Questioning Traditional Golf Instruction

I recently read a golf book called The Three Principles of Outstanding Golf  by PGA professional Sam Jarman. From the title, one might assume that the book is about golf swing mechanics, the technical aspects of a proper golf swing, and maybe the three key positions you must have for a correct golf swing. Far from it!

Similar to Awaken Your Inner Golfer, his book is about both physical and mental awareness of the uniqueness of the golf swing that works for each individual golfer. The author offers insight on how our thoughts, our consciousness and our mind (the “three principles”) affect our movements, our golf swing and our natural instincts.

Congruent with my Keep It Simple Golf approach, Sam focuses on awakening instinct, intention, the body/mind connection and the aptitude for learning. He questions the traditional golf instruction industry’s focus on teaching and instruction and states, “Learning movement is a natural process we all do from the moment we are born. Until we accept this and point golfers in a direction of instinctive learning, golfers will continue to find improving their golf swing a frustrating, uphill battle…… Mainstream golf instruction has gone in a more information driven, less instinctive direction….Very rarely do we get pointed in the direction of what comes naturally to all of us, what’s inside us, to our innate talent and potential.”

An effective golf swing is achieved by quieting our mind and awakening our body. The best way to learn and improve our golf swing is by experimenting, exploring, making mistakes, adapting and learning (see the Sept 2017 Instinctive Blog Trying vs. Allowing on this site). If you have the courage to try something different and learn by experimenting, exploring and allowing yourself to feel the physical movements that work for an effective golf swing for YOU, you’ll find that, as Sam Jarman states, “The mind and body learn as much from bad golf shots as from good ones. We learn to walk by falling over. We learn to ride a bike by wobbling around and bouncing off the stabilisers. We learn to catch by dropping the ball. We learn motor skills by trying, failing, trying again, failing better, and trying again and again until we get it.” (See the Aug 2017 Instinctive Golf Blog Learning to golf is like learning to walk on this site).

The golf instruction industry seems to take exception to this natural learning process by promoting the teaching of golf swing mechanics as opposed to facilitating learning. We are taught to refine golf swing technique and try for a repeatable, mechanically perfect golf swing. As a result, we learn to judge ourselves and our abilities if we do not achieve a perfect golf swing and perfect results each time we hit a golf ball. Where is the fun in this?!? How does this approach help us truly LEARN? We learn when we’re having fun! We learn when we let go of perfection and self-judgment and just explore our potential. Traditional golf instruction more so encourages frustration and self-judgment along with a continual need to look outside of ourselves in searching for an effective golf swing.

The real purpose of golf practice is to learn – about ourselves, our golf swing, our body/mind connection, our thoughts and our interaction with our internal environment. (See the March 2019 Instinctive Blog Golf Practice and Play on this site). It is not our intellect that needs to understand the golf swing, it is our physical senses and our awareness that need to be awakened to feel the movement in our body while performing a golf swing. We need to feel in order to adapt, change and integrate the successful movements into our golf swing so we can play golf more from our subconscious instincts than from our conscious thinking mind.

As has been my experience in coaching golfers, a common response to the effectiveness of the simplicity of this approach to learning and improving a golf swing by utilizing the natural way we learn physical motor skills is often a somewhat sarcastic, “It’s can’t be this simple!” It is a response that comes from the deeply ingrained belief conditioned by the golf instruction industry that an effective golf swing comes only from instruction in perfect golf swing mechanics and golf swing positions. It is an approach that is limiting and disempowering.

Sam Jarman and I are not the only ones to question the effectiveness of the traditional golf instruction industry. There have been insightful golf learning approaches promoted by pioneers such as W. Timothy Gallwey (The Inner Game of Golf), Chuck Hogan (Learning Golf, Rethinking Golf), Michael Hebron, PGA Master Professional (Play Golf to Learn Golf, Modernizing Approaches to Learning), Fred Shoemaker (Extraordinary Golf), and others.

There is also a plethora of books about how we best learn physical motor skills which naturally carries over to learning an effective golf swing by authors such as Carla Hannaford, Ph. D. (Smart Moves), Kathy Brown (Educate Your Brain), Steven Yellin (The Fluid Motion Factor) and Stuart Brown, M.D. (Play).

What does set Awaken Your Inner Golfer apart is the presentation of golf exercises to achieve the necessary physical foundations of an effective golf grip and effective posture, along with a variety of instinct-awakening golf swing exercises that facilitate physical learning as well as intellectual knowledge. The variety of golf exercises are not about “expert golf instruction”, they provide a vehicle for you to learn how to be in your body while making a golf swing in order to reawaken the intelligence you were born with. This intelligence residing in your body/mind will demonstrate itself when it is given the freedom to do so. All it asks is that you let go of control and instruction. The golf exercises help you embody the instinctive movements that promote an instinctive golf swing that you can own for a lifetime – and have fun exploring and learning to do so!

Sam Jarman also states, “Our performance can be amazing when our level of awareness is high and we trust our subconscious abilities….By pointing the golfer inwards toward their instincts, toward awareness, you can help them access a natural capacity for learning which has made human beings the most successful animal on the planet….Keep it simple. Just play your game. However, only a minority of golfers keep the game simple.”

My hope is that Awaken Your Inner Golfer will help you access your potential, find your flow, and enjoy and improve your golf game by utilizing the principles of keeping it simple and awakening instinct. Good golfing!

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