Don’t be like Dai

David (not Dai) Kolb
David (not Dai) Kolb’s learning Cycle

Henry Cotton, talking about British Open Champion, Harry Vardon;
“He would not play any course twice in the same day. Why not? Because he was so accurate, that in his second round, his shots finished in the divot holes he had made in the morning, and that took the fun out of the game.”

Unless you’re Harry Vardon I guess you may need to get better;

“You can’t teach me anything about golf I’ve been playing it for 30 years.”
“Really?”
“That’s right. I’ve got 30 years experience.”

I suspect that Dai may be incorrect. I suspect that his 16 handicap is not the result of 30 years of experience but 1 year’s’ experience repeated 30 times coupled with the mathematical certainty that on a handful of occasions in those 30 years many of this better shots and his luck coincided in a beautiful day that resulted in a dramatic cut in his handicap – too harsh?

I think not. I think David Kolb (author of ‘Socrates In The Labyrinth: Hypertext, Argument, Philosophy’ exploring the nature of argument in linear and hypertextual space) would agree as well.
His (David’s not Dai’s) model of how we learn recognises that we have to do more than have an experience to learn anything;

New player on course to partner, “What do you hit from here?”
Experienced club member, “I generally hit a 4 iron.”
New player, “Well I hit the same distance as you so I’ll hit a 4.”
He hits a 4 iron short into the bunker.
New player “I thought you said you hit a 4 iron?”
Experienced club member, “I do and I always end up in the same bunker as you’re in.”

David Kolb believes you have to reflect after having had the experience – or the 90 little experiences that make up Dai’s game of golf. Reflecting is the key. For professionals it’s the job of the player, the coach, psychologist, nutritionist and manager to analyse everything about the game. For the likes of us it’s the 5 seconds thinking after we’ve hit a shot, the 2 minutes waiting on the tee, the 10 minutes in the car on the drive home and the 5 minutes before we go to sleep at night. My gut reaction is that we don’t have a particularly structured approach to this aspect of our game. The analysis may well be along the lines of “Sliced it again”, or “Couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo today”. I suspect Ian Poulter’s coaches would be more specific.

Reflecting and then drawing a conclusion from this is not as stifled, serious and difficult as it appears. To some extent we all do this, even Dai. On the first green if we hit it 20 feet past we’ll generally hit the putt coming back 5 feet short. At least we’re learning. The next hole is better and by the 18th we’ve just about got the pace of the greens ( A learning point here may be to have 36 putts of the putting green before we go out).

Apart from the putting though there’s little reflecting we do, and even less analysis and even lesser (not a real word I know) trying something different. We tend to adjust to our faults or rationalise them rather than try to change them;

Having gone through a phase of slicing the ball on every tee shot I starting aiming further and further left until I was practically aiming at my playing partners.

Dai always ends up in the bunker on the 10th ; “At least I get plenty of practice playing out of bunkers” – never any thought of changing.

To improve your game you need to learn. This means you need to reflect, conclude and DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. If you know you can’t reach the green with a 3 iron – hit a 3 wood. I know you’ll occasionally mess up and have a disaster but at least you’re trying something new and learning. It will be uncomfortable; “If you’re not churning, you’re not learning” is pretty much a truism. Constantly hitting a 3 iron short isn’t developing your game. Don’t end up like Dai.

Perhaps more importantly after a round take a little time to think about it. How did you play? What worked? What didn’t? Where did you lose the shots? Approach play?Putting? Driving? Work on this. I don’t mean spend 5 hours every evening on the putting green each evening, but just think about it. There was an experiment carried out by Dr. Blaslotto at the University of Chicago. He split people into three groups and tested each group on how many free throws they could make. The first group practised free throws every day for an hour. The second group just visualized themselves making free throws. The third group did nothing. After 30 days, he tested them again; the first group improved by 24%, the second group improved by 23% without touching a basketball and the third group did not improve at all.

So, theoretically you could improve your golf by just thinking about it. I believe that’s true to some extent. Very often we can’t see what’s happening when we’re involved in it – we can’t see the wood for the trees to use a cliché. If you can work out what’s going wrong you can, at least, know where to start fixing it. As Einstein defined, “If you keep doing what you’ve always been doing again and again and expect a different result – that’s insanity.”

Try something different.

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