The other day I wrote about my experience of playing with some great coaches. I’ve received some great feedback from those guys and Scotty reminded me of another, more profound, incident.

As mentioned, Scott doesn’t play a lot of golf. He is a once or twice a year golfer at best – this is not to say he’s not athletic. Back in the day he was a semi-pro baseballer, so he has got all the hand-eye coordination one needs. He’s also fit – pretty much rides his bike all over Melbourne, so golf poses few athletic issues for him.

Like many golfers, Scott’s ball flight is an awful slice ball. This all comes about because of an open clubface and then cutting across the ball from out to in. In a perfect world, telling a pupil this problem would be enough to see the error corrected. But it’s not a perfect world, and language alone is rarely enough to see learning take place.

So I needed to push Scott further. I spoke to him about the slice imparting clockwise spin on the ball – I even demonstrated this by spinning a ball and highlighting the path this takes.

I then highlighted a draw shot – a ball flight with counter clockwise spin. It’s pretty basic stuff and Scott picked up on it right away – his experience with ball sports coming in handy.

The interesting point here isn’t that I tried to get him to hit the ball straight. We went for the opposite of the slice, a draw. For change to take place sometimes we need to exaggerate the problem. This severely alters your brain pattern and gets you closer to the correct swing. If we only went for a straight ball, he wouldn’t have gone far enough to make any serious improvement. The straight ball is too close to his more comfortable slice swing. He needed to dig deep and really break his habit.

For most of the day Scotty was struggling along. Because he is still learning and not really playing for a score, it’s OK for him to work on his swing while out playing – he needs to go through the uncomfortable stage of hitting balls and learning what he can and can’t do with a golf club in his hands.

On the 17th tee, after hitting all slices for the day, I prompted Scott further;

Me: Come on Scott. You’ve got to hit a draw shot this time. Start the ball to the right and bring it back to the left.

He set up and hit another slice.

Me: Scotty! You can do better than that. You’ve gotta exaggerate and step outside your comfort zone. You’re not getting into the task enough – you’re still thinking straight ball.

I left Scotty alone as we finished the 17th.

On the 18th things kicked into gear. He set up a little differently, this time, he aligned himself further to the right and placed the ball back in the stance. From my position I could see he was in a better position and more likely to get a good result. He swung. And this time, instead of seeing the ball tail off to the right, it sailed straight down the middle. It was his best drive of the day and it finished in proximity to the rest of us (he was complaining for most of the day his 3 wood was no good. It is rarely the club’s fault 🙂 )

There are two important things to take away from this.

1. I didn’t tell Scott to put the ball back in his stance and aim further right. He picked up on this by himself. This is important because he got to experience and learn this for himself – he owned it. If I had told him what to do he wouldn’t have grasped the WHY and the lesson wouldn’t have stuck. After a few attempts he’d be expecting more information and be too reliant on me.

2. The level of exaggeration needed is usually way more than most of us will be comfortable with. Here’s a summation of what Scott told me later.

I really thought I was trying to impart draw spin on the ball for most of the day. By the time I’d reached the 18th I had nothing to lose so on that attempt I went for it. I completely forgot about the result and was prepared to look stupid to achieve the objective. I was surprised the ball went straight but more so on how hard I needed to break that slice habit.

This sort of thing is awfully uncomfortable. For this reason most won’t go the full distance – they’ll stop before the full benefit is reached. Just when you think you’ve reached your limit, there’s probably something profound just around the corner. So keep going. It also helps if you stop worrying about good shots – just go for the experience and be prepared for whatever happens.

Exaggeration is a fantastic learning tool. It can be tough, but ultimately, it will get you where you want to go faster than the alternative. You just need to be brave enough to try.

If you have a slice learn to hit a hook.
If you hook, slice.
If you hit fat, learn to hit thin.

Exaggeration can be applied to all parts of your game and along the way you’ll learn something new. The possibilities are endless.