Some people never do this; some people do it too much. Regardless of your philosophy on change, you are never going to get better if something doesn’t change. Now, that may be as simple as to continue with your current swing which slices the ball, and simply work on ingraining it deeper so you at least slice it a consistent amount. Or, you could try and change something directly in your technique so that you turn that slice into a straighter shot/draw shot.
The first step in making an appropriate change is to know what it is you want to change. Fixing your slice is a pretty futile process if you don’t know what causes a slice in the first place. Like-wise, can you fix a top shot if you don’t know what you should actually be doing?
Most people know a ‘topped shot’ looks like this.
But do you know what your club should be doing through impact?
In this example, I am going to use someone who tends to hit fat shots (where the club hits the ground before the ball). So the ‘what to fix’ here is the bottom of the swing arc. If you imagine the swing as a circle, the bottom of that circle is positioned too far behind the golf ball, so the divot begins behind the ball. We need to get the divot position further forward
This is where individuality comes in, as is the spice of life -you can fix the fault in many ways. A player could literally just focus on getting the divot in the right position at impact, and use their instinct to make the change. Or they could take a more body focussed approach, where they focus on getting their weight more forwards at impact (as an example) as to influence where the bottom of the swing is. A good golf coach will give you a few ways to attack the problem you have, and you will find out which way works best for you over time.
This is where the divot should be in relation to the ball, in a good golf shot
(the target is the top side of the picture)
This is important to you progress, as feedback really highlights whether you are improving or not, and allows you to make adjustments in order to close in on your goal. If you were focusing on your weight position, having a coach watch you and tell you if you are doing it enough/too much can be a great help. Or you could video yourself and use one of the many applications out there to analyze your swing.
There are many quality swing analyzer apps
on the market now
One bit of feedback I would definitely recommend for our example player is to draw a paint line on the grass (use spray paint if allowed) and place the golf balls on the line. You can then see where your divot is in relation to where the ball was. Having feedback like this allows you to set goals also. You may not be doing what you want perfectly (perhaps you are hitting 3 inches behind the ball), but are you at least getting closer (maybe you were hitting 10 inches behind the ball last week). This is both motivating and confidence building.
One thing at a time
In order to be effective practice, we need to really increase our level of focus. Changing a motor pattern is very difficult work, and is a slow process if we are not mentally present during our practice. It is going to require your full attention, so I would recommend only focussing on one thing at a time. If you have 3 things which you wish to improve, do 10 solid minutes devoted solely to each thing, rather than half an hour of jumbled practice where you try to get them all together and end up getting nothing done. You know what they say about too much of a good thing, right?
This is especially true when you are at the beginning stages of learning something new/ new move. As you become more proficient, you can attempt to blend them into one feeling. Eventually, given enough practice, the moves will become automatic.
Get rid of the result
One of the biggest obstacles I see amongst amateurs trying to change their swing (trying being the operative word) is that they really struggle to let go of the result. What this means is, they want to hit great golf shots so bad that they can’t make the swing change.
When we become focussed on the result, the focus of the change gets lost. I often see this when a player comes out to the tee after viewing their swing on video. They will have a clear image of what they want to do, and usually their first shot is great – but then they notice the ball flying through the air beautifully, want to repeat that, and now their focus is not on the movement which produced it.
A net like this is pretty easy to set up
Find some way of taking the result away. At my academy, I often use airflow balls or milk bottle tops, so the player has less concern with where the ball is going and more with what they are trying to achieve. You could use these items yourself, or maybe hit balls into a net.
Eventually, you will have to bring the result back into the picture again, as it is the important for the mind to be able to link the visual stimulus with the motor program. But for the very early stages of learning, taking away the result can help make that jump from the old movement to the new one that little bit easier.
Understand the paradox
One paradoxical situation that often occurs with heightened awareness of movement/ an internal focus / too much concentration is there is a drop in performance. I wrote about this here
– it is nothing to worry about. It doesn’t matter if you are performing great whilst changing your technique, that is a separate goal – one which many people don’t understand at all, but it is vital you do or many potentially beneficial swing changes could be lost because your weren’t patient enough.
Obviously this doesn’t happen every time, but a lot of the time, a new move can throw you off because it is unfamiliar/fresh and the brain hasn’t had chance to re-wire itself yet. But stay patient, keep focus on what you are doing and you will get the benefits in time. Read this too – an article on Delayed Gratification
– one of my most popular articles.
I wrote in more depth about this idea here
but the basic premise is to progress gradually. Trying to make great leaps and bounds in your technique is probably going to set you up for more harm than good, so make sure you take baby steps.
Start out by making small swings, visualizing clearly what you want to achieve. Don’t be ashamed to use tee’s, I am a professional and occasionally use a tee when working on something in my swing. As you reach about a 60/70% success rate (you define success) add a bit more. Maybe swing a bit longer, use more power (within reason) until you are swinging at normal speed and doing the new movement successfully.
Take baby steps in the right direction
You will soon be running away with your new swing
When you have reached this point, you can consolidate the learning further by pushing yourself with more difficult versions of the skill. Try utilizing RANDOM PRACTICE
principles to make it more difficult – or even try the move with your eyes closed.
Take home notes
Changing a part of your swing is not easy, but you can reap great rewards if you do so – it’s all about seeing the bigger picture. If you want to play your best golf all the time, keep doing what you are doing and try to get more consistent at doing it – but understand that if your best golf is 28 over par, it will probably stay that way unless you start making a change.
Just understand that the whole process of change takes time. You need a clear goal of what you want to achieve, you need to know how to achieve it (see your pro for help, or contact me) and you also need good feedback.
But the mind needs to adjust – old neuronal networks in the brain need to be broken down and new ones formed. This requires deep concentration during practice, and a period of time. Also, your body is going to need to change. Through practicing the new movements, your body is gradually getting stronger and more flexible to accommodate the new move. But this too takes time.
As a side note, but a very important one. You can take technical practice too far (Click HERE to see my most popular article to date) . By getting obsessed with chasing a perfect model, or even perfect impact factors, you can lose the feel for the game. This is why I recommend this aspect of your practice as a small part of the whole regime – and limit it mainly to off season.
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Next week, I will be discussing a very important topic which goes against what a lot of the teaching industry will tell you. It could be the key to unlocking a new and much improved game – which my pupils are finding.