New students, coaches and professional players all have to deal with Mind Games...
Mind Games, the eternal struggle between the conscious and subconscious parts of the brain will determine how far you progress in the game of golf.
The first twenty hours...
In my quest to do some type of tutorial every day (even ten minutes will suffice), I was listening to an audiobook by Josh Kaufman, entitled "The first twenty hours." In it he attempts to learn six different (wide- ranging) subjects in twenty hours each. He does, without a doubt make a good fist of acquiring some skill level at each diverse subject from windsurfing to playing the Ukulele. He used the following criteria to help him reach his goals, (1) Deconstruct the skill (2) Learn enough to self-correct (3) Remove all distractions when practicing and finally, (4) Do the 20 hours practice. I was driving to work to teach for the day and was smiling to myself if it was that easy to learn golf, I could turn around and head home.
The biggest problem I see with learning golf is how students underestimate the complexity of the subject. And this is where the Mind Games surface. What is holding you back from learning golf? Time and Skill. There is so much that you want to do in life and so little time, this is the story of modern life. The uncomfortable truth as Josh likes to say is that the most rewarding things in life require skill. Skill takes time and effort to master. We don't have the time (because there is so little time and we are so busy) and the effort is a problem because we don't like doing things that are not fun. Most things are not fun until you are good at them. A fact of life! It is much easier to pay a visit to Mr. YouTube for the answer, but your desires will remain dreams. That is where the frustration barrier sets in (another joshism), you are horribly unskilled and are painfully aware of that fact. Why start something when you know you are going to suck for a long period of time? These problems don't exist for kids; they think they have all the time in the world and learn by making mistakes, watching their peers and generally experimenting.
The major barrier to golf skill acquisition for adults isn't intellectual; it's emotional, it's tough not to feel stupid, then frustrated, then just plain give up when trying to learn golf. Dr. Carol Dwecks "errorful learning" masterpiece on learning resonates here, the kid learning to ride the bike, falls off, gets up and goes again. They keep falling off until the day arrives that they are a BMX superstar!
I remarked to a new client once that I felt his fingernails were a little long to grip the club properly. He explained that they needed to be this length as he played classical guitar. Nothing unusual in that except, as I found out later, he had learned to play solely from the internet. Fascinated, I asked him to explain, and discovered that he also played the drums and piano, all learned from the internet. So, of course, I couldn't resist in wondering why he just didn't bring the same skill set to golf? Oh, he had tried but had failed miserably. I see this regularly as I teach day to day, the student that has tried to master learning golf through the well-meaning advice of friends and that all-seeing fountain of knowledge that is Mr. YouTube. The problem with attempting to learn golf solo is that you are trying to solve a dynamic movement problem using static image solutions. You cannot see yourself swinging; you try by looking at static positions in the swing, (cue the guy in the range looking at some imaginary desired position at the top of the backswing). A bucket full of balls later, he hasn't even come close to achieving what doesn't exist. There is the rub, the paradox that is learning golf, a golf swing is a dynamic movement in 3D space that is moving at (1) velocity, creating (2) torques and forces requiring segmental coordination to strike the ball efficiently. Sounds difficult? It is, but that's where a good teacher can guide you to mastery.
As we improve the challenge flip flops!
To further muddy the waters in relation to the Mind Games that are at play when we play golf, the better you become technically, the more the percentages flip flop towards the mental side of how to play the game, how to visualize, how to keep our emotions in check, how to control pressure situations. The professional has spent thousands of hours honing their technical skills to such an extent that it is like that child riding the bicycle. They do it without thinking! The science here is an area called the rostrolateral prefrontal cortex (RLPFC) which is an area of neurons that sits in the front of the brain. Don't need to know any more than that! It controls everyday tasks that we do without seemingly thinking. That's how professional golfers become good at their craft, it's when things go wrong swing-wise and they start thinking about their swing again, that problems arise. For the golfer starting out it is probably 95% a technical problem and 5% a mental challenge, while for the elite professional enjoying good form, it would be 95% a mental challenge and 5% technical.
I have found that the best way to teach golf is through a blended learning model. There are six basic models for blended learning, but I find a combination of face to face teaching with an online element using video from both parties works best. It means I can keep a constant eye on students as they learn basic motor and movement patterns. If my rock and roll client couldn't overcome golf with his impressive array of acquisition learning skills, I fear not for the future of any golf coach who embraces technology and takes the time to master his craft.
Foregolf Custom Fitters.
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Tadhg Harrington is a full time, professional golf instructor, and owner of the Harrington Golf Academy, based in Dublin, Ireland. He is a graduate of the Titleist Performance Institute and Setanta College. He is the eldest brother of three-time time Major Champion, Padraig Harrington.
He succeeds, employing empathy, passion and exceptional customer service, teaching above the noise, the quick tips, and the latest fads and is truly unique in the Irish golf industry.
The Harrington Golf Academy provides long term coaching programs designed to bring sensory processing to motor learning skills. Tadhg teaches the long game at Drynam Park Golf Centre and short game at Roganstown GC. His business partner, Ex European Tour Player, Rebecca Codd, also teaches full time at Drynam Park Golf Centre.