Does a baby learn to walk by just walking? No, they fall over a lot first. Our resident mind coach explains how you can translate this to your golf game
Winter golf training is now well and truly upon us. The hope for summer sun has faded and with it goes the likelihood of getting out on the course as much as you’d like. Yet I feel this is a wonderful time of opportunity to look back at the season and resolve to do something about your game in a bid to improve for next year.
Many people will use this time to make technical changes to their swings but before you go down this route I want you to ask yourself a really important question: What skills do I need to develop?
Instead of just ‘making a swing change’, try looking at the game you’ve got and think about some specific skills which could make a huge difference to your scoring – the more specific the better.
Do you need to develop the skill of hitting more fairways, better bunker shots, holing more short range putts, or better executing 30 to 60 yard pitches? When you analyse your golf this way you can take action accordingly as opposed to making a swing change that may not actually have the desired outcome.
I find this concept really important in helping people in their quest for improvement. Consider one of the most amazing learning feats of skill most humans manage to master – walking. Does a baby learn to walk by getting things right? No! A baby learns to walk by failing constantly.
They go from crawling to being upright, then they fall to the left, they fall to the right. Over and over again they get ‘walking’ wrong! Then, over a period of time, the brain gets organised and the infant learns to stand up straight and walk. If they didn’t get it wrong, they would never learn to get it right.
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Yet, in golf, we tend to abandon this principle of skill building and just try to get it ‘right’. We stand on the range and try to perfect our technique. But that isn’t how the brain learns best.
For instance, if you want to develop the ability to hit more fairways then the sub skill of a centred strike is absolutely paramount. If you are constantly hitting your driver out of the toe or heel your chances of being accurate are significantly reduced.
Heel strikes tend to send the ball to the right and toe strikes tend to make the ball go left. So think of developing skill in this way. Go to the range and spray your clubface with some athlete’s foot powder so you can see the location of your striking. Then, hit some shots where you deliberately strike the ball out the heel and do the same for the toe. Once you’ve got the hang of hitting heel and toe strikes on purpose, surely you can find the centre?
This is counterintuitive but by feeling what is ‘wrong’ your brain will be allowed to feel what is right – if that is what you are paying attention to.
Instead of trying to do it just right all the time, take the leap and explore the feeling of making mistakes and allow the magic of the brain and learning to take over. I call this ‘trapping the feeling’. You feel what is right by being prepared to experience what is wrong.
You can use this simple principle for so many aspects of your game, from the shape of your shots to the contact with the ground. You are only limited by your imagination of what you can explore in your quest.
Yes, you may have to change certain elements of your swing to assist the process but always start first with the specific skills you are trying to improve. Do this and I promise you next year could be very interesting but the work needs to start now.
Karl Morris is a mind coach to a number of European Tour stars and the brains behind the Mind Factor.