Breathing Techniques for Golf

BreathingBefore I get right into this topic, I want to note that I am not looking to make the golf swing more complicated than it already is by adding just one more thing to think about during your swing.  At the end of the day, the whole idea of a breathing focus during your swing, and round, should lead to much less thinking and stress.  So let’s get right to it.

As you know, I try my best to get in a daily meditation of at least 15 mins.  This is extremely helpful for stress management and overall health and well being for a number of reasons.  As you know, breathing techniques are extremely important for effective meditation and can most definitely be applied in other area of life outside of your specific meditation times.  For some reason I have never actually put much thought into applying specific breathing during my actual golf swing or putting stroke.  It really just dawned on me the other day that this might be a good thing to apply to my swing and I felt a bit stupid for not thinking about it until now.  I have previously thought about breathing techniques between shots, and I will speak to that in this article also.  So here we go.

Breathing During the Swing

Like I mentioned above, some people may believe that adding breathing to the list of things we think about during our swing will just be way too much and mess us up even more.  However, if you recall, once you are at a certain skill level, and arguably right from the beginning, less thinking when you actually swing is a superior technique.  So, adding in a breathing technique should not require much thought, particularly once you are competent with it and it becomes part of your routine.  Ultimately, once you begin to implement a breathing technique during your swing, it will eventually integrate into your automatic shot routine.  That being said, why should we implement a breathing technique?

First off, we all know that proper breathing is calming and can significantly reduce the impact of stress (nervousness, anger, etc) on our body, and thus, on our body’s performance.  It is also a wonderful tool to help focus the mind, and we all know the devil that comes in the form of random negative thoughts when we address the ball! Furthermore, it is a great tool to reduce muscle tension, allowing for a great range of motion and ideal muscle function.

Having a specific breathing technique during a swing is not a new concept and many professionals utilize one in their own routines.  What seems to be working for me right now is something similar to Tom Watson’s technique.  Simple put, Tom models his technique to that of shooting professionals who hold their breath at a certain point just prior to pulling the trigger.  This quiets the mind and stills the body. Here are the steps:

1.) Take a deep breath, 2.) Release said breath, 3.) Take another deep breath, 4.) Release said breath half way and hold, 5.) Start your swing

Another one of the suggested benefits of the above technique is that some feel it allows for greater thoracic spine rotation, and the possibility of a longer, yet still technically sound, swing.

Other teaching professionals and players have different techniques.  For instance, another popular one is to breath in during the take away and breath out though the down swing.  As with many things about golf, you need to experiment and find out what technique works for you.  Whatever way you choose, make sure that it calms you and focuses your mind for your swing.

Breathing For Putting

Once again, I can’t believe it has taken me this long to think about how I breath when I putt.  If you think about it, what are some of the keys for putting?

  • Focus the mind
  • Reduce unnecessary body motion
  • Steady fluid stoke
  • Create repeatable stroke

Based on the previous section, we already know that a proper breathing practice can quiet and focus your mind, but what it also does, and I am sure any shooting professional (or maybe a sniper) could tell you, is creates motion that may impact certain delicate movements.  So, it is quite possible that breathing during your actual putting stroke could alter the path and motion of your stroke.  So, the same techniques used above for your full swing can be applied to you putting stroke.  Once again you have to find what works for you.  I like to use Tom Watson’s approach for putting and my full swing since there is no actual breathing happening while making your swing.

Breathing Between Shots

Relaxation and positive thinking are very important when you are on the course.  Any golfer knows this!  Once again, a specific breathing practice is very helpful, if not essential, to stay relaxed and focused in competitive rounds, particularly when you need to get over a bad shot or hole and not let it ruin your round.  Live in the now right? Easier said than done, at least for me, but breathing can be a big step in this direction.  If you practice meditation and find it helps you relax, tinker with adding some mini meditative breathing either right after a bad shot, or during certain points in your round (i.e. leading up to tee off, or walking from green to the next tee) .  There are plenty of breathing techniques you can implement, and again, you must find what works for you, here is a link to another suggested approach.

Ultimately, it is up to you to tinker with different methods and find what works best for you; however, it is pretty clear that implementing some type of breathing technique during your round is beneficial for multiple reasons.  Give it a try and let us know if it works for you.

If you were interested in this post, here are some other resources: 1, 2, 3, 4.


The Barefoot Golfer



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