The Mind Game
There certainly have been plenty of books written about the mental side of golf, and I don’t profess to have the education and experience of Dr. Rotella and the other experts in this field. But I do have a very healthy respect for the role the mind plays in our ability to score and to enjoy the game. It’s really no different from any other aspect in our lives – family life, business, etc. It all yields to us only that which we allow it to yield.

So, I’m not going to delve into the psychology of golf the way these other experts have. What I want to do this morning is expand upon what we started Tuesday by taking a little different tack. And that is that your golf swing, your technique and your entire approach to the game is governed and restricted by your understanding of what it is you are really trying to do.

Look around at your golf buddies and you will see few swings that even remotely resemble the mechanical excellence of the players on tour or the best ball-strikers at your club. Why is that? Do you and your friends just like the swings you have, regardless of their ability to produce the desired results? Are you OK being stuck at your current playing level, your current handicap? Is it OK for you if you never get any better?

My guess is that the answer to all those questions is a resounding, “Heck No!” I think all of you want to get better, to hit better quality shots, to shoot lower scores. I believe that’s what keeps you here and on all the other golf sites you visit. But if it’s not happening, why not take a completely different approach?

And let’s start by rebuilding your own perception of what a good golf swing looks like, feels like and does. Within a very narrow range, there is really only one way to swing a golf club so that it produces quality golf shots with repetition and reliability. Sure, there are little quirks from golfer to golfer, but the range of disparity of the swings on tour is very small, compared to that in your regular Saturday group.

Every swing will have its little idiosyncrasies, but for the most part, it needs to follow a very basic set of proven fundamentals that applied to Hogan, Palmer, Nicklaus, Watson, Miller, Woods . . . . and every other golfer who’s sniffed at excellence. The golf club has to be held properly. The body has to be put in the right athletic position to move properly. The club has to reach the correct position at the top of the backswing, and follow a certain path down to and through the ball. The club has to be released a certain way through impact to yield the desired results. These are laws of golf physics that have been proven for decades.


And unless you really understand those mechanical foundations, you will just not get better. You cannot expect yourself to do what you do not really comprehend. The good news is that these things do not require Woods-onian strength and physical ability. Anyone without serious infirmity can learn how to hold the club, how to stand, where to put the club going back and how to move it through impact. How well you perfect this depends on your commitment to practice, but I think any of you can completely rebuild your golf swing in the next 4-6 weeks while you’re waiting for the season to really start.

If you want 2012 to be your best year ever, the “mind game” I suggest you play is one of learning, studying and committing to achieving a solid understanding of just what a good golf swing does, how it works and what it looks like. And there’s no better book than Hogan’s Five Lessons – The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. This book breaks the golf swing into a “paint by numbers” approach. From the grip through the follow-through, Hogan shows you what a good swing looks like, explains what it feels like and shows you how to build one for yourself.

If you will get a copy, read it, study it and go through the steps to pose and posture into the positions Hogan describes, you will gain an understanding of the golf swing that your mind and body can relate to as you work to get better. I promise.
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[ comments ]
legitimatebeef says:
Whew, a lot going on here--you start with the mind game and somehow end up recommending that we rebuild our swings from the ground up, in the span of 4-6 weeks. Ambitious to say the least. But I agree with some of what you're saying. I like to think of impact and work backwards from there--how the club face should be at impact, and what do I gotta do with my body to deliver the face to the ball like that.

When you break it down on paper it all seems so cut and dry. But while I agree that most people might be mentally and physically able to comprehend a good swing, I've played enough muni golf to know that for most recreational players, it's hopeless. Most folks will never engage in the kind of ruthless self-examination and dogged focus it requires to build a good golf game, for them its just hope to hit that one shot per round that keeps em coming back. To become good at anything you kind of have to go out on a limb, subject yourself to all kinds of frustration, confusion, humbling, etc.
1/13/12
 
legitimatebeef says:
When I see the number of people who can't even own up to the simplest short putt, I know in my heart that the majority of us will continue to stink up the course, for all eternity.
1/13/12
 
jcstoll says:
That's a little depressing, legitimatebeef. How about phrase it a little differently like, "the majority of us will be satisfied with enjoying the scenery and fresh air"? Regarding WG's article, I agree with beef that 4-6 weeks is a bit ambitious to rebuild a swing, but generally it is good advice. I've been trying to overhaul my swing (of ~25 years) with the help of golftec lessons, after the initial evaluation in which I discovered that I really didn't understand the fundamentals - or at least wasn't doing them when I thought I was. And I recently picked up Hogan's Five Lessons. Maybe I'll actually understand and be able to implement them this time.
1/13/12
 
windowsurfer says:
Mind game? I'm gonna break my 2012 down to two big things - a stiffer left arm and "don't give yourself a golf lesson when you are playing." And under no circumstances will I attempt to manage 300 swing thoughts before each shot. Five Lessons is awesome, and I love Knudson's book too, but Zen Golf is more what I think of in respect of the mental aspect of golf. Beyond that, time with my buddies, being outside, exercise and that elusive "one shot per round" sounds pretty good to me. :-)
1/13/12
 
larrynjr says:
at the end of last season I brought my clubs into the house, Driver, 6i, wedge to continue to work having a flat(ish) left wrist through impact. Doing that plus rereading 5 lessons, I discovered that what I thought was the correct club position across the palm of my left hand was NOT the correct position. I am now holding the club across the base of my fingers and while I haven't completely lost my slice, it is happening less often than before. Most of my drives are either left pulls or straight down the fairway. Once my hernia surgery is completely healed, I plan on working on this more. I also started using Hogan's idea for foot placement in my stance and am finding ball first contact much more frequently.
1/13/12
 
GBogey says:
This is spurring a number of reactions on my part. While I agree it may be unrealistic to "rebuild" a swing in 4-6 weeks, there are core fundamentals that any golfer who wants to play better should be aware of. I've been playing for a little over two years and I am amazed at the number of guys I meet who have played for years who are not aware of the core fundamentals. It is very hard to be a good golfer but I truly believe that if you are willing to practice, take some lessons, and have a smidgeon of athletic ability, it is hard to be a really bad golfer, but they are out there.
Beef's comment struck a separate chord - I spent about 1.5-2 hours last night practicing my putting and surfing the web for insight into a putting problem I was trying to solve. I was stunned on how little internet content there is for putting relative to the full swing. Why?
1/13/12
 
GBogey says:
A separate comment on Hogan's book - I bought it last year for winter reading. Right before I was about to start, a well known U.K. golf instructor, think of a Butch Harmon in his 80's, was interviewed by one of the golf magazines. In the interview he said that Hogan's book was the best thing that ever happened to his business as Hogan feared the hook and so his book leans toward slicing which just exaggerates the problem most golfers have. As I was working furiously on eliminating a slice, I've never opened it.
1/13/12
 
aaronm04 says:
@GBogey: I have a copy of that book too and I read it when I was a slicer a few years ago. I'm now an 8 handicap. It can help you. The biggest thing I can tell you is to adopt a stronger grip than the one Hogan shows you in the book.

For putting, I read Dave Stockton's Putt to Win last Spring and worked on his forward press method. At the time I was a 12 handicap and got as low as a 6 over the summer due mostly to improved putting.

As with any golf tip or method, you have to determine what works for you and filter out the rest.
1/13/12
 
BAKE_DAWG40 says:
By committing to learning the fundamentals, you are, in a sense, rebuilding your swing. I need to find my copy of Hogan's book. It's probably buried in my garage in one of those boxes. It'll be easier for me to purchase another. My garage is a fuster cluck.
1/17/12
 
mjaber says:
I'm not sure how accurate this post from the Wedgeguy really is, and I'm sure you will all give me plenty of flack for saying this, but I don't think that there is 1 golf swing. The only part of the golf swing that truly matters is the small section where the ball and club come together. How you get there, and what you do after the ball has left the club don't really matter. There are techniques that are accepted to allow you to get there in the most efficient manner, such as Hogan's book, but to say there is only 1 true golf swing? I think that's a little too much.
1/17/12
 
mjaber says:
In all honesty, I'm happy with my swing, and my game. Would I like to shoot lower scores? Sure, who wouldn't? But I'm not going to spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on lessons to rebuild my swing to the singular notion of there being 1 true golf swing. I'd rather spend that money playing golf and having a good time with my friends, than on the range with a guy telling me to keep my elbow in, keep my head down, get the club flatter on my takeaway, or whetever other "flaws" I might have in my swing. I'm not going to get on tour, or even shoot anything close to par, and I'm OK with that.
1/17/12
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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