This article will help you understand a little more about how to make a mid-season technical improvement without causing disruption to your game.
Performance is not learning
Most people don’t understand this; they naturally believe that if they are performing something well they are learning. But performance and learning are often poles apart.
For example, in learning a new movement or skill, you may initially perform poorly at it simply because it is new or different to what you have been doing before. Your horrible swing might create better shots for you at this moment in time, but a different move / perfecting a skill should give you better results in the future, once it is ingrained. Just like you might drive an old banged up car much better than a formula one car, simply because you are accustomed to the banger – a topic I wrote about before (see related articles at the end of this post).
Another example would be a player doing random practice. As they are doing it, they may perform poorly because of the increased difficulty of the task. However, the long term benefits of random practice are an increase in retention of learning as well as better transference to the course.
Blocked practice may perform well initially, but it may not be the best long term strategy for learning
When I changed my angle of attack and gained 56 yards of distance, initially it felt horrible.
I was so used to the old way of hitting down on the ball that I performed better with it, even though it went nowhere. But I knew I had to gain distance, so I continued with the change, safe in the knowledge that it would feel more comfortable and perform better with more practice.
But during that time, I couldn’t just go on the course and whack it everywhere, I had to find something that would perform.
So, what I did was to take two approaches/mindsets. One which accelerated the learning but initially caused poor performance, and another which allowed me to perform more optimally when I needed it.
A few weeks ago, I talked about the golf improvement scale. I used this scale when learning to change my angle of attack. I placed the technique on a scale of -10 to +10, with -10 being hitting down as much as I could, and +10 hitting up on the ball as much as I could.
+10, hitting up as much as I could
-10, hitting down as much as I could
During my practice sessions, I would ramp up the scale and try and hit as much up on the ball as possible (pink). During this phase, I wouldn’t really care much about the general performance. Sure, I would want to see some success so I knew what I was doing was correct, but I didn’t have to have success 100% of the time.
However, if I were to be playing the course next day, I would use a different mindset when practicing; I would explore the scale and find out where my optimal performances came.
So, for example, I may find out that I hit the driver with a more consistent performance when I felt closer to a 0 or +3 on the scale. This allowed me to go on the course and use this feeling to play more optimally, although at the expense of speeding up learning a more positive AOA.
So, say you know what you are trying to change, and you know where you want to be
- Train for what you desire
- Play with what you perform best
So, you might be at a -7 and shooting for a +3, but you may currently perform best at a -2
Performance is sometimes learning
The above scenario is not always the case. There are certain changes which improve both learning and performance. For example, I often improve someone’s ability to contact the ground better, seeing both an improvement is performance instantly as well as increased learning of this skill.
But it is important to realize that sometimes we may need to be at different parts of the scale during different stages of our development. For example, in winter training, it may be more beneficial practice with the intention of maximal learning/change, as performance doesn’t matter as much in this stage of the season.
For more information about what, how and when to learn certain skills and techniques for golf, click below to read more about “The Practice Manual – The Ultimate Guide for Golfers”, available on amazon.