When you’re playing golf, dozens of thoughts will likely come into your head as you are standing over that small, white ball. You’ll think about the water hazard on the right of the green or tell yourself to keep your head down throughout the shot. All of these different thoughts can clog up your focus. You may end up struggling to hit consistent shots, as your thoughts during each swing are different.
One of the best ways to become better at golf is by becoming more consistent with everything you do. This includes being more consistent on your bad shots. As in, you know if you’re going to hit a bad shot, it is going to be a slice that results in your ball ending up on the right side of the green (for right handers). This means that you can make allowances for this in your game.
The best thing you can do is minimize the amount of thoughts you have in your mind before every shot. This is achieved by developing a plan of two to three key swing thoughts and thinking about nothing else. By keeping this routine consistent, you will see how your game improves over time. You’ll be cutting out other variables that were distracting to you while swinging the club.
What exactly are swing thoughts?
Swing thoughts are cues that you give yourself while lining up a shot. They can be both mental and physical reminders. You may be working on improving your swing or simply trying to get a good rhythm and tempo. Whatever the case may be, it is always a good idea to have a couple swing thoughts for your round, or else dozens of other things will be flitting through your head.
As you are aware, golf is a game that is often played up in your head. You’ve probably been in a situation where you faced a tough shot and thought to yourself, “Whatever you do, do not hit it in the water.” And then what do you do? You proceed to hit it slap bang in the middle of the water hazard. Negative thoughts will lead to negative results.
If you are told to not think of a pink elephant jumping on one leg, you are going to have this image in your mind. It is near impossible to tell yourself not to think of something. Instead, the key is to replace these negative thoughts with swing thoughts. This gives your mind something else to focus on and it keeps you in the moment.
The main swing thoughts you want to have should be based on your swing tempo and ball striking. Here are three useful swing thoughts to keep in mind during your next round.
1. The 1-2-3 tempo
You’ve probably been in the situation where, mid-swing, your mind wandered and you thought about work or that you were hitting with the wrong club. This is a great swing thought to keep your swing smooth and to stop your mind from getting distracted mid-swing.
As you start your backswing, count in your head one, two, three. When you are a third of the way through your backswing, you say one. At two-thirds, you say two. At the top, you say three. This ensures that you keep a nice and controlled backswing and you coil up well, harboring a lot of power. You want to be more explosive on the way down as you release the power, so the tempo is simply one for the entire downswing.
2. Pick a point on the golf ball
Another great swing thought to keep yourself from getting distracted, as well as improving your ball striking, is to pick a specific letter or dimple on your golf ball. Focus on it throughout your entire swing.
If you tend to hit the ball fat, focus on a dimple a bit further back on the ball. If you tend to hit the ball thin, focus on a point that is closer to your target. This keeps your eyes on the prize. It also helps achieve the traditional “keep your head down” in a natural manner.
3. Low and slow
This is usually best when you are hitting your longer clubs, like your driver and woods. Especially when you are hitting off the tee with these clubs, you want to sweep the ball away, rather than striking down on it directly.
By ensuring that you keep the club head low and slow on your backswing, you will be creating a nice arc and adequately sweep the ball off the tee. People often tend to lose their balance during the backswing with their driver, as they swing too hard. Keeping it slow will help you to become more balanced.
— Andrew O’Malley