There are many practise and training aids designed to help golfers improve what they are doing. Some may claim to be the great thing that is missing in handicap golfers, others are just very simple ideas that can assist a player’s practise. I hope it is fair to say that most if not all work on the principle of continued repetition will groove the habit that is associated with the specific thing the aid is trying to improve or change. However the question I have is how much repetition is useful.
If I can use the analogy of using a pair of crutches in the situation of a broken leg – I know it’s not exactly a practise aid but more of a walking aid. Its purpose is to allow a person to be mobile without putting any weight on the broken bone while it is healing but when the bone heals and if the person keeps using the crutches for an extended period of time the muscles in the leg are going to weaken through not been used therefore the crutches are now detrimental to the walking process.
Perhaps I can give a similar example using alignment poles when practising on the range. When someone has problems lining up in their set up these poles can be very useful at this stage giving them feedback of what it is like to know where perhaps the square position is (it often will feel uncomfortable to the golfer at this stage). Through the repetitive process in this same position it seems like the golfer begins to get comfortable with this set up however it is only through the random process when the pole is removed and different targets are used do we see if the use of the alignment poles has been effective in orientating the golfer towards the target. With this particular example I have seen golfers spend a few hours on a range using alignment poles and yet when they went onto the golf course they went straight back to misalignment. Yet I have also seen the polar opposite where some golfers with orientation problems have used alignment poles for no more than 10 mins and they have be able to work out how to repeat this feel without the use of the aid. In other words the golfers who used the poles all the time assumed that repetition alone would solve the problem and that understanding the feel of alignment without the pole would be needed to build strength in the new habit.
Practise aids generally very good at giving the golfer the feel feedback of what it is you are trying to do but only at that moment in time. This feel may change over time so it is important to find a way to check that you are achieving your objective without the use of the aid frequently enough. Remember humans seem to be engineered to like repeatable habits and we will only see the strength of a new habit if we can do it without the practise aid and we do not get over reliant on them.
Paul Thompson has been the Fellow PGA Professional at Powerscourt Golf Club in Wicklow since 1995. In addition to providing coaching on-site he also is a coach with The Golfing Union of Ireland. Appointments with Paul can be booked via Powerscourt Golf Club Reception: Tel (01) 204 6033 or the Golf Shop Tel (01) 204 6031. Read more about lessons from Paul Thompson by visiting the Powerscourt Golf Club Website.