Promoting Change Through Collaboration


The Instructor, Consultant, Client Collaboration: A look inside a session



            Graham Cunningham, PGA Professional, and I began working together last winter, and have recently developed a teaching model that is a collaboration between instructor (Graham), consultant (myself), and our client.  Graham is a skilled teacher, and understands his students, their needs, and how to best make his message heard.  The clients I work with who are taught by him all speak to his ability to make difficult information easy to understand.  Adding another layer to the lesson (including the consultant), if done correctly, can add to the speed and ease that the new, often confusing information, can be absorbed by the client.   The goal of our collaborative work is simple, to help the client through the process of change.  The instructor takes the data, diagnoses the problem, and provides suggestions to help the student change.  The consultant, working alongside the instructor, can provide a framework for the client to work within to help with the assimilation of the new movements, as well as provide support for the client as they embark on their journey to make the change permanent.  The following is a recap from one of our recent collaborative sessions.



The lesson began with a simple question to the client:  What do you hope to get out of this session.   While he wasn’t prepared to give an answer, his main goal was to make a few swing changes become routine in the shortest amount of time.  This was not something we were prepared to accomplish in one session, but it gave both Graham and I a framework to work within.


The next part involved Graham giving me a brief rundown of the physical changes that he and our client had been working on.  They were as follows:


  1. Keeping the head steady
  2. Having the head move forward through impact to keep from falling back
  3. Maintain postural depth through the swing


Graham briefly showed me the three drills they had been working on to incorporate the move, and then the client verbalized the swing thoughts he was using to help him incorporate the changes while hitting shots.


From there it was my job to create a customized preshot routine that the client could use before hitting shots.  The goal here would be to provide some consistency during the difficult process of change, in hopes of helping him better assimilate the new moves.


Once a routine was developed, using attributes from the new moves, the client would incorporate it into the session before hitting each shot.  He was able to rehearse to himself phrases that would remind him of the new move, quickly visualize what the new move looked like, then step in a hit the shot.  Technology provided Graham with the data to confirm if the changes were producing the desired ball flight, and immediate feedback was provided to the client.


Working together, we were able to diagnose the issue, prescribe physical changes, develop a simple routine to help the client incorporate the changes, and finally give immediate feedback.  This process helps to provide a consistent foundation for the difficult task of making and then recreating important swing changes.


The next installment to the series on ringing technology to the course and promoting change will include the teaching professional’s perspective on the collaborative lesson.




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.

Bridging the Gap: Taking Technology to the Course-Part 1

Introduction to the Problem:

It’s a very exciting time to be teaching the game of golf. With the growing popularity of technology, machines like Flightscope, Trackman, K-vest, and SAM PuttLab have taken the place of video as the tools of choice for the PGA Professional. TrackmanThe teaching pro is spending hours learning every detail of these intricate machines so they are best able to help their students learn and improve. They are fantastic training tools and provide the instructor with previously imperceptible data. As someone who helps athletes simplify the game, I have struggled with clients at times who get too caught up in the numbers these machines spit out, yet I know how valuable the information can be. It got me thinking. What if there was some collaboration between teacher, sport psychology consultant, and student to help the athlete assimilate only the necessary information to help them improve?

K-VestFor the past year I have been working alongside PGA Professional Graham Cunningham at his Hawk Golf Academy in Framingham, MA. Graham has totally immersed himself in the world of technology, and is very well informed on the use of tools like Flightscope, K-Vest, and others. As part of our efforts to help people improve and get more enjoyment from their golf games, we began to collaborate on a teaching/counseling program that would better enable Graham to take all of the information and data he has at his disposal and then translate that into usable chunks to his students. In essence, Graham provides the “how”, and together, along with the student, we provide the “why”. Most successful coaches of any sport would agree that their players are more likely to improve their skills, and improve more quickly, if they understand “why” the new skill will be important to their success. One of Graham’s main goals, as a teaching professional, is to grow the game. This is helped by developing positive teaching relationships with students to the point where they will return for more lessons, an in turn will improve and hopefully get more enjoyment from the game. SAM PuttLabToo much data will lead to confusion and frustration, and will most likely impede both improvement and overall enjoyment. So together, through our collaborative “lessons” with the student, we set out to bridge this gap of simplifying the process of applying the data. Our mutual goal is to help the student simplify and employ only the relevant, valuable information provided to them from a skilled teaching professional, by helping them understand “why” the information matters in enabling them to improve and enjoy their golf games.

GNext Installment:
Perspective from the teaching pro.  New challenges faced with the introduction of technology.

Mindful vs. Mindless Putting and the SAM PuttLab

While I am working on my own putting stroke I often stop to notice how others are spending their practice time at the putting green.  More times than not, I watch as players drop a few balls and mindlessly start hitting putts towards one of the holes.  I can only assume they aren’t paying much attention as I observe that they are hitting the putts very quickly, and they show no interest in the results. The most interesting part of my observation is that while they seem to have no interest in the outcome, they are making an awful lot of putts!  I’ve always wanted to walk over to one of them and offer $100 if they could slow down, pick one ball and one ten foot putt, and then sink that putt.  If they miss they would owe me $10.  Sounds like a crazy offer to someone who I just witnessed make a bunch of similar putts. Lack of discretionary funds and my somewhat reserved personality keeps me from engaging in this task, but I can hypothesize what may happen.  With the challenge of the $100 to $10 proposition pressure will form, anxiety will rise, muscles will tighten, and a balky stroke follows.

mindful putting

I’ve been able to take this small experiment and put it to the test in a brief , loosely designed study.  In my office sits a SAM PuttLab, a machine that records 27 different components of a putting stroke and displays them on a computer in easy to read graphs.  I’ve used this piece of technology to carry out a brief study.  I simply ask clients to hit 7 putts just to warm up, all the while recording each stroke.  Next, I tell them that I’m running a contest, and that the goal is to make all 7 putts.  Those that make the most of the 7 will be entered into a raffle where a prize will be rewarded.  This creates a competitive environment, different from the mindless warm-up environment.  Again I measure each stroke.  Upon completion, I compare the results from the two environments, the practice/warm-up and the competition.  The results are interesting.

One of the main components of the stroke that the SAM measures is consistency.  Almost all of my small clients taking part in the study show much greater consistency during the warm-up phase than during the competition phase.  What does this tell us?  When the heat is on, something changes.  Lack of consistency leads to missed putts and poor results.  So what do we do?

A quick and simple suggestion is that next time you are out on the putting green, do your best to be more mindful of your practice. Use one ball, go through your pre-shot routine, hit putts of varying lengths and breaks, grab a partner and set up competitions, anything you can do to recreate a competitive environment.  This type of practice will make you more comfortable in competition situations .  Also, take time to focus and stay completely immersed in the current moment.  Pay attention to negativity that may creep in, and let it go with out reacting.  This is a brief introduction to mindfulness and golf, and the more meaningful, mindful, work you can put in on the practice green, the more prepared you will be when it matters the most.


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Greg – GC3

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