OK, I'll admit it. One of the worst things about reading a tip about technique just before you go out to play is it might get you thinking too much about your mechanics. And any good amateur or tour player will tell you that once you stick that tee in the ground, mechanics is the last thing you should be thinking about. So here's your tip for today: DON'T THINK!
Seriously, it's fine to have one swing key, but don't overdo it, And try to use non-mechanical thoughts on the course. Things like slow tempo, or smooth transition, or accelerate through. Not things like cock your wrists, or plant your left heel, or keep your elbow in. I remember watching the great Bert Yancey (pictured here at the 1967 U.S. Open) give a clinic in my hometown of Tallahassee, Fla., when I was a kid. He said he always thought of two things when he swung. Watching the ball and one other swing key. Never more than that. Bert was ahead of his time when it came to sport psychology. He knew that the brain can't think of too many things and also allow the body to make a naturally good swing.
About 10 years ago, I helped the noted teacher from Birmingham, Ala., Hank Johnson, write a
book called *How to Win the Three Games of Golf*. It was divided into three sections: the Golf Swing, the Golf Shot and the Golf Score. During the time we spent working on the book, Hank really enlightened me about how to think (or not think) on the golf course. He said that you should work on and think about your mechanics without a ball, even without a club, and away from the course and even away from the practice range. He contended the range is where you practice hitting golf *shots*. If you find yourself thinking mechanically on the range, you should get away from your pile of balls and make some practice swings to work out your mechanical thoughts. (That's where you work on your golf *swing*.) Then go back to hitting *shots* without mechanical thoughts. When you get on the course, you simply put those shots you practiced into play, again with no mechanical thoughts. On the course, you should only be thinking about making a golf *score*. That's where you consider the conditions, your target, your strategy, but not where your hands are at the top. You don't want to be playing golf *swing* on the course. This is why Tiger Woods is having trouble with his game right now. When he can stop thinking about his swing changes on the course, and can start letting his swing just happen, watch out!
This is certainly easier said than done, and it took me quite a while to get the knack of it. And when I'm playing poorly, it's usually because I'm thinking mechanically on the course. But if you commit to the concept of thinking only of feel thoughts, not mechanical thoughts, your shotmaking--and scoring--will start to improve dramatically. You'll also find that a round of golf is much easier on your mind. You will not be worn out mentally by the middle of the back nine!
Give it a try this weekend. Leave the technical stuff at home. Write down a couple of feel thoughts on your scorecard, and stick with them throughout the round. I'd like to know how that works for you.
And remember to follow me on Twitter @RogerSchiffman.
(Photo: Golf Digest Resource Center)