Ever missed a putt after carefully checking the length and break, making couple of practice strokes, and setting up as precisely as possible? Have you then walked around the other side of the hole and hit the ball into the hole without taking any care lining up or thinking about how hard to hit the ball? Of course you have.
You most likely holed most of those putts where you took very little care. Granted most of them were from only 1 or 2 feet. Do you notice when you putt without much preparation you experience less angst? Unless the red mist of anger has descended because you missed the first putt.
Most players spend too much time thinking about their shot (or putt) while they are standing over it, as they are about to begin their swing. This is incredibly disruptive to a smooth routine and usually bad news for the outcome of the shot. There is no shortage of articles in the different golfing media suggesting that slow play is a black mark on our sport. One of the many reasons why play can take so long, is that there is too much time spent in analysis of a shot (planning and decision making). There is also too much time spent in thinking about the shot, or the swing at the wrong time.
The wrong time to be thinking about the shot is when you are standing over it, just prior to making a backswing. At that point all the decisions about target, shot type, swing feel and the club you are going to use should already have been made. In fact most of those decisions should have been made before the club was taken out of the bag.
When you are standing behind the ball and looking to the target, you need to create a mental blueprint of where you want the ball finish, the flight it will take to get there and the feel of the swing required to make that happen. They are the minimum requirements.
As soon as you have created that mental blueprint, there is nothing more to do than set up to the ball and execute the shot. When I’m coaching routine I usually allow a player 2-3 seconds from the time they have taken their stance until they begin their backswing. I call it the One-Second Routine because that’s a much more dramatic sounding name, but I generously give the players 2-3 seconds to begin their backswing.
If you are like most players, when you first practice this you will have a strong sense that you weren’t completely ready to start your swing…that you were rushed. This is an indication that you haven’t had time to engage your conscious thinking processes of double or triple checking your set-up or your swing thoughts. Of course the whole idea of the One-Second Routine is that you don’t have time to do those destructive thinking processes.
Within a few shots you’ll find a swing rhythm which actually begins from the moment you step toward the ball. Many of the greatest golfers claim they like to have some continuous movement going on before they begin their backswing. As soon as they stop moving, their bodies can begin to freeze. Their bodies are more likely to freeze from over-thinking. Has that ever happened to you?
Make sure that the visual and ‘feel’ components of your mental blueprint are of a high quality. Given that you only have 2-3 seconds to start your swing once you have stood over the ball, eliminating any sense of being rushed demands that you complete your preparation before you begin to walk toward the ball.
Like any new skill element that you are looking to bring to your game, first practice it on the driving range then on the course, and finally in competition. Trust is a big factor in your new routine being successful. This is because there is a mental ‘letting go’ of all the unnecessary and often destructive thoughts that can happen from the time you are standing over the ball to the time you begin your backswing. It’s not uncommon for me to count more than 10 seconds from the time a player stands over the ball until they start their swing. Who knows what they are thinking during this time?
If you can’t begin to build this new routine into your golf today, it should only because you are not hitting any golf balls today. The very next time you are practising or playing use this routine to help relieve any potential mental stresses that come from too much conscious thought.
“The bad poet (golfer) is usually unconscious where he ought to be conscious, and conscious where he ought to be unconscious.”
Apologies to TS Eliot