by Mark Sweeney
Founder, AimPoint Golf
If you were to ask me which brand I would want to own, the answer would be Coca-Cola. One of the world’s most valuable brands, Coke has been around since 1886. The reason I would pick Coke is because the original product has essentially not changed in 130 years. The founders found a winning formula which people luckily have not demanded revisions to, unlike a technology company like Apple.
As a golf coach, one thing that surprises me is how great players continuously find things to modify. It’s one thing if your performance is not good enough to achieve your goals, but there are players who are winning millions of dollars every year who find too many things to work on. And often it’s not the players themselves but their coaches who push for change. A common temptation for coaches is to feel the need to always “add value”, meaning if a coach has nothing to help the player improve, then they feel like they’re not needed so they find things to work on. I know the feeling. When a player is putting great and asks for advice, it’s hard to say “It looks great” and not find some fault somewhere.
One of the hardest thing for a coach, especially a new one, is the ability to tell a player that things are good enough and to not try to change them. Golf is frustrating because performance cycles up and down, and it can be hard to get through the down cycles without searching for something to fix. The skill is to know what is working correctly and leave it alone, while identifying what specifically is holding the player back and address those issues only. In other words, don’t change the Coca-Cola formula.
In 1985 Coca-Cola replaced its original formula with New Coke in response to the Pepsi Challenge and it was an epic failure. Taste tests by Pepsi showed that people preferred a sweeter taste and Coca-Cola actually tried to replace its 100-year old formula with a sweeter one. A move that was later abandoned and considered one of the worst brand mistakes ever made. It turns out the taste tests were misleading because people preferred sweeter tastes in small quantities, but not when drinking a whole can of soda.
The lesson for players and coaches is to be able to separate what’s working from what’s not, and to leave the fundamentally sound things alone. How do you separate the two? Performance metrics. Forget about what looks pretty, if the player is meeting or beating performance metrics in a certain area, leave it alone. Are you hitting 15 greens per round with an average proximity of 15 feet? Leave it alone. Are you starting your putts online with a less than perfect stroke? Leave it alone. Are you pitching to only 10 feet when missing the green? Well you’ve got some work to do there. Golf is incredibly multi-dimensional but players can only modify a few things at a time at the most. Track your performance and know what your performance metrics and goals are. Then strive to improve the areas where you are not good enough, but leave Coke alone.