2013 Monograph Series on How Your Brain Really Works, #3  

Years ago I had the opportunity to go through a training and certification program called The Applied Creative Thinking Workshop with a pioneer of whole brain studies and creativity named Ned Herrmann. He was “one of the first to ascertain, thru testing, how individuals use or prefer one, two, three or all four possible brain quadrants.”  Ned discovered that people have a predominate ‘preference’ for how they think and while that preference is a strength, it is also a major limiter to creativity. Ned was all about getting out of the self-imposed mental box.

A particular fun part of the training was the seminar room in Lake Lure, North Carolina. It was a sensory delight to enter. A large, open, airy room it was literally wall to wall with TOYS.  That’s right, toys of every kind imaginable from squirt guns, jump ropes, board games, slinkies, yo-yo’s, dolls, masks, balls and simulation games. Ned seemed to take a delight in having every game you could imagine and his training room would have put most any toy store around to shame.  More importantly, Ned was always encouraging people to play with the toys during the trainings.

What I noticed was that the toys always came out when we were at an impasse in the training, having a complicated discussion or when people seemed to be blocked in their understanding.  These “play sessions” often set the tone for new learning and new associations or insights and we came to understand that the toys were present to stimulate our senses (meaning our brain) in the belief that new neural connections would be made and in return it would help facilitate learning.  It worked.

Why Having Toys (Training Aids) Help You to Learn

Golf training aids are the equivalent of TOYS because they serve the same function of stimulating new neural connections when you are uncertain or seeking to work out how to move or position your body in a specific way.  If a training aid does not do this then you don’t need it. If it does, then why would you consider training without it?

Remarkably, our awareness of this ‘toy effect’ goes back a long way. The famous philosopher Jean Jacque Rousseau wrote a letter to an Italian scientist named Michele Vincenzo Malacarne in the late 1700’s posing a radical question for the times.  “Could nervous tissue be changed by experience?”

“Malacarne, who was an expert in the cerebellum, a part of the brain involved in the flow of ideas and flow of movement, basically got…two clutches of birds: one bird group he raised with lots and lots of stimulation, and the other not. Then he sacrificed the animals and looked at their brains, and Malacarne saw that the cerebellum of a bird that had been stimulated had become larger.”

Forward two centuries and this experiment got repeated in the 1960s by many other neuroscientists, this time using higher tech equipment. The results were the same.

“They compared rats raised in two environments. One was a small, barren enclosure and the other a larger space with mazes, toys, and other rats. They found that in those rats in the richer environments, the cerebral cortex, which is central to learning, weighed significantly more.”   National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavior Medicine

Get your head around this perspective. In an environment rich in stimuli you tend to learn in a more productive manner.  If you are struggling with the learning process, having difficulty letting go of old models or wanting to accelerate the learning process embrace proven training aids.  They are designed to help you learn more effectively and translate the position into feelings faster. It is literally a way to enrich your learning environment.

If you examine the training aids for the single plane swing offered by Grave’s Golf you see there are not many in number.  However, each one is designed to precisely aid in helping you acquire new feelings and integrate them. Below is my short form summary of how these ‘toys’ will help you build a better and more reliable golf game by making new neural links not available any other way.

  • ABT – Alignment and Ball Position Trainer:  Learn the address and set up with clarity. This device will teach you how far to stand from the ball, thus insuring a proper 45 degree spine angle. It teaches the correct ball position for the various clubs, insuring a consistent impact position and demonstrates the difference in ball position between the irons and driver. It is also helpful in making sure you don’t get your hips too open or closed at address.
  • Short Game Alignment Trainer: This little device helps establish the correct face angle for chips, pitches and flop shops.  It promotes the correct shaft lean during impact and a consistent trajectory off the club for these short shots. We’ve also found it to be a dynamite way to get the feeling of working your hands down the line through impact.
  • Leverage Bag:  Nothing better for teaching how to separate the lower and upper body in the transition.  Most people hit the bag automatically in the correct manner and often times it is helpful to just hit and freeze at impact while noting what your body is doing. It also makes an effective door stop in an emergency, as it did for me during a recent snow storm. This is an optional benefit.
  • Six Iron Training Club:  Marvelous for making sure you get the correct lead hand position and the sunny side up position of the trail arm necessary for letting the trail arm fold properly in the backswing.
  • PVC pipe.  Using a 3/4 inch five foot long PVC you can experience a true one piece take away as you keep the pipe against your lead side. Also, it gives you readily identifiable visual feedback and check points to make sure you are moving through key positions.  A wonderful device you can buy at any big box store.

Folks, finally you can argue that the science is on your side in owning all the toys. I mentioned this to my wife as I made my argument for a Ferrari purchase, but found the reasoning fell apart at some point.  However, I shall work diligently in tightening up my thesis.  The truth about our training toys is that they exist to stimulate new neural connections in your learning and accelerate the learning process.   This isn’t rocket science folks.. this is brain science!

About the Author:  Ron Cruickshank, Ph.D., is a GGA Master Instructor and he teaches the single plane golf swing at our Canadian HQ, The Royal Ashburn Golf Club, in Whitby, Ontario. Go on-line and book a school or a lesson.  Ron is finalizing a new book entitled Swing Like Moe Norman- Use Your Brain for a Change and Learn the Swing of the World’s Greatest Ball Striker featuring Todd Graves.