Welcome to the first in a series of 10 bitesize Golf Tips offering you practical ways to improve your Golf Practice.
If you struggle with taking your game from the range to the course, or if you struggle with making your perfect practice swing when there is a ball there, this article will offer you insights.
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Practice Tip #10
When I am giving a lesson, I first watch a person hit a few balls to get a feeling for their movement and see the shape of the flight. Then I ask them a simple question
What is your target here?
Amazingly, I would say that 50% (probably more) of players then respond by looking a little confused (or embarrassed), standing back from the ball, saying “Ummmm”, before then picking a rough target which lines up with their mat.
This shows me one thing – you never had the target in mind when you were hitting the shot.
People often forget that golf is a target sport.
As obvious as it may sound, lots of players (good players too) will often get so wrapped up in the swing itself and the movement, that they forget they need to link that movement to the result itself. They often use the flight of the ball as a gauge of how well they are hitting it (such as the feeling of the strike, or the curvature on the shot), without actually linking it to whether it landed on a desired target.
It is pointless flushing a perfectly straight shot if it is 45 degrees offline.
Motor learning Science
In motor learning, we have a phrase called “Perception-action coupling”. This refers to how all of your perceptions of
- Where the target is in space
- The environment (wind, lie etc)
- Your normal shot patterns (draw/fade)
- Danger on the hole (such as OB left)
- Previous experiences (such as the fact you have hit your last 10 shots left on this hole)
and much much more link to the action you provide. We then get a result (good or bad), which then feeds into our subconscious mind and affects our perceptions again, which has a knock on effect to our action we provide.
But, without a target in mind, this whole cycle does not happen. It’s about as useful as learning to play darts by throwing it into empty space.
This idea of having a target is not always true. There are certain times where we want to ‘de-couple’ the link between our perception and our target.
One of the biggest issues golfers have which holds them back from achieving their potential, is an inability to change their swing.
Say, for example, you are trying to make a swing change and you can do it great without a ball there, but your old swing rears its ugly head when you are trying to hit a real shot, it’s just that your perception-action coupling is very strong. The link in your brain between the perception of the ball and the target and the action you provide is overriding any conscious effort you have to change.
In those scenarios, we have to go through a period of un-coupling in order to allow the new movement to be formed, before re-coupling it back to the target and the result again. I explain how to do this in my book “The Practice Manual”, available on amazon by clicking below.
In the book, I discuss some of the most important concepts you need to play the best golf of your life, for the rest of your life. I also discuss when to do this “de-coupling”, and when to “re-couple”, as well as effective ways to beat the obstacles (mental and physical) holding you back from achieving your potential.
- If you are hitting balls on the range without a target in mind, you are practicing as effectively as throwing a dart into the abyss
- Your action is not just a product of what you are trying to do mentally – there are subconscious perceptions which will override what you simply try to do. These need to be linked to a target
- There are times where we need to maximize performance, and times we need to maximize changes.
- When it comes to maximizing change, we may need to un-couple these perceptions momentarily.
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