When it comes to playing your best golf, what goes on inside your head often plays a crucial factor. Too often, it’s easy to become distracted or overwhelmed by the task at hand.
That’s why it’s key that your head is in the right place on the course and why swing thoughts are so important.
Swing thoughts aren’t necessarily always technical or mechanical; more often they pave the way to quieting your mind and freeing yourself from your inner demons so that you can perform to the best of your ability. It’s about getting out of your own way and narrowing your focus to one or two key thoughts.
We asked some local swing doctors to help unlock some mysteries of the mind and share some of their key swing thoughts. Whether it’s an actual phrase that you repeat to yourself before each shot, a reliable pre-shot routine or the proper grip pressure, swing thoughts are an invaluable way of narrowing your focus.
Here are some ways to accomplish this goal. And remember, the most important swing thought is the one that works best for you.
SMOOTH SAILING: My number one swing thought is “smooth takeaway and accelerate into the ball.” This helps overcome any herky-jerky, anxiety-filled swings while assisting with light but consistent grip pressure. To be smooth, you must be relaxed. This is a great swing thought for those first-tee jitters and pressure-filled shots. By accelerating club head speed at impact, you are ensuring a solid, confident swing. It’s perfect for solid short game, especially chipping, pitching, bunker play and the dough-maker putting. – Eric Lohman, PGA General Manager, Monarch Beach Golf Links
FEEL YOUR WAY: When you put the tee in the ground on the first hole, you can’t bring a lot of mental baggage with you. Here are two simple thoughts for your next round: soft hands and feel the club head. You can’t generate speed if your hands and wrists are tight, so soft hands are critical to speed and fluidity. Feeling the club head and where it is throughout your swing is a great place to direct your attention to quiet all the other rubbish that can enter your mind while playing. If you know where the club head is, your attention isn’t being misdirected to things you can’t control. – Martin Chuck, PGA, Tour Striker Golf Academy, Raven Golf Club – Phoenix
FIND YOUR RHYTHM: One of my former coaches used to tell me: “Dance with who you brought.” Once you get to the golf course the time for swing changes and fixes is over, and you have to play with what you have that day. I prefer my students to commit to feelings and sensations rather than mechanics because it is tough to be athletic when you are thinking of a motor skill. It is important that you have a clear intention as to what you want the ball to do and what feeling produces that shot. Try to key into the rhythm of the swing that feels correct in the pre-shot routine, and then commit to the same rhythm through the ball. – Chris Mayson, Director of Instruction, Maderas Golf Academy
GET A GRIP: A great thought to have on the course is to be aware of your grip pressure. Focus on how tight your hands feel on the grip. The last three fingers of the left hand (for right-handed golfers) should feel tighter than the index finger and thumb. The right hand should be placed lightly on the grip with the right thumb resting on the top left side of grip and feeling a sensation of the two middle fingers hooked around the grip and slight pressure of right palm covering the left thumb. While hitting a shot, focus your attention on the feeling of the pressure points mentioned and be aware if the pressure tightens or remains the same. – Michelle Dubé, LPGA Master Teaching Professional, Tijeras Creek Golf Club
TRUST YOUR ROUTINE: I always encourage students to do their thinking on the practice range. Once on the course, I remind them to use their pre-shot routine and concentrate on rhythm. The pre-shot routine is a key element to consistently preparing for any shot. Most pre-shot routines have three elements – lining up from behind the ball, setting up to the ball and waggling to relax. Then, let it go! One way to learn rhythm is to have a song or tune in mind that has a constant beat that you can match to your swing. Some people use a count such as 1, 2, 3 on backswing and 1, 2, 3 on downswing to keep rhythm. Remember to leave the mechanics on the range and work on your pre-shot routine and rhythm on the course. – Willie Maples, PGA Director of Golf, Eagle Falls Golf Course
REPETITION IS KEY: Most people think about too many things during their swing. I believe it is important to keep the thinking to a minimum and not get technical with swing thoughts on the course. The two best swing thoughts I always teach my students are tempo and repetition. It is important for players to think about tempo so they don’t over swing when they get on the course. I also believe it relaxes people. If you can think about repeating what you have been practicing on the lesson tee it will help keep the technical thoughts away. Both swing thoughts are designed to clear your mind and simplify the sequence of events prior to making a swing. – Kyle Oliver, Head Golf Professional, Rancho San Marcos
KEEP IT SIMPLE: There is a huge difference in practicing your swing and playing the game on the course. Before going out to the course, I coach my students to focus their attention on where they want the ball to go – fairway, green or hole. I also like them to incorporate a movement phrase of some kind like “back and through” that acts as a simple command they can respond to without much thought. My belief is that the swing is the hardware and it doesn’t run properly without the right software. When you keep your attention on target while playing with a simple task like “turn and go” before hitting, you will have everything you need to operate your ball-striking machine (body and mind) and “play golf” – not “play golf swing.” – Kris Moe, Kris Moe Golf Schools, Napa
VISUALIZE AND FEEL: The golf course is a very different place than the practice facility. While it is important that you work on the mechanics of your swing on the range, it is just as important that on the course you are able to rid yourself of those mechanical thoughts and play golf. I like the words “visualize” and “feel” on the course. Stand behind the ball and visualize the shot that you want to hit. Then make practice swings that will produce that shot. Swing until you have accomplished the feeling for your specific shot. Then stand over the ball and recreate that feeling. – Jeff Fisher, Director of Instruction, OB Sports Golf Academy