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Understanding Memory in Golf 

Golf, a sport of physical skill and mental acuity, demands a deep understanding of how memory functions. Memory plays a crucial role in a golfer’s ability to perform consistently and improve over time. This blog post explores three types of memory—sensory, working, and long term—and their implications for golfers. 

Stimuli: Something to notice 

Definition and Function: 

Stimuli are any detectable change in the internal or external environment that elicits a physiological or behavioural response. For learning and adaptation we use something we sense (a stimulus) to update our model of how something works via feedback and reference framing. 

Sensory Memory: Our first impression 

Definition and Function: 

Sensory Memory is the shortest term memory. It’s the initial stage of memory where sensory information from the environment is retained for a very brief period, typically less than a second. This memory type is responsible for our ability to retain impressions of sensory information after the original stimulus has ceased. 

Attention: The gateway to learning 

Definition and Function: 

Attentional focus can be broad or narrow. When scanning for what we need to notice broad is required and when we know what we need to pay attention to we should narrow our focus. What we pay attention to is what can go into working memory and we can then process it and encode in long term memory if we train well. 

Working Memory: The Mental Workspace 

Definition and Function: 

Working memory (WM) is often considered an extension of short term memory which is the capacity to hold a small amount of information for a brief period. It involves not just storing information temporarily but also manipulating it. It’s the mental workspace where you can hold and process information simultaneously. 

Application in Golf: 

1. Spatial Modelling: Ball, club or movement skill development require attentional focus to inset variables into our WM for encoding.

2. Strategy Formulation: Deciding on the best strategy for a hole by considering factors like wind, distance, hazards, and your own strengths and weaknesses involves using WM. 

3. Problem Solving: When faced with an unexpected situation, such as a ball in an awkward lie, working memory helps you to analyse and decide the best course of action. 4. Swing feels: Maintaining swing feels while simultaneously focusing on other aspects of your game, such as balance and rhythm, relies on WM.

Long Term Memory: The Repository of Skills and Knowledge 

Definition and Function: 

Long term memory (LTM) is the storage of information over extended periods, from hours to a lifetime. It encompasses everything you know and can recall, from factual knowledge to procedural skills. 

Application in Golf: 

1. Technique Mastery: The muscle memory developed from countless hours of practice, allowing for consistent and repeatable shots, is stored in LTM.

2. Course Knowledge: Familiarity with different courses, including past experiences and specific hole strategies, is stored in LTM. 

3. Game History: Remembering past performances, both successes and failures, helps in learning and improving future play. 

Forgetting: The key to LTM 

It is crucial to be able to do something to have learnt it. But to transfer this initial learning to LTM we must encode it, then forget it from Working memory and then retrieve the faint LTM. The more times we repeat this process the stronger the firing of these neural pathways will become. Forgetting is critical to become instinctively good at a skill which is where high performance resides. 

Enhancing Memory for Better Golf Performance 

Tips for Working Memory: 

• Chunking: Break down complex information into smaller, manageable chunks. For instance, to hit an iron of the ground, learn to hit the ground in the optimal place, then learn to hit the middle of the club and then orientate the face towards where you want the ball to fly to create a basic club striking model. • Focus Exercises: Engage in mental exercises that enhance focus and concentration, such as mindfulness or meditation, which can improve WM capacity. 

Tips for Long Term Memory: 

• Consistent Practice leading to more variable training: Regular practice and repetition are crucial for transferring skills and knowledge into LTM. Make sure once you have created the memory (got the gist of it) that you train something else to allow retrieval practice which is what strengthens LTM. 

• Reflective Learning: After each game, reflect on what worked well and what didn’t. Keeping a golf journal can help solidify these experiences in LTM. • Sleep: Adequate sleep is essential for memory consolidation, turning short term memories into long term ones. 


Understanding and leveraging the different types of memory can significantly enhance your golf performance. By developing strategies to strengthen short term, working, and long term memory, you can improve not only your game but also your enjoyment of this complex and rewarding sport. 

Find a better way to learn 

John and Tom

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