Contrary to what you may think or have heard, there is no such thing as muscle memory. It’s a neural pathway in the the brain. When you change your swing, you have to build a new pathway.
Sounds like semantics, but it’s a huge distinction.
If muscle memory existed, you could shotgun balls as fast as you wanted and the muscles would groove the repetitive motion. However, since muscle memory doesn’t exist, your brain needs time to absorb all the information of each individual shot.
You have to organize where the ball went, where on the face it hit, how much it curved, how high it went, how much of a divot you took, where your left scapula was at P4.5, where your right patella was at P5.1….and on and on.
Your brain can process all this information and more, and build a block of information of both good and bad.
This is why hitting balls quickly is just minor exercise and has no benefit to your game.
I was at the range this past weekend. I had been there about 20 minutes, with a medium bucket, when two guys, also with medium buckets, showed up on either side of me. I started noticing that, from the sound, they were hitting at least 2 shots to my one. They both finished, and I still had a third of my bucket to go. I go to the range to get feedback on stuff I try out without a ball back at the house…if I could find a nice deserted field, I would prefer that, hitting and shagging my own.
It’s called a “comfort zone” for a reason. Until these neural pathways are formed our brain tells us that what we’re doing isn’t correct. This creates two major obstacles. 1) the old pathways are still there and will always be there. It’s why we will always fight our incorrect tendencies. 2) we are emotional animals. Positive reinforcement is needed to form a pathway that is acceptable to our brain. If we perform a new move and can’t hit a ball with better results than the old pathway then the brain wants shun the new move. Even if we consciously convince ourselves that the new move is better and continue to work on it, the path that’s needed to form to create a subconscious movement may not form without positive reinforcement. It’s why we need to have a conscious swing thought(s) until we can hit that comfort zone and have enough positive reinforcement for the brain to prefer the correct way. No easy task.
I posted this on Facebook a few days ago:
I’m on the range, with a medium bucket of balls. 20 minutes in, two guys pull up on either side of me, each also with a medium bucket. They both finished their bucket, and I still had a third of mine left to hit. This is why I don’t like ranges; the purpose of practice is to work on one’s swing, not machine-gun range balls out there.
You can zap this one…I didn’t think my comment earlier went through.
You don’t need a conscious swing thought.
You need an empty mind so the brain can process all the incoming data without interference.
I agree with Monte 100%. To me this is also related to the concept of train smarter vs training harder.
If golf is muscle memory then it wouldn’t be possible for me to reach 90, after 1 year of playing the game.
I learned golf all by myself no teachers, I only train once sometimes twice a week mostly on a range(4-5 buckets) and go to the course once a month. Golf is pretty expensive in my country so I have to be very smart and careful with my training. I use youtube videos(monte videos mostly) to gather the info I need and put in practice, I never imitate I try to understand the concept and apply it to my swing, my body mechanics and feelings.
When I practice I mentally analyze every swing, I try to gather all the info I can then go to the next shot and so on, those 4-5 buckets could last forever because I’m teaching myself with every shot.
I see people finishing exhausted, sweating all over after a practice session they are being playing golf for years and I’m playing better than them after 1 year. When I finish a session I feel mentally destroyed, no sweat no pain in the body nothing.
I’m glad Monte wrote this because is something I personally relate to and it has been a super important part on my golf journey. My swing is no near perfect but the improvements have been massive, I’m really happy with golf so far.
Don’t follow the muscle memory, train harder only nonsense. Train smarter not harder.
Greetings from Chile 🙂
*sorry if my English is not perfect
Muscle memory is not a memory stored in your muscles, of course, but memories stored in your brain that are much like a cache of frequently enacted tasks for your muscles. It’s a form of procedural memory that can help you become very good at something through repetition, but in exactly the same way it can make you absolutely terrible at that same thing.
I dislike the term muscle memory (misleading) and prefer motor pathway. Muscle memory makes people think they can go shotgun 1000 balls and learn repetitive motion.