“But if we stop thinking of testing as a dipstick to measure learning-if we think of it as practicing retrieval of learning from memory rather than ‘testing,’ we open ourselves to another possibility: the use of testing as a tool for learning.” Make It Stick, Brown, Roediger III, McDaniel
A great quote from a great book. “Testing” can be seen differently by different people and they all could explain their view quite convincingly. As it relates to golf though “testing” is defined different ways. Some feel the way they hit it on the range as a test. Some view how they score during a round as a test. Some view how they score during a tournament as a test. Some view the place they finish in the tournament as the test.
Let’s turn to academic “testing” for a second. Generally it is like pulling teeth to get a junior high, high school, or college student to prepare well for testing. The younger, or at least the less studious, will generally put up the biggest defense when pushed to prepare for the test. The weeks turn into days and the days turn into hours as the test date closes in. Generally what can be seen hours before a test is a focused, possibly anxious, student going over notes, paragraphs and note cards. The “test” itself has become a big “stimulus” for the student and now there is no more illusion of delaying the preparation. This is essentially cramming.
That same behavior is seen in golfers. The “tournament” date is weeks away. Time is spent doing nearly everything but getting ready for the tournament. Bad shots aren’t that bad and the speed on the greens is “ok” even if the ball rolls three feet by. As time clicks by the golfer will begin to exhibit the same signs as the academic. They will begin to swing more around the house, get to the range more, and the same shots that were “fine” two weeks ago are now “un-acceptable.” The two or three days leading up to a tournament will find the focused, possibly anxious, golfer hitting shot after shot on the range and getting as many holes in as possible. The tournament itself has become a big “stimulus” for the golfer. So isn’t this essentially cramming?
The science of learning teaches us this: there is a difference between short term and long term memory. All of us can recall making an “A” on our final and then two weeks later not being able to recall enough to make a “D” on the test. This is because the information was not used and reflected upon enough to be moved into long term memory.
If performance is important to you I would suggest an alternative. First, understand that learning is an acquired skill and do your best to find teaching professionals that will guide you along the path to a mastery of how to learn. There are plenty of them out there, they may charge a bit more, but in the end it will be worth while. Second, retrieve the skills daily. This means that no matter how far you are from the event you will check your set up in a mirror, work on your putting stroke, et cetera. This doesn’t mean you must hit balls each day or play each day, but certainly make time to retrieve the skills. Third, reflect on the skills. You should know why you are changing your grip or working on your set up, et cetera. You should know what shot that is giving you or what shot that will eliminate. Fourth, embrace testing the skills. Rather than looking at a round of golf, a tournament, or even hitting a particular golf shot as a by-product of practice; begin to see them as another aspect of learning.
Scientists and Golf Professionals would both agree that by retrieving, reflecting, and embracing testing would lead to better golf. Furthermore, this type of process done over and over will keep the skills needed on the course very accessible to that brain and body of yours.