Monday, March 13, 2017

Some Thoughts on When Golf Instruction Fails

A poster on the GolfWRX forum posted on how golf instruction doesn't work.  I wholeheartedly disagree with that notion.  It certainly doesn't work every time, but I've seen and experienced enough golf instruction to see it work quite well for many golfers thru many different golf instructors.

That's the reality.

However, part of the reality is also that golf instruction could and should be a lot better and there is still a lot of golf instruction that fails.

My answer to the poster was the following:

"In general, golf instruction doesn't work when it's about style over substance and it creates a learning atmosphere to achieve, at best, conscious competence instead of unconscious competence." - Me

I thought this video from Kelvin Miyahira does a great job of explaining an example of style over substance.

I started to think of Seve after watching the movie 'Seve' based on his life.  What's odd is that I remember that many revered Seve's swing prior to his swing being 'declawed', but golf swings were not nearly as analyzed and picked apart as they are today and his once 'great swing' kind of got lost in the shuffle.

I think a large issue that golfer's and golf instruction faces is that a move like Seve's old move or Bubba's swing simply would never be taught these days.  As Kelvin pointed out, it is 'too wild looking' for teachers, yet it was incredibly effective.  Furthermore, it worked for Seve's game because he was a magician in hitting rescue shots and getting up-and-down from the ballwasher along with his putting.

What we know from advanced analytics is that hitting the ball long (and Seve was very long for his day), actually helps out with putting.  There is a strong indirect correlation between distance and average length of the birdie putt (when they hit the GIR).  Meaning, that the longer a golfer hits the ball off the tee, the more likely they will have a shorter birdie putt on average.

This allows long hitters to putt worse (using the strokes gained - putting measurement) and still have success.


Because if the longer hitters are putting from shorter distances on average, they are very likely to have putts of lower difficulty level.  So they can have LESS skill and still hole more putts than the golfer that is the more skilled putter but is putting from a further distance away.

So increased distance can help any golfer.

But, if a 'bomber' on Tour putts well for 4 straight days, now they are likely to get into contention because they are converting more birdies putts as a whole than the rest of the field.  They are getting shorter length birdie putts and now making those birdie putts.

The difficulty that bombers face is more when they miss the green.  Because they are long and on occasion wildly inaccurate off the tee, when they miss the green they may end up with a much more difficult up-and-down opportunity.  They may pump a drive into the woods, have to punch a rescue shot as close as they can get the ball to the green and end up short siding themselves for a difficult up-and-down.

But with a player like Seve who is arguably the best short game performer of all time, he could handle those difficult up-and-downs. And again, he was arguably the best rescue shot player of all time (I think only Tiger was possibly better and you can see the influence Seve had on Tiger's game).

So by taming Seve's swing, it may have cost him a lot of power which was a key component of his game.  Instead of trying to figure out what exactly his mechanical issues were and how to keep his power and not let his wild shots get too far out of control, something happened to work on the 'look' of his swing and it slowly ruined Seve's brilliant game.


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