By Alex Riggs, PXG / Under Armour ambassador and PGA golf coach based at the Trump International Dubai.
No two golfers are alike and no two golf swings are alike. Each golfer has their own idea of the best way to move the club in the swing, this has typically been developed through a combination of trial and error and feedback from other sources.
All golfers want to improve; some players may have a lesson, or get a piece of feedback from YouTube and assume they’ve figured it out, go hit a couple buckets and BAM! Instant success.
In reality, if we rush the phases of learning, the new movements are not learned. Subtle improvements are short lived, if at all.
What we refer to in golf as technique, is more accurately described as a movement pattern. In the same way writing your signature is a patterned movement, the way in which a golfer moves the golf club toward the golf ball, is something that has been developed over time through repetition.
In order to CHANGE a movement pattern or golf swing, we must appreciate how difficult it is for our brain to alter something that it’s spent so much time developing. A new highway needs to be built for this new movement. The brain needs to alter the recruitment of muscles to move the body in a new way to accommodate this change. This is not a speedy activity.
We wouldn’t try to memorise a dance routine by watching the dance in full speed then attempting to copy it. It is essential to slow things down when it comes to changes in movement. Our brains flourish when we slow things down and chunk the movements together, piece by piece. Tour golfers understand and apply this principle.
If you ever had the chance to spend time at a driving range at a tour event, you’ll see golfers at the top of their field exaggerating movements in slow motion. Sometimes these movements will look unorthodox, sometimes you’ll question how they could possibly do these moments in their swings.
Why are they doing this? Because they understand that changing a movement is difficult and that it takes time. They understand that in order for their desired movement to happen when they want it under the gun, it must have been repeated and exaggerated thousands of times.
Why exaggerate? Because by overdoing a feeling in slow motion, it is far more likely you’ll do the movement you’re intending when you’re actually hitting to a target. Ever heard the sentence “Feel is not real”? Well, when it comes to movement, it is extremely true.
When we slow movements down, we are able to allocate more conscious energy to the new movement which helps in laying down this new pattern. We then must repeat this thousands of times for it to eventually be learned. Once the movement is learned, we can then start applying it to different shots, adding speed, changing lies etc. This process takes time, patience, and persistence. The process, of instilling positive change in their swings is something that very few golfers are able to master unless they put the time and effort in.
Knowing this, if you want to do what it takes to improve, my advice to you is the following:
Step 1: Accurately understand through video and other measurement devices how you currently swing the club.
Step 2: Have a clear idea of where you want to go with your swing change.
Step 3: Create a plan through slow motion drills that you can do to in-still this change.
Step 4: Use feedback in the form of video and other measurement devices to monitor/evaluate change (Do not rush through this step – it is essential that you take your time in this phase).
Step 5: Begin to challenge your new movement.
You will inevitably struggle at times, this is normal, so appreciate the difficulty of what you are attempting to learn. Be patient with yourself and go back to your drills. Nothing good comes easy, so enjoy the ride.
Eventually you’ll get there, and it will all be worth it, after all who won the race, the tortoise or the hare?