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Lessons In Learning Golf: Michael Hebron

For this post I’d like to kick off a series based on lessons I’ve learned as a coach from some of the best teachers and mentors in the game. This week we highlight Golf Digest Top 50 Teacher, Mike Hebron.

A leader in the practice of efficient learning, Mike Hebron, has made a big impact on my daily communication with clients. A key takeaway from Hebron’s teachings is the language associated the adjustment process. Specifically the use of the word “different” vs “better.” The basic principle is that no technique is good nor bad, only perfect for the results they produce. Whether it be a player’s grip, swing path, angle of attack or other, the method and result are always a perfect match. If the player desires a different result, they simply must do something different inline with that goal.

At the outset, one could argue that none of this seems groundbreaking, however, I’ve come to realize golfers simply don’t see technique changes in this way. By and large, golfers aren’t trying to be different. In most cases they’re trying to be “better.” Being better is difficult to define. More challenging is that “better” doesn’t create a definitive action, different from the current one. When a player struggles with discomfort associated with a new movement, it’s because they really don’t want to let go of the old one. They don’t want to deviate from “their swing” in order to try what their mind is labeling as “your swing.” When a coach facilitates creating an “awareness” for a player’s current impact and flight pattern, they can then pose the question, “How would you like this to be different?” Based on the answer, the coach may then suggest logical adjustments or “differences” to best reach that goal. I always tell my students, “Anything you do different is going to create a different result. Let’s choose one or two things that will make the ball do what you want the fastest.” This type of communication opens the door to experimentation, self-inquiry and discovery. The seeds of real learning.

When working with a coach, make sure you’re being empowered to be an active participant in your development.

Years ago I joined Hebron and some colleagues for dinner following a PGA coaching summit. Always willing to share with other professionals, he was the center of attention discussing this very topic. As our server engaged the table, Mike saw an opportunity to showcase how powerful this type of communication can be. He asked the server If she “Had every played golf before?” To which she replied “No.” He then asked if she “Had every held a golf club or done anything golf related in her life?” Again the same response. He then handed her a butter knife from the table and asked if she would show us her golf grip. Confused by the question, Mike encouraged her to “Just do what you think is best.” The girl presented him a grip with both hands clasped and jumbled atop one another. Upon review, he simply said, “Ok, show me something different.” She slid her left hand below the right. “Great….do something different again.” She giggled and reversed the position of her hands to right below left. “Keep going” he directed. In two more quick moves she slid her right thumb a touch left on the knife, followed by her right pinkie over the left index finger. My dinner roll fell from my mouth.  Within less than a minute, without any how, why, do this or do that, a total non-golfer produced through her own experimentation a perfect Vardon grip. With a smile and “Thank you,” Mike took the knife from her hands and proceeded to order his dinner. For those at the table, his point had been made and the lesson was clear. There was no fighting to mold someone’s hands to the club. Their was no discomfort, tension, resistance or hesitation. No confusion and no pain to get the gain. Only the willingness to try something new with the encouragement of a guide and facilitator.

Its been said, “Telling’ ain’t teaching and listening ain’t learning.” When working with a coach, make sure you’re being empowered to be an active participant in your development.  When practicing on your own, have fun and experiment. View the practice tee as a lab, where you’re encouraged to hit all kinds of goofy shots in search of the style and result you like the most. Embrace “different” over “better” and watch your game grow with both excitement and ease.

This is just one lesson I took from what I now look back on as a special experience in my development. It’s not meant to 100% accurately represent Hebron’s teachings or research. I do hope seeing this provides a sense of satisfaction for the positive impact he has made on his fellow professionals.

To learn more about Michael Hebron Click Here.

For more information on MAKE THE TURN programming Click Here.