Golf is a game of feel after you develop the mechanics though practice and repetition. In other words, after the process of seemingly endless trial and error, you get to a point where you are able to repeat something. This scenario after writing it down sort of scares me. Mostly because I know the costs of doing something incorrectly and the price you pay in the long run.
So what is the best way to practice to develop skills? Let me preface the answer to this question by saying that the ones with the most patience for developing will ultimately develop sound skills. The best way to practice is to fully understand the fundamental movements and practice them slowly and endlessly until you can no longer forget them. Practice, in the skill development phase, is about development not about results. This is where most golfers are hopelessly confused. To put this another way, in learning, you must go slow to go fast.
So lets get to the nuts and bolts of skill building. I want to share with you my thoughts on learning a simple swing. Let me begin this lesson by saying that the golf swing is nothing more than a series of body movements put together. Let us, for a moment, forget that we are hitting a golf ball and simply look at the motion necessary to move a club. If you can get to that point in your understanding, then you are only developing movement – nothing more and nothing less. The backswing is a movement of the arms so that the body can position the club at the top in a leverage position. The downswing is the movement of the body that leads the arms and club into and through impact. Wow that sounds so simple doesn’t it? So why do so many people struggle with learning this series of movement.s? This is where my experience as a teacher comes in.
The students I see are caught in the middle – directly between playing golf and developing motions. And these two things couldn’t be further apart. How can you dance the entire dance if you don’t know the first step? I suggest learning the movement first, the entire movement. This is why we teach particular drills such as the PVC drill, Impact Bag Drill and Bag to Ball Drill just to name a few. Drills can help develop movement and get you out of the “middle” between hitting the ball and learning movement. So the question here is what is the best way to learn movement. The answer is Time and Repetition of the move. In the case of golf, you should do this without hitting golf balls.
I spend hours in front of mirrors simulating the movement I want. Mirrors are a great way to watch yourself. I also hold the positions that I want to feel, making simulated golf swing motions from address, backswing and downswing holding each position for a few seconds. In a recent article I read about the brains ability to learn, it mentioned that it takes up to 15 seconds for the brain to feel something. I don’t know how accurate this information is but I have found that holding a position definitely allows me to feel it throughout my entire body. This is a key component to learning moves is that you must realize that the entire body is involved.
If you are simulating the downswing in front of a mirror, and you stop at the hitting position, after a few seconds you notice that your legs get tired, your lead knee has weight into it and your trail arm feels bent. These feelings are teaching the entire body how to position itself for this moment in the swing. I find this type of practice the most important part of learning.