There’s a scene in Bull Durham where Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) tells “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), “Don’t think. It can only hurt the ball club.”
It’s pretty much the same in golf. The more we think about mechanics as we set up and swing, the less likely we are to hit a good shot. In one survey, 75% of PGA Tour players said they don’t have a single thought while swinging.
You could probably flip that percentage for amateurs. Most of us get so wrapped up in technical details, our swings become rigid and wooden.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t carry a thought into every swing. After all, you probably don’t practice or play as much as the pros, who do their thinking on the range until their keys become automatic on the course.
As long as you keep swing thoughts simple, positive and non-mechanical, they can actually be a good thing. Here are five tried and true mental cues that can spark your swing:
- “Back of the ball”: Just before taking the club back, use this phrase to focus your eyes on the precise spot you want to hit.
- “Through, not to”: An alternative to “back of the ball,” use this one to keep from hitting “at” the ball. It’s an especially useful thought for golfers who tend to ease up (decelerate) before making contact.
- “Low and slow”: A good key for making a smooth, efficient takeaway and setting a good tempo for the rest of the swing.
- “Straw-ber-ry mousse”: Speaking of tempo, this four-syllable phrase tells you that your backswing should take three times as long as the downswing. Taking the club to the top, think “straw-ber-ry,” then start down on the word “mousse.” You can, of course, substitute an appropriate word or phrase of your choosing.
- “See ball, hit ball”: The classic, “caveman” approach. This is a good way to flush mechanical thoughts from your mind before swinging. What could be simpler?