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No Transfer of Training

The 20th Secret

In previous generations, it was believed that the mind that was trained in one field would automatically be better fitted to do other things also. For instance, it was thought that training in mathematics would help you with Greek, that a good billiard player would automatically be an excellent putter, and that a polo player would have no difficulty in learning such a similar game as golf. Unfortunately, this is not true. Many experiments have shown that each new type of learning is almost always different from all other types. When there is some similarity, a portion of what one learns in one skill or game will carry on to the next, but this is not usual.
Willie Hoppe, the billiard champion, was astonished that he could not putt. Pete Bostwick, the great polo player, plays creditably, but he is not in the same class with himself as a polo player. Babe Didricksen had a natural talent for all sports but, in order to become good in golf, she had to become almost as hard a practicer as Ben Hogan.
I have participated in most of the sports and games popular today and do not recall any instance in which what I had learned in one field was of noticeable value in another. For instance, chess can be quite a difficult and complicated game. I have had the good fortune to play against nationally known players and, occasionally, have defeated them, but almost any good country player can defeat me at the more simple game of checkers. I have a close friend who plays both chess and checkers. I defeat him in the one game; he defeats me easily in the other. It is not a question of talent. I worked diligently at learning chess but only dabbled with checkers. With him, conditions were reversed.
There is one kind of learning in which substantial "transfer" can occur. This is the field of attitudes and principles. If I had attacked the problem of learning checkers with the same attitude I had toward chess, and if I had applied basic psychological principles to the process of learning, the results would have been approximately the same.
All this comes under the general rule of "no transfer of training," which when understood will help us avoid wasting time by practicing something which will not be of golfing benefit. In this connection, it is likely that there are few, if any, exercises that will materially assist the golfer.
The practical application of this means that practice will not be efficient unless we practice the very thing we wish to learn, and unless we practice it under circumstances that duplicate precisely all conceivable factors that apply to the golfing problem. We see, as developing from this principle, that medal and match play, winter and summer play, friendly and competitive golf, windy weather and calm weather, flat or hilly courses, and indoor play all present changes in the golfing situation which the golfer has to learn as new skills.
If we are thinking of individual shots, we see then that the ideal would be to practice a shot at the very point on the course and almost at the same time that it was missed. This is not practical, but he who is most careful in seeing that his practice shots duplicate his playing shots will learn the game most quickly.