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How to Be Your Own Golf Coach

Why have you clicked on this link? My guess is that you want to improve your golf. You’re putting in time and effort, but you’re not improving as much as you would like.  If you are or aren’t having golf lessons, you should still become your own golf coach.

I’m not suggesting you don’t have golf lessons. I’m curious who is coaching you the 98% of the time that your golf coach isn’t present?

Why become your own golf coach?

In most other sports we have our coach there to oversee all of our practice. However, in golf you see a coach once a month, get some advice, then head off to practice in solitude. This can make practicing well, and improving tough.

For that reason, you need to become your own golf coach. It doesn’t mean you have to stop having golf lessons. I would advise you to find a great coach and stick with them, build a plan. But you must also be able to manage your own development and become the master of your own golf swing.

In the next 10 minutes, I aim to teach you the fundamentals you need to become your own golf coach. This is exactly what every PGA pro uses to coach. I hope you enjoy it.

The secrets of golf coaching

The best way for you to become your own golf coach is to master the basics that every PGA pro is taught worldwide. That is PGA pros in the US, the UK (where I trained) and the rest of the world. We are all taught the same basics to analyse a golf swing and make improvements.

From that point onwards, we go off on different journeys. Develop our preferences for how we want our players to swing the golf club. However, we all start with what I outline below. It stems from two-world renowned coaches who have had an incredible impact on the game – John Jacobs and Gary Wiren.

Here is how you can become your own golf coach in 4 steps.

#1 Your Golfing Dreams

The first aim is to decide what you want to improve in your golf game. If you have a coach then this will be a joint effort. If not choose one of the following:

What is your golfing aim?
What is your golfing aim?

In my experience golfers love to say “I want to be more consistent”, but you still have to choose one of the above. Most consistent in accuracy? Contact? If you feel all could be improved, I’d suggest starting with ‘improve contact’. It is amazing how many of the other issues vanish when you get a golfer making good contact with the golf ball.

Most golfers strike the ball reasonably but struggle with accuracy. For that reason, the examples I will use in this post will mainly focus on improving accuracy. I will write a separate post for you guys wanting more info on improved strike, just comment below. Also check out the impact bag in this post if you struggle with strike.

#2 Ball flight is golf performance

Your aim is to get the dam ball in the hole. From point A (where you are standing) to point B  (your target). Once you have an aim from the list above your number one goal is to understand your ball flight. What are you trying to achieve and what is going wrong?

First off, what is the ball flight you want to achieve? Options below show a fade (left), a straight shot (middle) and a draw (right). Pick one – knowing what you’re trying to achieve is key.

Showing your natural good ball flight?
What is your natural good ball flight?

Next, select your bad shot(s) from the images below.

Golf lesson ball flight bad
What is your natural golf ball flight?

Here are the 6 ball flights that finish off line. These may look similar, but understanding which one exactly fits your golf game is very important. From left to right across this image we have the following:

Left Image

  • Pull  – starts left of target, straight flight, finishes left. (Red)
  • Pull Hook – starts left, curves left in air, finishes left. (Yellow)
  • Hook – starts right, curves left in air, finishes left. (Blue)

Right Image

  • Push  – starts right of target, straight flight, finishes right (Red)
  • Push slice – starts right, curves right in air, finishes right. (Yellow)
  • Slice – starts left curves right in air, finishes right. (Blue)

Ignore how far your shots finish left or right, focus on how they get there from the descriptions in list above.

#3 Impact Factors

Okay, here is where most golfers go wrong. Every single ball flight in golf can be explained by five variables, that happen at impact. I do mean every shot. From a missed 3 foot putt to a shank, all the way to a 320-yard draw. These are the most important things we learn as coaching professionals. They are called impact factors and are as follows:

The 5 impact factors

  • Centeredness of strike – Contact point on the club face: centre, heel, toe, high/low on the face, or miss it completely.
  • Swing path – The direction that your club head travels through impact.
  • Club face angle – The direction your club face is pointing at impact.
  • Club head velocity – The speed of your club head at impact.
  • Angle of approach – How steeply down or up your club head is traveling at impact.

All of the 9 shots listed above (3 accurate, 6 non-accurate) are separated by only two of these that change at impact. These are responsible for every bad shot you hit.

As stated above, this holds true as long as you are hitting somewhere near the centre of the club face.

Here is how all of the 9 shots are caused. Take a while to digest your bad shot you wish to improve and your ideal flight.

Shows 9 main golf ball flights
This shows all 9 common ball flights in golf

Left image

  • Pull  – Out to in swing path, club face is square to the path (Red)
  • Pull Hook – Out to in swing path, club face is closed to the path. (Yellow)
  • Hook – In to out swing path, club face is closed to both path and target. ( Blue)

Middle image

  • Fade – Out to in swing path, club face angle points between path and target. 
  • Straight – Square swing path, square club face (sooo simple…if only)
  • Draw – In to out swing path, club face angle points between path and target. 

Right image

  • Push  – In to out swing path, club face is square to the path. (Red)
  • Push slice –  In to out swing path, club face is open to the swing path (Yellow)
  • Slice – Out to in swing path, club face is open to both path and target. (Blue)

Once you have picked out the difference between your bad shot, and how you want to hit it improving your golf becomes very simple. Just fix the difference in one or both of these impact factors and your golf will improve.

For example, a slicer who wants to consistently hit a fade only needs to work on their club face at impact, not their swing path. I had a big rant about this in a golf magazine. If your bad shot is a pull on the golf course, but you normally hit it straight, this is simply caused by your swing path.

This diagnosis procedure is the biggest lesson in becoming your own golf coach.

#4 Design your golf swing

Here comes the fun bit. Once you decide which impact factors you wish to improve, you get to choose how to improve your golf swing. Here is where coaching becomes an art and a science. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post. We, as golf coaches, develop our own preferences on how to build and develop players’ swings.

This shows the golf swing principles that affect each golf impact factor
This shows the principles that affect each impact factor

This really valuable sheet tells you every single swing change that you could make to improve each impact factor. Really study this, it is brilliant, and came from John Jacobs, Gary Wiren’s work and a great research project in the 1960s called Search for the Perfect Golf Swing.

I’ve created an explanation of each principle for you here. These golf swing principles and the sheet above are so important for your progress. I email a free pdf download of both to everyone who signs up to my Golf Insiders email. I suggest they print both and pin them up.

Just from a glance you can tell the importance of aim, grip and set up. That is why we frequently improve these aspects as coaches. The benefits for each are far-reaching.

To carry on with the examples above. If you are a slicer, you now know it is your club face you need to work on. You need to change it from very open to the swing path, to slightly open. Your options – check your aim and then improve your grip. However, you could happily keep your grip the same and work on wrist position, release or your dynamic balance (weight transfer). See the image above (face).

Our golfer with a pull needs to work on their swing path to hit more straight shots. They can again check their aim and set up. However, they may wish to instead focus on their connection and swing plane (see path list above). These will all improve their shot outcome.

Becoming your own golf coach – parting advice

I sure hope you’ve found this of use. It isn’t sexy, but these impact factors and swing principles are what drive your game and performance (pun intended).

My parting words are for you to consider this: What is the difference between an annoying playing partner who points out every single flaw in a golf swing and a great teaching pro?

My approach when improving technique is this – what is the biggest improvement I can make in ball flight, for the smallest change in technique?

Golf should be made simpler when taught correctly.

Many thanks and happy golfing – Will @ Golf Insider UK

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Will Shaw, PhD, MSc, PGA Pro

Will is a PGA golf professional, with a PhD in Biomedical Science and MSc in Sports Biomechanics & Psychology. He spent 10 years lecturing part-time at Leeds Beckett University and the University of Leeds in Biomechanics and Motor Control before becoming the Head of Golf for the University of Exeter. He currently runs Golf Insider UK, Sport Science Insider around wider consulting and academic roles in sport performance and motor control.

8 thoughts on “How to Be Your Own Golf Coach”

  1. I usually over correct. I ha d a slice, ended up with hook and try to correct it on golf course and usually go back to a slice or a block

  2. Great article …. I have recently found a coach who has simplified stuff so much — for me just focusing on impact position and the path between my right and left ankle ….I have dropped from 9 handicap to 5 handicap in the last three months – just by doing exactly what you have said — focus on the simplest thing that makes the biggest difference…

    • That is great news Richard!

      4 shots, but a massive shift in golfing performance. Yes – the golf swing is important, but it is all there to optimise that 6 inches either side of impact. If you have found this of use it might also be worth considering how this approach applies to your chipping and putt too.

      Keep up the fine progress.


    • Great article. Ball flight never lies. Question for anyone to answer. For the winter practice sessions I’ve drawn a spot Using a sharpie, highlighting a rough location of the sweet spot of my clubs. This is more of a prompt before pulling the trigger to focus on contact on the face. Is this legal?, it’s not really altering the physical set up of the club. Seems to work for me.

      • Hi Jon,

        Thanks for the feedback. I’m glad you found it of use.

        On to your question, it is one I’ve not considered before. I believe you are allowed to place a small mark on your club face, if it is not considered to change the performance characteristics – A grey point in itself, but you should be okay. However, once the round has started you cannot add more sharpie to the face, see the link below:
        4.1a, part 3

        I hope that helps, and feel free to get in touch with areas you’d like me to cover on Golf Insider UK in the future.

        Kind regards, Will

  3. Hi Will, I’m a 57 year old 4.2 hcp. I Really believe there’s much more in the tank, I have just purchased your book on Amazon and looking forward to doing a Weekly/monthly plan. Your article is the 1st step, I will stick to club face and angle/ plane – good article. J


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