Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Thoughts on Making Swing Transformations

Here's another tremendous improvement in the golf swing from one of Lucas Wald's ( students.

I had shown Andy's swing a little while ago where he was at about 75% speed, now he's at about 90% speed.

I've continued to receive a lot of questions about practice regimens for golf. There are few key tenets to follow in this:

1. The speed of the motion makes it more difficult for the brain to process new movement patterns than the length of the motion. It's not even close in terms of which make things more difficult.

One of the most popular drills in golf in what people consider 'deliberate practice' is to use the 9-to-3 drill:

There are many issues with the 9-to-3 drill, but the big one is that it is designed to take out a key part of the swing...the motion to the top of the swing and the transition from the top of the swing.

If you're just going to the left arm parallel to the ground (9 o'clock position), the movement into that position, the structure of that position, very different than if you are going into your full swing. Going into your full length swing is important because you just don't automatically go into the top of the swing.

The other part is that the transition is critical because of the change of direction. Again, it's more about the speed of the motion than the length of the motion. And in transition not only is the speed becoming faster with the arms, but it's a change of direction as well.

Have you ever worked on new mechanics and see them fall apart either during transition or immediately after transition?

It's the speed of transition and the change of direction that is making it very difficult for the brain to process the new mechanics. There's just nothing deliberate about the 9-to-3 drill. 

2.  It's about getting in 'correct' reps as much as it is about avoiding 'incorrect' reps.

Many golfers think they will get the hang of things by just continually hitting balls and they tend to think of it as having to hit so many thousands of golf balls before things start to become ingrained.  The problem with that line of thinking is that it does not consider the amount of 'incorrect' reps the golfer is so they are only continuing to train themselves those 'incorrect' reps.

I've said this on this blog before, a golfer would be better offing hitting 100 balls and doing every single one of the 'correctly' than they would be hitting 1,000 balls and hitting 500 of them 'correctly' and 500 of them 'incorrectly.'

3.  The brain needs creativity and confidence to help ingrain your new swing mechanics.

This is why drills usually don't work.  They are designed to be repetitive and often set up for failure or minimal rewards which hurts the golfer's confidence.

I used to think you wanted to randomize practice just to get good at hitting shots you may come across on the golf course.  But, research shows that randomization helps with stimulating the brain's creativity and that creativity is needed in order to INGRAIN new movement patterns.  Creativity is like a muscle, if you don't train it, it will not develop very strongly.

Another reason why I dislike the 9-to-3 drill is that the reward for hitting a good shot is minimal since you're only taking a half swing.  A well struck 9-to-3 shot will go low and not very far.  That hurts the golfer's confidence which is needed for ingraining a swing. 

Ever have those days where you are so confident you think you cannot possibly miss a shot?  That's the confidence kicking in and allowing you to make the same repetitive good swing over and over.

4.  You will have to get new obstacles in the way in order to learn.

While I'm a proponent of slow motion practice, I'm not a fan of those that teach to close your eyes to better feel the motion of the swing.  Closing the eyes ignores new obstacles in the game like the golf ball.  When you see new obstacles, the brain goes into what it is comfortable with (old mechanics).  So, you have to practice with the ball in your way.  And you need to get out on the course and deal with other factors like wind, water, pressure, etc. 

5.  It's very much about awareness.

Slow motion movement pattern training not only allows the golfer to figure out the motion, but it allows them to become more aware of what happens in the swing.  They then take that awareness and eventually try to replicate the swing by FEEL rather than by THOUGHT or VISUALIZATION.

It's why guys like Bubba Watson and Fred Couples never seem to struggle too much for too long and talk about how they really don't have any swing thoughts going on when they are playing.  They have long sensed what type of mechanics they are trying to achieve and they use that sense to feel their way into the swing they want instead of thinking things like 'keep your left arm straight' or 'feel like you're dragging a wet mop.' 

When I learned how to type in a typing class in high school, we started off in slow motion.  After a while the students start to get a sense of what motions they need to make in order to type up words.  And they could tell when they incorrectly spelled a word because the keystrokes they were making didn't feel right.

For example, if I were to type the word 'Whistling Straits' as 'Whustling Straits', my brain will immediately know that I made an incorrect motion when I typed in the letter 'u' instead of the letter 'i.' 

The same should apply to the golf swing with proper movement pattern training.  It's not about repeating swing thoughts.  It's about doing it correctly and truly feeling the motion that you made to do the swing 'correctly' and then developing a sense of what is needed to repeat that 'correct' motion.

If you can follow that and stick to it, you'll start to make the same transformations that Andy has made.


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