Stop having tantrums on the golf course

Golf Tips

Have you tried to reconnect to your childlike copying?

Having been involved in coaching the game of golf now for well over 25 years I have seen more than enough childish behavior to last me a lifetime, some of it unfortunately my own.

It is very easy for this game to trip our wires and we revert to throwing our toys out of the metaphorical pram when the game doesn’t bend to our wants and wishes.

The game of golf is inherently unpredictable and unless we embrace that fact then whatever mental demons we having lurking inside of us will tend to be drawn out. The problem with being childlike and throwing an emotional tantrum is most times it will ruin your score not to mention the day of the people you happen to be playing with.

If you cannot deal with the unpredictability and embrace the ups and downs, the game will eventually burn you out. It was interesting to read recently the great coach Pete Cowen say that his temperament and his perfectionism stopped him achieving anything close to his true potential as a player.


tantrums on the golf course

Being a total perfectionist on the golf course can trigger some really childish responses. On the other hand, the skill of being childlike is one that we often lose to our detriment as we get older. Let me explain. Moving the club more efficiently during your swing is often down to how clear your concept is of what you are trying to do.

It is always fantastic to see how quickly kids pick up golf and start to excel without an awful lot of technical input. I am sure many of us can go back in our mind’s eye to the times when we played sports such as football, cricket or golf when we were younger.

When you did that, did you pretend to be your hero you had seen on TV? You copied what you saw.

Of course once we all got a little bit older we became far more intelligent and stopped doing all of the pretend stuff. Now it became time to analyse in great detail positions and movements. We became good at talking about something we used to just do. We stopped acting childlike.

tantrums on the golf course

Maybe that is where some of us went wrong because science is suggesting that copying or modelling was and is extremely brain compatible in attempting to improve our movements and skills, and perhaps we need to suspend some of our in-depth analytical analysis and reconnect to those imitation skills.

“Using your eyes can help you learn a lot faster than using your ears or your imagination,” says Dr Penny McCullagh, a professor of sport and exercise psychology at California State University.

“Watching an expert perform the skill you’re trying to learn – what performance experts call modelling – allows you to acquire the idea of the movement patterns of the skill in question, giving you a blueprint to guide your motions.”

Dr McCullagh and her colleagues asked 60 female college students to balance on a stabilometer (a platform situated on a fulcrum). A quarter of the test subjects, none of whom had ever tried to balance on the device, listened to instructions that painted a picture of the exercise (“Imagine yourself standing with your feet shoulder width apart”).

tantrums on the golf course

Another quarter were shown a silent video of a woman balancing on the device with perfect form. A third group was given both types of instruction, while a final group performed the drill cold. The modeling group signficantly outperformed the others.

Having a very clear mental image of the swing you want to make in my experience has proven to be a useful addition to learning better and more efficient movement. You are in effect giving your body a very clear blueprint to follow by having the swing in your mind’s eye.

Research by Mike Hebron, USPGA professional, is also suggesting that this kind of learning is more effective when we get the student to view the general form of the model as opposed to focusing on specific details.

As Mike says: “The brain loves general in-the-ball-park instruction as opposed to strict minutiae of detail”. So maybe we need to reconnect to some of that childlike copying to get the very best from our game in the months ahead.

Read more

Previous article
Next article