Isn’t golf frustrating? You hit one shot nicely down the range, then top the next one, the next one flies well wide of the target, and the next is thinned! It drives us bonkers! So many different results. Now what?
What do you do when this happens? Do you stop for a minute or so after these poor shots and have a think? Are you the type of golfer who tries to determine where/what the fault is (if you do that you are in the minority)? Do you determine the reason for the bad shot was because ‘I lifted my head’ or ‘I lost my balance trying to hit it too hard’? ……….Or, do you just drag forward another ball, and have another bash? I know I used to do that all the time!
Reasonably intelligent human beings being humiliated by the little white ball....and resorting to thoughtless bashing!
At the time, I never considered what would be the most appropriate and helpful thing I could do for my game? I just dragged out the next ball. In fact, how could I be more thoughtful about it, when most of the time I was steaming with hot emotions of annoyance, that drowned my ability to be sensible..........to be able to take a step back...and think!
Such a 'rookie' mistake.
Eventually, over several months of trying so hard I reached a turning point, I got so frustrated, that it was either try something different or pack it in. I had to start somewhere, so I started to question the approach I was taking. It had to be wrong, golf shouldn't be that hard 'should it'?
I decided to 'think' about the game in a way that was commonsense to me......and that small decision was my turning point ( see 'Sub par in 8 months from better golf IQ).
Not only did I stop to consider what was happening with my shots much more often, (because I had to) I wanted to know 'why'? I found out so much that I didn’t know about hitting a golf ball, just from this introspective process.
Surprisingly, despite many years of playing and practicing methods and ideas from the most respected sources, understanding how my body ‘learnt’, was the crucial factor that allowed me to improve so quickly.
...and it was so much simpler.
'despite many years of playing, and practicing methods and ideas from the most respected sources, understanding how my body 'learnt', was the crucial factor that allowed me to improve so quickly'
I discovered, through personal experiment and study, that the human body ‘improves’ performance at any task, the only way it can..….by comparing results against intentions and making adjustments on the next try.
So learning is feedback led.....whereas the natural way that a person's mind works is by filtering information/knowledge and applying that to a task. Trying to work something out intellectually, is a complimentary thought process, which grossly interferes when its not needed.
The primary action is worked out by the body.
When we work away too intellectually, we are forcing the body to accommodate all this additional information, into what is already a very difficult job.
Our mind is working against how the body learns motor tasks, and progress is slowed down.
If you are skeptical try this out. Stand on one leg, and just observe all the little weight shifts and movements that your body makes so you don't fall over. We don't have to intellectually ask our body, to shift this way or that, or how to adjust our centre of gravity to maintain balance do we?
Whether you are a hairdresser styling a client's hair, or a plumber fixing pipes, repetition and experience direct the actions. There is very little internal dialogue needed, once the neural pathways are formed. If I hit the wrong key while typing, I don't have to have some internal dialogue as to why I did it, correcting the mistake is automatic.
Information is received through the eyes and is processed in the same way that our eyes serve to direct us through any action or motion. That includes hitting a golf ball well.
A clear analogy would be in the wild, where a lioness has to learn to get very close to the antelope before charging. She needs the 'feedback' of failure, to teach herself so stay low and stay quiet and approach downwind. She has no internal dialogue to help her, it all works quite naturally, by intention, impulse & urge, leading to failure or success.
If you allow the same type of pattern to unfold with ball striking, you are on the right track to reach your genetic capabilities.
Thoughts arise and disappear in a similar manner to the way the bubbles in a pot of boiling water, randomly break the surface before they are gone.
Our mind activates our physical responses, causing an instantaneous reflexive flow of action, created by millions of neurons firing in a coordinated pattern.
The way our mind jumps about, suggesting one thing and then another really impairs our ability to learn.
Buddhists call this ‘monkey mind’.
Thoughts arise and disappear, in a similar manner to the way the bubbles in a pot of boiling water randomly break the surface before they are gone.
Each thought breaking the layer into consciousness, and making their own tiny little impact on what we are doing. Although seemingly insignificant, each tiny 'disturbance' is a 'command prompt' to the system (motor action) of hitting the golf ball.
My previous experiences with a dancing mind throwing different swing thoughts at me all the time, (sometimes one shot after another) misaligned badly with how our body operates.
Concentrating our practice on a tight and specific intention based on the clubs' contact with the ball gives our body an undiluted directive.
The simplicity of just one intention is mentally, very hard to stay faithful to though. It takes so much effort.
The temptation to revert to your old ways, if you still don't hit it well is sometimes overwhelming, but the more you can stay with it, and measure your performance over a rolling 3 month period, the better.
At this point, I have to add a caveat.... and that is, you can still experiment as long as the ball- face contact isn't relegated in your mind, or worse, forgotten or replaced with an old pattern of thinking.
Even this takes more vigilance than most can muster.
Taking the 'standing on one leg' analogy mentioned in the first section a step further demonstrates just how hard it is for our motor function to co-ordinate extra movements.
To get a better insight into how this all works. This time, observe what happens if you wash your face, and try to towel dry it while you stand on one leg.......... It's hard not to fall over. Our system cant cope. Its extremely difficult for our primary system to co-ordinate extra requests, without interfering with performance. There is a sensory conflict.
Given some time and practice, this exercise is probably do-able………….but with golf, whenever we instruct our body to emphasise anything that isn’t connected to how we want to make contact with the ball, we are asking our mind/body to do the equivalent of the above.
It's only by thinking in a slightly different way, that we can make the connection between how the bodily systems (that are responsible for co-ordinated movement) works, and how it relates, to the difficulties we are inadvertently creating in our own game.
Another caveat would be that of tour professionals, who because of the 100's of 1000's of balls they have hit over their lifetime, can get away with almost ignoring contact, and favour something else in their action to focus on (but even they don't get away with it every time).
... but be assured, if any of these players find themselves straying away from solid contact ball for ball, they will be back to that in a heartbeat, their living depends on miss-hitting as little as possible.
What I am trying to emphasise is, that the more intentions/suggestions/instructions (voluntary input) that even cross your mind, prior too, or during the action of hitting the ball, the more it impedes the involuntary movements the body needs to make, to 'middle it'.
When striking improves, a golfers confidence increases, and when that grows, so does the optimism that the next shot will be as good....read more!