By Grant Garrison, PGA
Most golfers today hit the fall further due to modern equipment. However, the average handicap hasn’t gone down. The fact is, further doesn’t mean lower scores. Below are 6 ways to help you improve your consistency and become a better player.
Before we get started, I want to make an important point. While a growing number of conspiracy theorist believe the world is actually flat, the golf course isn’t. Therefore, we must learn how to adjust to the many different conditions of lie, slope, and wind as they all affect ball flight. Many golfers have the belief that to be consistent, they must become a robot making the exact swing under all conditions. The truth is, we must learn to adjust to these changing conditions to truly becoming a consistent golfer.
#1 The Effort Myth
The amount of effort I use to kill a spider is amazing when you consider its size. Ok, the scarier it looks the harder I seem to hit it. In the same way, most golfers use much more effort than what is required.
Last year I built a fence in my backyard pounding thousands of nails and I found out that I could hit each nail only 4 times if I struck it solid with full force. The problem was hitting it 4 times in a row. In the same way, many of us go about striking a golf ball the same way. When I was young, my father would say ‘that’s its son, swing hard in case you hit it' as he repeatedly beat me using his easy effortless swing.
The fact is, the difference in your club speed between full force and 75% of your force is very little. Launch monitors generally show a 5-10% drop in speed while contact with the ball can increase by 40%. When you use less effort, the club swings freely and surprisingly faster than you feel. The upside is that you gain control. When I used 6 easy hits with my hammer instead of 4 at full force, I rarely missed the head of nail. In the same way, you must learn how much effort maximizes your results.
#2 The Secret is in the Dirt
How your club interacts with the ground says heaps about your consistency. Ok, I can come close to guessing your golf handicap after looking at the ground after your practice session. There is simply no better tell.
Professional golfers seem to have pinpoint control of a divot made with an iron. The entry point, direction, depth, lie, and length are much different than most amateur golfers. If you ever go to a professional golf tournament and watch them warm up on the range, look at the grass after they are done, you may just find some artwork.
Here is the truth, many of you feel you make great practice swings but poor swings when hitting the ball. The fact is, If you're not making perfect divots, you are rehearsing a poor swing right before your golf shot.
The ground gives us all the feedback we need to prepare for the shot, your goal should be to learn from every practice swing making swing adjustments until you get the perfect interaction with the ground. If this is a struggle for you, I recommend a golf lesson as you will need to swing differently to get the ground interaction you need.
#3 Shorten Up
The average backswing length for golf professionals is less than the average amateur golfer. However, the pros hit there drives nearly 100 yards further. The pros take the club back shorter and accelerate through to a complete finish giving them longer and straighter shots.
Most golfers simply reach back too far and release the power too early. In golf coaching we call this ‘throwing the club away’ and that’s exactly what happens. Picture any other striking sport and you will soon realize the club doesn’t need to go back very far to create lots of speed on the downswing. Weather your baseball batting or hitting a forehand shot in tennis the power comes from the transitional movement and what you do in the through swing.
When you learn to tame the backswing, the chance of error decreases, your release point, balance, and transition generally improves. Interestingly, your club speed will often increase as you accelerate better into your finish.
#4 Learn Your True Distances
The next step is to find out how far you actually hit the ball when you swing with a high degree of ball contact. The easiest way to do this is to go to an indoor golf centre that has either a Trackman or Foresight GCQuad, these two devices will record your distances accurately. If you on the Gold Coast, I recommend the PefectStroke Centre located in Molindinar, Golf Professional Mark Officer is a specialist in this field and will get your distances very quickly. The best launch monitors will send a report to you by email with all your numbers.
It’s very important to put your ego aside regarding how far you hit the ball, your goal is to find your true distances when you swing with repeatable contact.
#5 Turn On Your Imagination
There is no doubt that doing the same thing over and over again improves the brain’s ingrained muscular patterns, the more we repeat something, the less conscious thought you need. However, when you are always tinkering with your swing, you stay in a brain wave called Beta, this is the state of conscious thought where you never quite trust that you are doing it right. For example, when you learned to drive a car, your mind eventually turned off and you did it without thought, this is a brain wave called Alpha. Unfortunately, many golfers never quite trust their swing and stay in Beta.
Alpha brain waves or ‘The Zone’ as we know it happens when you relax and use your imagination instead of using commands. Imagine swinging smooth and effortlessly. Imagine striking the ball solid with compression. Imagine the ball flying straight at your target. You are still thinking but doing it from a different brain wave that gives the body better direction. Like driving a car, we think of where we are going and we drive to that destination with pin point accuracy.
#6 Increase Resilience
When you get upset or angry playing golf, you are in conflict with your expectations. That’s right, I know it’s harsh but you think your better than you actually are. What if you played the game with no expectations? You simply play each shot to the best of your ability and except that its a reasonable representation of your current ability. You play the game with humility always learning and always discovering.
The truth is, the game is nearly impossible to master so it’s best to approach it with a high degree of humility. When you play it with ego, it can beat you up. Why not play the game without any expectations and leave your ego at the door? The goal should always be to do your best and see what happens. Playing the game with this attitude will increase your resilience allowing you to bounce back sooner after a poor shot or hole. If you look at the best golfers in history you would be hard pressed to find them hitting 2 poor shots in a row, it turns out that resilience is a big part of becoming a consistent golfer.