However, if your brain is speaking when the body should be swinging, you’re gonna’ play bad golf. After their best rounds, all golfers say the same thing: “I wasn’t thinking about anything. I just let it happen.” Turning off the brain at the right time is crucial.
Standing over the ball at address for more than a few seconds rarely produces good results. If you linger over the ball on any golf shot, all your brain is doing is creating doubt and fear. I know, I know. You’re going through a check-list of all the things you need to remember before you swing. While running through your mental to-do list may seem like a positive, this practice is actually sabotaging your game.
Concentrating harder does not equate to better results. The opposite is actually true. If you let yourself be an athlete over the ball and turn your brain off during the swing, you will have better results. You’ll swing more freely and you’ll have a lot more fun.
Scientists have determined that the brain can only think about one thing at a time. The key is to distract the brain from thinking about golf while in the address position. In fact, Golfpsych, one of the leading mental training programs employed by tour pros, recommends that their golfers think about anything other than golf between shots. Sometimes even while over shots.
“Vision 54,” another golf mental training program, teaches golfers to cross what they call the “commitment line.” You can think about technical things while you are behind the ball, but once you are over the ball you must rely on your athletic ability and intuition. If while over the ball you start having technical thoughts, you must then step away from the ball, clear your mind and start your pre-shot routine again.
What we need is a little self-hypnosis. Example: When you drive your car to work you don’t think about what you’re doing or how it happens very often because you’ve done it thousands of times. Poof, you magically arrive without much conscious effort. You just let it happen. Your mind was elsewhere. You were on auto-pilot.
I like to have my golfers swing the club as soon as possible after they address the ball, not allowing time for the brain to do bad things. Brandt Snedecker does this. He commits, steps in and hits it. I work with many of my students to determine the ideal amount of time it takes for them to get comfortable and then swing. It’s almost always shorter than they are used to. On the range, I count out loud to train them on their timing. At first, most of them feel rushed, and you may, too. This makes sense because almost everyone takes too long over the ball. As a coach I work together with my players to shorten their time.
While I count, the player will settle into the shot. He sets his feet; sometimes there is a waggle of the club or a tug on the shirt. Each golfer has his own unique way of addressing the ball. I will count slowly, “5...4...3...2...1.” When I say, “one,” it is time to pull the trigger. Ready or not. Boom! Players are always amazed at how much more frequently they hit the ball great, once they employ the countdown. They quickly realize all of the prep work they used to do was no help at all. If fact, it hurt them! This is a very liberating discovery. Greatness was there all the time, hiding behind their brain.
The countdown is a great pre-shot routine to adopt because if your brain is busy counting, you are not thinking about swing, or O.B., or hazards, or score. Thinking about that stuff keeps you from playing your best. The countdown helps get you into auto-pilot mode.
Get over the ball. Tell your brain to shut up. And SWING! Make sure you yell, “Boom!” while the ball is screaming through the air.
Fred Fruisen is the coachofgolf. Fruisen is a PGA Professional and the Golf Coach at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs. For more lessons visit the website coachofgolf.com. For personal instruction call (518) 565-7350.