The lament about wanting to play more consistent golf is heard at every club, every week. At post-round interviews, the pros will talk about “just trying to put it all together for the next few days” or sometimes weeks. How often do we have a few great rounds and play to handicap, soaring like an eagle, only to crash and burn and end up as the feather-duster for the next few weeks?
Playing consistent rounds is a problem for many
It is possibly the most frustrating aspect of the game — the lack of predictable performance. While Woods has identified his back spasms for pulling out of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and missing the Genesis Open and the Honda Classic, some might suggest that despite his injury he is simply not able to play consistent golf and that this frustrates the heck out of him. This is one player who, for over a decade, knew how to put together back-to-back consistent rounds. It’s not all about winning, but it’s all about being able to rely on every aspect of your game to give yourself a fighting chance.
The good shots and good rounds keep us coming back. Like nuggets in the bottom of the gold prospector’s pan, these great shots taunt and tease and promise that there are more to be had! If there was one wish every golfer would grab from the golf genie, it would be to erase the bad shots and deliver steady, consistent rounds every time. The golf genie only comes in the form of analysis and drills. The key to consistency is to understand the root cause and implement the fix to correct it.
How’s your mental state?
Before looking for the “magic” technical drill for more consistent play, let’s take a minute to ponder the impact of a poor mental state. Emotional and psychological factors can impact even the best technical games, so get this in check as part of a holistic approach to a more consistent game.
Place your focus on the good shots. Except for the purposes of tallying a score, bad shots shouldn’t be raised again and quickly placed in the mental garbage chute. A positive mental approach can be adopted in the car on the way to the club, and reinforced all the way around the course. Now, all that’s left is to identify the best and easiest drill that will result in more consistent golf.
Shorten your backswing
For me, the easiest drill to create a more consistent golf game is to shorten the backswing. There it is. The amateur game is characterized by millions of players who take off after presentation with either painfully slow or whip-like enthusiasm, and extend around their shoulders. All sorts of technical issues are carried along in this action. By the time the club is brought down onto the ball, many of the “issues” are suddenly magnified ten-fold… with resultant pulls and slices, shanks and chunks, hit fat and skinny. A shortened backswing is relatively easy to practice and implement. While some distance might be shaved off your ball, it is likely to go straighter, remain in play and eliminate bad shots from your scorecard.
Part of backswing shortening is getting the right tempo. Backswing speed is an important factor in consistency, as over-swing can be caused by a slower swing that results in taking the club too far back. Players can even see their clubhead in their peripheral vision over the shoulder. Others whip the club on a steep, sharp upslope and whip back down but actually decelerate at impact. To increase consistency, the aim is to improve overall rhythm and timing of the swing, within a shorter backswing.
The speed of the backswing
If the backswing is slow and long, then there is a benefit in slightly speeding it up. Check out the swings of Ben Hogan and Nick Price — somewhat fast, but short and controlled backswings. Speeding up a little will force a length correction. The backswing will shorten as a result.
However, if you are speedy-Gonzales, with a steep takeoff angle, then try to pause at the top of the swing. Bring the angle down and around the body, before coming down. The shortened, slower swing will hopefully reduce the number of chunks and fat shots and enable a smoother, straighter shot. There may be some loss of distance, but this is compensable with an extra club — the consistency of stroke is far more beneficial.
Watch the pros
Technically, everyone’s swing is different, including the variety of professionals of both genders. Camillo Villegas has one of the shortest and most compact backswings in the game. Check out his swing in slow-motion for a good visual reference point.
Watching the professionals swing, studying them and mimicking them is worthwhile. It will give you a greater understanding of your own game. However, the guys on the PGA Tour actually play amazingly consistent golf and are surrounded by a team of specialists who analyze and tweak every aspect of their game to get results. Like them, get some advice with any swing adjustments. Learning to be consistent by using a shorter, more compact swing is by far the best approach to generating positive change in your game.
— N. Incoll