TRYING to Get Better at Golf?

TRYING to Get Better at Golf?


I had a lesson the other day which highlighted something so simple which can make you improve quicker. As simple as this idea is, the average golfer is not doing it.

Player X was working on a swing change with me guiding/coaching him. As is very common, he was struggling to transfer his beautiful looking practice swing to the golf ball – we all know how difficult this can be (for many reasons). After about 30 attempts where he would revert straight back to his old swing, I asked him a question.

On a scale of 0-10, how hard are you trying?

His answer didn’t surprise me, as I have asked this question before many times and received similar responses.

Hmm, about 3 or 4

baby shocked in disbeliefReally?


Ramp it up

I asked him (actually, I told him) to ramp it up to a 10 for me, and INSTANTLY the desired result came out. Then I asked him to give me a 12 on a scale of 1-10. As stupid as that sounds, you know what….. his movement improved further to what he was looking to get.

I talked about these ideas extensively in The Practice Manual, and also in this article on scaling your golf. Scales are one of the most important tools I have when working with players – using them I can figure out what a player needs to feel in order to get something better, and what they may need to feel in order to perform their best.

performance scale

But, for many players, the message here is clear. The missing piece in your ability to make a change can often simply be your effort level.

I will also say that this is not the only piece – often times, we may be struggling to make a change due to

  • Poor technique
  • Competing interests (E.g. a desire to create a good shot, resulting in going back to old habits)
  • Poor body conditioning
  • Poor equipment
  • Poor mental concepts
  • The technical piece you are trying to add doesn’t fit the other parts
  • etc

In this case, I knew that because a player could do it in their practice swing, and because the result when they did it was desirable, the amount of effort was the thing holding them back. When I say effort, I am referring not to how hard you are trying to hit it, but how big your desire to change the movement is.


Why Don’t You Do This?

Apart from the other issues we have discussed, I believe there is a simple reason why many players don’t put effort into a change.

They believe that they will have to use this amount of effort forever

That’s right. Speaking from my own personal experience with making swing changes myself, as well as working with others, we often believe that if a swing change takes a lot of effort to make, this uncomfortable feeling will remain for the rest of our golfing lives.

However, this is simply not true.


Now is The Hardest Time 

What feels like an effort level of 10 today will feel like an 8 tomorrow. And in a month it may only require an effort level of 4 to get the same results. With time, we won’t require any effort to have the desired motion – but this takes practice and lots and lots of reps.

This is due to a concept called perceptual adaptation, where our perceptions of effort (as well as many other things) change with repeated exposure.

Think of it like a muscle. In order to lift a heavy weight NOW, you may require everything you have. However, with training, your body gets stronger and it requires less effort to move the weight. This is how swing changes can work – where the change is analogous of lifting the weight – and instead of our bodies getting stronger, it is our brain which rewires itself.


Periodized Learning

Maximizing your effort level can certainly increase your ability to change a movement pattern, but at the same time, it may not produce the best (or most consistent) performances.

As an example, if you are trying to change your swing path from severely out-to-in into something more neutral, an effort level of 8/10 may provide the best movement pattern change. However, this may (at least initially) produce less consistent results than your old movement pattern, or something in-between.

As a result, scheduling periods of maximal change, interspersed with periods of maximizing shot performance is vital if we are to both learn AND perform at the same time. These ideas are discussed in detail in the best-selling golf book “The Practice Manual – The Ultimate Guide for Golfers”. Click below for more details.

the practice manual golf book



When I talk about effort level, it is important not to confuse this with “desire to hit a good shot”. Effort level relates more to your desire to make the attempted movement change.


Cliff Notes

  • Swing changes can be tough. And the hardest part is often in the early stages of movement change (because we are trying to break free of our old conditioning).
  • As a result, we may have to ramp up the effort levels in order to induce the change
  • Over time, less effort will be needed to make the desired movement pattern – this is when it starts getting more comfortable.
  • Given enough time, zero effort will be needed, and the movement can be classed as learned
  • We may need to dedicate certain phases of our training to maximize change via maximal effort (such as off season)
  • When performance is needed (tournament weeks), we need to find the effort level which provides the best results for us. This can, and often does, mean zero effort – even if it means reverting (or part-reverting) back to old patterns

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