There are few moments in our lives that offer a transition to change the way we think. Often we are limited by our finite experiences or adherence to the origin of beliefs. Changing our course then begins to feel insurmountable while standing at the foot of our behavioral mountain.
Golf is no different.
Your swing is a collection of movements (for better or worse) that is the culmination of your experience and beliefs. Those beliefs are typically defined by the conventional wisdom of golf instruction spanning the centuries of golf itself. The logical question would be: are we better off for it?
One of the triggers to starting this blog was an article analyzing golfer performance by age. A throwaway line in the introduction stated, “The bad news is that regardless of how long we play, we might not actually get much better either.”
Let that sentence pour into your soul and tell me how you feel.
If you don’t enjoy the game that much to begin with, maybe it doesn’t do much for you. Pick something else you love and insert it instead. “The bad news is that regardless of how long you cook, you might not actually get much better at making meals.”
Would you keep cooking if you never got better than the first time you tried cooking? Maybe only slightly better, but everything was always dry and flavorless? It’s edible, guess that’ll do for the rest of my life.
You’d end up ordering out if everytime you were hungry you had to put up with bland, overcooked “food”.
However, my analogy would hardly be complete there.
You love food. You want to get better at making meals. While browsing the web for a recipe you see an ad for a new cooking device that promises tastier food. So you waste no time ordering the brand new, $400 cooker and your meals improve. You haven’t DONE anything different, but the tools you’re using made you slightly better. Still not good, but better.
With your new toy, you find more recipes. As you read through all of the recipes, you start to notice a trend. Every one of them follows a predictable series of steps with very similar ingredients. Celebrity chefs use these ingredients and cook in this order, and the food looks so good you can taste it through your screen.
Professional and amateur chefs alike show you the steps in detail and offer suggestions on how to replicate the fundamental cooking positions. You practice just like they say and still have little to show in presentation. Perhaps you’ve even gotten worse as a result of chasing techniques, so much so that you now even have trouble starting your cooker.
All the information in the world and plenty of successful people showing you cooking conventional wisdom and you still aren’t getting better.
There seems to be some secret you’re missing.
Now let’s get back to talking golf. Unfortunately this is the state of our game.
That fancy cooker was a new driver or game-improvement irons. The celebrity chef was your favorite player. Those breaking down the movements were instructors. The recipes were stacks of golf books and DVDs on your shelf. And the secret? The real secret? The one you’ve been looking for since you started golfing that will forever change the way you play for the rest of your life?
It’s not a secret.
It’s an understanding and acceptance that the way golf is taught to amatuers does nothing to improve the fundamental behavior and motor patterns required for a solid swing.
Every tip, fix, position, thought, and feeling you’ve been gifted for improvement works in opposition to the way we learn. And when I say “works”, I mean temporarily. Even those expensive lessons without proper practice are the equivalent of putting a band-aid on a torn muscle.
Could the answer to true golf improvement really just be changing the process of understanding?
Consider the best golfer in your group. Did they start before you? Is it possible while they were younger and weaker, they developed a motor pattern that they can’t explain to you because it’s already ingrained? The only conscious information they have is the same regurgitation of swing faults and fixes you already know? Of course.
We don’t have the luxury of going back in time and putting a club in our hands earlier in life. As you matured and built strength, you didn’t get the chance to find a real fundamental movement having picked up the game later in life. And on top of it instruction falls woefully short of addressing that gap.
Having only practiced the Rotary Swing movements for a week, I can tell you that this is different. Memories of learning the piano when I was a child started to flood to the front of my mind. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m actually learning.
What that means is struggle and frustration. Fighting tens of thousands of swings designed with “experience and beliefs”. Battling over a decade’s worth of movements that feel as natural as walking. One piece at a time, I’m starting from scratch (even though I said I wouldn’t, but boy was I naive).
The popular translation from Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching is, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Although inherently inspirational, further down the page is one of my favorite passages:
We as humans have no power to make things grow (go ahead and try to make your hair grow). Learning is a process of unlearning. We must replace our beliefs with updated thoughts to improve. We must take care of the things that are forgotten. A rising tide lifts all boats.
That spirit helped form this blog. What helps and what doesn’t? Where should I (and through proxy or interest, you) spend my time to improve my game?
The defining moment to shift my understanding has begun with Rotary Swing. I’m not sure there is higher praise than I can give than that. I broke 80 again for the first time in a month and have barely scratched the surface of my training with their program. The best part is I only went to range once this week, mainly because I didn’t want to completely embarrass myself by missing the ball with an altered swing. More important to me is how pain-free and stress-free my rounds have been.
Like I mentioned in my 90-Day Challenge piece, recovery is critical to success. In terms of my ability to return to training after performance, Rotary Swing has already proven I don’t have to destroy my body to play well. In fact, after my round yesterday I completed my drills in the afternoon and woke this morning with such minimum soreness I could have easily done it again today.
I won’t put the horse before the buggy, as I still have a healthy level of skepticism. To give you genuine, undeniable proof of success, it will be a month or two before I can tell you if the program is worth it. After all band-aid fixes work temporarily, too. My hypothesis is Rotary Swing is the real deal (not super scientific).
If I’m right, it’s time for the industry to buck conventional wisdom and accept the changing times.
Until then, stay safe.