Golf Coaching - times have changed

By Anthony Barkley
NZPGA Professional

Coaching methods have changed considerably over the years through technology, research and experimentation. Days have gone where the professional will stand on a range for 30 minutes with a client only. Video has been around for a number of years which was a great new element for seeing swing positions and now with an ipad its very portable and efficient. New programmes allow the coach to forward lesson rundowns to each client with a click of a button.
Its moved on even further now with the advancements of the Doplar Radar systems designed for golf and other sports. For those that don’t know the FlightScopes and Track Man launch monitors were developed from missile tracking radars and are what you generally see when you watch golf on TV and they track the ball once hit. They are very accurate and helpful for a coach as they can see much more of actual data of impact.
Important FlightScope Data:
• Clubface consistency at impact averaged over a number of shots.
• The consistency of the journey of club into impact and post impact.
• Understanding on an individual basis what creates a straight and consistent shot.
The naked eye can only see so much and video will confirm a lot but the FlightScope tells all.
I think many people don’t trust this form of technology or think it’s too high tech for them but it’s really effective for any level in pointing out inconsistent factors to their swing. This must be emphasised that we use this tool to help consistent shots, not to try to make your style perfect. So in essence we look to improve the skill of golf rather than style as skill always beats style. You can see this on a Saturday at your home club or even on the PGA tour. Bubba Watson or Jordan Speith don’t swing it fantastic (style) but their skill is awesome.  Examples:
Pitching | Perfect swing plane
Short game | Perfect Grip
Shot shaping | 30 deg spine angle at set up
Get out of trouble shots | Stack and tilt
Mental | One plane Swing

We don’t see many swing models any more as I think they have not worked well for everyone. Lydia Ko works on a swing model by David Leadbetter that seems to work for her so they can work but I think now, more than any other time golfers need to work on elements that make their own swing work as generic approaches may be too hard to master.
An Example FlightSCope Golf Lesson on myself
 I played a game and it didn’t go well. I don’t practice like I should any more so consistency is very difficult to find. I needed to find out what was going on. I put myself through the FlightScope and found the face at impact was closed, then open, then closed etc so no wonder I was hitting it poorly the day before. Firstly, as a coach looking at the grip comes first as we know the grip is responsible for a consistent clubface position at impact. Tidied that up and then started to hit balls working on one clubface position only (slightly open at impact by thinking of keeping clubface square to target longer). BANG, consistent flight patterns started to occur and I didn’t have to make major changes.
Im not saying I will shoot 66 next time I play but now have a plan and should be able to play better.
So the skill was to create a consistent pattern to rely on, not a perfect position. Actually seeing what the face was doing was very valuable. Actual data:
Face Before Change    Face After Change
1.7R                               2.1R
2.2L                              0.6L
3.9 R                            0.4R
1.8L                               3.5R
0.3R                              0.4R
These are just numbers but for a coach it paints a picture that equals better shots = happy golfer and coach.
So by having a lesson with a FlightScope, anyone can understand more of how their swing works and what they can do to play consistently. It doesn’t have to be a swing overhaul to fix that slice nor do you have to hit thousands of balls (unless you like to) to make a positive change. Even better is to head out on the course with your pro and a launch monitor to play those holes you have issues with making it more realistic to your next round of golf. On course lessons are very practical for clients games and should be included in any game improvement plan.
Check out my tips on our website and contact me anytime with any questions.