May 2012

May 2012: Golf Tips From A Pro - Why You're Not Improving

Author: Pete Popovich | Photographer: Photography by Anne

In the past 50 years the average golfer’s handicap has not come down more than a stroke. The PGA Tour’s lowest stroke average (adjusted) stood for nearly 50 years until it was broken by less than half a stroke a few years ago. All of the advancements in technology, equipment and course conditions have not afforded you, the golfer, the ability to achieve your goal of breaking 100, 90, 80, or lower. Could it be the way you are being instructed and how information is being conveyed that is the problem? Could it be the way information/knowledge is presented to you that keeps you from taking full advantage of it? This month, we will detail how and why your improvement is lacking and why, even after buying the latest in technology and instruction, your game is at a stalemate.

Learning is simple when you are taught correctly. Just remember a favorite teacher you had in school and how easy it was to learn in his or her class. Now, recall the teachers with whom you didn’t gel and how difficult their classes were. Most likely, unbeknownst to you or your teacher, there was something in the way each of you processed and relayed information that allowed you to understand the information they were passing on. In all teaching, someone possesses the information (the teacher), and someone wants to obtain this information (the student). More importantly, a gap exists between the two that needs to be bridged, and this bridge is built by the way the teacher’s information is conveyed. A teacher could know all there is to know about something, but if he or she cannot explain it in a way that you understand, the information is useless.

Research has shown that there are three learning styles: visual-watching, auditory-listening, and kinesthetic-actual doing. There are also different ways of assimilating/personalizing information called “intelligences” (linguistic, logical, musical, spatial, kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic). You learn best by using one of the three aforementioned styles, and you retain/apply that information using the intelligences. Each person is better at some of these methods than at others, and it is in these ways that the information and how you apply it to your golf game (swing, practice session, playing) has to be used. How do you know which of these aspects apply to you? You often do not. You might know if you learn by watching, listening or doing, but your assimilation of the material depends on the intelligences. This is why it is critical to learn from a teacher who understands these and knows how to apply them to your game.

For example, take misalignment and lack of tempo. Assume you are a visual learner and your dominant intelligences are spatial and musical. By seeing your swing on video, your brain easily comprehends what is happening because you see it. Making changes, however, has to be done in a way that you can comprehend and apply spatially and musically. Now if an instructor told you to set two alignment rods (lines) on the ground in order for your alignment to be correct, you could do so easily on the range. But within a few swings on the course, you would fall right back into misalignment, because your brain does not relate very well to lines when spatial positions are different.

A logical learner would respond differently. If your instructor adjusted you verbally each time you lined up incorrectly, it would do no good, but using alignment sticks (lines) would benefit you greatly.

Why these differences in learning? Because of the different intelligences people possess. (A musically inclined learner whose swing tempo gets quick could more easily reset his tempo with a metronome rather than hearing someone tell him his swing is too fast.)

The same holds true for practice sessions. Spatial golfers get bored if they hit pre-determined numbers of shots with each club, so they have to practice creatively to keep their brains stimulated while learning. Hitting five shots of five different shapes (straight, high, low, fade, draw) with each club from seven iron through driver will keep their creative mind occupied while improving their swing. The structure in their practice comes from hitting a specific number of each type shot, regardless of the outcome until, improving, they would hit only three types of shots per club then finally only one type per club. (A logical golfer would not find this way very beneficial; he would benefit more from working on hitting all shots with one club while practicing a particular drill.)

As you can see, “different strokes for different folks” applies. Knowing how you learn is crucial to gaining knowledge, especially in the game of golf. Also, how swing faults are explained, how you go about curing them, as well as the manner in which the cure is applied all relate to how your brain best processes information. This information is rarely, if ever, mentioned in the how-to sections of golf magazines or teaching manuals. Most would rather capitalize, at your expense, on the newest fads or theories and tell you how much you will improve as a result. Yet after years of this, has your game really improved?

Our efforts are geared toward improving your total game, from driver through putter and from tee through green. Our continued research in all facets of the game is second to none, and we are not afraid to be compared to other methods or philosophies.

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