Sunday, February 17, 2013

Do You Play Golf or Golf Swing?

Do you practice pure mechanics or do you work on controlling distance, direction and trajectory in all the parts of your long game and short game? The ability to control your golf ball instead of worrying about perfect swing mechanics is what you should be focused on. Most players have become so mechanical that they are working solely on their golf swing on the course and can't score, and they never learn or practice shots they need on the golf course. For example, most of the time on the course it's rare to end up on a perfect yardage each time you are playing. How many times do you practice the shots that are less than a full yardage? Did you just practice it once or did you get good at it? Here is an example of a situation on the golf course maybe you have encountered. You hit a drive straight down the middle; it's a good golf shot, and you are happy. Then, the next drive was thin, low, didn't feel very solid but still went pretty straight and ended up about the same distance as the other drive and didn't cost you anything. If that happens a couple of times a round and doesn't cost you any strokes, does that mean you change your swing because the ball flight didn't look or feel perfect? Sure, we all want to hit every shot solid, but where do you draw the line on making a change to try to have a flawless golf swing or accept shots that don't look perfect and don't hurt your score.

As Jack Nicklaus said in his book My Story about Lee Trevino, "He discovered what worked best for him and stuck with it through hell and high water. He learned golf by instinct, mimicry, experience and hard work.  The key to Trevino was that he had the intelligence and strength of will not to abandon his own techniques for what so easily could have seemed more correct, better or orthodox ways of playing. He was quite smart and secure enough to put scores ahead of style."

Focus your practice on scoring. The ability to control your golf ball instead of worrying about perfect swing mechanics is what you should be focused on. Evaluate your game based on the trends you are seeing that are costing you shots. Put more time into controlling the golf ball by practicing distance, direction and trajectory. Spend the time that you do have to practice on strengthening the other parts of your game that are hurting your score.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Golf Myths About Practice

What are some typical myths in golf that keep us from improving?  We have all heard over the years how we have to make our new swing changes become muscle memory.  Do muscles really have memory?  Does practice make perfect? Reps, Reps, Reps. Not all reps are created equal. There are so many ways technology is assisting in helping us learn the right cause and effect of errant shots. Is that enough? What makes a swing change last and how long should it really take to get it to where you can consistently take it out to the golf course? We need to bust the myths of what most players think they need to do to make a swing change.

First, there is no such thing as muscle memory. Muscles don't learn. It's really a motor program that you are creating through practice to produce a new habit. There is a big difference between learning an athletic skill and learning a piece of academic information.  An individual can learn to solve a problem in one day because this involves cognitive learning, not motor learning.  If a coach asks a student to do something different in their backswing that's a mechanical movement, turning a physical movement into a motor program that is stored and able to be called upon under pressure will require lots of repetitions.  Golfers do not want to hear that they have to perform these repetitions.  It's the brain that learns from biomechanics and the behavior of biomechanics. It's more about strengthening your brain and training your brain not your muscles. We all know that it doesn't do you much good to be great on the range, but when you get on the golf course, your game goes south.  The truth is that most golfers do not improve because they never fully learn what they were attempting in the first place. Maybe they tested it a few times, but they did not store it in the brain and make it a part of their motor programming.  They did't train and get feedback on the things they were working on until they fully learned it. They also mistakenly practice without doing their pre-shot routine: they hit shots from flat, perfect lies; they hit shots with the same club repeatedly, practice putting from the identical spot, use artificial aids to align the shot and most of the shots are without a specific target.  How is that in any way similar to what you do when you play?

 If this sounds like you, you need to change the things you are doing in your practice and make it like how you play.  That means you need to simulate the on-course conditions in your practice.  Let's taking pitching for example, when practicing pitching, you need to make sure you are practicing on lies that are similar to the golf course, change your lie and target on each shot so you are forced to make decisions about the shot and vary your strategy each time in addition to going through your pre-shot routine.  This is how you will make your practice more like how you play. When you practice this way and keep training and getting feedback until you fully learn the skills you are trying to improve, you will be on your way to successfully transferring those skills faster to the golf course.