I think most golfers know that. Your way of life is a product of all the different habits you have developed knowingly and unknowingly over your life time. In the case of changing golf stroke habits it can take a long time.
And here's why?
The simplest way to explain it is that you have 13 major joints in your body moving in three dimensions plus the timing required to move them at the correct time and you are required to propel a golf club around your body inside of two seconds and strike a stationary sphere in such a way that the result is a solidly struck golf shot that travels to your target more often than not.
Now when you see the top professionals hitting shot after shot down the fairway and onto the green making it look easy you’ll realise that it far from easy. However even a complex activity like a golf swing can look easy when it is mastered.
Today we’re seeing a lot of golf books coming out that are marketed to average amateur golfers suggesting that changing your golf swing is something that is relatively easy to learn and do. This partly explains the wide performance gap between amateur golfers and professional golfers.
Golf instructors are good but not that good.
I have personally known of golfers to fly to the other side of the world to have a golf lesson or two with a well known golf instructor, and after paying a significant sum of money for the golf lesson they find out that the change that has been suggested will take months to improve!
The truth is that if you’re changing a feature of your golf swing technique or in-fact learning a new part, it will take time to habituate through carefully applied effort.
This is worth remembering. You simply cannot buy a faster golf stroke learning process.
Let me say it again...
"You simply cannot buy a faster golf stroke learning process."
At Pro Tour Golf College we work with our students to help them to understand the golf swing change process and the way we explain it is that golf swing change process falls into five categories that describe the complexity of the skill set and the amount of time that it is likely to take to become a habit.
The complexity of the skill set in our model describes the amount of joints recruited for the particular golf stroke and the amount of rotation.
A putting skill requires the fewest joints and minimal rotations whereas the full swing technique recruits the most joints and rotations.
- No wrist and elbow rotation
- 15 percent shoulder rotation
- No hip rotation
Very small golf swings that swing no higher than your ankles (like the putting stroke) fall into this category.
To change to way your putter behaves at this level means you are reducing the amount of rotations to shoulders rotating around the upper part of your spine.
With reduced complexity at this level you will develop a new stroke habit relatively quickly.
- 25 percent wrist angle and elbow rotation
- Up to 30 percent shoulder rotation
Level 2 strokes describe golf strokes where the golf club-head travels no higher than your knees. So this would include all chip shots and chip and run shots.
With this stroke very little wrist to no wrist angles are used and shoulder and hip rotation is kept to a minimum which keeps the complexity down and makes it easier to habituate a change.
- 50 percent wrist angles and elbow rotation
- Up to 45 percent shoulder rotation
Level 3 strokes describe a stroke where your hands travel to height of your waist and the golf club to the height of your ear.
This stroke is employed when you hit your pitch shots around the green. The upper body is starting to rotate to about half of its final position.
- 75 to 100 percent percent wrist angles and elbow rotation
- 70 to 100 percent shoulder rotation
Level 4 strokes describe a stroke where your hands travel to height of your shoulder and the golf club above your rear shoulder. This stroke is employed when you hit your approach wedges into the green, greenside sand and trouble shots and many other types of approach shots.
This stroke is also the full stroke for many golfers who may not have the flexibility or body type to swing their arms and hands higher than their shoulders with control.
The upper body is starting to rotate to its final resting position and the hips are rotating almost fully.
- 100 percent wrist angles and elbow rotation
- Up to 100 percent shoulder rotation
The Level 5 stroke is the most complex stroke to learn and adjust because power generation is at its highest so timing of each element within the stroke is crucial.
Level 5 strokes are full shots like tee-shots and hybrid shots into the green. This stroke describes an action where your hands travel higher than your shoulders and the golf club high above your rear shoulder.
The upper body has rotated to its completion as have the hips, and the lead hand wrist has hinged fully as well as the rear elbow.
To change the way a particular part of your golf stroke behaves under pressure requires a total commitment to practicing correctly.
This means that you should practice without the distraction of ball-flight so that you can concentrate fully on translating the concept of the change into a recognizable 'feel.'
You need to decide what level of complexity your stroke improvement falls into based on our complexity model and then plan your practice so that a higher volume of the work you perform is dedicated to changing the stroke.
The graph below shows an aspect of how we plan a golf stroke change for a student at Pro Tour Golf College. It shows a micro-cycle of 7 days and the amount of balls hit each day with a target and without. The very best way to change a golf swing component is to eliminate the biggest distraction to every golfer - the target.
By practicing hitting golf shots into a net you eliminate ball-flight and can get on with the job of habituating the proposed change to your golf stroke technique. We have found that the distraction of the ball-flight in making changes to your golf swing could add as much as 50 to even 100 percent more time to the actual change depending on the complexity level.
The best of luck with your golf stroke changes and if you have any questions about my article please feel free to drop me a line.
Lawrie Montague and David Milne - Pro Tour Golf College