Making a Swing Change

Considering making a big change in your swing for the good of your golf game?  Can you do it?  Can you really make a big swing change and make it stick?

The answer is yes, even if you’ve been playing for years.  It involves substituting one motor program in your brain for another.  Humans have an almost limitless learning capacity, so learning a new way to make a swing really isn’t that hard.  But change is uncomfortable and initially, your performance may suffer, making it difficult to persevere with the new movements you’ve chosen.

Why are most people so quick to quit on the idea of changing their swing when they know it’s in the long-term best interest of their golf game?  Following is a list of reasons from motor learning experts, one of which may be yours:

  • Chaos: Many people simply don’t like dealing with the chaos associated with big change.  Frequently, a big change requires a period of adjustment where nothing feels comfortable or familiar.  People with little tolerance for this kind of thing typically go back to their old swing very quickly.
  • Lack of Patience: Another reason many golfers give up quickly on a swing change is that they simply lack the patience to wait until the new move has become habit. Funny how, after swinging the “wrong way” for 20 years, they’re willing to dump efforts at the “right way” after 20 minutes!  In fact, a major swing change can take from three weeks to six months to incorporate.  In other words, it doesn’t happen overnight.
  • Great Expectations: Some golfers have a hard time giving change a chance because their expectations are too great.  They expect the change to deliver amazing results, and when it doesn’t, they give up.  Unrealistic expectations set the stage for major let downs that lead to frustration and anxiety, which can later show up as stumbling blocks to learning.  The 18 handicapper who expects a swing change to quickly turn them into a scratch player is setting him or herself up for a big disappointment.  And, when that happens – boom – the old swing comes back.
  • Fear of Regression: Maybe the biggest cause for reverting back to the old swing is because, typically, when you make a change, you experience a brief period when you get worse instead of better.   Such a decline can cause fear and doubt.  Unwilling to suffer through worse golf than they are used to for a little while, some golfers begin to doubt if the change is a good idea.  Rather than ride out the rough period to see if it gets better, they run back to their old swing and their old game.

When you make a major swing change, it always feels strange and uncomfortable (but please don’t excuse comfort with correctness) as opposed to your old swing.  It’s like taking off a soft nicely broken-in pair of shoes and putting on a stiff new pair.  It’s easy to leave the new pair in the closet and continue wearing the old ones.  If you stick to the new shoes, pretty soon they’ll be broken in.  Same with a new golf swing – it might not feel great in the beginning, but the more you use it, the better it will feel.  And unlike shoes which wear out, the more you use your new swing, the better it will become.

~Hank Johnson

Director of Instruction

Hank Johnson School of Golf

Greystone Golf and Country Club