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The swing thoughts of a World Long Drive Champion

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I find swing thoughts fascinating. We all have them whether we’re on a quest to break 80 for the first time or on the biggest stage in front of millions of people at The Masters.

At some level, we all can have the same golf conversation no matter the skill level.

“Hey what were you thinking about when you hit that?”

So when I sat down to talk with last year’s World Long Drive Champ, Justin James, before ending the call I had to ask what he thought about during his winning 435-yard blast.

And I thought it was amazing to get such a look behind the curtain, so I wanted to share it with you all.

Before we hear what he was thinking Justin sets the stage for what the whole event is like from his experience.

JUSTIN: Everything in long drive, especially in a live TV event, is so fast. You’ve got a shot clock that’s three minutes. Literally a clock counting down right in front of you.

You have the television crew there, which they’re on live TV, they have windows to hit so they’re pushing you to go fast.

You have aggressive, fast music playing in the background.

You have inebriated fans yelling behind you, so everything is quick, quick, quick.

So for me, personally, I just try to slow down a little bit so I don’t get too quick and other than that, just try to simulate a practice environment. I try to practice like it’s a game and in the game I try to treat that like practice.

Pretty crazy right?

When you’re nervous for that first shot of your club championship in front of maybe 20 people… Just imagine that times 100. What they heck do you think about while you’re pulling that club back?

JUSTIN: I was trying to work a little draw. You know, kind of pick a spot on the grid.

Because I go to my right side so aggressively (in the back swing), a lot of times I don’t get back to my left side. And if you’re going to transition your right side, you have to get back to your left side and that goes with starting the swing with your lower body.

So if there was any type of swing thought, it was just getting back to my left side, transitioning the weight and then just going after it.

I’m a little bit more technical than guys, a little OCD, so I will have swing thoughts, just things I lock into but I usually try to limit those…

For me, it’s like, let’s take your butt towards the target or towards the right side of the grid. Make sure you transition your weight. You lead with your hip.

It will be different thoughts, different things at different times of the year depending on what I’m working on.

I think there are two important questions to ask about swing things.

1 – What were you thinking?
2 – How were you thinking?

The “what” is that previous excerpt from Justin, but there’s more to dig into when we talk about swing thoughts.

When I’ve looked into the research on how the brain works and what drives better performance they often look at the state of the brain. And to get into a good performance state it’s more about “how” we’re thinking.

JUSTIN: For me I just try to eliminate all the external stuff around me.

When I was pitching (Justin pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays), even with a crowd of 5,000 people, I just saw me and the catcher. And that’s what I try to do when I’m on the golf course, especially with Long Drive.

There will be a big crowd there.

There will be the music playing.

But I try to just make it me and the grid that’s clearly marked in front of me. The only things that are clear are me and the grid… the rest is in the background and fuzzy.

Early on, when I was Long Driving, I was in my parents’ living room with a launch monitor, a mat, and a net. That’s a real small concentrated area and I just try to extend that to competition and just eliminate all the external stuff.

It’s just me and the grid and you’ve just got to hit your shot. It’s all you can do.

It’s really cool to look behind the scenes and hear about Justin’s experience of that winning drive.

I’m curious to hear how you can translate some of Justin’s experiences into your own swing thoughts? Any adjustments you going to make?

If you want to listen to an entire conversation talking about how he became a long drive pro, from his development as a junior, to what he’s doing now in his training, check out this interview here.

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Cordie has spent the last four years working with golf instructors, helping inform thousands on business and teaching best practices (if you're a coach or instructor check out http://golfinthelifeof.com/). Through that he's realized that it's time for the way golf is taught to be changed. When looking at research and talking with coaches and academics, he's launched the Golf Science Golf Science Lab , a website and audio documentary-style podcast focused on documenting what's really going on in learning and playing better golf.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Brad

    Mar 5, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    If you’ve made the right swing 1,000 times the proper way into the net while practicing, why not just think this shot is number 1,001? Certainly you’ve got to take target into account, but once you’ve selected your club and target, why not let all that got and hit ball #1,001. I practice with a net often and I find thinking “just like into the net” on the course relaxes me.

    Net practice isn’t the only thing you could envision, nor should it be your only practice. But these thoughts translate.

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