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Go lower with subconscious golf

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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.

CIMG1271

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.

CIMG1270s

Pitching

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.

CIMG1267

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

CIMG1264s

Putting

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.

CIMG1254sCIMG1253s

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

45 Comments

45 Comments

  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…..how 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 spiritofgolf.com. 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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Instruction

Fixing the shanks: How to stop shanking the golf ball (GolfWRX Explains)

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May you never be concerned about fixing the shanks! But if you’re begging the golf gods for guidance how to stop shanking the golf ball? Ready to offer up your first-born child for the wisdom how to stop shanking irons? Frantically asking Google how to never shank a golf ball again?

Fear not. We’ll get to drills to stop shanking irons shortly that are guaranteed to ingrain the proper feel and anti-shank action, but first, a brief discussion of what exactly a shank is (other than will-to-live crushing).

More often than not, a shank occurs when a player’s weight gets too far onto the toes, causing a lean forward. Instead of the center of the clubface striking the ball—as you intended at address—the hosel makes contact with your Titleist, and—cover your ears and guard your soul—a shank occurs.

How to stop shanking the golf ball

If you’ve ever experienced the dreaded hosel rocket departing your club at a 90-degree angle, you know how quickly confidence can evaporate and terror can set in.

Fortunately, the shanks are curable and largely preventable ailment. While there are drills to fix your fault you once the malady has taken hold, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

How to stop shanking the golf ball

If you’re trying to understand how to stop shanking the golf ball, you need to understand where the ball makes contact with the club during a shank.

Fixing the shanks

To avoid shanking the golf ball, it’s important to lock in on some keys…

  • Have a proper setup and posture…Athletic posture, arms hang down, neither too bent over nor too upright, weight on the balls of the feet.
  • Keep your grip light and arms tension free…If 10 is a death grip of golf club and 1 is the club falling out of your hand, aim for a grip in the 4-6 range. Make sure your forearms aren’t clenched.
  • Maintain proper balance throughout the swing…50/50 weight to start (front foot/back foot). 60/40 at the top of the backswing. 90/10 at impact.
  • Avoid an excessively out-to-in or in-to-out swing path…Take the club straight back to start, rather than excessively inside (closer to the body) or outside (further away from the body).

The best drill to stop shanking the golf ball

Set up properly (as discussed above), flex your toes upward as you begin your swing and keep your chest high (maintain your spine angle) throughout the swing.

Other than those focal points, keep your brain free of any additional chatter, which only exacerbates shankitis.

(For more advice, be sure to check out what our friends at Me and My Golf have to say below)

Now you know how to stop shanking the golf ball and have the tools to never shank the golf ball again.

Praise the golf gods!

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Cameron Smith’s 3-month Covid-19 training block

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Whilst Covid-19 has presented countless grave health and economic challenges to the world’s population, it has also provided opportunity for many people to focus their attention on projects that they normally wouldn’t have time for.

Turns out PGA Tour players are no different, and in the case of Cameron Smith, we used the enforced break from competitive golf to undertake a very rare, uninterrupted 3 month block of strength training.

Cam plays 25-30 events a year spread across 4 continents and this presents a number of challenges to overcome from a training and programming perspective:

– Varying facilities

– Travel fatigue and jet lag

– Concerns around muscle soreness affecting ability to perform on course

– Physical and mental cost of competing

When combined, these challenges can often render even the most carefully planned training programs redundant. So whilst many golf fans were coming to terms with a prolonged absence of PGA Tour events, I was getting stuck into designing programs that would hopefully elicit the following outcomes for Cam:

– More muscle mass

– More strength

– More power

In a normal season, I’m hesitant to prescribe programs that focus on muscle gain, because the nature of the training volume tends to tighten Cam up (reduce his range of motion), reduce his club-head speed and elicit a lot of muscle soreness…..not an ideal combination for short term performance! But I knew in this case, we could get stuck into some higher volume work because we would have plenty of time to recover from any lost mobility, reduced speed and increased soreness before tournaments started again.

 

Mid March – Program 1 – General Hypertrophy Focus

We decided with the global virus outlook looking dire and the PGA Tour promising to deliver a 30 day notice before resumption of play, we should focus on hypertrophy (increasing muscle size) until the 30 day notice period was delivered. At that point we would switch to a more familiar power based program in preparation for tournaments starting up again.

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 3 sessions per week

– 1 x lower focus (legs, glutes, core)

– 1 x push focus (chest, shoulders, triceps, core)

– 1 x pull focus (back, biceps, core)

– Gradually increasing volume over 4 weeks (more reps and sets to failure)

Training Variables:

Sets: 3 to 4

Reps: 8 to 12

Tempo: 2-0-2 (2 seconds up, no pause, 2 seconds down)

Weight: around 70% of maximum

Rest: 60 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Lower Body Focus (legs, glutes, core):

 

Example Exercises:

 

Mid April – Program 2 – Lower Body Hypertrophy Focus

As Cam was about to finish up his first hypertrophy program, there was a fairly clear indication that there would be no play until mid June at the earliest. Knowing that we had 2 more months of training, we decided to continue with another hypertrophy block. This time increasing the focus on the lower body by breaking down the leg work into 2 seperate sessions and ramping up the training volume.

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 4 sessions per week

– 2 x lower body focus (1 x quad focused workout and 1 x hamstring / glute focused workout)

– 1 x push focus (chest, shoulders, triceps, core)

– 1 x pull focus (back, biceps, core)

– Gradually increasing volume over 4 weeks (more reps and sets)

Training Variables:

Sets: 3 to 4

Reps: 8 to 12

Tempo: 2-0-2 (2 seconds up, no pause, 2 seconds down)

Weight: around 70% of maximum

Rest: 60 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Pull Focus (back, biceps, core):

 

Example Exercises:

Mid May – Program 3 – Power Focus

Once we received confirmation that play would be resuming 11th June at Colonial, we made the call to switch to a power focused program. Moving back to 3 days per week, lowering the volume and increasing the intensity (more weight and more speed in the main lifts).

The idea is to get the body used to moving fast again, reduce muscle soreness to allow better quality golf practice, and supplement the with more mobility work to re-gain any lost range of motion.

We also added some extra grip work because Cam discovered that with the muscle and strength gain, plus lifting increased weight, his grip was failing on key lifts…..not such a bad problem to have!

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 3 sessions per week

– 1 x lower body focus (legs, glutes, core, grip)

– 1 x upper body focus (chest, back, biceps, triceps, core, grip)

– 1 x combined focus (legs, glutes, shoulders, core, grip)

– Volume remains constant (same sets and reps), aiming to increase intensity (either weight or speed) over the 4 weeks.

Training Variables:

Sets: 4 to 5

Reps: 3-5 for main exercises, 8-12 for accessory exercises.

Tempo: X-0-1 for main exercises (as fast as possible in up or effort phase, no pause, 1 second down). 2-0-2 for accessory exercises.

Weight: around 85% of maximum for main exercises, around 70% for accessory exercises.

Rest: 90 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Combined (legs, glutes, core, shoulders, grip):

 

Example Exercises:

 

If you are interested in receiving some professional guidance for your training, then check out the services on offer from Nick at Golf Fit Pro

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What you can learn from Steve Elkington

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When you think of great golf swings from the past and present time, Steve Elkington’s golf swing instantly comes to mind. His playing career has included a PGA championship, two Players Championships and more than 50 weeks inside the top-10 world golf rankings. This article will examine not only key moves you can take from Elk’s swing but learning to take your swing to the golf course.

As opposed to looking at a swing frame by frame at key positions, viewing a swing at normal speed can be just as beneficial. This can give students a look at the sequence of the swing as one dynamic motion. Research also suggests learning a motion as one movement as opposed to part-training (stopping the swing at certain points) will enhancing learning.

When viewed at full speed, the simplicity of Elk’s swing is made clear. There is minimal motion as he gets more out of less. This swing pattern can correlate to a conversation he once had with five-time British Open winner Peter Thomson.

When asking Thomson keys to his golf swing and it’s longevity, Thomson explained to Elk, “You have to have great hands and arms.” Thomson further elaborated on the arms and body relationship. “The older you get, you can’t move your body as well, but you can learn to swing your arms well.”

So what’s the best way to get the feel of this motion? Try practicing hitting drivers off your knees. This drill forces your upper body to coil in the proper direction and maintain your spine angle. If you have excess movement, tilt, or sway while doing this drill you will likely miss the ball. For more detail on this drill, read my Driver off the knees article.

Another key move you can take from Elk is in the set-up position. Note the structure of the trail arm. The arm is bent and tucked below his lead arm as well as his trail shoulder below the lead shoulder – he has angle in his trail wrist, a fixed impact position.

This position makes impact easier to find. From this position, Elk can use his right arm as a pushing motion though the ball.

A golf swing can look pretty, but it is of no use if you can’t perform when it matters, on the golf course. When Elk is playing his best, he never loses feel or awareness to the shaft or the clubface throughout the swing. This is critical to performing on the golf course. Using this awareness and a simple thought on the golf course will promote hitting shots on the course, rather than playing swing.

To enhance shaft and face awareness, next time you are on the range place an alignment stick 10 yards ahead of you down the target line. Practice shaping shots around the stick with different flights. Focus on the feel created by your hands through impact.

Twitter: @kkelley_golf

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