Intuitive Golf

Your mind is your biggest asset on the golf course, but only if you use it in the right way. When you’re assessing your shot, thinking about it, weighing the options logically, is the wrong way, but that’s probably what you do. Instead, take a more intuitive approach. Let the part of your mind that knows what to do make your decision.

The problem a golf shot presents to us is how to project an action into a defined space. We’re doing something here that shows up over there. The question is, what should we do, and what is the easiest way to do it? Reverse that process. Look at the course without judging and let the course project a shot back to you.

Look at the course in the area of where your next shot should end up. Just look, without judging. In a few seconds you will become aware of the shot to hit, and how to hit it.

You won’t visualize it, like a movie. Your mind mind creates a wordless knowing, unaccompanied by an embedded or overlaid visual impression. That strong impression moves out of your mind to be literally felt in your body. It is also accompanied by great confidence.

I use this process with great success everywhere, but especially around and on the green, where there are so many options to choose from for the same shot. A few weeks ago, my ball was just off the green. I looked at the shot and said to myself, “9-iron.” But I usually chip with a sand wedge in this situation, so I got out my sand wedge.

I took a practice stroke, and thought, “No, it’s a 9-iron.” I put the wedge back in the bag, took out the 9-iron, stood over the ball and just let the shot come to me as i described above — where to hit the ball and how hard. I hit a gentle chip, and the ball curved into the hole.

I could tell you many stories about driving, approaching, and putting where this technique has paid off famously. It doesn’t mean the ball will go into the hole from wherever you are, or that you’ll hit every fairway or every green. We are human, we make mistakes in execution.

But it does mean that you’ll play much better than you thought you could. Quiet your thinking mind to let your intuitive mind tell you what to do. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Interested? My latest book, The Golfing Self, gives you detailed instruction on how to train your mind to play this way. You’re a better golfer right now than you think you are. Find out how to let your true ability emerge by using your mind correctly.

Play Different Golf Courses

Do you play one golf course all the time? Try going to different courses. You’ll get more fun out of golf, and you’ll become a better player.

Here’s what happens when you play the same course over and over. You get into something of a rut. You don’t have to think too much, because you know just what strokes to play on a particular hole to get your 4. The only challenge is to see if you can do it.

Even though you play a good course, it does not require all the shots you need to be a complete golfer. You never get the chance to learn something new.

And when you do go to a new course, you probably have to hit shots and use clubs you have little experience with, and you often hit the wrong shot because you haven’t learned how to read a hole.

A subtle danger is that you might be under-handicapped by playing only one course. Since you know it so well, you play it so well. A few years ago, a local amateur shot a 62 on his home course. I looked up his scores in the GHIN website and found that all twenty of his handicap scores were on the that same course. I wonder how well his handicap of 3 would travel.

I play on five different courses, each one of which demands different shotmaking from the fairway and around the greens. Playing well on one makes me a better player on the others, to boot.

I throw in a new course every so often, to keep my course-reading muscles flexed, and thus I feel I can go anywhere and play a creditable round of golf right off.

The golfer who has learned to adapt his or her skills to any course and still play his average game is getting the most out of this great sport. I would hope that’s the kind of golfer you want to be.

Swing the Golf Club With Your Hands

Let me tell you the easiest way to hit the ball straight and hard. Swing the club with your hands. Not your body, not your arms. Your hands.

This was once the way people played golf. Now you’re supposed to swing with your large muscles in order to have a consistent swing. But think for a moment.

When you pound a nail into a board, what do you swing the hammer with? Your hand! When you swing a tennis racket, you swing it with . . . your hand!

Get this: a few days ago I asked to the manager of our local minor league team how he teaches his players to hit the ball. He said, you’re hitting with your hands, just like driving a nail with a hammer.

It’s the same with a golf club.

Humans have evolved hands that are wired to do complicated and precise activities. Use them! That’s what they’re for! Getting the clubhead back to the ball headed toward the target and with the clubface square to the path, all at many MPH, is a task requiring the utmost precision.

Tasks of utmost precision are what your hands are designed to accomplish.

This is how to do it. Take the club away from the ball with both hands. That means your mind is on the movement of your hands, and no other part of your body. When you swing down into the ball, your mind is on your hands delivering the club precisely to the ball. More to the point, the left hand guides and the right hand delivers, both at the same time.

Really, that’s all you have to do. Swing with your hands and your body will follow.

A few caveats. This does not mean rear back and slug the ball. Far from it. You still use the golf swing you have now, but with your mind on what is really doing the work. You still need to have good pre-swing fundamentals (grip, stance, posture, alignment, ball position, aim). You still need good rhythm and tempo.

Also, you don’t hit at the ball. You swing through the ball, with your hands leading the clubhead into the ball. And you swing with both hands, not just your right.

They say your hands should be passive. Nice thought, but they never are. That’s because they want something to do. And if you aren’t paying attention, what they’ll do is usually wrong. Best to give them something to do that is the right thing.

Let them take over the swing. That’s what human hands are meant to do. Since I started doing this, I hit one straight shot after another. I’ve taken four strokes off a round (no kidding!), all because I’m swinging the club with the part of my body that was designed for this job.

Why not give it a try yourself?

2014 U.S. Open Preview

The greatest tournament in golf is upon us this week. One hundred fifty-six qualifiers will tee it up at Pinehurst No. 2 in Pinehurst, North Carolina. As usual, the U.S. Open is all about the course. This year, the course is very different from any one in recent memory, if ever. Why? There will be no rough. None of the famous U.S. Open rough, or rough of any kind, will be anywhere in sight.

cosl08-pinehurst

Golf course architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw restored the course in 2010 to the original Donald Ross design. They took out what rough there was and put back the original sandy waste areas bordering generous fairways. Wire grass that grows here and there will add to the difficulties presented by unpredictable lies.

Note to Dustin Johnson: read the rules sheet!

In addition, each hole is lined with trees that serve to isolate it from the rest of the course. The feeling is that where you are in all there is, isolated from the the rest of golf, maybe even the rest of the world. However. Errant tee shots running through the waste areas will end surrounded by trees, which will cause serious problems getting out with much more than a sideways chip.

The strength of the course is its greens, which have landing areas that could fit in a thimble. Shots mishit slightly will roll off the green to collection areas difficult to chip from. Subtle breaks in the greens mean getting down in two putts won’t be a walk in the park. These are Pinehurst’s real defenses.

Now click the picture above, of the 8th hole, to enlarge it. Imagine how much easier a shot from rough would be than from the sand and scrub leading up to the green on the right side. Imagine what’s going to happen to your ball if your approach misses the green even a little bit on the left. Even missing the green to the right will cause the ball to roll away. The entire course is like this.

One change that was made for this tournament is switching par on the fourth and fifth holes. The fourth, a short par five, is a long par 4 for the Open. The fifth, a long par four, the green of which is not receptive to a long second shot, has been lengthened to a 576-yard par 5. These two holes are the only ones that can be called hilly, with a blind drive into the fairway on the fifth. The rest of the course is reasonably flat.

The only water on the course is a pond on the 16th hole that is so close to the tee that it presents no difficulty.

There are no great holes at Pinehurst, just an unending string of very good ones that add up to a great golf course.

Who will win? Phil Mickelson! The winner will need to be able to get up and down A LOT, and whose short game is better? If Phil can play to reasonable form from the tee and fairway, that might be all he needs to win the one he has just missed so often, and complete a career major slam.

The USGA always has fun with the groupings in the first two rounds. Here are a few of the notable ones:

Mickelson, Rose, Fitzpatrick – the traditional pairing of the reigning British Open, U.S. Open, and U.S. Amateur champions

Watson, Scott, Scharwtzel – recent Masters champions

McIlroy, Simpson, McDowell – recent U.S. Open champions

Els, Clarke, Oosthuizen – recent British Open champions

Dufner, Bradley, Kaymer – recent PGA champions

Goosen, Ogilvy, Glover – former Open champions who haven’t won much since

Stenson, Kuchar, Westwood – the best players never to have won a major

De Jonge, Stadler, Lowry – really fat guys

Donald, Casey, English – the first two are English, while the third isn’t, but . . .

Spieth, Matsuyama, Fowler – really good young guys

Holmes, Woodland, De Laet – this year’s Bombs Away group

Four Steps Toward Hitting the Golf Ball Straight

The key to playing good recreational golf is to hit the ball straight. Distance is fine, but hole in, hole out, straight is the goal. Hit into the fairway, and onto the green, and you can shoot lots of good scores.

Hitting straight is not easy. It takes dedicated practice to become a straight hitter. I want to give you four points to work on that will take you a long way in that direction. If you put these points into your swing, I guarantee good things will happen.