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Few golfers could be accused of not trying. Synonymous with this sport, is the effort and the anguish we put in. However there is quality which is more clearly distinguishes the type of effort that yields the greatest rewards - being engaged.

What does it mean?

Engagement is being focused on the task at hand. It's a very tangible trait to witness when a player is engaged. Their attention is exclusively directed where it needs to to be, and their body moves with purpose. These qualities are on display from the very start of attempting a shot, through execution, to the soaking up of feedback immediately afterwards.

It's noticeable in non-elite players because, despite its indisputable correlation with good outcomes, it is not consistently applied.

Importance to learning

True learning in movement and physical skills means the brain has literally rewired itself. New neural connections are formed, existing pathways strengthened. But evolution has reserved this energy-consuming response only for really important stuff. Studies have shown that this is more likely occur when we are in an engaged, excited state.

If we are passive, unfocused or going through the motions, it is unlikely to be rewarded with any permanent neurological change.

Applications to practice

Driving range owners want you to hit 100 balls an hour. However this will not result in much learning. If the goal is only to practice in an engaged state, breaking your practice into chunks, or do smaller sessions, may help.

Separate studies promote an idea call Interleaving, where deliberate breaks or change of activity in practice, allow the brain to consolidate what has been learnt.

It is the re-engagement when you resume the task where most learning occurs.

On the course

As you become aware of whether you are engaged or not, you will probably notice a correlation between being in that state and good shots.

As we are looking for source behaviours that yield improvement as a by-product, monitoring engagement as a process goal would be an extremely valuable exercise.

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