The development and validation of a golf swing and putt skill assessment for children.

Author:Barnett, Lisa M.
Position:Research article - Report


Fundamental movement skills (FMS) such as running, catching and jumping are considered the foundations of physical activity (Gallahue et al., 2012). Once a child has developed FMS mastery he/she theoretically should be able to progress to developing general motor literacy and potentially sports specific skills (Clark and Metcalfe, 2002). For instance, once a child has mastered a 'kick' he/she can then develop specific types of kicks used in different sports (e.g. a 'punt' kick in Australian Football, or a 'soccer' kick in Football). Likewise, the movement mastered in an overhand throw is integral to perfecting a tennis serve or throwing to a cut-off in baseball or softball. In this sense, FMS can be termed 'generic' movement skills with the possibility that these can be subsequently fine-tuned for specific sports applications (Clark and Metcalfe, 2002; Gallahue et al., 2012; Seefeldt, 1980).

When aiming to assess FMS improvement, a combination of object control (involving the reception or propulsion of an object with either the hand or foot), locomotor (travelling from one point to another) and balance skills (e.g. twisting, turning, and bending) are generally assessed (Henderson et al., 2007; New South Wales Department of Education and Training, 2005; Ulrich, 1985). Process-oriented instruments (e.g. Test of Gross Motor Development-2, TGMD-2 (Ulrich, 2000)) assess the components or critical elements of each skill considered important to master the skill rather than the outcome of the skill execution itself (such as time, distance, accuracy, or number of successful attempts) (Burton and Miller, 1998). Process-oriented instruments are typically used when evaluating FMS (Morgan et al., 2013) as they are more effective in identifying skill deficits, which allows for identification of skill critical elements to focus on for an outcome improvement. Process-oriented assessment of FMS can be characterised by the use of a series of these critical elements, recorded by an assessor as either 'achieved' or 'not achieved'. Therefore process-oriented measures may be more salient for child skill assessments as the information can be used to inform the teacher or coach which specific skill components need practice and therefore they can give specific ideas for improvement (Hands, 2002). Moreover there is some evidence that process and product movement skill assessment scores in children are not highly correlated (Logan et al., 2011), showing that to some degree they are assessing different things, although the literature in this area is limited (Stodden et al., 2008).

A critique of this assessment type is that the 'either/or' dichotomy may not allow for children's progression in their skill development, with floor and ceiling effects also a risk (Gallahue et al., 2012). For example, the strike in the TGMD-2 includes the component: 'Steps with non-preferred foot'; marked as 'achieved' or 'not achieved'. Whereas, if using a developmental sequence approach to assessment, four levels of 'stepping' could be distinguished in a strike (i.e., 1. No forward step, 2. Forward step with ipsilateral leg, 3. Forward step with the contralateral leg, and 4. Long forward step with the contra-lateral leg (Langendorfer, 1987). Rating the child using a dichotomous marking system would mean the child would be classified as either 'level 1', or any of the next three levels, resulting in the test only being able to discriminate at a low level. Nevertheless, if one of the assessment aims is to discriminate between low and somewhat moderately skilled individuals, the use of such process-oriented instruments are well justified.

Effort is occurring at a national level in certain countries to encourage children into golf. For example, in America, The First Tee, a non-profit USA organization (Program descriptions Accessed on 22nd August 2014) provides guidance to schools, communities, and parents in ways to increase young children's golf exposure. Similarly, Australia has MYGolf!, a National junior golf program (, Accessed 7th August 2014). Yet in order to evaluate early level golfing proficiency, a basic or fundamental process-oriented assessment is needed to identify skill deficits and diagnose errors (Winnick, 2009). Coaches, teachers, and parents could use assessment results to provide feedback that aligns with specific errors that the young golfer needs to improve. However, as coaching of young golfers may be delivered by individuals from a range of backgrounds, process-oriented assessments need to be simple enough to accommodate coaches, teachers, and parents whose golf knowledge varies from novice to expert.

While there are instruments which assess a range of FMS, there are no published reliable and valid process-oriented skill assessments to assess children's golf striking ability. A recent systematic review of tests examining skill outcomes in sport, (Robertson et al., 2014) highlighted only three golf tests with documented reliability and/or validity measures, none of which have been tested in children. Additionally, these tests could all be considered product assessments (outcome score), with the first (unnamed) designed to assess putting and pitching and tested in adult males (Porter et al., 2007) and the second and third (the 'Nine-ball skills test' and 'Approach-iron skills test) both reported using elite and sub-elite adult males (Robertson et al., 2012; 2013).

The First Tee has developed sample product-oriented assessments for children (i.e. a test for a 9-10 year old can include whether a child can hit the fairway every 2 out of 5 shots with a wood, hit the green every 2 out of 5 shots with an iron and complete 9 holes under two hours, ( Whilst immediate knowledge of results (Schmidt and Wrisberg, 2008) can be motivating to players (Deci and Ryan, 2008), these product tests provide limited diagnostic information for stakeholders interested in improvement of young golfers. Process-oriented evaluations targeted towards physical education teachers typically informally evolve from the development of a list of critical elements (Graham et al., 2013; Hopple, 1985; Rink, 2009). Thus, given the rising interest in youth golf participation, the purpose of this study was to develop an age-appropriate, process-oriented assessment for children's golf strike and putt strokes based on similar FMS assessment protocols.


Instrument development

Rather than develop a new assessment approach potentially not compatible with established assessment models, we adopted the TGMD-2 format; a common process-oriented assessment of FMS competency in children (Ulrich, 2000). The TGMD-2 assesses FMS competency in 12 skills (one of which is a strike) and has been validated for use in 3 to 10 year old children (Ulrich, 2000). Briefly, the TGMD-2 assessment protocol includes demonstrating each skill to the child prior to the child completing two trials for each FMS (Ulrich, 2000). The number of components performed correctly is summed to produce a total score for each skill, and these can be summed for a total FMS score.

The fundamental skill used in golf is a strike, therefore the TGMD-2 provided a starting point in terms of the strike assessment. The TGMD-2 assesses 'Striking a Stationary Ball' using a baseball bat and the skill components that are assessed are in line with this type of strike. For example, component 2 of the TGMD-2 strike is: 'Non-preferred side of body faces the imaginary tosser with feet parallel.' The third version of the TGMD (due for release in 2015) also includes this assessment with some slight changes. In addition, the TGMD-3 will assess the 'One Hand Forehand Strike of a Self- bounced Ball' as it was recognised by the developer that this strike is popular in many sports around the world (e.g. tennis, badminton) (Personal Communication, Professor Dale Ulrich 27th November 2013). However, the one-hand forehand strike assessment does not include component 2 of the TGMD-2 two-handed side...

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