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Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Four Stages of Golf Learning

Martin Hall spent most of last night's School of Golf talking about Sam Snead, but his Mental Minute was about "the Four Stages of Golf Learning." I don't know if Snead actually said them -- I've read a couple of Snead books and seen some interview videos but it wasn't in them; Martin's read more -- but they're a good way to figure out where you are in your golf game.
  1. Unconsciously Incompetent: You don't know what you're doing... and you don't know that you don't know!
  2. Consciously Incompetent: You still don't know what you're doing but now you're aware of your ignorance.
  3. Consciously Competent: You know what you're doing but you have to think about it.
  4. Unconsciously Competent: You know what you're doing and you don't have to think about it to do it.
How does knowing these stages help you? These are my views on the subject:
  1. Players in the first stage generally can't be helped. It's hard to teach somebody who thinks they know everything. Just try not to snicker at them... at least, not too much.
  2. Players in the second stage are eager to learn. The biggest thing for them is to avoid conflicting information since they can be, shall we say, somewhat indiscriminate in who they listen to. That's why I recommend you have a FILTER -- that is, one teacher or player whose methods work for you. Since you know this person's methods work for you, anybody you hear whose methods don't immediately mesh well with your filter's should be ignored. You'll avoid a lot of dead ends that way.
  3. Players in the third stage are knowledgeable and often can determine where their problems are. They tend to recognize what will help them and what won't, so they make pretty good progress when they try to improve because they don't waste time on unnecessary changes. (And yes, I know a lot of Tour players who should know better are at this stage and STILL try to make massive overhauls. As my mom used to say, "If everybody else was jumping off a cliff, would you do it too?")
  4. And players in the fourth stage are generally just tweaking their mechanics -- not making wholesale changes, if they make any changes at all -- and are usually focused more on their mental games. That's because these players are more concerned with scoring than mechanics, with playing better than with developing the perfect swing. (Hint: There's no such thing as a perfect swing!)
If you keep these things in mind, you'll find that you can make more progress with less effort. (Unless you're in that first group. Then you probably won't make any lasting progress at all.)

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