Learn then Practice

Practice is all about success. Learning is all about failure. That is why the learning process is so hard on most golfers...failing is not fun!
My Grandfather taught me that anything worth doing is worth doing poorly. Yes I know that is opposite of what you always hear. Just think about it for a little bit. By today's standard the Wright brothers airplane would be a giant failure. By today's standard your abilities with a fork and spoon when you were just two years old would be considered sloppy failures at best.
When we were first  learning to walk, every failure was celebrated with joy and encouragement. We would take a shaky step fall to the ground and our parents would clap! Somehow over the years we have learned to get no joy from failing.
For golfers the learning process is all to often a time of frustration, dissapointment and failure followed by quiting. Learning to hit that important soft lob shot gets put off to another day, maybe forever.
Setting some realistic goals for the learning process can help. Let's say you are going to learn the "hinge and hold" pitch that you see Phil Mickelson do so effortlessly. A reasonable goal might be to succeed at the hinge and hold swing 2 out of 10 attempts. So failing 8 times is success. To accomplish the learning process requires that the only thing you focus on is the swing. Not the ball. Not the target. Just the swing. If you focus on what the ball does you will never truly know how to execute the swing. Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn.
It might take several 10 swing sessions to get to the point where you can confidently say you know how to hinge and hold. The learning process means you must be willing and even eager to fail first. Study the failure. What is causing the wrists to flip the club? What is causing the balance or tempo or jerking problems. What must I do to learn to execute this swing like Phil?
Now that you have learned the shot you can practice the shot to become proficient and successful at execution. Practice means being success oriented, target oriented. Now the goal might be to get 8 out of 10 balls inside a 6 foot circle. Learning is becoming able, practice is becoming skilled.
The concert pianist began by learning rudimentary scales and probably executing them poorly. For golfers its not scales its drills. Boring slow motion tedious drills. Hinge... hold... turn... repeat. Focus on the movement. It is the movement after all that you are struggling to learn.

Golf tech

It seems that nearly every golfer has some form of yardage indicator. Lazer and GPS have all but replaced the old yardage books.

Now there are very good GPS apps for the smart phone that are very accurate. If you are going to use a GPS  app why not use one that will give you some helpful data about your round and your tendencies.

I highly recommend  Golflogix, an app that can track all the important data of the round.
  • fairways hit or where they were missed.
  • greens in regulation.
  • chips and accuracy of chips
  • putts and length of putts both made and missed.
  • distance and accuracy on all clubs and shot types. 
  • a map showing where every shot went.

As for the GPS it is wonderful. Besides giving you all the relevant distances,  you can select a landing area by touching the screen to learn just how far and what club is required. At the end of the round the score card and data are stored for you and you can send the data to me, your instructor! I can then direct your practices  to the areas that need attention.

All your rounds are kept on the GolfLogix server for you to to review.

When Practice is Not Practice

To develop a skill requires four steps.
1 knowing what to do
2 knowing how to do it
3 becoming able to do it
4 get to a high level of skill

The first three steps are learning steps,  the fourth is practice.

Let's say you want to learn how to hit a draw.

Going to the range and trying to hit a draw is NOT practice. It is a futile and frustrating exercise.

Do step one first.  Learn what must happen to create a draw.  What is the setup.  What is the club path. What is the face angle? What needs to happen to create a draw. Write it down on paper.  Draw it out if that works for you. Design the swing that creates a draw like an architect designs a building. Become an expert in describing the process of hitting a draw.

Now do step two. Take a moment to figure out how you can actually do what you have designed. Your body and your swing, dictates what you're capable of.  Learn how to do what must be done to hit a draw. Discover how to turn the description of hitting a draw into the actual motion of hitting a draw. Do it in slow motion.

Step 3 is knowing the skill you must aspire to and develop at least a modicum of ability to actually (at least occasionally) hit a draw. This is where you test the theory and design of your draw swing. Verify that it can actually work.

Congrats, you know what to do, you know how to do it and you have demonstrated that you can do it, at least sometimes.  Now get good at...get skilled...become consistent.  That is practice.