A great golf teacher is one who imparts enough knowledge in his or her students that those students can self-correct based on knowing and feeling their OWN swing. That’s why the most important role of a teacher is to provide opportunities for discovery — those “aha” moments where real learning begins.
When students leave a lesson tee, they want to be sure they “get it.” To clarify, “it” is the true cause and effect in their swing. If they know the “it” and how to fix it, they’ve moved into self discovery, which is the key to long-term progress. I call this type of learning if this, then that and it is the most effective way of internalizing “the secret,” whatever that might be to you.
Ever wonder why you improve during a lesson but can’t take it to the golf course? It’s because you didn’t really get it. You didn’t discover enough on your own to go play.
The “how-to” lesson needs to go the way of the dinosaur if golfers are going to have real, sustained progress. Relying on your instructor during a session is fine, but at some point you need to get enough information so that you can self correct. There is a vast chasm between being told what to do and learning it on your own. I’m not saying that you don’t need guidance, but make sure to search for the essence of your feeling during the lesson, not just the teacher’s description of that feeling.
Here’s an example:
TEACHER: “On this next swing, turn more in the backswing.”
TEACHER: “Because it gives you a better chance of hitting more from the inside. When you see the ball slice, FOR YOU that means you did not turn properly in the backswing. Let’s do some drills to help you FEEL that.”
Investment in a lesson is more than simply financial if you, the student, want to get better. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a false sense of improvement, which are better results based entirely on my feedback. Very often I say nothing after a few flubbed shots for a student, just to see what they have learned. Golfers on their own are in the best classroom in the world, the classroom of TRIAL and ERROR. A keep-making-mistakes-until-you-don’t approach to learning is going to create the best long-term progress you will ever have.
“What did I do on that swing, pro” should be a provisional state of confusion: a question to be answered when and only when the learner is completely at a loss. Invest yourself in the learning process deeply enough that you get your “aha” moment. Learn to embrace failure; it’s the best way to succeed. Golf is not a connect-the-dots, how-to game that you will learn by book or tape. You could learn history that way, but not golf. At least not for very long. Self discovery has a lasting effect. Being told what to do has a very fleeting effect (about an hour in most cases).
We teachers are trying to change habits — deeply ingrained muscle motions — that have been a part of your swing for a very long time. Those habits are not going to suddenly disappear by being TOLD WHAT TO DO. That’s why the instructor may say the same thing several different ways. For example, “turn your shoulders,” “get your back to the target,” “get your left shoulder under your chin” and “rotate your upper body” are all ways of saying the same thing. Which one works for you? Which one provides you with that “aha” moment where you can FEEL the new motion?
Perhaps you can relate it to something you’ve done before. Throwing a baseball or a football involves turning the upper body away in the wind up. Try every suggestion until one clicks. It will if you’re looking in the right place.
I have a building at my golf academy and often I sneak inside and watch students practice after a lesson just to see what they have actually learned. My concern is what happens when I leave. When the fear of looking foolish in front of the pro subsides, the real work of trial and error begins. You have maximized your investment if you have enough information to work you through to point of improvement on your own.
My lesson plan is simple and the diagnosis take all of a few minutes. The rest of the lesson is working with a student to provide them opportunities for self help. This takes years of experience. The subject matter — the “science” if you will — is finite, but communicating ways of self discovery are infinite.
For those of you not familiar with the work of Mike Hebron, I suggest you research him. I have learned a lot from him, but I never teach theories. His research into learning is beyond abstract because I have daily empirical evidence that it works. My lesson tee is its own trial-and-error classroom, where I implement only that which I know is effective.
Look for your own “aha” moments. They are there waiting for you.
As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.
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