The Learning Corner with Michael Hebron
Optimum performance, or the lack of one, is a topic worthy of a discussion. What follows is based on the insight that human beings (and therefore golfers) are designed to succeed and survive, not to fail. Golfers are not designed to miss putts, hit golf balls into lakes or out of bounds. As Chuck Hogan states in The Magic of Imagery, which much of this article is based on, “The brain operates flawlessly and constantly at peak performance levels for the individual in whom it is installed.”
Unfortunately, golfers (and non-golfers) can unknowingly be programmed to perform below their true potential in today’s world of information overload. The longer we go back in time (before man used words) into the history of man’s existence, the closer we will get to the “origin” of efficient acts of learning. All great and all poor performances started with an image.
Everything in our world that is now “real” was first an image. Golf swings, chairs, rugs, paintings, etc., were first someone’s image. There was a time when no words existed, and human beings and their ancient brain just interacted with the environment and learned to survive. This was pure creative intuition in the form of doing, observing the outcome, then adjusting if needed, based on past experiences (all without words).
Suggestion: The next time anyone who is reading this article swings a golf club, putts, or chips, don’t think or use words, just perform.
It’s unfortunate that the mindset of our modern brain believes that the more information that is distilled, broken down, and analyzed, the greater the opportunity for optimum performances. But when it comes to learning, sound studies and respected research from cognitive science have shown that a general, non-specific, just-in-the-ballpark image gives us a greater return on the investment of time and resources, than using a detailed blueprint.
Optimum performance and efficient acts of learning parallel the energy gathering proves of sustaining life. Nature produces imperfect copies, so that an entity then has the opportunity to develop and survive by adjusting to ever-changing environments. This insight about nature’s plan for survival also points to the value of non-perfect, non-exact models during acts of learning.
Note: A general image develops and evolves in the direction of an optimum performance through images that are personal in nature.
For a golfer we can say there are swing mechanics, physical mechanics, emotional mechanics, or mindsets. Optimum performance normally starts with emotional mechanics and mindsets. As respected instructor Susan Berdoy Meyers stated, “A golfer’s mindset is where everything starts and stops.”
Results on the golf course are directly proportionate to one’s mindset. Image management is the most effective approach to the kind of self-management that optimum performance is based on. Some will see imagery as child’s play and abandon its usefulness to adults.
It helps to be inquisitive when practicing. Asking yourself or the instructor questions about what to do during practice, can add understanding and accelerate learning. During a training session, criticizing yourself would be very damaging to your progress. It is not going to help to call yourself names. Evaluate outcomes, without criticizing the feedback, during training.
Practicing and training with a purpose in mind is important. At the start of y our practice session, focus on one portion of your game, not two or three. Always practice to targets that you change frequently. Another suggestion is for every one hour spent on the long game, spend three hours on the short game. Remember, 64% of golf is played inside 60 yards.
Have a curious mind during practice, but not when playing.
Suggestions for a Positive Mindset
On the way to the course, it does not help to fill the mind with expectations, positive or negative. Expectations are damaging to performance. They will only be a distraction. We must stay in the present.
When playing, the mindset must be one that accepts what the game is giving on that day. Make swings, and then move on without getting too overjoyed or complaining about the results. Accept and move on!
A let-it-happen or effort-free mindset when playing will do more for the quality of someone’s game than any other suggestions I could make. When we put effort into our game, we lose control. The mindset of trying harder is probably the single reason most golfers do not reach their potential on the course. Trying to consciously achieve makes golfers less aware and is therefore distracting to performing a motor skill.
Please understand trust will do more for the quality of someone’s game than consciously thinking about mechanics on the course. Trust what you have practiced.
Winning is a result, not a cause of confidence.
We have to be willing to fail—so stop trying not to three-putt!
Let actions just happen. In golf we have to get out of our own way.
Always image good things, be simplistic and child-like.
Michael Hebron is the Director of Golf at Smithtown Landing Country Club in Smithtown, New York. He is also the Director of Instruction at Pine Needles Resort and Country Club in Southern Pines, North Carolina.
Contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.