By James E. “Coach” Robertson, USGTF Contributing Writer – Magnolia, Arkansas
Time and time again I hear from coaches and players, “You need to ‘dummy down’ your in-formation for us!” My immediate reaction is, “No, you need to smarten up!
One of my mentors use to say “always look for simplicity on the other side of complexity,” meaning that as coaches, we must understand the complexity of the issue or technique and then find the simplicity in training the golfer for competitive play.
From my perspective, coaching is not about “dummying down” information or techniques. It is about starting with basics at a level each player can understand, and more importantly implement, and helping those golfers advance the technique or information as their competitive skills progressed.
One example of this process is with pre-shot routines. Here is the note I sent recently to a high school golf coach – whom I am pleased to say was one of my collegiate golfers:
IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGY Utilize the following training sequence for new golfers, most high school golfers, and in reviewing each collegiate golfer’s current routine. I have actually employed this technique with a few of our professional golfers to help them get their routines back on track when the wheels start to fall off during competitive play.
READY, AIM, FIRE Start with teaching a very basic “Ready, Aim, Fire” shot routine to golfers, and then expand the techniques within each player’s routine as they progress in competitive play.
During competitive play, watch and ensure that each player is working through the basic “Ready, Aim, Fire” sequence, versus the normal “Fire, Ready…woops, I forgot to Aim” sequence they normally revert to under pressure.
THE BASICS (this can be your initial coaching lesson with each golfer) Ready: From a position behind the ball (it is important to work from behind the ball and with both eyes on the target), select a specific target to play to.
– Remain mindful of your target through your entire routine. – While still behind the ball, take one or two practice (rehearsal) strokes. It is important to develop a sense of success with each swing.
Aim: As you move into your setup, aim the clubface down the target line at your target. (Some players will be playing a draw or fade, and thus their target line will be to the right or left of the target, but the key is to coach them on setting the clubface so that it is aiming down the appropriate target line.)
Next, align your body; position it correctly for the shot. This includes working into a position that allows you to remain balanced through the shot. Balance is the key.
Fire: Aim, move into your stance, and fire. Avoid “freezing” over the ball. Pose for your photo! Hold your finish for at least two seconds, smile, and pose for your photo…on every shot!
START Start your training and coaching with putting, and advance the techniques of each golfer as their competitive use of the technique improves.
KEEP MECHANICS IN THEIR PLACE You undoubtedly noticed that I made no mention of stroke mechanics in the basics for the routine. While effective setup and stroke mechanics are essential with all shots, mechanics by themselves will not ensure more successful shots.
It is important to habituate effective setup and stroke mechanics and be able to employ them automatically within your routine.
COACHING The beauty in this process for coaching is that while you can only guess at the mental and emotional processing the golfer is doing, you can now check, coach, and guide each golfer’s behavior, which will give you insight into their mental/emotional states.
You can observe and assess each player’s execution of their routine effectively during competition/play. Answer “yes” or “no” to the following questions:
Ready. – Is the player working from behind the ball correctly? – Do they appear to you to be physically poised (versus rigid) in their setup? – Do they appear mentally engaged (versus scattered thinking) in their setup?
Aim. – Does the golfer visually align with their target from a position behind the ball? – Are they aiming the clubface down the target line? – Are they aligning their body correctly in relationship with the target line? (Make sure you know their normal stance: slightly open, closed, etc.)
Fire. -Is their body flowing from the setup into, and through, the swing (no freezing over the ball)? – Do they appear to be properly balanced in their setup and remain in balance through their finish? – Does their swing appear to “flow” naturally? – Are they swinging through to their finish and not simply down to the ball? – Are they holding their finish for at least two seconds and smiling?
FINAL NOTE In preparing for competitive play, make certain practice holes “routine holes,” meaning that on those three or four holes, each player focuses exclusively on their routine, nothing else. I actually have a score sheet designed where each player records their effectiveness score on the use of their routine.
I would wish all coaches and players good luck, but we all know that we make our own luck!
Coach Robertson has been a Tour instructor since the 1980s. He is a staff writer for the World Golf Teachers Federation, a former head college golf coach in North Carolina, Oregon and Arkansas, and a performance consultant to several collegiate and professional golfers. Author of The GOLF Team Swing & Performance Manual and The Encyclopedia of Successful GOLF Coaching. Coach always enjoys your feedback and can be contacted at (870) 949-9010, CoachRobertson01@Suddenlink.net, or on Skype at james.e.robertson