The Essence of Effective Instruction: Less Is More


The game of golf is the only sport where the instructors outnumber the players. While this statement is not a verifiable fact, the prevalence of high-handicap players tutoring ebullient neophytes is visible on any practice range.

Even though the intent is admirable, the instruction often ends in frustration for both parties.

The biggest challenge for a professional instructor, is the golfer who comes for a lesson the night before a tournament. The student laments that he has practiced diligently every day for the past two weeks, but just can’t seem to correct a recurring slice. As a last resort, he books a lesson and pleads with the instructor: “Just tell me what I’m doing wrong“.

Even if the student sees positive results during the lesson, the odds are, that after the first inevitable poor shot in the tournament, he will revert back to his old swing and play the rest of the game compensating for the slice.

During the post-game autopsy, the student may tell his buddies that he went for a lesson, but it only made things worse.

Does the above scenario sound familiar?

The foundation of traditional golf instruction, is the assumption that a student has to understand his/her mistakes in order to correct them. The effectiveness of professional instruction, depends on the instructor’s ability to correct mistakes, without leading a student into an endless cycle of fault-finding and error correction.

From the student’s perspective, the less he dwells on mistakes, the greater the odds of reducing the problem.

The focus of instruction gradually changes with the student’s ability; the beginner learns what to do – the seasoned golfer, struggling to break ninety, is constantly focused on what not to do.

Which of the following statements is easier to understand: “feel like your left elbow is straight” or “don’t bend your left elbow”?

The next time you read a golf instruction article, see if you can re-word all the phrases containing the words “don’t” and “try” with positive directives. When you pay attention, I think you’ll be surprised at the prevalence of negative instruction.

This insidious pattern of focusing on mistakes, creates an every-widening disparity between knowledge and results. Have you ever wondered why you can hit quality shots during practice, and then lose your swing on the golf course?

Perhaps a shift in emphasis is the key to helping the once-a-week golfer translate their knowledge of swing mechanics into positive results, for themselves and their aspiring students.

Thanks for reading!

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