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The Tale of Two Environments - Tips for enhancing your golf practice


As a big kid, I used to love playing a computer game called Pro Evolution Soccer. I became very proficient at beating the computer (AI) at all the hardest challenges.

However, when the onset of online game came to play I really struggled to transfer my skill set when playing individuals online.

You see they had different strategies and ways of playing that I was not used to. The computer I had grown up playing against wasn’t very adaptable and had very predictable patterns of play.

Once you understood the patterns it was fairly easy to beat the computer.

Playing against humans was completely unpredictable and frustrating (because I was getting beat all the time and was so used to winning!).

I had to come up with new strategies and ways of playing in each game.

I had to become adaptable to change and the only way I could do this was put myself in this environment (online gaming) more and more often.

Over last winter I helped a student called Craig, Craig was fairly new to the game.

Due to Craig’s work commitments and poor weather we spent all of our time together in the indoor simulator until April working on strike and co-ordination.

In March we measured all of Craig’s clubs carry distances and dispersion on the Trackman simulator and how this compared to when we 1st tested Craig. Craig was now hitting the ball much further and straighter when tested indoors.

Craig came back after a few weeks and said he was still struggling on the golf course to lower his scores even although he was hitting it further and straighter than ever before.

We toddled off to the golf course, 1st hole Craig hits a great drive down the middle and leaves himself 160 yards to the green. Craig pulls out an 8iron hits the ball extremely well and proceeds to airmail the green by easily 20 yards, his ball coming to rest, at pace, in a particularly nasty bush. Craig looked at the shot perplexed.

When I asked Craig his decision making on the shot:

Craig – I had 160 to go. I hit my 8iron, on average 160 yards when we measured it. I hit an 8iron.

Me – Ok. What factors do you think you have potentially missed out on this shot?

Craig – The wind is behind us?

Me – Sure, anything else?

Craig – Downhill shot?

Me – Yup, anything else?

Craig – mmm, not sure.

Me – When was the last time it rained?

Craig – A while ago.

Me – So what does that do to ground conditions?

Craig – Makes it firmer.

Me – Perfect, so exploring what you now know let’s have another try.

After repetition of this process a few times Craig hit a 50-degree wedge that came to rest on the middle of the green. Indoor without any environmental factors Craig hits this club about 120 yards.

You see over the winter (not through choice, more through circumstance) Craig has practiced and learned golf mainly on the driving range or our indoor area. Much like me playing against the computer Craig was used to predictable patterns of play, however, on the golf course, there is rarely predictable patterns of play.

Shall we get a little geeky when trying to explain the incongruence between range/indoor area and golf course and explain it through some research?

The range has an absence of the relevant information sources experienced on the golf course, therefore, the information experienced on the driving range (an open field, flat lie, no greens to see how the ball reacts, no fairways, water, boundaries, time between shots, no score taking etc.) can lead you to using information that is non-specific to the golf course therefore supporting the emergence of different behaviours (Davids et al., 2012). Compelling evidence supports this argument, showing that when the informational constraints of a task are different, different patterns of behavior and movement emerge (Dicks, Button & Davids, 2008). In the case of Craig and the lack of transfer from range to the golf course, Craig, on the range was never presented with the wind, dry fairways, downhill slope and how that affected his ball in relation to the target. Therefore is it any wonder Craig struggled to figure it out?

In Craig’s case, he had no choice but to train in this environment over the winter due to weather and light and to be honest there is not much getting round this unless Craig wins the lottery and spends his time from November to April in warmer climates!

Therefore Craig’s awareness that the two environments were different was/is key to his development. He now understands that much like my computer game experience the golf course is far more unpredictable and asked him many more questions than the driving range/indoor area. He now understands that he needs to spend more time on the golf course trying to answer these questions.

Comparable to Craig on the golf course and I on the console, you need to be reticent of how the environment that you are developing your skills is shaping your behavior and how closely that is linked to your performance environment, the golf course.

Tips for enhancing the transfer of learning:

Ask yourself the following questions

  1. Does what I am doing in training resemble anything to do with golf?
  2. Does what I am doing in training present me with any of the problems that the golf course throws at me?
  3. Does my training environment closely resemble the performance environment I am striving to get to?
  4. Does my training environment include any similar emotions that I experience in performance?
  5. Do I have to make any decisions in training that are similar to performance?

If the answer is no to any of these get in touch and let’s have a chat and see if we can enhance the transfer from your training to the golf course, ultimately leading to you scoring lower scores.

Or come to a Train with the Pro’s session and you’ll experience a training environment that ‘Looks, Smells & Feels’ like golf.




Davids, K., Renshaw, I., Pinder, R., Araújo, D., & Vilar, L. (2012). Principles of Motor Learning in Ecological Dynamics A comment on Functions of Learning and the Acquisition of Motor Skills ( With Reference to Sport ), 113–117.

Dicks, M., Davids, K., & Arau´ jo, D. (2008). Ecological psychology and task representativeness: Implications for the design of perceptual-motor training programmes in sport. In Y. Hong & R. Bartlett (Eds.), Handbook of biomechanics and human movement science (pp. 129–139). New York, NY: Routledge.


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