Are you familiar with the concept of muscle memory?
According to accepted theory, the secret to improvement is developing effective muscle memory through dedicated practice. Makes perfect sense; the more quality shots you hit during practice, the better you should play.
How often have you hit shots like a professional on the practice range, and then proceeded to slice your first drive out-of-bounds? What happens to all the “good” muscle memory, during the ten-minute walk from the practice range to the first tee?
Let’s take a closer look at the above scenario and see if we can find the missing link between practice and playing.
According to the Merriam/Webster dictionary, muscle memory is: “the ability to repeat a specific muscular movement with improved efficiency and accuracy, that is acquired through practice and repetition.”
Obviously, the quality of muscle memory depends on the quality of practice, but the above definition can’t account for the discrepancy between practice and playing.
What is the missing ingredient? Emotion. How you react to a particular shot, determines the probability of your muscles automatically re-creating that result (in one form or another), regardless of your conscious effort to do otherwise.
How often has one poor shot led to a downward spiral? You might understand the faulty technique perfectly, but your emotional reaction short-circuits the connection between your mind and muscles.
Am I suggesting that you try to ignore a poor shot? Of course not. It’s frustrating as hell, to hit a two-hundred and fifty yard drive down the middle, and then s___ k a thirty yard pitch shot into the water. Been there, done that.
Let’s return to the original dilemma. How can we insure the quality of our practice sessions will transfer to the golf course?
Practice hitting poor shots on the range. The only way to reduce the emotional reaction to a poor shot is through practice. When you can hit three quality (not necessarily perfect) shots with a given club, then try to re-create your typical poor shot.The ability to re-create the result, will determine your emotional reaction.
The secret to effective muscle memory is learning how to control emotions so they work for you instead of against you. Which shots elicit a stronger emotional reaction; the good ones or the poor ones? If you ride a roller-coaster of inconsistency, year after year, then the answer is obvious.
Thanks for reading!