This has been one of the biggest breakthroughs of the year so far for me. Again, it’s easy to just dismiss this concept and go, “yeah, yeah, tension-free, loose-as-a-goose, blah, blah, blah, . . . heard it all before.”
How this really started to make sense was thinking about swinging the club versus hitting at the ball. I knew I was constricted somehow and was not maximizing my potential. There was no speed “through the ball” and an abbreviated follow through that left all my power behind and nothing through the ball.
I also started watching a lot of LPGA golf and really studying how the women really know how to swing the club. It’s the free, uninhibited swinging (with a powerful release at the bottom) that helps them hit a golf ball such incredible distances with such seeming ease.
It’s not by accident. But us men (and I’m mostly talking about me) really fight this thing called “hit-itis.” In trying to really hit it hard to keep up with your long hitting playing partners. And the more you try to power it or put some additional “ummff” into your swing it ends up even worse and robs you of considerable distance.
That’s the damnest thing about golf. It’s all counter-intuitive. The seemingly easier you swing, the farther the ball goes.
Here are just a few ideas to help YOU re-enforce a relaxed, powerful, tension-free golf swing:
1. Think Thoughts of Relaxation – Tension in the mind really causes tension in the body (and vice versa) so really try to think thoughts of relaxation. Try thoughts on like, “Less is more, ” “I’m swinging freer and easier than ever before,” “I have more and more freedom in my swing,” “It really feels effortless (and powerful) to swing the club freely.”
Don’t think “hit hard,” think “swing smooth.” Feel your body relaxed. Shake out any tension. Think Freddy Couples or Ernie Els or any LPGA player as you are going through this process.
2. Hit 100 Yard Drivers – I keep going back and back to this drill because it really allows you to feel the right positions without going at it 100%. Counter-intuitively, most of us need to to get back to what a swing “feels” like without trying to hit at the ball.
In this drill, feel like the club is light as a feather but get still feel the weight of the club head. Keep your arms (and grip) as loose as possible. There just going along for the ride. Swing about 30%. Does not matter where the ball goes. Try to hit it 100 yards. You’re just trying to feel the swing with the ball getting in the way.
Once you start to feel the swing (this may take a few balls or a few buckets) turn up the percentage to say, 50 or even more to 75 but don’t (I repeat, don’t) be in a hurry to swing harder until you start to really feel a “swing” not a hit.
Just for now try to forget about distance. Thinking about it is just gonna mess you up when trying to integrate a new paradigm into your golf game. Distance will come as a result of a free golf swing. So just for now, chill about distance. It will come.
3. Visualization – When not practicing, try to take some time to “see” yourself on one of your favorite tee-boxes and imagine a free, relaxed yet powerful swing. Feel like it’s just effortless. Can you see that?
It might be hard at first but as you practice you’ll start to re-enforce the kinesthetic feeling you felt on the range the couple times you really swung with a feeling of effortlessness and the ball just exploded off the clubface.
As you move through your day visualize an effortless golf swing. “See” a full, relaxed finish. That’s a cue that a lot of good stuff has happened before.
4. Construct a Solid Core and Base – I’m convinced than ever that having a solid core and base is essential to playing optimum golf. Makes sense, right? But what are you doing to build it.
I recommend getting a book like Core Performance Golf and really practicing their “core” routines. It’s one that a ton of pros use and it’s proven and time tested. It will help your game in ways you cannot imagine.
Greg Norman said that most people have it completely opposite in the golf swing. He said they think of having a strong firm upper body and and relaxed legs when he said you really should think about a firm solid, base and a loose, relaxed upper body.
One bonus exercise that is not in the core performance program is Kettle Bell Swings. Get yourself a Kettlebell (fairly heavy. At least 40 lbs or so) and then watch the video below to see how to perform it properly.
In my opinion and what I have heard from some tour players is that THIS IS the magic exercise. I should probably even charge for this. It’s that amazing. It strengthens your core and pelvic region like no other exercise! After just a week or so you’ll just be amazed. I promise. Just give it a try and see for yourself.
5. Watch Women’s Golf – Some people don’t even know they are “hitters” as they know no other way. It’s the only way they have ever swung a club. If that’s the case (or even if it’s not) I would really encourage you to watch some of the LPGA player golf swings.
I mean how do these women hit it so long when it looks like a wedge swing? Well, they know how to swing a club. They know it’s uninhibited speed that matters, not muscle or force.
For example, watch the Lorena Ochoa golf swing below. In her prime (when she was playing) she was 5′ 6″ tall and 120 pounds. So how did her average drive distance be consistently 270 yards +? Simple, she knew how to swing the club with a free-flowing, uninhibited motion. It’s just a cool thing to watch!
Watch Lorena Ochoa’s golf swing in the video below and really study it. Watch it over and over. Just listen for the “swoosh” in her practice swing. She is really generating some tension-free speed in that swing.
6. Try Trager Massage – Not many people know about this but it’s one of the best soft tissue massages that is extremely beneficial to golfers.
In a nutshell, Trager is a type of massage that feels like you are being gentle shaken or rocked. It is startling how well this works. It really frees up any restriction you have in your body and creates new mental patterns of what fit feels like to have complete freedom of motion.
It’s hard to actual describe it in words. Just find a practitioner by going to the below site and experience it for yourself.
7. Keep At It – It’s taken you years and years of “hitting” at the ball and to change that around will take time. No two ways about it. This has been a really tough thing for me. Especially in the latter part of the round when I get a little tired. It’s so easy to revert back to our “crush it” mentality.
But fight it. Realize that new patterns take time. Just ask Tiger. Anytime he has gone through a swing change it has take almost a full season (or more) to start to feel like it’s integrated and natural.
And don’t just practice go out and play. You need to feel the rhythm of a round. not just pounding ball after ball on the range. Sometimes it’s nice to go out in the later evening and just play 9 holes. You are not rushed and can really put into play the new patterns your body is learning.
I’m convinced a tension-free, relaxed golf swing is the key to playing your best golf. All the above has helped me and hope the twill help you, too.
I’m really thinking of creating a book out of this to really flesh out more of the points and add even more ideas, practices and drills that have been shared with me. If you’re interested in hearing more, please comment below.
Photo above: LPGA Tour Professional, Si Ri Pak