Practice makes Permanent

As a coach, I am consumed, and concerned, by the way golfers practice.  Let’s be honest, just as the quality of food you eat practice determines the health of your body, the way you practice affects the health of your golf swing.  

I have outlined what I believe are “Levels” of Swing training and practice.  The levels detailed below are my observations of the different types and methods of practice and the quality of feedback students are willing to apply to their practice. 

As with all learning, you are what you repeat.  If you repeat correct practice habits, your outcomes improve. 

The Levels of Swing Training / Practice

Level 1: Range Practice (90% of all golfers)

  • Hitting balls Using ball-results as measurement
  • Estimating and making Assumptions
  • Reliance on Feelings
  • Troubleshooting: Guessing

Level 2: Training Aids and Tools (10% of golfers)

  • Using Ball-results as measurement 
  • Use of Training Aids 
  • Reliance of Feelings 
  • Troubleshooting: Guessing

Higher Levels of Training / Speed up the process of habit building 

Level 3: Video Feedback (1% of all Golfers)

  • Using Model as measurement 
  • Perceptions and adjustments 
  • Must have understanding of Model 
  • Must have way to compare directly to model 
  • Focus on Model not ball-flight results           
  • Troubleshooting: Matching the Model / Adjust

Level 4:  Combine Level 2 and Level 3 (1% of Golfers)

  • Using Body-motion as a measurement 
  • Perception and adjustment 
  • Training Aids allow for focus on motion 
  • Focus on model not ball-flight results 
  • Troubleshooting: Using Training aids to measure and match the model

Level 5: Ideal Training – Biofeedback (Less than 1% )

  • Using Body-motion as the measurement 
  • Instant motion feedback / indicating correct or incorrect movement in real time
  • Feel as you move 
  • Focus on matching model movements (not ball-flight)
  • Identify body weaknesses and flexibility issues
  • Focus on process and motion before ball-flight 
  • Troubleshooting: Adjust body position / develop motion, strength and flexibility

Level 6: Direct from Coach (1% of Golfers)

  • Combine Body Motion / Video Feedback and Ball-Flight Results to enhance modeling.
  • Use Training and Bio-feedback tools
  • Match the Model with Coaches Expertise.
  • Troubleshooting: Refer to Coach for guidance

Observing a student and measuring

Keep in mind that Level 6, while the highest level of training and possibly the most effective,  might not be the best for long-term learning.  It lacks one very important quality that I find extremely important in making changes – personal responsibility of the process.  It relies on the coach to solve the students problems.  Take away the coach’s input in Level 6, and you revert to Level 1 where the training becomes almost useless.  

Also, if you look back at all the levels, other than level 1, they all require a swing model.  This allows us to have something to measure against whether in comparison on video or through data and metrics (biofeedback).  

This is what makes Level 1 so unproductive.  

The takeaways from this article.  First, remember that practice makes permanent (not perfect).  You must practice correctly to get the ideal results.  Secondly, always remember that when you practice you are creating.  This means that you are becoming what you repeatedly think and do.