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Opinion & Analysis

Why chasing quick fixes keeps you from getting better (and what to do about it)

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I’m sure you’ve done this yourself or had a buddy do it. You head to the range on the weekend determined to fix your swing during a range session with an extra large bucket of balls. And it starts out pretty rough.

The ball flight is inconsistent. Your typical miss won’t go away. Then about halfway through the session you “find it.” Most of the shots you’re hitting are perfect, and contact is solid. Actually, PGA Master Professional Dennis Clark just wrote about this phenomenon for GolfWRX, and his explanation of it was perfect.

“If golfers hit enough balls, they can start to time their compensations perfectly.”

You compensate well on the range, but when the next match or game with your buddies rolls around it’s gone. The only consistencies are poor shots and double bogeys.

There’s a good reason this keeps happening. The research shows that this kind of repetitive practice (same shot, same club, same lie) will lead to better short-term performance, but it doesn’t mean what you’ve learned will transfer to the golf course in a day or two.

Embracing the quick fix doesn’t help you get better and build skills that consistently transfer to the golf course. In fact, practice that leads to rapid improvement in performance doesn’t support retained long-term learning. We explored this topic with researcher Dr Robert Bjork and coach Adam Young here.

But it’s not your fault. The golf industry has ingrained the concept of the quick fix. A new driver that’s promising 10 yards more distance? It’s the same game as the YouTube video that promises to fix your slice in 5 minutes.

Think of it this way. If you wanted to learn Spanish, you wouldn’t expect to practice once a week, see a tutor twice a month, and attempt to have a conversation in Spanish on Saturday morning and be fluent in a year. It takes consistent coaching and an environment that facilitates growth. In fact, practice that leads to rapid improvement in performance doesn’t support retained long-term learning.

The Alternative

The concept of long-term group coaching has been catching on in golf. Instead of seeing an instructor in a 1-on-1 setting for 30-60 minutes once or twice a month, why not make a plan and commit to 3-6 months or even 12 months of coaching? Doing that, you and your coach can build a game plan and get the proper practice and coaching you need. There’s even the possibility of getting out on the golf course and getting some course strategy lessons.

This type of coaching is highly effective, and yet more affordable than the traditional model of 1-on-1 instruction. Instead of just standing there hitting balls and getting some info every once in awhile, you’ll be working on all aspects of your game that you might not otherwise.

willrobins

Will Robins

Will Robins is a coach in Sacramento who has embraced long-term group coaching (groups of 6 getting together once a week for 90 minutes over 12 weeks) because of the difference in results he’s seen in students.

I asked him about the difference when he switched from 1-on-1 instruction to group coaching, and his response is below.

Robins: Prior to the coaching model, people came to me with their problems and wanted quick fixes. I wasn’t happy with the model and they weren’t getting better as quickly as they should. So I sat down with a group of 16 guys and explained that I had enough of that model and told them they needed to learn how to play the game and score better instead of always trying to figure out how to hit their driver. So we set up a plan and they came out to practice and play with me.

willrobins

I helped them with all aspects of their games and got them the skills and information they needed to actually shoot lower scores. For one, it freed me up so I became a coach and no longer the teacher who was the source of knowledge. I could work with the players on what I knew they needed to work on… because I was their coach. 

Another hidden aspect of working with a group of students is the competitiveness of the team and getting used to the pressure of people watching. The big thing with long-term coaching is you put your game on the line and it forces the coach to step up and really get the results. The coach has to be committed.

The Results

According to Robins, the 16 golfers dropped an average of 11 shots on their average round over the first 12 weeks of group coaching.

Since that time, he has coached thousands of students in the group-coaching model, and has seen its power. In fact, he’s worked with dozens of coaches to help their use the same model in their coaching (if you’re a coach find out more about this here). It’s a true win-win situation, he says, as group coaching is not only more fun for the student (and the coach), but more affordable than the traditional 1-on-1 model.

Who’s tried long-term group coaching before? Let me know in the comments section. 

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Cordie has spent the last four years working with golf instructors, helping inform thousands on business and teaching best practices (if you're a coach or instructor check out http://golfinthelifeof.com/). Through that he's realized that it's time for the way golf is taught to be changed. When looking at research and talking with coaches and academics, he's launched the Golf Science Golf Science Lab , a website and audio documentary-style podcast focused on documenting what's really going on in learning and playing better golf.

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Jason Helman

    Apr 5, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    I have been saying this for years. The word lesson and quick have been removed from all marketing. I’m experimenting with a 21 day fix this year but for all intense in purposes I’m not really a big fan of “fix” merely spinning it off the show much like I did with a Biggest Loser contest which was very successful a couple of years ago.

    I’m going to have to disagree. It’s more important that the student be committed and held to some accountability in the long term coaching programs. The coach has already committed into the program by planning the process or pathway to success. If there is a fail, it comes when the student does not measure up and stay on task. The coach can only motivate so far.

    Group coaching can work. Never had any success with it from the male perspective and it’s very dependent on your club members and personalities.

  2. Big Slice

    Apr 4, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    As with other commenters, I would also like more information on where to find these coaches and sessions. Sounds like it could be a good option. My whole issue with private lessons is about finding the right instructor. You could waste a lot of money trying to find the right instructor, the one who works well for your game. I wish there was a better repository of reviews for instructors to make a better decision. There aren’t many out there, leaving you to go by either word of mouth, or trial and error (which could be expensive).

    • Cordie Walker

      Apr 6, 2016 at 9:23 am

      Definitely feel the pain! Where are you located?
      Might be able to refer you to someone who runs a group coaching program like this.

      • Big Slice

        Apr 6, 2016 at 12:50 pm

        That would be great. I’m in the suburbs around Philadelphia. Thanks!

  3. Cornfused...

    Apr 4, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    This article was like a teaser for an actual article on group coaching. I don’t have anywhere near enough information to know what it is or why it would be better.

    • Cordie Walker

      Apr 6, 2016 at 9:24 am

      Maybe this warrants a follow up article! What info would you like to see covered?

  4. Hawk

    Apr 4, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    Ok I’m confused. You say: “In fact, practice that leads to rapid improvement in performance doesn’t support retained long-term learning.”

    And follow it up with: “According to Robins, the 16 golfers dropped an average of 11 shots on their average round over the first 12 weeks of group coaching.”

    To me that is counter intuitive to your point. How can I expect 16 golfers who dropped an average of 11 shots be able to retain that long-term based on what you said earlier? Am I missing something?

    For me personally, I never see improvement at the range, I don’t see how anyone does. I always see the improvement after the fact on the course. Maybe I’m practicing differently? When I hit the range I use the same theory: one club, one lie, one target. I repetitively try to hit my target. However; my goal isn’t in ball flight. When I practice I practice one distinct flaw in my swing and I only practice that correct form for that one flaw. Then as if it were ingrained, it changes almost permanently, and the new form carries over to the course. Maybe that is the difference, I don’t practice hitting balls, I practice a more perfect swing.

    • Cordie Walker

      Apr 6, 2016 at 9:26 am

      Over the 12 weeks they did on course assessments, on course playing lessons, and focused on the entire game not just swing.

      I would say most golfers expect to improve after a swing lesson or two. Getting together once a week for 12 weeks and really practicing in a great learning environment (not just hitting balls on the range) can see some serious improvements and retained skills.

      Having a “coach” also means you have someone telling you what to work on. They set up the training session depending on what they see in your game when they watch you play on the golf course.

  5. Shaun

    Apr 4, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    Mike, I am only guessing here but I assume the benefit would come from the repetition. Meaning not everyone can afford to see a $60+ coach twice a week for the time it would take to improve. it sounds like you either pay less or pay more but get more time with a coach in terms of frequency. That is the hardest part, imho, getting far away from your last lesson without seeing a coach.

  6. Howard

    Apr 4, 2016 at 11:36 am

    Ditto the first comment. I’m intrigued but have no idea how it works. How about a description of the process when you’ve got 16 people all working on different aspects of the game? Where’s the “coach” if all 16 are on the course at the same time? Are the students seen together or in smaller groups on different days? How are the students charged?

  7. Mike

    Apr 3, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    Well this is a nice article. So it exposes the
    Benefits of group coaching…..hmmm. So it is better than 1 on 1? How can that be? If I can’t learn by direct teaching, I will learn more efficiently by group teaching? Call me a non- believer, skeptic, whatever. Really trying to understandn it, but a non-starter for me.

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Opinion & Analysis

A golfing memoir in monthly tokens: March (belatedly)

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Editor’s note: All latency on the publishing here is the fault of the Editor-in-Chief.

As some might say, if you don’t take the plunge, you can’t taste the brine. Others might not say such a thing. I’m taking the plunge, because I want to taste the brine.

Here you’ll find the third installment of “A Golfing Memoir” as we trace a year in the life of Flip Hedgebow, itinerant teacher of golf. For January, click here. For February, click here.

Absolutely. Meet me up north (and, to himself, what have I got to lose?)

No sense in putting the cart before the horse, as the old pro used to say, as cirE “Flip” Hedgebow used to ignore. As March came to a close, as cirE locked the pro shop for the last time until November, he took a leap of faith. How big of a leap? Let’s get through March, and find out.

Speaking of carts and horses, March for Flip always came in like a lamb, and went out like a lion. That ran contrary to the folklore but, all things considered, there was always a 50% chance of things running contrary.

No, the best reason for topsy and turvy in March, for Flip, was explained by his birthday. Being born in the middle of the month might suggest balance to some; for him, it was a constant reminder of the chaos that led up to his earthly arrival, tempered only by the madness that ensued. If that’s balance, you can have it.

In Flip’s world, March was about the arrival of the most seasoned of snowbirds, the ones with more than five years of retirement under their growing-shrinking belts. Some were expanding, as they had given up on fitness; the rest were shrinking, as the truest effects of age caught them up. In each case, this pod arrived with military precision, knowing where and when nearly every penny would be spent. No frivolity remained in their schedules, no ambiguity survived from younger, budgeting days. No longer minnows, they recognized that uncertainty stalked them, and that all of their remaining wits needed to center on a small and precise target. The smaller, the more precise, the better…for the women.

Like all men, the old guys appreciated the consistency and precision their wives brought to their worlds.

Like all men, the old guys detested the ever-encroaching, loss of control over their own destinies.

They would enter the pro shop, grab the latest hat like a modern-day Judge Smails, and set it at a rakish angle, atop their sleek domes. Flip learned quite early on that the only way to ensure the sale was cash. When the wives invariably came to complain and demand a refund, Flip could “only” offer a pro shop credit, guaranteeing that something would be purchased. If they bought it on account or on a card, the sale was irretrievably lost.

Flip expected these purchases from his March gam: the cheapest golf balls, when their supply of northern culls ran out; the attire from last fall, or even the previous summer, ready to be shipped back to the manufacturer when March 20th arrived; and some odd or end that the pro had overlooked, lost to some sort of missionary of time. The only thing stronger than the will of the spouse, was the desire of the old guy to make some sort of purchase, to re-establish some semblance of power and control, for at least a moment.

How did you get your name, and why is the last letter, and not the first, capitalized?

(silence. he rarely heard the first question, as everyone knew him as “Flip;” he never heard the second one, as no one paid attention anymore.)

Two stories are a lot to tell. Let’s save both answers, even if it’s just a little while.

(silence. she wasn’t satisfied)

If the red hair caused his eyes to move from the mundane nature of packing and sealing boxes, everything else physical compelled him to put down the tape gun, sense that his throat was dry, know that he would not clear it without a squeak, turn away for a bottle of water, take a swig for lubrication, and, finally, turn back with his finest Axel Foley smile, and greet her with: How long have you been retired?

It was an incalculable risk. There was a 90% chance that she would react with an I’m not that old sort of affront, turn on her heels, and march out the door. There was a 5% chance that she would get the joke, and would stick around for another exchange, before smiling awkwardly and departing. There remained a 5% chance of something else. On this 21st day of March, that final 5% wafted in.

Wafted in, in the guise of a lesson he thought that he had planned. Planned for one of the wives, a late-sixties model whose swing was frozen in time: the unlikely combination of a forward lurch of the torso, a reverse pivot of the feet, and right in the middle, an impossible heave of the hips in one of four unpredictable directions. If anyone were to discover a fifth cardinal point, it would be Agnes Porter. Until this moment, Flip Hedgebow gave thanks that the world was blessed with just one of her; more than one might have tilted the globe off its axis. Now, he offered up a different type of gratitude, thanks to the visage of her granddaughter, who bore no resemblance to the matriarch, beyond the title of Agnes Porter.

They write that a story may be deemed worthy for its inerrant language, or for its compelling events. The story of Agnes Porter the way-younger and Flip Hedgebow benefitted from both, along with an overdose of peripeteia.

 

Artwork by JaeB

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Srixon ZX and TaylorMade SIM2 Max fairways and My top 3 drivers!

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Masters hangover week is here! I have had the new Srixon ZX fairway out on the course and it is underrated as you would imagine. Reshafted the SIM2 Max 3w and it has been super consistent and comfortable. Talking about the top 3 drivers I have been hitting this year.

 

 

 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: The importance of a pre-shot routine

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I believe one of the big differences between good amateurs and those who are not-so-good—and between the top professionals and those that can’t quite “get there”—lies in the consistency of their pre-shot routine. I read an interesting account on this subject after the final round of the 1990 Masters when Nick Faldo passed a collapsing Greg Norman. I know that was 30 years ago, but the lesson is just as relevant today.

This particular analyst timed the pre-shot routines of both players during the first three rounds and found that on the final day that Norman got quicker and quicker through his round, while Faldo maintained his same, methodical approach to every shot, not varying by more than a second or so. I think that is pretty insightful stuff.

Anytime you watch professional golf—or the better players at your club—you’ll see precision and consistency in the way they approach all of their shots. There is a lesson there for all of us—so, here are my ideas of how the pre-shot routine should work.

The first thing is to get a good feel for the shot, and by that, I mean a very clear picture in your mind of how it will fly, land, and roll. It is certainly realistic to have a different routine for full shots, chips and pitches, and putts, as they are all very different challenges. As you get closer to the hole, your focus needs to be more on the feel of the shot than the mechanics of the swing, in my opinion.

On any shot, I believe the best starting point is from behind the ball, seeing in your “mind’s eye” the film clip of the shot you are about to hit. See the flight path it will take, and on greenside shots, just how it will roll out. As you do this, you might waggle the club back and forth to get a feel of the club in your hands and take as many practice swings as it takes to “feel” the swing that will produce that visualized shot path for you.

Your actual pre-shot routine can start when you see that shot clearly and begin your approach the ball to set up. From that “trigger point,” you should work hard to do the exact same things, at the exact same pace, each and every time.

This is something that you can and should work on at the range. When you are out there “banging balls,” don’t just practice your swing, but how you approach each shot.

So, guys and ladies, there’s my $.02 on the pre shot routine. What do you have to add?

 

 

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