It is no exaggeration to say there has been a tectonic shift in golf instruction over the past 20 years. That should probably read ‘tech-tonic’ because technology has revolutionised the way the game is coached. Revered for so long, a teacher’s expertise and experience has been relegated to the status of beliefs and opinions in the face of the irrefutable facts and data thrown up by a new, microchip-based army of gadgets.
To quote legendary coach Chuck Hogan, “we are drowning in information but searching for knowledge”.
Today, should you choose to, you can learn the exact moment your kinematic sequence breaks down, the difference in spin loft between your drawn and faded 7-iron, the difference in degrees between your address and impact spine angle, and how much pressure you are creating against the ground as you change direction… all nicely measured in Newton’s per square metre.
You can discover whether your tee shot on the 4th hole gained you 0.4 of a stroke, or that your putting – which you thought was your strength – is actually holding you back. The way we swing and play has become quantifiable, and as a consequence, golf coaching has become evidential.
Now reading that back, I can see there are some Luddite overtones in there. Not at all. Okay, I will make the point that the likes of Snead, Hogan, Nicklaus and even Woods all managed well without this technology, but there is no question in my mind that when used in a responsible and targeted way, tech can be extremely beneficial. That said, I have already seen it create performance issues with all levels of golfer. Here’s why.
There is, I think, a general cultural acceptance that new technology is good. There is nothing new in this. When Marie Curie discovered radium in 1898, it didn’t take long for it to appear in toothpaste and children’s toys. And today, we golfers have access to an unprecedented array of tech-based coaching that includes launch monitors for the clubface, 3D motion tracking for your body, weight and pressure-charting force plates for your feet and shot data gathering and analysis for the course.
Every one of these technologies will tell you how sophisticated it is, how much it can help your game… and each one is correct. But as a golfer looking to improve your game, it creates an unsettling picture: if they are all so important, shouldn’t you look into all of them?
This can lead to severely problematic issues like information overload, the feeling you are being pulled in different directions, and the danger that, instead of becoming a golfer, you are simply becoming a collator of information.
Happily, there is a simple solution: Take more ownership of – and responsibility for – the direction your game is heading. Information overload is only a danger when you are directionless. This is why working with a trusted coach is SO important.
Assess your game – yes, use shot tracking tech to get an accurate picture – and from the results, target your approach. Perhaps you identify a need for more distance. Great, you can then seek out the appropriate technology, perhaps force plates, to help you. Maybe you will decide once and for all to turn that damaging slice into a draw. This might lead you to launch monitors and a better grasp of what your club is currently doing through the ball, and what it needs to do. Give yourself a specific reason for gathering information, and then pick your technology accordingly.
Essentially, you should be using technology to help you play better SHOTS, not just a swing that looks better. Always begin with the question, ‘How can I improve my shots?’ If the technology is not improving your ball flight, it is not doing its job.
One further piece of advice: Make sure the coach you use is on board with the way you want to target technology. The old, draughty range is increasingly being replaced by the state-of-the-art swing laboratory as the modern PGA pro kits up to provide a better service. But just because the tech is there, it doesn’t mean you have to use it. Taking more ownership of your game extends to telling your coach what you don’t want to know as much as what you do. Own your own process of improvement.
We all play our best golf when our mind and body feel connected and our purpose is clear. Make sure your use of technology allows that state to flourish. If it is confusing you, start again with a more targeted approach. Only then can you really reap its considerable benefits.
To book a Mind Factor workshop with Karl Morris at your club, go to www.themindfactor.com