Apart from ( lack of ) lower body strength, the quickest destroyer of your golf swing is – TENSION. Tension in the arms is the most talked about form of tension. However, tension ANYWHERE in the upper body can be lethal to a smooth backswing.
So how does one eliminate tension from the golf swing?
The answer is simple (if circular) – tension is caused by a fear of sorts – and the only way to overcome is to overcome the fear (through confidence).
You may argue that confidence is not something that can be generated overnight on the first tee. It can only be a result of a good deal of practice, playing and hitting some solid shots. However, I would argue that the level of confidence that I am talking about is much simpler (and a lot more attainable) than that. Since it simply involves overcoming a trivial fear – (fear of the golf course), this confidence can be found fairly easily.
Think about how you approach a game of racquet ball or tennis with a friend. Do you obsess over how much your knees are flexed or your hip is bent – or the angle of your spine? Do you think about how far back to take the racquet or what PLANE to take it back on?
The answer to these questions (hopefully) is a NO.
Approach golf the same way. Try a few rounds of golf with this ‘could care less’ attitude. Swing freely – knowing that you may mishit and end up with a few terrible shots. But you will hit a few OUTSTANDING shots – where the contact will be pure. These pure contact shots will re-inforce your ‘could care less’ attitude and build your confidence.
Once you play a few rounds with this attitude, you will notice that this thing called TENSION is no longer part of your golf setup. Your arms and body are as natural as if you were about to hit a tennis ball with a tennis racquet.
Conquer the Course
One attitude that will help you ‘swing fearlessly’ is overcoming the (self-created) rivalry between the golf course and yourself. A lot of players (myself included) are somewhat OVERWHELMED – if not downright intimidated by golf courses (especially tough holes). When I started playing my ‘could care less’ rounds – I also decided to trample all over the golf course (just figuratively, not literally).
I decided to treat the course like a simple terrain that needed to be conquered – just like you would conquer a 5 mile trail by running on it.
There was nothing to fear – the golf course was just a simple playing field – a tennis court, of sorts. Just as a tennis court doesn’t scare anyone – there ‘s no reason a golf course should either.
Believe it or not, this simple ‘conquer the course’ thought – does wonders for the confidence (especially on the first tee). Gone are the first tee jitters. They are replaced by a let’s have some fun mindset.
As with most things in life, fear can be an overwhelming force in golf. It can produce a PHYSICAL effect – that of tensing up muscles. This is antithetical to a sound, smooth golf backswing. The best way to eliminate this tension is to put the fear of golf (and the golf course) in its place.
Play a few rounds (by yourself or with others) without caring about your posture, stance and all the other zillion minutiae that golfers obsess over. Instead – just set up to the ball. Keep your balance as you swing back – and keep your balance as you swing down. That’s it. See if that lets you make solid contact.
If the ‘stay balanced’ swing thought doesn’t work – try another one – but an equally simple one (such as ‘turn your back to the ball’). But at any cost, do not overdo it – or have multiple swing thoughts. Keep it as simple as possible – if things gets messy – try and return to the mindset that you are playing a racquetball game with a friend. There is no reason to be tense.
Try these simple mindset changes for yourself – and see if they help lower your handicap. More importantly, see if they help you enjoy a round of golf like never before.