Golf – Driver Swing & Sports Psychology

GolfI recently played in a Pro-Am tournament, following which, received a couple of golf game improvement tips from the pro I was playing with.  The tips involved: 1.) Putting: Keep your head directly over the ball, which involves a bit more of an upright posture for me; 2.) My swing plane: apparently I have been creeping more and more to a back swing that is too flat, leading to a greater chance of coming over the top on my downswing and either pulling it dead left, or a ball flight with too much fade.  Seems simple enough to correct right? That’s what I thought, so I downloaded myself a wicked swing video app and went nuts.  My results to date are not fully satisfactory, although the swing changes appear to be minor, they still do not feel comfortable and solid shots are not yet consistent.  Then again, I guess this is to be expected with even a minor change in a swing, so I will give it a bit more time.

So, in light of the above, I did what I do for most things that I am questioning, I started to do some research, and the below is provided to you as information you can use, or not, as you wish.  For me it has helped me to understand my swing a bit more.  Hopefully, as I practice at the range, with this further understanding, it will improve my on course performance.  Although, when I am on the course, I will still be limiting my swing thoughts, since that is no time to make changes.  On that note, I have also included some more information on golf psychology.

Golf: Driver vs Iron

When I jumped into looking at video of my swing and applying the above noted tips, I noticed that a steeper swing plane for irons is much easier and produced more consistent ball flight for me than it did with my driver.  Although some people say that iron and driver swings should be basically identical, I have never felt that way based on both the feel of the swing, and the intent of a shot with an iron vs a driver.  When you are going to hit a drive, ideally you are trying to hit the ball just after the bottom of your swing arch. This way you strike the ball on a slightly upward motion of the clubface.  A driver is also a longer club, requiring you to stand further away from the ball with a more upright posture; therefore, based on simple physics, you will require a swing plane that is much more flat.  We also need to keep in mind that with the driver we are trying to create as much clubhead speed as possible, since distance is the premium (to an extent), and one way to do that is by creating sufficient “clubhead lag”, and as the below video indicates, this will cause the swing to come more from the inside (flatter).  That being said, mine was way too flat :-).

Here is a really good video explaining the difference:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCCWXI5bJ3g

Golf Driver Swings: Where Do They Go Wrong

First, let’s start by talking about the driver swing specifically and the most common areas of this swing where mistakes tend to occur.  There are numerous things that can go wrong in a driver swing, and due to the low loft of the club, errors are much easier to come by.  That being said, ball position, transverse club angle (think club parallel to the ground at the top swing being 180 degrees), downswing transition, wrist control, and posture changes between takeaway and impact (think spine angle) tend to be the most inconsistent during the driver swing, leading to the most errors in shot outcome (1).  Out of the above list, I can see three of five things that are the easiest to control.  First off is ball position.  There is no reason why you cannot have the same ball position in your stance for every driver swing you make.  Where is the perfect ball placement you ask? Well it depends on your specific swing and the intended ball flight of your shot, but most common is just about in line with your front heel.  Second is transverse club angle.  If your club head moves past parallel to the ground (long swing), it increases the chances of poor shot outcome.  Considering that the average person is probably not even flexible enough to get their swing to parallel with proper form, I see no reason why anyone could not simply shorten their swing to less than parallel or parallel at the most. Third is having the presence of a downswing transition in your swing.  What this means is that there is a very short pause between your back swing and your downswing.  There are lots of people out there that rush through the swing and begin their downswing before they have even completed their back swing.  Again, it is easy enough to slow down a bit on our back swing to help facilitate the presence of a transition from back to down swing.

Wrist control and posture changes during the downswing are another thing altogether, they are most definitely much more difficult to control than the other factors mentioned above.  I would argue that this is most likely because these two factors occur during your downswing when you are firing at full speed.  For me, these 2 things are going to come down to feel and practice.  I would say that my suggestion regarding these factors is to 1.) ensure you at least start with a proper address posture, 2.) work on your dynamic spinal stabilization, 3.) understand how your wrists should work during the swing, 4.) video tape your swing to see if your are doing it all correctly, 5.) practice the heck out of those things until they are second nature, and 6.) Just friggin be awesome!.

If you are not sure how your wrists should work during your swing or what a proper address position looks like, google is a fantastic resource, and the results are endless for these to things.  Google away!

Golf Psychology

So, I think at some point your results most definitely come down to psychology, or how you are thinking about yourself and your game.  I mean, when I think about it, a good number of my swings are quite good with great outcomes.  So why can’t I do it more often, maybe it’s due to lack of rehearsal and I should get to the range more often.  Or maybe, just maybe, I have a pretty decent swing, and I just need to trust myself and my swing a bit more on the course.  Stop thinking so much, and block it all out.  What’s the difference between number 1 in the world and number 200 in the world? I bet it has very little to do with their swings.

Age or Attitude?

On the psychology note, this study (2), set out to determine age related differences in golf mental skills and it’s association with performance.  You know how “they” always say that a professionals game peaks in their 30s, the noted study seems to argue against that statement.  What they found was there was no correlation between age and mental skills involved in golf.  What they did find was that a golfer feeling that their performance is automatic, best predicted performance.  It was also determined that commitment to the game and confidence in one’s putting also predicted performance (only for men though).  However, the main point here is that these skills could be developed at any age, meaning whether you are 10 or 100, you can still master these mental skills.

Concentration (ie. get in the zone)

Another interesting study (3) on the psychology of golf shows that successful outcome of shots, in this case putting, was related to higher levels of concentration by the golfer.  What the researchers did was took some professional and novice golfers, hooked them up to an EEG machine and objectively measured their level of concentration.  Surprise, surprise, what they found was that the professionals had higher levels of focused attention when putting, which obviously related to better putting performance.  I see absolutely no reason why this would not apply to a full swing and chipping, pitching.  Us amateur and novice golfers need to quiet all that background noise and simply get in the zone!  Harder than it sounds, but I think it is worth the effort to get there.

Well, that’s it for me today, hope everyone has a great weekend and plays their best round ever!

Sincerely,

The Barefoot Golfer


References

1.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23458452

2.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Age%2C+Psychological+Skills%2C+and+Golf++Performance%3A+A%C2%A0Prospective+Investigation

3.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Real-Time+Index+for+Predicting+Successful+Golf+Putting+Motion+Using+Multichannel+EEG

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