The most important time of any golf shot is the 2 seconds before you take the club back
If you’ve gone through a well thought out routine and prepared as best you can for the shot in front of you, you’ll be in the address position with a precise target, a clearly defined shot shape and the feeling of the shot all programmed into your subconscious mind so you can swing freely. You should feel very confident.
But even though you’re now standing over the shot, there’s still plenty of time to have all your good work unravel to produce a tense and fearful swing. Plenty of time? Since when is 1 or 2 seconds plenty of time, I hear you say? Believe me, it only takes a millisecond to think of something negative which can undo all your positive work you did during your pre-shot routine and effect how well you swing.
This is why most of the best players in the world have a Trigger or “Swing Cue”.
What are swing cues?
Swing cues can be visual, verbal, auditory (sound) or kinesthetic (touch) actions performed just before the take away and they’re used for a few reasons:
a. Thinking about a swing cue means you’re not thinking about something that can break down the process. This includes things like how the shot will affect your score, the trouble, making your usual miss, hitting it in the trouble or how you look in front of your playing partners.
b: A swing cue is usually associated with past success or something that is confidence inducing e.g. this could be a word you’ve anchored to great shots (more on this later) or a phrase to help you like “trust” or “commit to it”.
c. It continues the thinking that the pre-shot routine makes every shot feel the same no matter what the situation (this is something you can do in practice too)
There’s no rule that says all triggers will work for every player – everyone’s response to stimuli is different – the best thing is to experiment with several and see what gets your attention best. Later in this article, I’ll give you some swing cues that you can try and see if they work for you.
The Red Dot
Do you remember the red dot that Louis Oosthuizen put on his glove when he won The Open in 2010? That was one such trigger. With all that surrounds a tournament as big as The Open, Louis needed a trigger to to be able to shut out all the noise and focus on the process (pre-shot routine) of hitting the shot at hand. Louis anchored this mental state during this practice (otherwise the red dot would have had no meaning). So when he looked at the red dot before each shot it recreated that mental state he had worked on during practice which enabled his to shut out the noise and focus on the process of hitting a good golf shot.
Ideas for Go Triggers
The point is that the purpose of the waggle is for the golfer to gain a sense of feel, a rehearsal of motion, and a pace of timing to the forthcoming swing. It is so much easier to glide or bridge into the swing from a little seemingly irrelevant motion than it is to start from a frozen dead stop or point of stillness, yet this is what a newcomer to the game will typically do unless corrected.
When you pause in stillness over a shot, anticipation and tension grow. With that, it is really a challenge to create the tension-free, rhythmic flow that a great swing is all about. The proper waggle is as Hogan says, more than that. It is a “dry run for the shot coming up.” As the golfer takes the club back on the waggle, so will he/she take the club back on their actual swing and returning the club to the ball they will adjust the club to come back squarely to the ball and on the intended line.
In “Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons” he goes into considerably more detail saying that the waggle practically gives you a full rehearsal of the swing you’ll be using, and that the rhythm of the waggle varies with each shot you play. In fact, the publisher and Hogan use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS to communicate the procedure as well as the requirement not to groove your waggle.
A waggle can give you a sense of feel, reduce tension and set the tempo for your upcoming swing. It also give’s you a running start instead of starting from a static position. Watch the Tour players at the weekend and many of them will waggle the club before starting their back-swing. This is not for show, it’s telling themselves they’re in ready mode, sets the tempo of the swing and eases tension in their hands. Try to make the number of waggles the same every time, so every shot feels the same no matter what the situation.
A lot of players have a unique body movement which initiates the back-swing.
- Sam Snead cocked his head to the left to start his swing, which was later copied by Jack Nicklaus
- Tom Kite and Nick Faldo, bend their knees slightly before taking the club back
- Gary Player kicks in his right knee
- Mark Calcavecchia shuffles his feet
- Greg Norman sets the toe of the club at the ball and slides the it forward so the sweet spot’s behind the ball.
- Harvey Penick told us in his “Little Red Book” that the back-swing should be started with a gentle forward press of the hands.
- Some players make breathing their trigger by taking a set number of deep breaths.
You might want to start your back-swing with a verbal trigger. This means you say something to yourself that gives you the feeling of confidence and relaxation.
Some ideas are:
“K-I-S-S” (Keep It Simple Stupid)
Jerry Kelly says to himself “I am 13” before every shot – his old Hockey jersey number.
You could also try counting e.g. “1-2-3” and going on “3”.
Pick your own special word.
Following on from the “Red dot” visual trigger, some players can create the feeling of confidence and focus by looking at something before they swing. Examples are:
- You take a set number of looks at the target with the shot image imprinted in your mind’s eye.
- You see a white (or any color) line marking out the entire ball flight
- Read the brand name on your golf ball. If you’re playing Titleist, you could spell the letters out and go on a specific letter. E.g. T-I-T-L and go on “L”.
Sound is another
Imagining the sound of the ball coming off the clubface.
Snapping the velcro on the glove.
Give some of these a try and find what works for you! Would love for you to leave your comments below