Think Your Way To A Lower Golf Handicap

Many recreational golfers rely on feel, natural talent, and repetition to hone their technique and lower their scores. Or, if they’re really old school, they may use swing thoughts developed many years ago. Not surprisingly, these players don’t see much improvement over the years in either their scores or their golf handicaps. The improvement they do see results mostly from technical advances in equipment and better course conditioning.

Modern golf instruction combines an understanding of swing mechanics with an emphasis on creating an athletic, natural motion. To create this motion, you must eliminate whatever mechanical thoughts you’ve developed over the years and replace them with simpler, more effectives ones that help your swing become more natural, athletic, and repetitive. Once accomplished, you’ll amaze yourself at how much more athletic your swing is and how quickly you lower your golf handicap.

It’s critical to have a good setup. If you start off poorly, you have little chance of executing a solid swing. To achieve a more athletic setup, your shoulders, hips, and knees must be level and your weight spread evenly between your feet. Two key thoughts for a good setup are “stay level” and “be athletic.” You could even think “bouncy” since your legs must feel that way in an athletic setup, with flexed knees and relaxed muscles.

The takeaway is another critical move in the swing, as I’ve mentioned in my golf tips. You need a solid, one-piece takeaway powered by your shoulders, not your arms, wrists, or hands, to initiate a fundamentally sound swing. When your arms, wrists, and hands move independently of one another, trouble ensues. Independence forces the club off plane and jeopardizes the square alignment of the clubface. Think “all together” at the takeaway and you won’t go wrong.

At The Top
If your backswing is off during your swing, you lose all the angles you create with a good setup. That means you lose any chance of creating a leveraged, dynamic attack into the ball, inhibiting your ballstriking and short-circuiting power. The thought of “squatting” (your butt toward the ground) is the key for creating the right move into the ball. A telltale sign of a strong squatted pivot away from the target is the backside being close to the ground and pointing at the target.

The transition from backswing to downswing is extremely critical, as I’ve said in my golf tips. A common misconception of recreational golfers is that the club should stay in front of the body during the swing. While this is true on the backswing, it is incorrect on the way down. A proper transition occurs when the body drags the hands and club into the swing. You want the club to be trailing the body up to and past impact. A good swing thought here is “body leading arms.”

While it’s natural to think “hit the ball” at impact, it’s not the best approach. In fact, it’s a bad approach. The desire to “hit at” the ball initiates the use of the hands during the downswing, breaking down the proper sequence of the body first, club and arms second. Instead, think “squeeze the ball on the club face.” What many recreational golfers don’t realize is that accomplished players don’t think about hitting the ball. They think about swinging through the ball at a point several inches past the ball. It’s what I encourage players to do in my golf lessons.

Golfers who swing the club at the ball invariably finish poorly. These players generally stop their swings at the point of impact. Golfers who swing the club through the ball generally have a correct finish. Your thought at the finish should be “get the back shoulder to the target.” This thought forces you to keep working past the ball and changes the ultimate destination from the point of impact to well beyond it, generating more power and a balanced finish.

Old School vs. New School
Old school teachers often used specific images to create the proper feel for a correct swing. Unfortunately, these images sometimes breakdown at key points, leading golfers astray. For example, a popular old school image for assuming the proper grip of a club was for the player to think of holding a small bird in his or her hands. What if you’ve never held a bird in your hands? How can you know what the feeling is like?

Today, golf teachers try to combine an understanding of the proper mechanics of the swing with the feeling of a natural athletic motion. Try substituting the swing thoughts we discussed above for some of those mechanical swing thoughts you may have developed over the years. Use the new swing thoughts at the range and on the course. You’ll be surprised how effective they are and how much they’ll improve your swing and golf handicap.

Copyright (c) 2007 Jack Moorehouse