I started picking up the golf club back in 1975 when I was just a 15 year old. Even though the game rules are still mostly the same from back then, a lot has changed – the best example of this is the quality of the golf equipment: the most forgiving club back then can be considered a pain to use by today’s standard. In the mid-80s, I joined a golf club in Tucson. There I learned how to play and completed my first successful rounds. Finding myself with the knack of coaching, and with the support of my peers (who kept on asking for my tips and help), I started a coaching career in the late 90s to be able to provide my advice to numerous golfers that I saw struggling with the same issues.
I would name misunderstanding of the address at swing, lack of focus during downswing and inability to properly comprehend how clubs impact performance as key areas where I’ve seen golfers of all backgrounds struggle. As you can see, I’ve been around for quite a while in the industry. Today, we have all the high-tech, fancy clubs with impressive performance, forgiveness and adjustability features. We also have tools such as swing analyzers, GPS trackers, and all other fancy equipment I wished I had when I first started
All of these advancements make your life as a coach even easier. Yet, would you believe me if I say most golfers are still struggling with more or less the same things as back in the 80s? We may have all the fancy tools, the most forgiving clubs, and so on, yet my experience shows that many players are still struggling with the basics. That’s why, I think coaching will always be important for the game and for any serious players, and I am very proud to be one. Here, I will try to share some of the tips and insider secrets from my experience as a golf coach.
Let us begin with the most important one: your mindset.
It’s Not About You
The most important thing about being a golf coach is realizing that this job is never about you, but that your student is the core focus. It is very important to ask the right questions when you start taking on coaching with a new student: what is this golfer’s objective? Why is he playing golf? Where does he want to be in the next 24 months?
Obviously, the answers will greatly influence how you coach this person. Knowing each of your student’s current state, their playstyle, and both their short-term and long-term goals will dramatically help you decide where to focus your efforts.
The longer you are familiar with the game and its industry, the quicker you will realize that each player has its style and merits to be in the game. Yes, even the worst, most illogical ones. Your job is to be open-minded, and try to broaden your knowledge and acceptance of all styles as much as you can.
Generally, you will have three different types of students:
1: Those who know exactly what they want
By no means are they the easiest to teach. With this type of student, sometimes you will need to have a difficult conversation and have them admit when their goal is unrealistic, or sometimes their dedication will be so high that you can throw any objective at them, even the most ambitious ones. Finding out which scenario you are in comes with experience, but at first, treat them as if they would be always right.
2: Those who are lost
Here, you will need to assess their strengths and weaknesses and try to create a path for them. They are hiring you to spark interest in the sport again, because this fire was somehow lost. You are their hope to unite with the game again.
Important to point out here that there are cases when they subconsciously know what they want, just don’t know how to say it. It’s your job to dig it up but not to get in the way. You can achieve this by planning long sessions at the driving range where you put the club down and brainstorm out loud with your student to find out if he has any idea of achievements he wants to make over the next 6 – 12 months.
3: Those who are not sure what their goals are
Here, the student is usually looking for validation, and you should assess various aspects of their ability as well as their potential.
In short, understanding your student is arguably the most important step of successful coaching.
Simplicity Is Key
Remember the point above: it’s not your show. Yet, so many coaches make the mistake of being a show-off in their lessons, making the lessons more complicated than necessary just to look smart or skilful.
The simpler you can explain your lessons and put it into practice, the better. Actually think about your lessons from driving to putting, and how you can make them simpler than ever before.
Coming with easy 2 or 3 step processes to achieve anything is usually the way to go. If necessary (and it’s highly recommended), you can create a training module or at least videos where you can show your lessons clearly so your student has a recording of the live lesson.
Never Stop Learning (And Updating)
The world of golf, especially regarding equipment, is always evolving at a very fast pace.
As a coach, it is very important to always stay ahead and update your knowledge. It’s not only about equipment either (for example focusing only on irons), but there’s always something new to learn in the technique department.
You can always broaden your knowledge even in things outside, but related to, golf. Physics, anatomy, biology, biomechanics, and even psychology are just some of the useful fields you can learn (and share).
The more up-to-date you are, the more valuable knowledge you can offer your students, and the more valuable you will be as a coach for them.
It is very important to be able to adapt to the times.
Admit the fact that the ideals you hold dear 5 years ago might already be obsolete today. The game is always changing, and so must you.
It’s (Very) Okay To Refer Students To Another
No matter how skilful and experienced you are as a coach, we must admit the fact that the game of golf is very complex, and we do have our limit. When a student is struggling in an area where you are not an expert of, it is okay to refer him to another coach.
Hence, it is also very important to network with other coaches.
There are always coaches who are better than you in certain areas and areas where you are better. If you are willing to refer some students to them, they might pay the debt back in the future and send students your way. In my case, I even ended up partnering up with some of them as a coaching team.
By not being greedy, you actually open more opportunities and emphasizing the needs of your students than yours.
I think, I can summarize those tips I shared above in one sentence: never stop learning, be open-minded, and put your students before yourself.
I think the most important thing as a coach is to fully understand your students, including their potentials, and the worst thing you can do is to force your ideals or styles to them.
By making them comfortable, and showing that you do care about their goals, it is easier for them to improve as a player. Believe me, there’s nothing more satisfying for a coach than seeing a striving student improve.