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What to look for in a golf instructor: The difference between transformative and transactional coaching

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Golf instruction comes in all different styles, methods, and formats. With that said, you would think this would be a good thing due to there being so many different types of people in the world. However, it is my opinion that the lack of standardization within the industry makes it confusing for the athlete to determine what kind of golf instruction they should seek out.

Before we can discuss what may or may not be the best type of instruction for yourself, first we need to know what our options are. Whether we are taking a “broad-spectrum approach” to learning or a more personalized approach, it is important to understand that there are differences to each, and some approaches are going to take longer than others to reach goals.

Broad-Spectrum Approach

Welcome to the world of digital golf instruction, where tips from the most famous coaches in the world are a click away. The great thing about the internet and social media for a golfer is there has never been more access to the top minds in the field—and tips and drills are plentiful. With that said, with there being so many choices and differing opinions, it can be very easy to become distracted with the latest tip and can lead to a feeling of being lost.

I would describe “internet coaching”—or YouTube and Instagram surfing—as transactional coaching. You agree to pay, either a monthly fee or provide likes or follows and the professional provides very generalized tips about the golf swing. For athletes that are new to golf or golf instruction, this tends to be the first part of their process.

There are people who prefer a more transactional approach, and there are a ton of people having success working together over the internet with their coach. With that said, for someone who is looking for more of a long-term individualized approach, this may not be the best approach. This broad-spectrum approach also tends to be the slowest in terms of development due to there being a lot of trial and error due to the generalized approach and people having different body types.

Individual Transactional Coaching

Most people who are new to golf instruction will normally seek out their local pro for help. Depending on where you live in the country, what your local pro provides will vary greatly. However, due to it being local and convenient, most golfers will accept this to be the standard golf lesson.

What makes this type of instruction transactional is that there tends to be less long-term planning and it is more of a sick patient-doctor relationship. Lessons are taken when needed and there isn’t any benchmarking or periodization being done. There also tends to be less of a relationship between the coach and player in this type of coaching and it is more of a take it or leave it style to the coaching.

For most recreational or club-level players, this type of coaching works well and is widely available. Assuming that the method or philosophies of the coach align with your body type and goals athletes can have great success with this approach. However, due to less of a relationship, this form of coaching can still take quite some time to reach its goals.

Individual Transformative Coaching

Some people are very lucky, and they live close to a transformative coach, and others, less lucky, have had to search and travel to find a coach that could help them reach their goals. Essentially, when you hire a transformative coach, you are being assigned a golf partner.

Transformative coaching begins with a solid rapport that develops into an all-encompassing relationship centered around helping you become your very best. Technology alone doesn’t make a coach transformative, but it can help when it comes to creating periodization of your development. Benchmarks and goals are agreed upon by both parties and both parties share the responsibility for putting in the work.

Due to transformative coaching tending to have larger goals, the development process tends to take some time, however, the process is more about attainment than achievement. While improved performance is the goal, the periods for both performance and development are defined.

Which One is Right for You?

It really depends on how much you are willing to invest in your development. If you are looking for a quick tip and are just out enjoying the weather with your friends, then maybe finding a drill or two on Instagram to add to your practice might be the ticket. If you are looking to really see some improvement and put together a plan for long-term development, then you are going to have to start looking into what is available in your area and beyond.

Some things to consider when selecting a coach

  • Do they use technology?
  • What are their qualifications when it comes to teaching?
  • Do they make you a priority?

As a golf coach who has access to the most state-of-the-art technology in the industry, I am always going to be biased towards a data-driven approach. That doesn’t mean that you should only consider a golf coach with technology, however, I believe that by having data present, you are able to have a better conversation about the facts with less importance placed on personal preference. Technology also tends to be quite expensive in golf, so be prepared if you go looking for a more high-tech coaching experience, as it is going to cost more than the low-tech alternative.

The general assumption is that if the person you are seeking advice from is a better player than you are, then they know more about the golf swing than you do. This is not always the case, while the better player may understand their swing better than you do yours, that does not make them an expert at your golf swing. That is why it is so important that you consider the qualifications of your coach. Where did they train to coach? Do they have success with all of their players? Do their players develop over a period of time? Do their players get injured? All things to consider.

The most important trait to look for in a transformative coach is that they make you a priority. That is the biggest difference between transactional and transformative coaches, they are with you during the good and bad, and always have your best interest top of mind. Bringing in other experts isn’t that uncommon and continuing education is paramount for the transformative coach, as it is their duty to be able to meet and exceed the needs of every athlete.

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Michael grew up working in the industry and always dreamed of becoming a PGA Professional. After a junior career that was highlighted with a few wins, Michael was briefly a member of the University of Louisville Golf Team before graduating from Eastern Kentucky University as a member of the inaugural class of the Professional Golf Management program. After doing everything in the industry on the green-grass side, Michael decided that he was truly passionate about teaching, and wanted to become the best instructor that he could be. Once Michael became a full-time instructor, it became crystal clear that he needed to expand his knowledge base to better help his students. Michael began by studying "The Golfing Machine" by Homer Kelley underneath the guidance of Scott Hayes. While TGM gave Michael a great understanding of the geometry and Kinematics of the golf swing, it still left questions that led Michael to purchasing his first set of Smart2Move 1D Force Plates. While learning about Ground Reaction Forces, Michael was introduced to Mike Adams and the rest of the BioSwing Dynamics team. Learning how to screen each athletes anatomy was a game changer for Michael and allowed him to understand what made each athlete different, and more importantly, how to coach each athlete to become the best they could. In addition to the network of BioSwing Dynamics coaches that Michael continues to work with, he has also completed the Scott Cowx Certified 5.5 program and uses that information to better understand wrist angle patterns and how those different patterns can be used to help players create a more consistent face angle. Michael continues to attend multiple educations every year and is always seeking to refine his information base. In addition to working with athletes of all abilities, Michael also mentors several of his fellow PGA Professional coaches. | Podcast on Apple | Podcast on Spotify | MichaelDutro.com | Measured Golf

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. ChipNRun

    Mar 29, 2021 at 5:17 pm

    Transformational or transactional? A couple of factors to consider…

    Some beginning golfers just want the basics – get the ball in the fairway enough to stay in the Friday PM workplace nine-hole league.

    So, part of this depends on how dedicated the player is. A big complaint of teaching pros? Player X shows up every two months for a lesson, but has made no effort to practice in between. “I get tired of giving the same lesson over and over,” is a familiar refrain.

    I have worked with a couple of different pros the last few years. They are transformational, in that they remember where I was at last lesson. Also, I will tell them the progress on major points of previous lesson. I do my part, they do theirs.

    These pros would walk out on the practice range and ask me how I’m doing. I’ll say I’m pushing drives, and they’ll give me a five-minute tuneup to get things back on line.

    And, the “…used technology…” can be misleading. Some people learn well from seeing video replay – before and after. Others learn from feeling the swing at different points. Ask any teacher – most students have a preferred learning style that works better than others.

  2. Thunder Bear

    Mar 28, 2021 at 10:18 pm

    Nothing could be harder to find than a transformative coach. In addition, those coaches that are transformative are likely overly busy so the only way to get their time is to pay a lot or be exceptional.

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The Wedge Guy: Top 7 short game mistakes

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I’ve written hundreds of articles as “The Wedge Guy” and answered thousands of emails in my 30 years of focused wedge design. So, I thought I’d compile a list of what I believe are the most common mistakes golfers make around the greens that prevent them from optimizing their scoring.

So here goes, not in any particular order.

Tempo

Probably the most common error I see is a tempo that is too quick and “jabby”. That likely comes from the misunderstood and overdone advice “accelerate through the ball.” I like to compare playing a golf hole to painting a room, and your short shots are your “trim brushes”. They determine how the finished work turns out, and a slower stroke delivers more precision as you get closer to the green and hole.

Set Up/Posture

To hit good chips and pitches, you need to “get down”. Get closer to your work for better precision. Too many golfers I see stand up too tall and grip the club to the end. And having your weight favored to the lead foot almost guarantees a proper strike.

Grip Pressure

A very light grip on the club is essential to good touch and a proper release through the impact zone. Trust me, you cannot hold a golf club too lightly – your body won’t let you. Concentrate on your forearms; if you can feel any tenseness in the muscles in your forearms, you are holding on too tightly.

Hand position

Watch the tour players hit short shots on TV. Their arms are hanging naturally from their shoulders so that their hands are very close to their upper thighs at address and through impact. Copy that and your short game will improve dramatically.

Lack of Body Core Rotation

When you are hitting short shots, the hands and arms have to begin and stay in front of the torso throughout the swing. If you don’t rotate your chest and shoulders back and through, you won’t develop good consistency in distance or contact.

Club selection

I see two major errors here. Some golfers always grab the sand or lob wedge when they miss a green. If you have lots of green to work with and don’t need that loft, a PW or 9-iron will give you much better results. The other error is seen in those golfers who are “afraid” of their wedge and are trying to hit tough recoveries with 8- and 9-irons. That doesn’t work either. Go to your practice green and see what happens with different clubs when given the same swing . . . then take that knowledge to the course.

Clubhead/grip relationship

This error falls into two categories. The first is those golfers who forward press so much that they dramatically change the loft of the club. At address and impact the grip should be slightly ahead of the clubhead. I like to focus on the hands, rather than the club, and just think of my left hand leading my right through impact. Which brings me to the other error – allowing the clubhead to pass the hands through impact. If you let the clubhead do that, good shots just cannot happen. And that is caused by you trying to “hit” the ball with the clubface, rather than swinging the entire club through impact.

So, there are my top 7. There are obviously others, but if you spend just a bit of time working on these, your short game will get better in a hurry.

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Clement: Gently fire the long irons out there

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The secret to long irons is the full range of motion while keeping the strain level below 3/10. this engages the kinetic chain of the human body and delivers UNAVOIDABLE power! We show you how the simplest of tasks will yield the full measure of the body’s self-preserving system to deliver ridiculously easy long iron shots! And as far as set up is concerned, many of you are missing a key ingredient compared to the short irons that we divulge in this video

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Davies: A takeaway tip you’ve never been told

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Alistair Davies shares with you how to start the swing correctly. How to get the club on plane. How to stop whipping the club inside, and all other takeaway faults.

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