December 2010 Newsletter:  The Secret to Lasting Golf Improvement:  The Magic Engram.

Think about how you learned to ride a bike.  Through observation, training wheels, and some hands on
assistance, you gradually were able to ride.  Then, through constant repetition it became something you
could do without even thinking about it.  What you did was to develop a very strong muscle memory
blueprint for riding a bike in your subconscious brain.  This blueprint is called an engram.*  
(The fact that I had to learn to ride a bike without a helmet back in the day probably explains a lot).

The good news is that you can probably get back on a bike today even if you have not been on one in 50
years.  The bad news is that a good golf swing is a much more difficult engram to build.  A bad swing
engram is easy to create and if you repeat it over and over you can make your bad swing very easy to
perform on the course.  I know the bad swing and it's variations very well.  I love the bad swing, it is the
main reason I have a job.

If you were fortunate enough to receive some quality golf instruction at a young age and played a lot then,
rejoice, for you still have a good golf swing engram deep inside of you.  With some proper guidance you
can find it, polish it and get back into good form.  For those of you who took up golf later in life, attaining
a good golf swing has probably been pretty difficult.  The reason is that the correct golf swing engram is
not an instinctive muscle movement.  You can apply perfect common sense and end up with a very bad
swing.  Here is an example:

In order to cause the ball to lift off the ground,  common sense tells you to stay behind the ball and try to
scoop the ball into the air with a flip of the hands.  The correct motion is to do the opposite:  Shift your
weight past the ball with a rotation of your hips, while keeping your head still.  Ideally, your hands will stay
slightly  ahead of the club head into the impact area.  You want to actually hit the ball just before the
bottom of your swing.  This is actually "hitting slightly down to make the ball go up."   Does not make
much sense does it?   Yet this is the way to properly compress the ball on the face and make the ball
spin.  Spin causes the ball will climb properly and stop on the green.  You will even take a slight divot.   

Take a look at the swing sequence photo of Ben Hogan's swing.
Can you see the shift of weight, still head, and downward contact?
Hogan had such a strong golf swing engram he talked about feeling like he hit the perfect shot before he
actually made his swing.   In my opinion, he was the greatest ball striker of all time.
Tip:  A great drill to train the correct
engram for hitting the ball off the ground is
to put a penny about four inches to the
target side of the ball.  Then make a short
swing where you focus on hitting the penny
and not the ball.   If you shift correctly and
keep your head still,  you should be able to
hit the ball and the penny.  This will give you
the feeling of a solid correct ball strike.
Learning the correct engram and relying on it on the golf course takes some work.   First you need to
understand exactly what a good engram is for you.  Then you do need to get an enough perfect repetitions
to build a strong enough engram that it will work without conscious thought.

'Perfect Practice' is the key.  Seeing your swing instantly replay on video is the optimal method.  Mirror work is a
close second. Top coaches have also discovered that the subconscious blueprint can be reinforced with vivid
imagination.  After you have had success with a shot on the course or in practice, if you go home and replay
the successful shot in your imagination this will reinforce it much the same way actual practice will.  Your brain
can not differentiate between what is real and what is vividly imagined.

The absolute key is to build a new strong and correct engram. One that you can rely on time after time.   
Lasting improvement will soon follow.
Technical information....and some credits:

Definition of Engram:  "A physical alteration thought to occur in living neural tissue in response to stimuli,
posited as an explanation for memory."   

Their are many slight variations to the basic golf swing engram...for putting, sand play, Driving, etc.  Yet the
basic motion is common to every swing.  

Brain Science is still in its infancy.   In the book "The Talent Code," Daniel Coyle suggests that every human
skill is created by chains of nerve fibers carrying a tiny electrical impulse...basically, a signal traveling through a
circuit.  These circuits are wrapped with a neural insulator called myelin.  Myelin's vital role is to wrap those
nerve fibers the same way that rubber insulation wraps around copper wire, making the signal stronger and
faster by preventing the electric impulses from leaking out.  When we fire our circuits the right way (make a
great golf swing) our myelin responds by wrapping layers of insulation around the neural circuit.  The thicker
the myelin gets, the better it insulates, and the faster and more accurate our movements and thoughts become.

Dr Bob Rotella has done some amazing work with his understanding of how the swing you have build in your
subconscious will always over ride the swing you try to force out with your conscious mind.   For example, if
your subconscious blueprint of a pitch shot over a bunker with water behind the green produces a "skulled" shot
that flies into the water, then that shot will take place...despite the conscious effort to swing otherwise.
Your goal has to be to create that strong subconscious model of the perfect pitch landing 6 feet from the hole
and rolling in.

As you can see we are learning more and more about how we can produce and repeat correct motor skill.
There is a secret to lasting improvement after all.
How have other sports affected your Golf Swing Ingram?
There are a couple of sports that share a lot of the correct Engram that produces good golf swings.
Ice Hockey, Tennis, and Baseball are a few.  Sports that do nothing to help your golf are Football and
Wresting.  Using fast hands to hit something lays a great groundwork.  Every fast pitch baseball player that I
have given a lesson too hits the golf ball a long way....not necessarily straight though.  

Unfortunately, You can't easily mix motor skill engrams into your golf swing blueprint.  I call this "Engram Soup."
Despite the similarities Even Baseball and Tennis have some very different key engrams from golf.
Consultations in the academy can help you determine what your Motor skill past has contributed to your
current situation.
What is the hole on your home course that gives you the most trouble?
Next time you go to the range.  Imagine that you are playing that hole.   Make some great practice swings and
then visualize the shot you want to hit on that hole.   Make sure that the shot you are trying to hit is one that
you are comfortable with.   Once you have some success on the range.....repeat the swing over and over
again...let it become your subconscious blueprint for the swing you want to use on your problem hole.
I guarantee that your results will start to change.