Monday, March 2, 2015

The Slow-Motion Golf Swing

A few weeks ago I wrote that while Ernie Els looks like he swings the club slowly, he actually swings it pretty fast. I said that you should swing at the pace that is comfortable for you, which is probably slower.

Now I’m going to ask you to slow your swing down even more, so slow that it’s barely a golf swing. Why? To use it as a drill to improve your swing like few other drills can.

Here’s what I want you to do. Go to the range and take out your driver. No golf ball is needed. I would guess it takes one second and change for you to swing the club from takeaway back to impact. Instead, take four seconds to do this. Four whole seconds from takeaway to impact. That's REALLY slow. No cheating, either. Count if you have to. Slow.

Make sure it's your true golf swing, using the 3:1 rhythm that I harp on. Let the club come though the impact area faster, like it normally does. Except in this drill it will come through at maybe 25 mph and not 90 mph.

Swing like it's a super slow-motion video of your regular swing. Everything is the same at every point except the actual speed.

Here's the payoff. You will find that by swinging so slowly, little flaws in your swing become big flaws. Now you notice them. Now the things that get your swing out of whack stick out like a sore thumb. You'll feel what's right, too, don't get me wrong.

Keep swinging slowly while ironing out the parts that don't feel right and adding them on to the parts that do feel right. You don't need anyone to tell which parts are which. You'll know.

When everything feels right with the super-slo mo swing, you can gradually (and I mean GRADUALLY, not all at once) step it up to full speed, still being aware of all the things you're doing right.

When you get to normal speed, you can STILL feel all the things you're doing right because you trained your mind to notice them. What happens as you speed up, though, is all these parts blend in so you are left with the feeling of one entire right-feeling swing movement, from takeaway to finish.

This unified swing feeling will keep your mind from getting stuck on detailed swing thoughts when you play, which only make things worse.

I’ve been doing this drill for a few months now, and really like how it’s training my mind and my swing. If I were you, I'd try it.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

To Sink Putts, Practice Sinking Putts

I’ll tell you what got me from being an average recreational putter to a very good recreational putter. I practiced sinking putts. That’s what we’re trying to do, so that’s what I practiced.

To be sure, I changed my grip, my stance, and my stroke in order for my mechanics to allow me to hit the putt where I want it to go. You have to have the technical points down or you’re not going to get anywhere.

But beyond that, I trained my mind to see a putt as a ball going into the hole. I did this by sinking three-foot putts all over the place on the practice green. Dozens and dozens of three-footers, all going into the hole. By now it's hundreds and hundreds.

You might say, it’s pretty easy to sink three-foot putts one after the other, and I would say, You’re right. But …

Because I’ve done it so often, and continue to do it so often, with such frequent success, my subconscious mind doesn’t know anything else about a putt except that it goes in the hole.

Your subconscious mind is not subtle. It is black and white. All it knows is the putt went in the hole or it stayed out. When the ball goes in all the time, the mind comes to believe that’s what the ball is supposes, and does not question it.

Believe me that changes everything. The body starts executing the stroke on that basis, and Voila! Putts in the hole all over the place.

Oh, I know, you have to read the green and get the pace right for the ball to have a chance. But when it comes time to hit the ball, it all comes down to believing in what you’re doing. Having sunk oceans of putts creates that belief.

Don’t just practice putting. Practice sinking putts.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Personalize Your Golf Grip

I won’t start off this post with a pep talk about how important the right grip is. You should know that already. I’ll just say that by right grip I mean the right grip for you, because that’s what this post is about.

Everyone has different musculature, habitus, and flexibility. You can only swing one way, and your grip must fit in with that swing. I’m going to show that how to find that grip.

Everything in your setup and your swing is designed to help you return the clubhead to the ball square and inline to the target. Since everything leads to impact, let’s start there.

Take a stance in your impact position. You might have to make a few slow swings to get that right. Hold yourself in that position.

You will probably be turned slightly toward the target, and if you have been paying attention to this blog for the past few years, your hands are ahead of the clubhead, which means the clubshaft is leaning slightly toward the target.

Keeping the shaft and your body in that exact position, hold the club in place with your left hand on the butt end of the club and let go with your right hand.

Let your right arm dangle to find its neutral position. Without turning your arm or your hand, swing it straight over to the club and grab on with your right hand.

With your left hand, take hold of the club such that your left palm is facing the target.

Your hands are now in what is a neutral position for you at impact. This is a natural impact position that your hands wants to come back to if you give them a chance.

Keeping your hands where they are, straighten up and take a normal address position. Look down at your hands, because that is your new, personalized grip.

This grip might feel odd because it is not what you are used to. I promise you, though, that it will lead the clubhead into impact like never before, IF YOUR HANDS PRECEDE THE CLUBHEAD INTO THE BALL.

I don’t teach to correct mistakes. I only teach right things and ask you do to them. Lead with your hands, take a grip as if you do, and go hit beautiful shots.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Mental Forward Press

Rhythm is everything in hitting a golf ball. From a putt to a drive, there has to be rhythm. I spend a lot of time talking about the 3:1 rhythm in this space, how to learn it, how to apply it, but there’s one more little thing I want to mention about rhythm.

Rhythm itself has rhythm.

Whenever you start something abruptly, you’re overcoming the inertia of the rest state. There is bound to be a jerk, however slight, that takes a little effort on your part to smooth out again.

Uncorrected, this disturbance can be enough to throw off your golf swing by just enough to make a difference you don’t want to be made.

We need, then, a way to start rhythmically. The rhythm of the swing is set, but the start of the swing needs to have a rhythm, too.

Think of the swing as a back and forth motion. You swing back to the left, and play off that rhythmically with a swing back to the right to hit the ball.

To start smoothy, the leftward motion needs to have something to play off of, too. That would be a slight motion to the right that we know as a forward press.

Normally that’s a physical movement, but I want you to express it in your mind, where it’s even more effective.

Just before you take the club away, the tiniest split-second before, imagine making a small rhythmic movement to the right, then move right away into your swing and its rhythmic 3:1 counting: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 up, and 5 down.

[See Six Fundamentals for an explanation of this counting.]

Remember that the mind leads the body. If the mind starts smoothly with this mental upbeat, the body will too. Guaranteed.

Try this. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Golf Swing Is a Pulling Motion

You can’t push a rope. Heard that one before?

When you pull something, it follows wherever you go. But when you push something, the slightest misdirection ends up in a big error at the finish.

Ever tried to back up a trailer hooked to your car? You pulled it there just fine, but backing it up (pushing it) into place ain’t so easy.

Well, you can’t push your golf swing, either. Everything about it is a pulling motion.

When you take the club back, the hands pulls everything around with them.

But to start the downswing, the hands are in position only to push something, and if they lead, the results are disastrous.

It’s the body that does the pulling at the start of the downswing. The arms and hands go along for the ride.

Once they are low enough, about hip-height, the hands can start pulling again, pulling the golf club through the impact area, while the body continues to pull as it turns.

There’s your golf swing. Pull back, pull through.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Trust Your Golf Swing

Trust your swing. You hear that phrase a lot from professional golfers. It means to rely on what you have practiced and play with what you’ve practiced instead of monitoring technical points as you play. That last part is still practice. Practice is over. It’s time to play.

I’ve heard Olympic athletes say that, too. They practice their skill over and over so when it’s time to compete they just do what they practiced. They don’t think about it any more. They just do it.

Recreational golfers, I think, would find this difficult to do. Very few of us (including me) practice enough that our positive habits become so ingrained and that we can rely on them without further reference.

In our game, when we address the ball, we’re often still not sure if this thing is going to work. So we decide to help it along.

There, my friend, is the worst mistake we can make on the golf course. That extra little thing, which is no more than a last-second guess, almost always makes things worse.

You might find instead that your best shots came when, by some lucky accident, your internal voice turned off for a moment and you just swung the club. What you had practiced is what came out and you got a great shot out of it.

When got to the ball for the shot after that one, you started to wonder what you did last time that made that shot so great so you began sorting through technical points, when all that really happened is you just SHUT UP for a change and played golf.

In order to trust your swing, though, you have to have something to trust. Start small.

A few weeks ago in the Transforming Your Short Game post, I asked you to hit every short shot forward, and let the club get the ball in the air. That’s pretty easy to learn.

When you go to the course, concentrate on doing that. Play all your other shots as you normally do, but bear down on those short ones and learn how to use your mind in a way that you play with what you practiced.

At first you will have to do it consciously, but after a while hitting short shots forward will become second nature. You will have learned how to trust.

Then pick another shot and work on it the same way. When you learn how to trust that stroke, move on to another one, and so on, working up gradually to your fullest swing.

I think you will see the payoff quickly.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Determining Your Golf Scoring Potential

Everyone wants to be a better golfer. Well, almost everyone. But if you’re one who does, you might already be a better player than you think you are.

Have you ever skanked a shot, then dropped another ball and hit it just great? The second time was no accident. You are that good. For some reason, that goodness didn't come out the first time.

How low would you score if your round consisted of nothing but your better shots? Let’s find out. You’re going to play a half scramble with yourself.

Go out to the course when it's not too busy, because you’re going to play two balls. Ball A you play like you usually do. Hit it, find it, hit it again.

Ball B is the scramble ball. If you don’t like the shot you hit off the tee with Ball A, hit another one, Ball B. Now two balls are in play. Remember, Ball A is pure golf. No fudging with that ball.

When you get to Ball B, you hit it. If you like the shot, take it and move on. If you don’t, drop another ball and hit it. That ball is the new Ball B. Pick up the old Ball B because it is now out of play.

What you’re doing is giving yourself a second chance on one ball whenever you need one. The other ball you play straight up.

Hole out Ball A, and Ball B. Record both scores. Here’s how it might work for one hole:

Ball A: tee shot into fairway, iron short and left, chip onto green, approach putt, putt into hole. Score = 5.

You didn't play a Ball B on the tee shot because it was a good one. You hit the iron again, though, and got onto the green. Ball B is now in play and lying 2 on the green. Your approach putt with this ball went eight feet past the hole, so you hit it again and left it two feet short. Lying three, you hit the two-footer into the hole. Score = 4.

What if you go, fairway, green, putt, putt with Ball A? Well, good for you! Put down a four for Ball A and Ball B, even though you never played a Ball B on that hole.

One little rule: Whenever you hit a shot over again, you have to play that shot. No deciding the first one was really better and sticking with it.

The greater the difference between the Ball A and Ball B score, the greater your scoring potential. Nine holes of this is enough.

So how do you bring your Ball A score down to your Ball B score? Read my book, The Golfing Self and find out. It's not in your shot-making, it's in how you use your mind.