One of the first questions I ask a new pupil as they stand over the ball is “What swing thoughts do you have?” I am often met with something like this
Well, I put my feet together and then take a small step either side of the ball, making sure the ball is in the middle of my stance. Then I make sure I have 2 knuckles showing on my left and right hand grip. Then I try to get my shoulders aligned towards the target. Then in my swing I hinge my wrists in the backswing and try to turn my shoulders 90 degrees. Then I start the downswing by shifting my weight towards the towards the target and finishing with my belt buckle towards the target and club on the back of my neck and back foot up off the ground.
Learning is not adding
Most adults, I find, really do not understand learning things. Learning is not a case of adding more and more to the list of already learned items. Hell, If I thought about everything I have ever learned in the golf swing, it would be a 24 hour round.
- We learn something new
- We work hard to assimilate it into our games/swing/movement
- Given enough practice, we will start to do it without thinking
When I get someone overly analytical like this, I often do this test.
I ask them to walk into a shot and hit the ball and hit the ball as quickly as possible without thinking of any of their ‘checklist’. I then video this swing, and we compare it to the swing which is full of thought and analysis.
In almost every case, the things that they try to do consciously are still there when they are not thinking of them at all. The vast majority of people do not all of a sudden make a completely different finish position because they are not consciously directing it.
Sometimes, the nike logo is good advice for golfers
Why is this important?
Too many golfers are screwing themselves up by having too many thought processes going on at any one time. This often leads to paralysis by analysis, where someone’s move either becomes so unnatural that it can’t function and/or they literally cannot pull the trigger and start the swing anymore.
Also, a lot of scientific research has shown that trying to consciously control already learned moves can lead to choking and poor performance.
I am sure we have all experienced where someone tells us something about our swing that we weren’t aware of, and then for the next few holes we cannot hit the ball anymore.
Badge of honor
The way I see it, learning golf (or learning anything) is similar to collecting medals.
In order to get the medal in the first place, you have to work your ass off and go outside of your comfort zone. This is similar to adding a new move/skill in golf. But once you have it, you will have it for life – it won’t just leave you because you are not mentally attending to it.
Through practice, the skills we learn become mentally ingrained and should move from the conscious mind to the subconscious mind. This is a crude way of saying that, once skills are learned, we shouldn’t (in most cases) think about them anymore. Just like you don’t think of what the shape of a letter A looks like when you write a sentence. You just think the words, and the writing flows out.
The only thing I would say is that you can’t let the medals/skills just sit and rot. You will always have them there, but occasionally, you will have to polish them.
Old habits creep back in, and learned pieces can become a little rusty. So it’s ok to give your earned medals a little tune up every now and again – just try not to get them all out at once.
None of us can play golf
If you want to learn more about what to learn, how to learn it, as well as when to learn certain elements, click below to read more about the book “The Practice – The Ultimate Guide for Golfers”, available on amazon.
If you want to learn the quickest way to improve your game (by improving your strike quality), check out The Strike Plan. Click the link below to learn more
- Don’t get caught into the trap of too many swing thoughts
- Once learned, move onto the next piece of the puzzle, but understand that you don’t have to consciously attend to what you have already learned – it will still be there even if you are not thinking of it.
- Consciously attending to learned moves can cause poor performance in some cases (not all).