Golf Coaches’ Perceptions Of Key Technical Swing Parameters (P2)

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Sixteen high-level golf coaches participated in the study. A minimum sample size of fifteen golf coaches was initially deemed appropriate given the time and resources available. After interviewing the fifteen coaches it became apparent that a ‘saturation’ stage had been reached and therefore another coach was recruited to confirm saturation and the study was subsequently terminated. The participants were aged 24 – 51 years (mean = 39.0 years; s = 7.6 years) and had an average of 18 years of golf coaching expertise (s = 8.2 years). Several criteria were specified to identify golf coaches with an appropriate level of technical knowledge. Firstly, the coach had gained at least a Level 3 Professional Golf Association (PGA) qualification, with Level 4 being the pinnacle of current golf coach education in the UK. Secondly, the coach had five or more years of coaching experience and was currently still coaching. Finally, the coach needed experience of coaching an elite golfer, for example a tour level golfer or international golfer. Of the coaches who participated, fifteen had coached a golfer that had played on either an amateur or professional tour and one had coached an international level golfer. In addition, all coaches that participated were scratch golfers and several had played golf to a high level before pursuing a career in golf coaching. Previous research studies investigating a coach’s technical knowledge have used similar criteria when defining coaching expertise. All golf coaches and golfers observed during the technical sessions gave their informed consent and ethical clearance was obtained from Loughborough University Ethical Advisory Committee.


A combination of observations followed by interviews were used to determine the golf coaches’ perceptions of the key technical parameters of an elite golf swing. Conducting interviews after the participant has been observed can allow more in depth exploration of the key themes identified during the observation and help to inform the focus of proceeding interviews.


An overt observational style was adopted in a field setting where a typical technical coaching session, led by the golf coach, would take place. A technical coaching session was defined as a session where the golfer would use a driver or long iron and the focus was on the full golf swing. The golfer being coached was requested to be of the highest standard accessible to the coach at the time of the observation, for example an elite golfer. The coaching sessions lasted between 45 and 120 minutes. A standard video camera (Panasonic, Japan) was used to obtain a record of the coaching session. The video camera was positioned at an appropriate distance from the coach and golfer so that the session could be visually and audibly recorded whilst not interfering with the coaching session. In addition, an observer stood near the technical coaching area to record comprehensive field notes of the coaching session. The terms and phrases used by the coach were noted and used during proceeding interviews. An observation guide was used to organise the field notes into four sections detailing the structure of the session, coach behaviour, technology used and technical analysis of the golf swing.


Following the observation, a semi-structured interview was conducted with the coach. This approach allows interviews to be partially guided by observational findings while still remaining systematic across coaches by using guided unambiguous questions. The interviews were conducted at the same location as the coaching session; therefore increasing the level of comfort for the coach and the probability of attaining high-quality information.

An interview guide, divided into two sections, was designed and implemented to provide a basic structure to the interview enabling continuity and comparability between interviews. The coach was given a brief introduction to the interview purpose and was instructed to answer all questions in relation to an elite golfer’s swing. The first section focussed on the structure of the technical coaching session with information gleaned about their coaching behaviour, for example the position from which they observed the golfer and their use of technology. The second section focussed on their perception of the technical aspects of an elite golf swing. Each section began with an initial open-ended question, followed by further questioning to explore the coaches’ response in more detail as to their precise meaning. The questions asked were unambiguous and did not force the responses from the coaches, which was confirmed by the feedback given by coaches following the interview process. Any information gleaned from the observations that were not commented on by coaches during initial questioning were also introduced and probed with further questioning. The interviews lasted between 30 – 45 minutes and were recorded using a dictaphone (Zoom, Japan) from which typed transcripts were produced for data analysis.


Based on grounded theory, an inductive approach to qualitative data analysis was used to identify the golf coaches’ perceptions of key technical parameters. This approach allowed important technical parameters to emerge from the data and has been successful in studies of similar purpose, for example, when exploring elite sprint coaches’ knowledge of sprinting. The QSR-NVivo (QSR International, Australia) qualitative analysis software was used as it allowed all sources of data, for example video and audio, to be collated within a single project.

Following transcription of each interview, it was important to become grounded in the data in order to begin organising the data into meaning units based on the content, in a process known as coding(Figure 1). Transcripts were coded line-by-line by the principal researcher (AS), which involved highlighting quotes into meaningful units of data, which represented an event, object or action/interaction. Excerpts of video, captured during the observation, were also coded in this way.

Figure 1. Inductive qualitative data analysis approach used in this study based on grounded theory

The meaning units were compared for similarities and differences in themes. Those found to have similar themes were grouped together at a higher level into sub-categories. If subcategories also shared a common theme these were grouped together and became branches to an overall higher order category. This process was continued until there were as few unassignable themes as possible. Themes that were unassignable were either disregarded or kept if regarded important. To refine the coding hierarchy, the terms used for meaning units were re-examined and those terms deemed to serve a similar analytical purpose were given a single meaning unit title. The constant comparison of units ensured a close connection between codes and the data and provided a check for coding consistency. Furthermore, the researcher re-visited a single transcript and made notes on the themes and then compared this to the original coding to ensure coding was consistent and accurate. A second researcher was also given several excerpts of a coach’s transcript from the interview and was instructed to carry out line-by-line coding to identify their own meaning units. The meaning units identified by the second researcher were then compared to the original meaning units to ensure that the most appropriate interpretation of the data had been achieved.

The outcome of this analysis resulted in several higher order categories, sub-categories and associated meaning units, which represented the golf coaches’ perceptions of the key technical parameters that were associated with an elite golf swing.

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