I get asked this all the time, but I think you already have the answer. A lot of mental game development is about repeating the things that you were doing when you were playing well and eliminating the things you were doing when you weren’t playing well.
When you’re playing well, what are you thinking about during your swing? I’m willing to bet it’s nothing at all. You’re seeing the target and making an instinctive swing.
Conversely, when you’re playing badly, what are you thinking about during your swing? I’m sure it’s some technical instruction or you’re consciously working on preventing mistakes that might have occurred earlier in the round.
So there’s your answer. From my experience, too many swing thoughts is one of the biggest causes of inconsistency.
So much of what is required in golf is about trust.
Bobby Jones once said:
“The golf swing is too complex a movement to be consciously controlled”.
US Open winner Graeme McDowell said:
“You turn off your mind. You feel your golf swing without really thinking about it. It’s almost like you you don’t think at all. Maybe you have one little thought, and everything else becomes automatic.”
When you trust yourself to perform an action you are using what’s called your “subconscious” mind. It’s what’s used when you do something without thinking, like tying your shoelaces or driving your car. You consciously learned the skill until you were able to do it naturally. Now when you perform one of these actions, there’s no conscious thought going on. In fact, if you started consciously thinking about the actions involved, you would probably confuse yourself and struggle to do it.
In the same way in golf, you consciously learn technical skills while practicing and then you have to learn how to trust them on the course. The range is for practice, and the course is for playing the game. You’re going to struggle if you can’t separate the two.
Even if you know your swing needs improvement, you have to fire that little instructor in your head before you get to the course.
There are 2 things you need to develop to reach your potential as a golfer.
- Conscious skill development
- The ability to access those skills using only your subconscious mind during your swing
If you have good process, you’ll be able to clearly separate your conscious thinking, from your “subconscious” thinking. In other words, you give conscious thought to picking the target and visualizing the type of shot required, so your subconscious, has all the information it needs to control your movement during a shot. Then it becomes about trusting your subconscious to do its job, without conscious interference.
I’m not saying you can’t have a “swing-key” which is a single non-technical thought that will help you counter things that you might do under pressure, like tempo, or smooth take away or staying centered.
Make it a process goal to not have any swing thoughts during a round and make your focus external, not internal i.e. what you want the ball to do, not what your body must do.
This is exactly the sort of stuff I cover in the Golf State of Mind Training System, which you can get for 50% off this week.