One of ofthe most common blocks to learning that i am familiar with is the confusion that surrounds the difference between ‘ Golf learning‘ and ‘Golf understanding’. Often, what happens in golf is that we confuse golf understanding what to do with ability to act on or implement that understanding. In other words, we tend to believe that the more we understand the ‘ what to do’, then the move we will have learned and the more we will be able to do.
The ‘what to do’ in golf is the mass of information that is available to us on how to play the game – the detailed theory explaining all the body movements that are necessary to return the clubface to the ball in the most effective way. But simply reading and understanding this information – whether it’s describing the grip, the posture or the backswing – is very different from actually being able to do it. Golf learingis not simply understanding, learing is experiencing a concept to the point of being able to execute that concept – that’s how it becomes a skill.
Think about it this way, A pilot could explain to us how to fly an aeroplane, but while we might understand what he is saying, we certainly won’t have learned how to fly. The only way we will ever do that is to get out and physically experience what is involved.
If we confuse golf learing with golf understanding, when we find we are unable to perform as we would ideally like to, we are incllined to go off in search of more ‘how to’ instruction. We want to know exactly what it is we are doing wrong and what we need to do to put it right. However, most of us already have all the technical information that we will ever need in order to play well ( some of us have too much, others have the wrong information, and some both). It is not that we do not understand what to do, it is simply that we are not sufficiently skilled in acting on the information that we have.
Psychologist tell us that we learn a half of what we learn in our whole lifetimin our fisrt five years. So why does our rate of learing slow down so much after these first few years ?
As children we had a tremendous capacity and appetite to learn, it was in- built at birth and is part of being human. We experienced te first yarsof our lives without preconceived ideas about what was right or wrong, or good or bad, or what we should or should not do. We had little or no fear or inhibition. During our formative years we developed our basic motor-skills through a very natural process, one that was free of formal instruction or training. We learned how to walk and to talk, to eat with a knife and fork, to run up and down stairs, and so on.
Wheattempting something as young children, our reaction would be along the lines of ‘Oh, that’s what happens. That’s interesting. I wonder what happens if I try to do it this way …’ We were inquisitive. We did not judge our performances other than to decide what to do differently the next time in order to get what we wanted. Everthing that we did was new and exciting. Ours minds were relaxed, and learning was fun.
Teh at in which children learn is epitomised in their reaction to failure. When a child falls while learing to walk he doesn’t react by saying to himself ‘ You dummy, you fell over. Why don’t you try to keep your head stil and keep your balance. Come on, try hardr.’ Children don’t recognise failure. They just pick themselves up and try again.
The, somewhere bewteen the age of about five and seven years, we began to understand the concepts of right and wrong, good and bad, should and shouldn’t. As a reult we focused a lot of our energy and attention on avoiding the ‘ba’. the ‘wrong’ and the ‘shouldn’t’, because we found that the consequences of these could be painful, or threaten us in some way. Our efforts were now directed into avoiding failure as distinct from learing.
As a golfer we might feel the smoothness of our swing or the elation in response to a good shot; if we anticipate a poor shot we might feel uncomfortable or awkward over the ball, or our memories of the past. If we anticipate success we might hear the crack of the ball as it is met squarely and forcefully by the clubface; if we anticipate failure that sound might be a muffled thud as the clube strike the ground behind the ball.
We judge and evaluate our performance against some some blue print that we think will fix the problem. The potential for learning remains with us all, but as we grow older we tend to adopt a very analytical ‘left brained’ approach to golf learing which actually slow down the process of improving.