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.

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 go 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 replay a shot, you have to take it. 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.

Transform Your Short Game

We don’t hit a lot of greens. If we want to try for our par, or preserve our bogey, we need a reliable short game. This is what I mean by “reliable” in terms of recreational golf: you make good contact every time, control the ball every time, and get the ball on the green every time so you can start putting.

Every recreational golfer can attain that standard. If you do, you will prevent yourself from ringing up strokes needlessly.

There are two ways of improving. One of them is to get good. The other is to stop being bad. Those two are different. This article is about the second one.

I want you to try something and see what happens. Spend some time on the practice tee learning it, then go out the the course and try it out.

Remember that article I posted a few weeks ago on hitting the ball in a flat trajectory and letting the club get the ball in the air?

That’s what I want you to do with every short shot you hit. EVERY short shot.

Whether it’s an 80-yard pitch or a 20-foot chip, hit the ball with a flat trajectory. Let the club get the ball in the air.

I’m not saying to skull it so the ball gets six inches off the ground and runs three miles.

I’m saying to keep the club low to the ground and level with it as you hit through the ball, allowing the clubface to do ALL the work of getting the ball in the air.

What you get from this solves two short game problems. First, you get much cleaner contact. No chunking. A clean, on-the-clubface strike.

Second, you get spin. You’ll have to learn how to work with this, but once you get spin, you can make the ball do anything.

Those two things add up to reliable short game shots. From there, you can start refining your shot-making to zero in on the pin, which is the getting good part.

Bonus: if you get this down in your short game, it will feed over into your long game and you’ll hit better long shots and more greens.

So try it!

Ernie Els, You’re Not

Every golf instructor in the world wants you to swing like Ernie Els. They show you videos of him so you can see what you are aiming for. Watch out, though. His swing is not what it seems.

The main thing you get from watching Els’s swing is his marvelous rhythm. Go ahead and copy that. His swing speed is another matter entirely.

You know, it looks like he has a languid, flowing swing that any of us can imitate. But we also wonder why he hits the ball so far with such a slow swing. News flash: his swing is FAST. It only looks slow because of its efficiency.

Here’s a video from that puts a clock on his swing. From takeaway to impact, it’s only 1.033 seconds. Let’s call it one second. That’s fast.

If you can get a metronome, set at mm=60 and get it going. Now when you hear a tick, start your swing, and swing the way you normally do. By the time you hear the next tick, the club should have returned to the impact point.

I’ll bet dollars to donuts you were maybe halfway into your downswing when you heard that second tick.

My Legal Department advised me to warn you against trying a one-second swing right now just to see if you can do it. You could hurt yourself. Seriously. So don’t do it!

If you want to hit the ball farther, one of the things you have to do is swing faster. But if you want to pick up your swing speed, you need to do it gradually. This is not a one-week project. More like six months, at least.

When you start swinging faster, it throws your timing off. You have to do the same things, in the same order, in less time. That takes getting used to.

Not to mention, there is a practical limit to your swing speed based on your strength, flexibility, and athleticism.

And finally, you don’t want to swing at your maximum speed anyway. You want to swing at your optimum speed, which is a bit slower.

How do you know what that speed is? It’s the fastest speed at which you can reliably hit the ball on the center of the clubface.

So let Ernie be Ernie. Let you be you. Admire his swing, but remember it’s his swing, not yours.

What’s In My Bag Update

I played nine holes this morning with five clubs: driver, 4i, 7i, 54 wedge, putter.

The only thing that went wrong was on the first hole. I thought I had taken along a 56 wedge. It was a 54 and my pitch on to the green was way overcooked.

Other than that, I shot the same score I usually do and had to hit a few creative shots I don’t otherwise get to hit.

Great fun.