Golf Science – Methodical Mechanics

Golf Science – Methodical Mechanics

The famous University of North Texas, in association with the PGA of America, an organization which has produced almost 29,000 golf professionals (both teachers and managers) have teamed up. As a result, the PGA is relocating its headquarters to Frisco and together they plan to offer some exciting courses for students interested in a future in sport management and entertainment, specifically as it relates to golf.

UNT has already created many successful partnerships with several sports organizations including the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Motor Speedway, and offers bachelors and masters degrees in business administration which draw course-content from their many renowned colleges such as those of education, merchandising, hospitality and tourism, journalism and data analytics. The PGA on the other hand, already offers PGM undergraduate degrees through many Universities. Together, the two organizations will primarily focus on sport management and entertainment, but both the PGA and all future students would have the opportunity to draw from the many other academic offerings that UNT already has.

For instance, as Bob Heere, UNT’s newly appointed Director of Sport Management suggests, there could be study and research related to aspects such as the business of golf or the game of golf. For those of us who are invested in the game of golf, and fear for its health internationally, it would be most exciting to see this partnership give future PGA golf instructors some mandatory course-work in kinesiology or the movement sciences. After all, imagine the irony of people in the business of teaching movement having no scientific background in movement!

It is not enough to merely offer some modules in subjects such as biomechanics or motor learning or anatomy, because few within the golf teaching industry are able to actually apply those principles to the teaching of golf. That is, in fact, one of the reasons why golfers have not improved drastically in the past many decades despite gigantic improvements in equipment and technology.

What should be incorporated into a degree in kinesiology for every PGA member wishing to teach golf? Sports coaching theory could inform on how much technical versus tactical information to proffer. Motor learning concepts would help instructors understand more about teaching partial versus complete movements or how to practice. Anatomy would inform a potential golf teacher about how each of the body’s joints are designed and what they can and cannot do within a golf swing. Biomechanics could be used to explain the extent to which ground reaction force can affect movement and how it is often misunderstood. These ideas can only develop within a golf instructor after he or she has been immersed in both the theory and the application of the movement sciences within golf. Course-work should be complemented with considerable project work and research.

There is a dire need for golf instructors to have adequate knowledge to pull from a variety of sports sciences when they deliver a lesson. Consider this recently-witnessed full-swing lesson given by a PGA golf instructor of 25 years, to a group of senior golfers: “Place your feet shoulders-width apart. In the backswing, turn your left shoulder until it is above your right leg and bend your wrists. Your entire body, hips, shoulders and knees will all move as you shift and turn. Reverse the movement for the downswing”. How would a golf instructor with a deep understanding of kinesiology modify such a lesson?

He or she would know more about what pace senior golfers learn at. How much information they can retain. The level of how sophisticated their motor skills are likely to be. The possible injury repercussions of bending the left knee inwards and the torso forwards and of twisting and turning the body so much. How much should such golfers practice before going off to play on the course? Can the trail elbow straighten out at the correct time from its position at the top of the backswing? Which movements are must-haves and which can be excluded without a significant loss of distance or direction for this particular group of golfers?

Really, given the many improvements of both equipment and technology, unless golf instructors are immersed in the sciences of golf swing movement, the game, being played increasingly by minorities such as women and seniors, cannot be played with as much enjoyment and fulfillment as it could be. Moreover, is it not important that a group of people referring to themselves as “professionals” have the same level of specialized education as people in medicine, the law and in engineering do?

While there is no doubt that the new partnership will open up a vast array of opportunities for future sports management and entertainment students, it is to be hoped that the two grand Institutions involved in this new initiative design course-work specifically for golf teachers too.