Does Score Illustrate Learning in Junior Golf?

Do we often forget to disassociate learning with performance in junior golf?

Do we often view junior golfers abilities through the wrong lens?

I am writing to not only confess my sins as a golf coach but to share what I have learned moving forwards. If I can help prevent others from making the same mistakes as I did, we have a better chance of growing this incredible game.

pitfallsI for one have been subject to the pitfalls of disassociating golfers performance and their learning – back in the day I viewed them as the same thing and assumed that what a golfer learned came to fruition via performance. I was wrong, very wrong.

Golfers have come to me with vast amounts of knowledge, ideas, questions and discussions showing what they have ‘learned’. The same golfer has attempted to play in a tournament only to score what would be perceived as a ‘bad’ score. The score leaves the golfer often stumbled, the ignorant coach (me at the time) almost lost for words, and typically the parents (mostly uneducated in sports and performance) rather upset.

Dr. Robert Bjork explains incredibly well the differences in learning and performance in this YouTube clip, you MUST watch it.

This leads us onto the question of what are we actually looking for?

Are we looking for a good performance ‘numerically’? Or are we looking to maximize the learning of a golfer for future results and long-term goals?

The former is what I was doing for a number of years – I even got that wrong too. Due to my beliefs, at the time, I looked for low scores and good performances as a measure of my coaching and what the player learned from me. I had the golfer playing events that were a little out of their comfort zone, they were appropriate sized courses or longer and the fields ability was the same if not better.

I was setting myself up for disappointment never mind the golfers, if they were thinking anything remotely like I was at the time. Looking back I realize that it’s pretty easy to get better performances, numerically, and can serve you well in an environment that cultivates, and praises results.

Place a golfer in a younger age category, a field of golfers with a poorer skill level and in a tournament that is on a much smaller and easier golf course – job done. That is quite possibly an easy route to seeing great performances ‘numerically’. But if we want to maximize learning and reach the highest levels of performance i.e. Olympic and Professional, what I have done in the past is quite possibly the worst thing you can do to any golfer.

Understandably, seeing a score that is lower can give us an altered and misleading perception. This is not the lens we want to keep looking through, as there are too many other variables that must be considered.

Performance can be measured much more accurately than learning – as learning is something that is inferred – but much of what can’t be controlled effects performance outcomes, so there relationship to learning is far from accurate.