Learning how to learn AND learning how to motivate yourself to learn are transformative gifts you must give yourself. These gifts allow you to out-think, out-learn and out-perform your opponents. To improve, you must change the flawed and ingrained habits that govern your swing.
To enhance your thinking, take a balanced approach. Continue to seek advice from a wide range of experts. However, don’t grant experts – even the most famous -- dominion over you. Out-sourcing your thinking and learning is the biggest mistake and greatest injustice you can inflict upon yourself. The most powerful determinant of you is YOU. If you don’t swing your swing, you’ll be enslaved by someone else’s.
After decades of coaching, playing, researching, writing and testing various methodologies, I reached a startling conclusion: Golf’s conventional and varied methodologies fail – not for different reasons – but for the same reason.
Einstein wrote, “You can’t solve a problem using the same mode of thinking that created the problem in the first place.” Herein lies the problem with golf instruction. Analysis, the divide and conquer mode of thinking that breaks things down into separate parts, is antithetical to understanding and mastering a dynamic, holistic, nuanced, tightly-coupled and complex athletic movement lasting only 1.4 seconds.
Every complex system – including the golf swing -- is an indivisible whole. When you disassemble an indivisible whole – by severing the myriad connections among its many components – you destroy the system. I’m not telling you to stop disaggregating your swing. I’m telling you to disaggregate AND aggregate your swing. Analytical thinking lets you understand the actions of separate parts. Systemic thinking – a new and emergent mode of cognition – lets you understand the interactions among all the parts.
For example, what’s the point of understanding the function of your trail elbow unless you understand how it functions interactively or holistically? No swing component – regardless of how small -- exists in isolation. Every component – directly or indirectly -- depends on every other component. To improve your thinking and learning, you must merge analytical and systemic thinking. In modern golf instruction, however, systemic thinking has been grossly overlooked.
Analytical and systemic thinking let you understand and solve problems from dramatically different perspectives. For example, from a butcher’s analytical perspective a cow represents separate chunks of dead meat. From a dairy farmer's systemic perspective, however, a cow represents a live, milk-producing entity. Merging analytical and systemic thinking widens your mental bandwidth.
Why is systemic thinking so important? In the swing’s inherently failure-prone system, it takes only one small glitch to trigger a cascading series of errors that will make your swing partially or totally dysfunctional. What’s most important in a system are not the actions of separate parts but the product of their interactions. Given the number of bewildering interactions in your swing, therefore, margin of error is slim.
Your golf swing -- like your signature, fingerprint or pancreas – is uniquely yours. Therefore, adopting swing components from others who don’t share your parameters is risky and foolish. Frankly, I wasted many years trying to imitate Hogan’s swing. Instead of becoming a better version of myself -- I tried to become someone else.
There is no established path for all golfers. Find your own path by becoming an independent thinker and learner. No teacher taught you how to speak and walk. You taught yourself. No teacher taught Sam Snead – who won 91 professional tournaments – how to swing. He taught himself.