It’s time to quit thinking and start playing golf.
I get it. Every golfer wants to be the best. I’m sure you want to make the most birdies, win the most money, and have the most fun.
One of the challenges of golf is that 99 percent of players think too much. When players are interviewed after a round on the 18th green they never mention that they had mechanical swing thoughts.
Take a look back at 2000-2005, when Tiger was winning almost every week. It was all about identifying a target and staying in the moment. This is what he said in every interview. Interviews are a common topic he mentions. How he enters the zone.
He often forgets about specific shots and victories when he tries to recall them. While one could argue it’s because he’s won 82 times in his professional career, it’s actually because he’s so focused on the shot at hand.
He isn’t thinking about taking the club inside or clearing his hips on the way down. He’s in the elusive “zone” that top athletes experience when they’re operating in autopilot. They find pure joy in competition because of all the practice they have put in.
In this post, I’ll help you learn how to control your thoughts to play better golf and get in the zone too. It’s time to stop thinking about the golf club in your swing and start playing to score your best ever.
As I’m sure you know, sometimes you are your own worst enemy on the course, especially if you’re working on making swing changes. And let’s get real, who isn’t trying to constantly improve?
The problem is that golfers are too focused on their game, which is limiting their ability to play well. Whether it’s first tee jitters, fear of hitting a snap hook, or an approach shot on the 12th hole, you can’t play golf when you’re thinking about 2-3 (or more) swing thoughts. It’s just not going to end well.
I love this Dave Stockton quote, which is from his book. Unconscious PuttingThat sums it all. He said, “When you drive a car you aren’t thinking about all of the mechanical things necessary to safely get your vehicle from point A to point B. You aren’t thinking about how hard to pump the brakes, or how many degrees to rotate the wheel to make a left turn.”
But as golfers who have read too much Golf Digest and listened to friends for swing tips, we’re always thinking about the mechanical things necessary. Instead, learn to let go of your mind and just focus on the game.
Golf is about hitting shots and being creative, it’s not about playing your swing. Golf swing tension can cause tension which can affect your tempo and ultimately your ability to golf swing. You need to remember what it’s like to forget about swing thoughts and just have fun.
Here’s how you can do it…
How to Reduce Swing Thoughts
The good news is that you’re not alone as this is an issue I’ve faced and nearly every other player. The more I’ve learned to minimize multiple swing thoughts and clear my head when standing over the golf ball, the more consistent I’ve started playing. That’s what I want for you – to have confidence when you stand over the golf ball.
Here’s how to do it…
Learn how to trust your golf swing
Trusting their game is one reason Tiger Woods and other world-class players can achieve these flow states. They’re not trying to make changes before the round or mid-round. They’ve trained hard in practice so they can trust their game under pressure.
One reason you might be thinking so much when you’re playing golf is because you haven’t trained your golf swing yet. It’s not to say you need to get to PGA Tour levels before you can trust your game either. But it’s about producing a swing that you know the results 80-90% of the time, even if the club isn’t in textbook positions in your swing.
Your golf swing doesn’t need to produce the longest or the straightest shot, it needs to be a repeatable swing with semi-consistent results. Of course, you’re still going to have big misses at times, I mean it’s still golf!
Repetition is the mother skill. If you can create a repeatable swing then you can stop thinking and start playing when you’re on the course.
This is why it’s so important to train the right things on the range instead of endlessly hitting shots that ingrain bad habits. Remember that less is more at the range.
You can improve your swing by practicing drills that will make it more consistent and repeatable. It will pay big dividends to focus on the swing fundamentals.
To help you remove swing thoughts during the round, it’s really important to get there early and spend time warming up. Again, the goal isn’t to make swing changes on the range, it’s to get warmed up and loose.
Even if you’re hitting it poorly, don’t take swing thoughts to the course. I’ve played tons of great rounds with bad warm-ups. Remember, one doesn’t correlate to the other.
To build confidence, it is important to start getting there early. I recommend that you develop a routine that makes your feel confident. It could be hitting 10-15 balls, chipping, and putting. It could include 50 balls and 20 3-footers.
Whatever it is, find a pre-round routine that works best for you so you’re loose on the first shot of the day. Before you go out, make sure your routine emphasizes confidence.
While I’d love to tell you don’t have any swing thoughts at all on the course, I know that most people need at least one thought to have an anchor. So if you’re going to take a swing thought with you to the course, make sure it’s non-mechanical.
For example, instead of thinking “I need to take this more outside on the takeaway” Think about how you feel and what your tempo is..
Here are some swing ideas to stimulate your imagination.
A good tempo is a simple idea that can help you generate power, improve ball flight, and have a huge impact on your golf swing.
All good players share tempo. Amateur golfers are inconsistent with their tempo, which can lead to all sorts of shot patterns.
My only swing thought in some of my best rounds was Tempo as it works for every type of shot. A swing thought might be a bad idea for your full-swing pitching, pitching, or putting.
This is too much for you to think about while playing. Remember, you can’t play great if you’re thinking consciously of your game and swing.
Reach for the Target
If you’re someone who doesn’t get your weight to your lead foot, think “chest to target.” This should help you feel your chest rotate through the target and end up moving your weight for a better impact position.
Another great swing thought is “smooth during transition.” This is a good swing thought as some players rush the downswing and hit it thin or fat as a result.
When you’re thinking, “I’m the smoothest player in the world” you’re grooving yourself throughout the round. This one swing thought can make a huge difference in how you time your swing to improve ball flight and hit every club with precision.
As Tiger said in the previous Youtube clip: “I have these blackout moments. I know I was there but I don’t remember hitting the actual shot. It’s like my subconscious mind just takes over.”
The reason he’s able to do this is that he stays extremely relaxed, even when he’s competing on the world’s biggest stages. His dad’s best friend was an army buddy and psychologist who helped him learn relaxation techniques such as hypnosis and deep breathing exercises.
You can do your own internal work to find ways that you can relax on the course, and in life. Instead of thinking “don’t have swing thoughts”, work on staying relaxed through the round. Take deep breaths before you start, and walk between shots to take deep, deep breaths. You might also want to learn more about meditation or hypnosis.
If you’re serious about playing your best golf, you need to learn how to control your emotion and ability to stay calm after a bad shot. This will allow you focus on the moment and less on your swing. You will also avoid fatigue-related collapses in the later rounds.
If you’ve ever played golf in a tournament, you know that your mind is 10X more active than a normal round. You’re trying to play great golf but sometimes your swing thoughts are running wild. Your pre-shot routine is essential to keep your mind on each swing.
Think about it: The top athletes have a preshot routine. This includes the NFL kickers before setting up a field goal and the NBA players when shooting free throws. This helps them relax and get in the zone.
This is something elite golfers do because it improves their golf game and minimizes the impact of mechanical thoughts. Dr. Valiante, a sports psychologist, said that this is a good idea.
“The best thought is always somehow related to either 1. A specific target, or 2. A visual that shows the shape of a particular shot. This will depend on the type of brain an individual has. Some people see targets, some people see shapes.”
Look at your pre-shot routine now…does it incorporate one or the other already? If not, choose the one that feels more natural to your needs. Is it the shape of the target or the object?
Once you’ve answered that question, focus on your target or visualization with a swing thought. For more information on creating a pre shot routine click here Click here.
Your pre-shot routine should be about feeling or imagining your shot. But it’s also about the target, not where you don’t want the ball to go. The problem is that so many players focus on where they don’t want the ball to end up.
Do you feel familiar?
Most players are thinking about “don’t hit it in the water” or “don’t hit it in the sand.” And more times and not, that’s exactly where they hit it.
Because the subconscious mind doesn’t understand negatives like the word don’t. It also doesn’t understand the difference between real and imagination.
This is why it is so important to spend most of your pre-shot routine training your mind to think about the target and not the dangers.
Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want.
How to keep your mind focused and busy so that you can send your ball to the right place, will allow your subconscious mind to perform the actual movement. The more you’ve trained it, the more you can trust it. It will feel more natural and free from distractions the more you train it.
If you are not asking yourself, “What is my target?” before every shot, you are not giving yourself the best chances to shoot the lowest scores.
Improve Your Mental Game
I’m confident all the tips above will help you during the round. But let’s not forget about what you can do outside of golf to play your best when you tee it up.
One reason we have so many mental thoughts when we play golf is that our minds are naturally active. According to HealthlineThe average person has more that 6,000 thoughts per day. While I’ve other studies that estimate 2-3X that amount.
The point is, our minds are always thinking as it’s a survival mechanism and does everything possible to keep you alive. Yet, most of us aren’t taught how to control our mind and manage emotions in childhood, high school, or even in college.
Needless to state, the more you are able to learn how to control your thoughts and manage your mind, the easier it will become on the course. Through and Meditation and hypnosis.
Meditation is a great place for beginners, as it offers many benefits. Very Well Mind claims that meditation can help you achieve your goals. “The potential benefits of mindfulness include lowering stress, decreasing depression, improving memory, and strengthening your relationships, among other things.”
Your game can be improved by reducing stress. There are many other benefits that can be enjoyed besides the golf course.
Click here to find out more about meditation and how it can affect your golf game.
Hypnosis for Golf
While meditation is more popular and common, another trick I’ve used to quiet the mind (on and off the course), is hypnosis. I’ve learned about this practice both with a certified hypnotherapist and learning to use self-hypnosis as well.
If you go into it with an open mind, I think you’ll be quite impressed with the results. Click here for more information about hypnosis to improve your golf game.
Remember, the more you master the mind, the less harmful thoughts will limit your potential.
We’ve been talking about golf swing thoughts thus far, but let’s not forget about putting either. I’ve found that most golfers experience even more mental chatter when they have a putter than a full swing.
Because all of a sudden there’s a hole near you, expectations go up, and you likely want to make every putt. Many players put too much pressure on themselves and this can lead to poor performances. Instead, you should be relaxed and not try to force the ball into the hole.
Here are my top putting thoughts:
- Accelerate: The best putters accelerate through the ball, while amateurs slow down and leave putts too short. This is especially true for short putts. Simply thinking “accelerate’ during your stroke will help improve your odds of holing more putts.
- One-two: Although putting is easy, we make it more difficult for ourselves. You can think about one-two if you need a good putting thought. One is the backstroke. Two is the way to go. Don’t overcomplicate putting!
- Keep my head down. A common trait of great putters includes keeping their head down during each stroke. This mantra “keep my head down” will ensure you give your ball the best chance to find the cup by hitting it solid. If you look up too early, you can affect the contact and miss many putts.
- The ball will be in the hole if you pay attention. On short putts, never just look at the hole but instead where the ball will enter the hole. I like to visualize the ball rolling just above my front lip when downhill putting. With uphill putts, I’ll imagine the ball hitting the back of the cup to ensure I hit it firm enough. Flat putts are ideal because the ball will pour into the cup at a perfect speed.
Do you have questions about how to get more out of your game? Keep reading to learn how you can play better golf!
What are the best ideas for golf swings?
We’ve covered a lot in this article which you can reference above. I tried my best to provide a solid list for golf swing thoughts that would make it easy to get out on the course. You are all different, so try different ones and find what works for your game.
How can I stop thinking about my golf swing?
The mind is built to stay active so it’s easier said than done to get out of your head. I’m confident the tips throughout this article will help you quiet the mind on the links. Here are the top tips:
- You can also use mindfulness, hypnosis, journaling, and other techniques to calm your mind away from golf. Sometimes a brain dump can be a good way of clearing your head and allowing you to go into the round with a blank canvas.
- To improve your golf swing, practice on the driving range. The mind tends to get very “chatty” when you have a lot of shots that you haven’t practiced on the range or short game area. Try to hit all shots, and practice scenarios on the range. This will help you to be confident and not lose sight of the course.
- Keep your swing thoughts simple. Don’t let mechanical swing thoughts distract you from the range. Keep it simple during the round.
- When you get to the fairway, make it a goal to play golf rather than focusing on your swing.
- Keep your body moving throughout the round to keep you relaxed and not panic from lack of oxygen.
Do you need to have swing thoughts while playing golf?
Ideally, I would say no – eliminate them and just play golf. Most people enjoy having some thought during their round. Keep your swing thought simple and easy to recall.
What makes a good swing thought?
If you’ve played golf at a high level you know a good swing thought is a simple one. It’s not thinking about all the training aids you use on the driving range or all the drills with your coach. It’s a simple feeling in your swing that helps you get move the golf club effortlessly and produce your best shots under pressure.
Every golfer is unique. What might work for one person may not work for another. That’s why it’s important to try out different thoughts on the range and when you’re out playing a round.
How can you build confidence in the game of golf?
Confidence in golf is fragile and even a few poor swings can erode your confidence. Conversely, a good shot can make you feel like you’re invincible and ready to make it as a professional golfer.
You can gain more confidence by understanding that confidence comes and goes, even for the most talented players such as Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau. That’s just golf.
Here are five things you should keep in mind to make your links more attractive:
- Understanding that bad shots are part of golf is important. Don’t get any ideas that once you’re a scratch golfer or pro you automatically don’t hit bad shots. Instead, try to be positive and not react negatively to some of the more difficult swings.
- Before you go to the shot, take a deep breath. Take a deep, exhaling breath before you start walking to the golf ball. This will help relieve stress and calm your mind. This will help you to reduce unnecessary chatter and give you a great swing.
- Make practice difficult. Make practice feel like a round. It will make it easier for you to feel confident in challenging situations on the course.
- Learn how to swing your swing at the range. It’s crucial to swing your swing and understand your specific misses in practice. That way when you’re on the course, you can play great golf and have a familiarity for your own unique game.
- Keep your best shots in mind. Write down at least three of your best shots after each round to help you create a positive memory for the next. That way if you’re going through a slump or lacking confidence, you’ll have a ton of positive memories to look back on.
Hopefully, this will answer the old golf question, “What do I think about before I hit my shot.” It’s a frequent question that holds players back from playing their best game.
While it is important to practice the range, don’t forget to be relaxed and train your mind. Steve Elkington said it best: “The mind is your greatest weapon. It’s the greatest club in the bag. But it’s also your Achilles heel.”
The most important thing is to be relaxed during the round. Stop breathing and you will get tight. Your conscious mind will try to make swing thoughts. Focus on the target and take deep, slow breaths.
Here are some tips to help you correct bad shots mid-round without getting too involved in the game of golf swing.