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Go lower with subconscious golf



A philosophy that I believe in is one in which the swing is powered by the subconscious mind and reacts to the image that the conscious mind creates. I am not stating that a golfer’s physical technique is not important, because it is. I am simply stating that we should strive to attain a level where the physical technique becomes subconscious.

The target is and always will be the single most important piece of information that a golfer can think of prior to playing a shot. The target can be the hole, a spot on the green, a slope on the fairway, a tree, or any other distinguishable marking of the golf course. The important thing is to select a precise target and remain fully committed to it throughout the duration of the swing. Playing to one’s true potential requires the physical golf swing to be a subconscious reaction to a mental image of the target.

When people learn to type, they begin by visually scanning the keyboard and finger pecking each key. As they begin to remember the placement of the keys, their keystrokes become faster. Eventually, they will develop a mental map of the keyboard so that the physical keystrokes are no longer a function of the conscious mind, but that of the subconscious mind. As their mental map of the keyboard becomes more and more clear, their physical keystrokes become fast and effortless.

Similarly, people learning to play the guitar begin by learning the location of the strings and then the physical placement of the fingers. Eventually they will have memorized the strings, the placement of the fingers and enough notes to play an entire song. At this point, the physical movements are a function of the subconscious mind and do not require additional thought. People learning to play golf rarely take their golf swing to the point where it becomes a function of the subconscious mind. Instead, they consciously work on swing mechanics and remain forever frustrated with the game.

In most sports, athletes look at their target while performing their specific skill. For instance, baseball players look at their teammate while throwing the ball. Basketball players look at the hoop while shooting. Quarterbacks hypothesize and look at a spot where the receiver should be at the time that the football arrives at its destination. Field-goal kickers and soccer players are similar to golfers in that they look at the ball while maintaining a mental image of the target. In all of these scenarios, the physical motion is a subconscious action to the intention of sending the ball to the target.

Driving and full shots

Select a target in the fairway or on the green at which you plan to land your ball. If you are not able to identify with a spot on the ground, select a tree, edge of a bunker or any other identifiable target.

During my pre-shot routine, I determine a landing spot at which I intend to play my shot. Below, I am looking at my landing spot, creating an image that I will use during the swing. Simply looking at the target is enough for our mind and body to calibrate the desired motion of sending the ball there.


During the swing, I maintain the image of the target and in my mind’s eye. This allows my physical swing to be a subconscious reaction to the target.



Either select the hole as your target or spot on the green where you intend to land your ball. If a landing spot has been selected, visualize the desired trajectory of the ball as it lands on the spot for sufficient roll-out to reach the hole. The ability to control trajectory is critical in controlling distance.

Below, I am selecting my desired landing spot by visualizing my intended shot trajectory and roll out so that the ball finished in or around the hole.


Next, I maintain an image of the landing spot and trajectory so that I play the shot with accuracy and confidence.



Putting should be the easiest shot to allow the swing to become a subconscious reaction to the target. Select a precise target inside the hole. On breaking putts, select a target outside of the hole, but equal distance to it. A blade of grass, an old pitch mark, or simply a discoloration are all great targets for putting. Create an image of your target and see if you can stay committed to it for the duration of the stroke. If you can do this successfully, take the same mindset to pitching.


It is one thing to select a target, but to remain fully committed to it for the duration of a golf swing is paramount. Challenge yourself by seeing how committed to the target you can remain during a given swing. Assess you commitment on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is not committed at all and 10 is fully committed. During the golf swing, losing the image of the target represents a mental gap where fear, anxiety and tension can enter and break down even the best golf swings.

Understanding and learning how to keep your conscious mind focused and occupied with where you wish to send your ball, enables your subconscious mind to perform the physical movement, effortlessly and free of distraction. If you are not asking yourself, “What is my target?” before each and every shot, you are not giving yourself the opportunity to play the caliber of golf that you are capable of playing.

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Henry is a PGA member and TPI certified golf instructor. Employed by New Mexico State University, Henry spends the majority of his time teaching the PGA Golf Management curriculum. He specializes in teaching golf instruction and player development. Henry also coaches a handful of amateur, elite junior, and professional golfers. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: June 2014



  1. Doug

    Oct 22, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    Agree 100% with this theory. To prove to yourself it works, lag putt 30-40+ footers on the practice green by looking at the hole, not the ball. You will be amazed at how your subconscious takes over and literally reads the slope and speed for you. I have had some incredible results in actual rounds using this method when I can’t figure the line and speed on my own. I can’t tell you how many times I have just winged it, letting my subconscious take over and ended up within inches of the hole, or literally sinking the putt. The subconscious mind is very powerful. You just have to believe in it.

  2. Frank McChrystal

    Oct 22, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Wow, a lot of original stuff in here!!

  3. Pingback: Staying Psychological With Subconscious Golf - The Golf Shop Online Blog

  4. Ryan

    Oct 20, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    Stetina!! Good to see you on here my man! Long time hope all is well in NM

    • Henry Stetina

      Oct 21, 2014 at 8:37 am

      Thanks man! Life is good. I hope all is well with you. What is your last name Ryan?

  5. Golfraven

    Oct 20, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    I tried conciously to apply this on a round today with some good results. Will try to keep it in my routine.

  6. The dude

    Oct 18, 2014 at 6:36 am

    Nice article… many times do you hear “I knew I shoulda’……..”……after some jag off hits a bad shot. Whether it’s not pulling the right club or being commited to the shot. (Yes…I’m often that jag off ) :).. This article serves as a proper reminder.

    • Henry Stetina

      Oct 21, 2014 at 8:47 am

      Great point. Commitment is something many of us struggle with. We only get one chance at it, regardless of making the right decision or not, we might as well commit to the one we made.

  7. Dave Robb

    Oct 18, 2014 at 3:18 am

    This approach sounds just like the one in the Manuel de la Torres book. I have found Manuels swing method and mental training has simplified things and been a great help for someone who started golf in my 40s. Highly recommended.

    • Henry Stetina

      Oct 21, 2014 at 8:38 am

      Yes, Manuel de la Torre is great! He has a lot of knowledge in psychology as it relates to the golf swing, a very wise man!

  8. Mark L

    Oct 17, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    This idea has been backed up multiple times with published research. Search “Trust Training” with regards to putting, pitch shots, and full shots. The research goes a little more in depth on the psychological skills and techniques, but the results are hard to argue.

    • Henry Stetina

      Oct 21, 2014 at 8:44 am

      Thanks for sharing. I will take a look at that info.

  9. Sean

    Oct 17, 2014 at 10:29 pm

    So you have no swing thoughts other than the target?

  10. Tom Stickney

    Oct 17, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Self 1 and Self 2 in Tim Galloway’s book the inner game of golf will also talk about this process. Great read as well.

    • Henry Stetina

      Oct 21, 2014 at 8:38 am

      Thanks Tom. I will put that book on my reading list. Thank you!

  11. Aaron Hernandez

    Oct 17, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    I killed a guy

  12. paul

    Oct 17, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    I try to see the shot in front of me. Kind of like seeing the tracer line they put in video games or like you see on TV after a ball is hit. Just see it before you hit, not after.

  13. MHendon

    Oct 17, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    There’s know question the more you can simplify the process the better. However I’d hate to know how many sub par rounds I’ve blown with 2 to 3 holes left once I realized what my score was, suddenly your body won’t do what you know it’s capable of.

    • Henry Stetina

      Oct 21, 2014 at 8:41 am

      The mental scoreboard is often times death for a player. When we buy a green fee, it comes with a scorecard for a reason. Thanks for the comment

  14. Aaron Henson

    Oct 17, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    This article is great! I am an Assistant Golf Professional at a private golf course in New Jersey and I teach this exact thing to my students. It is amazing how much we can limit the ability of our golf game by unfocused thoughts. A great website for this kind of golf mental training is It has a wealth of information on how to let your mind go and just play the game. Enjoy everyone!

  15. Chuck

    Oct 17, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    Dr. Bob Rotella says things that are no different in his books. In college, they would kick you out for plagiarism.

    • Dave S

      Oct 17, 2014 at 5:27 pm

      No such thing as plagiarism in golf instruction. Everyone says the same thing in different words.

      • greg

        Oct 18, 2014 at 10:37 pm

        A lot of good stuff in this article pulled from Dr Gio Valliante’s “Fewrless Golf”.

  16. Jack

    Oct 17, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Pretty well-written article. Very often articles and books on simplifying the thought process during a golf swing are not written simplistically. Not the case here. One question:

    How does this concept adapt to hitting different types of shots? You obviously can’t always just play a straight shot and if I’m trying to cut a tee-shot off of a fairway bunker or hook one from behind a tree, how do you reconcile “only thinking about the target” with the thoughts necessary with hitting those shots?

    • Chuck

      Oct 17, 2014 at 2:55 pm

      You think about the ball flight and put that in your “mind’s eye” as well. Brad Faxon doesn’t even try to make a different swing, he just thinks draw, and it happens. Read Dr. Bob Rotella for more in-depth thinking as it relates to this article.

      • CD

        Oct 17, 2014 at 5:10 pm

        Your ‘mind’s eye’ – do you have a sense that the ‘picture’ is to your left/side/where the target is, or is it in front of you? Or none of these?

        • CT

          Oct 17, 2014 at 6:48 pm

          It’s in your head. So the answer is “none of these”

    • Tony Clams

      Oct 17, 2014 at 2:56 pm

      Great question Jack – I think the point here is to take that picture in your mind of your intended target no matter how you swing to get it there. IMO of course.

      • Tony clams dad

        Oct 17, 2014 at 8:34 pm

        Just be sure to look more left in your mind son

    • Henry Stetina

      Oct 21, 2014 at 8:42 am

      Thank you! I am glad you enjoyed it. If I were you, I would experiment with visualizing your intended shot shape. If that doesn’t work, try visualizing the intended movement of the club through impact to play a specific shot shape. I hope that helps.

      • Stretch

        Oct 21, 2014 at 1:45 pm

        Good article Henry.I would add when working the ball around obstacles that successful players can swing where the ball starts off. In other words they look down the initial start line and visualize the shot shape to the target. If the eyes are looking down a line not parallel to the initial start line they will start the shot down the line where the eyes look and play the shape desired. If the eyes look to the right of the desired initial start line then the ball will start down it and the shape of the shot will miss to the right. The same but opposite if the eyes look left of the initial start line. Bubba Watson plays big cuts and draws because he knows his eyes will look either left or right of the target and lets his subconscious mind create the amount of curve off his eye line to it.

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Clement: This wrist position can add 30 yards to your drive



Drop the mic on how the wrists should load and be positioned for compressive power, accuracy, and longevity! There is a better way, and this is it!

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Short Game University: How to hit wedges 301



In golf, there is nothing harder than judging a flop shot over a bunker to a tight pin out of long grass. Why? Because there are so many variables to account for — in addition to what you can and cannot do with a wedge. In fact, up until very recently in the world of wedge design, we were limited to only increasing the landing angle to stop the ball, because relying on spin from this lie and this close to the green was next to impossible.

Now with the advent of things like raw faces, different CG locations, new groove design, and micro-ribs between the grooves, we can now spin the ball out of lies that we never could have done so before. This is not to say that you can now zip the ball back from these types of lies, but we are seeing spin rates that have skyrocketed, and this allows us to not open the face as much as we needed to do before in order to stop the ball.

Before we get into the shot around the green itself, let’s talk a bit about wedge design. For that, I called a great friend of mine, Greg Cesario, TaylorMade’s Staff Manager to help us understand a bit more about wedges. Greg was a former PGA Tour Player and had a big hand in designing the new Milled Grind 3 Wedges.

Cesario said: “Wedge technology centers on two key areas- the first is optimizing its overall launch/spin (just like drivers) on all shots and the second is optimum ground interaction through the geometry of the sole (bounce, sole width, and sole shape).”

“Two key things impact spin: Groove design and face texture. Spin is the secondary effect of friction. This friction essentially helps the ball stick to the face a little longer and reduces slippage. We define slippage as how much the ball slides up the face at impact. That happens more when it’s wet outside during those early morning tee times, out of thicker lies, or after a bit of weather hits. Our Raised Micro-Ribs increase friction and reduce slippage on short partial shots around the round – that’s particularly true in wet conditions.”

“We’ve been experimenting with ways to find optimal CG (center of gravity) placement and how new geometries can influence that. We know that CG locations can influence launch, trajectory and spin. Everyone is chasing the ability to produce lower launching and higher spinning wedge shots to help players increase precision distance control. In that space, moving CG just a few millimeters can have big results. Beyond that, we’re continuing to advance our spin and friction capabilities – aiming to reduce the decay of spin from dry to fluffy, or wet conditions.”

Basically, what Greg is saying is that without improvements in design, we would never be able to spin the ball like we would normally when it’s dry and the lie is perfect. So, with this new design in a wedge like the Milled Grind 3 (and others!), how can we make sure we have the optimal opportunity to hit these faster-stopping pitch shots?

  1. Make sure the face is clean and dry
  2. Open the blade slightly, but not too much
  3. Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the AoA
  4. Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

Make sure the face is clean and dry

If your thought is to use spin to stop the ball quicker under any situation, then you must give the club a chance to do its job. When the grooves are full of dirt and grass and the remaining exposed face is wet, then you are basically eliminating any opportunity to create spin. In fact, if you decide to hit the shot under these conditions, you might as well hit a flop shot as this would be the only opportunity to create a successful outcome. Don’t put yourself behind the eight-ball automatically, keep your club in a clean and dry condition so you have the best chance to do what you are capable of doing.

Open the blade slightly, but not too much

Without going into too much extra detail, spinloft is the difference between your angle of attack and your dynamic loft. And this difference is one of the main areas where you can maximize your spin output.

Too little or too much spinloft and you will not be able to get the maximum spin out of the shot at hand. With wedges, people equate an open clubface to spinning the ball, and this can be a problem due to excessive spinloft. Whenever you have too much dynamic loft, the ball will slide up the face (reduced friction equals reduced spin) and the ball will float out higher than expected and roll out upon landing.

My thought around the green is to open the face slightly, but not all the way, in efforts to reduce the probability of having too much spinloft during impact. Don’t forget under this scenario we are relying on additional spin to stop the ball. If you are using increased landing angle to stop the ball, then you would obviously not worry about increasing spinloft! Make sure you have these clear in your mind before you decide how much to open the blade.

Opened slightly

Opened too much

One final note: Please make sure you understand what bounce option you need for the type of conditions you normally play. Your professional can help you but I would say that more bounce is better than less bounce for the average player. You can find the bounce listed on the wedge itself. It will range between 4-14, with the mid-range bounce being around 10 degrees.

Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the angle of attack

As we know, when debris gets in between the clubface and the ball (such as dirt/grass), you will have two problems. One, you will not be able to control the ball as much. Secondly, you will not be able to spin the ball as much due to the loss of friction.

So, what is the key to counteract this problem? Increasing the angle of attack by setting the wrists quicker on the backswing. Making your downswing look more like a V rather than a U allows less junk to get between the club and the ball. We are not using the bounce on this type of shot, we are using the leading edge to slice through the rough en route to the ball. Coming in too shallow is a huge problem with this shot, because you will tend to hit it high on the face reducing control.

Use your increased AoA on all of your crappy lies, and you will have a much better chance to get up and down more often!

Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

The final piece of the puzzle through the ball is speed through the pivot. You cannot hit shots around the green out of tall grass without keeping the club moving and having speed. A reduction of speed is obvious as the club enters into the tall grass, but you don’t want to exacerbate this problem by cutting off your pivot and letting the arms do all the work.

Sure, there are times when you want to cut off the body rotation through the ball, but not on the shot I am discussing here. When we are using spin, you must have speed to generate the spin itself. So, what is the key to maintaining your speed? Keeping the rear shoulder rotating long into the forward swing. If you do this, you will find that your arms, hands, and club will be pulled through the impact zone. If your pivot stalls, then your speed will decrease and your shots will suffer.

Hopefully, by now you understand how to create better shots around the green using the new wedge technology to create more spin with lies that we had no chance to do so before. Remembering these simple tips — coupled with your clean and dry wedge — will give you the best opportunity to be Tiger-like around the greens!

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An awesome drill for lag that works with the ball!



Many lag drills have come and gone in this game because they have a hard time working when the ball is there! How many times do you hear about someone having a great practice swing and then having it all go away when the ball is there? This one is a keeper!

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