If we start thoughtfully, think clearly and use the facts, can’t we get to the heart of golf and figure out how to play well? Let’s take a look at what we know.
Is it true that if you play everyday you’ll get better? Or maybe it’s better said, “The more you play the better you’ll get.” Well, to a point. Diminishing returns seem to set in pretty quickly. And if I have a flawed swing, aren’t I just training the flaw during the extra 18 holes a week I started playing.
Rhythm is the most important part of the swing. Given you know some basics, like how to stand in relation to the golf ball and the hole, I’d have to say that rhythm is the number one skill in golf. Ever hit a bad shot and feel your swing was smooth and flowing? Maybe ask Freddie Couples (see the video below to just ingrain a little of Freddie’s rhythm!). You may also want to check out another of our related posts called, 7 Ways to Produce a Powerful, Tension Free Golf Swing.
If you’ve played just a little golf and are paying attention, I think we all know we’ve hit a bad shot by the time we’ve made contact. Sometimes you just know you’re going to hit a bad shot before you even get to the top of your backswing.
How about mind set – or where your mind’s at while you’re playing. If we’re beating ourselves up on the course and golf feels like a root canal, will we ever get better? I don’t think so. You might improve for a shot or a hole, but that’s probably just coincidence.
How can you get better at something that’s killing you inside. And if golf is all about rhythm, stress or frustration isn’t going to help. What is the mind good for in golf? Certainly not thinking about the last shot. And not for trying to tell the body how to hit the next one. The best golf I play is when I am not ‘trying’, or better said, when I’m not thinking about it. Take my conscious mind away from shot making and I’m probably better by 7 or 8 strokes a round.
So what’s the mind good for? – golf strategy for one. Figuring out how to intelligently play a hole. Meaning, don’t leave your approach above the hole if the green falls steeply front to back. If your favorite yardage in is 100, then don’t hit a club that will take you to 80. Leave the driver in the bag on the short dogleg par 4. If you get in trouble, take your medicine and use a stroke to get out instead of taking a double or triple because you tried the heroic save.
The mind is helpful if it’s kept in check and focused on what it’s good at. You’re in trouble if you’re thinking at setup ‘right elbow in, slow takeaway, weight on the inside of the right leg, resist at the hips’ and on and on. Ever chase and catch a fly ball in the outfield. Has your conscious mind ever helped you during that act? I didn’t think so.
Let’s not forget flexibility. Golf requires a lot of unnatural twisting and turning. When we’re young we get ourselves in trouble by twisting and turning too much and when we get old we can’t do it enough. But this ultimately relates to rhythm. Somehow you have to twist and turn rhythmically within the limitations of your own body. And that can change from day to day, at least as you get older. So golf is about adapting to your daily physical condition/limitations.
I’ve got to include anxiety or it’s counterpart, adrenalin, as a core factor. Dave Pelz says this is what happens between the range and the course to change your game. You practice swinging without adrenalin on the range (or for your practice swing on the course) and then with it while you play.
And adrenalin changes the way your muscles work, even the way the nerve impulses get sent and delivered. Which means anxiety changes rhythm. Maybe that’s why my best golf occurs when I’m not thinking, because it’s the conscious mind that triggers the anxiety or fear that releases adrenalin.
So far we’ve got rhythm as the key skill and the need to keep the conscious mind out of the actual swinging process. That’s a pretty good start.