Nancy Dunn-Kato is a very well respected golf instructor, one ot the top junior golf instructors in the country. In our interview she talks about the gamification of teaching the golf swing; how she makes these simple little games to help kids learn the golf swing. There’s a movement in education about gamification, working to make the learning experience more fun and enjoyable.
Nancy Dunn-Kato has been a Certified Class A LPGA Teaching & Club Professional Member since 1989. She has played and taught golf for over 24 years.
Nancy’s company SWINGplay and its concepts are a direct result of her dedicated work with junior golfers and a real, practical, understanding of what works best. SWINGplay’s unique programs are specifically designed to focus the learning needs of young and adult golfers at all levels from beginner to advanced players. The SWINGplay systems and methods reinforce the play in golf – to keep the learning experience fun, positive, and filled with success that grows naturally out of children’s play. Skill and ability grow quickly through the game-play!
It’s obvious that Nancy really understands the golf swing, and how to teach the golf swing. She made a lot of good points; young golfers teaching other young golfers how to play the game and how young kids can teach parents and how valuable that can be and how you can bring the family together.
The thing she talked about that I want to expand on is making the golf swing fun. She talked about breaking it down into little smaller components, and then teaching that in a fun game type of way – gamification. She’s talking about making rainbows, knocking out shark’s teeth, dragons, Leprechauns, shooting spray guns. I’ve actually had a chance to see some of the stuff she is talking about and it’s very cool. I can see how young people can accept and understand it all very quickly because of the way she sets up these little games.
In education, we get so much information from so many different resources. Before the internet, teachers were more on their own. Now, there’s someone like Nancy who creates this killer program about how to teach the golf swing to young kids. She can take that and give that to golf instructors across the country and they can understand. I think this gamification of learning coincides with our social culture and the way that we are able to share knowledge today. It really enhances the learning experience, I think education needs to go that way. Having a teacher that stands in front of a class and lectures is like if Nancy were a golf instructor that stood there and just tells you what you’re doing wrong. Versus, talking about rainbows and dragons, you can imagine the difference that would have on a little child. You can teach the golf swing, just like you can teach anything else, through this gamification process.
What do you think about this gamification process?
Find out more about gamification of the golf swing, Nancy, and SwingPlay
- “It was really frustrating. I never wanted anyone to feel that way. I believed in my heart that I could find a way to make it much more easy for other people.”
- “Golf has been made too hard to understand and it doesn’t have to be that way; it could be easier.”
- “I love teaching teachers.”
- “They’re learning and they don’t even know their learning. That’s the fun part.”
- “I really really wanted to create something different.”
- “People helping people and using golf as a way to get the community together.”
- “I just wanted to make something that makes the world a little better.”
More From the Interview
Nancy got involved in golf in college when a couple cute guys invited her to play at Torrey Pines. She borrowed a pair of clubs that morning and finished the day with a couple pars. When she told her golf buddies it was her first day, they were impressed. She checked out the golf scene and had the idea to become a pro in one year. She found a golf instructor, worked hard and reached her goal in a year and a half. She made several mini tours and was on the top ten list.
After her swing, put a coke can on her pitching wedge and she had to balance it, that was the start of all the games she began creating. It was about finding a way to make it fun after the lesson so she could understand it.
“When we were on the mini tour, none of us could afford golf lessons. So whoever would go get a golf lesson they would come and teach us what they learned.”
She got to train with Derek Hardy, who taught her a lot, she could have gone on and qualified for the tour, but she wanted to get better and shoot under par more often, but that wasn’t happening. She changed her path.
She wanted to become a teacher, so she could understand why the lessons were so confusing. “I would cry in front of Derek Hardy all the time, because I couldn’t understand what he was saying. It was really frustrating. I never wanted anyone to feel that way. I believed in my heart that I could find a way to make it much more easy for other people.”
She joined the LPGA, started as an apprentice, and was able to move up. She was lucky to be able to study under Chuck Hogan. He was part of the LPGA teaching them how to become better teachers. He was all about making things fun, and to do it through games. When she asked him how to be a better teacher, he said don’t just tell people what to do, they need to know why they should do it.
She started on a path where I broke down the whole game.
“It’s just taking old terminologies and making everything easier and something that people can put their thoughts around and understand really quickly and it’s kind of amazing if you can use games or sensory perceptive play, which is what I love to do.”
What is SwingPlay?
She took every part of the game and separated it into modules. Then broke it down into simple understandable sensory perception with a skill game, a sound game or anything with the senses. She uses story telling. With young kids she teaches them how to make rainbows and their club is the paint brush; there’s all kinds of different rainbows for the different golf swings. She is telling them how to make rainbows, but they’re learning about a golf swing.
Kids have hands-on experiences and they become more self aware. They get to experiment all through play and self discovery. The kids have a great time. They’re learning and they don’t even know they’re learning. That’s the fun part.
She says, the educators of the world, they get it. It’s the 21st century of learning; it’s more hands on and discovery, let the people figure it out for themselves.
I’ve had high school kids and college kids help mentor these younger kids with table top projects. These kids get to be mentors and as they are helping the younger kids they are learning too.
What do you enjoy most about teaching golf?
Watching people’s reaction when they get it.
What life lessons and values do you think golf teaches?
Patience, love, respect. One thing about a golf course is, it’s like a park, it’s green and beautiful. Teach them to pick up trash and take care of the golf green. It’s a place where kids can go and be in nature.
Her book, Golf Greenland, is a 4 hour lesson all about putting, through story-telling and games. The fundamentals you learn in putting just go larger as you go up the game.
She wants to find a good home for her program. She’s really excited that Newport Beach YMCA is excited about it. She’d like to see it at more places libraries, schools, and places like restaurants. Maybe even try to standardize golf using everything she has created, make it more fun and get more people involved.