Learn a faster way to take your swing changes into competition.
What typically happens.
What do golfers normally do when their golf swing breaks down? They seek out the expert advice from a golf instructor who analyzes their swing and recommends a drill or two. You then practice your new stroke over and over until you see some improvement. You are excited to try your new and improved swing at a tournament, but to your dismay, your stroke falls apart under the pressure of competition. You were convinced by focusing on your improved technique you would see a better golf score. You devoted a lot of time and effort on fixing your stroke.
What went wrong?
The reason is quite simple. You are stuck in thinking mode when you need to be in reacting mode to play great golf. When your swing originally started falling apart, you thought about your broken faulty stroke. After learning a new technique, you focused your thoughts on those stroke corrections. It is the thinking about your mechanics while playing that creates muscle tension and interferes with a smooth stroke.
Verbal overshadowing is the effect when your brain focuses more on language (technique correction, stroke analysis) than doing. Verbal overshadowing, even if you are thinking of positive corrections, is a detriment to golf performance.
What is a better solution to improve your swing in competition?
Understanding the two stages of improving your swing in competition.
STAGE 1 You start by introducing a new swing movement which requires you to think about what you are doing. You practice this new movement while focusing consciously on it. With enough repetition you can start to think less about the movement.
STAGE 2 Your new swing movement has become a more natural and unconscious skill that just happens enabling you to forget your mechanics and focus on the target and feeling sensations that connect you with the target.
Golf should never be a thinking man’s game. Thinking takes you out of the moment. Golf should be a game of “feel.” Feeling your stroke helps you stay in the moment, the only place where you can golf optimally.
This is not to say you shouldn’t work on your swing, seek the advice of golf instructors or practice drills. The ultimate goal should be on the difference in feeling from one swing to the next. You need to feel the difference in your stroke between the “fault” and the “fix.” If you don’t gain that kinesthetic feel, you will ultimately fall back to your old ways.
Fred Shoemaker is a golf expert, founder of The School for Extraordinary Golf and author of Extraordinary Golf: The Art of the Possible and Extraordinary Putting: Transforming the Whole Game
Shoemaker helps golfers distinguish between being in their heads and being fully present in their bodies. Shoemaker highlights the difference between professional golfers and amateur golfers: Professionals are connected to the target, while amateurs are connected to the ball.
Shoemaker believes when a golfer is target-focused, the body knows what to do. In other words, being focused on the target allows you to golf from feel, instead of thinking how you need to stroke the ball to get it to where you want it to go. This concept was first introduced by Tim Gallwey in his seminal work for golfers “The inner game of golf”.
Since you cannot stop thinking, the key is to give your mind something useful to attend to. The simplest option is to bring your mind to your preshot routine or one particular aspect of it. A very effective one is having some sense of connecting with the target.
If other thoughts do come in then you can notice your thoughts, take a deep breath, let them go and re-focus on a feeling aspect of your routine. You may even need to back off and restart your routine.
TWO ACTION DRILLS TO GET YOUR NEW SWING INTO COMPETITION FASTER.
1. When you feel ready to test out your new swing on the golf course you need to commit to trusting it. This means hat you will no longer think about your movements at all. Its time to go back to connecting with the target and reacting intuitively.
Play 9 or 18 holes where you focus on using your preshot routine with no thought about your swing movement. Score yourself from 1-5 on how well you were able to do this for the entire round.
2. Here is one technique that Shoemaker utilizes to teach golf by feel. In practice, putt with your eyes closed and “guess” whether the ball is short, long, left, or right. Then they open your eyes and notice the difference. Soon you will develop the feel for a putt and learn to trust in your stroke.
Let me know if you have any comments or questions regarding this article.