A Winter Improvement Program – Takeaway

The moment you take the club away from the ball defines the probable success or failure of your shot. By this I do not mean how your body moves: whether you have a one-piece takeaway or something else. What I am about to say concerns the condition of your mind.

What all of us want to hit the ball in the way that we imagined as we made our preparations for the shot. There are two things we must do for that to happen. We must have the technical skill to hit the shot as planned, and we be able to stay out of our own way, mentally, so the technique we have trained ourselves to perform can be expressed.

What we know we can do is too often interfered with by what thoughts that are entirely unrelated, be they doubts or worries, or unnecessary monitoring. The moment we take the club away from the ball is where that interference begins, and that is the moment were we must stop it.

But how? The solution lies in being able to have your mind on what you are doing at the moment, and not getting ahead of yourself or staying stuck on what has happened. Here’s what I mean.

When you look over your shot, find the place where you can hit the ball successfully. You know what you can do, there’s no secret. If you find yourself unsure of what you have in mind, find somewhere else to hit the ball.

Focusing on what you can do keeps your mind in the present. The mental projection of an undesirable outcome concerns your mind with an uncertain future, taking you out of the present.

We’re going to get small now, but it’s all important. When you take your club out of the bag, have our mind on that. Don’t be thinking of the shot. When you take yours stance and line up the shot, think of that, not about the shot to come.

If you get the habit of doing one thing at a time, you never give your mind a chance to get ahead of itself. It stays engaged on doing the best you can at what you’re doing right now. By sticking to that, the future, which is nothing more than a collection of present moments yet to come, and which themselves will be passed over, loses its inflated importance.

What could happen is not more important than what is happening. Only by attending fully to what is happening now can the future reflect what we are able to do.

So when you take away, the club, your mind cannot be racing ahead to the downswing, or impact, or the ball flying away. It stays on the takeaway, and then moves to the other parts of the swing as they arise.

When you have trained your mind to feel the flow of present moments in golf instead of trying to lock down events, good golf gets a lot easier. Arnold Palmer said the first 12 inches away from the ball is the most important part of the golf swing. I agree, but it’s about what happens in your mind, not with your club.

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