I get hundreds (if not thousands) of search queries each week for “the best swing thought for golf” and I can understand why. It’s certainly true that where you put your focus before and during a golf shot has a big effect on the consistency of your execution, no matter what level of player you are.
Firstly, I’d like you to ask yourself the question: “Where is my focus during the moments before and during a shot when I am playing my best golf?” Try to think back and try to pin-point it.
The reason I ask this is because there is no best swing thought for golf that fits all players.
The best swing thought for golf is no swing thought
Most of the best players in the world aren’t thinking about much at all during their swings. When technology is used to measure brain activity (such as Focus Band), it clearly shows that the better the player, the less thinking there is before and during the swing. In fact, in a recent study by RSM UK, they concluded that the more consistent and shorter the pre-shot routine, the more money a Tour Player made.
Once a Tour player is over the ball, they’re simply looking at the target, visualizing a shot shape and trusting themselves to hit it. The visualization and physical rehearsal tells them how to play the shot, not conscious thought. When there is little conscious thought, the movement centers of the brain can communicate with the muscles more easily, producing fluid motion. When there’s mental chatter, there’s interference and synchronicity is lost.
Tour players remain target oriented during the whole process. Tiger once said that when he’s looking down at ball before a shot, he can still see the target and the shape of the shot he wants to hit in his mind’s eye.
External not internal focus is better
Professor Gabrielle Wulf of UNLV has conducted plenty of studies on focus during athletic movement. You might have heard of the terms “internal and external focus” where internal focus is focusing on the body movement itself, and external focus, which is focusing on the effect the movement. Wulf’s studies found that for any level of player, focusing just on the movement itself constrains the motor system and the automatic process (subconscious control) which inhibits performance. Wulf concluded that the best swing thought for golf is when the player is focused on either the target/trajectory of the shot or the effect of the swing, which might be the path and angle of the club-face as it makes contact with the ball.
I work with my students on ways to reach a place of calm, target-focus and confidence before a shot (a state where they are more right brain dominant), so they can access athletic movement during the 2 seconds of the golf swing.
90% Unconscious, 10% Conscious
However, that’s not to say there aren’t players who have a little “swing key”, to give them something to focus on during their swing. This could be something along the lines of:
- a smooth takeaway
- keeping the head still
- make a full shoulder turn
- Tempo and rhythm
It’s certainly not going to be the 2 or more things that weekend golfers tend to think about during their swings and they won’t vary from shot to shot. I would say the swing is ideally 90% unconscious, 10% conscious.
My advice to you is to experiment with various things and try to identity patterns in your play. Stay clear of anything too technical and keep it simple! I cover the shot routine (pre, during and post shot) and how to find the best swing thought for golf in detail in my Ultimate Golf State of Mind Training Program.
Photo by klavdija zitnik