Does your game suffer from inconsistency? Do you play well one shot, one hole, or one round only to fall apart the next? Do you practice better than you play? Does your game suffer when the pressure to succeed intensifies? Does your practice swing disintegrate into a series of slashes, swats, and lunges when hitting balls? Do you have difficulty developing proper mechanics? If so, you are not alone. These problems encompass the bane of all golfers, including touring pros. It’s not golfers that are flawed but the system that we use to learn and practice – hitting balls to develop physical fundamentals. This method violates most sound learning principles. Below you will find just a few of those principles and why traditional practice methods fail.
First, Learning Specialists agree that no more than 24 hours should pass between practices early in learning. Otherwise, most of the short term memory developed in one practice is lost before the next practice and you have to learn all over again. Long-term memory is developed through constant activation of short term memory. If you were learning a musical instrument you would be practicing every day. How often do you go to the range? Most golfers are lucky to make it once or twice a week, leaving too much time between practices so memory is lost. The more time between practices the more memory is lost.
Second, developing competing memories for the same activity makes it difficult to retrieve the correct memory when needed. There is only way to swing a club correctly and an infinite number of ways to do it wrong. The golf swing is unnatural and so complex that it’s impossible not to develop competing memories with traditional training methods. Every time you swing the club incorrectly you develop short term memory for that particular flawed swing. The more often you swing that way the stronger the memory. When you attempt to correct your flawed swing, but are unsuccessful, you develop a new flawed swing. The more often you are unsuccessful in your attempts to correct swing flaws the more different flawed swing you produce. The more often you unintentionally produce different flawed swings the more swings you store in memory that compete with your correct swing, if you ever develop sound swing fundamentals this way.
If through a process of trial and error, which is really what happens when we hit balls trying to develop sound swing fundamentals, even with professional instruction, you develop the memory for just three different swings (one correct and two flawed) every time you swing the club in the future your brain has to choose between each of these three memories. Since this is done on an unconscious level you never are sure which memory (swing) will be retrieved when you hit a ball unless you have the appropriate attentional focus. Since golfers aren’t trained to focus properly prior to and during execution of the swing there is greater likelihood that the wrong swing will appear.
Even if golfers are trained in attentional focus, because golf is an achievement activity with expectations for success, the fact that we failed so many times in the past increases the pressure to succeed. This undue pressure triggers the fight-or-flight reflex which releases hormones into the body putting us in survival mode. Since our nervous system doesn’t know the difference between threats to our life and the fear of failure to meet our golfing expectations, the same physical, attentional, and visual changes occur. While these changes help us survive life-threatening events it wreaks havoc on our golf game. Because golfers aren’t trained to inhibit or reverse this process their performance suffers even more.
There are many other factors that affect golfers’ ability to develop sound golf fundamentals; all of which are related to a flawed learning system. Target Oriented Golfhas spent the last thirty years perfecting an alternative approach to training that is based on scientifically accepted learning principles, motor learning, biomechanics, behavioral conditioning (NLP), and Sports Vision. More about a cutting edge approach to learning golf’s fundamentals will appear in future posts.
Photo by pocketwiley