Saturday, June 30, 2012

“Body”–> Golfing: What They Told You Is Wrong

IMG_2800Here I am with one of my guys that works for one of my managers.  He is quite excited because he just score his first hole-in-one with me at my home course.  He is a very talented guy that codes some of our tools, and I decided to take him out early this week to go golfing before he heads back to Taipei.

So, why was he able to score such a great shot?  What was the key thought or technique that he used?  Most people would realize that the reason he did this was because he got lucky and was not related to something special he did on the swing.  He could have said that “I was thinking about pizza,” but thinking about pizza would have been a correlation and not a root cause with his hole in one.

However, many people don’t understand this about their normal golf shot, and therefore, they have no idea of how to improve their golf game.  One of the things that you hear all the time on the golf range and in games on the range is “keep your head down.”  What is funny, they will think about keeping their head down, and they happen to hit a good shot and they say, “well obviously this is the root cause of why I hit a good shot.”  This is called out so often, everybody knows that it is true.

Except for the experts:

To quote Harvey Penick, "Keeping the head down prevents a good follow through because the golfer can't swing past hip high with the head still down and not give something good in the finish up to do it."

To quote Ernie Els, "I'm talking about curing one of the most misleading bits of advice in golf - the phrase "keep your head down". It really does make me want to cringe when I hear someone say this to their playing partner "

John Jacobs, one of the most respected teachers on the planet, "This obsession with keeping your head down has kept me busy for 50 years "

From Dr Suttie in Tom Coyne's Paper Tiger, "“You keep your head down too long,” he tells me, which no doubt comes as a shocking news flash to the millions of self-hating golfers who have a single swing tip in their vocabulary."

I frequent some golf forums on the internet, and it always amazes me the advice that people give to help others out with their golf swing, which much of this being stuff like “keep your head down.”  What I can say is that I have been a strong student of the game, and the theory of learning.  Based on being multi-disciplinary in my learning, I think I have a unique view on how to get better.

Motor control is held by your cerebellum.  This is often called the little brain or the reptile brain.  All mammals have this part of the brain.  What animals don't have is a neo-cortex, which is conscious thought processes and abstract thinking. What this means is that the act of swing and hitting a ball is not something that your conscious brain can really grasp, as strange as that may seem.  The connection between these layers of the brain are poor, to say the least.  In many ways this is very good, because you wouldn't want to suddenly fall down and stop walking, just because you were thinking about "the existential being of man" after you had read a heavy book by Sarte.

You can give some major direction to the cerebellum, but you really just need to allow the cerebellum to learn by itself, or set up instinctual learning situations.  So, the number one thing is to simply show up at the golf range and keep on swinging, with some key training aids that will help you.

Now, can instruction help you?  The answer is yes, but just to start pointing you in the right direction and eliminate MAJOR swing flaws before the settle in too much.  However, instruction is not magic, and knowing what to do is only part of the answer. 

For example, if you ever try golfing and you know somebody who is good, they’ll feel almost compelled to help you with your golf swing.  They’ll say things like “just think about it correctly, and you’ll be hitting the bll great in no time. 

Now give that same person a set of left handed golf clubs (assuming they are a right handed golfer).  They have all the conscious knowledge of the swing they just told you.  Watch them try and hit the ball, and unless they have practiced being left handed, chances they will miss the ball. 

Even though they have a beautiful swing settled in the cerebellum for the right side, they’ll have none on the left.  The opposite side of their brain is not wired yet, and they'll need to practice.

Finally, I believe there are four training aids that are invaluable to train the cerebellum, and I wish somebody had written this for me when I first started golf.  Each of these are trying to help learn instinctively.

1. Get V1 pro and put your swing by a pro swing with a split screen on the software.  This give info to your mirror neurons.  This gets information into your brain. 

2. Most newbies swing outside in.  Rather being told this and trying to fix it, buy or make an Inside Approach.  Your cerebellum will automatically reroute to inside out.

3. Get a Tic-Tac for you elbow.  It will auto fix the dreaded bent arm disease that everybody seems to have that have never really worked on their golf game.  If you bend your arm, you simply get a little click.  This is all the cerebellum needs to correct itself.

4.  Get the book Swing Like A Pro (called SLAP by its friends).  It is technical without being a Homer Kelly level of technical.  I do believe that knowledge sorts of trickles from conscious thinking to the cerebellum, and I think this is one of the best to drive some level of really understanding where you are trying to get to.  Like I said, you need to train the cerebellum, but getting knowledge into the brain via upper level brain functions is still required.  Knowing what to do is a very good start.

Now hit balls at the range for the next 3 months, and you'll grow a bunch of new synapses involved with golf (or grow your brain).