On Instruction, Part 2

Last week I finished my piece about the value of coaching by asking if Jerry and I could speed up our learning process in golf with some good outside instruction. In answer, I asserted that the definition of "good instruction" is that it helps you learn more quickly. But from that perspective, what makes instruction "good?"

Before I go any further, let me share an observation that's driven our approach to this endeavor that will strike many people as startling or even simply wrong: the golf swing isn't actually all that difficult. The ball is sitting on the ground, not moving. We have a club in our hands. The problem we're trying to solve is, how do we move the body so as to generate a fast-moving clubhead that's traveling straight along the aim-line at impact, with a clubface that's square to the direction of travel? It's really not that complicated. A modest knowledge of kinesiology and physics should get us, more or less, to the right answer. Furthermore, we have dozens of fantastic instructors teaching by example on TV every week, which makes learning even simpler: other people have already figured this out! We only need to emulate them.

Another observation: I had a fair amount of instruction in golf when I was a kid, and yet I was terrible golfer. So why is it that I've made more progress in the last year of practicing with Jerry than I did in years of instruction as a kid? Is it simply that I'm older and better at figuring things out?

No, it's not. There have been periods in my adult life in which I practiced golf. I just never got anywhere.

The difference between then and now is that Jerry taught me about centering. Centering, and the attention to the body that it brings, is what was missing all along.

By combining centering, knowledge of kinesiology and energy flow in the body, good observation of top performers in the field, and a practice of feeling the body accurately, we've made great strides in less than a year (as Jerry pointed out on Tuesday). If the measure of good instruction is that you learn quickly, well, how much better do we need our instruction to be?

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