How Do You Learn?

There are a lot of people who absolutely love reading golf books – some of them could really do with a library attached to their homes just for the books! However, I find I’m increasingly disappointed by the range of golf instruction books being offered.

I’m also looking carefully at writing a golf instruction book and I obviously want to try to make it as effective as possible to help people learn. The question I’m confronted with is how best to do that.

What follows are some thoughts on:

  • the way people learn
  • the way people learn about golf
  • the nature of instruction available in golf books

Golf Instruction Books

Golf Instruction books are supposed to help people learn. So – here are some things to think about:

  • Is it possible to become a decent golfer just by reading books?
  • Can you really learn all you need to know from books?
  • Do golf instruction books help to make it easier to become competent?
  • Can golf instruction books – which tend to show golf as a simple step by step process – make it possible to hasten the process of learning how to play the game properly?

Keep in mind today’s post sets its sights just on instruction books. The question about becoming skilled at golf is actually a much larger issue. Recently, I attended a conference on how best to obtain favorable results at golf schools and, the most effective methods of teaching golf! The discussion – between lecturers – tended to focus on different ways of teaching, while personally; I felt it needed to start from the perspective of different ways of learning.

How do people learn?

Here are some of the ways that I know about how people learn.

  • On the left of the table below are some of the standard ways in which people learn
  • On the right are some of the ways in which the usual methods are employed. The right hand column emphasizes golf instruction rather than golf instruction books. However, I’ve highlighted the latter to demonstrate how often they play a part in the process

I hear, and I forget;
I see, and I remember;
I do, and I understand.
Confucius (China’s most famous teacher, philosopher, and political theorist, 551-479 BC)

Analysis of process: Breaking knowledge and components of a skilled process down into parts and steps – creating an appreciation of the whole and how it is constructed Step by step procedure of explaining and demonstrating golf technique- in golf instruction books
– in a golf lesson or class
– in a golf video
Being very focused on the task to be learned. Focus is generally recognized as being a characteristic associated with those who achieve exceptional levels of performance Focus can be encouraged however it tends to depend on the student rather than the course of instruction
Watching how a specific process is executed – a very traditional method of instruction across many skills Watching the teacher demonstrate how the club is swung and/or how to execute a particular shot.
Golf instruction books can try to replicate this
– however golf instruction videos and individual/group lessons plus, demonstrations by a professional probably work better.
Action Learning – get the equipment, follow the instructions and find out what happens Can be advanced through individual/group lessons and by golf instruction books and, can involve practicing on your own time
Less feedback and opportunity to compare results with others when not done as part of a group or class.
Repetition (simple) – learning a process or skill through practice until competence is achieved Golf teachers and golf instruction books can encourage this but the practice of repetition is essentially down to the student
Students can be influenced by the practices of and the tone set by the teacher
Repetition (complex)– deliberate and devoted practice of a process or skill until mastery has been achieved Essentially down to the motivation and drive of the student – usually assisted by a knowledgeable teacher/mentor/coach
Achieving complete control of one’s game requires precise physical technique, dedicated hard work, an alert and innovative mind and strength of character.
Osmosis – being in an environment where a process is talked about and practiced all the time leads to “a gradual, usually unconscious, process of assimilation or absorption of ideas or knowledge,” Simple if one or both your parents are accomplished golfers!
A benefit allegedly available for students attending golf school (although some would disagree)
A beginner could well find themselves in an environment conducive to osmosis
Story telling – a traditional way of transmitting culture, beliefs and practices Teacher may tell stories – in an individual or group session or in a golf instruction book
Friends/Peers may also tell each other stories
Collective learning through social interaction and dialogue with peers – participation in story-telling and problem-solving in groups This form of learning is restricted to those who are members of a group or league (i.e. an association that has minimal input from or presence of a teacher).
Members of a golf school, golf league or golf clinic or online network may
– tell each other stories
– review swing problems and find solutions
– discuss and debate different strategy’s
– share with each other valuable tips
A commitment to lifelong learning Essentially a mind-set, an existing attitude and, an approach to life that is both personal and unique to the individual
Promoted through the practices of and the tone set by an excellent teacher

As always, I’m interested to hear your views on this topic.


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