Why Cant I take it to the course?

Below is a great article written by TrackMan Master Patricia Baxter-Johnson from the Trackman blog page (www.blog.trackman.com)


Worth your time to read the full article to take in just why golfer struggle to take their practice & swing improvements to the course


“Why can’t I take this to the golf course?” is one of the most common questions and complaints in golf. Why can I do this on the range, but not on the golf course? Why is golf so hard, especially in the area of consistency?

Amateurs are also led to believe that the magic golf tip a simple mechanical swing key or thought is the secret to real game improvement. The realistic answer, however, is that they don’t know how to take and practice the knowledge of striking the ball well and turn it into a habit that they can transfer to the golf course.

Most training today is based on mechanical swing positions. While the mechanics of one’s swing is a vital area of personal growth for one’s game, it’s not the golden ticket. It’s one step of the learning process. Improving one’s game must also be taught in conjunction with how the brain works in acquiring and employing new motor skills. How a person translates a recently learned skill to the course and performs under pressure is a step in the process that is often skipped. This step is called transfer training . This underutilized and often missed training stage can be developed by using Trackman Test Center and Trackman Combine to simulate pressure and on course situations that are needed to retain the new skill and transfer it onto the golf course.

One big difference between amateurs and tour players is tour players understand the practice required and steps needed to develop their motor skills. During a lesson, many teachers use a tour player’s swing as a blueprint for helping to convey the correct mechanics & body positions, and when the lesson is over they instruct you to practice, but there isn’t enough attention and detail that goes into the training stages of how to turn that information into a dominant skill you can transfer to the golf course.

Amateurs mistakenly see tour players receive lessons for the fault and fixes but fail to see how they train their new swing or skill to hold up, so they can trust it under tournament pressure. Having a technically sound golf swing is important but mostly for how it relates to ball control as in more solid contact, the ability to bring your ball flight down, fading or drawing shots, knock down shots, distance control for all shots, and what you are going to face in real playing conditions.

A more accurate description of tour players would be experts at ball control instead of players who have perfected their swing to hit it great. Trackman Test Center and Trackman Combine are tremendous tools in coaching students’ ball control and ingraining their skills in the critical motor control and the learning stage of transfer training.
Here are the steps which are based on and consistent with motor learning research that a learner must
progress through:

The Stages of Motor Control & Skill Acquisition Applied To Golf

Gaining an understanding of cause and effect

    1. Since golf is a motor skill and needs to be taught in conjunction with how the brain works, the first requirement in this process is to determine which skills are costing the player the most strokes; Then seek an understanding of what they are doing wrong and identify what is needed to fix it.


    1. Structured practice
      Repetition of motion is required so that the brain can store the new skill as a habit; It requires continuous feedback from your coach in addition to structured drills formatted with the deliberate intention of improving his or her skills.


    1. Transfer training
      As it is refined and the player has started to experience success with the new skill (under comfortable conditions such as the range and perfect lies,) then they need to start simulating golf course conditions (different lies, windy conditions, in between yardages, difficult shots on the golf course, competitive situations). Transfer training creates the opportunity for a player to build a habit that can withstand the pressure and ever changing conditions that one experiences on the golf course.


  1. Play
    During this step, you are able to execute the new skill consecutively while playing golf for score. Coaches provide additional guidance in the skills of decision making and selfmanagement, while also making note of ball control skills that are in need of further development.

The Stages of Motor Control & Skill Acquisition Applied To Golf

Out of these steps, amateurs spend all of their time in step one cause and effect. Transfer training is often the most skipped step because most amateurs take a lesson and then go to the golf course expecting to own the changes immediately. Transfer training creates the opportunity for a player to build a habit that can withstand the pressure and ever changing conditions that one experiences on the golf course.

What we do when we transfer train is expose the skill you are working on to the conditions and pressure situations you would experience on the golf course. It’s crucial for success of retaining your new skill and being able to go from hitting it well on the range to the golf course. This transfer training step takes discipline and commitment. This is the step that tour players do not skip, as they understand how important it is to their training to be able to perform when they play in tournaments.

Tour players realize that rooting out old habits takes time. They know that they can’t abandon the learning process if they don’t see immediate results. Many amateurs give up instead and this is the reason countless players are caught up in the merry go round of swing changes. This is where Test Center comes in as a powerful tool for training to keep students on the right track. Trackman Test Center and Trackman Combine can be used to simulate pressure and on course situations that are needed to retain the new skill and transfer it onto the golf course.

I have used Test Center with my players to work on specific weak areas as well as to transfer train in addition to going on the golf course. At this point, when we start using Test Center, the player has sufficiently worked on their new skills and has mentally started attaching to the new movement, internalizing feelings and ball flight which he/she learned during practice. This is where the beginning of owning your swing starts.

The customizable features of Test Center allow me to create skill tests based on the weaknesses of the student.

I can:

  • Choose a drive, fixed distance, random distance, or a range of distances

  • Choose the number of shots and randomly practice them or have them in a sequential order

  • Set up a test that would simulate the golf course upon which my students play and the yardages that they typically have

  • See students’ total score and data, giving us golf course like results within the proximity to the hole they hit for each shot and a player handicap for skills they are working on

In conjunction with taking students on the course, training this stage with Test Center brings a more optimal focus to the transfer training stage. No matter what level of player you are, the requirements from our brain to learn a motor skill are the same. There is no way around this step. There are no shortcuts and the most important factor of trying to own your new skill is the quality of your training during this step to be able to take it to the golf course. This is where Test Center is so impactful. Before Trackman, we didn’t have a tool with direct feedback like this to help us see how our changes are coming along. Now with Trackman, we can see realtime feedback which helps players stick to the process.

Students who didn’t understand or previously didn’t have time for this training method now see that being exposed to Test Center motivates them! They see results and can change how they think about their performance training and how important this stage is for sustaining improvement. Once I feel that a new skill is becoming a habit, we can use Trackman Combine to test the player against other players across the world, where every shot counts.

It will highlight your strengths, put you in a game mode with the same kind of attention and focus that you use on the golf course, and show you exactly what you need to thrive in your game. Trackman Combine is a perfect way to utilize your time to hone in on hitting a shot precisely to a target and be rewarded or penalized for how you perform.

This research based motor skill development method was introduced to me in 1993 by my long time mentor, Dr. Rick Jensen one of the leading coaches on motor learning and skill acquisition. He is also in collaboration with top sport scientists in the golf industry, providing training in disciplines commonly taught within university sport science and coaching curriculums. His performance training was vital in achieving my goal to qualify and play on the LPGA tour. I value our relationship and continue to learn from him and his expertise on the science of motor learning and golf skill acquisition as a coach for my students.

The progression of going from a club pro teacher to a major LPGA world tour player meant I needed to transform my total game to dominate on the mini tour and get through the grueling test of Qschool. I surrounded myself with the best in the industry. I was quite fortunate to have 3 of the top 10 rated coaches by Golf Digest. My coaches included a swing coach, short game coach, and fitness & performance coach. With Dr. Jensen’s help as my performance coach, my eyes opened to the steps it would take for me to become a tour player. I quickly realized I was regularly concerned with the “perfect swing.”

This attitude was only going to take me so far. It would limit my game and weigh me down with so many mechanical thoughts that I would end up using them as a proverbial life raft of sorts. The more pressure that arose, the more position oriented I became. I wasn’t free to play my best golf and Dr. Jensen helped me understand how and why the stages of motor learning were important and how it relates to owning any newly acquired skill so I could trust it under pressure. This included structured practice and transfer training, but also controlling emotions and course management.

Now as a coach, I utilize Trackman Test Center and Trackman Combine to provide an excellent roadmap for the improvement journey with accurate and instant feedback for my students to accomplish a wide variety of playing goals. It is a priceless asset that allows me to train all levels of golfers and enable them to transfer train and take their new skills to the golf course. Just like Trackman revealed the truth about the ball flight laws, there are also truths about what it takes for real skill acquisition backed by science. Trackman Test Center and Trackman Combine are significant tools in enhancing motor skill development.

TrackMan Master

Patricia Baxter-Johnson

(taken from http://blog.trackmangolf.com/enhancing-motor-skill-development/)