Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Who Fired That Shot?

There is a theme that is repeated over and over, legion in number, on golf forums. Actually there are numerous such repetitions covering other issues, too, but in particular we point to, "What should we do when the swing doesn't seem to be working today?"

The "answers" come thick, if not fast. Everything from "Just quit and walk in," to "Go back to basics." In between, we see things like "Well, the pros often can be seen on tour taking half swings with a 6 iron while waiting to hit, since they have trouble like that too" or "Get yourself a 'choke shot' so you can keep playing."

While reviewing such comments, we regularly resist the urge to grab a pitching wedge and spilt a few heads in the hope that someone will ask the question, either out loud or to themselves, "What am I missing in the meaning of this kind of patter that intimates such helpless feeling? Why do we keep asking the same questions?"

To begin with, if your game won't survive a night's sleep, that should be the first clue that something is unfinished or out of kilter. If you had to treat driving your car, dressing yourself, or any of the other things you do regularly or frequently, with such a question, surely you would stop yourself and ask, "What's the problem here?"

At the risk of offending a few people and their furtive answers, those who may be trying to help, but lack enough information to do that, while trying to do it anyway, here's our take.

If your swing is not working, it only means that you haven't finished your most effective learning and built a bridge between your skills and your habits. If your habits were well developed, such occurrences would be so infrequent as to go unnoticed. On a day when your swing is not working to your liking, that bids for a more careful approach to the information you need and the utilization of that information in learning and development of your game, though there is the outside chance that something already learned is in need of repair. The extent and severity of the symptoms, however, would tell you whether you were in need of habits, or in need of reinforcing something already in your possession. Unfinished habit development would show in the entire game. The repair issue would be less severe and more transient. Neither of those is ominous, mysterious, or insidious, but just a matter of putting a proper, accurate, effective plan into your portfolio and proceeding to manage it well.

We've been doing that with players for 30 years, even though only a few have been paying attention. More recently, the number is growing. Why? Because all of a sudden, it is dawning on players that their thinking has been truncated into no more than a 3% conscious mental function when what they need is to add and understand the 97% non-conscious mental activity - at least well enough to inform the building of habits and stop the process of trying to survive on skills alone.

This, by the way, is, by all available evidence, the most formidable underlying reason that the observable performance standards in the game have hardly moved in the last century, even with the marvelous advancement in high tech equipment and in the understanding of swing movements and skills.

If you can soak that into your thinking and not be ready to advance your knowledge, skill and habit development, then it would be a good time to take up tennis, badminton, ping pong or bowling.

There is plenty that can be done, so when you are ready, let us know.