The key to becoming a champion golfer. Part one.

Iain Highfield
  • Author: Iain Highfield
  • GLT Director
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In 1996, Tiger Woods signed a very lucrative sponsorship deal with Nike. As he put pen to paper and wrote his signature, his body was enabled by what is known as a generalized motor pattern. Motor patterns allow the brain and body to connect and produce a coordinated set of movements involving both voluntary and reflex actions, like signing your name.


Now imagine if the table Tiger was writing on had a wobbly leg, or gusts of wind were blowing through the room; Tiger would have to adapt his generalized motor pattern that he has created over the years, through repeatedly signing his name, to the external conditions of the table leg and wind.


Over the years (even pre-1996,) it is likely Tiger has signed his name thousands of times and had an extremely effective generalized motor pattern for this activity, making it easier for him to adapt. Previous signings on brims of hats, golf balls, head covers, napkins in bars and other uneven surfaces that would be best left to our imaginations, would also give him a data bank of past experiences to which he could refer, making the success of crossing the T and dotting the I on that wobbly and windy table a relatively simple task.


Tiger's golf is no different. Over the years, he has hit thousands and thousands of balls to develop a very effective generalized motor pattern. He has also played on hundreds of different courses, in thousands of different conditions. Therefore, his effective generalized motor pattern, combine with his vast experience, allows him to adapt his swing to almost any situation.

The reason for the above analogy is to address a massive misconception in golf, the misconception that repetition is the key to enhancing performance. It’s not. Adaption is the key.


It is understandable how this belief arose. The golf industry is full of coaches that engage in lifelong learning. And excellent books on expert performance, such as TheTalent Code, are widely consumed by golf coaches all over the globe. However, books such as these only offer part of the recipe required to becoming an expert performer.


The Talent Code highlights the myelination process as being instrumental in learning, and I cannot disagree with that. There is ample research to suggest that as myelin sheath forms around neural pathways, it does optimize brain connections, effectively turning your motor program from dial up internet into high speed broadband. Mice that have been restricted from producing myelin have been unable to learn new tasks, highlighting the importance of myelination, but not providing readers the whole picture.


This snap shot into the learning sciences that can be used as an argument that deep deliberate repetition of movement is key in grooving your swing. This is an over simplification. Humans are far more complex, and live in a much more dynamic system, for increased performance at a sport such as golf to be this simple.

St Andrews Golf Club