Mark and I share a common belief when it comes to the golf swing; skill is different to technique.
For example, if a player is producing a certain strike pattern which is suboptimal, this is their technique. However, their ability to move the strike around the clubface (intentionally hit different parts of the clubface) is the skill element.
In the above example (taken from one of Mark’s lessons), the player has a toe biased strike pattern (technique). Their ability to improve this pattern will depend on their skill level (their ability to move the strike around the face to where they desire).
While ‘swing style’ would also be categorized as technique, it is also very different to skill. For example, there are many different swing styles on tour – from flat/steep/laid off/across the line/weak and strong grips etc. However, as different as the players swing the club, all swing styles on tour still produce functional impacts as a result of the player’s skill-sets.
In fact, a tour player would be able to produce multiple different swing styles/techniques (draw/fade/high/low etc.) and still produce functional impacts and shots.
The Golf Industry Needs a Shake-Up
Since forever, the golf industry (magazines, TV commentators, books, coaches etc.) has only looked at golf from the perspective of improving swing style. Often, we look at the player who is in vogue at the moment and we show how they move their bodies/the club. However, golfers are missing a vital element in their improvement programs – skill development.
And, with the best players all swinging the club in different ways, and different coaching methodologies offering different viewpoints, wouldn’t it be better to look at the commonalities? Skills such as;
- Ability to control strike with the face
- Ability to control ground contact (depth, location)
- Ability to control loft
- Directional control
- Speed control
Luckily, skills are very trainable. And when we improve skills, we automatically get better, even if we use the same swing style. And if we were to change our swing style for whatever reason, our skills would still stay with us – this is why Tiger Woods was still able to win so many events with Butch/Haney/Foley’s swings.
While skill training is a massively in-depth topic, some of the ways that I use in lessons to improve my pupil’s skills are;
- Understanding – improvements in clarity of task (what causes a good/bad shot)
- Awareness – improvements in ability to identify what actually happened
- Feedback – helps improve awareness
- Scaling – putting the feedback on a scale to increase awareness
- Practice methods – differential and variability practice improves your ability to ‘edit’ your technique and also improves coordination
- Task difficulty – increasing or decreasing the difficulty to push improvements in skill or understanding
- Gamifying – turning the task into a game speeds up learning
- Attention – where you place your focus can improve or destroy your skills
As a result of skill improvements, we see dramatic performance changes in spite of the swing often looking very similar on video.
In The Practice Manual – The Ultimate Guide for Golfers, I discuss the vital skills for golfers, as well as many of the methods we can use to improve these skills. The book has been a number one best-seller in the UK, USA, Canada, Germany and France, and has been featured on The Golf channel. To find out more, click the image below.
- Skill is different to technique
- There are many different swing styles (techniques) on tour, but all tour players have skills which allow them to control the ball
- We often focus too much on swing technique, and not enough on skills
- Skills are trainable – they can be improved in many different ways