Learning golf the traditional way wasn’t much fun. Looking back now it definitely inhibited my learning and added years to my development. I’ve come to realise that “the system” has got things arse about.

Normal golf learning goes like this:

  1. Base the learning model on the best player of the era (or of the coach of the best player of the era)
  2. Devise a system based on this player.
  3. The pupil is required to remember all of the rules of the system.
  4. Student reminded and encouraged to focus on what they are doing wrong.
  5. Receive a number of drills and swing thoughts to fix any problems.
  6. Get told to practice and come back again.
  7. Repeat

This system has become so standard that golfers don’t think there is another way. I received a call this week from a guy who is a pioneer in his field. He has broken all the rules of the “system” and gone onto become a leader and have a successful career. He asked for a golf lesson so I could check his swing. When I suggested we take lunch and discuss another way he can get through his form slump he declined. He insisted he had a technical problem and needed me to “take a look”.

He can’t break the habit of traditional learning, despite proof it’s not working (he has been trying for a while now). I can’t help him.

I’m not bashing the coaches. It’s not their fault. New golf professionals are taught to follow, and not buck, the system. Every golf pro I’ve ever meet wants to help others and would do anything to assist you in playing better. They’re in a system that cannot work. For the same reasons you struggle with your game, they can’t become better teachers.

What matters is how we learn. It has nothing to do with the what. But traditionally we are overloaded with rules and regulations. Follow the system, do the drill, perfect your technique. It’s mindless garbage that makes learning boring and golf difficult.

The best way to learn golf is this: Find a way to swing that feels good to you. It’s not about your grip or your back swing. Swing the club and choose the shots that excite you. Persevere. Keep going. Most of all trust your system that it will work out whatever it is you’re trying to achieve. Don’t be scared. Swing freely and don’t worry about the results.

And then repeat.

There’s really no system. It’s not possible to devise the perfect system, write it down and get others to follow. You need to explore, have fun and keep playing.

Sometimes you’ll fail. You’ll stuff up and think you’re hopeless. This is time to move on and try a different shot or just forget about it. Making mistakes and not letting them get to you is part of the fun. It’s how we learn.

But the best bit? This type of learning comes naturally to us. At least when we’re kids. This is how we learn to do most other things that aren’t quite as important as our golf swings. We try we fail. We try we fail. But we get there in the end. We’re not concerned with how we look but whether or not we hit the target, catch the ball or are playing the game.

Golf is hard not because you’re no good, lack talent or don’t have a golf swing. You make it hard by focusing on the wrong things. You’re more concerned about about your grip, stance and swing. You’re worried about making mistakes and not swinging “on plane”.

If this post resonates with you then it’s time to turn traditional golf coaching on its head. It’s time to start playing. Forget about what your golf swing needs to look like or what swing thought you should be using. It’s time to start thinking how you’d like to play and then start moving in that direction. It’s time to restore a sense of childlikeness. It’s time to play golf.

I know people will say, “but what if my grip is bad?” or “what if I have a slice?”. These are the usual questions and come from a traditional mindset. I can only say that my golf, and those that understand natural learning, has only improved when we’ve stopped worrying about the “what”.

Focus on how you’d like to play and go for it. Traditional instruction is holding you back. It’s time for a change.

This post was inspired by this article. It made me realise I had forgotten a thing or two and the same things affecting mainstream education apply to golf learning. I played yesterday after a little spell (busy at work, injury and others) with a different mindset and produced some of my best golf of the year. Golf is fun again.