I found an email from Scott Barrow while cleaning out my inbox. Scott has been a mate for a few years and we both share an interest in coaching and thinking outside the box. This post offers two different perspectives which I hope you find interesting. Scott is not a golfer, but is coming from an outsider’s point of view. I also present my thoughts and comments throughout the article. Enjoy.

SB: For me, part of what we are talking about is the difference between knowledge and knowing.

In golf, an example of knowledge is the analysis from identifying so called technical flaws in the swing. It’s thinking, it’s theory, it’s fixing in relation to an ideal. Knowing, on the other hand, is feeling what is actually happening in the moment, observing it and finding easier and more effective ways to hit the ball while still putting it all the context of the name of the game – getting the ball in the hole in minimum shots. While there is a relationship between knowledge and knowing for golf, no one said we had to be picture perfect doing it! And there’s no evidence that says a universally perfect model exists or even correlates with ongoing improved performances. If you wanna get good at something, then practice that something. So in golf, working on your swing might get your swing better. Might. But it’s not automatic that your game will get better.

CS: This is profound and probably sums up my thoughts in one paragraph. Having a picture perfect swing is no guarantee that you’ll suddenly start playing better. I know far too many golfers who have spent years going down the track of “fixing golf swing” only to be left disappointed. I also wasted years fumbling around, working on my swing and jumping from tip to tip. It was the most boring and unsatisfying time in my golf career. When I learned to focus on other stuff, like really playing the game, not only did my scores improve, but so did my swing. What Scott is talking about here is far deeper than anything you’ll find in a golf magazine or see on the Golf Channel.

SB: To declare from the outset, I am not an experiences golfer. Not even a half good or regular one. But what I am is experienced in coaching, learning, skill acquisition, movement and performance.

CS: Golf needs more outsiders to come in and shake it up. There are too many long held beliefs that are ingrained from the establishment. Learning to listen to others is not going to destroy the game, it’s only going to make it better.

SB: I’ve always been uncomfortable with the typical golf coaching approach.

I think it’s a brilliant business model.

CS: He is saying that typical coaching doesn’t work too well and you have to keep coming back for more and more lessons.

SB: Somewhere along the line striving golfers became convinced that the prerequisite for good golf is a perfect swing. They’re always in fixing mode. Rarely just going with what they’ve got. How dis-empowering is that!? The devil’s greatest trick. The thing is, this fixing and “I lack” mindset kills enjoyment and our ability to take responsibility for performing right now. As the saying goes, If not now, when? “When? When I just get my backswing right, then redirect my downswing, clean up my impact and then I’ll be right…..” Traditional golf coaching has reduced the game to just one part of the game. A large part of it granted, but just one part of many.

CS: As long as you think your swing is no good you’ll always be searching and always feel you’re behind the 8 ball. From here you’ll struggle to let go and really enjoy playing the game. It’s not easy to take a leap, but it sure beats the alternative. The alternative sucks! I’ve been there and don’t want to visit anytime soon.

SB: I actually feel there are plenty of shots in golf that don’t require anywhere near a technical ideal, but more of an ability to feel the swing and make clean contact. In fact the top skill acquisition expert in Australia, Damian Farrow says research supporting the idea of a biomechanically ideal template in any sporting action doesn’t exist, even for simple, stable motor skills like putting!

CS: Did you read that? Is that making sense? If research is saying the “ideal” template doesn’t exist for putting, why are we spending so much time trying for the “perfect” swing. It’s a waste.

SB: Yet most golf coaching I see is for only 2-3 shot types in the game.

CS: When I was having golf lessons all the time I rarely got past the 6 iron swing. The coach would place my swing on video and then we’d sit for 20 minutes analysing each part. We never (and I mean never) ventured to the golf course, or spoke about knock down shots or how to curve the ball or chipping or lob shots or how to play a plugged lie in a bunker. It was one-dimensional and it was so boring. We never really got past the set-up position.

SB: Video can be used and can definitely help but its the way it’s used that either causes the problem or adds to the solution. If it’s used to support the development of body awareness during, and general awareness of, the swing then great. But if it’s used to “teach” mechanics then forget it.

CS: Learning technique from video is almost impossible. Two good mates spent the best part of 5 years trying to use video to build the ideal swing. “Get me on!” was their catch cry when they started hitting the ball well and wanted to see their swing. Sadly, they never really worked it out and to this day will tell you they wasted most of those 5 years.

SB: In any movement, trying to really “understand it” IS the problem. Understanding will assist motivation to change and work on stuff, but it’ll also get in the way of doing. Understanding is thinking, and thinking can’t get it done subconsciously during movement. It can’t FEEL, it can’t compute fast enough. You can have some principles and touchstone points but that’s about it. Unless they are converted to things to feel and be aware of during the action, they get forgotten in effective, efficient movement anyway.

The question for the golf learner isn’t “how do I do the movement?” but “what is the movement?”. And the movement will be dictated by the task – your intention. So in golf, what is the task? Example: To get the ball to the right hand side of the fairway level with that bunch of bushes.

CS: There’s some really good stuff in there. Best you read it again to get a full understanding of what Scott is saying. It is brilliant.

Instead of saying, “I need to swing back slowly, cock my wrists, complete my turn, shift my weight, rotate, release my arms and follow-through” you need to start thinking, “I need to hit the ball to that target. What club will best to the job?”. I know many golfers will struggle with this attitude. But it’s the way forward. It’s going to be the future of coaching. There is too much evidence supporting its viability.

SB: Try this awesome process framework:

1. Task
2. Intention
3. Attention
4. Action
5. Perception
6. Reflection

Regarding top players using certain methods, they’re often not that different to us normal players. Top players in all sports including golf try and use things all the time that either don’t work or are unproven, in their quest to uncover something that really makes a difference. Again sometimes the idea is logically great and romantic, but the results don’t justify it or can’t be attributed.

And improvement of the ball flight? Well I love and believe in the idea of the ball flight telling you everything about a swing and impact. But again, it’s a large part of the game but only one part. To perform well in an accuracy sport like golf requires an accurate, consistent swing of course. But the two questions I offer are:

1. What is the best way to achieve this, and
2. What context does the swing sit in with regards to the overall objective of “getting the ball in the hole”?

CS: There are some huge learning insights there. If you get this stuff (and apply it) I firmly believe you’ll be taking a step in the right direction. Your game will take on greater meaning and you’ll get more from the time spent on the course. It’s also a tough lesson – we all get caught up with our swing and score at times. So it’s a work in progress, two steps forward and a step back. This is reality and all part of the learning process. There are no quick fixes or magic cures. You have the answers, they are inside you. But to let them out you must start approaching golf with a different mindset.

SB: Until next time “Be the ball Danny”

CS: This was Scott’s attempt at humor. Non golfers tend to think us serious golfers are all like Caddyshack. Maybe we are.

[order_box_2 width=”80%” + border=”4px”]If you’d like to explore these concepts further (plus a lot more) then check out our Golf Success Blueprint package. Scott and I hosted a half-day seminar and took 12 golfers through their paces. We challenged their thinking, mindset and the way they played the game. There is footage from the indoor presentation plus over 1.5 hrs of the outdoor practical session. This is some of the best golf learning footage I’ve seen. It was brilliant to sit back and watch golfer’s light up as they “got it” and were able to apply the lessons. Comes with manual and two DVDs. For the full story visit the Golf Success Blueprint page.[/order_box_2]

References: Visit Scott’s website.