The Learning Process
The path to high performance in golf is never easy because of the learning process (stages of learning) and time it takes to achieve results. The mind and body are usually not on the same page when it comes to golf because it is truly a game of opposites. What comes natural to the average golfer who has never learned the fundamentals (foundation) is usually the complete opposite of what the skilled golfer experiences. Just putting in the time isn’t enough to be great at golf. You have to develop the skills through effective coaching and practice to be successful.
Why many golfers never reach their potential?
1. Focus on immediate results
2. No effective practice plan
3. Afraid to fail (make the necessary changes)
4. Information overload & wrong focus
5. Try and figure it out on their own (no coaching & wrong equipment)
We live in a technology advanced world that expects immediate results. If you take this same approach to golf, you are probably going to be disappointed in the outcome. My mentor taught me that anything worth accomplishing in life I am going to have to overcome obstacles and failures along the way before I experience success. It is the long term focus on a goal with solid coaching that will keep you on the path to success. It is also the little things we do along the way that will help us reach our potential. The learning process is difficult because of the expectations we place on ourselves. The video below demonstrates how challenging it is to change our brain to create new movements that we have never experienced before like riding a backwards bicycle where the steering wheel turns in the opposite direction of the front tire.
Internal vs. External Process
Adam Young’s book, The Practice Manual, goes in depth on the learning process and explains how performance in golf can be achieved through effective thought processes (focus) and creating a learning environment that sets the golfer up for success. Just like riding a backwards bicycle, changing a movement in the golf swing that has become ingrained in the golfers mind and body, is a difficult thing to do. It takes 100% focus on one movement along with many repetitions for that movement to come naturally. The goal of any golf instructor or coach is to try and make the learning process as smooth and painless as possible.
Many golf instructors primarily focus on internal process, which would be the movement changes that need to be made before and during the golf swing. There is another process that is a quicker learning curve called external process and external result. External process is where the focus is on the ball flight laws such as the club face angle, angle of approach, centerness of contact, and path. External process drills allow the golfer to self organize and find the correct impact position without having to think about how the body moves to make it happen. The brain eventually figures it out through repetition and focusing on impact. External process is the best way to teach a golfer who has never experienced this type of coaching or doesn’t have a good understanding of the ball flight laws (cause & effect).
When working with a golfer that has a better understanding of what their tendencies are that cause ball flight issues, the next step is coupling internal focus with external process & result. By focusing on one internal movement along with adding a target (external) like what the golfer experiences on the course, the golfer will know if they can transfer that move to the course and be successful. Eventually, the golfer won’t have to focus 100% of their effort on the internal movement by adding the target back in. The golfer can relax and visualize the ball flight to the target (external result) by focusing only on their pre-shot routine for best results.
The backwards bicycle demonstrated that knowledge is not understanding. You have to train your brain through experience (repetition & failure). When he started to get used to riding the backwards bicycle and something changed his focus like his cell phone ringing, it caused him to revert back to the old way of riding a bicycle (failure). After 8 months of practicing and riding the new backwards bicycle comfortably, he couldn’t go back to riding the normal bicycle right away. It took him awhile to retrain his brain back to the movements of the normal bicycle. The video demonstrates that it takes practice and the correct focus to train your brain to accomplish a new movement that produces the results your wanting.
Pic Referenced: twitter.com/ChangeTheGame54
When a golfer only focuses on the internal process of trying to perfect their swing, it is difficult to transfer that swing to the golf course because of the environment and focus. The golfer will revert back to their old movement or swing because of habit and new environment. This is why most golfers struggle after a golf lesson because they can’t take it to the golf course especially under pressure. They learned the new swing movement (internal) on the driving range (environment) instead of the golf course. They are also bogged down with internal swing thoughts and they haven’t put in enough repetitions for that movement to become naturally ingrained. It takes thousands of correct movements for the new swing to take effect on the golf course, which can be a very long and frustrating process for the golfer that expects immediate results.
The learning process (stages of learning) is difficult to work through alone so that is why I recommend you interview and find an instructor or coach that understands the ball flight laws and learning process so they can give you the correct environment and external focus drills for fastest results. It is important to find the source of where the golfer’s inconsistency is starting from in order to create an effective practice plan. This can only be done by finding out what is going on in the golfer’s sub-conscious mind by asking good questions. For example, if a golfer continues to hang back, scoop the ball, and lose their posture through impact, it would be wise to find out if they are sub-consciously trying to help the ball in the air or if they have a fear of hitting the ground. The focus then needs to be on making a good divot with a descending blow that allows the golfer to feel that it is ok to make a good divot. Watching slow motion YouTube videos of the correct impact position of the clubhead driving down and through the ball along with performing external focus drills will help them overcome the urge and prevent them from trying to help the ball in the air. As the golfer starts to improve and experience results, then it is time to move on to the next weakest skill to focus on improving.