Digital content, high-tech teaching tools such as launch monitors, high-speed cameras and other measuring devices, and “custom” coaching methods tailored to each student’s skills are the present and future of golf instruction, according to six highly respected PGA teachers-coaches who shared their insights Wednesday during a Sirius XM Teaching & Coaching Town Hall on the PGA Forum Stage presented by OMEGA.
PGA Professionals Michael Breed, Jim McLean, Debbie Doniger, Larry Rinker, David Armitage and Jeff Warne addressed the latest trends in teaching and coaching while looking into the future of golf instruction during the one-hour presentation.
“Golf instruction is moving to the indoor space as digital content and launch monitors and simulators become the norm,” noted Michael Breed, the 2014 PGA Teacher of the Year who is now the director of digital instruction for CBS Sports. “The availability of free online information and technology has changed the paradigm of instruction. Today, students want to know their numbers (clubhead speed, ball speed etc.). That’s good and bad. They need to know what to do with those numbers and what to do to change their numbers, if their numbers are not where they want them. We’re dealing with a much smarter student today, but we are also getting into a statistical space, where we depend too much on statistics to determine how we swing the club or play the game.”
“The key is acclimating instruction and coaching to each student,” noted Debbie Doniger of Glen Arbor, N.Y., who is perennially listed on the Golf Digest Top 50 Teachers and the Golf Magazine Top 100 list. “We’re using force plates and other high-tech teaching aids with our more advanced students, but what you’re doing in the gym is just as important in this day and age. The fitness component is more important than ever. For the average person, there is a strong trend toward online free instruction. We can monitor and measure everything now, but applying that information (the numbers) properly is extremely important.”
Moderator David Marr asked the panelists if golfers are favoring technology over “feel” or natural ability.
“A lot of people are turning to technology, but my mission is simply to help people play better golf by understanding their misses and learning how to fix those missies,” said PGA Professional Larry Rinker, a former touring professional. “Everything in your golf swing must match up, or you won’t be successful. Players, for example, shouldn’t get too technical with putting. Putting is an art. I’ve seen a lot of guys who can out-putt the machines measuring their putting plane, but then they go on the course and can’t make anything. Feel and a natural stroke is important.”
“As teachers and coaches, we have become experts in using the new technologies to measure everything in a golf swing, but that should only be one arrow in the quiver of instruction,” observed PGA Master Professional David Armitage, who has coached Ernie Els and several other touring professionals. I often wonder if (Ben) Hogan would have been a better ball striker if he had Trackman in his day. The answer is no, but he would have got his level of excellence much sooner.”
“Technology is important, but you can make things too complex if your force too much technology on the average player,” said Jim McLean, the 1994 PGA Teacher of the Year who founded Jim McLean Golf Schools worldwide. “Speed and force plates are the latest trends, but the visual part of the swing is still important. That’s why I still use video to show students what they are doing instead of relying solely on numbers.”