Backwards Chaining the Positions of the Swing Motion

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That's right ... start at the end of the swing and work backwards!  Sounds goofy and bassackwards?  By itself, it may not be the best of ideas, but hold on ... there is a lot merit to the idea.  Warning!  Old age and this type of practice are not for sissies.  Consider this about your own experience.  When breaking the swing down into its parts, do you learn the first parts better than the end parts?  Do you ever get off track somewhere in the middle and have these errors migrate forward into the subsequent parts of your swing?  Does your brain get discombobulated with details?  Do you seem to forget what you learned in the last practice?  Do you have problems getting the whole swing done right or getting it done on a consistent basis?  As more and more detail/information is added, does your performance suffer?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it might be wise to open your mind a bit and consider this technique!

Backwards chaining is a learning technique for intermediate and skilled players.  A serious flaw with part style practice is how it tends to get a player "position bound" or "stuck like a statue", unable to move freely and smoothly to and through the other swing positions.  The painful images of Charles Barkley's herky jerky swing comes to mind.  Many players create a mental checklist, roadmap or mnemonics for the things you must do right.  This brings the conscious mind into a problem best suited for the sub-conscious.  With backwards chaining, instructional input (external feedback) is reduced, freeing short term memory from overloading.  Early success is easier to achieve.  Attention can be more directly focused of required points of performance.  Procedural information appears to transfer into long term (muscle)  memory faster and deeper.  Backwards chaining works best for tasks requiring a linear sequencing of skill or knowledge. 

Parts of the Foreswing

 

Why does this idea have merit and how does it work?  Your are starting with success.  Backwards chaining is a modification of the posing and shaping techniques.  It works in a manner similar to forward shaping and posing (see Shaping page).  The starting position is where a a successful forward swing would end.  Assuming you are demonstrating all the correct checkpoints of performance, then you are in a position which is where a good swing would put you.  Obviously this is a static position.  Golf has movement.  From the end position, move to the next position.  A logical breakdown of the standard swing model would indicate the next position would be the shoulder high, late followthru position.  Moving to this position would follow the recommended procedure.  Skipping the shoulder high followthru position and moving to the next position, the target high, mid followthru position, adds the ability to move thru the desired learning position.  The idea is to be in a correct (for the practice technique) starting position, move through the position to be modified/improved and end in another correct position.  The idea is the  intermediate, instructional target position checkpoints will also be correct only with movement.

In this modified chaining practice (as described by this author) technique, you pose in a position where you wish to start the learning process and hold that position for a long count of 10-15 seconds.  A critical point of performance is to insure your are in a technically correct position.  Do this by checking off the technical points of the position.  Using your shoulder high/late followthru position as an example ... move to the finish position.  Check to see the checkpoints for this position are being executed ... thumbs under the shaft, shaft pointing backwards, handle and hands above and over your left shoulder, left elbow folded, right arm extended, stomach facing the target,  weight on the outside of your left foot, right toe dragging.  When you are correctly performing all the checkpoints, hold the position as you count.  Move from the starting position to the next position, the waist high, target side middle followthru position.   Again, check off the checkpoints, pose in the new position and count.  The desired learning position is the "tweener" or shoulder high, late followthru position.  Progressively repeat this process for all the positions of the forward swing, transition and backswing.  A backwards chaining exercise should be succeeded by a forward shaping exercise.  When each of the major parts of the swing have been practiced, these parts can be forward chained into transitional movements between the major parts of the swing.  Backwards chaining and shaping exercises should always be followed with some slo-mo and blind, dry swings in the manner of a drill (multiple repetitions).  Slo-mo/blind swings should be followed by rhythmic swings where the slow and go rhythm is combined with a specific focus on a particular swing flaw you have identified through either ball flight analysis or visual means (video).

A chaining practice session is easily performed away from the practice range (your backyard).  The missing element is the ball ( see E.I.C. section on Drill Principles page).  The E.I.C. technique of removing a target and the ball eliminates much of the fear of failure and enhances your ability to focus your concentration on a specific learning objective or swing flaw.  A chaining session can be performed before hitting balls on the range.  Make some long slow swing to insure your are fully warmed up and capable of doing the technique without error or the risk of injury.  A complete chaining session should take the better part of 10-15 minutes.  The follow-up shaping session should take another 10-15 minutes.  The slo-mo/blind swings should take another 5-10 minutes.  Allow about a 1/2 hour for a complete session.

The same backwards chaining technique can be worked through the downswing, transition and backswing.

 

Parts of the Downswing

 

Parts of the Backswing

 

There are a couple of important questions and considerations.  When have you learned the task and how much should you continue to practice the improved skilled.  The task is considered to be learned when you can do the drill correctly, five consecutive times.  This is where it gets a little tricky.  Most of us know how difficult it is to "see" yourself when practicing.  It is usually not wise to trust your feel while learning or improving a skill.  Taking a buddy to the practice tee is a good idea so long as the "coach" knows what to look for, meaning the checkpoints you must correctly exhibit at the start and end as well as during the movement must be known by the coach.  GIGO ... we do not want to practice garbage!  This learning technique is powerful.  You can learning garbage quickly and deeply.  So be careful! 

As a general guide, when you have completed five successful trials, the skill is learned.  If you make an error during the process, you must start over.  When the skill is learned, it should be maintained at a reasonable interval ... yes, practice never ends.  Again, this technique blends well into an overall practice session which can be done in your backyard.

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