Make Golf Swing Changes That Stick & Transfer To The Golf Course

  • Author: Iain Highfield
  • Director of Education
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Golfers need to understand HOW to engage in golf practice so that golf swing changes stick and eventually transfer to the golf course. 


Golf Digest, Golf Channel, Instagram and YouTube all pump out golf content that explains what golfers need to change in their golf swing BUT no one is helping the average golfer with HOW they can practice this so that swing changes stick and transfer to the golf course!! AT GLT we want to change that. It is our mission to help golfers all over the wolrd stop wasting the most valuable commodity we have, time, and begin to enjoy shooting lower scores.


This is our mission because we have been there, every member of team GLT has been that golfer, the one that can't find that illusive flowing golf range swing where it matters the most, on the golf course. 


Our brains learn, change shape, and make new connections via cognitive stress. Cognitive stress induces a deeper form of learning that can only take place in a training environment that encourages a certain set of conditions. Hitting your favorite club 50 times in a row to the same target is not a desired environment as it would fail to stimulate cognitive stress, and zero learning would take place. So, what does the optimal training environment for learning golf look like?


Golf Practice that leads to lasting swing changes. 


Being deliberate – We aim to shoot par when on the golf course, but we should also be trying to achieve a different kind of par during practice. PLAN, ACT, REFLECT. When training to learn, every ball we hit should have a clear movement orientated goal. When we action this goal, we must disassociate ourselves with the outcome of the shot and be solely focused on assessing the desired movement during reflection. The biofeedback function on the K-Player can help achieve this by measuring and providing us feedback on movement.


Optimal spacing – To forget is to remember; it sounds counterintuitive, but ultimately, by adding the spacing effect to your training, you will be placing increased time between each rep. This creates cognitive stress as your brain / working memory is challenged to recall previous successful reps, inducing a deeper learning than simply machine gunning balls down the range. So, if you’re training to learn, making sure to monitor time between each rep- hit 20 balls in 20 minutes- rather than just raking and hitting with no space to forget what success feels like, is an ideal strategy. With K-Coach you can increase spacing by setting a target number of reps that have to be completed before the student can hit the ball, or you can change the duration of time they have to hold any given position for it to count as a successful rep.


Optimal variability – I have said it once, so I will say it again – To forget is to remember. And, as well as creating space between each rep to create cognitive stress, varying the task helps achieve this. So now, as well as limiting yourself to 20 balls in 20 minutes, focus on one swing que for the first 5 balls, then another for the next. Repeat as needed. With K-Coach you can set the number of reps needed to complete an exercise before it will move onto the next. Utilize this tool to encourage students to engage in one swing que at a time whilst tracking how many successful reps they achieved in the 5 balls they hit.


Click here for some GLT deliberate practice circuits - Make swing changes stick


Optimal Challenge – At some point, we will want to move along the continuum but still be in the learning phase. This will be when the 20 balls in 20 minutes and changing task every 5 balls becomes too easy. We will need to increase the challenge point to maintain cognitive stress and maintain learning. The way to do this is by increasing spacing and variability.


For example, your 5 ball sets now become 3 ball sets, and you must sink a 3 ft putt between each set. We should also reduce the parameters on the bio feedback, again upping the challenge point as successful reps are now harder to achieve.


At some point you will need to test the new movement pattern in more context and with the addition of stress. This is when you start to look at training to perform.


Purchase 'Expert Golfer' written by Matthew Cooke - A PGA golf coach with a passion and expertise for deliberate practice.


Golf Practice that transfers your best golf swing to the course


Increase context – Golf is a problem-solving game that takes place in an extremely variable environment. You may be able to access your desired swing motion of a flat lie, but can you adapt it to a ball-above-feet stance from the semi rough with a cross wind?


When training to enhance performance, we must make every effort to recreate and simulate situations we will be faced with on the course. This will help us regulate learning as we develop the ability to chunk information. 


Chunking information is piecing together multiple chunks of information to create a complete picture. Developing the ability to chunk will help us learn how to access and adapt new swing movement to the context of the golf course. The absence of this will drastically decrease our ability to perform. 


Click here for some GLT on course practice challenges - Take your best swing to the golf course  


Gamification – Games have outcomes, just like playing in a golf tournament. Practice that does not contain outcomes will not help us prepare to perform. It will instead be very tough to inoculate the stress response that can occur under the pressure of playing for score if we have not experienced this in training. 


If a golfer fires their stress response, it is highly likely that his or her golf motion will become impeded, and the desired motion (the learned motion) will regress back to its old pattern. Therefore, when training to perform, we must implement outcome goals for our training games and see if the new motion is accessed under this stress. 


The ultimate goal is not to perfect a golf swing. Rather, it is to be able to learn how to adapt your generalized motor pattern to the environmental and psychological demands of the golf course. Learning to adapt during training to perform is equally as important as evolving movement during training to learn.