The Meaningful Difference – Decoding Language
Trying to learn a foreign language can be a frustrating experience. The same frustrations
be experienced by golfers trying to improve their golf skills. These frustrations include;
1) a lack of core subject knowledge
2) poor decoding skills
3) no frame of reference
The first stage of learning starts with decoding language. Golfers often gather
information and advice by reading and listening to language. Information is also gathered
when impressions of what we are looking at are transformed into the internal or personal
language of our minds. Every golfer’s ability to use advice in a workable manner is based
on how skillful they can decode the language advice “givers” and other sources of
Unfortunately, many golfers have not gained the core golf knowledge to accurately
decode most of the information they are exposed to. This lack of core golf knowledge (or
frame of reference), often leads to poor concepts, misinformation, and misapplication of
advice. At times, information can have some short-term value, but when that information is
decoded accurately, its value is always enhanced and becomes knowledge that is
personal in nature.
Without accurate insights into core subject knowledge, information that could lead golfers
in the direction of progress is often disregarded and considered less valuable then it
should have been, simply because it is being misunderstood.
Accurately decoding golf advice, can give golfers access to skills, habits, and ideas that
equip them for the ever-changing conditions indigenous to the game of golf. A golfer’s
ability to decode information and adjust to golf’s environments with problem- solving
thinking, will be less than it could be without accurate core knowledge. It takes knowledge
to gain more knowledge.
When golfers gather information, they only have half the requirements needed for
progress, if the information has not been decoded for personal use.
When learning, the Meaningful Difference is useful decoding skills founded on core
knowledge. This meaningful difference gives golfers the ability to grasp the cause and
true character of current habits, both workable and unworkable. Core golf knowledge is:
1) the design angles of a club shaft and club face
2) the ballistic properties of a ball
3) the field of play, all influence the golf swing
The learning gaps some golfers experiences are similar to the learning gaps poor readers
have. Studies show poor readers understand less than half of the words they are trying
to read, even when their teachers are using the words.
For readers, any learning gap is really a decoding gap, brought on by a lack of core
vocabulary knowledge. For golfers, a learning gap is also a decoding gap. Golfers who
are not making progress often do not lack the talent or time required to learn, they have a
gap in their understanding core golf knowledge. Without core knowledge, decoding skills
will not add up to par.
Leaders from the field of reading education estimate that to fully understand spoken or
written language, a person needs to be familiar with ninety to ninety percent of the words
they are reading or listening to. We could say these people have sufficient core word
Poor readers lack a core vocabulary and poor golfers lack core golf knowledge, (a frame
Comprehension skills (decoding) and a sense of accurate personal knowledge, can give
learners the self-confidence and skills to read or make progress in golf. Studies show
that direct instruction techniques, like flash cards (word bingo) for reading, and “how to”
directions and drills for golfers, have been found to be less valuable than we once
thought them to be.
A Sense of “What if?”
There are people who have a real “sense of wonder,” and will think about what others just
accept. This sense of “what if,” is a gift and the foundation of living a full life and all long-
term learning. A “sense of wonder” and “what if” thinking, are very useful when it comes
to making progress. How’s your “sense of wonder?” If lost, it may help to find your sense
of “what if” and put it to use now. Warning: A golfer’s “sense of wonder” can get lost
amongst all the “how to” directions that are always available.
When a golfer is allowed to interact with the game’s ever-changing environments with a
“what if” approach, this can be very useful for making progress. To let go and go with the
flow of the shot at hand, is like realizing learning to swim requires letting go of the side of
the pool, or someone’s hand. Swimmers must put faith in their own ability to use their
natural buoyancy and float on the water. Golfers also must have faith in self-learning and
the principals of motion, before any real long-term progress arrives.
A belief in “how to” advice is really a hope that the advice will work. On the other hand,
faith in self-learning is being open to accepting outcomes, or the truth, without judgments.
(What is, always is what is)
Music and dance are two examples of participation and playing without a clear
destination. If music and dance were just destinations, the last note of a piece of music
would be what was important, and when dancing, we would just stay in one place. But,
listening to music from start to finish and moving all over the dance floor, is why we enjoy
Music and dance are examples of participation and playing from start to finish. Learning
golf is enjoying a journey of progress and not a destination defined by someone else’s
“how to” directions.
New insights that lead to images and ideas that are personal in nature are valuable
learning tools. When golfers are not making progress, they should find ways to change
their approach to making progress.
Physical things do not change. Balls, clubs, the field of play, and the human form are all,
more or less, the same as they have always been. So when not making progress, our
perceptions of things (frame of mind) must change, if we want different results. It is what
we notice and pay attention to that is important.
What we overlook, miss, or ignore, can lead to a lack of core knowledge when we are
trying to improve. Never try, just do and interact with golf’s environment and take notice
What we want happens when we stop trying. The very nature of environments causes
results we can learn from. “We do not learn from doing this or that, we learn from what
happens when we do this or that.” D. McGluggage. IE: Balls do not try to roll fast down
hills, they just do. Nine irons do try to go higher than five irons, they just do. Do not try to
learn, just interact with the environment and notice the outcome.
When there is a silence in the mind, without “how to” directions, we can become fully
aware of our environment and see what is and what is not required.
Self-making is at the foundation of Chinese and other Eastern cultures. A Chinese child
does not ask, “How was I made?” They ask, “How did I grow?” Golfers who would like to
improve may want to open themselves to “self-making” through choice and reflection.
Andrew Caronige, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, said, “The only
way to win and argument is to avoid them at all costs.” “How to” directions are similar to
arguments, with one set of directions contradicting the next set and so on. Golfer’s who
want to experience long-term progress, should avoid the disagreements and arguments
“how to” directions offer.
Any breakthrough a golfer is capable of making, normally requires a breakout or
breakaway from noisy arguments about who is right and wrong. Our goal is a non-verbal
reality that only a silent mind can conceive. Until the mind is free of someone else’s “how
to directions,” it is almost impossible to gain personal insights.
What the mind is conceiving is often based on someone else’s language and that
language will influence our thinking, (IE the tree is not made of wood; it is wood…the
ocean is not filled with water; it is water.)
A Point of View: a golfer is not making a swing; the swing is the golfer’s perceptions. From
this point of view, the swing is the golfer, (IE at times, after seeing someone’s golf swing,
we probably could make some accurate assumptions about that person’s personality).
The swing or playing style is the golfer.
Time solves little by itself. Normally when something is not up to par, it takes more than
time to make a positive difference. Unless there is a commitment to change, things often
get worse over time. When golfers make a change in attitude, this can help, but only up
to a point, but changing a point of view can make a big difference. It is our map, or
interpretation of golf’s environment that can either cause or solve problems.
“How to” directions normally avoid causes. It takes trust and faith in self-learning and
awareness of the principals of motions, and effort with “how to” advice, to experience long-
term learning. “How to” directions are about now, but long-term progress is not
concerned with immediate results that normally are little more than a quick fix.
Note: Our highest value is our ability to work out problems (You cannot be talked out of
problems by “how to” advice); we have to work them out ourselves. Stay away from
conditions that offer unworkable outcomes. Be proactive with your environments, not re-
active to directions. Workable motion patterns are an application of core knowledge and
a fulfillment of self-learning.
“How to” directions are managing golfers. Self-learning and awareness skills are
educating golfers. Always begin with a result in mind, based on the shot at hand and golf’
s physical basics. Focus on what to do with the club, not on how to move your body.
Do not tie yourself to past unworkable results. Focus on your plan of what to do, not how
to do it. Where do you want to club shaft, face, or head for the shot at hand? Humans
were born to interact with environments, not follow “how to” advice.