The goal of practicing your golf is to enable the learning process to take place. Golf professionals are employed all over the world to help players ‘learn’ how to improve the mental, technical, physical and performance aspects of their golf.
One way that has emerged for a teacher (or parent) to help a student learn, is through the use of training aids. A number of devices have been developed over the years by companies that claim will help you improve your golf game.
Unfortunately, it appears to many experts (both inside and outside the golf industry) that the training aid is doing to golf what the calculator did to me on my basic math skills, STOPPED the learning process!
The reason I blame the calculator for my basic math skills not developing, is that I became dependent on it. If I wanted to know the answer to a problem, I just pressed the numbers into my pocket sized electronic device and like magic, I was presented with the desired outcome.
While at the time I thought this was awesome (as I never got an answer wrong), unfortunately it led to me avoiding the desirable difficulties that are required to stimulate learning and once I became dependent on the calculator, I stopped failing, stopped challenging my memory through retrieval tasks and ultimately stopped learning.
There are 4 stages to the learning process. These are detailed below and to create an effective learning environment, the idea of training should be to help a student pass through all 4 stages.
- Unconscious incompetence – The student has no idea how to improve their golf skill. This would be the reason to work with a coach.
- Conscious incompetence – The student knows what they are doing wrong but does not know how to resolve the issue. This is the perfect place to introduce a training aid and create awareness.
- Conscious competence – At this point a student should have built enough awareness of what they have to do to improve, but it does take some conscious thought. This phase of learning is where the student should be looking to remove a training aid from their practice.
- Unconscious competence – This means that the learning is now part of the implicit memory and can be completed with out any conscious action. This is known as automation and will never be achieved if the player becomes dependent on a training aid.
The word ‘training aid’ means exactly what it says; it is an aid to help you train and should therefore be used sparingly. Using it between learning phases 2 and 3 will help a student, providing them feedback on what they are currently doing.
Once this is achieved it is then up to the student to engage in the rest of the learning process without the training aid. If you want to learn to ride a bike, the stabilizers have to come off sooner rather than later!
So parents and coaches alike, when on the practice range, don’t hand a junior golfer a calculator, use a training aid as a learning aid, allow it to provide awareness and feedback as part of a golfers journey not the definitive answer.