By Dr. Ron Cruickshank, Golf Mind Coach & GGA Director, Canada
The word is out. Muscle memory doesn’t exist. It is a myth. The memory of your golf swing is actually stored as an electrical-chemical code in your brain within neurons. Your brain about 15 billion of these neurons, so no need to worry about getting overloaded with information or distinctions. The data on a neuron is connected to other neurons via connectors called dendrites. As you build skill, over thousands of repetitions, you build up a cluster of connected neurons. The communication pathway between dendrites is either strong or weak, depending on how much of a chemical – known as myelin – has been built up through repetition. The more myelin you have built up, the more reliable and faster the signals will be to your muscles. Experts have super highways between their neurons insuring a repeatable and accurate re-creation of the physical movement, again and again. As Moe Norman said. “I don’t know how to do it wrong.” This is a literal and true statement.
However, the same holds true for the hacker. If they have practiced the wrong movements for thousands of repetitions over many years, they have perfectly accomplished the skill of performing their ineffective swing over and over. When they try to make a change, they often find it difficult because it ‘doesn’t feel right’. As teachers, we know they are relating to an ineffectual model they have stored in their brain. In fact, when my student tells me it doesn’t ‘feel right’ my response is to tell them to celebrate, because that means they are doing something different.
Building Myelin Skill Circuits Through SlowMo Practice
Among the most effective methods of building myelin paths is slow motion practice. The slow motion movement allows you to make accurate and correct movements and make the most minor adjustments and modifications that aren’t possible in a real-time regular tempo swing.
By now, most of you GGA members out there have heard the benefits of slow motion practice. Dan Coyle, in his book The Talent Code, wrote how most of the training centers he studied (in what he called “talent hotbeds”) around the world utilize this technique. Under the supervision of a trained observer (their coach) students practice their skill in slow motion, seeking to do so with perfect technique. This is true from a tennis hotbed in Russia to the Meadow Mount Music Center in New York that routinely turns out world-class musicians.
This is not a new practice to golf. A little research on U-Tube will reveal a 60-year old film of Ben Hogan in the seaside backyard of a friend demonstrating his full driver swing in an exquisitely choreographed slow motion ballet. He had obviously done this dance thousands of times, as each movement from approaching address to the completed forward swing was done elegantly with precision and balance. World-class experts have gravitated towards this technique because it works. I believe we can all learn from their affinity to this kind of practice.
Specific Technique for Slow Motion Practice
HOW TO PRACTICE FULL SWING SLOMO
- When you begin to use this method, I suggest you start with your PVC pipe for practicing from Position O to Position 4 at impact. The PVC helps to insure you are precise in your moves and, in particular, the sense of a ‘one-piece’ move from Position O to l. Beyond position 4 you obviously will need to use a regular club or any training club you like. We have had good results from students using both the GGA Training Club and a weighted club.
- It is useful to use the GGA Alignment Trainer. It insures you are correctly lined up, have the correct stance width and proper distance from the ball with each club. Remember, the objective is to practice as perfectly as possible over many repetitions. At the minimum, use a club to make sure you are properly aligned.
PRACTICE TIP: Never trust your eyes when training; insure exactness by taking as many variables out of the practice equation as are within your control.
- Use the GGA positions because they break down the entire swing in manageable chunks and will help you focus on particular parts of the swing you wish to target and improve.
- If possible, have a mirror face-on or DTL so you can check your positions.
- Using the GGA positions as a reference, start from Position O and take a full TEN SECONDS to reach Position l. Concentrate on continuous smooth movement and notice any areas that seem bumpy or unsmooth. This is feedback and will continuously give you clues as to what needs to be done.
- Continue through all the GGA Positions, taking a full TEN seconds between each position. At your finish (Position 6), maintain and hold your balance for an additional 5 seconds).
- Once you have mastered the basic slow motion movement, I suggest beginning (in slow motion) from approximately three feet behind the ball as you would in an actual round. Notice where your eyes track, how you approach the ball, how you get your body ready to make the swing. Soon, this will become your routine and serve you well when it matters.
During your slow motion movement, pay attention to the feedback you are getting. Notice which muscles trigger your swing; observe what happens to your balance and your weight distribution during the swing. Where is the tension in your body and is it useful? If you practice this method diligently, I guarantee you will find useful new distinctions on a regular basis while simultaneously building those skill circuits.
An added benefit that everyone likes about slow motion practice is that you can do it anywhere and with no worry about hitting the living room coffee table. I regularly practice in my TV room amidst couch, a couple of easy chairs and the tube.
A caveat. This practice regimen requires focus and discipline. When done properly it takes over a minute to complete ONE slow motion swing. If you initially have difficulty, as is often reported, try 5 seconds between positions. As you get more skilled make the slow motion swing one continuous movement from start to finish and feel your confidence and consistency build.
I’ll close this blog with a new development in slow motion golf training. Most people think it is just for practicing your full power swing. Next blog, I will tell you about some new slow motion techniques I’ve been testing over the winter to noticeably improve your PUTTING. Stay tuned and let me know how these techniques work for you.
About the Author: Dr. Ron Cruickshank lives outside Toronto where he recently opened the Moe Norman Golf School as part of our expansion program into Canada. Headquartered at The Royal Ashburn Golf Club, a top 50 Canadian course, Ron is already dreaming about spring. He can be reached at 647-892-4653.