The Right Way to Practice

Driving Range

Passion Isn’t the Problem

I often see golfers practicing on the driving range, practice facility of even empty playing fields.  Typically they are working on improving their golf swings by trying to change a particular pattern of movement that is causing a less than desirable outcome.  It is great to see that these golfers have the dedication and drive to engage in practice in order to improve, however I am concerned with the how: the actual tasks golfers go through in order to make these changes.

This Lesson Is For You If:

You’re not seeing on-course results from your practice

You want to make your practice more efficient

Your practice sessions consist of hitting the same shot over and over



In recent years, it has become popular to think that Myelination is the key contributor for creating greater skills.  The problem is that it is largely misunderstood.

The myelination process involves a substance of fatty tissue wrapping around axons that connect nerve cells to one another.  Golfers, and their coaches, must understand that myelination is a byproduct of learning effectively.  The part of the axons that connect one cell to another cell is called a synapse.  The synapse is the most important when developing skilled movement, as the more synapses formed, the greater skill becomes, and as there become more synapses, more myelin is formed around the axon allowing the nerve to travel through much faster, which in turn makes the task easier.  The key is to stimulate synapses, and that is done when they are stressed through desirable difficulties or being challenged.


Beating Balls Isn’t Helping

Let’s look at a real life example that you can see at any golf facility: golfers standing in one place, hitting the same club fifty times in a row, towards one target, with a goal of changing their pattern of movement.  While this seems like an effective way to practice, you may want to think twice before engaging in this in the future.  This type of practice is not challenging.  While it is stimulating blood flow, it is not stimulating synapses, therefore there is no myelin and no change in movement.

All Reps Are Not Equal

The word repetition has also been misinterpreted, leading many golfers astray.  Repetition is the mother of all skill, however not all reps are created equal.  Our brains recognize changes and are not stimulated by repetitive tasks such as beating golf balls.  To create higher levels of skilled performance, you need to repeat the whole learning cycle.  Repeating the whole learning cycle means that there is an element of variability or change.

The learning cycle starts with planning the shot, continues to executing the shot, and finishes with reflecting on it.  Doing something as simple as changing clubs after each shot forces golfers to plan again, execute, and reflect, which can work wonders for improving your skill set.  If you do this on the range, you will see an accelerated change in your swing.

Matthew Cooke
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One Comment

  1. This makes sense. The only way I can learn someone’s name is to actually say it multiple times. But, just saying it over and over (hitting it with the same club) doesn’t work for me. I have to use it in different contexts.

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