By Dr. Ron Cruickshank, Golf Mind Coach & GGA Director, Canada

Technique: Have a Formula for Becoming Consistent

Over the Christmas period I’ve had several conversations with students about their goals for the coming year concerning their golf game. Without fail, each person eventually came to the conclusion that they desired CONSISTENCY above all else in their game.  They want to show up at the golf course and know they will hit the ball well on any given day.

But why is this their objective? On a surface level I got a lot of different answers to this ‘why’ question. For some, this desire for consistency was connected to their competitive juices (beat their buddies, win the Club Championship, qualify for a certain tournament). For others it was related more to pride, self-mage and a desire to be competent and to be seen as competent by their friends and peers.

Behavioral science research has shown that humans have three primary motivational meta-drivers underlying much of their behavior during their lives.

  1. Autonomy – the desire to be self-directed.
  2. To be engaged in purposeful activities – to make a contribution.
  3. Challenge and Mastery – the hard-wired urge or need to get better at things.

As I reflected on why people want to be more consistent in their golf games, it became clear to me that for most it is deeply connected to their internal drive to achieve mastery at this strange game of hitting a ball on the ground with a stick.  Pretty basic really, people want to get better and become more consistent because they want to. They come up with all kinds of reasons to explain their passion and desire, but I think the same drive would hold true if they took up Tidally-Winks or Bridge.

This understanding puts our motivation in context. The next question is HOW do we achieve mastery? It is not enough to just want to be good. What separates the low handicapper from the high handicapper is not just the strength of DESIRE. One can have great desire and still not be competent. Inconsistency is the result of a lack of correct information and not having a clear formula to achieve mastery.

Formula For Achieving Consistency (Mastery)

To begin let me offer the following formula or process to achieving consistency.

Consistency = Complexity – Simplicity – Practice – Consistency

The formula is to take a complex move (the golf swing) and find the least complicated or simplest method (single plane swing) to achieve mastery (consistency). The logic is based on knowing that the simplest method will always be the easiest to replicate on a consistent basis. (See my notes on Simplicity below). Consistency is promoted and enabled by efficiency.

The formula restated: take what is inherently complex, reduce it to the most basic and simple understanding and then practice that until you become consistent. I call this process of making it simple Crunching Complexity. Reducing the golf swing to simplicity does not mean it isn’t comprehensive or representative of the intricacy in the golf move. What it does mean is that you’ve achieved an effective and efficient way to “em-body” the golf swing into a repeatable move. My favorite insight into this view of simplicity is often attributed to Einstein:  Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

This formula holds true for all elements of your game from the power swing to putting. Find out what works and reduce the complexity into workable and understandable chunk levels for you. Remember, that in order to make things simple you must crunch the complexity first by making the necessary learning distinctions. Only then can you eliminate the superfluous and focus on what is essential.

Once you have simplified things by eliminating the needless and focusing on the crucial, the path to consistency to quite clear. REPETITION and more REPETITION as you build the correct skill circuits. The result will be consistency.

Notes On Achieving Simplicity: In thinking through the issue of simplicity and why it is important I kept returning to a principle known as Occam’s (or Ockham’s) Razor. This principle is attributed to a 14th century logician and English Franciscan friar, William of Ockham.

While the interpretations have evolved over the years, my favorite adaptation states that “If you have two equally likely solutions to a problem, choose the simplest.”  A close second is “The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct.

To me, Moe Norman was practicing this kind of principled insight in the way he developed his single plane move. He constantly adapted to what was the simplest solution. He was often quoted as saying. “My swing has the fewest moving parts” and “everything is moving in the same direction, always” and “no twisting or turning in my swing”. When you think about these statements they were his unique way of saying he had taken the complexity out of the swing equation as much as possible and found the simplest way to get the job done.  So KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) and play golf!