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My Ball Striking Experiment

Those of you who are already G60 members will know that we recommend different types of training / practice depending on which phase of the program you are currently in.


We have 3 different phases in our G60 program. Building, Maintenance and Performance.


BUILDING PHASE


During the building phase, the main focus is on improving technique. Due to the cognitive energy and focus this requires, we try to take the pressure off your scores and golf course performance during this period. If you’ve ever tried to change your swing, you’ll understand how difficult it is to focus on this and shoot good scores at the same time. This is because you've been placed into a cognitive stage of learning (see previous blog for more on this) https://www.g60performance.com/post/3-stages-of-learning.


BUILDING PHASE - TYPE OF TRAINING


The type of training we recommend in this building phase is block practice (hitting lots of balls, repeating the movement several times slowly). We recommend you use training aids and set up a consistent station to work on the movement. Other things like the skill of finding the middle of the club face and controlling where the ball goes can become more difficult. This is because your focus has shifted to how you move your body or the club rather than hitting the target.


BUILDING PHASE - EXPECTATIONS


  • Technique will improve

  • Movement patterns will improve

  • Swing efficiency will improve

  • No pressure on scores yet

  • Difficult to transfer from practice to the course


MAINTENANCE PHASE


Once you’ve worked your way through the building phase, you enter our maintenance phase. Here we try to maintain the technique you have built and implement these changes on to the golf course.


MAINTENANCE PHASE - TYPE OF TRAINING


This phase is where we recommend that you continue to do block practice to further ingrain good habits, but start to integrate more varied practice to transfer your skills from the range/nets to the golf course. We start to talk about effective compartmentalising during this phase and develop your ability to switch focus from technique thoughts (off course) to performance based thoughts (on course).



MAINTENANCE PHASE - EXPECTATIONS


  • Technique becomes more comfortable (automatic)

  • Technique changes will start to show on the course

  • You may still be inconsistent but you’ll start to see good signs of improvement

  • Scores will start to improve

  • You may have great technique off course but struggle to deal with pressurised situations



PERFORMANCE PHASE


The final phase of the program is known as the performance phase. The main thing we teach you in this phase is effective course strategy and how to switch your focus away from technique. This allows you to focus on external factors such as pin positions, wind direction, club choice, what type of shot to hit. We should have built a reliable technique by this point. We now have to trust it. This is where the best performers are able to enter a “flow state” in their mind. If you truly want to play your best golf, it’s vital you make your way into the performance phase eventually.



PERFORMANCE PHASE - TYPE OF TRAINING


During this phase, we recommend varying your practice (e.g. choose different lies, targets, conditions). We also recommend lots of pressurised practice and game like practice too. We make it difficult during practice, which makes the golf course feel easier.



PERFORMANCE PHASE - EXPECTATIONS


  • Your ball striking will improve

  • Your shot shaping skills will improve

  • Your ability to deal with pressure will improve

  • Your course strategy will improve

  • Your scores will improve

  • Your handicap will drop


This is the process of true improvement. Work through the phases until your focus is no longer solely focused on technique. This is what most golf coaches will not tell you! They will constantly focus on your technique, leaving you unable to break free and enter the performance phase (where the real magic happens). You’ll forever stay in a building phase and never be free enough to perform your best.



BALL STRIKING EXPERIMENT


I decided to do an experiment on trackman to show you how just thinking differently can affect performance. Once you’ve worked your way through the first 2 phases of the program and developed a fairly good technique, here’s what shifting your focus from technique to the target does to the quality of your ball striking and end results…


I used Neil Sarkies (PGA Pro) for this experiment and didn’t tell him anything apart from how I wanted him to think over the ball. I got Neil to hit 10 7-irons thinking about a very specific technique thought in his takeaway and then 10 7-irons thinking about nothing but the target. 10 shots gave us a decent amount of data for each way of thinking.


My measurements to monitor during this experiment were:


  • Centeredness of strike (How close to the middle of the club face did he strike the ball)

  • Carry Distance (How far did the ball carry)

  • Dispersion (How close to the target did the ball finish)


Take a look below to see the results with each way of thinking. Let’s abbreviate the technique thinking to Tech and the target thinking to Targ.


  • Centredness of strike


Below are the heat maps for Neil’s ball striking when he was focusing on solely on his technique and the same for his target focused shots. A few toe strikes crept in there during the tech shots which ultimately brought distance off those shots. The target based thinking produced a much more consistent strike.




Tech


When Neil thought about his technique, the ball striking was a little bit inconsistent. He had some central strikes but a few uncharacteristic toe strikes.















Targ


When Neil shifted his focus to the target, and freed his mind of technique thoughts, his ball striking was much more consistent, and much more central on the face.

















Carry Distance


We measured the carry distance on each shot, and recorded the average carry distance over 10 shots. The results below show the technique focused shots first, followed by the target focused shots.



Tech


Here are the 10 shots Neil hit with his 7-iron when focusing on technique. The distances were much shorter than his normal 7-iron and varied dramatically from shot to shot. Neil’s average carry distance when thinking about technique was 136 metres. Below is a chart of all 10 shots. The gap between the longest and shortest with the tech shots was around 20 metres.


























Targ


Here's the 10 shots Neil hit when focusing on the target. The carry distance when focusing on the target was 149 metres and much more consistent. Each ball landed within a 5 metre gap.






























Dispersion


Take a look at the dispersion of Neil's shots. The blue shots are the technique focused shots, and the red shots are the target focused shots. The target shots were 6.5 metres right of the target on average and very close together. The Tech shots were 21 metres right of the target on average and not so close together.


Tech (Blue dots) v's Targ (Red Dots)

























As you can see, the results are very clear. When Neil could free his mind of swing thoughts completely, and shift his focus to the target, he entered a “flow state” where he was able to allow his learned skills to come out. His strike was more central on the face, his distance was more consistent and longer, and his dispersion was tighter and closer to the target.


The reason Neil was able to produce such a consistent result when he entered a "flow state" is because he has already developed a good technique. All he needs to do to perform his best is free his mind and allow his talent to come out.


If improving your technique is a necessity, just know that you'll be entering a building phase. Generally golf course performance will drop in this phase (as mentioned above) but the long term gains will be evident once the new technique pattern is learned, and your focus eventually shifts away from technique.


Once that new pattern is learned, it's so so important to shift your focus to performance. This is where the magic happens! Some top players might have 1 simple swing thought when they play, but no more than that. Having a simple swing thought is also very different to solely focusing on a new technique change on the golf course.





What does all of this tell us?


  • When you enter the building phase, your performance on the course may drop as your focus has shifted to technique/how you move. This is absolutely fine, embrace it and be patient whilst making technique changes, and don't expect amazing scores just yet.

  • When you work through and enter the performance phase of training at G60, your on course performance will improve dramatically - (as long your focus has shifted away from technique)

  • If it’s absolutely necessary to change your technique, you must be aware that the type of training should differ to players in a performance phase. Block practice v's Varied Practice.

  • The end goal is to make it to the performance phase after successfully building a reliable technique.

  • If you desperately want to score well immediately, learn to compartmentalise. Think about technique off-course but focus on the target on the golf course. Free yourself of technique thoughts and just play.

  • Top players who are going through swing changes are sometimes able to effectively compartmentalise. They can have technique specific thoughts off the course and free their mind on the course to give themselves the best chance of getting results in that moment.

  • Technique changes take time. Be patient in the building phase and don't expect brilliant scores just yet. Work your way through this phase and build the movement first. Your future self will thank you!


Conclusion


Ultimately, our goal is to get you playing your best golf. Everyone's individual goals might be different, but generally, the universal goal is to score better. If you need to change your technique, allow yourself time to build the new movement and don't be too hard on yourself when it comes to scoring at first.


Work your way through the program, manage your expectations in each phase, and change your type of training/thought processes as you progress. Lastly, make sure you work yourself away from technique thoughts eventually. You will never reach your true potential if you stay in a building phase forever.


If you're taking lessons from a coach who isn't explaining this process of improvement to you, then maybe it's time to join G60. If your coach is solely focusing on technique changes, and nothing beyond that, then maybe it's time to join G60. If you feel like you've hit a plateau with your golf and don't know how to improve, then maybe it's time to join G60!



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