Column: The trouble with too much thinking

Chilliwack Golf Club instructor Jennifer Greggain provides bi-weekly golf tips in the Progress.

Every golfer who has ever taken a lesson has had this situation happen.

You have a great lesson and learn about how to improve your technique.

You may even get in a few practice sessions and when you get to the golf course you are very aware of your technique, thinking through every shot and how to execute it.

However, you have a terrible round, perhaps even a higher score than before you took your lesson.

This regression in performance is not because you have a terrible golf professional, or even that you haven’t practiced enough. The biggest culprit in this case is ‘cognitive load.’

There have been many studies on this psychological theory, and how it pertains to learning and performance. But the gist of it is that the brain can only process a certain amount of information at once. And if too much energy is being used on technical thoughts, aka high cognitive load, the nervous system has a difficult time producing desired performance.

So, after taking that lesson, here’s some advice on how to put it into play on the golf course as soon as possible, without producing too much cognitive load.

First of all, practice!

Yes, that means getting to a practice facility and putting in some time to get the changes engrained naturally in your golf swing. With that said, that doesn’t mean you should head to the range and hit 500 balls a day in the exact same way.

Instead, try varying your practice time with ‘block’ and ‘random’ practice styles.

Block practice refers to getting in reps with the same club to the same target repeatedly. This practice method is helpful when learning a new skill, but it can also be detrimental if it puts your mindset too much on technical awareness.

Ultimately, the best way to transfer learned skills to the golf course is the ‘random’ practice style.

This includes hitting different shots to different targets every time. Research has proven this practice style is the best at transferring skills to the golf course.

Some examples would be simulating a round of golf on the course or putting green.

Furthermore, when you get to the golf course, you must forget about technical thoughts altogether. Your nervous system can’t process a lot of intentional thought when performing. You must practice the skill of engaging with your target and intended shot instead, even if you’ve just had a lesson that reveals characteristics in your swing that need improving.

Remember that the time to improve your technique is during your practice sessions, and the best way to transfer skills learned in practice to the golf course is with random practice rather than an overload of block practice.

When you get to the golf course to play a round, you must trust what you have that day.

Engage with the target, and your performance will improve. Even if you are making changes to your technique.

Jennifer teaches golf to adults and juniors at the Chilliwack Golf Academy.

She played professionally on tour for over 10 years, won the 2016 LPGA Western Section Teacher of the Year award, and is the Head Women’s and Girls Provincial Coach for BC Golf.

She can be contacted at 604-798-9805, chilliwackgolfacademy.com, or at Jennifer@chilliwackgolf.com

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