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GOLF IMPROVEMENT - OWNING A NEW SKILL

The process of improving your golf game has a lot of similarities to playing ‘Snakes and Ladders’ only there are no ‘Ladders’. Let me repeat that, there are no ‘Ladders’. If your golf improvement plan is founded on the hope you may land on a ‘Ladder’ and find a short-cut, frustration is sure to follow.

Mastering a golf skill will take time, consistent effort and a strong commitment to the process. There will be mental ‘Snakes’ throughout the journey. You cannot master a golf skill through an epiphany, ball beating or disjointed practice.

There are four steps to owning a new golf skill

  • Step 1 - Understanding Cause and Effect

  • Step 2 - Feedback Rich Practice

  • Step 3 - Transfer Training

  • Step 4 - Play

Step 1 – Understanding Cause and Effect

Step 1 is about gaining an understanding of what to do and why. This understanding is best achieved through professional one on one instruction. Alternatively you can gain an understanding through the internet, magazines or books. To truly own a new skill, you must move beyond ‘Step 1’ and train the skill through the next three steps.

The most common pitfall to lasting improvement is skipping the hard work of steps 2 and 3. A golfer gets a tip from a friend, a magazine or the internet, and heads directly to the course expecting miraculous and instant mastery. They skip from Step 1 to Step 4 and when it doesn’t work they blame the tip, fall back to Step 1, and start looking for another tip.

If you read or hear something one night and go out the next day and expect to succeed without the hard work of steps 2 and 3, you are hoping to land on a ‘Ladder’. Fortunately for those willing to do the hard work, there are no ‘Ladders’ to golf improvement, only ‘Snakes’ to golf frustration!

“The player who expects a lesson to ‘take’ without subsequent practice just isn’t being honest with himself or fair to his professional.”—Gary Player

Step 2 – Feedback Rich Practice

Step 2 has been described as ‘Massing’ practice which is lots of focused repetition with maximum feedback from a golf professional, video camera, tailored drill or training aid.

The illusion of competence: You're on the range, pounding balls, and suddenly golf seems easy. You start flushing your shots one after the other and you can’t wait to get to the course. Unfortunately, success at the ‘Massing” level has very little to do with actual golf and is only the half-way point to owning a usable, durable and automatic skill.

Step 3 – Transfer Training

Step 3 has been described as ‘Interleaving’ practice, it includes exposing the skill to on-course competitive conditions and adapting the skill to a variety different conditions. Many repetitions under transfer conditions are needed to truly own the new skill. This step is where your strong commitment to the process will be tested. It may take months and is likely to include the added hurdle of a temporary decline in performance. There is sure to be a temptation to start searching for another quick fix or a ‘Ladder’. Transfer training is a necessary, non-negotiable step to owning a new skill.

Step 4 – Play

The final step involves playing with the new skill while keeping score on the course. You must learn to apply your new skill under real playing conditions, not just in a controlled environment on the practice range. A skill is not completely owned until it can be successfully executed consistently in competition.

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