What happens psychologically when we learn or play golf?

There are three mechanisms or phases carried out by our nervous system and they are key to facilitating our game and improving the acquisition and learning of our motor skills in golf as in any other sport. These mechanisms have been known in the field of sports learning sciences since 1976. We refer to the mechanisms of perception, decision and execution, always following the same temporary order.

Therefore, we could play golf and improve the way to teach and learn how to play if we applied these three mechanisms in any motor or sport action both in the real game and on the driving range.

If we think about our first steps on the golf course, it is very likely that many people had as their sole purpose to hit the ball, i.e. they have only focused on “executing” the movement repeatedly, without taking into account the two previous mechanisms, which are fundamental to work with from the beginning of learning. Its perception and optimal use is determined by two factors: prior knowledge or experience and the intensity of the stimulus or surprise factor.

What is and how can we “work” the mechanism of perception? Any of us can hit the ball through the technical gesture of the swing or putt, but before all this it is necessary to collect all sorts of information (we can observe on the green, for example, the distance to the hole, possible slopes, irregularities in the line, etc.; and, of course, our body’s position with respect to the ball and our lining up towards the desired direction, etc.). The question is: what do we do with all this information? Do we really use it?

This collection of information gathered by the player must be active, and subsequently we must perform a selective filtering which will discard the only slightly relevant information and will select that which is considered the most important.

In future articles we will complete this psychological circuit to improve our knowledge of the execution and achieve results in golf. Next appointment: mechanism of decision.


Antoni Albertí
PhD in psychology