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How to Eliminate Stubborn Errors of Form

The 27th Secret

Many players have a golfing error which seems to defy correction. Often they have been told how to correct the mistake but, for some reason, the error persists. One such error is shanking. Since it is the worst, it will be useful to use it as an example.
Shanking inspires such fear that it will bring about poor performance even if it is only occasional. It is a glaring example of the interaction of psychology and mechanics in golf. Shanking will produce fear, and this fear will then produce more shanking.
I was once caught in this vicious circle while trying to qualify for one of our Georgia tournaments. I played the first nine holes in 39, and the next nine in 57. I was determined to finish the round and that was the only reason I did. I even began shanking chip shots, and finished the last few holes bunting the ball with a wood club. I was so abysmally bad that everyone else seemed free to laugh at the situation. There were a few who were not amused. They were those who had had the same experience at one time or another, and I would not be surprised if some of them had one or two apprehensive moments the next day.
After trying many remedies, I finally found a successful one adapted from educational psychology. It has been found that if a typist has a persistent error in the writing of a word, she can eliminate the error by making it deliberately. If, for some reason, she persists in writing "cat" as "cta," the error will disappear if she deliberately spells the word "cta" for a number of times. Peculiarly enough, when she again comes across the word "cat," the letters will come out correctly.
When neither golf professionals nor interested amateurs could help me with their variety of cures, I adopted the above method. I practiced shanking deliberately. It disappeared in a few practice sessions and I never had any more trouble.
Incidentally, this is a fine method of ridding oneself of other conspicuous errors, such as slicing, hooking, etc. As one practices an error, he gradually learns what accentuates the mistake and what alleviates it. With knowledge comes confidence, and with confidence fears leave. When fears leave, we are able to get the most out of ourselves.
Some stubborn errors require a rebuilding of one's game. The tendency to shank can very well be the "bug" in a particular golfer's swing. Serious "bugs" of this kind have forced a number of ambitious golfers to scrap a particular method of swinging for an entirely new one. When there is either a major weakness or a number of minor weaknesses, and one has the time, it is best to begin all over again. There will be an initial slump, of course, but this is the only route by which avenues of improvement can be reopened.
With instruction and practice, even stubborn mistakes will be eliminated. If they are not, it is likely that there is a wrong "fixed idea" behind the error. If there is, no improvement will occur unless this "fixed idea" is brought out into the open by a sympathetic professional.
If the error has been corrected in practice, it may still not work in actual play because the new method is not properly incorporated into the game. Very often a new technique is introduced too quickly. Results are often worse than with one's old method. This quickly destroys both the confidence of the golfer and the value of the lessons.
In order to avoid such an occurrence, two things should be done. First, the new technique must be over-learned so that even some loss in execution will not be discouraging. Second, the new technique should be pitted against the old—say on alternate shots in practice—until there is no question as to which method is superior.
If the new technique still does not work, further lessons are needed to check on causes. Then back to the practice tee for a repetition of the process. This develops ultimate confidence and a smooth transition that will make it unnecessary to say, "Every time I take a lesson I get off my game"—a rather common frustration.