by David Lake
I have been coaching golfers for many years and the first thing that I tell them is to stop thinking! For whatever reason, golf is the only sport where the participant actually thinks himself out of good performance. For instance:
- Have you ever thought about how to throw a ball to someone, actually thinking of how hard or how high to throw it? The answer is never – you just throw the ball.
- Have you ever actively thought through the mechanics involved in walking when strolling down the street? I do not think that it is possible to walk and think about it without tripping yourself up constantly.
My point is that golf is the only sport, or any other activity for that matter, where the mind is actively thinking it’s way through a physical movement (the golf swing). This is completely unnatural and is the reason that 99% of all golfers constantly struggle with their swing. In reality, a golf swing is an extremely simple movement – you swing a golf club and hit a ball resting on the ground. A five year old child can learn it in a few minutes without giving the movement a second thought. However, as we become older and wiser our intelligence dictates that we must break down every single component of the golf swing, analyze it, and then try to think our way through the movement, which is not only impossible but a guarantee for failure.
Whenever I agree to coach a golfer I instruct them to bring only two things with them to their session: 1): a headphone radio, and 2): a #3 iron. The reason for the headphone is to eliminate the thought process entirely from the golf swing (listening to a headphone while swinging a golf club makes active thought impossible). The reason that I have them bring a #3 iron is that a low lofted iron is inherently more difficult to hit then a high lofted iron, and by becoming proficient with it the golfer automatically becomes exponentially more proficient with all the other irons.
Getting golfers to make a good swing is automatic when they are listening to the headphones. Since their minds are preoccupied their bodies take over and very naturally begin producing better swings right from the start. The interesting part is that with every swing the movement becomes a little more precise and efficient which is the result of 10,000 years of human evolution – unconscious physical adaptability (the ability to perform a movement and then to make thousands of unconscious infinitesimal adjustments to correct any inefficiencies). The end result is that after an hour or so the golfer has automatically and unconsciously developed a very sound and consistent swing. What you have to bear in mind is that given time and practice/repetition the human body is capable of accomplishing extremely complicated mechanical tasks and in the most efficient manner. The problem with the golf swing is that we try to impose our conscious thought process into the physical movement which is a recipe for disaster.