As you probably know, I’m a mental coach, so if you think you might be getting a magical swing tip here, I’m going to disappoint you.
But if you want to see more of the swings you make on the driving range, on the golf course, well then I can help you.
The difference between the driving range and the course
There are fundamental differences between the driving range and the golf course. One of the major differences between the two environments is that there are consequences on the golf course, i.e. what the effect of a shot will do to your score and your chances of winning, and how the outcome of the shot you will make you look in front of the people you are playing with etc. Conversely there are no consequences to each shot on the driving range.
The benefit of a quiet mind
From a mental perspective, on the driving range your mind is quiet, there’s no mental chatter before you start your swing. There’s the ball, there’s the target and there’s a confidence you are going to put the ball there. On the golf course, there’s distraction caused by fear: What if I hit it there? What if I slice it? What if I miss? And so on…
This not only causes confusion in the mind, but it causes changes in the body. You probably don’t even notice it, but your muscles are tensing up (starting with your grip pressure). The effect of these mental and physical changes are:
- Loss of focus on the target and strategy
- Loss of focus on the process – proper alignment, mental and physical rehearsal (visualization and feeling the shot) etc.
- Loss of fluidity in the swing
- Changes in tempo in your swing
The end result is a swing that is inconsistent and unlike the one you had on the driving range when you were practicing during the week.
So how to we change this?
There are many things that you can do that increase confidence, quieten your mind and get access to your best skills on a frequent basis, all of which I cover in my Ultimate Mental Game Training System For Golf, but here’s one you can experiment with right away.
When an athlete is performing their best, there’s direct communication between the senses and the movement centers of brain. You will also have heard of this state of mind referred to as “the zone”, or “flow state”. In martial arts, it’s called “mushin”, which means “no mind”.
Also, when an athlete is performing their best, they are not preoccupied by thought, judgement or emotion. There’s no sense of self or “self-consciousness”. The mind is 100% focused on the present (there is no past or future).
What’s Happening In The Brain During Fluid Motion?
The pre-frontal cortex is the part of the brain which is responsible for managing complex processes like reason, logic, problem solving, planning, and memory. In golf it’s great during the “Thinking phase” of your routine, but it can easily become that “little voice in your head” when you are over the ball. To produce a better golf swing, and get into the “flow state” or “the zone”, that little voice needs to be turned off and the “athletic mind” turned on.
When the athletic mind is active, the brain is more open to sensory input. In other words, you can take in more of your environment. In martial arts, a fighter in “mushin” is just “sensing” and is totally aware of their surroundings. This gives them a greater ability to anticipate their opponent’s moves.
Think about how focused you felt when you hit certain shots, you had a really clear vision of what you intended, the shape of it, the feel of it, where it’s going to land etc., and then you pulled it off, perfectly. This is what happens when your athletic mind is turned on and your critical mind is switched off.
The Best Pre Shot Routine
The best pre shot routine is one which will enable you to keep the mind quiet, yet focused.
When I ask new students to describe their best pre shot routine, they describe all the physical steps, but virtually nothing about where their focus is or what’s happening mentally.
How committed you are and how quiet your mind is more important than going through the physical steps. I want to know exactly what you’re focusing on from when you start your walk into the ball all the way through the swing (“the trust phase”).
What are the best things to focus on? Firstly, just noticing what you’re focusing on will help. From my experience, the best thing to focus on to keep your mind quiet is one of your senses in particular (sight, feel, sound, breathing etc.). Experiment with this on the range (I’ve got a full list of mental game drills for the range in my Training System), and find out what produces the most athletic swings. Then, on the course, make this one of your process goals to measure the success of the shot.
Overtime, you’ll find that you do it automatically which will result in better swings and better scores!