Tag: Park Golf Academy

Observe, Think, Choose, Deliver

By Martin Park

Learn from the top coaches in the world on how to see things that others miss and improve your coaching by using better observation and decision making skills.

Great golf teachers are passionate students of golf swing techniques and in applying the solutions to students, they never rush into a decision on technique changes when giving a lesson.

They use their powers of observation and experience to diagnose the root cause of any issue. Coaches who fail to ascertain the root cause of the issue cannot hope to deliver the correct solutions.

The metaphor I like to use is that it’s like putting a sticking plaster on an injury which might require stitching, or major surgery!

If you give a student a ‘quick-fix’, or a sticking plaster, to see him through a problematic stage in their game, it may well work…for a while. Students and teachers alike love quick fixes! However, when that same student returns a week or so later with the same issue, it might not be that the student is incapable of doing what you asked of them.

The problem will perhaps lie in your diagnosis, which may lie in treating the effect rather than the cause.

Good coaching means you get to the root of the issue and deliver a result which can be measured as an improvement on performance.

I have recently had the pleasure of learning from the two top female golf teachers on the planet, Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriot, who are founders of the Vision54 Coach concept.

Much of what I learned with Pia and Lynn can be applied to the golf teacher, as well as the student.

They believe the game is a blend of many things such as the Physical, Technical, Mental, Emotional, Social and Spiritual, and allying that to a number of essential playing skills to improve performance. We as coaches should consider this as I firmly believe there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way coaching golf is given.

The average handicap worldwide hasn’t dropped in the last 30-odd years, even though we have more scientific information and technology available and that just as many people leave the game each year as those who begin.

We have a responsibility as coaches to improve performance. If someone plays poorly enough for long enough, they’ll quit. That is no recipe for a successful business.

One of the cornerstones of Vision54 is the ‘Think-Box, Play-Box’ concept of the shot routine. Simply put, the player takes in as much relevant information about a shot in the area behind the ball we call the ‘Think-Box’. Once this information has been disseminated, they need to make a decision and commit to it. Before they walk into the ‘Play-Box’, the player must cross the ‘Decision line’ and with full commitment, they do nothing more in the ‘Play-Box’ than play the shot.

This can also be developed for the coach to have their own ‘Think-Box-Teaching-Box’ to concentrate on the most relevant issue with a student.

Improve your observation skills in your coaching ‘Think-Box’ and you can get to the nub of the issue much easier, diagnose and choose (the decision line) more accurately the correct drills for skills in the ‘Teaching Box’.

What expert coaches see that other coaches miss is the key to improving your own coaching to deliver improved lessons. It is a skill – like any other skill – which can be learned.

Great teachers observe events unfold and find the essential issues to help provide the insight for logical and intuitive decisions. By adhering to four simple points, you can learn to see things that others miss.

1 – Focus on what is relevant. A major difference between great golf teachers and the ‘Quick-fixers’ resides in the great teachers’ targeted focus on events and information relevant to the decision making.

Great teachers monitor the processes most critical to outcome. They get to the root of the problem. Lesser teachers will observe the same series of events but they do not realise the significance of what they are seeing. With limited knowledge, they are unable to respond with a drill or coaching technique which will lead to superior ball striking or performance.

Research by top performance coaches and scientists has proven that experts in any area of learning and development tend to be more focused and see significantly greater detail. The perception of experts is sharply focused on the relevant performance details, and any unnecessary information is ‘left on the cutting room floor’.

Great teachers focus on specific causal events that will impact performance, and can be influenced by their decisions and actions.

2 – Get the clues from your observations. Once they have made observations, (Think Box) the expert coach can visualise and anticipate the future. Detailed observations allow experts to anticipate what will happen. From these observations, an expert coach will weigh up the probability of future events and can begin to decide on actions they need to take to improve the student. (Decision line).

Lack of experience and knowledge restricts those with less expertise from completely understanding what may or may not happen. In short, what seems like a crystal ball for predicting the future is actually the experts’ ability to recognise the cause and effect of the performance issue.

Be aware of the unusual. It is spotting the unusual in a golf swing that triggers the accurate thinking of a great coach. Using all the experience and knowledge from an erudite coach, brings with it a comfortable familiarity within the coaching setting. They find the unusual events commonplace.

Great coaches have a set of well rehearsed routines and anything out of the ordinary becomes blatantly obvious. While a less erudite observer sees the same activity, not knowing it was unusual, they simply overlook its significance.

Teachers with less expertise normally need to consciously monitor an event closely to pick up clues for making decisions.

The great coaches spend far less energy monitoring a teaching situation progressing ‘normally’ because they are intimately familiar with the environment.

If you’ve ever seen a great coach in action whose observations and monitoring appear nonchalant or cavalier at times, it is usually far from the case because those great coaches know the situation is playing out as they anticipated. They are fully prepared for the unusual to occur.

When the unusual occurs, great coaches immediately detect it, quickly make sense of the situation and respond instinctively. In contrast, inexperienced coaches with their limited knowledge, skills and ability often fail to understand the implications of the unusual.

Deep, real and wide analysis. In order to get to the very root of the problem, experts critically analyze current performance levels as well as the quality of the motions that influence outcomes. This can take form in many ways. For example, if one of your students is trying to improve short game performance, you can encourage them to take a short game test whereby each area can be measured. You can also observe technique, equipment and other variable such as the mental game, how they control emotions or if they have any physical restrictions. In short, whatever the subject the student wishes to improve, it requires deep, real and wide analysis. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

Our most important challenge as a golf coach should be improving performance – Experts observe what we call KPI’s – key performance indicators (e.g. quality of ball striking, efficiency of motor skill, good balance, better test scoring etc) and draw from their knowledge and experience to critically assess what they see.

The great coaches quickly diagnose events with precision and accuracy then construct and implement solutions for improvement. Simply put, they observe, think, choose and deliver a solution. The rest is up to the student to put into action what you have suggested.

To improve any skill, one must continually practice. It is no different in learning to observe like an expert. Understanding how experts see, and then practicing those skills is your key to seeing like an expert and delivering better performance.

About the Author – Martin Park is the Director of Coaching at Bornholms Golf Club and Nexø Golf Club in Denmark. He is a Master Teaching Professional, a certified Vision54 Coach and the founder of Park Golf Academy. He is a qualified Master Craftsman Clubmaker and was awarded the GCA European Clubmaker of the Year 2009.

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GCA European Clubmaker of the Year 2009

Park Golf Academy

Martin Park

[box]This issue we are profiling EGTF  Professional, Martin Park who is one of the more colourful characters in the European golf industry and well known in his former chosen field of golf journalism and media.[/box]

Martin has been a golf journalist since 1995 when he first covered The Open Championship at St Andrews for both Golf Weekly and also the fledgling American TV station, The Golf Channel.

Martin continued to work for several magazines and broadcast outlets as a writer on tournament golf news, the equipment industry, travel features and instruction articles, but with the declining magazine industry and the advent of the internet, he took the opportunity to help start and develop GOLFmagic.com, where he was the first Editor and helped develop it into what is now Britain’s biggest online golf magazine.

He spent two years with GOLFmagic before taking on the job of Media Director for the Ladies European Tour, which at the time was in dire need of good publicity.  His four year tenure with the LET can only be described as positive as he took a small tour with limited ambitions and resources and gave it the profile it has been missing for so many years.

His finest moment with Women’s golf came at Barseback in Sweden during 2003 where he hosted over 500 worldwide media during Europe’s most successful Solheim Cup victory – where fellow EGTF member, Alison Nicholas was Vice-Captain to Catrin Nilsmark’s winning team.

While he has now developed a life in golf coaching, something he has always wanted to do, he still works in golf media and consults on the media and marketing for the Czech Republic and also his favourite job in media, working each year with the R&A Press Secretariat as Press Officer for The Open Championship.

Martin was born in Scotland, but raised in the sunny south-east of England and now lives on the paradise island of Bornholm, a small island affectionately known as the  “Northern-most South Sea island” due to it’s fabulous summer climate, pure white sand beaches and private and peaceful atmosphere.

He is married to Yvonne, who is a native of Bornholm.  They have a 9-year old son, Lewis.  Yvonne works as the Business Development manager for his Park Golf Academy company, but much as he would like to, he can’t convince his son to give up tennis, handball, football, Playstation 2 and Gameboy for golf….yet!

When did you qualify for the EGTF?
March 2005 at Oliva Nova, Spain.

Where do you work?
I am Head Teaching Professional at Dueodde Golf Club on the island of Bornholm in Denmark.  I also own and manage Park Golf Academy which is now responsible for the training and coaching at two more clubs on the island.  There are over 2000 members at all three clubs with its headquarters based at the academy at Dueodde.  We have a fully fitted indoor centre which includes a 75sq metre chipping and putting green, a projected golf simulator from SportscoachUK with 20 GPS golf courses installed, along with video software, club fitting software, a Vector Launch monitor and soon to come a SAM Putt Lab.  We specialise not only in teaching, but also custom fitting, putting and short game clinics.

Where do you play golf?
I play golf mainly at Dueodde Golf Club and also the Ronne and Ro Golf Clubs on the island.  I also represent our Club in the Danish National divisions and play the occasional Tour event if I have time.

What is the best thing about being a Teaching Professional?
Without a doubt, the best part is being able to influence and guide someone into becoming a better player by instructing them with the latest and most up to date scientific teaching methods and watching them improve during the lesson and have them come back to me saying they are enjoying their game so much more.

What is the worst thing about being a Teaching Professional?
Not being able to play as much as you would like.

How many lessons do you do in the summer.  How many in winter?
From April to September, I teach as many as 75 lessons per week, on average it’s at least 45 lessons a week, plus I also teach the Elite players, women’s teams, Seniors teams and I have two junior sessions each week.  The summer is manic with the island doubling in population with tourists, many of whom play golf, wanting lesson packages.  In the winter, things are slower, but with the indoor academy, it gives our members the opportunity to develop their game through the cold spell and onto the following season.  Having an indoor green, the simulator and all the teaching aids you will ever need, keeps me busy through the winter.  We run small groups in the evenings for two hour sessions, working mainly on short game skills, but also having many video lessons and of course, a lot of fun on the simulator software.

What do you consider is the most important lesson you could give someone and why?
Any good teacher will tell you that the basics of grip, aim, alignment, stance and posture are the key to any good golf swing.  I always instruct my students that if they work hard on getting a good grip, a good stance and posture and perfect it, every other golf lesson you will have will be much easier to learn.  Making sure the basics are correct before you get technical are the cornerstones of any teaching philosophy.  You can’t build a mansion on quicksand.

What is your favourite drill and why?
I have many favourites depending on the need at hand, but the most fun one and most common I use is the “show me your spikes” drill.  So simple, yet so effective and easy to understand by everyone, it works a treat!  I hear my students shouting it to me when they see me on the course, it’s a lot of fun.

Who is your favourite player and why?
Nick Faldo – simply for his pursuit of perfection in every area of his game during his heyday, his incredible performances in the Majors pre-Tiger Woods.  During the 1990 Open, he set a record which was always going to be tough to beat… 18-under par with wooden woods, bladed irons and a soft balata ball – Tiger could only beat that score 15 years later with all the new technology.  At the time, he was a class apart in his golf.  He was an inspiration to many golfers of my generation and I don’t think anyone will ever forget his rivalry with Greg Norman and what happened at the 1996 Masters.  That was Faldo’s greatest moment and a lesson for everyone who plays competitive golf.

Who would be in your ideal fourball and why?
Always a tough one to answer!  Probably Nick Faldo, Annika Sorenstam, Tiger Woods and Ben Hogan.  I’ll tag along as caddie!

Which is the best course you have ever played and why?
Royal Dornoch – a long way to go, but the experience of playing so well on a sunny day with the gorse in bloom on a course that would make other Open Championship venues look ordinary.  It’s an experience I’ll never forget.  The company was good, the weather superb, the course at its best and my score wasn’t too shabby, after a triple bogey at the second hole – one which Tom Watson says is the hardest second shot anywhere in the world… it’s a par three!

What is your best and worst experience you have had in golf?
I’ve been lucky enough as a writer to have a few such as visiting Augusta National for the Masters in 2001 and witnessing the final leg of the ‘Tiger Slam’.  Also working as Jack Nicklaus’ press officer during his final Open at St Andrews in 2005.  That will always be one of my favourites and it was an absolute privilege just to be alongside the great man, let alone work with him during the barrage of media who came to see him finish his Open Championship career.  But after the final round of this year’s Open, I was the lucky Press Officer who had the first and only interview with Tiger in the recorder’s hut for some ‘quick quotes’ immediately after his win at Royal Liverpool.  He even remembered my name!
The worst experience I ever had was forgetting to sign my scorecard at the Championship of England finals.  My arch rival and best pal won it….and he never lets me forget it either!

Why did you become a teaching professional?
It’s something I always wanted to do once I understood how to play the game well enough, but golf media came first.  When the opportunity came to teach in my own club and have an academy built, I grabbed it with both hands.  There is little better in life than teaching someone well and watching them develop and enjoy their game more.  Especially with juniors.  In golf teaching, you are giving them a game for life.  I feel like I am giving something back now, which gives me a sense of pride, too.  I live by my motto – “find a job you love and then you’ll never have to work again in your life”.

What is the best tip you could give a junior golfer?
Once they’ve got the basics right and a good idea for the game, it’s history and traditions – you need to make sure they realise that golf is a game which has to be played.  You need to get juniors to enjoy it – how you do that is mainly down to the teacher.  With juniors, you’ve got to have a laugh with them.

What’s in the bag?
Mizuno MX500 Driver, 8.5 degree with Grafalloy Pro Launch 65gram X flex shaft
Mizuno MP001 3 Wood – Grafalloy Blue S flex
Mizuno Fli-Hi CLK 17degrees with Grafalloy Pro Launch Blue Hybrid Shaft in S flex
Mizuno Bettinardi C-01H Putter in 34-inch, 3 degree loft
Mizuno MP60 Irons 3-9iron – 3/4-inch longer, S400 Dynamic Golf shafts, three degrees upright and two degrees stronger loft
Mizuno MP T-Series Black nickel wedges – 47, 51, 56 and 60 degrees, all 1-inch longer and three degrees upright with Tour velvet 58round grips with three layers of tape on every club in the bag

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