Bridging the Gap: Bringing Technology to the Course – Part II

A Teaching Professional’s Perspective on the Current State of Technology and Teaching

As we continue to explore the idea of a collaborative teaching model including consultant and teaching professional, I wanted to now include the teaching professional’s perspective on the new challenges instructors may face with the influx of technology. The following was written by Graham Cunningham, Head Professional at Framingham County Club and my partner in this project. Our goal going forward, together with the student, is to help turn valuable information and data into positive, lasting change.

As Dr. Greg Cartin and I continue to work together it has become more apparent to me that the process of change is far more in-depth than what I thought early in my career as a golf instructor. While players all adapt to change at different rates, the process itself remains the same for all golfers. We all undergo some degree of technical, physical, and emotional development through the process of any change. However, for the purpose of this piece I want to focus on the early stages of change in today’s technological driven golf environment. This is about ground zero; when the player walks through your door or onto the lesson tee seeking help with their game. It is at this moment the process begins for most players and we have plenty of high tech devices to help them in the process.

It is without a doubt a huge advantage for the instructor in today’s day and age to own and understand 3D technologies such as Trackman or Flightscope and AMM (6D motion capture) or K-Vest. My indoor studio features technology from Flightscope, K-Vest, Swing Catalyst along with multi-angle high-speed camera video analysis. I use all of these technologies during each of my lessons. They help make me a better teacher by providing me with information that I could never measure or confirm with my eyes or on video.

While I am a huge believer in the use of technology, I think that it leads to one of the great challenges in golf instruction today, which is taking a complex idea and communicating it to a student in a way that is simple to understand. Like everyone I have been guilty of supplying students with too much information at times when they simply do not posses the knowledge to process it all. The outcome is never good. As technology continues to supply instructors with more information, more data and more knowledge that helps us do our job more effectively it can quickly lead to information overload for a player.

In my experience as golf instruction continue to shift to a high tech, information rich business it is important for instructors to understand two important points. First, they must educate themselves on what exactly the data means that they are receiving from radar or 3D motion capture. The truth is, to an instructor, data can create more harm than good if you do not know how the data affects each other. Instructors must take the time to learn and understand how the data works together. If we are not careful, one of the biggest mistakes we can make is working to change a sub-optimal data point to make it more optimal and in the process changes other data points affecting what the golfer does well naturally. This is especially true in skilled players. Instructors must be able to properly navigate these obstacles to help their players improve. Take the time to educate yourself on the technology, build an in-depth knowledge what the data you are seeing means and how it all works together because the decisions we make affect the people we are trying to help.

Second, it is important to remember that the student is there for one reason and one reason only and that is to play better golf. With that in mind, we have to recognize that data given to use from 3D technology should be used as our diagnostic tool. That is its purpose and that is why it exists. Technology cannot teach the golfer. It is not capable. It simply provides the instructor with information necessary to make decisions on how to help the player and verify the effectiveness of those changes. Simply put an instructor still needs to educate and teach the student through simple, effective communication and hands-on instruction. We must not fall into the trap of sitting behind a desk staring at the computer. Use the information to figure out a player’s problem and then teach them the way you would want to be taught. Coach them through the changes and help them feel what they are trying to do in the process.

Golf instruction is and will always be a communication driven, hands-on profession. It is one of the ways we can help a player bridge the gap between what they know how to do and what they need to do to improve. However, this is only the beginning in the process of change.

“Practice and patience are the bridge between intellectual comprehension of change and physical mastery”

Graham does a fantastic job of explaining one of the new challenges teaching professionals face as all of this new technology becomes available. Working alongside an experienced teaching pro has been a fascinating experience. The golf swing is an extremely difficult skill to teach. Skilled professionals know not to overwhelm or intimidate their students with information, yet with all the new data and teaching tools available, this skill is becoming harder to foster. We feel that collaborative teaching between consultant and teaching pro can help bridge the gap between the seemingly unlimited, valuable information and lasting change.

In the next installment, we will highlight some of the work we have done together and introduce some of our ideas on a collaborative teaching model.

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