Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Practice Swing vs the Real Swing - An Excerpt

One of the most frustrating things a golfer can be told is that he has a great practice swing but his score sucks. If you have been in this game long enough, you would surely have heard something along those lines.

Intuitively most golfers assume that their practice swing equals their actual swing; after all they sure feel the same. Well not really. You see quite a few variables change when you actually want to hit the ball for real.

Ball Bound
You become ball bound and want to get into positions rather than go through positions
What you feel is not what you are doing
Force of habit comes into play when you exceed your threshold speed.

The golf swing is a series of positions that can be broken down by relating the golf shaft and the left arm in relation to the base of the plane or what some people most commonly refer to as the target line.

These positions are not meant to be arrived at but rather to be passed through. What this means is that you do not consciously try to reach and stop at those positions. It means that
in your practice sessions, you have already identified these positions as well as the transitory moves from position to position. It also means that you have “blended” all these feels into one fluid motion. Then the only thing left to do is to start and finish the swing with the ball merely getting in the way.

Feeling Vs Reality
At the risk of kicking a dead horse, I reiterate again one of the most important concepts in learning golf: make sure you are doing what you feel / think you are doing. Simplistically, make sure you are eating what you think you are eating. Beef and lamb may look the same but they sure taste very different!

Threshold Speed
Threshold speed is the speed where a motion becomes dictated by habit. Remember the flight or fight syndrome where in an emergency, your instincts take over? Well, in the same way, when you subject your golf swing past a certain speed, changes become all but impossible to make. Ever had a lesson where no matter how hard you tried to follow your pro’s instruction, it couldn’t be done? That’s a violation of the threshold speed concept there.

When you started learning how to write, did you do it at full speed?
When you started learning how to cycle, did you do a Lance Armstrong?

Below are three drills that address the three hurdles outlined above:

Hold and Feel Drill
Go to the correct positions in the swing in front of the mirror and allow your brain to associate what it sees with what your body feels. Work your way up from the impact then 1st to the 9th position. When you are sure what you see is what you feel, test yourself!

Move and Feel Drill
This drill is designed to be worked with 2 positions. If you are working with say, position 1 and 2, you want to start with startup and then move to 1 and then 2. Again this drill is to be done in front of a mirror for the purpose of association. Instead of identifying the feels of the different positions, this time identify the feels of the transitions from position to position.

Slo-Mo Drill
This drill is to be done once you are confident that the feels for the positions and transitions have been identified and that you are ready to incorporate it into the full swing.

Again, assuming an integration of positions 1 and 2; start directly from startup to 1 and then 2 and then to impact with a ball. Disregard the quality of the strike at the start. When your body learns the correct motion, impact quality will come.

The principle here is Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand or SAID. Its useless trying to groove your practice swing as you are not going to practice swing your way around the golf course!

What we are doing here is imposing on your body a specific demand to build neuromuscular pathways for a certain move – slowly but surely.