The ‘aha’ moment in coaching!

The more and more I teach the more I am convinced that the biggest obstacle for most amateur golfers in improving their golf game lies in their understanding of what they need to do with the golf club to play the shot at hand. It is not always purely down to technique nor talent, nor physical ability. It starts with the golfers concept of how the club needs to interact with the ball to make the ball do what they want it to do.

Let me give you an example to paint a better picture of what i’m waffling on about. I gave a lesson midweek to a golfer who had been struggling with bunkers. In fact, bunkers held so much fear for this golfer that their course management involved choosing clubs that had no chance of hitting the green just so they could eliminate the chance of hitting a green side bunker. They had tried everything, bought lob wedges, special sand wedges, read about it, watched everything on youtube (sound familiar?). Just to sidetrack for one minute, youtube is an amazing source of information, I use it myself to expand my own knowledge of the game, however you have to understand that even the best information in the world is only any good to a golfer if it applies to what they do with a golf club and I can tell you from watching golfers on the lesson tee for a decade now that what you ‘think’ you do with a golf club and what you actually do are two entirely different things (most of the time!)
Now, back to the story, this golfer was really at their wits end with bunkers and had decided as a last resort (it should be your first port of call!) to book a lesson.

We start the lesson. I watch as the golfers makes 6 attempts in a row to get the ball out of the bunker with only 1 successful attempt and it was lucky because it was skulled into the face of the bunker and boked its way onto the fringe. It was clear after two swings that this golfer was going way too deep with their wedge and taking so much sand that there was no energy left to propel the ball into the air. We stop and I ask ‘Tell me what you think needs to happen to get that ball to pop up and out onto the green.’ The golfer answers ‘I need to hit under the ball with a lot of force to move it’ Bingo. In my head I think ‘This is easy to fix and this golfer is gonna be so happy in about ten minutes time lol’

I explain that what we are looking for is a much shallower divot, we want the ball to pass under the ball but not to dig down into the depths of the bunker. It also becomes clear after a little more questioning that the golfer has been treating their bunker shot like any other golf shot. If you watched the video I released yesterday you will now know that we want to utilise the hands and wrists much more in those sand traps and we need to be throwing the bounce through the sand. This is the ‘aha’ moment for the golfer. It is moments like these that are most rewarding for a coach. Within 5 minutes the golfer is now splashing shots out onto the green with ease, a couple even have a little bite on them, we round off the session by beginning to talk about hitting it close to the pin, how to do it with a variety of shots and the smile on the golfers face is from ear to ear.

You see I havent just helped this golfer to play better bunker shots I have revolutionised their game, their whole 4 hours on the golf course. They don’t need to worry about staying out of bunkers now, there are no little voices in the head when they do go in a bunker saying ‘thats it, this hole is over for me now’ no feeling of complete fear when they step onto the sand. I also know that this is only a small step in the right direction, its one thing performing in the practice bunker, its another altogether under the gun. A little practice is now needed to build up the confidence levels again. However this golfer now has hope and I can see them having a lot more fun on the golf course in future and that is something that satisfies me immensely.

If you are one of those people who struggle with a particular part of your game; shanks, yips, pitching, chipping, driving, short putts, whatever. Go and see your PGA Professional, you don’t have to suffer bad golf. It won’t always be as easy as the solution was in this example but for many it can only get better. If there is something holding your game back, stopping you from going to the next level or worse stopping you enjoying the game then please please please seek out a Professionals advice, you’ll be glad you did.