Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Golf and the Dunning Kruger Effect

By admin Jun26,2024

As a golf instructor, I’ve been through the Dunning Kruger effect and watched many fall into the same trap.

This post explains my own journey through this logical trap.

Hopefully, it will help you, or someone you know, through it quicker.


Want To Improve?

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It has awesome information on exactly what creates good gold shots, as well as some simple drills you can implement today.


What Is The DKE?

The Dunning Kruger Effect (DKE) is a cognitive bias where people with low ability/levels of knowledge tend to over-estimate the value of what they know, or their abilities.

1 In the chart, we see confidence starts out low when we know nothing about a subject. For me, this related to when I first started learning about golf.


The Rise

Between 1-2 As we acquire knowledge about the subject, we very quickly start to over-estimate the value of that knowledge. 


This is that person who reads a single book about a subject and suddenly knows “everything” about it.

For example, someone who reads “Hogan’s 5 fundamentals” and thinks this is everything you need to know to master the game.


Mt Stupid

Eventually we reach the peak of Mt stupid. 

I think this is a little harsh, as it’s not technically a lack of intelligence, but you reach a point where you know enough to think you know it all.


This was me after I had learned so much about the mechanics of the swing – things like

  • plane
  • clubface position at the top
  • laid off vs across the line
  • different P-positions
  • kinematic sequencing etc.

I thought, if I could just master these things then my game would be fire.


The Fall

Eventually, as you start to implement this knowledge, you quickly realize it’s not everything.


Even if you get better in the process, you start to realize there are significant knowledge-gaps.

This was me after hitting all the positions I wanted in my swing (on camera) and not playing as well as I thought I would.


Valley of Despair

Your confidence sinks and you eventually reach “the valley of despair”. 


This was me after implementing all the knowledge I had about the swing in my own game and then, as a new teacher, into the swings of others and NOT seeing success.

Maybe everything I knew was wrong? What on earth can I be missing here? Should I even be teaching the game?


Slope Of Enlightenment

Then, as you acquire even more knowledge and experience, your confidence cautiously grows. 

“Ok I’m starting to figure some things out, but I’m being more critical about it as I remember that time at the peak of Mt Stupid”


For me, the slope of enlightenment came after learning about impact physics.

Now I had definite answers as to why a ball did what it did, and could start to see the links between what I implemented in a player (and my own swing) and how it changed impact.


Plateau of Sustainability

The plateau of sustainability – the expert arena.

This is where you have acquired an incredible wealth of knowledge and understanding.

But you still are cautious.

Wise men say, only fools rush in”


For me, this is where I have

  • A deep understanding of what a golfer needs to do to get better
  • A deep understanding of the physics and geometry that creates good golf shots
  • Systems for improvement
  • Tens of thousands of hours of thinking about and implementing the above


Confidence Gap

So why the confidence gap? Why am I not as sure about everything as some people with less knowledge?


Well, I understand that we don’t know what we don’t know.

I also understand that there is so much more we are yet to learn about this game. Even in the past few years, we have started to learn much more about

  • kinetics
  • motor learning
  • increasing margins for error
  • reasons for movement individuality etc.

There’s also the issue of, when implementing a new piece of information (such as a swing move), how the person responds to that can be unpredictable.

For example, I can see the error that a playing partner is doing on the course, but I often refuse to give advice about it on the course, as I know that this is not the environment to be learning a brand new swing move. 


Those Experts Are Dumb

Another interesting element of the DKE is that someone at the peak of Mt Stupid (again, harsh term, and not mine) might actually look at an expert and think they know more.

I often see this with some of the guys I play with (friends – not pupils).

My advice to them is often super simple. And I’ve even proven to them that it works.

But they often fall down complex rabbit holes after watching YouTube videos, and can think that my advice is lacking depth because of its simplicity.

I often find myself having to bite my tongue as they’re explaining to me in the bar, after a round, about something new in the swing they’ve just learned about that, if they can just implement in their own swing will be “just the thing they need”.

This might be something I learned about 20 years ago and since discarded due to its lack of efficacy.


Build Your Critical Thinking Skills

Hope you enjoyed this (my)  journey through the Dunning Kruger Effect for golf.

If you want to learn more about my philosophies and what I HAVE found to work for golfers, check out my programs below.


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