Something really remarkable happened during one of my shows a few years ago.
It was so peculiar that it completely changed how I think on the golf course for good.
I don’t know what made me do it but, I asked the audience if they could see the 250 yard marker in the distance.
They said ‘’Yes, of course” so I replied….
‘’Well, I am going to hit a left handed shot at the 2…”
and I continued…” after that it will move three yards from left to right to the 0.”
Naturally, they had their doubts.
As ridiculous as it sounds, I hit the shot straight at the 2 and it flew with a beautiful flight exactly as intended.
I was not completely surprised that I could hit a great shot – after all, I am supposed to be able to do that – but I was taken aback by the amazing accuracy that calling the shot had delivered.
Having tried it a few more times, I was pretty sure I had discovered something very powerful. I still don’t properly understand it but verbally describing the shot before you hit it is an amazingly productive thing to do.
I call it ‘’setting up my mind” and I now use ‘’The Voice” (verbalisation) as a matter of routine to call out loud the shot I am about to hit.
It nearly always INCREASES the accuracy of my shots WITHOUT me having to even think about HOW I would do it.
How should we think when we are in the Thinking Box?
In part one of this blog I discussed the danger of playing too slowly and how it can lead to over-controlling the swing.
One brilliant solution to this problem is Annika Sorenstam’s Think Box – Play Box technique.
In case you missed it, here is a re-cap…..
The Thinking Box is where you plan the shot and decide what to do.
The Playing Box is where you actually strike the ball.
The Decision Line separates the two.
So what do we need to be thinking about whilst we are in the Thinking Box?
Using ‘’The Voice” in the Thinking Box
You will know from your own experience that there is a running commentary in your head. It could be telling you almost anything and the most amazingly irrelevant thoughts can just pop into our heads.
It could be telling you to relax or to try harder. It could be asking you to grind out your score or just to enjoy the round. It could be saying that red trousers were inspired, or that they are a ghastly mistake. It could be anything and has no real focus or consistency. Uncontrolled, it can ruin your game.
In my view golfers have to control this voice and not let it interfere….like this…
You have to set up your mind – not just your body
Once you have made a decision about what you are going to do, it is a very good idea to verbalise what the shot will look like.
If you are more visual then by all means ‘’see” the shot happening right in front of you. Whatever your method, be sure you know what you DO want to happen.
For example, I might say I want to hit a hard, low drawing shot that starts on the edge of the green, turns 3 yards in the air, lands on the front of the green and runs up to the flag.
Sounds like a bit too much detail? Well, it isn’t, actually.
Language can be very powerful in helping your mind communicate with your body (and swing). I think it makes so much sense to ask for your body to produce a shot. Otherwise, how will it know what you want?
Describing disaster – Ken Venturi
If you find my first story hard to believe then here is one you will almost certainly recognise.
It came from a brilliant book I read years ago by Ken Venturi – the 1964 US open champion who died in 2013. He told a story about an amateur golfer who got his thoughts in the wrong order.
The amateur said that he’d like to hit to the flag but was worried about the water in front of the green.
His last thought was about the water. So where do you think the ball went?
We all know that ball was heading for the hazard – which it did.
What is more……after the shot the golfer turned to Ken Venturi and said ‘’I KNEW I was going to do that!!”
Well, of course he did! He ‘’knew” because his last thought was about the trouble – and not where he wanted it to go.
Trouble First, Solution Second
If the order of thoughts were reversed, this particular golfer would have had a chance.
If you think about the water in front of the green first, then you may decide that the back of the green is a better, safer target. So you select an appropriate club and then describe the shot to yourself. I like doing this out loud so everyone can hear it but I can imagine that you might feel a bit self-conscious doing that!
It is ok to say it quietly, or just think it – as long as you mean it and are committed to the decision.
The real cause of bad shots
The real cause of most bad shots is usually a mental error such as uncertainty or lack of commitment to a decision.
Bad thinking causes our technique to break down but, amazingly, golfers spend much more time focusing on their technique than on their mind-set.
The technical side of setting up and hitting are of course important, but what happens before you get to that point will have as great an influence on the outcome of your shot.
Verbalisation will help you set up your mind – so that you can focus on what you DO want to happen!
Thanks for reading.
Kind regards, Jeremy.
For more instruction from Jeremy click here….
Jeremy Dale is a PGA Coach (Heythrop Park) & Professional Trick Shot Artist – he also has a degree in Psychology from the University of Sussex.
References – Every Shot Must Have a Purpose by Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott
Ken Venturi – The Venturi Analysis