Golf Improvement Pyramid

Golf Improvement Pyramid

My last lesson said something to me which is very common. In fact, I have had it said to me so often that I decided to write about it here;

That’s the first time I have had it explained to me like that. I’ve had lessons before and they got me hitting the ball better, but I never understood why. So when it stopped working, I was never able to find my way back. Now I feel like I fully understand the difference between a good and bad shot and can work my way towards what I want

I remember that frustration as a learner. I spent hours watching freeze-framed video of Tiger Woods during his hey day, trying to figure out which position in his backswing was the magic one – but to no avail. Then suddenly golf got demystified to me.

I learned what really creates a good shot


A basic model for learning

This is a basic model I use for people. I have a lot more avenues I go depending on what the person needs, but as a simple model, this does very well and can take players very far on its own.

I recently asked a forum of professionals,

In your experience, what percentage of golfers would fall at the first (what creates a good shot) or second (awareness – are you doing it) hurdles?

Let’s have a look at each in more detail


Before We Do

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Stage 1 – What creates a good shot?

Percentage of people who fully know these = <5%

This is where golf got demystified to me. This information is so simple, yet so powerful. I consistently find that the majority of golfers simply do not think about these basics – yet when they do, their game transforms.

While there are many things which determine whether a shot is good or not, the three main basics which people need to know are

Ground strike

Where your club first strikes the ground (when the ball is resting on the ground) will have a direct effect on distance and distance control. The better your quality of strike, the better a golfer you will be.

divot position

Face strike

Everyone knows this one – you should strike the sweet spot of the club. Doing so is the biggest difference between your good shots and your bad ones (in conjunction with ground contact).

Clubface Control

While total direction is a function of swing path and clubface angle (which I explained more in my article on ball flight laws – click HERE to read), the difference between YOUR shots which land on the target and the ones which don’t has typically been where your clubface has been looking at impact.
As a general rule, all other things being equal,
If the clubface is more right at impact, the ball will go more right
If the clubface is more left at impact, the ball will go more left.

To learn more about these, see my article last week by clicking HERE to open in a new tab



Stage 2 – Do you know if you are doing it?

Number of people who are in this camp = <1%

If a player manages to get into the 5% of people who understand the difference between their good and their bad shots, only 1 in 5 of those is lucky enough to actually be able to identify what it is they did exactly.

This is why feedback is so important. While it would be nice for everyone to have some of the latest top tech, there are very simple forms of feedback that I use myself during lessons and playing which wont break the bank

Divot position

Spray painting a line on the ground, or placing a tee next to the ball (when you are on the course) can help you identify where your divot has been in relation to the ball.
divot position

Divot should be on the target side of the line

This may be a deep divot, or a shallow brushing of the grass (my preferred for most people on a nice lie). Either way, your club needs to make contact with the ground in some way to produce a good shot.

Marker pen

A simple drill which you can take out on the course with you during your practice rounds (just make sure you clear it with your playing partners first – or you can practice it on the range.

Take a dry erase marker pen, draw a dot on the ball and place that dot like this.


Strike the ball – have a look at the face – repeat.

Never take for granted that you are doing this well enough. Trust me – you are not.

Ball Flight

You can tell a massive amount by the clubface purely from the ball flight – especially with irons.

If the ball starts more right, the clubface has been more right at impact, and vice versa. If you need the ball to finish more left (everything else being equal), you can get the clubface more left at impact.

Ideally, you would want to see a professional coach so they can guide you on your swing path also (the second element to direction control). But as any swing path can function (given a complementary clubface angle), It’s never a bad idea to work on your understanding of how clubface affects direction alone.


You know the face was closed to the path on this one


Stage 3 – Practice

Ah, the part we all love. This is normally where everybody jumps in, but they skip stages 1 and 2.

I call this “winging it”

Yes, practice on its own can make you better, just as a blind squirrel can occasionally find a nut. But knowing what a nut looks like (Stage 1) and taking off the blindfold can really help (stage 2).

Is this a nut?

Furthermore – using various modes of practice (differential, variability, random, broken and blocked) can help at different stages of the learning cycle, depending on your goals and needs.


Stage 4 – Quantify

How do you know if you are improving or not?

I use quantification during each one of my lessons, and I teach my players how to quantify their own practice so that they are able to see the improvements first hand.

This could be through improving individual aspects of the process (such as quantifying an improved ground strike), or it could be quantifying the performance. I often use Trackman to measure the distance improvements, direction improvements and consistency improvements of my players during lessons.

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The above player picked up distance, distance control and direction control in a few swings

To make this process more fun, try to gamify it. Keep records of your scores in certain aspects – see if you can improve it each week. For example, I often do a 10 ball test with players to see how many shots they can hit inside a 20 cent (euro) sized circle on the sweetspot. We then note down the improvements each week.


Get coaching

The part which encircles the whole process is coaching.

By using a quality coach, they will not only be able to guide you through the stages of the process, but they can help set up environments, drills, etc which help improve how you learn.

They can help to massively build your awareness in the important area of impact – awareness is huge for long term learning.

They can also guide you to more efficient and effective ways of achieving the process – such as helping you strike the middle of the face by technical adjustments or through skill-based approaches.

They can also schedule your practice so that you spend your time effectively and efficiently, rather than just beating balls aimlessly.


Just knowing what to do helps

In my experience, and obviously the experiences of other professional teachers around the world, most golfers come up short in the pyramid. Not only are most golfers completely unaware of what they do at impact or how that affects the ball flight, most golfers never get coaching or good guidance to improve this.

Watching the amateur golfing forums in the background, I see players giving each other advice for their problems. Often, this advice is horrendous and has nothing to do with their actual problem. It’s akin to trying to solve string theory without an understanding of basic physics. Do yourself a favor and seek professional help.

But, in my experience, simply understanding what to do helps golfers start on their journey to better golf. Improved awareness and practice is then the catalyst which fires up the process.

golf brain

Upgrade your golf-brain


Cliff Notes

  • Understand the difference between a good and a bad shot, namely;
    Contact with the ground
    Contact with the face
    Clubface position at impact
  • From there, learn to identify whether you are doing it or not. Use forms of feedback suggested to improve your understanding and awareness of what is actually happening, versus what you feel/believe is happening.Practice – use different modes of practice, try to do as much of it as you can in context (on the course). But make sure it is quality practice.
  • Quantify what you do – this helps to improve your ability to improve. I have noted in lessons that when people make a game out of the quantification (such as a ten ball test and scoring), their ability to increase their scores goes up dramatically (I will be writing another post on that). Quantifying also helps you see your improvement as you go along.
  • Get coaching – a good coach will help you to not only go through this process better, but they can speed it up and add things to it which make it easier to achieve the better shots, such as improved technique. By using a quality coach, they can help with the identification, awareness building, practice scheduling – as well as helping figure out a multitude of ways of getting better at these things.

As the season is coming to a close, having a plan of action over the winter months is vital. The Strike Plan (click below) will give you the concepts, techniques and drills you need (lots of which can be done without a ball) to enter next season better than ever. Click the image below to check it out and join the thousands of people who are striking it better.

Strike plan enter

If you are serious about improving your game, CLICK BELOW to learn more about my book “The Practice Manual – The Ultimate Guide for Golfer”, and put your learning into hyper-speed.


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One Comment

  • Mark OConnell

    Hi Adam,

    I have your book ‘The Practice Manual’, which I think is great. Could you let me know what the difference is between the book and the Strike Plan.

    Many thanks and kind regards,

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