The Culture of Golfers

Many golfers seem to have an unconscious fear of ‘letting go’ and allow themselves the freedom to explore non-traditional methods of improving their golf game. There can be a resistance and fear of “losing my swing” if one tries anything different from the traditional technical and mechanical golf instruction advocated through instruction, media and magazines. The unconscious conditioning generated by traditional golf instruction may be what keeps golfers in what Fred Shoemaker, in his illuminating book Extraordinary Golf, calls the “Culture of Golfers.” He states that “there is one basic principle in the Culture of Golfers, and that is this: There is something wrong with my game, and I must fix it.” The book is an excellent source to begin to move beyond the fear of “losing my golf swing” and begin to recognize and stimulate the instinctive kinesthetic intelligence each of us is naturally endowed with. The book can help golfers understand that a fear of ‘letting go’ is actually a resistance to learning something new – about ourselves or about our golf game.

Shoemaker talks about the concept of freedom – in life and in playing golf – and states, “As in any endeavor, whether work or play, the more freedom, enjoyment, and enthusiasm you experience, the better the performance. The freedom makes it all happen, and there’s no freedom in formula.” The promotion of technical and mechanical golf instruction has become very pervasive in a world consumed by the amazing things that technology can produce. It is very attractive to our left brain analytical mind. The technical and mechanical golf instruction model is so pervasive that we can become unaware of the conditioning and ultimately join the Culture of Golfers’ mentality – that there’s something wrong with my swing and I need to fix it. It’s very disempowering for the average golfer, but it is actually very valuable to the golf instruction industry to maintain the status quo of golfers continually needing a ‘fix’ or instruction. The problem of how this culture negatively affects your golf game lies in the fact that your left brain analytical and verbal mind is not responsible for your physical motor skills; muscles don’t understand words; and golf instruction often results in what is referred to as paralysis by analysis. Technical and mechanical golf instruction tends to freeze you rather than free you.

The development of “golf drills” in itself sends a message that we are inadequate and need to force-train our body to perform certain movements involved in a “correct” golf swing and does not respect our innate kinesthetic abilities. Rather than “drills,” the key to change any unproductive pattern (in our golf swing or in our lives) is awareness, more specifically, self-awareness (see Chapter 2 in Awaken Your Inner Golfer). Similar to how Shoemaker uses non-standard golf swing focuses, the golf exercises in Awaken Your Inner Golfer stimulate awareness and build on each golfers’ instinctive kinesthetic intelligence and innate adaptability. They empower the golfer to learn to trust their natural instincts, adaptive ability and unique golf swing movements. (see the July 2019 Instinctive Golf Blog Golf Exercises vs. Golf Drills on this site). The exercises facilitate awareness, awareness facilitates freedom, and freedom facilitates unconscious kinesthetic competency……..and improved performance naturally follows!

The primary focus in Extraordinary Golf  is on facilitating awareness and Shoemaker states, “The path of awareness leads you toward your instinct. It leads you to the things you do naturally.” He utilizes the primary exercise of physically throwing the golf club toward the target immediately after impact while hitting a golf ball. He integrates this with other more subtle awareness exercises included in his other book Extraordinary Putting. He states, “For the longest time I couldn’t explain it, but I realize now that increased awareness allows the body’s natural instincts to come into play, and these instincts make the golf swing more powerful and efficient. Awareness thus leads to improvement. It’s really the most natural thing in the world, when you think about it. It’s how all real learning takes place. How does a child learn to walk? (see the Instinctive Golf Blog Learning to Golf is like Learning to Walk on this site) Certainly not by heeding verbal instructions from the parents – children don’t even understand much language at that age. A child learns by trial and error, by awareness of action and results. The child doesn’t cloud his or her awareness by judging the results, and very soon develops a feel for walking that lasts throughout life.”

I would highly recommend both of Shoemaker’s books to deepen your understanding of the process of learning a motor skill efficiently. Fred states, “Try to loosen up and play around a little. Take a look at what’s possible. Do things differently. Try different swings, different shots. Don’t worry about the “right way” – you’ll get to that. Try swinging in exaggerated ways. All the while note what you do to produce these shots….The essence of physical learning is to develop distinctions, becoming aware of the differences between two actions and recognizing the consequences of each. This is the way we learn all basic activities – walking, running, even riding a bicycle – and the reason we don’t have to think about them once we learn them. Having mastered the “feel”, we don’t have to keep second-guessing ourselves.”

While he uses one primary physical golf exercise to stimulate awareness and awaken instinct, Awaken Your Inner Golfer takes the process to another level through the variety of forty instinct-awakening golf exercises. The exercises facilitate the natural process of how we learn physical motor skills most effectively – through experience, trial and error, failure and success, and exploration and discovery.

Fred frames this process as “the action – awareness – response feedback loop of which all essential actions are learned….simply develop a feel for what actions produce what results and let the body’s natural learning process assist you.” He also writes about how Bobby Jones talked about how he played his best golf when he was able to quiet his conscious mind and rely on his unconscious instincts. Fred states, “Now, I never talked to Bobby Jones, but I strongly believed that he learned to play golf through experience, awareness, experimentation, and instinct.” It’s almost like they are talking about the instinct-awakening golf exercises!!    

Focusing on awareness and accessing natural instincts, Shoemaker reminds us that “It’s the letting go that’s the tricky part.” The instinct-awakening exercises in Awaken Your Inner Golfer will help you in the process of letting go of control and learning to trust your natural abilities. By accepting that the exercises are all about learning, not judgment or perfection, you’ll give yourself the freedom to access your natural instincts. As you accept that there are no mistakes, only learning, both the “clunkers” and the “pure shots” will provide the fuel for your neural/muscular system to adapt, integrate, embody and learn.

Shoemaker concludes his book with three main points: “It is difficult to achieve any measure of consistency when you are always looking outside yourself for the answers….the only thing that you can really depend on are those things that you do instinctively and naturally….when the joy of letting go becomes more important than the quality of your shots, the quality of your shots will amaze you, and you will truly have become a golfer.”

Authors such as Fred Shoemaker, Timothy Gallwey, Brian Sparks, Sam Jarman, and Michael Hebron (see the October 2019 Instinctive Golf Blog The Art and Zen of Learning….Golf on this site), have done a brilliant job of explaining and helping golfers understand how we naturally learn physical motor skills such as a golf swing effectively. I feel no need to further explain the natural process these authors have so adequately and eloquently presented. My intent is to build on the natural learning process. My hope is that the instinct-awakening golf exercises “speak” to you louder than words can convey.

Could this new (but old!) process of learning and improving the motor skill of  a golf swing through guided coaching, trial and error and exploration and discovery become a new paradigm in golf instruction?!? My guess is that only if one golfer at a time has the courage to let go of old conditioning and open to the freedom of learning something new by awakening their natural instincts.

Please feel free to let me know through the confidential Contact tab on this website if you have given yourself the opportunity to ‘let go’ and freely explore the golf exercises in Awaken Your Inner Golfer; what you may have discovered through awareness – about yourself or your golf swing; how it may have affected your golf game; and if you’ve found any other golfers who are open to exploration and discovery as a path to learning and improving their golf game. May you and your fellow golfers continue to experience the joy and the freedom in re-discovering your natural instincts!

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