Just One Swing Thought: Replicate your Practice Swing
By Tim Horan on 5/22/14
oober Tim Horan has gone through both professional and trial-and-error club-fitting — and we hope you find his story as intriguing as we did. Enjoy!

Do your shots mirror your practice swings?

That may sound like an odd question, but think for a minute: Why do we bother with a practice swing if it is not representative of what we wish to do over the ball?

Those swing thoughts that crowd your head when over the ball should not be there. Their place is on your practice swing during your pre-shot routine.

Very often, golfers have little or no swing thoughts at all on their practice swing, using the swing only to limber up. Many coaches these days are encouraging slow motion swings before any shot. This slow motion is thought to engender muscle memory faster than repetitive full swings or range bashing.

I am not so sure that these should be part of a pre-shot routine, as I fear a slow-mo swing does not prepare the body for the explosive release of energy that is needed to propel a ball on target through the air.

If you have just played a par-3, missed the green, had to bump-and-run, then perhaps two-putted, walked maybe 50 yards to the next tee, lost your honour, and had to wait for two playing partners to tee off... your body is "cold" and ill-prepared for a full shot.

On the assumption then, that a slow-mo swing is of benefit and that it should form part of a pre-shot routine, a routine should be performed for all and every golf shot — from driver all through the bag, including the putter.

My take on an effective pre-shot routine

Imagine a line at right angles to the target line ten feet back from the ball position. This line is your practice line and must not be crossed until you have performed your pre-shot routine.

The Slo Mo (Optional): First, address an imaginary ball on the target line and perform your slow-mo, finding those key positions. (To speed up play, you could be doing this bit away from the line, while your playing partners are preparing to play).

The Practice Swing: Step away and look down the target line. Focus on where you want that ball to land and visualise the ball flight that would get it there.

Step in and address the imaginary ball again, purposefully think of your grip, the path of your take-away, and how you will get your club on plane. If you have been working with your coach, hear his voice and think of all the things he has been teaching you. Take the club away, making a normal, controlled (not slow) back-swing (not slow) through transition and into a downswing, accelerating all the time to a full powerful follow-through. This is where all your thinking, all your preparations should be done.

The practice swing should feel good, free, and fluid. If not, simplify the thoughts — take just two swing thoughts and promptly have another go! Hold the finish and envision the ball flying to your target.

The Shot: Only then, cross the practice line and address your ball, taking care in gripping and aligning yourself with your intended target line, with the club aligned behind the ball as your only thoughts. Don't think of striking the ball, think only of replicating the practice swing, a practiced swing without tension or technical analysis. You know where you want the ball to fly, you know what the swing felt like, you practiced it moments before. Commit to simply replicating the practice swing, but this time with the ball in the way.

The routine is the same for every shot with one small change for the putter: Your practice line should be only two to three feet behind the ball for putting. Having first read the putt for line, address your imaginary ball two to three feet behind your ball, taking care to thoroughly commit to alignment and where you wish the ball to set off. Looking solely at the cup, swing the putter back and forth along the target line to get a feel for the weight of putt to get a ball to the hole.

Then, step up over the ball and replicate the practice swing, the two to three feet that you factored into your practice swing to get the ball to the hole will translate into a positive stroke, with the ball reaching the hole with a healthy overrun.

A putt left two feet short of the hole is not two feet short. It is in fact four feet short of pace. – 100% of all putts left short don't go in!

Just one more thought: You can be forgiven for not performing a pre-shot routine on tap-in putts (until you miss one that is).

Happy Golfing!

This column was written by Tim Horan, a reader / follower / fellow oober. The opinions stated above are 100% his and do not necessarily reflect those of oobgolf in any way. Enjoy! And remember, he's ready for your feedback.

Have an idea for a guest column? Send it here!

Image via Twitter, crossroadsscore

[ comments ]
cvargo says:
Very interesting thanks for the tips
GBogey says:
I actually find that whenever I have a "perfect" practice swing, I blow the shot by trying to think too much and recreate what I just did. I instead use the practice swing to focus on my swing thought and then try to replicate it.
I have been trying a lot of visualization lately, particularly on the tee, and for the most part it really seems to work.
bkuehn1952 says:
Thanks. Something to hopefully incorporate into my routine.
accarson3 says:
Good advice -- However, pls don't be like the two guys I was paired with recently who bent down behind the ball to read the break...except we were on the fairway! Then took 5-6 practice swings...later that same day they hit the ball as we fell 3 holes behind.
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