Do Swing Thought Help or Hinder Amateur Golfers?

Hello fellow golfers, its Matt here at Golf Geeks HQ, I hope all is well.

Today we are talking about swing thoughts and whether they help or hinder the amateur golfers game.

The first thing to say here is its important to separate ‘in play’ swing thoughts and ‘practice’ swing thoughts.

In our practice, swing thoughts are a vital way of improving.

Ultimately, we are all trying to get better, and it’s challenging to do this if you just hit balls repeatedly with no direction or thought to what you are doing.

When you are trying to change something in your swing, changing how you move is going to require an element fo your brain capacity to make that work. With golf its all about embedding a swing change, so it becomes muscle memory and becomes sub-conscious. To achieve this in practice, you need swing thoughts to get you in the positions you are trying to achieve to make that improvement.

You need to work closely with your golf coach on this so that your practice is productive and the moves you make are beneficial to your muscle memory and not harmful as they can take time to change once ingrained. If you don’t have a golf coach, we talk about ways to choose the right coach for you in another of our Golf Geeks Blogs.

So in practice, swing thoughts are vital to helping you improve your skills, but this blog is going to concentrate on swing thoughts on the course and in play.

In play, course management kicks in and lots of variations require your brains’ attention. Wind, landing point, roll, miss area, hazards, yardage for a layup etc. all come into the equation.

If you’re not working on anything or don’t play very often, I would suggest ‘letting go’ while on the course. Drop swing thoughts and overthinking completely. Just let it happen, be free and play because you’ll be amazed how well you can play by allowing your body to do what it knows how to do.

For me personally, I think swing thoughts on the course can work, but you have to keep them to an absolute minimum. After experimenting with this over a few months, I have found having a single swing thought works best.

I will have a pre-shot routine, which is essential for all golfers to have and if you don’t have one, I strongly suggest you start doing the same little thing, not at address, before every shot. This repetitive motion is sub-conscious as much as anything else as it is telling your brain and body your about to hit a ball that matters and so your fully ready to make that shot once complete.

Tailor your pre-shot routine to you personally so for me I will concentrate where the club is at take away at my hip height to make sure it is parallel to the sky/floor as I have a tendency not to open the face enough creating low hooks as a bad shot so be honest with yourself and make your pre-shot routine about making sure you don’t make a silly little mistake that your prone to.

Then once you address the ball its go time so clear your mind, see the shot, think only of your one swing thought. ‘Hit through it not at it’ works for me and helps me make sure I make a full swing all the way to follow through and be fluid with the right tempo and eradicate any mechanical movements I may make whilst trying to think too many swing thoughts and trying to control every little position the club is in at each point.

The other tip that helped improve my ball striking was committing fully to the shot, trust the pre-shot routine & swing thought and ensure every time you make a fully committed swing. Whether it’s a good shot or a lousy shot be committed to it. This ‘letting go’ feeling has helped me make vast improvements.

A lot of people seem to have swing thoughts only on the take-away, so you see them on the course practising, stopping at hip height, then at the top, then they make a half-hearted follow through as if that part doesn’t matter. Clearly, this is the part of the swing where you contact the ball, so make sure any practice swings you make include coming down and simulating impact with the ball through to full follow-through.

The fundamentals of a golf swing come down to about a 2-foot area, the 1-foot before and the 1-foot after impact. The result determines the quality of the swing and delivering clubface accurately is everything.

Whatever happens before or after is just part of making that strike & then moving through to follow through. So many amateurs, I included, underestimate the power of a full follow-through, we are guilty of hitting at the ball and so our sub-conscious is like ‘job done’ once we hit the ball and we stop. The ball flight is affected by this no doubt because if we deliver the clubface at a speed of somewhere between 70-90mph, it takes some negative momentum to stop the club at halfway through a natural follow through.

You see this deceleration with amateur swings where they are slowing at the point they hit it. The opposite needs to be adopted here, we need to be at our fasted or at least still accelerating as we hit the ball, so we have no choice but to make a full proper backswing over your shoulder to whatever your follow-through position is. There are lots of follow-through theories of where the club should be, and in the pro game there are lots of variations, but they all have one thing in common, they make a full-body turn, and the club is committed to going all the way through.

We amateurs are sometimes scared of the inconsistency of our game, so we become scared to commit fully because we don’t want to be fishing the ball out the trees if we make a bad swing. This is a dangerous game because trying to be ‘controlled’ with the swing to try not to make a wild shot works the other way round and harms our game and chances.

Being very deliberate with your practice swing is fine, in the pro game you will see many top players have some very robotic looking practice swings. Justin Rose & Alex Noren are good examples of this, but as they address the ball they hit these smooth flowing shots, and the practice movements are gone. They clear their mind of lots of swing thoughts and trust the muscle memory built up from the practice ground.

The most refreshing and free way to play the game can come from this technique, do all your swing thoughts and practice before you address then once you address just let it happen. Try it for yourself to see what happens. I hope this works for as many amateurs as possible, without pretending to be any sort of golf coach I just wanted to share this with you as its helped me, as a mid-handicapper, feel freer and enjoy the game and play some proper golf shots.

Have your swing thoughts in place at the range & during pre-shot routine but limit to only one during actual play. Even if that swing thought is only ‘Draw’ ‘Fade’ or ‘Flag’ if it’s an approach shot. Thinking about other sports, tennis and football, for example, once you had your training sessions where you worked on technique and core skills actually during play you had no time to think about how you were going to kick the ball, the mechanics of it, you just did it because you had too.

This game you literally have all the time in the world to hit it the ball because it isn’t going anywhere until you hit it, there is no opponent trying to counter what your doing etc. and in a way that’s a negative about golf that us amateurs need to try to get over as its one of its biggest challenges I think because it can take away that natural ability or flare you may have had in other sports where you just did it naturally because you had to. You had to cross the ball into the box because the striker was running onto it for a header or the opponent hit a deep serve, and you had hardly any time to adjust and hit a cross-court forehand to win the point.

This is a good analogy for golf, when you get up to strike the ball don’t take ages over it as the longer you stand at address motionless, the more restricted and tense your body becomes naturally, and this is a bad thing for golf. When you address the ball have one thought or no thought & commit to your shot and then stand holding your full follow-through admiring what a great shot you’ve just hit down the middle!

I hope that’s helped & given you a few points to consider, swing thoughts are a really interesting part of the game from the psychology perspective and is something I think us amateurs need to think about a bit more.

Hopefully, it’s made you think more about swing thoughts, you might have loads and didn’t even realise it, and perhaps now we’ve talked about it you are thinking about it a lot, and your mind is getting full thinking about where the club is at each point of the swing.

We swing the club much faster than our brains can keep up so we can’t manipulate every position of the swing & we need to trust our sub-conscious.

The highest achievers in this game regularly say they keep it simple, keep it flowing & think about it as little as possible and just let it happen & this is what I’m trying to get across in this blog.

That’s all we’ve got time for today from Golf Geeks, I hope that’s been useful. There’s plenty more on the website – for you to enjoy but for now, its Matt @ Golf Geeks HQ saying play well and we’ll see you soon.