The Nature of Learning and Learning Golf
By MICHAEL HEBRON, PGA Master Professional, CI
Progress is based on what people are allowed to become aware of and
what people are given the opportunity to learn.
“Learning to learn, is the most important skill of our times,” a statement
Ronald Gross, from Columbia University, made at the Summit for Life Long
Learning, held recently in Seattle, Washington.
Renate Nummular Cain, from Cal State University said, “Educators who
become aware of the recent research into brain processing and how the
brain actually learns, will gain invaluable ideas about the conditions and
environments that enhance and optimize learning.
The Summit for Life Long Learning made the following points:
• The best way to learn and move growing knowledge around quickly is -
everyone must teach themselves. Self-learning from self-teaching (i.e. the
genius of mankind).
• The human brain is a “Learning Organ.” Skilled brainpower should
replace the effort of muscle power, when long-term progress is the goal.
• Brain researchers are now convinced that learners absorb more when
they are relaxed and alert to their environment, and are not following left-
brain analytical directions.
• Self-directed learning accounts for 80% of all long-term learning and
should be used more widely in our education systems. Self directed
learning prepares people for future knowledge acquisition.
• Learn from “new kinds” of teachers offering techniques that overcome
information “rot” with student centered learning methods that acknowledge
and accommodate human diversity.
• Knowledge about information intake and understanding the learning
process are the most important factors teachers and educational
institutions should be aware of.
• Transforming and re-shaping approaches to learning are the real
challenges of future education.
• Widening access to “Life Long Learning” skills will enhance every aspect
of living and open a world of opportunities for anyone who acquires new
knowledge from self-discovery learning.
Brain Based Interactive Learning
Setting goals normally helps people make progress. To make progress at a
reasonable rate and to experience long-term learning, are two goals many
golfers set for themselves, but often do not accomplish. Why?
First, it may help golfers who are setting goals to realize that science has
demonstrated, learning to strike a ball is really no different for the brain,
than learning anything else. Unfortunately, many golfers and their sources
of advice overlook this important insight causing fragmented learning
Next, people who want to improve their golf game are normally only drawn
to information about the swing and playing the game (from a variety of
sources). Rarely, if ever, do golfers look into the nature of learning that
information, or do they question the real value of how they are currently
trying to learn to play golf.
Many golfers are not making progress because they have yet to effectively
decode and then encode useful information for learning to play golf.
Golfers who want to improve must find techniques that improve their
learning skills (i.e. learning potential), before they could expect their
performance potential to improve. How could any approach for improving
ones golf game be useful, unless the nature of learning was taken into
Note: All learning and memory (you can not have one without the other) are
founded on the electrical connections that neurons make with each other,
as they are interacting with their environment. The neural connections
made during interactions between cells give our brain’s universal powers,
including its ability to learn.
The biochemical basis for “all” of our perceptions, thoughts, emotions, and
memories are the neural firing neurons make, as we interact with our
environment. It’s our experiences with our environment, that wires our brain
for long-term learning and nature has never known any other possibilities.
From the Beginning We Have Been Perfect Self-learners and Self-teachers
Ten or twelve weeks after conception, the cells of a human embryo, located
in a developing brain, start to fire and send information to other cells. Over
and over, again and again, information about what cells are experiencing is
being sent back and forth between cells. “It is as if all the cells were auto
dialing at the same time,” is how Carla Shatz, from the University of
California at Berkeley, described the interaction between cells in the brain
that all learning is founded on.
Science has learned that when we are born, some information and abilities
(breathing, heart beats, controlling body temperature, reflexes) have
already been hard wired into our brain. Information and abilities that are not
hard wired (i.e. golf skills) are learned as we are interacting with and
adapting to our environment. Golf skills are learned best when golfers are
allowed to interact with the game’s ever changing environments (i.e. the
shot at hand), without “how to” directions.
The cells that carry electrical connections (information) throughout our
nervous system and brain are called neurons. It is very important to
recognize that these neurons are not sending signals in a scattered
fashion. On the contrary, evidence shows that these bursts of electricity are
caused by coordinated waves of neural activity when cells interact with their
Dale Pures, of Duke University stated, “Connections in the brain are not
forming in some willy-nilly manner. These connections are caused or
programmed by specific activity,” and that activity is always unique to each
individual. The genius of mankind’s genes, cells and neurons is that they,
or humans have the capacity to be a perfect self-learner and a perfect self-
teacher-simultaneously. I.E. Over time, as mankind learned about his
environment, we were teaching ourselves to adapt and survive. Golfers who
want to experience long-term learning, must also learn and teach
themselves simultaneously without how to directions.
When golfers start to see their swing and playing the game as riddles that
they can’t solve, unfortunately many start looking outside themselves for
answers that only they themselves can answer with self-discovery
approaches that interact with golf’s environment.
It’s important to note that the rhythmic firing of neurons is no long assumed
to be just a by-product of the brain. This firing is now known to be essential
to the process of building a brain as it’s learning. This learning -building
process, (firing of neurons) that begins well before birth, also drives the
expansion of learning that occurs after birth. Golfers should be involved in
an approach to learning that cause neurons in the brain to fire and
exchange information. I’m not sure “how to” directions offer this opportunity,
but self-directed learning always has.
When we are born, there are trillion of neurons that are like the Pentium
chips in computers before the factory pre loads any software. These
neurons are pure, with infinite learning potential. These neurons are
unprogrammed circuits that might one day compose a song, do math, or
swing a golf club efficiently.
Note: With the right input (from self-discovery and awareness skills), at the
right time, almost anything is possible. Tiger Woods would often train and
play golf with his Pop. It has been documented that their time together was
often spent in a competitive and creative environments. For example, who
could hit the ball highest, or the lowest, or make the ball bounce one way or
the other after it hit the ground? At first Tiger was put into his high chair
and would just watch his Pop swing and hit balls into a net in their garage.
Then one day, as Earl Woods tells it, “Tiger picked up a golf club and made
a perfect swing,” without any ‘how to’ directions,” being offered.
“Early experiences are so powerful, they can completely change the way a
person turns out” stated Harry Chugani, neurobiologist, Wayne State
University. Science now has research that points out; the experiences that
cause neurons to fire before birth influence the size and shape of the brain
at birth (brain growth is not entirely genetic).
Golfers who are using someone else’s directions on “How to swing the club
and move their bodies” are fragmenting long-term learning and could be
called disabled learners.
By adulthood, the brain is crisscrossed with more than 100 billion neurons,
each one reaching out to other neurons, wiring the brain as they fire. The
past traditional view has been that the genes in fertilized eggs
predetermined the wiring diagram in the brain. We have recently learned
there are not enough genes to specify all of the brains complex wiring
(abilities). Something else had to complete the job of learning everything
the brain knows (or has to know). That something else is our interaction
with environments. The messages that the brain receives from the outside
world are what shape the trillions of fine connections that our genes do not.
Carla Shatz, University of California at Berkeley states, “There are two
broad stages of brain wiring. An early period, when experience is not
required (hard wiring), and a later stage, when it is.”
When neurons are used (fire) they become integrated into the circuitry of
our brain. If neurons are not used, they can die off. Our experiences
(before and after birth), mainly before 10 years of age, will determine which
neurons are used and find their place in our brain’s inventory of information
and abilities. The familiar saying, “Use it, or lose it” is certainly true when it
comes to our brain and its ability to experience long-term learning.
Science called the 1990s the decade of the brain. Of all the discoveries
that poured out of neuroscience labs in recent years, perhaps the most
breathtaking was finding out that the electrical activity in a developing brain
cell actually changes the physical structure of a brain. (Activity caused by
interactions with environments).
Long-term learning and memory is purely the “dog chasing its own tail.” The
very action of interacting with our environment for over millions of years has
improved mankind’s ability to interact with that same environment.
Simultaneously, as we were learning we were teaching ourselves to survive.
This simultaneous learning-teaching ability is the genius of mankind.
Studies show:
• A sense of self-worth is critical to success in learning. (When golfers have
problems doing drills and copying expert models, self worth is lowered).
• Pressure slows learning, one of the worst kinds of stress occurs when
people are telling you what to do - putting people in a position where they
feel they don’t have choices. These will physically and mentally fragment
• Learning to learn is learning to think, drawing on past experiences to
solve problems. (Self-directed learning improves these elements of
learning, “how to” directions, drills and expert models do not).
• Effective learning environments are not teacher dominated - they are
teacher-assisted environments that guide, mentor, motivate and support
self-directed brain based learning.
• As “questioning skills” improve, there is an opportunity to receive more
relevant insights. Keep in mind, poor answers, to poor questions, lead to
frustrated learners.
• Useful learning environments are not trying to change poor habits; they
help to change poor insights.
Golf is a game to be played, not a subject to be taught. Many golfers are
being managed and indoctrinated by “how to” directions, and not being
educated by approaches that are supported by self-discovery and
awareness skills. True play is at the foundation of long-term learning.
Memorization, “how to” directions, drills, and copying expert models, all
avoid the opportunity to play and self direct our own learning.
The following is from Education Today, August 1994
While “rote memorization” is still used in traditional education circles, it has
been found to be inferior to other learning techniques, which activate the
right brain and encourage dual-brain thinking.
Left-brain analytical processing (drills, how to directions, copying expert
models) was widely believed to be how the brain’s memory operated, as it
stored and retained information in an orderly, logical, linear fashion. The
natural consequence of this and similar beliefs resulted in our western
education training system being completely dominated by left-brain
analytical processing. This approach overlooked the contributions of the
subjective and individual right-brain hemisphere.
The irony of this left-brain dictatorship is; the left-brain has poor memory
storage abilities, quickly discarding past information and experiences, as
new data arrives. (I.E. Golfers are always forgetting suggestions.) It is now
known that long-term memory is handed by the right-bran hemisphere in
areas such as patterns, rhythm, emotions, and other sensual information.
(Riding bikes, past feelings, golf swing patterns and tempos, etc.)
The revolutionary contributions to learning techniques that Dr. George
Lozanou, a Bulgarian psychiatrist, and others have made can no longer be
discarded. Creative learning, accelerated learning, super learning, are all
approaches founded on Sredfisuggestopedia, new educational science,
based on Dr. Lozanous discoveries about the right-brain hemisphere.
Useful Insights
It always takes knowledge to gain more knowledge. Information for
improving one’s golf game is available from many sources. Normally, all
these different sources are offering dissimilar suggestion that have little
common ground. Unfortunately, many golfers simply do not have the core
golf knowledge to evaluate and accurately determine what suggestions will
be useful for their progress. Without core subject knowledge, people can
develop poor concepts and misconceptions that fragment learning. Core
subject knowledge can improve learning potential and problem solving
skills. (A round of golf consists of solving problems for the shots at hand).
Accurate information about the swing and playing the game will not be
useful, until a golfer has the ability to decode (personalize) and transfer
that information into workable knowledge. This is one of the reasons that
the Nature of Learning (decoding information) must be taken into
consideration, when long-term learning is the goal.
• How workable is your current approach to long-term learning? (Some
approaches are more useful than others.)
• What core knowledge do golfers need?
• What should golfers learn first?
What should golfers learn first? While there may seem to be several
acceptable answers to that question, there is one answer that pertains to
every golfer. This answer goes to the core of the game: I.E. Ball flight that
goes the correct distance and direction. The core of playing good golf is a
golfers ability to predict the distance and direction of their ball flight
When someone’s ability to predict the outcome of their swing is not what
they believe it could be, it may help them to know that for 500 years there
has been only one way to change the distance and direction of ball flight:
change the alignment and application of swing force through impact. Any
attempts to improve ball flight must recognize that the alignment and
application of force must change, before ball flight can change.
Before any steps to improve are taken, golfers should have an accurate
impression of their current swing style, (without anyone else’s impressions
of how good or bad they may believe that swing may be).
Having an accurate personal impression of their current swing is where any
golfer should start their attempt to make progress. Knowing what is
changing will help long-term progress. As core golf knowledge improves,
accurate insights into the alignment and application of force also improve.
Any golfer who is trying to improve must keep in mind that all roads to
progress must take the following into consideration: that changing the way
we are holding the club, our posture, our alignment, ball location, or swing
concepts, are all changed to improve the alignment and application of force
through impact.
Historically, advice givers have given golfers “how to” directions, suggested
copying expert models, or drills to improve golf skills. Current studies have
found that these suggestions are not as useful for long-term learning as we
once thought them to be. But interacting freely with golf’s environment,
using self directed approaches and awareness skills, could guide golfers in
direction of long-term learning.
©copyright 2002 Michael Hebron, Learning Golf Inc.™ All rights reserved.
© 2006, 2008 Michael Hebron, all rights reserved