|The Art and Zen of Learning Golf
The Art and Zen of Learning Golf Chapter Preview, By Michael Hebron
Language is a tool of perception more than a tool of communication. Trying to learn a motor skill with
words coming from others can only slow down the progress we are capable of. We must take personal
responsibility for our own progress. We must learn to be aware and react. We must remember past
personal feelings and trust them. We must stop trying to do it right, or have expectations and
timetables. Just do, observe, adjust — in a safe learning/developing environment.
Eastern philosophies have brought about a growing understanding of the
importance of individual responsibility for the development of our own awareness.
Awareness is a powerful tool for heightening self-knowledge and changing habits. Man was designed to
self-develop, starting from scratch. “Using it without forcing anything."
"We should learn from our experiences
(not someone else's).
Our problem is that our power of thought enables us to construct symbols of things apart from the
experience of things." (A. Watts)
"In both life and art the cultures of the Far East appreciate nothing more highly than spontaneity. Action
without thought, a natural way of
action. Eyes see by themselves, ears hear by themselves, and the mouth
opens by itself." (A. Watts)
"Expectations are the surest road to disappointment, they are the contrast between desire and
actuality. Your disappointment lies in the mismatch. Goal fixing is out of the natural rhythm of learning.
Collect your expectations and consign them to a bonfire. Do not look for results, just act and the results
take care of themselves."
(The Centered Skier, by D. McCluggage)
"For some reason we do not trust and do not fully use the peripheral vision of our minds. The idea is
not to reduce the mind, but to bring into play its spontaneous intelligence by The Best Way!
It has already been mentioned that all golfers would like to feet they could improve their level of play,
and that instructional information can provide several different approaches when a golfer is looking for
help. But you should know there truly is a BEST way for you to learn and improve your golf. This BEST
way can be based on and determined by your personality and individual learning style.
The information that can BEST lead to progress in golf will come more from the student than the
instructor. This is unlike learning subjects, where all information comes from the instructor. Motor skill
instructors should always provide and support a learning/developing environment and avoid teaching
and fixing per se.
We all know golfers who feel they have always made steady improvement,
and others who feel they never will. Some also learn faster than others. Why? Perhaps some students
and instructors have come to understand how and why people learn and have based their instruction
on that information.
Laws of Learning
My approach to instruction improved when I became aware of these five basic laws of learning: effect,
primary, exercise, disuse, and intensity.
Law of Effects: We accept and repeat responses that feel pleasant and avoid unpleasant ones. This is
one of the reasons golfers resist a new suggestion; it does not feel pleasant at first.
Law of Primacy: First impressions are vital and often lasting. Not enjoying a lesson is one of the
reasons people do not return.
Law of Exercise: When information is practiced often enough, there is a good chance that a habit can
be established, but avoid rote drills.
Law of Disuse: Use it or lose it. A skill not used is often forgotten. The BEST time to review and
reinforce information is immediately following a lesson.
Law of Intensity: Vivid dramatic learning experiences are more likely to be remembered than a dull or
routine one. To take advantage of this Law, use a variety of learning environments.
Easy for Some; Difficult for Others
There are men and women who have been playing golf for years (spending a fair amount of money on
lessons, equipment, green fees or dues, golf books, magazines) and still see little or short-lived
their golf. Why! Are some golfers better athletes than others? Do some have better equipment? Are
some stronger? I could go on, but perhaps golfers who see faster and more lasting progress are better
After many years of coaching golf at every level (from high and low handicappers to men and women
professionals), I have gotten the impression that some golfers do not know what to expect from the
three stages of the lesson experience:
Before, During, and After.
Years ago when the famous golf instructor, Tommy Armour, was asked to
name golf’s best teacher, he answered, “It takes great learners to make reputations for teachers.”
Instructors have a responsibility, but so does the student. Today, all over the country, you will find golf
instructors doing a fair amount of research
on the golf swing. They travel distances and incur the expense to attend teaching workshops. These
men and women enroll in classes to improve their communication skills in order to help students
improve their swings.
There is a segment of golf instruction professionals who are always trying to upgrade their approach to
instruction. They want to help golfers get more enjoyment from their games. Still, progress is slow and
unseen for many students who say they would like to see improvement. I honestly feel some students
do not realize
they must play a large part before, during, and after a lesson, if they are to see improvement in their
golf game. Could some of the many lessons given every year in this country improve? Yes! Could some
professionals improve what they do, and how they do it? Yes! But this OBSERVATION could and does
go beyond professional golf into any and all professions (Law, Medicine, Banking, etc.).
It has been said that the reason for poor golf skills is because of the way the game is being taught. In
some cases, this is an “unfair and misleading” observation. Perhaps, if I may give some suggestions
about the lesson experience, (before, during, and after), it could help students get more out of the
instruction they presently receive, either from a book, magazine, or a lesson from a professional.
When a golfer improves as a student, that golfer becomes an improved golfer.
First, prior to taking a lesson, it helps to understand that playing a good game of golf is an acquirable
skill. Golf is no different than learning how to type, draw, or play a musical instrument. Like all
acquirable skills, golf is LEARNED in steps and stages. But, for some reason, when it comes to learning
or improving our golf skills, the time it is going to take is overlooked. There is a passage from a
book, First Steps to Golf, written in 1913 by G. S. Brown, that I would like to share with you. “The old
proverb that it is necessary for a child to walk before it runs is absolutely true on the links. At the
present time one sees thousands of Golf Children trying to run, when in reality they cannot walk.”