How to improve your skill level

Dear golfer,

As you know I’m a big fan of playing golf automatically. This means that I prefer to hit the ball instinctively, without undue thoughts on technique or style. I believe this approach has helped me transform my game from tight and boring, into a consistent and powerful one. The difference is staggering – I am now playing the best golf of my life without practice or worry. It’s also much more fun!

Last week I was speaking to a client about how he could keep improving his game. He’s been playing automatically for about three months and has reduced his handicap by 4 or 5. Not bad, but he feels he has reached the limit. He now wants to know what to do next and how he can improve his skill level further.
This can be a difficult time. Learning anything is rarely smooth sailing. There’s ups and downs. This is part of the process and the obvious thing to do is to identify some swing faults and then try and improve them. It seems obvious and the right thing to do but I’m not so sure. I’m a firm believer that improvement can be difficult because you need to take counter intuitive steps to reach your golfing goals.

I’m positive if he keeps swinging naturally and automatically his golf swing and skill level will improve naturally. Gradual improvement is part of the natural learning cycle. Thinking about your swing tends to disrupt this process. Once this thinking mindset finds its way onto the golf course any chance of improvement is lost. If golfers would put their trust in their own learning capabilities I feel those bad times would be reduced, form slumps would be minimised and better golf the likely result. But this takes some patience…

Adults are in a rush. They want things yesterday.

So is there a way to fast track skill improvement without destroying your game in the process?

Yes, and I call it ‘objective’ based coaching.

Objective based coaching works by focusing on a simple task. Ultimately this task, when performed correctly, should point the pupil in the right direction with respect to certain swing fundamentals. It must be easy to understand and also must work in with natural swing form. Let me explain more…

One of my favourite swing training lessons is “throwing the club”. I first read about this in Fred Shoemakers book, Extraordinary Golf. Later, Kendal McWade spoke about it and finally scientific research identified a ‘throwing motion’ to be the correct action on the downswing.

Throwing objects is fairly natural, so it’s easy to understand. It also mimics the correct downswing move so it is a perfect objective based lesson. Far better than concerning yourself with swing plane, hip rotation and forearm release. A pupil focussed on throwing a club down the fairway can take care of most golf of golf’s fundamentals without thinking about them. Ideal!

Some other objective based lessons that work well;

  • brushing the top of the tee with your driver
  • hitting a line on the ground – ideal for learning perfect contact with irons
  • hitting a line in the sand – the best way for understanding how to escape from bunkers. The focus is hitting a line in the sand behind the ball
  • placing clockwise or anticlockwise spin on the ball – a great way to learn how to draw and fade the ball with ease
  • brushing the grass – great to learn chipping contact and technique
  • find a grip that allows you to move the club with speed – rather than having V’s pointing here or there

If you want to improve your skill level then you need to find a lesson (or task) that will help you make improvement without bogging you down. I feel that golfers spend too much time thinking about grip, wrist cock, back swing position, shoulder turn and release. These are simply too difficult to execute consistently and often confuse rather than help. Better to find something that will allow you to sneak up on improvement without destroying your game in the process.

Yes, the approach requires some patience and sometimes your conscious mind is not in control. It may feel uncomfortable but I’m sure it will be more effective than what you have tried in the past. Better still it opens the possibility for remarkable golf. This is what automatic (subconscious) learning is all about.

Good golfing,

Cameron Strachan

Comment using Facebook

2 Comments

  • Andrew

    Reply Reply February 29, 2008

    I would say improvement is intuitive if we allow it to be, intuition being direct perception of truth, fact independent of any reasoning process. You could say improvement is “counter thinking” or “counter conscious”. I’ve found I can think I need to improve my short game but should not think how to do it, rather go to the practice green and experiment with curiosity and awareness.

  • Steve Wozeniak PGA

    Reply Reply February 29, 2008

    Cameron, you are so right about throwing a club, great drill. Ben Hogan learned this in 1945 from his coach the next 20 years Sam Byrd!! He had a horrible swing as you can see in Power Golf. Then he learned the throwing motion and how the left arm must hinge at the elbow and feel like a wet dish rag!! Most athletes that just hit the ball will naturally do the right things and it’s always the exact opposite of what 98% of golf instructors teach. Keep up the good work. Steve Wozeniak PGA Director of Instruction Bellevue/Lake Spanaway Golf Courses
    http://www.stevewozeniak.com

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field