This blog has always advocated ‘feel’ above ‘mechanics’ in golf (a recent post about how to practice ‘feel’ in golf ). Essentially, if you can bring the same ‘feel’ to the first tee every time, you are way ahead of the player who brings the same ‘thoughts’ or ‘mechanical swing positions’ to the course. Thoughts (which includes pre-conceived mechanical positions) have a way of interfering with a true golf swing – which is meant to be more of an ingrained ‘reflex like’ action.
The importance of FEEL (learning to drive a car analogy)
It is easy to get too analytical with the golf swing. Using one’s mind to solve problems (including the golf swing problem) – seems like a natural approach to the problem. As it turns out , analyzing the golf swing will only get you so far. Once you figure out the ’analytical’ answer to the problem, you still have to inculcate a ‘feel’ for the solution. In other words, you still have to practice the solution till it becomes second nature. It is not enough to understand analytically that one needs to start slowing down whilst approaching a red light. Even if you understand it, the first few times, you will find yourself at a loss to be able to execute the action. Not because you do not know the answer, but because you have not ‘practiced’ it enough to where it is second nature. Once you do, you will no longer require the analytical solution – since you now have, what can be termed as a ‘feel’ for the solution.
Why it is necessary to forget about hitting the ball?
Having discussed why the thought process (and any resulting thought) is not a friend of the golf swing, one concludes that all thoughts need to be eliminated. A chief culprit that pops up in the mind of a golfer is the thought of ‘hitting the ball’. After all, it makes complete sense. Here is a ball in front of your very eyes, here is a club in your hands – what other thought could possibly appear apart from that of hitting the ball? Isn’t that why you are standing behind the ball in the first place?
In fact, this thought has to be subdued as much as possible. The replacement thought can be a much simpler thought (one that can become a FEEL after practice) – of simply executing a shoulder turn. As soon as you move away from ‘hitting the ball’, you are already in a better position to execute a sound golf swing. ‘Hitting the ball’ brings along with it tense muscles and nerves – which have no place in a sound golf swing.
How to execute a simple shoulder turn (the right-side stabilizing factor)
Consider your shoulder area to include the entire upper back and the chest pecs as well. These muscles are included because they are an important part of the turning motion in golf – in other words, you do not want to leave the pecs behind (it is entirely possible to do so). If you visualize this ‘upper body area’ as your turning ‘mass’, all you need to think about is turning this against a steady right armpit (without the steadying factor, the turn can lead to a LATERAL sway – which is undesirable). Some people use the right KNEE instead of the right armpit. Some visualize the right HIP as the anchor against which to turn. Regardless, it is usually impossible to visualize a smooth turn without a ‘stabilizing’ factor on the right side.
What about the arms (and hands)?
With all this talk about shoulders and chest, what is going on with the hands (and arms)? The shoulder turn is what pulls the arms and hands along. This is key – the turn starts the body parts (including hands and arms) moving – not the other way around. It is all too easy to start the swing with the hands (or arms). A lot of famous players (Ben Hogan notably) did advocate starting with the hands – but keep in mind their athletic ability – which enabled them to synchronize the body turn with the hand motion. In other words , they were adept enough to sync up the arms motion with the body turn regardless of which one came first.
The wrists will hinge automatically
Still not thinking of hitting the ball – only of executing the turn – one finds the hands and arms smoothly following the body turn. The right armpit (or right knee or right hip) – which serves as an anchor to turn against – will start providing the HINGING of the wrists. In other words, as the chest keeps turning – it runs into the right anchor – at which point the arms (forearms) will start to break (wrist hinge). This hinge has no fixed endpoint – it can be long on one day and short on another. Regardless, once it has hinged ‘enough’, you will automatically feel the need to UNHINGE these wrists.
The UNHINGING provides the downswing
This need to unhinge is what provides the downswing trigger. That is all you really need to execute the downswing. In fact, you will find that it is automatic – hence thinking about ‘where’ and ‘what moves first’ for your downswing is counter productive.
Avoiding the ‘I need to hit the ball’ instinct – and focusing on the ‘ I need to make a smooth turn’ is a key psychological switch – that births a true golf swing. Now, if we can only successfully stay with this switch for the entire 18 holes – especially on each tee box (where the ‘hit instinct’ rears its ugly head), then we would be golden! The primary investment includes SUPPRESSING a bad habit (thought) rather than building a good one. Only in golf!
This simple idea cannot be carried too far. Instead of going to the range to ‘hit a bunch of balls’, go with the idea of ‘making a bunch of shoulder turns’. It may sound trivial but it is an important psychological shift.
I would love to hear your feedback on this post and other posts I have on my golf blog.