The Missing Ingredient
The mind-boggling world of golf instruction is replete with maxims which are often taken for granted, but rarely explained.
One of the most popular catch phrases is “muscle memory.” You simply haven’t practiced enough to develop effective muscle memory. The concept sounds perfectly logical… but there’s a catch.
Muscles do not have a memory – they simply respond to the strongest emotion linked to a particular activity.
The quality of the practice is secondary to the emotional attachment. Muscles are faithful servants. It’s not the number of accurate repetitions, but rather your emotional reaction, that determines how well your muscles replicate a specific activity: the more you focus on a swing fault, the greater the probability of re-creating it.
Based on my teaching experience during the past thirty-two years, I’ve found that most golfers have a stronger (negative) reaction to the poor shots than a positive reaction to the good ones.
They smile complacently when they hit a good shot, but berate themselves after a poor one. This reaction locks the poor shot pattern into your nervous system. Have you ever wondered why one poor shot leads to a downward spiral?
So what’s the solution?
The first key to preventing one poor shot from destroying an otherwise decent round, is interrupting the emotional reaction. I’m not suggesting that (to paraphrase Dr. Karl Morris) you adopt a Pollyanna attitude of nonchalance. For a golf addict, hitting a drive out-of-bounds or missing a two foot putt is the ultimate frustration.
(I’ve had to replace two putters which were the victims of unbridled violence).
One simple method of reducing the emotional fallout from a poor shot is by using a rating system. Carry a pocket notebook with you and rate every shot on a scale from one to ten. For example, one could be a topped shot and ten would be perfect contact.
Giving the shot a number immediately activates your rational mind. Writing a number on paper, allows you to move on and focus on the next shot. The memory of the poor shot is still intact but the emotional attachment dwindles.
Once you’ve developed a technique for dealing with the poor shots, step two is locking in the memories of the excellent ones. Have you ever noticed how some players twirl the club in the follow-through?
This innocuous movement helps to lock the feel of that perfect swing into their nervous system. Some players hold their finish position for a few seconds. The possibilities are endless. The key is developing your own method of continuously replaying the memories of perfect contact.
The next time you’re watching golf on television, note the little idiosyncrasies that a player uses to help them stay in “the zone.” Any movement, no matter how small, that a player repeats consistently is his/her own technique for overcoming the tendency to focus on mistakes.
Awareness alone might just be the ticket to taking your game to a whole new level beyond swing mechanics!