Wednesday, January 7, 2015

General Thoughts on Golf Swing Practice...

Some general ‘rules of thumb’ I was thinking about when it comes to altering mechanics.

1. Deliberate Practice is Good, but Shouldn’t be Called ‘Deliberate Practice’

I have been experimenting with deliberate practice lately. Golf instructor Lucas Wald ( has been discussing this with his own training methods and recently posted an interesting link on the subject which can be found here:

That led to a few interesting findings: 

A. Practicing longer didn’t lead to higher rankings. 
B. Getting in more repetitions had no impact on their ranking either. 

C. The number of times they played it correctly in practice also had no bearing on their ranking.

 What did matter was:
A. How many times they played it incorrectly. The more times they played it incorrectly, the worse their ranking tended to be. 

B. The percentage of correct practice trials did seem to matter. The greater the proportion of correct trials in their practice session, the higher their ranking tended to be.

Here’s a video from Lucas briefly discussing the concept (got to 2:08 in the video)

The reason why I don’t like the term ‘deliberate practice’ is that I equate ‘deliberate’ with ‘slow.’ But as the study cited in the blog I linked to points out, it’s more about performing things correctly. And as Lucas points out, the speed changes as you practice. Once you start to perform the mechanics correctly by going from one static position to the other, then you can move from that to a full swing, but going at maybe 25% of speed. Then when you get the hang of it at 25%, move to 50%, then to 75% and so forth.

To me, it’s not about being deliberate. It’s about the percentage of times you perform it correctly and then adjusting your speed so you can start to do it correctly at a faster speed all the way until you can perform the mechanics correctly at full speed.

The beauty of what I like about ‘correct practice’ is not only can you start to pick things up more quickly, but you can work on far more things at once. Instead of relegating yourself to working on 1 or 2 things, I find that with ‘correct practice’ I can work on 4-5 things at once and start to make changes in each of those pieces.

2. If you’re looking for a new instructor, judge them by your best shots

When I got into college golf, my swing completely collapsed by the summer after my freshman year. I had 2 major problems. 

One…I had virtually zero swing knowledge. I just got up there and hit the ball and used some golf magazine ‘tips’ to straighten out some issues. When those tips no longer worked, I had nothing to help repair my golf swing.

Secondly….since I have virtually zero golf swing knowledge, I had no idea of what a good instructor was.

The second part is something that I get a lot of questions on. And part of it is not exactly the instructor’s fault. One can be a good instructor that has a lot of success with most of their students, but that instructor may not quite click with a certain student.

It took me about 30 years of golf to figure this out, but I believe that you can get an idea if the instructor is right for you by looking at your ‘good’ to ‘great’ shots. 

Anytime a golfer is learning something new, they are going to hit bad shots due to the learning curve. And they are likely to hit more bad shots initially. The key is how the ball performs when the player hits a good-to-great shot. Those should be better than the good-to-great shots you were hitting

Obviously, there may be situations when you are trying to regain your old form and that instructor’s instruction may get you hitting ‘good’ to ‘great’ shots like you used to. That may not be better than your old ‘good’ to ‘great’ shots, but there is something to be said about consistency and if you can more consistently hit those good to great shots, you are in good hands.

3. When Your Swing Goes South, Bet on There Being at Least 2 Things Wrong

If your swing completely falls apart and you can’t strike the ball anymore, chances are it is not just 1 thing giving you a problem. There will be at least 2 things that have gone horribly wrong and more likely at least 3 things that have gone awry. If there is only 1 thing going sideways with your swing, usually you can figure it out, even on the course. But when there are at least 2 things going wrong, your brain doesn’t have the ability to figure out unless you put time in on the range.

4. It is Most Difficult to Play Golf Well When You’re Making Changes to Your Backswing

f you’re working on your swing and you are altering your backswing mechanics, you can almost bet on struggling a bit on the golf course while those backswing changes are being made. I view the golf swing almost like a chain link. Parts of the backswing can influence parts of the downswing, but not always. So ignoring backswing mechanics is not always a wise choice. But, if you are working on altering your backswing, be *certain* that it will FAVORABLY alter your downswing mechanics to allow you to eventually hit the ball better because while you are working on your backswing, it’s going to be difficult to shoot good scores.


1 comment:

Bret Bonzheim Golf said...

Another great read is, "The Talent Code"! A lot of insight to what it takes to form long term habits.