You’re sitting at home watching TV, you hear a buzzing noise and see something whiz past your face. You look around to survey the room, then watch a fly land on the wall — what do you do? Chances are, you find the nearest magazine, newspaper (do they still make those?) or TV guide (…kidding), roll it up, creep up on the pesky insect, reach back and take a mighty swing. SPLAT!
What just happened? You swung an object in the direction of a moving object by channeling your RIGHT side brain. You didn’t think about straightening your arm, unwinding your hips before your shoulders or shifting your weight — that would be left-brain thinking, which we use way too often in golf.
The greatest athletes in all sports naturally use the right side of their brain and turn off the left side during their performance. That’s because they are reacting to a object in motion rather than something stationary, like a golf ball. Let’s think of golf like we’re swatting a fly instead of working out a calculus problem as we dive deeper into this line of thinking.
Your brain has two sides — left and right.
The left side controls important types of thinking such as language, logic, critical thinking and reasoning. The right side is much better at creative and expressive tasks, such as reactive movements and motor skills.
In golf, being reactive is not as natural as it is in other sports. That’s because the ball sits still and waits for the player to engage in action. This allows the left brain too much time for analysis. In sports like baseball or hockey, the left side of the brain is active, but not fully engaged. It is the right side that calls the muscles to fire and create the motion we need to contact the ball or puck. Our left side engages with the target and the right responds with the motion to send the ball to that destination. When the left side of the brain tries to cause this motion, it is not doing the job it’s built to do. That is the right side of the brain’s job, and we must become more reactive to play our best possible golf. The trouble here is that we have too much self-chatter due to the time we have to accomplish the task of hitting a golf ball.
How many times do you get over a shot and talk to your inner demons?
- Don’t hit it in the woods
- Stay out of the bunker
- What would happen to my score if I hit it out of bounds?
Or have more mechanical conversations with yourself?
- Keep your head down
- Start back inside
- Stop short of parallel
Many of us do this and the results are rarely favorable. We need to quiet the mind and let the subconscious do its job. That is the right side of the brain. We need to learn how to turn on the right side and turn off the left before we sole the club behind the ball, and the best way to train this is through mental exercises. We can do these exercises right at home and take them to the range once we’re ready. Before long, the exercises will become second-nature, and you’ll be channeling your right brain naturally throughout a round of golf.
So let’s look at the first step toward turning on the right side of our brain and letting go of our conscious thoughts during our swing.
This exercise is much like meditation and needs to be done in a spot where you can get comfortable. Choose your favorite easy chair and settle in. Once you feel cozy, pick a point to focus on — maybe on the wall or floor. I like to place a ball mark on the floor and just focus all my attention on the mark. Inhale deep through your nose and blow the air out through your mouth. Focus on the sound of your breath and allow your eyes to only see the mark. Quiet your mind and if a thought passes through just let it. Don’t dwell on the thought, but concentrate on the mark. Be aware of any outside sounds that may be going on around you. That might be a car going by outside or one of your kids watching television in the next room. Try to focus only on the sound of your breath and let the other outside noise fall into the background This will take practice and this exercise should take about 5 minutes total.
Do this each day for 5 minutes and soon any outside distractions will disappear during the exercise. Five minutes will seem like a very long time at first, but with practice you will get use to it. Once you get good at it, take this same exercise to the range.
Once on the range, the exercise will only be for about 5 to 10 seconds. Do your pre-shot routine as normal — this engages the left side of the brain. Then focus on a point in front of the ball to engage the right side of your brain. If you want to place that same ball mark you used in your exercise at home, go right ahead. Focus on the mark and let your mind go to the place it was when all you heard was the sound of your own breathing. Once you get to this point, let the club swing and hold your finish until the ball lands. Once the ball lands, feel how relaxed your body and mind is. If the result is poor, there’s no need to worry. Let it go and move on to the next shot. This will help keep the mind quiet once it is time to hit the ball again.
In no time, you’ll be treating golf balls like flies, and you might just have a little fun while you’re at it.
Clement: Find big power in the flying elbow!
Matt Wolff, Bubba Watson, Jack Nicklaus, and so many more have been criticized for their golf swings and the flying elbow has been a subject of those criticisms.
When you watch a baseball hitter, a baseball pitcher, a tennis player, a lumberjack and so many more sports and disciplines, you realize they were all good to go all along!
This video will hopefully nudge you to experience this power for yourself too!
Clement: Smash your fairway woods!
This video is chock full of fairway wood wisdom that will allow you to understand several things including why a low spinning 5-wood would go much farther and what to focus on feel wise and sound wise with the SOLE of the club through the turf and ground. At least four solid nuggets throughout this video that will be sure to sharpen your fairway woods and hybrids!
The Wedge Guy: Chipping away strokes
I’ve always admired golfers who can really chip the ball well. Through my years in golf, I have seen players of all handicaps who are excellent chippers, and all tour professionals are masters of chipping it close. But for such a simple little stroke and challenge, chipping seems to be a part of the game that eludes many of us.
A good short game just cannot be achieved without a commitment to both learning and practicing. In watching the best chippers, it seems that their technique or chipping “stroke” is very similar to their putting stroke in style, form and pace. I think that’s because both chipping and putting are primarily “feel” shots. Yes, technique is important, but I’ve seen good chippers with all kinds of form and fundamentals.
This brings to mind two of my golf buddies who are both good chippers of the ball while employing totally different styles, but each one closely resembles their individual putting style. One uses a more stiff-wristed technique and quicker pace and tempo — just like his putting. The other, who is a doctor with a delicate touch, uses a more rhythmical pace not dissimilar from his syrupy smooth putting stroke.
Now let’s talk about techniques.
I personally prefer to use two different chipping techniques, depending on the chip I am facing. If I simply have to carry a few feet of collar and then get the ball rolling, I’ll choose a mid-iron or short iron, depending on the balance of carry and roll, and grip down on the club so that I can essentially “putt” the ball with the club I’ve chosen.
In employing this technique, however, realize that the club you are “putting” with weighs much less than your putter, so you want to grip the club much lighter to make the club feel heavier. It takes just a little practice to see what different clubs will do with this putt/chip technique.
On chips where the ball has to be carried more than just a few feet, I prefer a chipping technique that is more like a short pitching swing. I position the ball back of center of my stance to ensure clean contact and set up more like a short pitch shot. I usually hit this kind of chip with one of my wedges, depending on the balance of carry and roll needed to get the ball to the hole.
On that note, I read the green and pick an exact spot where I want the ball to land, and from there until impact, I forget the hole location and focus my “aim” on that spot. Your eyes guide your swing speed on chips and short pitch shots, and if you return your eyes to the hole, you are “programming” your body to fly the ball to the hole.
So, while sizing up the shot, I find a very distinct spot on the green where I think the ball needs to land to roll out with the club/trajectory I envision. From that point on, my complete focus is on that spot, NOT the hole. That loads my brain with the input it needs to tap into my eye/hand coordination. I think many golfers chip long too often because they focus on the hole, rather than where the shot needs to land, so their “wiring” imparts too much power. Just my thinking there.
One of my favorite drills for practicing chipping like this is to take a bucket/bag of balls to the end of the range where no one is hitting, and practice chipping to different spots – divots, pieces of turf, etc. – at various ranges, from 2-3 feet out to 20-30. I do this with different wedges and practice achieving different trajectories, just to load my memory banks with the feel of hitting to a spot with different clubs. Then, when I face a chip on the course, I’m prepared.
I’m totally convinced the majority of recreational golfers can make the quickest and biggest improvement in our scoring if we will just dedicate the time to learn good chipping technique and to practicing that technique with a purpose.
More from the Wedge Guy
- The Wedge Guy: Dealing with the wedge yips
- The Wedge Guy: Engage your core for better wedge play
- The Wedge Guy: Which is better – method or feel?
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