In Light of Recent Golf Talk (February 2015)

Hi all,

Just wanted to share a quick status update that led to more than a status’ length thoughts.

In light of the whole tech vs feel vs biomechanics / golf science per the media regarding recent golf news:

“This too shall pass.”

*Going forward while reading this, let’s assume “Technology” refers to anything like, GEARS, AimPoint, force plates, putt labs, motion devices, cameras, ball/launch monitors, etc.*

There is certainly a big discussion going around as to whether technology as a whole is helping or hindering the game and one’s ability to PLAY the game of golf.  If you have a lot of golf instructor friends on social media, it seems a good 75% of the content has been related to this recently.  If not, you’ve probably seen it on television.  We’re in the middle of a unique time and it will be interesting to see how the future unfolds.

To preface, the discussion as of late is mostly media based, and to their credit they have done a great job catching attention.  Regardless, it’s a good question anyway.

What’s interesting is that we have recently based a particular person’s one week performance to make opinions that seem to be set in stone.  What if the said person blew away the field by 28 strokes? We’d have a completely different story on our hands.  Technology would be flying off the shelves at an even more rapid rate and we’d be saying there’s no way to play good golf without it.  See where we’re going with this?

At the end of the day, we really have no clue how much actual “technology” the said person is using in his practice, nor, should it really matter.

What matters is that we as teachers have the skills, knowledge and aids (visual, auditory, technological, etc) to best connect with the student in front of us.  One hour that might mean force plates, ball monitors and a camera (not quite a Tin Cup scenario, but you get the point).  The next it might simply mean a pile of golf balls.

If the same teacher teaches both of those lessons are they automatically less knowledgable in one versus the other? Are their students automatically more or less skilled in one lesson versus the other?

Consider the fact that pilots now have the technology and aircrafts to fly across the world. Does that make them more or less skilled than in the past? When flying would you rather they use just technology, just their plain skill, or both?

As golfers, we can use just technology, just our plain skill, or both. What’s wrong with both? Feel and mechanics are in no way mutually exclusive.  It’s like a painting; there is a certain sized piece of canvas that sets the parameters — what you do within those parameters is virtually endless.

Let’s say we have a 9-year old who loves computer games.  Cool.  The 9-year old knows more about technology than we knew when we were in college and helps Grandma with her iPad faster than you can even ask “what is the Home button?”.  Their eyes light up and he or she (let’s pick Skyler as a neutral name) wants to use the technology you have in your teaching area.  OK.  So Skyler makes swings and on TrackMan (or Flightscope or Foresight HMT, etc.. any ball/club monitor) both the face and path are, let’s just say, way to the left.  What is wrong with asking Skyler to make swings where the “blue and red lines” point more to the right? Now it’s a game, and Skyler is hooked.  Then, we bring Skyler out on the course.  We ask Skyler to make a swing where the blue and red lines point left and we get to watch where the ball goes.  Then we ask Skyler to make a swing where the blue and red lines point right and we get to watch where the ball goes.  Now maybe we make a swing where we split the middle.  Then we carry on and let Skyler swing the way Skyler wants to swing for the rest of the day.  Did Skyler have fun and learn something? Will Skyler actually attain more feel due to how we practiced? Will Skyler be able to self-correct when practicing and show Mom and Dad the different color patterns?

Fast forward to Skyler’s twin, Ryan.  Ryan loves to paint and tell stories and just can’t stand using the computer.  Cool.  Ryan is going to paint a picture for us and put Ryan’s favorite color on the golf ball and send it to where the grass is Ryan’s favorite color (of course all in Ryan’s head where there is a small mote that will catch any golf ball not landing on the favorite color of grass.  Many deadly sea animals inhabit the mote, but there is one friendly creature who saves golf balls, etc… : ) you get it).

If we gave the same lesson to both Skyler and Ryan, it’s likely one of them would not appreciate the game as much as the other.  However, because as a teacher we do our best to understand technology as well as creative thinking, we can connect with both of them.  It’s much easier said than done as teachers too have our own interests and ways of thinking.  This is exactly what makes teaching the game so much fun — we have to grow ourselves to help grow others.

The best teachers know how to appropriately mix these seemingly two polar concepts, and it is an ever and on-going process.  Although there is a strong force to be reckoned with stating technology is ruining one’s ability to play the game, it’s also important to consider the first team to implement TrackMan at their practices blew away the field at the Men’s NCAA Championships that year, this year’s Player of the Year and Fedex Cup Champion regularly use such technology, and so do numerous major champion winners.  According to Ian Suszko at Trackman “over 300 Tour pros have purchased TrackMan.  When utilized correctly, TrackMan audits the teaching process.  It’s there to confirm feel vs real.”  Would it surprise people if the “unorthodox, never taken a lesson” Bubba used TrackMan? He does at PING.

So, in regards to recent events, this too shall pass.  We may laugh when looking back on this 10 years from now and think how silly was I to think a definitely and certain way.  We may be grateful for the attention brought to the tech vs feel question as it helped us grow.

At the end of the day, it’s a game.  Different people enjoy the game in different ways.  Well-rounded moderation and balance are key.  Let’s keep bettering ourselves and rooting for our fellow men and women to get better as whole too, with whatever works best.

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