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The Hidden Fundamentals of Golf



Golfers, in general, are under performing even with the technical advancements of today, and many get very frustrated playing the game. What’s missing to get golfers to play better and enjoy it more? In our opinion, golf has two sets of fundamentals: technical fundamentals and human fundamentals.

Technical Skills x Human Skills = How Well You Play 

You are not a robot playing golf; you are a human being. As a human being, you are variable from day to day and even during the day. Your body, mind, and emotions are dynamic, and the state of each influences your technique to a great extent. For example:

  • If your body is tight and sore, it might make your rotation limited.
  • If your mind worries about the future, it might make your tempo too quick.
  • If you are getting frustrated because the pace of play is slow, it might make your grip pressure too tight.

A deficiency of trained and practiced human skills shows up as a golfer with a solid-looking technique, or even a great ball striker, but one that can’t score. We often call the human skills of the game the “hidden fundamentals.” They are hidden because they are within one’s mental, emotional, and physical state. They are the interior of the human experience, so they can’t be seen as clearly and as obviously as one’s technique. For example, you can’t see a golfer’s self talk on a screen, but there’s no question that it will most definitely influence and manifest a change in their technique.

Rory McIlroy spoke specifically of that change in the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. He opened the tournament with a 5-over par 39 and then proceeded to play 10-under over the final 63 holes, finishing T4. The shift was his caddie’s reminder of his prodigious talent and accomplishments. 

“It was a rough start,” McIlroy said. “I was just indecisive out there. Mentally I was not engaged, and I was half caught between playing the golf shot I needed to and my golf swing.”

Jordan Spieth was the premier display of developed human skills in action after a disastrous drive on No. 13 on Sunday at The Open. All of us could watch his body language, the focus in his eyes, and his commitment to the shots ahead. We also heard some of the affirmative self talk between himself and his caddie. He played the final five holes in 5-under to win by three shots, a stretch that many have called the best golf performance in major championship history.

Human skills always play a huge role on performance, but we don’t hear much about them in the golf world. They get wrapped up in words that are general and elusive, like “trust” or “process.” For this reason, golf instruction doesn’t pay much attention to them. More than 90 percent of articles on how to improve at golf are about technical skills. They’re good and necessary, of course, but they’re not the whole story. It’s time for human skills to get their due, and that’s what the rest of this article is about.

At VISION54, we complement a golfer’s technique with the human skills. It’s about learning to manage yourself before a shot (Think Box), during a shot (Play Box), after a shot (Memory Box), and in between shots. We’ve found that any golfer at any level will improve when human skills are developed along with the technical skills.

Practice Time


The only way to learn the human skills is to explore options on the golf course. Below is one exploration for the Play Box, Think Box and Memory Box. In our new book, “Be A Player,” there are nine holes of explorations after each chapter. You are unique as a golfer, and it’s important to discover what makes you play better.

Play Box: BE Focused!

Every shot requires you to be focused/present/athletic until the end of the motion. No more thinking. The shorter time you need, the easier it is under pressure.

Do: Play 3 holes and hold your finish for 3 seconds to make sure you are staying present until the end of the swing or stroke.

Think Box: BE Decisive!

Every shot requires you to make a decision in a confident way and to trust your decision about the club, shot and your Play Box. Also, it allows you to get present and engaged before stepping into the shot.

Do: Play 3 holes and say your decision about the shot in a confident manner before stepping into the shot or putt to make sure you have made a clear decision.

Memory Box: BE Confident!

For every shot, you want to manage what your brain stores as a memory. Be neutral/ objective to shots and processes you did not like. Be positive/happy to shots and processes that are great/good/good enough. Emotions make memories stick in the brain.

Do: Play 3 holes and feel emotionally happy for every shot that is good or good enough. Have no commentary on shots you don’t like. 

For more exercises like this, you can visit our website:

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Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson are co-founders of VISION54, bestselling authors of four VISION54 books, and Golf Digest top 50 teachers. They have coached eight different major winners and three world No. 1 LPGA players. Their golf schools and coach trainings gets the highest rankings possible.

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WATCH: How to take your hands out of your swing



In this video, I share two great drills that help golfers take their hands out of the golf swing. These drills encourage more rotation through impact with quieter hands to improve consistency.

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A simple formula to figure out the right ball position for you



In this video, I offer my simple formula on ball position that has seen my students produce more consistency. Watch to see how you can adapt your ball position to hit more shots on target.

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How to fix the root cause of hitting your golf shots fat



Of all the shots golfers fear, hitting the ball FAT has to be right up at the top of the list. At least it heads the list of commonly hit poor shots (let’s leave the shank and the whiff out for now). After fat, I’d list topping, followed by slicing and then hooking. They are all round-killers, although the order of the list is an individual thing based on ability. Professionals despise a hook, but club golfers by and large fear FAT. Why?

First of all, it’s embarrassing. Secondly, it goes nowhere — at least compared to thin — and it can be physically painful! So to avoid this dreaded miss, golfers do any number of things (consciously or subconsciously) to avoid it. The pattern develops very early in one’s golf life. It does not take very many fat shots for golfers to realize that they need to do something differently. But rather than correct the problem with the correct move(s), golfers often correct a fault with a fault.

Shortening the radius (chicken-winging), raising the swing center, early lower-body extension, holding on through impact (saving it), running the upper body ahead of the golf ball and even coming over the top are all ways of avoiding fat shots. No matter how many drills I may offer for correcting any of those mistakes, none will work if the root cause of fat is not addressed.

So what causes fat? We have to start with posture. Some players simply do not have enough room to deliver the golf club on a good plane from inside to inside. Next on the list of causes is a wide, early cast of the club head. This move is invariably followed by a break down in the lead arm, holding on for dear life into impact, or any of the others…

“Swaying” (getting the swing center too far off the golf ball) is another cause of fat, as well as falling to the rear foot or “reversing the weight.” Both of these moves can cause one to bottom out well behind the ball. Finally, an excessive inside-out swing path (usually the fault of those who hook the ball) also causes an early bottom or fat shot, particularly if the release is even remotely early. 

Here are 4 things to try if you’re hitting fat shots

  1. Better Posture: Bend forward from the hips so that arms hang from the shoulders and directly over the tips of the toes, knees slightly flexed over the shoelaces, seat out for balance and chin off the chest!
  2. Maintaining the Angles: Casting, the natural urge to throw the clubhead at the golf ball, is a very difficult habit to break if one is not trained from the start. The real correction is maintaining the angle of the trail wrist (lag) a little longer so that the downswing is considerably more narrow than the backswing. But as I said, if you have been playing for some time, this is risky business. Talk to your instructor before working on this!
  3. Maintaining the Swing Center Over the Golf Ball: In your backswing, focus on keeping your sternum more directly over the golf ball (turning in a barrel, as Ernest Jones recommended). For many, this may feel like a “reverse pivot,” but if you are actually swaying off the ball it’s not likely you will suddenly get stuck with too much weight on your lead foot.
  4. Setting Up a Little More Open: If your swing direction is too much in-to-out, you may need to align your body more open (or feel that way). You could also work with a teaching aid that helps you feel the golf club is being swung more out in front of you and more left (for right-handers) coming through — something as simple as a head cover inside the golf ball. You’ll hit the headcover if you are stuck too far inside coming down.

The point is that most players do what they have to do to avoid their disastrous result. Slicers swing way left, players who fight a hook swing inside out and anybody who has ever laid sod over the golf ball will find a way to avoid doing it again. This, in my opinion, is the evolution of most swing faults, and trying to correct a fault with a fault almost never ends up well.

Get with an instructor, get some good videos (and perhaps even some radar numbers) to see what you are actually doing. Then work on the real corrections, not ones that will cause more trouble.

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19th Hole