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iacas

Playing Golf Without a (Swing) Thought

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125 members have voted

  1. 1. How often do you play a competitive round of golf WITHOUT a swing thought or a focal point? Please read first post before answering.

    • Never - I always have something in mind
      45
    • Rarely
      45
    • Often
      23
    • Always - I just hit the ball and don't think about anything like that
      6


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You'll hear from time to time that a golfer went out and played a round of golf without a swing thought. Maybe they'll say something about how they just pictured the shot they wanted to hit and then hit it*. It feels like many of the winners on the PGA Tour (or whichever tour you watch) will say this fairly often, leading to a belief that "playing thought-free golf is how you play your best."

I think there's a little bias in there. Namely, we don't recognize how many times the winner doesn't say that he played without a thought. But still, enough people have said it that it is a valid way to play golf… if you're at the top of your game.

Though I could argue that "hit a little draw here" is a "swing thought" it's not quite the same as what I'm talking about.

But… @david_wedzik and I were talking the other day about how we cannot remember the last time we played golf without a swing thought.

Now, they're not always big things. Sometimes they're something like "focusing on hitting my start line" or something like that (which some might just call "alignment"). In fact, they're rarely anything I'd call "big things." I might rehearse a takeaway move a few times before I hit a shot. Describing what I'm feeling would take significantly more effort than just "feeling" it in the context of my swing, but I'll make a few practice motions and then try to reproduce that feeling during my actual swing.

Now, this is very different than saying I am practicing on the golf course. It's very different than saying I am working hard on the golf course, or that my swing thought (which is often really more of a "feel" - a "thought" is often considered to mean words but I almost never have words as my swing thoughts - just feelings) is very complex.

I also prefer backswing to transition thoughts rather than thoughts that occur on the downswing, as the downswing happens SO quickly.

Some examples of some of my recent "thoughts" (note that while I can only really use words to describe them, they're almost always "feels" or things I can demonstrate):

  • Softer right arm that flexes more sooner
  • Stay in my inclination on the backswing
  • Land on the left knee in transition
  • Hands out from the top of the backswing
  • No arms in backswing
  • All turn
  • Fire hands/arms in downswing
  • Get the right seam forward of the ball

All of those are simple, specific "feels" (again, I don't think these actual words during the swing) I feel during the full swing. Some of them aren't even possible (like the last one, which if I actually did it would result in horrible shots), but the feel is helpful.

Sometimes they're different, too, with irons versus the driver. Sometimes I have thoughts for pitches, or putts (I'm feeling like I'm taking the face back more hooded lately on my putts, for example).


So again, Dave and I were talking and neither of us can remember the last time we didn't have a swing thought during a round of golf.

So, do I absolutely recommend this for everyone? No. If you're Jordan Spieth right now, maybe you don't have a lot to think about except "hey look, there's my ball, and I want it to go there. Cool." But for almost everyone else, I do think you should consider adopting a strategy of having a single thought and making it a focus of your pre-shot routine and swing. If it is a word, try to make it a single syllable. If it's a feel, rehearse it (or even exaggerate it) before you swing and then just repeat it.

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I usually over analyze so I don't think I could play without some type of thought.  My thoughts tend to change with the shot, as well, so I try to keep them to one word thoughts.

Driver = SLOW.  I'm fighting a quick transition from backswing to downswing, hence the "slow" thought.  I also try to mimic a Matsuyama type pause during practice swings, which slows things down a bit as well.

Pitching = ACCELERATE.  I usually hit better shots and duff it less when I keep the speed up. :doh:

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But… @david_wedzik and I were talking the other day about how we cannot remember the last time we played golf without a swing thought.

About 4 or 5 years ago before I started taking lessons from you ;)

I use to be, see ball, hit ball, if things were going well play good golf.

I've got to balance between the old way and not overthinking it.

I also prefer backswing to transition thoughts rather than thoughts that occur on the downswing, as the downswing happens SO quickly.

All of those are simple, specific "feels" (again, I don't think these actual words during the swing) I feel during the full swing. Some of them aren't even possible (like the last one, which if I actually did it would result in horrible shots), but the feel is helpful.

I would put "feels" into the same category of swing thought.

I agree I prefer backswing feels over downswing feels because of how fast the downswing is. I rather train my downswing to happen then focus on my backswing.

Some feel for the full swing.

  • Stay in incline on the backswing, chest points down and to the right from A1 to A2
  • All turn feeling early in backswing, then left arm goes up
  • Softer right arm in the backswing
  • Holding the club like an umbrella at A3
  • Left shoulder meets chin, hands away from body at A3-A4 (similar to umbrella)
  • Right seam of shirt gets past ball before I strike the ball
  • Oh yea, shorter backswing :)

Some of these are for the same thing. Some might work better that day than others. I kinda like the left shoulder meets chin because that correlates to the left arm up, but also is a good feel to stop the backswing.

For Pitching

  • Soft arms
  • Pivot around left leg
  • You don't need to see the ball to hit it

Putting

  • Soft arms, elbows tucked in towards body
  • Rock the shoulders

I like how there are less feels/thoughts as you get closer to the green :-D . Easier stuff to learn ;)

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I always have something in mind. I definitely rehearse a swing feel before I hit a shot and sometimes my "feels" are images or pictures. Like I'm watching myself on camera performing the motion. A swing thought for me the past year has been "big turn" and I'm able to "see" my right hip continuously turn on the backswing. For speeding up the arms on the downswing, the swing "image" could be sticking a spear into the ground. I'm also very specific about what's allowing me to accomplish my swing thought. The actual description of the thought doesn't need to be specific (big turn) but the feel or image should be. It's also not a coincidence that in practice, turning rates has been a priority for me the past year and a half.

It would be tough for me to play without a swing thought. Like @iacas said, this doesn't mean I'm "thinking" about my swing, I'm just rehearsing a feel to give myself a better chance at hitting the ball solid.

Some players will say their swing thoughts are "rhythm" or "tempo", which is fine but I think for a lot of golfers it's not very specific and probably doesn't have anything to do with their priority piece. If your focus has been Key #2 in practice, then your swing thought on the course should have something to with you rehearsing getting your weight forward.

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Been working on a full shot right shoulder alignment to target (sometimes slightly closed) to left shoulder perp to feet or slightly past at finish. Helping to loosen me up and increase distance.

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I'd have to say I have something that I think about on every swing.  Often its two things, perhaps an alignment key, and then a swing key, but never two or three swing thoughts.

Having said that, when I've had my very best rounds, I don't remember thinking about anything.  On those days, I usually don't remember much of anything besides my own game, not conversations, not my playing partners shots, nothing but ME.  In hindsight, on those really good days my thought process has probably become so consistent and automatic that its almost like driving a stick-shift car.  If you think the same two thoughts on every practice swing and every real swing, you may not even remember that you used those thoughts.

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I said rarely because once in a while, I just aim and swing.  But almost always I have one thought in my head.  The last few rounds I have tried to have it be one consistent thought or feel throughout the round.  My last lesson, my Evolvr instructor wanted me to keep my backswing speed through to A5. So I had a count in my head to keep it constant. Other times it would be something else I am working on.

But occasionally I get pissed because I did something wrong. Sometimes for the next shot I just aim and swing.  Surprisingly, it usually comes out good. It happened yesterday after I tried to punch a ball under a tree.  I caught a branch and the ball only went 20 yards. I was mad. I grabbed my 4H, aimed at the right side of the green and hit a great shot to the green.

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I went with never. Sometimes I forget to have a swing thought before I swing, but I don't think that counts as it's not intentional. I always play with some kind of swing thought or feel in mind.

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I guess those that are lucky enough to play golf every day can probably just swing away often and not be all that bad, maybe even play better ball for them, but those of us that play less often need swing thoughts for our game, I can't imagine any weekend golfer shooting good scores not having all sorts of swing thoughts throughout a round, golf is hard.

When I'm playing my worst I'm not thinking about my swing, just gripping it and go, it happens all the time and even though I know it I seem to have trouble getting my mind back on track, I have no idea why that happens.

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I'd have to get a lobotomy to play w/o a swing thought.

Yup.  And I can't even control the invasive thoughts either.

"Keep head back on backswing ... wait, did I remember to close the garage door???"    SHANK!


Currently, I'm usually playing with 2 "thoughts" ... one on the backswing (right now its "big turn with the hips" and then on the downswing I'm thinking "explode left" or something to that effect.

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It is impossible to not have any thought in your head over the ball or at any other time.  When I have had a good swing going I sing a song in my head while I am swinging.

We also cannot be thinking two things at once. So the song takes the place of what could be dieing over the ball or ten swings thoughts going on in my head.

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I have swing thoughts, but mostly it's in the alignment/pre-shot routine phase.

One exception is partial shots greenside, especially with noticeable rough. I take a few practice swings to see how easily - or not - the wedge goes through the grass, and adjust stroke accordingly.

What I have been able to do frequently: Go non-verbal on putting. I just check out the slope of the green, visualize the break, and stroke the putt. If I try to inject mental "inner voice" swing thoughts or give myself a "happy talk," I usually have a sorry putt.

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I've never played a competitive round, but if I did I'd probably be overflowing with swing thoughts. I try to stick to "straight arms" on the BS and "explode the lead shoulder" on the DS, but can start to overthink when things go south.

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I have not played that many competitive rounds ... but honestly the few I have played actually wore me out mentally, thinking of swing thoughts combined with course management thoughts ... I played rider cup format once ... I won my match on hole 17 ... I was too exhausted mentally to play 18 ... Disclaimer: I do not have much mental capacity to start with ... ;-)

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