Learning - Maximise Your Lesson Benefits

The first thing you need to know is that you need to have the correct conception of what a golf swing is in your mind in order for you to be able to play the game successfully. Your brain tells your body what to do, your body makes the golf club move and the golf club dictates to the ball how it will travel. Hence, whatever the result of the shot you have just hit, the underlying cause can be traced back to your brain.

When a beginner takes up the game, they usually already have an idea formed in their mind of how a golf swing operates and what they need to do to strike the ball. The idea in their mind, however, is often rough around the edges and more often than not incorrect. The golfer’s goal as they seek to develop must be to add more and more sophistication to their understanding of the motor skill they are trying to perform.

Here are a few key points I think everybody must reflect on regarding the lesson process

Before the lesson

Be aware of the fact you will need to work hard to improve. If like most people you don’t have the time or opportunity to play much golf be prepared to have to take baby steps and to consider your improvement as a long-term project. You are the person in command, Homer Kelley says that the instructor can inform and explain but it is the pupil’s job to absorb and apply.

In order to change your ball flight you will need to change the way in which you deliver the clubhead to the ball. This means you will need to change the way you think about the swing and means you will be creating a change in your habitual motion. Any change in your motion is going to create a change in feel. The trick is to think of this as something you expect to happen and as something new rather than as something odd and uncomfortable.

During the lesson

Don’t take your instructors word for it. Make sure what he is saying and asking of you makes sense in your mind and that you understand why you are trying to perform a certain move. It’s very hard to commit and follow through with something that you do not understand. Furthermore it is even harder to evaluate how you are progressing if you don’t truly understand what it is that you are working on. In this regard, a camera is an invaluable tool in tracking progress and changes that you make over time.

Understand that until the time when you break it down into the smallest minute details there really is only one golf swing. As a result do not be surprised when your instructor perhaps makes you work with an iron rather than with your driver. The instructor sees the same fault with both clubs but you are simply getting less reward for your efforts with the longer club.

After the lesson

Practice time is invaluable and it must take place on the golf course and on the range, working on all aspects of the game.
Think of those players who are better players than you as being more skilled, not more talented. Skill comes from a better understanding, obtaining reliable feedback and hard work.

Finally, and most important, enjoy the process and embrace both its ups and downs.

Recipe for Success

Some of you may be interested in these brief notes on what is required for you to reach the top and become an elite golfer:

1. Practice with purpose
2. Have the right training system and coach
3. Have a systematic approach that enables you to receive feedback on the things you do
4. A high level of motivation
5. Be given praise for your hard work
6. Have self belief and possibly even irrational optimism
7. Experience is important. Intuition and instincts are learned skills that stem from experience. They are what enable automaticity. Every wrong attempt that you can eliminate is a further step forward.

Carol Dweck, a Psychology professor at Stanford University states:
“The hand you’re dealt is just a starting point…although people may differ in every which way - in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests or temperaments - anyone can grow through application and experience… In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or everyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”

Susan Polgar, the first female chess Grandmaster states:
“I really believe that if you put your mind to it and you really want it, you can achieve it, whatever it is…the work part, the diligence part, is the most important…and I think that being trained properly anybody can achieve practically anything.”

Are you prepared and raring to go? I know I am!

Learning From the Greats

blogEntryTopperI have just returned from a coaching conference where the guest speakers were Martin Hall and Jim Hardy. They both did presentations on the topic of teaching the recreational Golfer. Martin Hall is currently ranked 7th in Golf Digest’s list of the Top 50 instructors in America and presents School of Golf on the Golf Channel. Jim hardy is ranked 8th in Golf Digest’s list of Top instructors in America and currently works with 19 Tour Players. He is perhaps best known for his One Plane and Two Plane swing models.

Having the chance to listen to the people at the top of our profession is always an honour and I feel there is always something to be learned. Martin Hall emphasised this throughout his talk stating that you should always search for evidence that counters your beliefs and try to entertain hypotheses that are antagonistic to one another. I often say to people that if they do one thing differently following a lesson then it has been worth their while. This certainly applies here and I will try and share with you some of the important messages that I feel were emphasised on the day.

Both of them heavily emphasised the importance of ball contact with Martin stating, “I teach ball contact first” and Jim stating, “the priority is solid contact”. This is the first thing that must be mastered in order to play good golf. A golfer who hits it solid will have much more enjoyment from the game than someone who struggles to make contact. Jim spoke about the fact that in order to achieve this you must control your swing bottom, in other words you must control the the low point of your golf swing. Methods discussed to improve this were to look out for elements in a swing that contribute to a steep angle of hit and elements that contribute to a shallow angle of hit with the aim of balancing them out against one another. One of Martin’s strengths is his ability to “invent” tools to convey his messages. For low point control he uses all manner of contraptions such as ropes, spray paint cans, hammers, sponges and a club with zero loft. I feel this helps tremendously with keeping things informative but also fun.

Emphasis was also placed on the need to help the golfer immediately. I am a strong believer in this and have never understood those who say that you must take a step backwards before you take two steps forwards. It should not take more than 15 minutes or so to change your ball flight during a lesson and if you take a step backwards you are prioritising a change in the wrong piece.

Several times throughout his presentation Martin followed up a point he was making by saying “I don’t know if that’s true, but I know it helps in my teaching”. This is so important because teaching isn’t simply about dispensing information; it is also about building trust and relationships. I have heard my friend Andy Plummer say this many times “the goal isn’t to be the smartest person in the room but to help the most golfers.”

The day was concluded with a question and answer session with the legendary John Jacobs who many of today’s leading instructors look to as a mentor. His passion for the game, even at the age of 88, was overwhelming.

The final thoughts I’m taking home with me are that “if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” and that “fix” is a positive word. We must all keep learning and improving, “Remind yourself you’ve got to do better at everything you do”.