Visual Perception of the Golf Swing by Expert and Novice Coaches

Cheyne A. Sherman, William A. Sparrow, & Damien Jolley

School of Health Sciences, Deakin University,
Burwood Australia


Using a computer-based videotape analysis system a randomized series of videotaped golf swings was administered to 10 expert and 10 novice golf coaches in an attempt to determine the characteristics of their internal model or "prototype" of golf swing kinematics. A global measure of the internal model was obtained by having subjects independently inspect the swings of eight golfers and estimate their golf handicaps. A micro level of analysis was also undertaken by requiring subjects to indicate what they considered to be "ideal" swing characteristics using 17 predetermined limb, club, and body position angles for various phases of the swing. Videotaped swings for a highly skilled and a beginner golfer were used for this task.

Although the training requirements for expert coaches are much more demanding and their playing ability higher, evidence of internal model differences was not found in either the handicap estimation or the "preferred-angle" tasks. Experts tended to overestimate and novices underestimate handicaps, but no significant differences were found between the groups. Furthermore, a golfer’s swing may be perceived to have deficiencies but still produce sufficient accuracy to engender a low handicap. On the second task, only two of the estimated swing angles showed a significant difference between the coach groups. Differences for both groups of coach-observer were found when comparing preferred angles of the highly skilled to the beginner player’s swing.

Important implications of this finding are that more or less expert coaches are similar in their ability to identify fundamental characteristics of the golf swing. It is concluded, however, that if more complex or advanced features of the golf swing were examined advanced coaches would make visual discriminations consistent with a more elaborate or sophisticated internal model of the action.