Tag Archives: lower handicap

Check Out New Motor Learning Research to Decrease Strokes

Improving at golf seems easy. Pick something to work on, go to the range, and spend hours repeating the new movement over and over.  Most people call it creating muscle memory or getting more reps.  Tiger talks about reps all the time.  If reps is all that matters, then most of us are doomed to mediocrity because we have jobs and families that prevent hours making changes and getting reps.  However, science is starting to change the way we think about learning, and Golf Science Lab is leading the charge to help everyone practice better.

I wrote about interleaving and variable practice in my first few posts last spring. I use similar ideas when teaching my students how to perform on certain standardized tests, and motor learning research started advocating these new approaches.  After integrating some of the concepts, I discovered Golf Science Lab at the end of the summer.  I would highly recommend checking out their site.

Their site is chalked full of excellent information from numerous sources. My first trip to the site was almost overwhelming due to the amount of information.  They have articles and podcasts on nearly every conceivable practice and mental game topic.  I had no idea where to start.  I thought the best place would be to sign up for their emails and purchase the motor learning quickstart guide.

I am always skeptical of pdf books because anyone can publish a book and sell it online. Internet marketing is full of write a 20 page pdf, put some good graphics in it, and then sell it on an email list.  Their site made me feel like the book would be worth it, and I waste more than $10 on silly purchases all the time.  I bought the motor learning guide.

The motor learning quickstart guide included a small game like training manual as well. I am not disappointed I purchased these guides.  Both products included solid information about how we learn and mistakes most golfers make on the range.  The guide included citations to research to provide the foundation for their recommendations. The information is there to completely change the way to practice.

My lone criticism of the manuals is they have more theory than hyper specific application tools. For example, the guide explains the difference between block and random practice.  The research foundation illustrates what most golfers do wrong and why random practice is better.  The end of the section includes a small discussion of how that translates to golf.  Most people reading the section will understand random practice would include switching clubs, changing shot type, or switching trajectories.

I think the guides could add a little specificity by suggesting a practice routine. However, the website includes a significant amount of that information.  The guides are good quick easy reads.  You come away with the idea of what not to do when practicing.  You also discover what you should do with each repetition to create lasting changes.  The website provides the more specific information.

Not only is the guide worth $10, Cordie is excellent at responding to questions. I emailed them about my project here and asked about any resources for game like training while not hitting a golf ball, like swings at the office.  He graciously responded within a couple days that they didn’t have any podcasts or articles for that yet, but he would consider the topic for the future.  He could have ended the conversation there, but he proceeded to give a few suggestions for creating game like training in my situation (drawing out holes and playing each shot in my head while swinging).  The ideas were great to integrate into my at-home practice.

Golf Science Lab provides vast amounts of information to maximize everyday golfers’ potential. I plan to listen to a couple podcasts each week while driving home.  I would highly recommend subscribing to their free podcasts and checking out their site.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Mid-Season Progress Report: Doom and Gloom or Starting the Climb?

Progress and improvement is portrayed like a math equation. Add a little work here, do a few drills there, and lower scores result.  Incremental progress is the goal, and every ounce of work should get us closer to the goal.  If that is the case, results should follow the same incremental approach, even if the results are slow.  My experience is the progress is more asynchronous.

I planned to improve by spending 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week on different aspects of golf. Check out my Current Handicap Page to see where my handicap started.  I set 2 goals.  The first was to lower my handicap from the 15.8 to 14 by the end of the season.  The close to 2 strokes seemed possible with the work on each aspect of my game.  I believe extra work should lower scores.

Unfortunately, my handicap is not dropping right now. As you see, my handicap is now at 17.  17!

HCP 7-22 2

Not only is it not going down 2 strokes, it is actually up 1.2 strokes. My mind raced when I saw my trend up.  Is it possible that my effort is making me worse?  Would I be better off not practicing?  Should I change my plan?  What should I do?

After thinking all those thoughts, I remembered the important goal of completing the progress. Most research indicates focusing on the result doesn’t normally lead to success.  Focusing on the process is what matters.  My current situation is the exact reason why process is the most important.  If I succumb to the idea that practice isn’t working or my effort is in vain, I will stop practicing or drastically change my plan.  Revisiting a plan is periodically necessary, but continual refocusing diminishes results.

The real question should be whether I completed my 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. The honest answer is the majority of the time I did.  I have weeks with 3 to 4 days, but over half the time, I get to 5 days a week.  The practice time and completion isn’t the problem.  If true, then maybe I am not doomed.

The bright side begins to light up. Comparing the score lists on my Current Handicap Page, I realize why my handicap rose this year.  My oldest 7 scores were calculated in my original handicap, and all those rounds happened in 2014.  Unless I played at a similar level, then my handicap would rise.  My handicap at the beginning of my process was not an accurate reflection of my current performance level.  The handicap was artificially low due to good scores from over 2 years ago.  I breathe a little easier.

I also notice my handicap differentials for this year. Since starting the process, my differentials are decreasing.  From the beginning of the year through June, my differentials ranged from 19-22.3.  My last 2 differentials in July dropped below 18.  Looking closer at the numbers, I am improving.

I also feel like I am improving. My contact is much better.  I am focusing on shifting my weight correctly to compress the ball.  My trajectory is up.  I hit my 5 wood and hybrid better than ever the last couple rounds, and my ball flight is much straighter.  My GIRs are slightly up over the last 5 rounds, and I am still hitting a similar number of fairways.  I am showing improvement.  This is exactly what I am looking for.

My handicap is up at the mid-point, but I believe the numbers indicate improvement. My handicap started artificially lower, and my last 5 rounds are showing improvement in all areas.  14 may not be realistic by the end of the season, but I should be able to get back in the 15 range.  However, I am not focused on that number.  My goal is to practice 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.  Share my story on facebook and twitter to help others continue the journey to improvement.

Executing and Assessing My Golf Improvement Plan

I love to eat, and I definitely love to eat a variety of foods. Quality buffets (yes, there are a few) are among my favorites because I can pile my plate high.  I put everything on my plate with huge expectations, and then, I fail to eat everything.  My eyes are always bigger than my stomach.  Our practice expectations succumb to similar problems.  After buffet style planning, executing and evaluating our execution are the next steps to success.

 

Executing the Plan

Top sports psychologist continually profess the need to focus on the process and execute a clear plan. We all hit great shots that take bad bounces or have putts hop on bumpy muni greens.  Focusing on what we can control is important, so we must focus on the process.

The key to execution is following the plan. My plan is to spend 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week practicing.  The plan is fool proof.  30 minutes is easy to find in a day, right?  I spent 3 weeks so far trying to follow the plan.

You should write down or make mental notes of the progress for evaluation, so I noted a few patterns. I don’t get my 30 minutes on days with kids’ sporting events.  30 minutes seems easy, but working and the sport make getting through anything else difficult.  However, I can spend time at the course with my son for longer than an hour and work on chipping and putting.  Doing both doesn’t follow spaced repetition as well, but I practice the same amount of time on the short game.

 

Assessing My Execution

Execution is easier said than done. We must now assess whether our eyes were bigger than the time to practice throughout the week.  30 minutes a day sounds easy, but work, kids’ games, and life can take up every extra minute.

When assessing execution, analyze:

  • Did I complete the tasks in the plan
  • Were the tasks effective
  • Do I need to adjust the plan or tasks

 

 

Completing the Tasks

I succeeded week 1!! The first week is also when motivation and intention peaks.  Unfortunately, I didn’t succeed in week 2 or 3.  I made it to 4 days of 30 minutes in Week 2, and Week 3 fell to 3 days.  3 days is more than before my plan, but I need to determine whether to change my plan.  Psychologists say continually failing will decrease motivation, so if I set myself up for failure, I won’t continue the journey for the long term.

Week 2 included 4 days of at least 30 minutes, and I only missed my chipping day. Week 3 missed a short game day (either chipping or putting since I did both one night) and the round.  Looking back, I want to say Week 2 and 3 were abnormally busy, but those weeks were probably similar to my normal week.

 

Tasks Effective

Completing the plan is great, but the tasks must improve my golf swing. I do believe the interleaving tasks helped me.  At the range and my house, I continually change clubs.  Switching forces me to focus on the new setup, swing, etc.  I perform each swing more deliberately.  Putting practice is harder at home, but I worked on starting the putt on line.  In a future post, I will discuss the different indoor putting work I do without true roll, but starting the putt online is helping.  As I said a couple weeks ago, the optishot helps with simulation.  I like switching clubs and creating the pressure of a round.  I normally play online with someone, so I have the added pressure of winning.  The tasks are working.

 

Adjust Plan

3 Weeks is a short period to make adjustments, so I will continue to note whether I can execute. I will continue to update my progress.  To stay the most up to date, sign up below to get the newest information as I post it.

 

Everyone enjoy the nice golf weather!



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