You may remember an earlier post about coaching lessons I learned at golf school in May. I was filled with optimism and sported my new golf clubs with pride, certain I was going to make great strides in my game. That happened, sort of. My game improved, as did my enjoyment. I spent a lot less time wondering why in the heck I took this game up in the first place.
However many of the lessons didn’t stick. While I was generally driving and putting better, my fairway shots were stinky, and if I chipped well on one hole, I couldn’t repeat that feat on the next. So I decided to get a refresher by attending a one-day school in July. Here are some of my insights:
Use the tools. Throughout the three-day school in May, we were taped from a variety of angles. It was used to illustrate progress, and point out areas that needed improvement. It was pretty slick, because they contrasted my swing with best practice, and I could see exactly how each element affected my overall swing. They sent a DVD to each participant after the class, in addition to giving us a helpful booklet with guidance and illustrations for every aspect of the game. I got the DVD in the mail and immediately broke out in a cold sweat. I let anxiety about seeing myself from every angle (“What a fat behind!”) get in the way of learning how I could improve. The lesson learned is that when your coach gives you a tool to use, get over yourself and use it. It might be that book that doesn’t grab you right away. It might be a best practice that seems awkward at first. It might be looking at your big behind on a DVD. Do it anyway.
It takes time to build muscle memory. I attended the one-day school with my husband, who is even more of a beginning golfer than me. He was eager to learn, absorbed everything and got a lot out of that day of coaching. Meanwhile I fell into the trap of thinking I should know how to do some of (or even lots of) this already. In fact, I had to force myself to pay attention to the position of the head of the club during my backswing. I figured I knew that by now. Wrong. I wasn’t being patient enough or practicing nearly enough to develop an ingrained knowledge of what to do. Doing it a few times is not enough to embed the learning. So be patient with yourself and be realistic about how truly skilled you are when learning something new. Practice, practice, practice.
Deal with your feelings. I admit it. I got very frustrated at my second golf school. For most of the day, there was little I could do right, or do right more than once in a row. At least that’s how it felt. At first, I didn’t admit to myself that I was getting irritated, and that only made things worse. The lesson here is that you will have a variety of feelings when you’re learning something new. The first step to dealing with your feelings is recognizing them. Then create an action plan to address them. In my case, I finally acknowledged my anxiety and reminded myself that just because I’m not putting it all together today doesn’t mean I won’t do it tomorrow. And I did – I played much, much better in the ensuing days.
Get lots of help. One of the best aspects of golf school, rounds 1 and 2, is that now I have two people who can give me feedback. They are familiar with the terminology, because both my husband and my friend learned it too. We speak the same language.Find someone to share in your journey – someone who is in a position to observe you and give you feedback on what is going well and how you can still improve. That partnership is an excellent addition, even if you have a coach helping you already.
I’ve been humbled by golf. More to the point, I’ve been humbled by the self-imposed barriers I’ve put up to learning something new. There is a right way to swing a golf club, and I remain determined to master it. I don’t want to be like those other humans that Douglas Adams, the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, referred to when he said:
“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experiences of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.”
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