Golf teaching and playing articles > Breaking bad habits takes patience, practice


8 Apr 2004

I was asked the other day which is hardest, to teach a golfer who has played for a long time to change their swing, or to teach a beginning golfer.


 


This depends largely on the individual, but with a new golfer you are working on developing new habits, not trying to change old ones. Changing the golf swing can bedifficult.  Why is this?


 


We often say that muscle memory needs to be developed.  In fact, muscles have no memory of their own.


 


The truth is the brain creates muscle firing patterns.  It tells the body what to do.


 


Change can be difficult if the habit you are trying to change has been ingrained for quite some time. Because the brain has established what is called a firing link which activates a group of muscles to work together in a certain pattern.


 


A new link must be established before the swing change can be consistent.  The longer the habit has been around, the more repetitions of that firing pattern are stored in memory.  The more stored in memory, the longer the change will take.


 


A golfer has to be willing to take the time required to give the brain enough repetitions with the new movement patterns until they start to become the habit.  We don’t know for sure how many repetitions change takes, but it can be in the thousands.


 


There are other issues involved in making changes, such as being under stress or fatigued. The brain will revert to old familiar patterns it knows best.  This is just the way the brain and the body are wired.  Stress is when we are particularly anxious about a shot, or feel more pressure than usual.  All golfers know these feelings.


 


Incorrect swing repetitions will set you back.  Incorporate the advice from last week about effective practice and the change will come faster because you will have more correct swings storing up in your memory bank.