Practice Slower & Play Faster

By Paul Monahan, Graves Golf Mental Game Coach

Sounds like a directive. Right?

Actually I think of it as a mental game approach. Here’s why:

At almost every Graves Golf school I attend, lots and lots of students are doing their level-best to achieve the Single Plane Swing model. But many, if not most suffer because of two important missteps.

They practice too quickly. And they PLAY the game too slowly.

Interestingly, these are not execution missteps (caused by lack of focus or an inability to understand a strategy)…they are mental game failures.

Let me explain, first with the concept of Practicing Slower.

The Single Plane Swing curriculum that Todd and Tim Graves and their instruction team have refined over the years is based on the very latest in skill development research: that we learn best from slow, deliberate and proper practice movements. (Not beating balls over and over again.)

One simply cannot groove and assimilate new body positions without this kind of work.

Moe Norman famously said to Todd and Tim that he once spent an entire day holding what we call position five. Why? Moe said he wanted to “…make it stronger.”

Just last week I heard Todd tell the story that when one of their Master Instructors was converting from conventional to the Single Plane Swing, he was known to spend hours on the practice range working on one thing: perfecting his move into position one.

Why won’t most students spend their practice time like this? One word: Their EGO.

It’s more satisfying to the EGO to hit ONE great shot every once in a while rather than spend the time needed to master a position or two.

In other words, even though it is a rational-enough concept (practicing slowly during your swing development), it is much harder to do because a part of your brain wants to “show the world” what you are capable of.

The harsh reality in all of this is: Until you SLOW DOWN and develop a deliberate practice regimen that includes far MORE correct body movement and far LESS actual shots with a ball, you will continue to delay the mastery of the Single Plane Swing. (Sorry. That’s just the way it is.)

This requires cultivating the awareness that your EGO will try to sabotage a regimen like this. It requires that you learn to tune into your mental and emotional tendencies…and be disciplined enough to stay on track with the deliberate, deep practice that will yield the changes you are looking for.

Dan Coyle wrote about this in  The Talent Code…and Todd and Tim refer often to the research and insights from Coyle’s work. Skill development comes from deep, deliberate, proper practice.

Now let’s address Playing Faster:

When it comes to playing the game, most players play too slowly. Specifically, they tinker and hover too long over the ball when they are hitting their shots. This causes paralysis by analysis – and yes…this is an actual technical term.

Sian Beilock, in her book Choke chronicles the trouble we get into when we linger over a golf shot too long. Basically, she explains that the part of our brain that is responsible for moving the body in space (procedural memory) switches off in those moments, and then our working memory takes over. This causes over-thinking and less-than-optimal muscle movement. (And yes, often is causes: The Choke)

The antidote? Play faster. Stop lingering. Pull the trigger over your shots sooner. This will prevent over-thinking and will allow you to play golf more as a reactionary sport…and you will be able to execute shots up to your talent level, not BELOW your talent level.

So if you want to get better this year, do yourself a favor and tune up your Mental Game skills: create a discipline to practice slower when off the course, and to play faster when on it.

Have Fun!


2 thoughts to “Practice Slower & Play Faster”

  1. Hi Paul. Excellent article on practicing slower and playing faster. My best improvement statistics in developing the single plane swing have been the result of this concept. Thanks for bringing it to our attention and crystalizing it in a well written and succinct summary.

  2. It certainly makes sense! Putting it into practice is HARD. Its fighting with your own mind and tendencies

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