Why is it that you can get your student to do whatever you want when the ball is not there making a practice swing on the driving range, then when you put a ball there or get them on the course, they struggle performing the same physical task? We have identified that there are 3 different states of mind that effect your ability to communicate to your player what you want them to do physically:
1st state of mind is Hit the ball mode, where your mind is focused solely on one thing which is hitting the golf ball.
This is where all of your new and beginner players are mentally at and gets in the way of getting your player to do what you want physically. This is the worst state of mind as it inhibits accelerated learning, but every new student is in this mindset because that’s what they’ve been told, and it makes natural sense. The biggest fallacy in golf is that in order to be able to hit a golf ball, you need to have good hand-eye coordination. You MUST keep your eye on the ball and your head down. We all know that is not true as evident when you see swings such as Annika Sorenstam, David Duval or Dustin Johnson. The object we’re attempting to hit is NOT moving! All that is required is to return the club back to where it first started, and we all have our individual ways of teaching how to accomplish this task. The process of making physical adjustments will always be a challenge if we continue to stress the importance of focusing on the ball.
2nd state of mind is Target mode, where your mind is totally engrossed with where and how you want your ball to go.
The great Harvey Penick stressed this mindset to his players as “take dead aim.” This is a great mindset to be in and we spend the hours on the range doing repetitions to be able to play golf in this ultimate state. This is when you have practiced enough to get feels and develop keys that frees your mind to visualize a desired outcome and your body just responds. But, if your ball is not doing what your mind is envisioning, then you can’t be in target mode. For most average and beginning players they end up going back to hit the ball mode. Target mode is emphasized when working with your more advanced players.
3rd state of mind is called Swing mode. In this mindset, there is no ball we’re worrying about striking or a target we’re trying to hit.
In this mental state of mind, you can only have 2 thoughts. A thought going to your backswing and a thought to your follow through. Basically, it’s what you do when you are making a practice swing without a ball, focusing on a specific physical action. The conflict takes place when the ball or a physical target surrounded by trouble is added which adds another thought and automatically changes your mindset and NOT allowing you to think yourself through the initial action. This is one sport that you can actually “think” yourself through a specific motion because you’re not reacting to anything! Unlike baseball, hockey or tennis where there is no time to think and must be prepared to react through physical repetition.
Once you can convince your student to let go of hitting the golf ball, not worry about a result and get into swing mode, you can train the body to make the physical changes immediately. For your better player, understanding swing mode gives you a mental fall back when you lose the feels and keys that have worked for you temporarily and target/feel/reaction mode isn’t complying!
Randy Chang, PGA
Director of Instruction
Journey at Pechanga & Randy Chang Golf Schools