By Roger Knick, The Golf Performance Center

The pursuit of excellence is as natural as the pursuit of happiness.

Golf is a frustrating game, no doubt about it.  It’s frustrating for beginners to the very best players.  The real question is, does it have to be?  According to the science of learning the answer is, yes!  It is like our brains are built for solving problems, and the more complex the more engaged it becomes, the more engaged the more significance of learning, more significance,  more at stake, more at stake the more we lean in, more we lean in, more it matters, more it matters, higher the intensity of the task, more intensity, more the emotion, more emotion the more we learn, the more we learn, the higher risk of failing, more we fail, we are more likely to learn.  Simple.

Why do golfers stop learning and look to be taught how to play the game?  You probably hear often, how easy it can be to pick up a club and be good at it, if you have talent, or here is a “quick tip” to hitting the ball 300 yards. Most golf “teachers” try to eliminate the frustration of learning, make it easier for players to pick up the game, logically speaking, so that it will be easy, so anyone can do it.  Wrong!  You see, we are not made for things to be easy, when things are complicated, we must figure it out, amazingly engagement happens, when we become engaged, we learn.  Now, this is not to say we don’t like to have things easier in our lives, but normally it only becomes easier after learning takes place.

We have all had this lesson, you call your golf teacher/ instructor or find someone that tells you about an amazing PGA pro,  “I have had two golf lessons, he/she made it so easy”.   If it were easy, you probably didn’t learn, if you didn’t get frustrated with the task, you might as well have just thrown your money in a fire pit.   Now I am not blaming the PGA professional, but I am blaming our “system” of learning golf on the PGA.  I know, this may sound harsh but unfortunately, we have been lulled to sleep by too many years of thinking golf is easy or that it is an easy game for anyone to play.  This idea leads to complacency of learning, for the PGA professionals to the players.  Many want to be golfers have been duped into believing that by taking a few lessons with a friend or professional you are on your way to playing beautiful golf, just like on TV,  but it doesn’t happen this way.   No matter how talented the best players are in the world, they all got there by being frustrated, perhaps even angry with how they are learning the game. The fact is that because of the frustration, they became engaged and fueled by wanting to learn more.  It was like, everyday was an assessment of their skills, how can they improve and make their skills better?  Playfully, curiously investigating ways to make the golf ball do what they wanted it to do.  This reminds me of reading about learning and how in the books, Self- Driven Child  and the Gift of Failure, the authors talk about how kids learn through discovery, how challenges make curiosity grow, not dwindle.  In an experiment with kids playing, they rolled out different games and tasks.  Puzzles, building blocks, Lincoln logs (for those old enough to remember these). Activities allowing the kids to play, figuring it out, the more they played becoming frustrated, the more they stay focused,  engaged with the activities, after an hour of play the experimenters took away the activities, thinking that perhaps since the kids didn’t create significant progress with the game pieces, they would be relieved to move onto something else, wrong, they were upset, throwing temper tantrums, not wanting to stop.  During the observation of this study the researchers noticed that all the kids were active in solving problems, frustrated but engaged, curious as to how these things could work.  However, in a continued study with the same kids a few days later, the researchers rolled out the same toys, only this time the parents could “play” with them, help them figure it out.  You would think the kids would be happier to build something due to a parent helping them, but what was observed was not that, it was less engagement on the kids part.  Initially, the kids were engaged, they were excited to play with the toys, but as soon as the parent began “leading” or “teaching”, the kids became less curious, no longer engaged, soon they were ready to leave and wanted nothing to do with the activity, and interestingly the parents continued to build houses, buildings or finishing a puzzle.  In some cases, they stayed the entire hour until the experiment was completed even though their child sat bored for nearly the entire time.

The researchers noted about the frustration observed of the kids;  it lead to understanding how kids learn, play, curiosity,  focusing in the moment, to expanding capabilities, to pursuing their own potential, and when this is “taken” from them by parents, only wanting to “help” them learn faster, learning ceases,  the kids lose focus, curiosity,  engagement, they would rather do nothing.

Wow, if this is what we know about learning, no wonder golf is so off track!  Where do we go from here?  If you are wanting to learn golf, or in your pursuit of excellence in golf, come to The Golf Performance Center, find out where your skills are by going through our proprietary  5 Elements of Success Evaluation or patent pending Player Development Index Coach Guided Assessment with our expert PGA professionals.    Find out how learning and development happens, note; this is different from a teacher or instructor who gives lessons for money.   Our environment is a culture of active learning, a culture and community that can affect the likelihood of you achieving your greatness!

“The pursuit of excellence is a natural as the pursuit of happiness.  Human beings enjoy the exercise of their realized capabilities, with enjoyment increasing the more the capacity is realized.  Human beings with the potential for excellence will usually try to realize that potential.  How they go about it is decisively affected by how they see their place in the universe at one extreme, and their places in their own families and communities at the other.  Culture in turn affects the likelihood that people will achieve excellence.”  Charles Murray, Human Accomplishment

Enjoy Your Journey!