Learning From Your Mistakes

by | Jan 11, 2024 | John Hughes Golf School

I’ve been recognized as conducting one of the best golf schools in Florida. During those programs, I’ve witnessed a lot of mistakes. And encourage all my clients to learn from their mistakes.  But sometimes that’s a hard concept for a golfer to grasp. It’s your mistake swings you’ll learn the most from. The misses. The duffs, the chunks, and the thin shots. And let’s not forget the shanks and the pulls. All these shots, when examined in the correct context, will assist you with learning from your mistakes.

You could say that golf is a never-ending journey of mistakes. No matter the skill level, mistakes are made every day. Even by the best in the world. The constant challenge of learning from your mistakes is taken seriously at the world class level. And abandoned quickly for instant gratification by the everyday player.

There’s a unique perspective that some golfers adopt—a philosophy that challenges the conventional wisdom and processes of improvement. A phrase that describes your abandoned wisdom as, “I prefer to like what I do wrong vs. like what I do right”.  This may not sound familiar to you. But if you’re someone who does not practice between coaching sessions. Or even worse, you watch a lot of video content that is not prioritized to your specific improvement needs. You’re probably unconsciously living this mantra. Deciding you’ll never improve. So why not embrace what I already have?

But why would you want to feel that way? In essence, you’re giving up.

The Perfection Paradox

Golf is not an easy sport. The game demands precision and consistency. And as the game demands more from you, how often do you find yourself fixated on perfecting your swing? Thinking that the effort to do so will ultimately lead to you being perfect on the course? If so, your pursuit of perfection is a never-ending journey to nowhere, fast.

Why? Because perfection is an addiction of sorts. When you do feel the perfect shot, it acts upon your brain as a stimulant. Just as a narcotic would to a drug addict. It provides a feeling you want again and again.

You continue to tease those addictive feelings with unrealistic expectations.  Of you. And of what golf is. For instance, when you watch golf, you see nothing but what you believe to be “perfect shots.” Networks know that and can sell more commercials with that. At the same time, the telecast is feeding you an unrealistic image. Are you watching the 98% of the professionals not being perfect that week? The networks tease you into believing you can conquer this game.

Surrender Now!

You need to toss your hands up and surrender. Giving up your pursuit of perfection! There is no such thing as perfect. Regardless of what it maybe you’re pursuing in life.

Believe it or not, most golfers who take lessons in some ways give up. Not because they can’t be perfect But for other reasons. The biggest reasons are the time it takes to sustain improvement. As well as having too much self-doubt about how improved they could be.

And when the effort to improve diminishes or evaporates, negativity sets in. Making the process that much more difficult to get through.

As you surrender to perfection, come to the realization and ownership of what a perfect shot is. It’s nothing more than a one-time pat on the back. It’s confirmation that you can achieve your goals. With more effort and sticking to a process. That includes learning from your mistakes.

In surrendering, remember there is no such thing as a perfect swing. You’re human and prone to small imperfections. Sticking to your process is perfection into and of itself. Your process of learning from your mistakes provides a better percentage of hitting “great misses” in the future.

Being Perfect is Not What It’s Cracked Up to Be

Let’s toss the coin to the other side.  If any golfer’s game was perfect, why play? And if that golfer continued to play perfect, would you the spectator, begin to put such a high level of expectation upon the golfer, that at some point, failure is the only outcome?

It’s hard to maintain perfection, if achieved.  And it’s a massive emotional and psychological burden for any human to maintain in a healthy manner.

That’s why it’s quite alright to be imperfect. John Hughes Golf will go to my grave standing by the statement that golf is not a game of perfection. Nor is life! Every endeavor you accept is a process of learning from your imperfections.

But I will agree with the scientists who study learning that your perfect shots are the measuring tools by which you understand your potential. And how to reach your desired results more often.

The missed shots are the ones you can capitalize upon. Particularly when you seek the counsel and expertise of John Hughes Golf. The not so perfect shots are the shots you can learn from the best. These mistakes are the steppingstones to obtaining the holy grail of “perfection” within the game we love.

Let’s explore a few concepts that may make your journey of learning from your mistakes more tolerable. Learning from the feelings these shots provide you to become a better golfer.

How Learning from Your Mistakes is Okay

A bad shot is a teacher. A harsh but effective teacher. A bad shot screams, “Hey, there’s something wrong here! Fix it!” Sometimes forcing you to dissect your swing. To analyze every twitch, tilt, and detail. In the pursuit of being a better, more perfect golfer. Your dissection is probably built upon what you perceive as perfect. And is done so in chronological order.

As compared to a “perfect shot”, your mistakes are ways your brain can learn. The mistake is what your brain already knows. And your body repeats most often. Being able to recognize the not so desirable movements of your swing is easy to do. Once you know what improvement you want to make.

To do so, you’ll need to put in the time and effort, in a slow and sometimes isolated way, to teach your brain and body what it is you want to feel. You can’t recognize your current swing if you have nothing to compare it to.  That is what drills are all about. Comparing what you have now to what you want in the future. And the comparison must be “feel” based.

Mistakes Creates Comparisons

Compare Improvement to Mistakes, Learning from Your Mistakes, John Hughes Golf, Best Golf Schools in FloridaThink about it. You’re only recognizing the feelings of your mistaken swings because you have something to compare those swings to. The swing you’re attempting to perfect. Or better yet, ingrain so those swings have a chance to happen more often.

If a golfer never recognizes the comparison between what they already do, versus the potential they possess, it’s at that point of not learning from your mistakes that you’re most likely to give up. You’ll justify the white flag by saying you can’t do it. Or it’s going to take too much time. Or a host of other “reasons”.

More importantly, embracing the duff is about letting go. It’s about accepting that golf is not a game of perfection, but a game of process, a journey of learning and discovery. It’s about laughing at yourself when you send the ball into the rough, and then digging down and finding the strength to pull it out.

Enjoyment of the Journey

Enjoying the journey of improving is just as important as reaching your improvement destination. Golf is a lifelong pursuit. Finding joy in the process can make the game more fun and sustainable.

Don’t wait for the big-time improvements! Be willing to celebrate the small incremental improvements.  These smaller moments are details you should discuss with your coach. In order to recognize and label the smaller victories. Making it easier to potentially repeat those moments.

You should also discuss those details with yourself. In the heat of the moment. Keep a journal of those events. Describe what the new feelings provided you. In comparison to what you normally experience.

There’s great satisfaction awaiting the golfer who acknowledges the small steps of progress. Celebrating the small victories along the way is the start of you learning from your mistakes.

Building Resilience

To achieve your goals, patience and mental toughness are required. You’ll never reach your potential as a golfer if you’re not resilient.

You need to emphasize the role resilience plays in your life as a golfer. Your ability to bounce back from adversity is what will make or break you. And strengthen your ability of learning from your mistakes. Your resilience is also what other golfers will measure you by.

No matter the shot. No matter the challenge. Mental toughness is a critical element of your long-term improvement and success as a golfer.

Break it Down

The biggest mistake I see from a client, whether in a coaching session with me or on the course, is their lack of breaking down the mistakes of their swings.  They’re more concerned about being told what they did wrong. Versus breaking down each shot to determine not went wrong.

The simplest of the details to break down is determining the position your club was in when you hit the mistake.  Was the club open or closed? Was it square to your target?  If you can answer this question, you’re beginning the journey of learning from your mistakes.

Next part that is easy to break down was the loft of the club. Did the ball travel high or low? If you believe your shots are going too high, it’s highly probable the club was more lofted than its stated loft at impact. The opposite is true for lower shots that are in the air.

Breaking down these simple items of ball flight is the beginning of you learning from your mistakes.  Doing so with every shot you hit will educate you and your body to determine how your “mistake” can actually help you learn to improve.


If you’re choosing to make an improvement to your golf skills this year, by attending one of the best golf schools in Florida, then you must understand your improvement is a journey of learning from your mistakes.

Golf has its ups and downs for all golfers. Not just you. If you decide to embrace the mantra of “I prefer to like what I do wrong vs. like what I do right”, then don’t come to see John Hughes Golf until you reverse your perspective. You need to engage your improvement. With the perspective of finding joy in the process of learning and growing. That perfection is not possible. And learning from your mistakes is where it’s at.

By accepting imperfection, learning from mistakes, and building resilience, golf becomes more than just a game. It becomes a fulfilling and enriching journey. The next time you find yourself on the course moaning about all the mistakes you’re making, remember that the path to your improvement is paved with learning from your mistakes.

It’s okay to make mistakes. And it is okay to be imperfect.

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