Golf Shots Versus Golf Swings

There are two parts to a golf shot.

Part one is planning.

In order to send the ball towards the target on the golf course, all of the variables that Mother Nature has given us have to be considered and compensated for. This is what makes every golf shot unique.

The lie, the wind, obstacles, temperature, hazards, your personality, and your ability must all be considered before you ever swing the club.

…But it’s not that simple.
The planning phase of the shot must be complete, and the final decision must be without any doubt before moving on.

If there is any doubt about the shot you have chosen when you stand over the ball your mind will be distracted and possibly try to form another shot in mid-swing. That spells disaster.

Once a shot and a target are clearly decided upon, it is time for the swing. The swing has two parts; the preshot routine and the swing itself.

The preshot routine is where you consider any small changes that must be made to your basic swing to make the desired shot based on the conditions.
Again these changes must be decided upon without doubt.

Once the changes have been decided upon, it’s a good idea to make a practice swing or two to program the feel of the swing into your mind and to eliminate doubt about it.

For example: when I have to draw a shot, I have a tendency to swing to flat and not finish my backswing. During my practice swings I first pre-program my swing plane into my swing picture and on the second practice swing I add the full turn of the lower back. I might make a third practice swing to reinforce my changes.

Now it’s time to swing the club. At this point you can have no further conscious thoughts. Just step up and swing just as you’ve pictured it.

The problem is that you cannot just shut the brain down.
Whether you like it or not the brain will function and the brain will look for stimulus…unless you keep it occupied.

This is where the golf psychologists jump into the scene. As I have said before, Psychology is the study of our thoughts, accept….

We don’t want to think during the golf swing.

Do you think golf psychology can help you here? I don’t think so.
That is why I prefer to call this part of the game the mental game instead of using the word psychology.

The trick is to occupy the mind during the golf swing so that it doesn’t start thinking and ruin your shot.

To explain my method, let me reiterate an example from a previous chapter.


Walk into a room that you are not completely familiar with. Take a look around for a few seconds and have someone turn out the lights so that the room is completely dark. Try to navigate your way through the room until you are unsure and stop.

Question: What happened in your mind to cause you to stop?
Answer: Doubt about your surroundings! So… where did the doubt come from?

To answer that question you must understand why you were able to navigate any of the room at all. You remembered some of the room because you took a mental picture of your surroundings. You only stop when the picture isn’t clear.

Here’s the principle. For every physical action we take, the mind makes pictures for us to follow. When we walk, we constantly take pictures of our surroundings. When the pictures fade, we take new ones. Ever trip on something? What do you say? I didn’t see that!

Since the mind likes pictures so much, we will give it pictures!

During your swing pre-shot routine, put your swing and the intended shot into pictures. Picture yourself making the swing of your favorite PGA golfer. Try to feel the tempo of the swing. Imagine what has to happen at impact to make the golf ball take its intended path. Imagine the ball jumping off of the club face at impact.

All that is left is to step up to the ball in a balanced setup and run the tape in your head. If your pictures are vivid, your body will do as it has been programmed.

Although your eyes are closed at impact, your mind will stay with the ball waiting for the picture of impact that you programmed to be completed.

Using visualization, are you thinking about swing mechanics or the possible results of the shot? No, you’re just playing a video of the swing. The pictures you create can easily keep your mind quiet during the swing. Think about it. We sit down to read a book, but after an hour or so, if the book isn’t real exciting, we need a break. If it’s a book we like, we can read longer.

Think about the last book that captured your attention. Do you remember how vividly you pictured what was happening while you were reading? It’s not the book, it’s the pictures we create while reading the book that keeps us involved.

This is why we can sit down and watch a two-hour movie straight through while holding back a bathroom break to the point of discomfort. The mind becomes thoroughly involved when the pictures are great.

Do you still remember those great shots you’ve hit in the past? I know that I can recall some so vividly that I can feel which way the wind was blowing against my face when I replay them in my mind.

This is not something you can go right out and do. It takes training. Awareness training, because you picture things all of the time. Most people just take it for granted, just like they do with balance.

Start to take notice of the pictures you take when you do things. Be more aware of the things you notice and don’t notice around you. Have
you ever searched for something only to find it right in front of you? When that happened, was it because the picture you had in your mind of what you were looking for wasn’t the same as the real thing?

I’ve given up looking for things, let go of the picture, and realized shortly thereafter that what I was looking for was in a different package than I expected. I looked directly at it while looking for it in a different package and only noticed it when I let go of the picture in my head.

Why do we hit the ball in the lake when we tell ourselves not to? “Not the lake” doesn’t create a picture but the lake does! Unless we choose an exact target and picture it in our mind, the ball will be directed
to the lake.

What happens when we tell ourselves to keep our eye on the ball. The eyes get the directive but the brain moves on to other things. It looks for other pictures. If it doesn’t have any new pictures, it makes it’s own. They are called dreams or daydreams. Ever hit a shot and wonder where your mind was when it happened?

Since the brain is constantly looking for stimulus, give it the stimulus that will help you achieve your task. Take control.