It never fails.
You’ve just had a lesson or have figured something out about your swing at your last practice session. You hit the links and have a terrible round. Perhaps cursing your golf professional, you ask yourself, ‘why did I even take that lesson?’
Unfortunately, this is a pattern I see all too often. It isn’t, however, because you have a terrible golf professional. Its all about mindset, and how it should be different when you’re learning a new skill versus performing a skill.
In this column I will explain the ideal mindset for a proper learning environment, and how to bring that onto the golf course.
First of all, when someone learns a skill for the very first time, or are changing a skill, they will likely focus most of their attention on how the body is moving.
I call this ‘internal’ focus.
On the other hand, when performing a skill already learned, you should be focusing on your intention, or your target.
I call this ‘external’ focus.
There are a few expectations you should have when you are in either of these mindsets.
First of all, when you are internally focused, you can potentially expect positioning or technique to change over time. And the more you repeat this new motion, the easier it will be to execute.
However, you can also expect overall performance to worsen when internally focused.
This aspect of internal focus is something that most golfers overlook as they head to the golf course with their head full of swing changes and expectations of better scores.
As for internal focus, when you are completely committed to your target, and forget about how to swing the club, you can expect overall performance to be at its best. You can also expect that technique or positioning will remain the same. You can, however, still hit great shots with the technique you already have, even if you just had a lesson.
With all of that said, I would argue that there are a number of “dos” and “don’ts” as far as practice, play and mindset are concerned.
If you are making changes to your technique, you DO want to spend some time focusing internally on how to do this. Perhaps this is during a lesson, or a practice time on your own. However, you DON’T want to spend all of your practice time in this mindset.
DO play golf externally focused, no matter what changes you are currently making. Perhaps in a practice swing you can switch to internal focus. But when its time to pull the trigger, fill your mind with visions of ball flight and target only. You must accept that your technique is not going to change once you pull into the parking lot of the golf course to play a round.
Jennifer teaches golf to adults and juniors at the Chilliwack Golf Academy.
She played professionally on tour for over 10 years, including 2 years on the LPGA. She is the 2016 LPGA Western Section Teacher of the Year, and is now the lead instructor of the Sardis Golf Academy. She can be contacted at 604-798-9805, chilliwackgolfacademy.com, or at Jennifer@chilliwackgolf.com