The golf swing is complex, to say the least. Even the best golfers rarely reach a state where they’re playing without consciously thinking about the swing – and such states are usually short-lived.
Unconscious golf is ideal, but carrying one or two simple thoughts into every shot is more realistic. Golfers run into major trouble when the mind gets distracted by more than a couple of swing keys. And when you’re playing poorly, thoughts can pile up like cars in a freeway crash.
This state is often called “paralysis by analysis” or “analysis paralysis.” You’re thinking about so many different swing elements – “rotate the shoulders,” “make a wide arc,” “lead the downswing with the hips” – you get tied up in knots. Some golfers stand over the ball for 10, 20, 30 seconds or more, unable to pull the club back. When they finally swing, they often wish they hadn't.
It’s a battle everyone fights at one time or another. The question is, how do you beat paralysis by analysis?
Not with more analysis, that’s for sure.
If you’re shackled by an overload of mechanical thoughts, try these helpful tips to break free:
- Drop all expectations: Why do we get so wrapped up in the swing’s every minute movement? Because we care. Golfers want to hit the ball long and straight, to score well, to beat (and impress) their playing partners. But it’s possible to care too much. When things head south, we start a desperate search for answers. With each subsequent poor swing, we get more and more tense. Our friends offer their advice, adding to the pile.
At a certain point, your best bet is to forget about it. The ball goes where it goes and you score what you score. Don’t just lower your expectations – drop them altogether. Once your mind is free, your body will follow.
- Focus on tempo: Over-analysis causes the muscles to tighten; the swing becomes stiff and mechanical. If this symptom strikes on the course, step aside with a club, place your feet close together and make a continuous series of smooth half-swings while keeping your balance. Use this as your practice swing for the rest of the round.
Some golfers find that keeping a slow, mellow song in their head evens out their tempo. If you’ve got a favorite, punch it up on your mental MP3 player and hum along. Whatever works, right?
- Develop a swing trigger: If you simply can’t get comfortable enough to take the club back, you need a trigger to get started. This is usually a brief, nearly imperceptible move that signals your body to get moving.
Many pros use a swing trigger. For example, Jack Nicklaus cocked his head to the right just before takeaway (a move he borrowed from Sam Snead). Others kick the right knee inward, or press the hands forward.
A trigger serves to clear the mind and get the swing started the same way, every time. If you find yourself in a jumble of thoughts, just pull the trigger and bang, away you go.