By Sarah R. Stone, PGA
Golf instruction and coaching have gone through some serious changes over the past two decades. What began with great players sharing what they did in their golf swing, has evolved into recording clients’ swings and comparing them to those great players. Next came radar measuring with devices that actually analyze the collision between club and ball. And now we have ground force measuring plates to help us understand how our clients move and apply force in their golf swing. We are certainly coaching in an amazing period right now, and today’s innovative tools can help us coach our clients better and more efficiently.
If you are teaching regularly, you are inevitably seeing a variety of skills from one lesson to the next. Thankfully we have access to technology that can help coaches get to the bottom of some pretty major issues rather quickly. In my day-to-day coaching, I use Swing Catalyst, TrackMan and video for all levels of clients. These tools are extremely helpful in correcting a variety of self-imposed concepts and beliefs that many of my students had about their golf games at the start of our relationship. They enhance the breadth of my instruction and create a more productive learning experience for my students.
I use Swing Catalyst to analyze balance, weight transfer, stance width and overall awareness of space and movement. It’s a great tool to measure how the student moves pressure within the golf swing and how balanced they are in motion. With many former college athletes on my roster of students, I have started seeing them shift to the power move from their college sport. For example, I recently had a student, a former hockey player, with a driver swing speed in excess of 100 mph. She came to me struggling with control of her ball flight when hitting a 6-iron or higher. So, using the balance plate, I had her hit a few 8-irons and then moved to the 6-iron. We were both surprised to see the push change on her trail foot between the two clubs. When she swung the club faster, she left more weight on the trail foot versus the lead foot. And it was even more evident with the driver, explaining why her dispersion could be affected. To remedy these issues, we did a few drills to get movement more to the left on the downswing and the swing speed actually increased by three mph, while the dispersion of the ball flight got tighter. This is a perfect example of how Swing Catalyst helped me “see” something I would have never figured out on my own. By providing such feedback, I help my students understand what these critical indicators mean and how they affect the flight of their golf ball.
Trackman is an exceptional tool to help my clients understand the difference between swing path and clubface angle at impact. Many players don’t understand that these two vital ball flight laws are solely responsible for the direction the golf ball will go upon impact. Without this knowledge, they are unable to correct their errant ball flight and are relegated to the miss they fight every time they’re on the golf course.
I like to demonstrate these indicators during our sessions – Clubface Angle at Impact, Swing Path, Relation of Clubface to Swing Path, Clubhead Speed, Carry Distance, Total Distance and Spin Axis. Explaining what they are looking at and having them see the resulting ball flight is a huge aid in understanding their miss. I will use a picture of the X/Y graph to show positive and negative numbers, and will explain what we are looking at together. Then I will have them hit some shots trying to move the ball left/left and then right/right to feel the difference in path and face. This is huge with drivers in particular. Trackman is an effective tool to help them understand the curve of the golf ball because it provides data on the effects of their swing path versus clubface angle at impact, while also measuring swing speed and angle of attack, two important ball flight principles.
While I don’t use video as much in my coaching as I did years ago, it is tremendously helpful in showing movement, understanding the shape of the swing and changing the ideas that some of my students have regarding their golf swing. Also using Swing Catalyst, I will film a few swings while they are warming up and we’ll chat about some of the misses they see. My favorite is “I picked my head up”. I like to put a box around their head and show them their golf swing in slow motion so they can see it actually going down at impact rather than up. I use the video to predominantly show them that they very often are not doing what they think, rather than isolating on specific positions of the club during the backswing or downswing.
I feel that coaching with these tools helps us create functional golf swings versus the model swing that used to be mistaken for the ideal swing, which can be vastly different for each student. We are now better equipped to help our clients improve faster, creating long-term relationships that help grow the game of golf.
Sarah R. Stone is the PGA Director of Instruction at Chevy Chase Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland. She was the 2013 Metropolitan PGA Section Women’s Player of the Year. She is an ambassador for Swing Catalyst and PXG and has attained certifications from Flatstick and TrackMan. Sarah was a 2019-2020 Golf Digest Best Teacher in New York and 2021-2022 Golf.com Top 100 Teacher to Watch. She does not coach with a “one way” approach to the golf swing and assesses each student individually.