Resistance to Change
Why is it so hard to get your students out of those bad habits? You tell them over and over again that they are coming over the top. Why can’t they just listen to you? Are they not responding to your teaching? Or is it much more complicated than that? Most students want to get out of bad habits and develop good ones, but their bodies act as if they are resistant to change. You are probably teaching them all the right things in the right way. Your students are listening, but they just have a difficult time controlling their body and changing their swing faults.
One of the main reasons for this difficulty concerns muscle memory (it is actually called muscle programming.) Put simply, muscle memory is created because the neural pathways from the brain to the muscles get grooved. The signal will be sent down one pathway and not another due to the many hours of practice on the range. Once the person sees the ball, the signal is sent to the corresponding muscles to respond. Your muscles will respond without you having to think about your swing. We call this phenomenon, automaticity. Interestingly, muscle memory can be stronger than conscious thought.
For instance, lets say you are playing on the course and you think you are shut at the top of your backswing. You decide that you need to change your wrists at the top of your backswing to a more open position.. However, your muscles have been grooved to set your wrists a certain way at the top of your backwing. Trying to manipulate them consciously will be extremely difficult if not impossible in your full swing.
Unfortunately, the same principle holds for bad habits. The muscles have been grooved inappropriately and it takes a long time to regroove them into the correct patterns. That is why your students act as if they are resistant to change. They are not resistant to change: their muscles are. However, there are ways to resolve this issue and help your students change their bad habits and regroove their muscle memory into the correct technique.
Here are a few recommendations:
1) The first step is that the student becomes aware of the bad habit. Constantly telling your student of the problem is one way. Another way is by having them watch a video of their swing. Once they see it, they may begin to feel the problem.
2) The next step is to be committed to the change. In the mid 1980’s David Ledbetter helped Nick Faldo revamp his swing and get rid of his bad habits. It took Nick years to unlearn his old swing and be comfortable in his new one. Nick hit thousands and thousands of practice balls to get out of his swing faults. Given that your student probably does not practice as much as Nick, your students need to be extra patient with the change.
3) The student must accept that they may get worse in the short term with the changes. When Nick was making the changes in his swing, he went from being one of the best players in Europe to just one of the crowd. Any changes in the golf swing will disrupt your body’s rhythm and balance, creating poor shots for a while. However, once the body gets comfortable with the changes, then better scores are on the way.
4) Once the student has discovered the bad habit and is committed, start the adjustment with a shortened version of the swing. With a full swing the muscle memory may be too strong to over come. The body should be more accepting of a mini-version of the swing.
5) Look for a training device that may help overcome the bad habit. For example the Right Angle devised by David Ledbetter is a device that could help fix the bad habit of collapsing the right arm at the top of the backwing. Such devices help groove muscle memory in the correct way without the student thinking about the problem.
As the euphemistic saying goes: Rome was not built in one day: it will take a lot of hard work to fix a bad habit. But over time, the student will be able to listen to your recommendations, and, as a result, they will begin a new era in their golf game.