During a talk last night at Bedford Golf Club I was asked by one player that if 'practice makes perfect' why wasn't he a better player than he was five years ago. This is a great question because it emphasises how habit can rob a player of learning to play better golf. I sometimes refer to habit as the 'great unknown' because, paradoxically, the more you perform a particular task the less you're aware of what you're doing.Yes it sounds a contradiction but a good example is your preparation for a swing. You'll all sorts of actions you include as part of your habitual set-up but because they are automatic habits you'll invariably be unaware that you're doing them. For instance, many golfers tighten their jaw as they concentrate on the shot ahead. Sounds fairly tame but did you know the act of tightening your jaw will impact on your neck and shoulder muscles, that in turn, will interfere with your coordination. So at a time when you need to get all your muscles working as one to execute the swing, you'll be putting on the brake.Unfortunately, your habits feel absolutely the right thing to do because you're used to the feel of these actions and therefore you won't start your swing until all the usual feelings are in place. So every time you play or practise you could be consolidating poor habits that are preventing you from becoming a better player.
As the wise sports coach said, "practise makes permanent, not necessarily perfect!"Have a go at the experiment in my ultimate golf fitness test to get an idea of what's involved.
Also see Overcoming Problems With Your Golf Technique
I'm giving a talk tomorrow night at Bedford Golf Club on the benefits of golfers learning The Alexander Technique. I like to get people in the audience to try some very simple experiments with movement that help to get across what I'm talking about. I find this is the best way for golfers to experience something that is not that easy to get across in speech - and this is how we can be completely oblivious to things that we are doing whilst performing a task we've done thousands of times before. I find as soon as golfers learn how to focus on their movement in a way that seems simple (and many wonder why they've never done it like this before) - it can make a huge difference to their game. If you want to try one of these simple experiments with movement - see
my ultimate golf fitness test
I'm sure you've heard the term that golf is a mental game and is 90% mental and 10% physical, or variations on that. However, I think to talk of the 'mental' game is misleading in my view. Obviously you can't play golf by just thinking about it - there's some pretty physical stuff too! I coach golfers to improve their awareness on the course. This involves being aware of what you're thinking AND how you're moving. You can't have 'mental' without 'physical' - this is like saying you can have a mind without a body or vice-versa. Yes, the term 'mental golf' refers to being confident etc as this leads to better play. But I find a player who is 'aware' on the course becomes a more confident golf by gaining greater control over their actions. The more you know how to make the ball do what you want it to - the more confident you will get! The more confident you are - the better golf you will play!So I say, combine your mind and body to play your best golf through improving your awareness - if you're not sure what this means try my ultimate golf fitness test.
Oh dear, it's been a while since I've posted anything here but something came up in a session with a golfer today that I thought would be worth putting here. We were looking at his swing preparation when he said he'd been practicing hard to get his stance and everything right before he started the swing. Unfortunately, everything he did in the set up wasn't actually helping his swing, and the more he practiced this, the better he got at preventing a free-flowing action.
Basically, he concentrated so hard on getting everything right that he tightened up - he clenched his jaw, fixed his eyes on the ball and stiffened his neck. All these actions prevent free movement but because he'd done it like this for several months it felt right. So when he tried to do the right thing it led him down the same path every time.
So how did I get him to free up a little?I got him to everything so it would feel wrong! Sounds nuts but it helped him to stop doing his habitual set up that was jamming up his muscles. The result? He swung more freely, gained a few extra yards - but get this, it felt so much easier :0) Less is more!Also see Are You Trying To Fail At Golf?
Yes it's an old cliche but unless you make some fundamental changes to your approach, your golf will be pretty much the same as last year. Of course you can make some improvements but they won't be in the 'shifting to the next level' changes if you keep doing the same things.So what does a fundamental change involve? It means doing something different, something new to achieve different results. This can be as simple as stopping for a fraction of a second before you putt, chip or swing. The problem is that habits take us down the same path every time - even if you don't want to. So if you have a technical weakness
unless your preparation is fundamentally different you will follow the same series of events that will replicate your weakness. Part of the problem is that we're not fully aware of all our actions, even when undertaking something that requires our full attention. Try my ultimate golf fitness test
to experience what I'm trying to say and see if you can appreciate how to improve your self-awareness during an action.Also see The Most Vital Skill for A Golfer
Alison had been playing golf for just two years and had developed a good swing and approach shots but struggled when it came to putting. She admitted feeling anxious when she had to sink a putt; this was made worse if it meant finishing under par or winning the hole. I watched her putting in my teaching room and everything looked fine but as this was a no-pressure shot it didn’t tell me anything. So I suggested she could have the next lesson free if she could sink a long putt into a plastic cup - this also made me a little anxious! As soon as there was something riding on the shot I noticed she held her breath and visibly tensed her jaw and tightened her grip on the club – she also missed the putt.
Once you’ve read the green and lined up your shot you should no longer be concerned about the hole when you address the ball. You’ve done the maths and worked out which direction the ball should go, and how hard you should hit it. So when you come to play the shot you don’t need to worry about sinking the putt- you just need to stay relaxed and focus on the task in hand, i.e., to carry out the next part of the plan.
Alison was thinking about the position of the hole, the consequences of missing and getting tense in the process. Once she’d lined up and was in her stance over the ball I asked her to focus on the movement of her ribs for a moment whilst she looked at the ball. Then I got her to be aware of the touch of her lips and to check there was a space between her upper and lower teeth. She found these thoughts helped her to relax and detach herself from the putt – she needed to ‘be in the moment’.
By maintaining these thoughts she was able to stay poised and achieve the smooth pendulum action required for a good putt. She tried a few without aiming at the cup and then with the cup without bringing anything extra, mental or physical, into the shot. She was able to take this onto the green and with practice her putting improved dramatically.The techniques I used with Alison, and more, are available in my book 'Golf Sense'.Also see: How Practising Getting Out Of Bed Will Improve Your Putting
How many times have you said to yourself on the range that you're really going to get to grips with your swing? Maybe you'll focus on your stance, grip or the mental side in order to correct what you think is wrong or missing. However, have you ever stopped to thing that maybe you need to stop
doing something to improve your swing?
If something is not quite right it could be due to something unnecessary you're bringing to you swing. When we try new things we can end up adding layer upon layer of bits and pieces that take us further away from our 'natural golf swing'. You could be adding something on top of a faulty movement; if you don't remove the faulty bit first you'll be wasting your time and complicating your technique further.
So when you're next on the range try doing something less instead of adding something new and see if it doesn't help :0)
Also see The Ultimate Golf Fitness Test
to appreciate where you may could be over-complicating your te
I'm afraid I let the male population down (again) this morning. All I had to do was to get the honey from the cupboard to put on my porridge - but could I see it? Just as I was about to blame the kids for putting it back in the wrong place, my wife appeared behind me, reached in and picked it straight up. It was right in front of my eyes and I hadn't seen it!
In a pathetic attempt to defend myself, I mentioned an article I'd read in The New Scientist a while back about how this situation can happen. The problem was the squeezy honey pot was upside down! (so someone had put it back in the wrong place...) I had opened that cupboard with the expectation of seeing the pot in exactly the way it usually is. My brain was looking for that specific image and because there was no match I couldn't see it.
But... this doesn't just apply to vision, the same process occurs for movement. Before you go into your stance, take your grip or prepare to swing, you'll have a concept of exactly how it's going to feel and set yourself up to play your shot in that way. If something puts you off, like a sudden gust of wind, a loud noise or a fly landing on your arm, you'll stop and go back and start putting everything familiar back in place again.
Unfortunately, if there is something in your routine that isn't technically correct, you'll not 'see' it because you're happy that you're feeling familiar sensations you associate with your shot. You may be tightening your lower back, your grip on the club or stiffening your ankles (none of which will help) but because you're setting yourself up to play in your usual way you won't notice.
I coach many golfers, runners, tennis players and people from all sports that don't 'see' that many of their habitual actions are not helping their performance, and may even lead to injury. The answer? To get into the right state of mind so you can expand your awareness to notice exactly what you're doing and how you can improve your preparation. I have many practical tips on how this can be done in my book 'Golf Sense
Back at breakfast, I was told to stop being a smart a*** , sit down and eat my porridge :0)
Also see:-When Right Is Wrong: Overcoming Problems With Your Golf Technique And The Most Vital Golf Skill Is ....?
When you buy any piece of electrical equipment you get a manual, although I an never understand why they put the unpacking instructions inside the box! To be able to use your DVD, TV or washing machine properly you need to read it.
Yes I know many of us (especially us men) will assume we don't need to read all that rubbish and learn it on the hop - but how many times have your children shown you how to do something much easier with one push of a button that you didn't know about?
So what about your infinitely more complex body? Are you using that correctly to perform the technically challenging movements of golf? Unfortunately your body doesn't come with an instruction manual. Yes, you you can buy an anatomy and physiology book but it won't show you how to use it - just as your car maintenance manual can't actually show you how to drive a car!
I work with many golfers and sports people who have unknowingly developed all sorts of poor movement habits because they've lost what I call the 'natural art of movement'. Sadly, many of us as adults no longer have the poise and ease of movement we had as children. We take these less than efficient bodies out onto the course and put them through some pretty complex tasks. If you're playing below your best or suffering from aching muscles in places you didn't know you had muscles, it's invariably because you not using your body well.
I see huge improvements in a player's performance when they unlearn the bad habits that prevent them moving with ease and let their natural movement flow again.
How do you know if you're using your body as well as an instruction manual might suggest? Try my Ultimate Golf Fitness Test
and you might discover something really quite interesting that could be the start of a whole new approach to your game ;0)
I took my children wakeboarding today (it's sort of waterskiing but you're pulled around a lake by a pulley system) It looks great fun and I'm tempted to give it a go myself next time.
One thing that fascinated me was how some people can do exactly what the instructors told them to do - whilst others were at a loss to carry out the instructions. The hardes part is the 'take off' - if you can stay on your board for a few seconds the rest is a lot easier.
One man in his 40s spent a total of about 10 seconds out of two hours on his board. He literally could not stay on it for 1/2 a second simply because he did the exact opposite of what the instructor asked him to do. He just had to keep his legs relaxed and his arms straight - sounds pretty straight forward but he tensed his legs and relaxed his arms. This means he stood up as soon as the board was launched making the board dip below the water and stop dead whilst he was hanging on to a handle at the end of a fast-moving rope - end result, you fall flat on your face.
He wouldn't be human if he didn't become frustrated -especially as his kids soon got the hang of it! But the harder he tried the more he did exactly the wrong thing. He just simply could not carry out the instructions.
Before we get all superior I know I'm capable of exactly the same behaviour and I'm sure there'll be instances when you do the same. The problem is we can't see it for ourselves. So when you follow your pros advice or instructions from a book how do you know you're doing what you should be? A video can be quite an eye-opener! Many players don't initially recognise themselves on the screen because it doesn't look how if feels. For example, when you think you're keeping your back straight you may be slumping. So if you're struggling with your swing or putting but think you're doing exactly what you should be - you may in fact be doing something completely different!
Also see Overcoming Problems With Your Golf TechniqueThe Ultimate Golf Fitness Test - It's Not What You Think!