Effective Golf Practice - How?

  • Author: Iain Highfield
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Are you sick of practicing golf and never seeing your swing change? Do you want to hit the ball on the golf course like you do on the golf range? - If so read on and learn how to evolve your practice with 3 simple steps. 


The spacing effect


To forget is to remember.


Now, even though this may seem like the kind of empty, pseudo-zen nonsense you’ll see written over pictures of sunsets – it’s a central pillar of human learning.


By incorporating the spacing effect to your training, you are effectively increasing the time you take between each rep.


This creates cognitive stress as your brain – or more specifically, your working memory – is challenged to recall previous successful reps (more so than if there is little or no time between shots). So, rather than simply machine-gunning balls down the range, you are actively teaching your brain to induce a deeper degree of learning,


A very basic example of this could be instead of hitting the same shot 20 times in a row as fast as you can, limiting yourself to hitting 1 ball a minute for 20 minutes – which, admittedly, may sound like a nightmare to range ragers.



The variability effect


Some significant neurobiological research from Stanford University has provided a bit of bad news for the way most people practice golf - namely, the evidence that suggests our brains crave variety.


In other, more golfy, terms – learning through repetition is, in most scenarios, ineffective.


Instead, constantly changing the nature and application of tasks is vital for successfully learning and mastering any new movement – such as a golf swing – as this conscious variance is far better when it comes to engaging memory recall and creating cognitive stress.


So, rather than hitting 20 balls with the same club to the same target, the variability effect demands that you mix things up – changing your club and target regularly and repeatedly.



Click here to download the first 2 chapters of GLT's Practice Book


The optimal challenge point


Increasing the spacing and variability in your practice will in turn increase the challenge point it presents. So, the more space and variability your training contains the higher the challenge point – and the more purposeful and rewarding that practice session has become. 


Setting outcome goals is another way to elevate your own challenge point – with more complex and testing self-targeting representing a higher challenge point. 


If we combine some of the scenarios from our spacing and variability effects, and embellish it with outcome goals we have already created the conditions of cognitive stress.


So, for example…


If we hit 20 balls in 20 minutes


AND we change our club and our target every two balls


AND we award ourselves with a point every time the ball is struck from the center of the club face


AND if we set ourselves a target to achieve 14 points within those 20 balls


THEN we are in the state of cognitive stress and therefore, a state of learning