them better than others.

Why is this a feeling golfers have: “playing out of your mind”?

Well, it is pure relaxation. It is fluid, seamless, continuous motion. No hang-ups. No hiccups.

The next big question, how do we achieve this regularly?

We get to this without forcing it, by believing in our makeup. It is locked in our subconscious. It is a controllable, uncontrollable. Subconsciously, your nervous system is in the green light. You are just doing. This is peak performance. This is the zone. This is playing autonomously, out of your mind.

I believe that over time, a golfer’s game is compiled in his/her built-up expectations of the player they truly believe they are. Expecting to make a putt vs. just so happening to make it feeds two different minds. When you place an expectation on an action tension is created. Tension creeps into our nervous system and our brains either respond or they don’t. This is called pressure. This is what I call playing in your mind. You are in your head, your thoughts are far too many and there is just a whole lot floating around up there.

The more players play/practice, the more they will expect out of themselves, and in result, create that pressure. (ie. Why progress is difficult to achieve the closer you get to shooting par or better). The best players are better at responding to that pressure. Their systems are auto-immune to pressure. (ie. Think of practice like medicine and think of a pre-shot routine like the Advil to help calm the spiking nerves.)

  • Playing in your mind = high tension golf… you might need an Advil.
  • Playing out of your mind = low tension golf… you are in a good headspace and are doing all the right things before your round even started.

The key to understanding here is that we can play in both minds and achieve success in either situation. It is all about managing yourself and your re-act game.

Subconscious playing is beyond enjoyable. It is more recreational in style. I believe beginners are playing more subconsciously, more recreationally. I believe elite players can learn from the beginner because they are achieving superior moments and sensations more subconsciously, more often. All players at all levels have off days. It is important to remember we all have this in common.

The goal is always to play your best. When I play my best, there are no preconceived thoughts of action. It’s simply action. Playing out of your mind is an unwritten script, unrehearsed, and unrepeatable on a day to day basis, you’re living it.

Say you have that one round, that out of your mind, crazy good day. The next few days, what do you do? Do you try to mimic everything you did to achieve that low number? As good players, we take these great days and try to piece it together into a script of playing. We know we can get it down to almost damn near perfect. The more a player rehearses the better they get. Edits are made…knowing that things are always shifting. Visualization is key.

No doubt, it’s a huge cycle. Players are in a continuous race to achieve results in numbers. Players looking to reach great success should generate a journal/log and compile a record and playback method and revisit it repeatedly.

There is no secret or magic…it takes mastering the minds to achieve the best results more often. Most important, as players, we must recognize that during our amazing rounds…

  1. We are relaxed
  2. We are having fun
  3. We are just doing

In this game, the deeper we go, the more we propose to be there. It will always bring us back to the basics. One complete full circle, back to the beginner in all of us. So, the next time an experienced player sees a beginner on the first tee…take a moment and appreciate that player!

Remember to enjoy the walk and believe that hard work always works!

Please reach out to me at dmfiscel1482@gmail.com to learn more about the zone and how to become accustomed to playing autonomously.

 

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