Many golfers spend time practicing but never seem to have enough confidence to let the body or system instead of the brain swing the club. Thus, they are left with two swings; the range swing and the course swing which are quite different. One is relaxed and free, the other tense, jerky and off balance not to mention inconsistent.
The goal of practice is to develop a golf swing you have confidence in. One that is repeatable and automatic. I submit the golf swing, itself, is a ‘systematic’ not a ‘mental’ process.
What to do
Next time you are practicing, let your mind go through the Four Stages of Learning as they apply to the golf swing. Consciously remind yourself of those stages while you practice instead of ‘thinking’ while you swing. You will find that you ‘feel’ the different swing positions after the swing is completed. You do not have to ‘think’ about it while it is ‘happening’.
Also, you might use Stage 4 during your pre- swing routine, on course, as a way of reminding yourself to keep you mind out of your golf swing. You might find by giving your mind something other than the swing to focus on, your swing becomes much freer and more fluid.
Remember: It is a thinking man’s game, NOT thinking man’s swing.
Four Stages of Learning applied to the golf swing
1. Unconscious Incompetence is when you don’t know what you don’t know. The swing looks simpler than it is. You are not capable of effectively swinging the club, you just don’t know it.
2. Conscious Incompetence is when you consciously realize that you don’t know how to swing the club, as you find it harder than it looks.
3. Conscious Competence is where you work on your swing, piece by piece, on the range, building your golf swing.
4. Unconscious Competence is when you have developed a swing motion that works for you. You let your ‘system’ swing the club, not your brain.
(I want to thank Marius Filmater, scientist and teaching professional to the TOUR for his input on the Four Stages of Learning as applied to the golf swing.)
(Steve Riggs,a retired teaching professional of over 30 years working with clients and consulting around the U.S. and Caribbean. is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and contributing writer to New England Golf Monthly. Steve is host/producer of the mynegm THE LESSON TEE Internet/Radio Show which airs every Wednesdays 10:05-11am ET. The program streams live at mynegm.com and wnri.com and currently is followed in 19 states and Canada.