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Learning precedes performance

This mantra has possibly informed my coaching more than anything else. When I first qualified to coach, I was of a common coaching mindset that if I got my client hitting the ball better in the lesson, and given them the right information, I had done my job.

This trade of money for information is actually what most golfers expect of a lesson, I think. If a golfer isn't able to perform in spite of this, it's easy for a coach to shrug their shoulders with a "you can lead a horse to water..." attitude.

However the short-term benefits of this way of thinking were dissatisfying. So gradually, I broadened my definition of what a good lesson was, from simply imparting information to something which was harder to achieve, but much more rewarding.

Any improvement in performance is preceded by some form of learning, whether it’s a set-up routine, a movement in your swing or strategy for picking the right target.

On one hand, random tips tend to float around your head like a post-it notes reminding you to pick up milk on your way home. True (or retained) learning in sport however, is a change in behaviour. A improved golfer who has taken a handful of shots off their average score is simply a walking, talking collection of better behaviours.

A golf lesson or youtube video that is insightful and interesting is great, but unless it is delivered in a way that promotes and leads to behaviour change, it will always remain a tip you heard once.

Behaviour change - the challenge

Studies have shown consistently that nearly 90% of New Year resolutions are abandoned by the end of January. How common is it that golfers stagnate around certain handicap despite practice?

If we want to make meaningful improvement, we need to acknowledge that behaviour change is difficult, and taking the odd lesson or bashing 100 balls isn't going to cut it.

The good news is that if you take a little time to understand the most effective ways to learn, you can begin to see the fruits of your labour.

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