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The magic of muscle memory

Have you ever wondered how you can shoot like a pro during practice and then fight your way through ninety? All golfers, at all skill levels, have experienced the vast discrepancy between practice and game.

What happens to all the “good stuff” during the ten minute walk from the driving range to the first tee?

The answer is simple: on the driving range, you’ve been trying to correct the effects (ie swing mechanics) without addressing the underlying cause(s).

Feelings are causes – Mechanics are effects.

If you can hit solid shots at range then you have the ability. The key to recreating those shots is reinforcing the optimum feel.

Each constant swing contains three control points or common positions.

The first checkpoint is the impact position. For a right handed golfer, the left hand is opposite the left inner thigh at the moment of impact. Second position is the end of the backswing. In a full backswing, the player’s back is facing the target. The final checkpoint occurs when the hands are about waist height on the downswing. At this point, a line through the shaft of the club is pointing at the ball.

Do you know the axiom “Only perfect practice makes perfect?” The sentence sounds logical, but how do we achieve the perfect practice? Practice these three positions accurately on a regular basis and you will have perfect practice.

Effective muscle memory is developed by constantly recreating key positions and the sensation that accompanies them. Your unique feel is the secret to continually improving your swing mechanics.

A common misconception is to equate the rate of improvement with the number of hours spent on the driving range. It is not uncommon to hear golfers lament that the more they practiced, the worse they played.

For the golfer well versed in the nuances of swing mechanics, the three positions described above may seem overly simplistic.

Study the frame-by-frame photos of your favorite players and you’ll see their past standings. Variations in grip, stance, serve, and backswing length are idiosyncrasies that a player has adopted to help recreate all three positions.

The ideal time to create new muscle memory is in the off-season.

The mind and muscles need time to accept new ideas and “forget” comfortable patterns. A full length mirror will speed up your progress by helping you visualize the positions while developing a unique feel. As your comfort level increases, try the three positions with your eyes closed.

In the next article, we’ll look at the most important factor that affects your ability to develop effective muscle memory.

Thank you for reading.

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