Feedback, Focus and the Elements of Effective Golf Coaching
by Dan Houle
What Kind of Knowledge Are You Providing?
Effective golf coaches do two things very well: they provide solid instruction and they offer valuable feedback.
The golf swing is a ballistic movement that must be completed before inherent (or sensory) feedback can be processed. Error detection after making a golf swing is quite difficult for average (or even elite) golfers… and they must therefore rely on an external source of information, or augmented feedback, in order to acquire and perfect the proper movement pattern.
Augmented feedback can come through a variety of means, such as visual feedback from a live model, a video replay, a launch monitor, or even verbally from a coach.
And augmented feedback can be provided to a golfer in two forms: knowledge of results (KR) and knowledge of performance (KP). Knowledge of results is qualitative (“you missed the green to the left”) or quantitative (“you missed the green to the left by 10 yards”). Launch monitors are a great example of a tool that provides augmented feedback in the form of knowledge of results.
Knowledge of performance is feedback-directed toward the movement pattern rather than the outcome of the movement. It makes use of kinematic feedback and its key advantage is that it can be used to direct attention toward a specific aspect of the movement, or coordination of the movement. K-VEST is a great example of a tool that provides feedback in the form of knowledge of performance.
However, when providing feedback in the form of knowledge of performance, coaches must be particularly careful not to overemphasize the actual execution and/or coordination of the movement, as this may lead the athlete to adopt an internal focus of attention.
An internal focus of attention is directed at one’s own body of movements, and unfortunately attempting to control movement consciously can constrain the motor system by intervening in the processes that would “regulate” the coordination of movements. This constrained motion hypothesis states that by focusing on the movement of body parts when hitting a golf shot, athletes are effectively limiting the motion by attempting to manipulate the outcome.
On the other hand, an external focus of attention is one that’s directed at the effects of the athlete’s movements on the environment. An external focus of attention allows unconscious, fast, and reflexive processes to control the movement, and the targeted outcome results as a happy by-product.
An external focus of attention also has other advantages (compared to an internal focus):
- It promotes automaticity.
- It allows athletes to use more, and faster, reflex loops.
- It enhances movement efficiency by reducing the “noise” in the motor system.
The Road Ahead
K-VEST’s Dynamic Visual Training (DVT) is a great example of an augmented feedback tool that promotes an external focus of attention in athletes. And effective golf coaches know how to leverage it.
Over the course of the next months, then, KMI will publish a series of articles exploring the role of augmented feedback and attentional focus in the acquisition and perfection of the special ballistic movement that we all know as “the golf swing.” Theory will meet practice, and in the end you’ll know why some things that effective coaches tend to do naturally work so well.
A TPI Golf Level 3 Certified coach and a member of the Canadian and U.S. Golf Teachers Associations (CGTF/USGTF), Dan Houle teaches golf at a number of facilities in Ottawa, Canada, where he has in recent years been increasingly sought out by golf enthusiasts wanting to get back into the game while recovering from injury, or to learn the basics while focusing on core fitness. Joining the KMI team in 2011, Dan has focused on product management and software development, and was one of the key proponents of K-VEST’s Dynamic Visual Training (DVT), launched at World Golf Fitness 2014.
Dan is also a 25-year veteran of the high-tech scene, having worked as a product manager and solution evangelist for Microsoft, Corel, and a number of vendors in the geospatial arena. Prior to joining KMI, he was responsible for the delivery of consumer software platforms as well as sophisticated enterprise software; he is an Agile Certified Product Manager and Certified Product Manager with the Association of International Product Marketing and Management (AIPMM).