In the world of golf, technology now plays an enormous part in helping golfers to learn, play and understand what they need to do.
Whether it is measuring the golf ball, the player, the club or some other element of performance, technology has a place at the elite level, but what about the average golfer?
To date with all the advances in technology, clubs, courses and knowledge there has been no improvement in the handicap of the average golfer. So why are we bothering with more technology?
How about starting where the elite players know the game is won and lost – the 5 inches between your ears - your brain? The elite players know what it’s like to succeed and Arnold Palmer for one said “Success in golf depends less on strength of body than upon strength of mind and character”.
In our coaching we spend a lot of our time explaining to golfers about the gaps and traps they encounter that will impact their performance. One of these gaps is the difference between perception and reality. “What you think you do and what you are actually doing can be very different”. When you close that gap you will start to experience the difference and that little voice inside you will be saying “that’s exactly what I wanted” compared to “Wow that was lucky!” In everyday life be it in sport or in business there are perception/reality gaps but mostly we don’t know they are there. However, the top performers in business and in sport know they not only exist, but they know what they are for them and they also know that with focused practice they can and do close them. What they end up doing is coaching themselves – that’s great because on the golf course they have to!
When it comes to our coaching at Mind Fit Golf, we trust the very task the golfer is doing, ie hitting the ball, to tell us what actually happened. We know we can measure it with technology and sometimes we do, but we all have a brain that can handle lots of information and it’s always hungry for more, so why not start giving it relevant information it can use? The rush to use technology to do this can take the control away from the golfer.
The brain is the most sophisticated computer known to man, so let’s feed it and start by applying simple understanding and then layering more understanding on a solid foundation. Introducing technology could be one of the upper layers once the foundation is strong. After all, this layering approach isn’t new. It’s similar to what we have done at school and even before we went to school. So at Mind Fit Golf we start with the physics of the ball and understanding simple facts that occurred at the moment of impact to raise the golfer’s awareness of what they did to cause the effect. Did you know that perfectly striking the ball just 1mm off centre and your ball will miss your target at 150m by 6m? That’s either side of your target. Most golfers don’t know that – a dimple on the golf ball is nearly 4mm in diameter – so a dimple out and you’ll miss the fairway!
To improve your performance you need to raise awareness and that’s just one example of raising the awareness of the golfer that is fundamental to improving their golf. All the research and evidence shows the fundamental principles behind coaching of 'raising awareness to generate responsibility' are sound. However, by far the major cause of coaching failure is the attitude and behaviours of both coach and coachee. Attitude doesn’t come from a golf club or technology; it also comes from the 5 inches between the ears.
Advances in neuroscience now occur almost daily but it has only recently been accepted that our brain, once considered to operate like a computer, does in fact have an amazing capacity to process information. Once it has the right information to work with, learning happens, as long as we allow it to happen. Therein lies another ‘trap’ – allowing it to happen
What has been discovered in our approach to the learning process in golf is that with a ‘Can Do’ mindset amazing things can and will happen. Whether on the golf course, in business, at school or in life, having the right mindset is the key to development. Henry Ford said “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right” – it’s the way you view it and your attitude towards it will be what counts.
The golf swing has been analysed from every angle, more than any other movement, so surely by now we must know how to do it? And there is the problem. We know every movement in minute detail, but how is the golfer supposed to consciously coordinate all those moving parts into no more than two seconds of movement and create the shot they want. They can’t!
In the book ‘The Golfing Machine’, Homer Kelly explains that the golf swing can be broken down into 24 basic components, each having around 144 component variations and statisticians have calculated that there are over 400 quadrillion permutations, good luck then in finding what works for you.
In ‘Mind games’ by Jeff Grout & Sarah Perrin, they refer to how Jonny Wilkinson the rugby union player is famed for using his imagination to handle a massive number of permutations when taking a penalty kick. In essence his penalty kick is the same as a golfer taking a shot.
He said, “As soon as you know you are going to kick you fall into that routine, which more or less shuts you off from everything. So I set the ball up, move back a certain number of steps, check everything is in line, do a visualisation of the path of the ball – where it is going to go and where I want it to go. Then I move to the side so I am now ready to kick. The routine then continues in a visualisation kind of way, but it’s actually more of a sensation; I imagine the feeling I have when the ball hits the foot, the perfect feel of how I want it to feel when it hits my foot, where I want it to hit my foot – what it’s going to feel like when it goes right.”
“Then I find a tiny dot dead centre between the posts, or wherever I’m aiming. I visualise the line of the ball to the dot, as if it were on a wire attached to it. Then I have a kind of ‘centring’ response, where I visualise all the power going from my central point down to where it needs to be, down my left leg and exploding from my left foot. I really feel that sensation. Then I really focus on the exact point on the ball I am going to hit and the part of my foot that I want it to come off. Then I send the ball up the wire.
So I don’t stand by the ball and say, “I am going to kick this, I feel fantastic.” It’s that as soon as I am given the kick I go into the routine I have done a hundred times a week in practice.”
Flexibility and adaptability are essential ingredients for success and what technology gives us is a specific set of numbers, but how certain can we be it was what actually happened? Imagine walking up a flight of stairs. We do not know the height of each step, in fact they vary. We could measure them in advance, but it would just be more information, unnecessary information when our unconscious mind has the capacity to do it for us. Every step might look the same but we are making minor adjustments on the fly as we ascend the stairs.
We could share with the golfer the length of the club, their arms, how far the ball is away from their eyes, how much flex is in their knees, I think you get the message and yet the beginner golfer may still miss the ball. But surely they have the facts so why do they miss it?
It seems that if something can be measured it will be and if enough evidence is gathered to suggest a trend that produces a successful outcome, this then becomes a fact and now if everyone does it that way a successful result must occur. Until it doesn’t! And then what do you do?
So let’s get back to the 5 inches between your ears – and use it in a positive and constructive way. Start by mentally imagining and living the swing, the point of connection with the power behind the shot. You see in your mind the ball flying down the fairway landing exactly where you wanted it to. Then the journey towards the green when you actually hit the ball becomes easier. Through focused practice you will improve and close the gap between your perception and reality. And it works!
Alternatively you can do what you’ve always done and keep trying to make sense of all the technical stuff. Bottom line is it’s YOUR choice!