The Beginners Guide to Golf
The Beginners Guide to Golf – Your Mental Game When you begin to address the golf ball and prepare for your swing, it’s essential that you have a sense of relaxation.
If you are tense when you swing your club, the chances of you hitting a bad shot are increased by leaps and bounds. However, you don’t want to be TOO relaxed lest your grip isn’t tight enough to hit the ball solidly.
Without relaxation, it is more difficult to maintain your tempo or rhythm from swing to swing and stay in good balance from start to finish. Because it is essential for the golf swing to function properly, relaxation of the mind and body should be our first priority. Please keep in mind that this also applies to the short game, even though I will be referring to the full swing.
Tension restricts movement. A quiet, relaxed mind and body allows you to swing more freely. Simply stated, muscle groups respond more easily to a natural, balanced swing motion.
If your mind is tense, your muscles will be too. If you have had a hectic day at work or at home, chances are you will take that tension and anxiety to the first tee. This tension not only causes tight muscles, but can also increase the speed of your swing.
When that happens, the little muscles (hands and arms) take over the big muscles (shoulders, hips, and legs) throughout the golf swing. The big muscle groups cannot move as fast as the little muscles. All body parts must be given time to do their jobs efficiently and in harmony.
First, clear your mind. Picture your mind as a blackboard, and written on it are all the thoughts and happenings of the day. The key is that you’ve got the eraser! Erase your mind of everything and take a moment to put yourself in an environment that makes you relaxed, quiet and happy.
Envision yourself listening to soft music, reading a good book,
Relaxing in your favorite chair, strolling in the park, hiking, fishing, walking on the beach, or simply being in the mountains.
Basically, pick whatever image that helps you relax, and then put your mind and senses in that personal place. Be explicit. Actually, hear music or the waves. Feel the warm breeze or the water flowing around your body. See the mountains in all their glory. Smell the flowers. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
Allow your mind and body to come down so that you can be up and ready to play a good round of golf. Now your mind and body can focus more clearly on one shot, one hole at a time.
Second, practice more relaxation in your grip, stance, and swing. Check the tension level in your grip. The hand pressure on the club should be light. If it is too tight, your takeaway will tend to be jerky and too fast. If you are not sure of the amount of pressure, let your hands feel the difference by squeezing tightly and then releasing it to a very light grip.
Notice that when you squeeze tightly, your forearms are tense. This generates tension throughout the body. You want just enough grip pressure so that you won’t lose the club during the swing. No white knuckle! What little pressure you do feel should be in the last three fingers of the let hand, and the third and fourth fingers of the right.
When addressing the ball, your arms should relax. The forearms should be soft – like ashes, wet noodles, or any other descriptive word of your choice that triggers relaxation. If your left arm is jammed straight, tension is created in the shoulders. I’ve seen some golfers who looked like they were trying to jab their left shoulders into their left ears.
The left arm should hang comfortably straight and the shoulders should droop. The legs should also be set in a relaxed starting position. Trying to force your weight to your insteps can cause lower body immobility.
Now waggle! The waggle helps keep the body loose and in motion. Freezing over the ball can cause tension. Chances are you are thinking too much, and paralysis of analysis can set in. Develop a waggle that is comfortable for you.
Most waggles consist of moving the club to and fro over the ball (not up and down) with a slight weight shift back and forth from foot to foot, while you look at the ball, then at the target, then back to the ball.
If you do not have a clear picture of what a waggle is, observe golfers on television or other golfers on your course. Waggles vary, but good golfers always stay in motion.
Most importantly, your waggle must be one that you are comfortable with. Each person has his or her own waggle personality. Find yours and practice until it becomes ingrained in your swing routine. You can work on this in your backyard.
Initiate the swing and swing relaxed. To practice a relaxed swing, take continuous swings back and forth without stopping. Be aware of any tension you might feel during these swings. Try to stay totally relaxed and loose as you swing back and forth. Don’t be in a hurry to start or finish the swing. When you get to the finish, allow your body to be lazy in returning the club to another backswing. No jerks!
Notice whether your hands and forearms tense when initiating the first swing of the series. If they are tense, then repeatedly practice starting your swing with a feathery grip pressure so that no tension runs through to your forearms and thereby to the rest of your body.
Tension can cause quite an array of problems such as reverse pivots; fast takeaways; forced swings; loss of club head speed; rolling on the outside of the right foot; incorrect swing plane; fat or topped shots; big and little muscle groups not working together; lack of balance; or a fast tempo that your swing cannot handle with any efficiency.
A major problem with even professional golfers is that it is so easy to let our minds take a wide sweeping view of what the next shot means:
“How will it affect my score?”
“What does it mean to me personally?”
“Is this the best round I have ever played? Is it the worse round?”
“If I sink this putt, it will put me one up on my opponent!”
“My dad is watching; I really want to do well.”
All of these comments, questions and statements are possible, along with hundreds more, at the very time you need to be focused on the elements of planning and executing the shot. If you are doing this, you are not “boxing out” the shot.
“Boxing out” means that you mentally put up a fence around what you need to do, so that you are not distracted by the things and thoughts that have no real bearing on the shot or putt. By not “boxing out” you allow your mind to wander into distractions.
Remember: even pleasant thoughts of success are not relevant to taking the shot. Sometimes this lack of limiting your thoughts is called “Outcome thinking”. In other words, you spend time and energy thinking of what the outcome could be and how that would feel. This is truly an unwise way of spending the time and energy needed to make the shot.
Think of a piece of paper with words and pictures covering it. All of these words and pictures are in some way related to the next shot, but only a few of them are helpful in making the shot. Now group the needed and useful elements together on the page. Now draw a box around these few things.
Some of the things in the box would be: a solid plan to make the shot, a solid pre-shot routine, feeling the swing or putt in your mind, seeing the ball go to where you want it, and ending up looking at the back of the ball as you swing or putt.
Things left out of the box are: past mistakes, thoughts of how bad it would be to miss the target, thoughts of how good it would be to make the shot, or just about anything else you could think of. All of these are left out of the box because they do not help you make the shot.
It is important to really understand what should be in the box. Make a list of what is important to making the shot. You may even consider the sequence or order of the thoughts included. Any other thought or picture is out of the box and not allowed. If you find anything in the box that does not belong in there, simply pick it up by its tail and drop it outside the box. Practice limiting your thinking to only what is in the box.
Begin by practicing at home. Practice “boxing out” fifty times at home before you begin to practice it in physical practice. After two or three weeks of practice you will be ready to begin to use this in competition. Remember, you must first practice mental training at home and then in physical practice before you can expect to use it in competition.
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