It's easy to take certain golf concepts a bit too literally and overdo them. For example, some golfers are so intent on keeping the head down or still, they don't allow the shoulders to move freely back and through.
A similar issue afflicts some golfers on the takeaway. Taught to drag the club back low and slow while maintaining the triangle formed by the arms and shoulders, they tense up at address. This prevents the arms from rotating, the shoulders from turning and the wrists from cocking at the appropriate point.
We'll call this a “frozen” takeaway, for obvious reasons. It can cause a number of problems, including a closed clubface and a restricted backswing turn.
The good news is, the frozen takeaway can be easily cured.
Start with your shoulders and arms. At address, the shoulders should be relaxed and wide, not scrunched or squeezed together. The arms should hang down naturally. (Watch this video for a fool-proof setup method.)
Next comes grip pressure. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being an extremely tight grip, hold the club with a pressure of 4 or 5.
Now that you're tension free, focus on rotating your shoulders in unison with the arms, hands and club as you take it back low and slow. There's no need to consciously break or hinge the wrists at a certain point; as long as your takeaway mechanics are in order, this will happen naturally.
How to Prevent a Frozen Takeaway
Every golfer knows the dreaded feeling of being frozen over the golf ball at address. You have done all of your necessary pre-shot preparations, including selecting a club, picking a target, taking your stance, and more. With all of those details out of the way, you settle in to your stance and place the club head behind the ball. Everything is all set for a great shot, until you find that you are suddenly frozen in place – no matter what you do, you can't seem to get your mind to tell your body to start the swing.
Obviously, this is a problem that needs to be solved as quickly as possible. Not only is it embarrassing to get 'stuck' over the ball at address, it will also have a negative effect on the quality of your game. Even if this only happens once or twice per round, it can get in your head and start to affect the outcome of all of your shots. The good news is this – with a little bit of work and a good game plan, you should be able to set this problem aside and get your game back on track in the near future.
You should know that you aren't alone when you deal with the problem of freezing up before your takeaway. In fact, some of the top players in the world have fought this issue during their careers. As you can imagine, this issue is even more embarrassing for a professional golfer who has the eyes of the entire gallery (and those watching on TV at home) waiting for him or her to start their swing. If you are feeling frustrated about your inability to get the swing started in a timely manner, just remember that plenty of other golfers have fought this battle, and they have come out on the other side after finding ways to get around the dreaded freeze.
Finding the root cause of the problem is the first step in ridding your game of this issue. The underlying cause of freezing up at address is going to vary from player to player, so you are going to have to think through all of the potential causes carefully while determining which is affecting you specifically (more on this later). Once you have the cause identified, you can then put a plan together that will help you address and solve the problem once and for all. Freezing up over the ball is an issue that can greatly decrease the enjoyment you get out of the game – and it can even leave you not wanting to play golf at all. As soon as you notice that you are having a problem starting your swing in a timely manner, address the issue with your full attention so that you can prevent it from getting worse and worse over time.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
The Potential Causes
As mentioned above, there are a number of potential causes that need to be considered when it comes to the freeze. You might be affected by one of these causes specifically, or your issue might actually be a blend of two or more of the points below. Only you can know what is going on in your own head, so read through this list and see which points 'hit home' for you.
- Nerves. Feeling nervous is one of the leading causes of freezing up over the ball. Even if you have done everything perfectly in your pre-shot routine to prepare for the shot, the nerves that you are feeling in your stomach may prevent you from having the confidence to actually start the swing. Once the club starts to move away from the ball, you are committed to hitting the shot – and that commitment is scary at times when you are nervous. Since nerves are an unavoidable part of playing golf, you will need to find ways to cope with them while still performing at your best.
- Poor preparation. Using a pre-shot routine that is lacking in some way – or not using one at all – could leave you standing over the ball without any clue as to what you should do next. The entire goal of your pre-shot routine is to put you in a position to start the swing with confidence, but it doesn't work out that way for every player. If you are struggling with the freeze, it might be as simple as making a few changes to your pre-shot routine in order to put your mind in a better 'place' prior to the swing. The best players in the world all lean on a solid pre-shot routine to help them stay focused on the task at hand, and you should do the same.
- Faulty mechanics. The cause of getting stuck over the ball at address can also come down to a technical flaw in your setup position. If you aren't in the right place over the ball, you will have trouble getting started because your mind will sense that something is off. This is why it is so important to construct a great stance that you can use when hitting every shot throughout the course of a round. Your stance should be something that you can rely on, so investing time in learning how to build a great stance is wise decision.
- Lack of focus. During the course of a four hour (or longer) round, you might find that your mind wanders off onto other things. This is natural, but it can also lead to trouble if you aren't able to refocus when you get over the ball. Your mind needs to be dialed in on the task at hand if you are going to hit good shots. Should you find yourself thinking about something else when you get ready to hit a shot, it might be difficult to figure out how to get the swing started. Before walking up to take your stance, make sure you have pushed outside thoughts aside and returned your mind to the job of hitting the ball.
Most likely, the cause (or causes) of your tendency to freeze over the golf ball can be found on the list above. Once you have decided what it is that you believe is at the heart of the matter, you can set about the task of solving the problem. That job might be quick and easy, or it could take a period of weeks or even months before you are fully in the clear. Either way, the problem isn't going to solve itself, so take an active approach to getting it fixed and you will find yourself enjoying golf once again.
Reviewing Your Pre-Shot Routine
The point of a pre-shot routine is to prepare both your mind and body to hit a great shot. If you are having trouble with freezing up over the ball, your pre-shot routine is obviously not getting the job done from a mental standpoint. Rather than continuing to do the same thing over and over while expecting a different result, you should take a look at your pre-shot routine and try to find ways to make improvements.
One of the key elements of a good pre-shot routine is a moment where you can simply stand and clear your mind before taking your stance. Is this element present in your routine currently? If not, now would be a good time to add it in. Consider standing behind the ball at the start of your routine while clearing your mind and staring at the target. During these few seconds, your focus should be on nothing but the target – don't allow any technical thoughts to enter your brain. Also, you can take this time to clear the nerves out of your system. In this moment, it is just you and the target. Once that moment of clarity has been completed, you can then move on to the rest of your routine before stepping into the shot.
Another important part of a good pre-shot routine is the rehearsal of the swinging motion. This is particular important for those who are freezing up over the ball. By practicing your swing – including your takeaway – you can build confidence that you can use to get your swing started properly once it is time to hit the shot. Of course, you don't want to have your pre-shot routine take so long that you wind up slowing down all of the other groups, so limit yourself to just a single practice swing. In fact, you don't even have to make a full practice swing to get ready to hit a shot. Instead, you could choose to only make a short takeaway action to get that part of the swing ironed out. Whatever you do, whether you decide to make a full swing or just a takeaway, make sure you do it the same way before each and every shot.
Most of all, your pre-shot routine should fill you with confidence and comfort. Many golfers have trouble getting comfortable on the course, as they doubt themselves at just about every turn. As a result, they never play their best golf because they are always questioning the moves they make and the way the swing the club. It is the job of the pre-shot routine to clear out all of those negative thoughts so that you can focus in on simply executing your swing to the best of your ability. Basically, a good pre-shot routine will transport you mentally from the course back to the range. On the range, you just to your best to hit good shots without any concern for the outcome. That is the way it should be on the course. Make a great swing, watch the ball fly toward the target, and do it all over again on the next shot. If you can boil golf down to this basic form, your mind won't even have a chance to cause you to freeze up at address.
Don't make the same mistake that so many other golfers have made in thinking that the pre-shot routine isn't important. There is a reason that every professional golfer has some form of routine – they are very important, and they can mean the difference between hitting quality shots and playing poorly throughout the round. Work on your routine as frequently as possible on the driving range so that you can execute it without thought when on the course. If you are frustrated with your inability to get the swing started once you take your stance, look to your pre-shot routine as a way out of this struggle.
Play a Solo Round
The problem of freezing up over the ball at address is one that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once you start to expect it to happen, it will keep happening more and more. It is one of those things that needs to be out of your mind altogether if you are going to put a stop to it permanently. One of the best ways to put it out of your mind is to play a round of golf by yourself.
Many golfers play solo rounds from time to time, while other players would never consider heading out without someone else along side. Even if you are a player who usually prefers to play with others, try to find an opportunity to play a solo round sometime soon to work on getting over this problem. It is often the eyes of others waiting for you to hit your shot that can lead to the anxiety which causes the freeze, so taking away that element should free you up to just make a swing. Knowing that no one is waiting on you, and no one is watching, might be all it takes to unlock your mind.
Playing a solo round is perhaps the best way to truly get to the bottom of this problem and understand its root cause. If you are able to stop freezing over the ball when you play a solo round, you can be confident that the cause is the pressure you are feeling from others. However, if you are still freezing up even with no one watching you play, it is more likely that the cause is physical (an error in your setup). It is important to differentiate between these two causes, as they have two very different solutions. Should you be dealing with a physical error that is leading to the freeze, you will want to work on your address fundamentals until you are confident that you are in a great position. On the other hand, if it seems to be a mental block associated with playing in front of others, you are going to have to work on your mindset and confidence.
If you find that your solo round does the trick and you are able to stop freezing up as long as no one is watching, do your best to play a couple more solo rounds in a row before going back to your group. The best way to build confidence is to have success, so rack up as many solo rounds as possible where you aren't freezing over the ball at all. That way, even when you go back to your group and have others watching, you may have built up enough confidence to handle that pressure successfully. To work your way back into the world of golfing in front of others without freezing up, try to schedule a round with just one person who you consider to be a close friend. Hopefully playing with a good friend won't add any pressure to your shots and you can still perform on demand. From there, slowly open yourself up to playing with more and more people until you have forgotten all about the freezing problem.
As mentioned above, your solo round or rounds of golf should make it clear whether you are dealing with a mental or physical issue. If you find that it is actually a physical problem with your setup that is causing you to freeze over the ball, this section will help you correct those errors. It is incredibly important that you build a good stance at address, yet many players choose to ignore this part of their technique. Take the time to read through the following tips in order to sharpen up your stance and your tendency to freeze at address should quickly go away.
- Keep your head up. This is one of the most-important address position tips of all. If you let your chin get down into your chest at address, there won't be any room for your shoulder to turn back away from the target. While you are standing over the ball, make sure your chin is up and away from your chest with plenty of space for your left shoulder to pass under on the way back. It is easy for this mistake (keeping your head down) to lead to a freeze up at address because you won't have a clear path to get things started. If necessary, practicing taking your stance in front of a mirror so you can quickly check on the position of your chin. As a rule of thumb, you should be able to place your fist between your chest and the bottom of your chin as you prepare to make a swing.
- Flex your knees. There should always be some degree of knee flex in your stance, and you should maintain that flex throughout the swing. A common mistake that is made by the average golfer is to stand over the ball with straight legs, which can do bad things to both your balance and your tempo. Also, it can cause you to freeze up at address because you feel like any movement you make it going to throw you off balance immediately. Make sure to put at least a little bit of flex into your knees while over the ball and you should be able to start your swing without a problem.
- Relaxed grip. Tension is a terrible thing in the golf swing, and it can easily lead to freezing up prior to the takeaway. Most of the tension that is experienced by the amateur golfer at address will be found in the grip, as the average player tends to squeeze the club too tightly while preparing to swing. On the practice range, work on hitting shots with a lighter grip pressure and notice how your entire body is more relaxed as a result. Obviously you need to have enough tension in your grip to keep control of the club, so work on striking a nice balance between control and relaxed fingers.
- Square to the target. Your body has an amazing ability to just 'sense' when you are aimed incorrectly. If you don't get your feet, hips, and shoulders squared up with the target at address, you might have a hard time convincing yourself to start the swing. Make sure to get nice and square when you take your stance and use the confidence gained from that position to start your swing off right.
Freezing up over the ball at address is no fun, but this is a problem that you should be able to correct in the near future. Unlike some of the issues that you can have within your actual golf swing, this problem shouldn't require weeks and weeks of driving range sessions to iron out. Once you determine whether you are dealing with a mental or physical block that is preventing you from starting the takeaway, you can then use the content above to work toward getting on track. Remember, plenty of good players have dealt with this very same issue, so you are not alone. Work through the problem with patience and logic, and you can soon return to playing the game you love without having to deal with this frustrating and embarrassing issue.