Readers of Bob Rotella books know that one of his favorite axioms is, “Train it, trust it.” The idea is to practice enough so your body will naturally recall the proper swing mechanics without trying to force them. This is truly the best way to play golf, but what if you’re out on the course and feel your swing slipping away to the point that you cannot trust it? What do you do? You have two options:
- Work on your mechanics and try to fix your swing
- Try to change your perspective of the shots you need to hit. In essence, fool your mind into getting comfortable because a couple fairways in a row will do wonders for your confidence. Tiger does this by hitting that stinger with his three wood when he loses confidence in the driver.
Try number two. You should do it by taking any club you feel you can make an aggressive swing with to hit the fairway. Say, you usually hit driver on a 500 yard par-5. A good shot leaves you 260 yards in, but a bad swing might put you in the woods and looking at a big number. Instead, hit a four or five iron off the tee. From the fairway, you now have maybe 330 yards in. That’s still just a short par-4 which you should be able to hit with two more shots, and presto, you are right back in the hole.
There is another approach gleaned from the great mystery of why we play great one day and awful the next. It’s truly mind boggling and all golfers have tried to solve for this at one point in time. I believe it has something to do with your natural bio-rhythms. These are the brain synapses that fire and guide your central nervous system. They control your ability to concentrate, your stress level, your hand-eye coordination, your pleasure and pain receptors, and just how you feel from day to day. Example: Today I was at my local muni practicing and hit the ball quite awful. Couldn’t tell where it was going and actually thinned a couple off the hozel. The day before, I was at another course working short game and my touch was superb. Oddly enough, the good practice was preceded by a frustrating day at work and I didn’t feel like practicing and forced myself to. Yet, that had no impact on my performance. Why? Ultimately, I think the environment you’re in and comfort level has a lot to do with your performance.
Control the environment and you control your ability to relax. Relax and you play better. For me, it’s the avoidance of feeling crowded and being in tight spaces. I get tense in traffic jams, shopping malls, in long lines, and even on crowded beaches. When I’m tense on the golf course, my game goes in the crapper. Conversely, when I loosen up and relax, I perform much better. The course I practiced at yesterday is much less populated than my local muni. There’s plenty of room to spread out and work all your shots. Nobody gets in anyone’s way. I always seem to practice well there. On the other hand, my muni is the popular hangout. Today was 80 degrees and it was packed, but it’s always crowded. My practice and play are spotty at this track. I’m much more relaxed at the first course and therefore perform better. Tomorrow, I play at Rattlewood, where I’ve had considerable success. I always seem to warm up well before my round and that relaxes me. Oddly enough, the driving range was constructed with a slight upgrade from left to right for all hitting stations. Ding on whomever poured the foundation, but this silly little nuance forces me to start hitting the ball right to left during my warm-up, and that’s a ball flight I’m comfortable with.
Need more evidence? Think of some courses you play regularly. Do you routinely play well at some and hack on others? The pros do. I travel to Myrtle Beach every year and always play good on the same courses. Legends-Heathland, Thistle, Oyster Bay, and True Blue come to mind. Some of these are hard tracks, but the common factor is that I like the look of the tee shots. They’re generally a little more open, have great sight lines, and distinct targets. I feel relaxed and loose and can let the shaft out. Other courses like TPC of Myrtle, Legends-Moorland, and Heritage are super tight off the tee and I struggle with every round. I feel squeezed on the tee box and always worry about keeping it in play, and I usually don’t.
In summary, my two keys.
- Trust your swing. If you can’t, find a conservative shot you can trust
- Practice and play at venues where you feel relaxed
Got any others? Please share and play well!