post by corey lundberg

5 steps to promote self-coaching

In a game that presents an endless supply of irony and counter intuitiveness—maybe the greatest paradox of all is that the better the coaching a student receives, the less they need.  Great coaches design their lessons and practice sessions so that the player, often unknowingly, develops their ability to self-coach.

Only golfers that have developed their ability to self-coach can experience lasting improvement.  They don’t rely merely on technical information provided by others, they seek meaningful experiences that will inform their future actions.

They seek to marry the information provided by a coach with direct experiences gained in an effective learning environment to produce a deeper understanding and lasting changes.

So, our ability to be effective coaches relies on our capacity  to create environments and activities that allow this process to happen more frequently.

Alternatively, coaches with the best of intentions can mistakenly cultivate a tribe of Coach-Dependents.  Upon first review, this may sound like an attractive business model– creating a client that requires frequent visits and constant attention.

Typically, these golfers even experience positive results immediately after a lesson.  But if the coach has mistakenly fostered a culture of dependence, positive results are fleeting and swing changes are short-lived.  What happens when their old errors returns?  Without any real knowledge or experience to draw from outside of your lesson, they desperately apply random tips and fixes.  Instead of developing a stable of improving, engaged golfers– you’re left with unsatisfied golfers who will eventually move on to the next ‘fix’.

If you are having trouble identifying what a Coach-Dependent might look like, consider what they might sound like.  This particular brand of golfer can often be identified by their profound philosophical inquiries on the lesson tee:

Does this sound like an empowered golfer?

If a golfer is asking these questions at the end of the session, I would consider the lesson an absolute failure.  And I should know– it has happened to me recently!  Which is really what sparked my interest in writing this post.  I wanted to develop a checklist for myself to ensure that I promote self-coaching in EVERY LESSON.

Below are five steps that I am currently trying to stay mindful of throughout my lessons.  Every session and every golfer is different, so the application can be fluid.  But if all steps are touched upon, I can be positive that I am empowering my students and putting an end to Coach-Dependence.


If you ask the Coach-Dependent golfer to describe the purpose of a lesson, their purpose statement will almost always start with the word ‘Fix’.

Fix my slice.

Fix my putting.

Fix my short game.

The onus is placed on the all knowing instructor to ‘fix’ the shortcomings of the helpless golfer.

So at the beginning of the lesson, it might be more effective to place your golfer in a more active role.  Instead of fixing the slice, the purpose of the session may be to increase the golfer’s awareness of the path to face relationship.  Anything that places priority on the golfer’s role in the process.


After the purpose for the session is defined, the core knowledge must be described.

Back to our slicing example, the core knowledge would obviously be the laws of ball flight.  This is where diagnostic tools like Trackman are so helpful.  Why is the ball moving where it is and how should the club be applied to produce the desired outcome?

So where a Coach-Dependent golfer would previously just ask what to do to fix the slice, you start by explaining the ‘why’.  A true understanding of the ‘why’ is the first step of self-coaching.

Even without the coach present, the student can diagnose misses and make necessary adjustments.


Now that the student knows why a particular error occurred, they can begin to explore possible solutions.  Instead of rattling through a checklist of ‘how-to’ instruction, the slicing student can begin to experiment with the resulting ball flights of various path and face combinations.

The heavy lifting for the coach was done when describing the core knowledge, now he/she can step aside and merely guide the student through the exploration process.

The student will require plenty of feedback during this stage to ensure that what they feel is happening is actually occurring.  A great self-coach adopts a certain attitude during the process with regards to ‘failure’ that sets them apart from their Coach Dependent brethren.

Because they have attained the necessary core knowledge, they know why certain outcomes occur and with a very inquisitive nature they can move from one shot to the next making necessary adjustments.  Failed shots now provide VERY useful information— no more questions like, “Why did I do that?”


During the exploration process, it is imperative to ask the right questions as a form of effective feedback.  

You are guiding them through the discovery process.  Instead of telling them the answers– ask questions that force them to tap into a greater awareness.

I might ask a slicer ‘Were you able to isolate a certain sensation when the path was more to the right?’

At first, they might not have an answer.  But if they continue to question themselves in a similar fashion, they are developing awareness that will be extremely useful when practicing without a coach.


Every golfer is different, what may feel like lowering the left shoulder in the backswing to me– might feel like straightening the right leg to you.

Listening intently to the answers your student provides during the questioning process gives you the ability to follow up and recap in a way that makes sense and produces sustainable changes.

[quote style=”boxed”]What does is feel like to you?  What does it look like to you?  Your answers will lead to progress.  Remember, you are the only one in this world that knows what if feels lik to putt the ball 15 feet on a slow green. – Michael Hebron[/quote]

If I am able to complete each step, I can feel positive that deep learning was acheived for the student.

Now it’s up to them.

They have the necessary information and awareness to continue the process on their own.  And when they see the lasting positive results, they will come back for yet another positive learning experience.

The beautiful thing about that type of lesson is that the experience for both coach and student is completely unique.

Every lesson is as different as the individual standing in front of you.

The coach guided the action, but the student was the creative, engaged explorer who dictated where the lesson would go next.  So by following those steps, instead of the cookie-cutter, ‘how to fix a slice’ sessions that you have seen a million times, each lesson is a far more fulfilling and effective experience for both of us.

Like you, most all of my lessons incorporated these steps in one way or the other.  But organizing them in my mind in these 5 steps has really helped me become more consistent in promoting self-coaching.  The sudden lapses are far more infrequent and I have less and less Coach-Dependents in the lesson book.

Hopefully you will consider taking action on the steps and catering them to your own coaching business.  If you do, I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

Corey Lundberg

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  1. Great post Corey, I had the opportunity of going to the PGA of europe coaching program and became a tutor, part of the course was about this, it also included ways of knowing your student has hit the goal of the lesson, through demostration, description, application, etc. Planning a lesson with all of this in mind have help me and my students a lot.
    Thank you again for a great post!

    1. JVP, thanks for the comment. I love the idea of including a way to know the goal has been hit. For the sake of brevity, I left out some info on defining the objective. I think it’s a good idea to include a measurable to be tested at the end of the lesson. Say for the slicer, design a practice session that says the session can be concluded when 8 out of 10 balls straight or drawing. All this depending on skill level, of course.

      Great point, JVP.

  2. Good teaching techniques all share these common themes. These are the same ones I use to teach high school Physics and coach the golf team. Ball flight rules are day 1 material on my team.

    Spot on!

  3. Self-correction is a very enjoyable aspect of practicing golf. This was a great post. I look forward to reading more and sharing your blog with the Possibility Golf team. . a Legacy of Hope and Healing through Golf that maximizes medically complex children’s lives (kid’s like me) through golf.

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