Golf Practice at the Office
It’s a common sight in an office. A golf club leaning against the wall, tucked in a corner, awaiting a spare moment when the golfer can place his hands on the grip and add minutes to their golf practice routine in between executive meetings and conference calls.
What benefit, if any, can these impromptu golf practice sessions have on the golfer’s weekend round? You might be surprised to learn, they can be quite beneficial, if used properly and in conjunction with a golf training aid. Making swings without a ball can be a good thing as it removes all distractions and allows the golfer to become divorced from results and focus solely on movements.
Decades of studying and investigating golf practice routines and methods has revealed that learning occurs best under cognitive stress.
"You always think about stress as a really bad thing, but it's not," said Daniela Kaufer, associate professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley. "Some amounts of stress are good to push you just to the level of optimal alertness, behavioral and cognitive performance."
We create such stress through the following three methods:
Spacing your golf practice - To forget is to remember. Seems silly, does it not? In fact, it’s the key to accelerating your learning. Increase the time between each repetition, which should come easily in a setting such as an office, where the phone could ring or someone could enter at any moment. These gaps create cognitive stress as your brain and working memory is challenged more so than if you were simply making rapid fire swings. If you have five free minutes in the office, make one swing per minute instead of trying to cram 50 into the same time slot.
Variability in your golf practice - Research from Stanford University has shed light on neurobiology, suggesting the brain craves variability, which obviously is the opposite of repetition. Constantly changing tasks creates the acute cognitive stress Kaufer referred to and engages memory recall. If your 7-iron and practice aid are resting alongside one another on the wall in your office, make one swing with the club, wait a minute and make a swing with the training aid. Remember, we seek quality rather than quantity.
Optimal Challenge Point in your golf practice - Pushing yourself to a comfortable edge is probably accomplished more easily during a range session when you can document the quality of each shot. In a non-golf environment such as an office, grade yourself on how methodically you make each movement and how closely you adhere to the routine, not allowing yourself to fall into the old, bad habits of repetition and blocked learning.
Together, this process creates what’s known in the learning sciences as context, which in turn accelerates the learning process. Changing the way you approach practice will generate tangible improvement you can take to the course that will hold up under the pressure of competition.