From Teaching to Coaching
There comes a time when the teaching stops and the coaching carries on
remember watching Butch Harmon present at the 2002 Coaching Summit. At the time, he was coach to Tiger Woods, the world’s no.1 golfer. He stated that “the most teaching he had ever done was with Tiger Woods. Though there comes a time when the teaching stops and the coaching carries on”. Today most of the work he does with many of the tour pro’s is in the form of coaching and getting the most out of their games and not giving them the most information FOR their games.

Many students hit a road block when it comes to instruction and improvement. This is mainly because they aren’t taught when to stop learning technique and focus on developing skill. We all know that the longest walk in golf can be from the practice fairway to the first tee, and therefore many golfers struggle to take their range game to the golf course. Hitting it great on the range and not being able to transfer this onto the playing field is still a mystery to many golfers.


“When we think or talk about golf instruction and teaching, we usually focus on the particular method, or ‘system’ that the teacher uses when instructing. Each system has its own technical approach – its own training regimen, and often its own special, patented training aids as well. These systems are frequently strengthening the identification between the teacher and the content of the teaching.

Many people believe, a “golf teacher” is someone who has played the game for a long time, who plays better than the student, and who has a particular technical method that has been proven to result in lower scores. The teacher’s job is too first “teach the student” the things that are causing them to struggle with, such as technique related to contact and direction. Then comes the constant tune-up. In short, to most people, a golf teacher is a person who tells you what to do!”

Fred Shoemaker – Extraordinary Golf pp.100-101

I’m aware of the importance of technique and I certainly have my preference (as we all do!). Though, as instructors, we need to be adaptable to our player’s needs. We need to be aware of when the player needs technique as well as the guidance of a coach.


The primary role of a coach is giving the student increased awareness of these technical areas of the game. A successful coaching session ends with the student trusting him – them-self more than the coach. In essence, the ideal coach acts as a clear, non-judgmental mirror that reflects what really happens when you swing a club.

“Rather than “teach” you, which suggests showing you something you didn’t know, he or she “coaches” you – helps you bring out and strengthen the instructional knowledge you already have. A coach believes in the learning abilities of the student and is committed to helping the student get the most out of those abilities.”

Fred Shoemaker – Extraordinary Golf pp.103

A coach is a person who knows what the student wants and helps them achieve that. The key to coaching is knowing what the student wants. A coach is a person who listens to and honour’s a student’s values, goals, and commitments, and builds the instruction session around them. This philosophy is the cornerstone of coaching. It’s easy to give people what you want to give them, rather than what they want and need. As coaches we need to constantly make sure the agendas for the student.

“I learn teaching from teachers. I learn golf from golfers. I learn winning from coaches” Harvey Penick

As instructors it’s important to develop a balance between teaching technique and coaching those abilities. Whether you’re working with a more elite level of student or growing the game from a grass-roots level, the responsibility is to not only mold a golf swing, but building life lessons and developing the player within. I feel this is truly the essence of a great coach, and something we should all be striving for.

A special mention to ‘Fred Shoemaker’ who was included in this piece. His philosophy on learning have been a benchmark in the industry and he’s proven to been an inspiration to many.

As always your comments and feedback most welcome:


  1. Jun 28, 2011
    1:25 pm

    Russell Evans

    Nice article. Good read

  2. Jun 29, 2011
    5:34 am


    Liked it; do you teach throwing the club like Mr Shoemaker?

    • Jun 29, 2011
      7:30 am


      No throwing clubs being taught here Rosco, though I’m sure it serves a purpose…

  3. Nov 28, 2011
    9:01 am

    bryan bazilauskas

    extraordinary golf by shoemaker is the best “inner game” golf book i’ve read. worth checking out.

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