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Wed, Jan. 29

Gunby: Golf’s visual learning progression
Tee it Up

All learning encompasses three main learning styles. Visual, auditory and kinesthetic. A person will have a dominant style with the other two taking a backseat to their preference. Nowadays, the most prevalent style is, by far, visual. Especially with younger people who have been exposed so much to TV, computers, cell phones, etc. The underlining function of any coach is to relate to the student’s learning style to get the most out of any instruction.

Just to prove my point, watch a football game on TV. With a computer tablet, the coaches are showing the players different scenarios on the screen. It used to be a chalkboard or a wipe board. Before that, is was telling the players what the coaches observed from the field or up in the press box (auditorily).

We have noted that the caddies were the first golf instructors. What they observed with their eyes is what they relayed to those students. It was first put into words and then into drawings. Then they figured out that the drawings only showed a point in time. So, they started putting these drawings in a sequence that the student could flip through to provide a view of a motion (sort of like how Disney made cartoons). The problem with this is that the human eye in conjunction with the brain is limited to its observations.

When the motion picture industry started, they used these resources to film players. Most famous of these was Bobby Jones. Pretty soon, sound was added to these motion pictures and bam – you got auditory and visual learning together!

But it was very difficult and expensive to film a student to show them what their golf swing looked like with a movie camera. So the instructors used mostly verbal cues and kinesthetic thoughts to convey images to the student. The problem that the instructors and students faced is that a word might pose a different definition in the student’s mind versus what the instructor was trying to convey. The same with a “feel”. There had to be upmost trust between the student and the instructor to get positive progress.

I realized early on in my career that I needed to communicate with my students using more visual aids along with models. Polaroid instant development film came about with their Graph-Check camera. This was a great camera that took a sequence of eight still shots that the photographer could adjust the length between each photo, so that a swing or a position could be viewed in a couple of minutes. I used this camera a lot, but the film was very expensive.

The Polaroid instant camera was a great advancement in which I could take a still photo and show it to the student. The shutter speed was low, and I had to get pretty good with my timing of clicking the button, wasting a lot of film. Then I used Polavision. This was a camera that used video type film and after filming you put it in a special machine that developed the film and you could view the three-minute maximum loop with the student. No freeze frames or slow-mo or sound.

Then came camcorders. These were great but to show it to the student you used the viewfinder or a small screen on the camera. Or you could use a large cart with a video player and TV screen attached. Again, very expensive and cumbersome.

Now with computers and cell phones, we have some great visual feedback tools at our disposal. I have been using an IPad for a long time and now I have one that has a shutter speed of 240 frames per second. Using the V1 program and Acculine Golf Pucks, I can get great visual information on a student’s golf swing. I believe that the most effective and efficient learning can only be done by using these visual tools.

There are caveats though. In the hands of an unexperienced teacher (or a video used without an experienced coach), lots of misinformation can be detrimental. For example, an instructor may point out too many faults that cannot be addressed at one time. Or a fault may not be the cause of an unwanted shot. Or it may not even impact what the student wants to achieve. Or the angle/position of the camera may give false information. Or the instructor gives out too much negative information. Or a student’s physical limitations and previous experiences are not considered. Or proper models are not used in conjunction with these videos.

In the hands and eyes of a dedicated, experienced PGA Instructor, the benefits to the student of today’s visual tools are endless. Just remember there is no such thing as a perfect golf swing.

John Gunby Sr. is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at

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