Golf instruction to a child

Three Phases of Golf Skill Learning

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There are three phases or stages of learning golf skills. Here’s an explanation of the three phases.

The stages are cognitive (Early), associative (Intermediate), and autonomous (Advanced). They are learned in that order and are a progression from one to the other.

The Early Phase of Golf Instruction

The Early cognitive phase teaches the student an understanding of how to perform the golf skills desired. Sometimes working with students that have never had a club in their hand is easier than with those who have played for years. They have less ingrained old muscle movements to correct or override.

In some cases though, their previous learned skill will help to learn a more efficient process. Every student is unique.

In this learning phase, the student will experience more than their share of mistakes before they achieve a good understanding of each skill. The control desired in their swing also requires much more attention and concentration in this early phase.

Students in this stage will usually have a weak or low self image. Self image becomes as important in the long run as learning the skills themselves. The more frequently each student has success with a skill, the stronger their self image becomes.

I try to teach all of my students to trust their process and never fear the outcome. This mental process will become increasingly more important as their skill level increases.

The Intermediate Phase of Golf Instruction

As a student’s skill level increases, they reach a level of understanding that will allow them to practice each skill. This is the Intermediate or associative phase of learning. The amount of time spent practicing will increase in this stage.

The movements desired will begin to require less stringent attention and concentration. They start to become more of a natural movement.

In this stage, the self image begins to grow and student confidence strengthens. Trusting in the process becomes the backbone of learning each golf skill.

Students will question themselves less about their ability to perform each skill and are ready to take their learning to the course. 

The Advanced Phase of Golf Instruction

The last phase is the Advanced or autonomous stage. In this stage, students try to sharpen and perfect each golf skill movement to enhance their consistency. The swing has become natural and can become repeated autonomously without having to think through each movement.

The student’s process for each skill has become strong enough to produce a high percentage of positive outcomes or shots. Their self image has strengthened to a level that will allow them to increase their accuracy and scoring ability on the course.

Students begin to set goals. The goals must be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely). From this point the student must continue to want to get better in order to maintain this phase or level. 


Achieving these three phases in learning to play golf are not an easy task. This is why I always ask my students in our initial meeting how much time they are willing to set aside to become an advanced golfer.

The old saying applies, “You get out of it what you put into it.” 

I hope this information will be helpful and you can use it to see in which phase you might lie. I also strongly suggest that you visit your local PGA professional to assist you throughout each phase. 

Have you experienced similar results in the stages of your golf instruction? Let me know in the comments.

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