The Great Debate

By Jim McNaney

In 1858, then U.S. Senatorial Candidates from the State of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas faced off in a series of seven debates that have become known as The Great Debates. While they were merely going for a seat on the Senate floor, the debates covered a wide range of national political issues including many of the issues President Lincoln would face while in office as the Commander in Chief.

While the words used in those debates are significantly more civilized than those we see in today’s political climate, the tone was most certainly as contentious as anything we are currently going through.

Don’t worry… I promise I am not going to talk about politics.
There is, however, a debate in the golf world today that certainly feels as contentious as any we’ve seen recently in the political realm.
In my day job, I teach golf for a living. The company I work for seeks to “Help People Play Better Golf” using computers and technology. Computers are used to create a fact-based diagnosis of a players swing to help them formulate a plan to reach whatever their golfing goal was.

The key words there were “fact based.”
My company is only one of many companies and academies that have made that type of switch over the last 25 years or so. The use of new technologies like launch monitors and Gears System are not the new rage but rather the new normal.

Herein lies the debate. There is one well know commentator for Golf Channel that has made his name by not only disagreeing with modern instruction, he claims we are all dead wrong and he is the only one with the answer. Brandel Chamblee has taken it upon himself to not only try to discredit all modern instruction, but seems to have a vendetta against Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer. Mike and Andy are the founders of a swing method called Stack & Tilt.

Full disclosure, I know a lot of Stack & Tilt Instructors. Some of my best friends are Stack & Tilt Instructors. The people I know are great instructors and I’ve seen first-hand how they help people play better golf every day.
I am NOT at Stack & Tilt Instructor.

I also have many friends in the business that are not big fans of Stack & Tilt. I have friends from my days of teaching Moe Norman’s swing at Natural Golf that think many things opposite of Stack & Tilt. The one thing none of these people on either side of the debate have done is call each other names. There is a mutual respect between good instructors. There is also healthy debate and shared learning of ideas and methods to help people play better golf. At the end of the day, our jobs are not to prove how right we are, our jobs are to help golfers play better.

Good instructors wake up every morning asking, “What can I learn today?” not “What can I teach?” Good instructors talk to fellow instructors via chat rooms on the Internet, teaching and coaching seminars through the PGA of America. The very best instructors among us also have one critically important trait in common: they don’t think they “know it all.”

Brandel seems to say that he “knows it all.” He’s even written a book about it. He’s gone so far as to insinuate that instructors that listen to the teachings of Andy and Mike or other modern instructors are being led much like lemmings to the sea.

Here’s the problem: it’s ok to have an opinion. Opinions can lead to healthy debate and learning. However, opinions are not facts. I don’t care what Brandel’s opinions are, as an instructor I want to know facts before I plot a course of action.

It appears that Brandel likes to go with observations and opinions. Good instructors, from all over the industry measure and use facts. One other thing that good instructors do that Brandel does not do is TEACH lessons! Good instructors spend countless hours each day adjusting and adapting their teaching to suit the individual in front of them.

Good Instructors DO NOT make blanket generalizations and minimalize the very real and profound exceptions to every rule we face daily.
Good Instructors DO NOT discredit the hard work or education of another instructor.
Good Instructors DO NOT name call.
Good Instructors DO NOT claim to know it all.

In the end, Douglas won the U.S. Senate Seat for Illinois. Lincoln won the Presidential Election of 1860 and guided this country through our darkest hour… and saved the Union. In the end, a good instructor will help you play better golf, not a commentator on Golf Channel.

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