Making a Golf Shot: Knowledge vs Comprehension

Over the years, I have struggled with the difference between knowing and comprehending something. The distinction might seem minor, however to truly grasp the subtle points of these terms, one must examine how they play golf and why. This topic has many dead ends and quagmires that force players to focus on minute details of how they play golf. My goodness, this sounds allot like my Psych 101 class I took in college, but bare with me, ultimately this discussion will help lower your golf scores.

I have comprehension of the rules, but now need to develop the knowledge of how and where to apply them.

Merriam-Webster defines knowing a topic or having knowledge of a topic as: “the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience.”

Whereas, Merriam-Webster also defines comprehending as: “knowledge gained by comprehending” or understanding a topic.

So what does all this mean? Which is more important? Why do I care? These are great questions and immediately go to the core of our discussion.

In order to perform a golf shot, first the player must comprehend what is required, then through practice gain the knowledge of how to perform that golf shot with consistency in the future.

Have you ever played with someone and asked them how they perform a golf shot? They respond, I am not sure, I just know. It is a bit disturbing to me how they can play that shot with unfailing success and not I understand why.

When I firsted start playing golf about 43 years ago, I was at my local course in Cold Lake, Alberta. As Canada’s largest Royal Canadian Air Force fighter base, we were regularly visited by United States Air Force. One Saturday, I was practicing when I entered a discussion with an older gentlemen who happened to be TSgt in Cold Lake to support a military exercise. During our discussion, he bragged about how he could hit any shot with his 5 wood. He used it for everything (even chipping from time to time). I marveled at his control with his magical club and thought I needed to have that shot in my bag. Little did I know that his advice would set my game back until I stopped trying to only use one club when others were better suited. My point to this look back in history is that the TSgt had a knowledge of using the 5 wood, but no comprehension of what it was actually used for.

Additionally, I have a reverse story where a player is taught how to make a specific shot. (for example taking a lesson from your local pro) They follow the technique perfectly and proceed to use it at every possible opportunity. Not deviating at all from what they were taught. The person has comprehension of how to make the shot, but no knowledge of when or where to apply it. After time and practice, they develop that knowledge and become a better golfer.

The caboose to my train of thought is finally here: to improve your golf game, I believe we must first comprehend what we are trying to accomplish, practice this new skill, then gain the knowledge by using it on the golf course. Unfortunately, many players will do step one, maybe step two, but, at the first signs of trouble in step three, they are back to their old ways.

In my opinion, having knowledge of a golf skill implies the person comprehends the technique and has the experience to apply it at the right time during the right situation. Neither is mutually exclusive. If you do not believe me, go to youtube; are all the golf instructional videos teaching comprehension or knowledge? You already know what I think (comprehension in case I was not clear)  😉

What do you think? Can you have knowledge of a golf technique without comprehending why?

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

4 thoughts on “Making a Golf Shot: Knowledge vs Comprehension

  1. Have you ever seen a video where the presenter can diagnose a swing that was made based on the divot that was left? Can you tell by the look of that divot whether you were heel down or toe down or flat? Whether you hit ball or ground first? Whether your swing was inside to outside or vice versa? Can you make corrections to your swing based on things like that? Or based on the balls flight? Can you add lag or reduce lag, hit a draw or a fade or big a slice on demand? Most of us know a lot less than we think about golf technique nor do we have a good comprehension of how to figure out our issues when they arise. But we can execute shots. So I’d have to answer your question with a resounding yes.


    • Kevin

      Great points all. I agree with your view, but with limitations. You can execute some shots, but application in new and difficult situations become difficult without the comprehension of how to hit a specific shot. I almost as if we doing a chicken or egg discussion.



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