One major difference between good and inconsistent performance among golfers is brain activity.
Studies have shown that the higher the handicap the higher the brain activity of a golfer. And this “over-thinking” gets worse the more pressure the player feels. Generally speaking, inconsistencies in a golfer’s performance are undoubtedly due to an inconsistent mental approach to each shot and to what extent the conscious brain is allowed to interfere with the swing.
“Swing motion at its highest level is the uninterrupted flow of natural rhythm from within.”
Accessing the Superfluid State
Most golfers step up to the ball and think about everything but where they want the ball to go. And this continues during the swing, with thoughts about what the body must do (or not do) during the 2 seconds of the swing. The result is confusion and a dis-jointed, timid swing. Far from how you practice on the driving range.
I get asked a lot “Why can’t I take my range game to the course?”. When you’re on the range, you’re fully accessing your natural swing. In other words, unless you’re working on a drill, you’re not thinking about it and just trusting your swing. Anything that you do “naturally” will be performed better than trying to control your body to complete the action. Think about something you do without thinking, like tying your shoe laces. When you tie your shoe laces, you are purely accessing what you know you can already do, without any interference from conscious thinking. If you interfere and tell yourself, “let’s form a loop with the lace in my right hand, wrap the other lace underneath it etc. you would probably get confused and not do it as well as you normally would.
When you’re practicing on the driving range, you don’t need to worry about such things like your score, where not to hit it, what happened on the last hole or, how you look to your playing partners. You are able to swing freely. On the golf course however, all those interference can affect this free flow. This what I’d like to help you change in this article.
Your best golf swing relies on timing, rhythm and a coordinated sequence of muscle activity to produce a fluid movement. None of this has anything to do with conscious thought.
When you are free of conscious thought there is no interference, an your natural rhythm, timing and coordination is what I like to call “super-fluid”. This is the state you need to be in to play your best golf and reaching this performance state is what I focus on in the Golf State of Mind Training Program.
The brain works best when it thinks sequentially, not flickering randomly between several thoughts. In order to swing freely on the golf course, all your conscious thinking needs to be done during your pre-shot routine. By the time you’re over the ball, you are ready to calmly access that super-fluid state.
There are certain swing thoughts or “swing triggers” that can act to quiet the mind before and during the swing to help you access the super-fluid state. These are all non-technical and designed to help you focus on one thing that can help your swing, not 3-4 things and cause confusion and bad swings.
Here’s a few to try in practice to see if they could work for you on the course and be sure to focus on just one during each round.
Tim Gallwey’s “back-hit”
This could also be achieve by counting, but the idea here is is you occupy your conscious brain by saying the words “back” and “hit” during your swing. this is also a good one for keeping your tempo, which is also something that changes between the range and course. Pia Nilsson suggests the words “SUPER-SMOOTH”.
Balance is a great swing thought. Your tempo is directly related your balance. During your swing, your weight moves between both feet and if you’re not well balanced you won’t make a good transition of your weight to maintain your tempo and rhythm.
I remember Nick Price saying that was one of his key swing thoughts. Despite having one of the quickest tempos on Tour at the time, he always made sure the first 12 inches of the swing was very smooth.
Make your practice swing fit the shot in mind
Really visualizing the shot you want to hit and feeling that shot with your practice swing means that you’ve already felt that swing you are about turn into reality. If you’ve practiced a drill during your practice swing you’ve wasted an opportunity to really connect with the shot and make your real swing more fluid, without controlling thoughts.
Dance into the shot
Steve Elkington says he thinks of his swing being being like a solo in the middle of the song: Simply begins the swing when his “part” comes along.
This one is great because grip pressure affects your tension throughout your swing and is a common mistake under pressure. Focusing on this before your swing can keep your swing smooth.
Work on your scan path
I spoke about this in my last article, which showed that elite golfers have a much more focused “Scan Path” between the ball at the target before swinging. The higher handicapper has a much more erratic scan path, probably due to all the other thoughts they have going on.
Give some of these a go and let me know how it goes!
Photo courtesy of Galatians Design