My latest golf improvement discovery
The golf farm is nearly finished and I’ll be writing a complete update later this week.
Over the last week I’ve been hitting a lot of balls. Been giving the facility a good working out and I’ve been having a ball. Haven’t hit this many balls in years and I’ve enjoyed getting out in the fresh air to experiment, learn and try some stuff.
Saturday, while hitting some bunker shots, I stumbled onto something. It was nothing too special at the time, just a little idea for helping concentration and staying focused for the duration of the shot. I made a mental note of it but wasn’t that interested because it didn’t seem anything out of the ordinary. I’ve also been around a while and it often doesn’t pay to get too excited with this stuff – this can be a quick-fix mentality and often leaves you with burnt hands.
So I slept on it and came back to it Sunday.
I have two hitting tees. A bottom one and another located at the top of the property. It’s the higher tee that gives you access to the golf green. From this vantage point there’s 85 metres and a large tree to avoid. While the goal was never to use the tee to hit to the green, I’ve hit a few hundred shots by now and am enjoying the experience. The golf green is working perfectly – I can spin and hold the green and there’s no pitch marks left. This green is a beauty.
Back to the story.
I was going through the motions. Hitting balls to the green and seeing how close I could get to the hole (still haven’t holed one). At some point I lost focus. Duffed a few shots and hit the tree. It was no biggie but my mind went back to yesterday’s discovery. I reset the brain and went again.
Flush. The first shot came out nicely. It sailed straight for the pin, landed just short and struck the flagstick. Interesting. I went again and struck another crisp shot. I stayed with the exercise for about 20 balls and each one found the green. When I had finished there were a clump of balls surrounding the hole. The exciting bit was how good each shot felt – I had nailed the sweet spot and the consistency was welcome. Almost like I had a ball on the string.
I rushed down the hill and threw some stray balls into the bunker. I refocused on my new drill and success repeated. The balls were coming out superbly with a tonne of spin. Five or six bunkers shots nestled around the target. I was now fully engaged with what was happening.
I rushed over to the fairway and let loose on some full shots. Same. Perfect shots that felt freer and looser than anything I’ve felt in a while. By now I was trying to contain my excitement.
Chipping. Same deal. In fact, the exercise gave me such wonderful focus with chipping that I felt I could make the ball talk. I holed a few chip shots and mucked about for 15 minutes trying all sorts of shots. I kept getting crazy good results until I pushed the friendship a bit too far and started the impossible.
What did I find? Before I tell you about my discovery I want to tell you why I think it’s so important. I’m pretty sure it’s something new in the golf coaching world and it’s going to influence my coaching moving forward. I haven’t thoroughly tested it but I’m convinced it’s significant. I also think it’s going to help lots of golfers get more from their game because it overcomes a huge problem with golf coaching.
Here’s the deal.
Automatic Golf as I’ve been teaching it for the last seven years of so works a treat. If you can clear your mind, let go and swing away you’ll get great results. But it’s not always that easy to do because you’ve got to put your faith in your “feel”. This is all fine and dandy, but many of us don’t have great feel. We are much better using our sense of sight. Some days it’s hard to “feel” what’s going on – I struggle with it and to be honest, after what I’m learning now, I think we struggle because our sight is so dominant.
Each day we’re bombarded with visual stimulus. So it sort of makes sense to use our dominant sense to our advantage. I have always known that it’s possible to use our eyesight to play automatically, but I suppose that I’ve favoured the “feel” approach. I also couldn’t think of a good way to do it without getting too “ball bound”. You can’t just stare at the ball and hope you’ll play automatically. That’s probably not going to work.
I’m not sure what triggered this (probably because I was hitting balls and having some fun), but when I was hitting bunker shots Saturday I decided to hit the shot first and then track the flying sand with my eyes. Have you ever done this? I certainly haven’t but the results really surprised me.
I became so interested in the flying sand that I almost became mesmerised by it. It looked amazing and really held my interest. What was even more profound was how well the trap shots were coming out. There was no controlling of the motion at all. It was pure automatic as I let go and swung with the sole intention of “observe the sand”.
“Observe the sand” is an important part of it. I wasn’t trying to control the sand. I was simply playing a bunker shot and being ready to see what the sand did. It was almost like I was an outsider, just hanging around watching what was going on.
You’re probably thinking, “sure, this works well for bunker shots, but what about other shots where there is no sand flying around?”.
Good question. When I was hitting my 85 metre shots Sunday I fell into some bad habits. I was whacking balls one after the other. There was no plan and probably no improvement. And it didn’t take long for me to lose interest and get some bad results. But mistakes are good because it triggered my memory about the bunker shots from yesterday. But how to make this work for pitch shots…
The problem is that I have a synthetic mat, so there’s no divot. But I solved this problem by becoming interested in the ball. In particular, I wanted to watch the ball and see how quickly I could pick it up after impact. Does this make sense? If not let me know. Here’s more.
I became absorbed in this little drill. My focus wasn’t on the swing at all. My goal was to hit the ball and then see how quickly I could find the ball with my eyes. It was a really interesting task and had my full attention. And each shot felt incredible. There was balance, timing and sweet contact. I really couldn’t believe how well the ball was coming off the face. After a short time I really became fascinated in the flight of the ball. Have you ever really noticed it before? I’ve gotta say that I haven’t. I’ve been asleep. The speed, the launch angle and the curve is all really interesting and was enough to keep me in the moment for the practice session. If you can watch the ball without care and concern then I reckon you’ll make a breakthrough. There’s so much going on here and we miss out because we’re so worried about where the ball is going. At least, this is my experience.
And then it got better. It really did. When I collected the balls I was keen to experiment with chipping. There’s no divot or sand so what could I “see”? It took a few hits but I started focusing on the impact of club and ball. Once again, I wanted to know if I could see the impact or pick up the ball just after…
… it was a bit of a blur, but I could see a blending of club and ball when the chip was made. My focus became so good that I could track the ball almost from the point of impact. The yellow balls worked best – it was like they left a yellow comet tail and this woke me up. I had a sense of one with the club. It really felt like it belonged in my hand and I couldn’t miss that sweet spot. Each chip shot felt pure – striking the sweet spot each time and then me, observing the ball flight, totally engrossed in what I was doing.
There was no stress or trying hard here. I was completely relaxed and I wasn’t trying to keep my head down or watch the ball. I was observing the ball, seeing what was there and challenging myself to see how quickly I could pick it up.
The final task of the day was to hit some full shots from the grass. My goal was to whack the ball and observe the divot. I had never done this before so I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised. Impact was an explosion of club, ball and grass. My focus wasn’t on the ball, but on the divot as it exploded in all directions. Not sure if you’re getting all of this, but the flying divot of grass is really interesting. it’s fascinating and really held my attention.
And I’m not kidding here. Each swing really felt magic. They were freer and certainly more in balance. I hardly missed a shot, maybe some of the best ball striking I’ve experienced.
It’s early days, but I wanted to share this with you. Maybe this is nothing more than “watch the ball” but I think it goes deeper than this. The visual aspect will appeal to a much wider audience and is actually easier to do. I also found it more favourable than counting or feeling my swing. It’s also a secondary task that happens after impact – so you’re concentration is more likely to last for the duration of the shot. Fading out and losing concentration early into the swing is less likely and I think this is where success in this drill is found. You really are automatic for the duration.
My next step is to try this out on the course and see if I can get lost in the drill. Also looking at using a variation of this exercise for driving and putting. I think I have something but I’ll report back.
At this stage I’m in no doubt that I’ve stumbled onto something of significant importance. I’m just not sure if it’s something that’s suited to me, or a much wider audience. So please let me know your thoughts. Here’s a quick rundown of this visual task:
- You’re observing the ball/sand/grass after (or during) impact. You’re not trying to do anything. Almost like a bystander watching from the footpath.
- Look with “soft” eyes. You don’t need to stare and try hard. Just look and see what you can observe
- Loose yourself in the beauty of the sand/grass/ball. I found this quite amazing and not sure if I’m getting all funny in my old age or I simply became more aware of the beauty of golf.
- Swing first and look later. You’re not concerned with the actual result of the shot. You’re objective is to notice the ball/sand/grass etc.
- I wasn’t trying to keep my head down. I’ve never liked this instruction. If anything, my head was moving in natural rhythm of the stroke. It felt super normal and allowed the observation to take place.
That’s it for now. I’ll definitely be exploring this into the future and will continue to post more findings and updates. I really wanted to share this with the Tribe Members and get your golf brain going. Please email me with your feedback. This content is only for Tribe Members 🙂
P.S. When I get organised I’ll do some videos on this too.
P.P.S. I made another interesting observation with the short game. I’ll post that shortly when I get some images…