Currently some of my Facebook friends are hashing/rehashing the question about golf coaching. The question-- "When choosing a golf coach, do you think it's important that they can play golf?"

To enhance the question, as the discussion took off the intention slipped over to more along the lines of does a coach have to be a great player? Several examples of PGA coaches were instilled into the conversation and how many of them weren't successful players but were extremely successful as instructors.

Having come from both sides of the circle I thought a dive into the pros and cons of each was important for golfers to take into consideration when selecting a coach to help them move forwards with their game.


Coaching should be broken down into several areas. 

* Basic Fundamental Instruction

* High Level Instruction

* Professional instruction

* Short game

* Biomechanical movement & fitness

* Mentorship

* Course Management and the mental game

* Practice routines & swing maintenance

*On course instruction & specialty shots

These are just a few of the roles that a golf coach can play in the development of the student. Are some better equipped to provide all of the criteria? For sure. Do you need to be acknowledged as a master in each? Probably not.

But let's not fool ourselves. If my computer were to go on the blink I would rather receive help from Bill Gates than from Bill Hayes. Experience as a player is a definite advantage- even though that is not a strongly upheld belief in golfing circles because of the fact that many famous instructors were not famous for their golfing prowess.

Basic fundamentals can be taught by practically anyone. There has long been recognition that a grip and a stance and an alignment should be built around certain basics. There are countless manuals and videos explaining these concepts that practically anyone can witness and imitate in a student. 

I work with several young players and a few of them are unbelievabe golfers already. One 9 year old recently shot a 29 for nine holes in a tournament!! Even though I am their coach, I am smart enough to relaize that I didn't make them the golfer they already have become. Their parents or the local pro had a far greater influence on setting them up for their early years than I have to this point. I have been handed a very excellent palate to work with. My job is to broaden their knowledge and instincts and introduce extra skill sets to their repertoire. Provide them with enhanced preparation and practice skills. Enlighten their mental game and visualization. And fine tune the already great aspects of their swing so they remain themselves but with a larger scope of understanding to keep them improving and striving.

Many of the reknowned instructors are glorified for their work when the reality is most of the players they work with are and were already great. I am sure Tiger Woods could receive a swing ideal from anyone in the world and make it work. He was an amazing player under Harmon and Haney with vastly differening swing principles or workings in place. So as instructors many of the successes come from the student themselves.

Growing up I had minimal instruction. As I got started I was taught a few basics by Laurie McConnell, the pro at my club. A few years later my Dad set me up to do a few lessons with Brian Twite at Metropolitan Golc Club who was slightly more advanced in his ideas. As I became a member of the Victorian Squad teams we had Bruce Green from Royal Melbourne and John Davis from Croydon GC and a former Victorian Open winner help us with our games. I honestly couldn't tell you  much of anything we worked on. I was already a very good player and their roles became more of a friend , mentor and a self talk specialist to allow me -the golfer -to believe in myself and go do what I already knew how to do.

As a golfer becomes more advanced in their motions their expectations shift and they want more. Can their local pro continue that progression? If the rapport between the two is strong and the trust exists then that progression can certainly occur. There have been many examples of successful players sticking with their childhood coaches. Jack Nicklaus and Jack Grout. Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite with Harvey Penick. Many will argue they are acknowledged instructors in their own right, but is that because of what Nicklaus, Kite and Crenshaw became?


I only fully succumbed to receiving consistent instruction in my mid 20's. I had already won The Australian Masters and other tournaments. I knew my move to America was imminent and I seekd out a friend I grew up alongside and spent thousands of hours playing with and competing against. I wanted to learn about my swing so when I had moved to America I would be able to diagnose myself better when things left the rails- as they are prone to do with all golfers no matter their skill.

In the process of learning about me, the situation became methodising me. The alterations took away several of my great swing attributes. My wide late set backswing became an early set big muscle turn. My footwork and legwork became stagnant and non explosive. I dont blame my friend for this- he was teaching what he knew. I blame no-one but myself for continuing down the path. I had never wanted to change my swing- I had only wanted to understand it. He and some of the other instructors mentioned above (who also werent fans of this wide backswing) didn't understand how my footwork and wide backswing and big download in transition functioned.  I knew how to do it even though most couldn't. It was my way of getting at the ball and it woirked wonderfully well.

Therein lies one lesson for golfers searching for a coach to keep the battle alive. If you like something about your swing and can do it- then find someone who will work around it and embrace it.

Bryden Macpherson and I have worked together for close to three years now. He has a tremendous downcock wrist load on hs downswing. Others tried to change it to his detriment. I embraced it and showed him what he needs to do to allow that "Sergio-esque" downswing to work to his benefit. You could say from experience I knew that was a huge factor in him being a terrific player and even though it wasn't textbook, it was fabulous. He just needed to know how to get rid of that angle he was creating at impact and beyond- rather than get rid of the angle all together.

Golf swings come in all shapes and sizes. Cookie cutting a swing was- for almost two decades- the in thing in golf instruction. Everyone looked similar at address. They all took the club back the same way. The feet started to become more planted on the backswing. It seemed like there was an assembly line of golf swings being moulded onto each player that stood on the conveyor belt. Recent times seem to have drifted away from that- which is a great thing. We aren't all built the same. Not in appearance or in our way of thinking. Golfer's need some of their own spirit and personalisation. That is one of my best traits as an inctructor.......

Part 2 coming soon.