Do you recall the learning process? Let’s see how this process applies to building an effective golf swing.
There are three fundamental stages inherent in mastering any skill. While the boundaries between the stages are often blurred, I think you’ll be able to relate.
For the novice driver, the first stage is developing a feel for the steering wheel, braking system, mirrors, etc. The process usually begins on a quiet street or parking lot, driving in slow motion. This is the mechanical or conscious stage, where the student tries to recall the exact position of the brake, steering wheel, signals, etc. At this stage, speed is irrelevant.
Have you ever been stuck behind a student driver?
Stage two in the learning process is gradually applying the new knowledge under real-life conditions; driving on a residential street with oncoming traffic, stop signs, pedestrians and traffic lights. The student gradually learns how to trust their instinct and react automatically to the incessant flow of information.
The third stage in the process is driving safely at highway speed. At this point, the student has (hopefully) practiced enough to focus exclusively on the best way to reach the destination and react quickly to potential detours.
Every elite athlete can be identified by a unique rhythm which lies beyond conscious control.
How does this learning process relate to building a consistent golf swing?
In the optimal learning environment, a neophyte would begin developing effective muscle memory by rehearsing essential positions in slow motion, without a club. This is analogous to the student driver in a parking lot.
The next stage would find the student on a practice range, learning how to pick a target and develop a feel for their ideal swing. It is essential that the student focus on the feel of the good shots rather than analyzing the poor ones.
In stage three, the scratch golfer has developed triggers which enable him/her to quickly switch from conscious (mechanical) mode to unconscious (feel) mode; they focus exclusively on the target and trust their muscle memory.
The key to developing effective muscle memory, is rehearsing the three essential positions described below on a daily basis. In the next article, we’ll look at each position in detail.