It wasn’t too long ago that teaching golf consisted
of having a teacher telling a student to “swing like
this,” and then demonstrating a move for the student
to copy. If the ball fl ight was satisfactory, then the
mission was considered accomplished.
Today, the use of computers, videos, and training
aids is common among those who are full-time practitioners
of teaching golf, but what will the industry
look like a decade and beyond into the future? What
avenues of imparting instruction have yet to be explored?
The advent of the portable video camera in 1981
changed forever the face of golf instruction. Teachers
were able to take a moving picture of their students’
swings and then show them immediately what their
swings looked like. Not only was this valuable to the
student to see visual feedback, but it was also helpful
to the teacher, because now he or she could see
things that weren’t apparent with the naked eye.
Most all teaching today among full-time
instructors still revolves around the use of a video
recorder, even if the images are then converted for
use with a computer. As for training aids, it seems every month a new product infomercial premiers on
Golf Channel. While today’s teacher has all of these
high-tech tools at his or her disposal, certainly the
future of golf teaching will continue to evolve.
One area that is just now getting attention is motor
learning. There are three senses that people use
to learn golf: sight, sound, and feel. You would think
that the days of Tommy Armour sitting in a chair
under an umbrella barking out verbal instructions to
hapless students are long gone; yet, unfortunately
too many teachers today neglect to impart enough
sight and feel instruction into their lessons. USGTF
members learn about these important aspects during
their certification week, so our members get a good
head start in this area as compared to non-USGTF
instructors. Lessons of the future are likely to involve
much more video, teacher demonstrations, drills,
and the teacher putting students into certain swing
positions or motions than do lessons of today.
Other aspects of motor learning involve distributed practice vs. massed practice, and random
practice vs. blocked practice. Distributed practice
involves doing an activity, taking a break, doing an activity, taking a break, etc., with the result being
the activity time and resting time are roughly equal.
Massed practice means doing an activity with little or
Despite the growing body of research showing
distributed practice to be superior to massed practice,
most golfers and teachers insist on a program
of massed practice. This is likely due to the fact that
such research is not widely known among the golf
population, among other reasons.
Why would taking frequent breaks be beneficial?
The theory is that the brain needs time to process
what it just learned. If we just keep going on and on
with hitting or chipping balls, let’s say, after a few
repetitions our brains somewhat tune out, and true
learning ceases. The current thinking in golf training
is “the more balls hit, the better,” but this simply isn’t
true. As the benefits of distributed practice become
more widely known and accepted, golf teachers of
the future are likely to adopt this type of practice
schedule in their lessons. Instead of having students
beat ball after ball, future instructors will likely have
them hit only a few at a time before taking a mandatory
Random practice means the activity changes either
with each repetition or with great frequency,
while blocked practice means doing the same thing
over and over with little or no change. Present day
teachers and players overwhelmingly promote
blocked practice, where the golfer hits the same club
several times until a groove is reached. However,
research shows a random schedule is likely to be
more effective than a blocked practice schedule. This
theory is based upon the principle of “re-learning,”
where the brain tends to retain information better
in the long-term if material is “forgotten” and then
“re-learned.” For example, in golf, if we are trying to
hit our driver better, instead of hitting ball after ball
with the driver, it might be better to hit one or two
shots with it, go to another club for one or two shots,
and then come back to the driver. Golf lessons of the
future are likely to incorporate much more random
practice than what we now currently see.
Training aids undoubtedly will rise to a higher
level, although right now there are some very effective
high-tech, but expensive, tools available today.
For example, the K-Vest is a great training aid and
involves a very high level of motor learning, but
it costs several thousand dollars. If a teacher is in
a high-volume area, he or she can make such an
investment work, but others may not recoup their
outlay. Future high-tech training aids are likely to be
more cost-effective than what we now see.
Speaking of tomorrow’s training aids, what is
likely to be developed? One educated guess is that
someone will invent a “machine” that a student steps
into, and this machine will consist of various levers
and such which will be strapped onto the student.
Only when the student makes the “correct” motion
will the levers move in the correct order, allowing
the student to continue to swing. If the student does
not make the “correct” move, the levers will cease to
move until the proper motion is performed.
Launch monitors that now cost thousands of
dollars will likely be only a few hundred dollars in
the coming years. Their use will become more widespread,
as teachers can accurately see exactly what
the clubhead path, clubface angle, clubhead speed,
and angle of approach are without any guesswork.
This will allow the teacher to hone right in on the
area of need, and provide a more structured lesson.
Players will also be able to dial in their equipment
with the coming proliferation of launch monitors.
While they are of course available now, it is rare
to find one at a golf course. This will not likely be
the case as time marches on, so more players will be
able to take easier advantage of them.
As for opportunity, it follows that as we continue
to add population, more golfers and more facilities
are likely to come into the fold. In other countries,
the game is booming. China expects to build 3,000
courses in the next 10 years, and teachers from all
over the world are expected to converge there.
Although technology is likely to play a greater
role in future instruction, it will never replace the
personal interaction between teacher and student.
The future looks very bright for golf teachers everywhere.