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Common Barriers to Improvement in Players4 min read

Dr. Brian HemmingsAuthor: Dr. Brian Hemmings

Posted on: 6th May 2016

One of the major challenges facing the PGA Professional is to quickly identify changes needed in a player’s game, and to set a path of instruction to improve skill levels. 

Whilst much more is now known about preferences in learning styles and how information is delivered by the coach and received by a player, often there are more simple barriers to improvement within a player that need to be understood if the coach is to be successful.

Here are 5 of the most common barriers to improvement from a psychological perspective and the teaching approach which needs to be taken.

1. ‘I don’t know what to do’Information
2. ‘I don’t know how to do it’Demonstration
3. ‘I don’t know why I should do it’Education
4. ‘I don’t know when to do it’Direction
5. ‘I can’t do it’Persuasion

Guidance for the PGA Professional:

Listen carefully to the words a pupil or player uses to explain their needs during coaching sessions to best direct you to your course of action.  You will find players vary in their needs over time, and when working on different skills.   Also if you feel a player is not making progress, take time to consider if you have delivered your coaching message in a variety of ways to aid learning and development.

There are also many other barriers that may prevent your player from making progress in their golf game. In other words, they may know what they need to get better at, but prevent themselves from doing so in any number of ways. Many aspects such as poor practice habits might be modified with help and instruction, but often there are underpinning barriers that need to be identified and challenged.

Physical Barriers may be:

  1. Poor sleep habits
  2. Poor diet/hydration
  3. Poor fitness

Emotional Barriers may be:

  1. Low stress tolerance
  2. Being inflexible
  3. Frequent impatience or frustration
  4. Low motivation
  5. Lack of trust in others

Mental Barriers may be:

  1. Poor concentration
  2. Poor time management
  3. Slow decision making/problem solving
  4. Lack of discipline or follow-through
  5. Lack of time alone practising


Guidelines for overcoming barriers:

Often players can bemoan their lack of progress at golf, yet do not really tackle the barriers that really undermine their progress. In raising awareness of the barriers and agreeing on possible solutions, players can often begin to change unhelpful habits that block them moving forward. Many of the skills covered in my online course (see below) will seek to equip the golfer with new skills, but it is useful to simply talk through with your players where some simple changes might be made. Some examples might be:

Expand physical capability by:

  1. Keeping a good diet
  2. Avoiding late night eating or moderate alcohol consumption
  3. Going to bed early/waking up early
  4. Exercising daily

Expand emotional capability by:

  1. Socialising and having time with friends
  2. Having ‘down time’ from golf
  3. Thinking of others’ needs as well as your own
  4. Having other hobbies

Expand  mental capability by:

  1. Planning practice sessions
  2. Engaging in physical activity
  3. Keeping a practice diary
  4. Practising alone on some occasions

Considering Your Spring 2015 Coach Education?

Online Course now also available in German and Spanish

“This online course has to be the best value for money training I have seen from the PGA. I use the activities with my clients and have seen improvements in their game of golf. Working with players and …understanding now more about mindset makes it easier to coach and enhance performance….”

Phil Allen, PGA of GB&I Professional, Holland

In 2012 Brian released a fully online Golf Psychology Coaching Certificate course that is approved by the PGA of GB&I (100 CPD points) and PGAs of Europe, and has been completed with great reviews by over 350 PGA professionals and coaches worldwide.  Go to for full details.  The course is full of practical activities and information on assessing mental skills, goals and motivation, attention control, confidence building, and anxiety reduction techniques for the PGA professional to guide players through improving their mental game. The course is endorsed by some of England’s best coaches.  You can complete the course at home so you will have no travel costs or time away from your work.  All you need is a player to work with and the time to complete the course activities.   For a price reduction type in the discount code PGAE to reduce the price from £295 to £215.

Dr. Brian HemmingsAuthor: Dr. Brian Hemmings

Dr. Brian Hemmings was lead psychologist to England golf during 1997 to 2013. During this time he helped develop the mental skills of the best emerging English golfers including the likes of Ross Fisher, Danny Willett, Tom Lewis, Tommy Fleetwood and Chris Wood.   Brian is author of the book ‘Mental Toughness for Golf: The Minds of Winners’ and also runs Masterclasses for sport psychologists and golf coaches.

Find out more at