Guest Blog: Practice with Consequence

Around the beginning of The Dan Plan I ran across UNLV’s Dr. Mark Guadagnoli.  He is an expert on how to practice, actually writing a book about the topic that you can find here:

I have mentioned Mark a few times in the blog, but this time I would like to share a blog from the man himself.  Dr. Guadagnoli sent this to me a few months back and I have been meaning to post it ever since.  I hope you all enjoy his guest blog and have a great Thanksgiving!

“”More often than not the game is not won or lost on the course, but on the practice tee.

One of the comments I hear most often is about the frustration people feel when they can hit the ball well on the practice tee but it doesn’t transfer to the course.  There are many potential reasons for this but perhaps the most important is the consequence with which they practice.

Consequence is what is on the line each time you hit a shot.  Typically, people practice with very little consequence. It they hit a bad shot on the range they just hit another ball.  There are two problems with this. First, the idea that a shot has no consequence is not the case on the course. Every shot has consequence. Second, just hitting a second ball on the range and taking away the bad shot actually hurts the learning process. When you know a little about how memory works you will see that this makes sense.

The limbic system, which is right in the center of your brain, is in charge of transferring information into memory.  This system stores memories based on the emotional charge of that memory.   For example, if you make a three-foot putt do you remember it?  The answer depends on the emotion. If the putt has emotion tied to it chances are good that you will remember it.   If the putt is to win the U.S. Open, it has a lot of emotion tied to it. This emotion tunes in the memory system so you won’t forget it in a million years.   However, if the putt was during practice and it was no big deal one way or the other, there is no emotional tuning. The information will be just a fuzzy memory and as such it is likely to be forgotten. This basic understanding is a very powerful ally in remembering, or forgetting, what you practice on the range. If something cause emotions to kick in, the brain basically says, “Oh, this must be important” and the memory is saved with more weight or permanence.  The problem is that during golf practice we rarely practice with consequence and so we rarely automatically learn.  You can change this by putting something on the line.  Play against someone during practice. Promise to take yourself to dinner if you hit 8 or 10 shots well.  Create situations of adversity during practice like side hill lies or hitting from a divot and wager with yourself about whether you can pull off the shot.  Make yourself more uncomfortable during practice so you are more comfortable during a match. By creating difficulty in practice you are inoculating yourself from difficulty on the course””

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