Making a swing change is so simple isn’t it?
You go and see your local pro who susses all of swing problems out in a short 60 minutes. Then you go off and do exactly what he says for a few sessions…
And then a couple of weeks later, you go out on the course and if like magic, everything slots into place and you play your best ever round.
Ok, I’ll stop dreaming for a second now. 99% of the time, it’s absolutely nothing like that is it?
Making a swing change is tough and not because it takes loads of hours you haven’t got or expert advice you can’t get access to.
These can be stumbling blocks, of course.
But I believe that the biggest stumbling block which is not often talked about is mind-set when making these changes… and in this article I want to show you why this is could be stopping you from having the swing you desire and show you maybe a more productive approach..
The Feeling Of Regression
A big hurdle golfers find when making technical changes is that initial feeling of regression. Any substantial change often feels very uncomfortable which can result in feeling like your golf swing has gone in reverse.
Results often suffer in the initial stages. Everything starts to feel unnatural. Even a simple ball position change can feel like you’re playing a sport which is now alien to you.
Never mind a substantial change in your swing plane, which can feel like your swinging the club off in angles you never thought were possible.
And blimey – a grip change can feel like the club could end up spiraling further than the ball. I remember when I first weakened my grip – (hand over face)
But I believe the difference between the golfers who improve their technique and the ones that don’t, are the ones who can push through this awkwardness. They can ignore temptation that wants’ to make them go back to what ‘feels’ right.
They have the ability to shut off the iffy outcomes an ‘improvement’ in their technique can cause.
They are able to look at the bigger picture as to what they ultimately want to achieve. They don’t get derailed by the potential embarrassment of shooting a terrible score in their next monthly medal.
They can let go of their ego during these times.
They understand that this process is a necessity in maximising their talents as a golfer.
But for the ones who cannot push through this awkward period, they often give up way too early.
They often give up not because of time or that the information is rubbish (although they may perceive it to be)
They give up because their missing this ingredient which is formed between your eyes..
The Monotonous Nature Of It
Changing your technique can feel extremely monotonous at times. The hundreds or even thousands of good quality repetitions required to ingrain the new position so it becomes your new comfortable.
This repetitive cycle is what can stop so many golfers in their tracks. Even if they do accept that the first few sessions may be of a very substandard nature.
It’s the fact that this could be it for a while. The golfers looking for quick fixes just cannot handle the nature of what is really required to make substantial and positive changes to your technique.
I see it in so many forums, golfers asking how long it will take…
There really isn’t an answer, apart from – when you are doing it without consciously thinking about it.
There’s just too many variables.
For example, a move which is highly ingrained is thought to take up to 10 times longer than someone learning a move for the first time.
Quality of practice is obviously a huge factor. A lot of golfers think it’s all about number of reps, so they wack 100 balls as quick as they can, thinking that’s going to get them quicker results.
The research and my own experience suggests that less reps, but more intent, works far better.
You should feel mentally tired after a practice session. If not, are you really trying or is it just a half hearted attempt at smashing as many balls as possible?
This is a question you need to ask yourself.
All being said – The huge key here is patience.
Exaggeration is KEY
The huge part of making successful technical changes is exaggeration. A lot of golfers don’t nearly do this enough. When making changes, it has to feel the total opposite of what you are currently doing.
Especially early on.
So if you are altering your swing plane. The new move initially will feel like it’s too far the other way.
And as it becomes more ingrained, the feeling will become more comfortable as your perception changes.
Getting your head around the fact that the same position could feel totally different can be a challenge to trust, that’s why it’s imperative you find some kind of external feedback to not only ensure you are on the right track, but to ensure you don’t overdo it.
Also exaggeration can be hugely beneficial on the course. I often take massively exaggerated swings, so that when I swing (thought free), I automatically swing into a kind of middle ground between my new and old.
So, in my view there are a number of mentally challenging stages which you usually have to go through when making technical changes to your golf game.
Each stage can vary in length depending on lots of factors, but every change will normally pass through these stages where your mindset will dictate whether it is a success or not.
Stage 1 – The Cause
The only two reasons you should be altering your technique is either – it will give you better results or it will prevent you from injury.
The first one sounds obvious but golfers often make changes to their swing to improve the look and not the functionality. If it is not going to improve your ball flight, it’s mostly a waste of time.
Or you change it because they see the top pro’s doing it. I remember trying to copy Garcia’s swing because I thought I wanted more lag.
Impact is all that essentially matters. So if it won’t improve this, don’t bother.
During this stage, it’s absolutely imperative you get advice off a qualified swing coach. Following advice of Youtube for example, can be disastrous, unless you are experienced enough and you know your own swing inside out.
Stage 2 – Acceptance
To be honest, this stage is tricky. You want to get better, so you go and fork out a few quid for some lessons. The only problem is, initially you (your results) might not get better.
Especially if you have played for any length of time and you’ve ingrained some flaws which now feel second nature to you. These comfortable but bad positions are going to take some uncomfortable golf swings to dissolve.
And this is what you need to accept. This is where you need to look at the bigger picture. If your qualified pro has identified an area of your swing which is holding you back, you have to trust him.
You have to learn to feel comfortable with the uncomfortable. You have to put your ego to one side and maybe not hit it as good for period of time, until the new positions feel like your new norm.
You have to accept.
Stage 3 – Patience
As we have already touched on – swing changes take time and there are many variables as too how long…
But one thing is for sure, they take plenty of good quality repetitions to fully engrain so your no longer consciously thinking about it.
Golfers who accept at stage 2 can often come unstuck during stage 3 because they lack patience. Even their self belief may start to take a pounding because it’s seemingly taking an eternity.
But this is where resolve is needed and good quality feedback to always ensure you know you’re on the right track.
I believe feedback is the key to keeping your mindset positive during this part.
Types of external feedback
Coach – Pretty obvious one, if you have the cash and time to see your coach often. Most are now kitted out with awesome feedback tools such as ‘slo-mo’ cameras or devices like Trackman to ensure you are progressing on the correct path.
Camera – Having played for over 20 years, I have a pretty good understanding of my own golf swing. So I am able to use a camera in my practice sessions to pick up on any glaring errors. I see this as secondary to a coach however.
Ball flight – I’ll say it again, your impact position is all that really matters so getting a good grasp of what your own ball flight is telling you is indispensable.
For example, sometimes I will know I have overdone a move purely because of a drastic change in my ball flight. So this is warning sign for me to scale back.
And remember if you ball flight isn’t changing your probably not doing it right.
Other Feedback aids which I use and find very useful.
– Speed Trap (Swing path and strike) Here’s me using it here.
Stage 4 – Becoming overly Mechanical
Whilst making changes, it can feel like every waking minute should be spent on the driving range getting those reps in.
Be careful with this.
A lot of golfers during these times will shy away from the course and become what I like to call ‘a range golfer’.
The golf course can start to feel like a scary place. You are not comfortable with your new swing yet and you’re not ready for the challenge a golf course brings.
So you ditch it.
To play your best golf you have to learn to be swing thought free. You have to let your sub conscious drive you. You have to learn how to play ‘golf’, not play ‘swing’.
NO MATTER WHAT CHANGES YOU ARE GOING THROUGH.
The problem with the mindset of ‘I’ll play golf when my swing is ready’ is you run the danger of becoming too mechanically minded.
Your whole performance hinges on ‘if you transfer your weight enough’ or ‘if you turn your shoulders correctly’
I recently asked our followers on Facebook what they did if a particular swing thought wasn’t working on the course…
The replies were all the same – stuffed!
A whole round of golf should never be dictated on how well one swing thought is working.
Playing on the course swing thought free whilst making swing changes isn’t easy, but it’s brilliant practice for the mindset required to play your best.
Too many golfers have short picture thinking. It’s all about playing well on that day and not about ingraining the habits which will ultimately improve your golf long term.
Let’s look at this example.
Two golfers with identical techniques…
- One goes out and shoots in 70’s regularly.
- The other guy is shooting mid to high 80’s.
Their thought process on the course.
The guy shooting in the 70’s has ingrained a target mindset on the course, which allows his very good technique to sub-consciously flow and hit shots with ultimate freedom. He has ingrained this thought process whilst going through multiple technical changes.
The other golfer always goes out on the course consciously thinking about technique…we know that too much conscious thought interrupts the flow of golf swings and only aids In problems such as paralysis by analysis. He has never allowed himself to ingrain the correct mindset required to play his best on the course, therefore he doesn’t play with freedom.
Which one do you want to be?
Imagine having a sound technique without any technical interference on the course.
That is a ultimate combination.
I would say, the only exception would be for golfers at very early stages learning the game. If you are still trying to learn the basics then conscious thought will need to be applied.
How To Make The Swing Changes Feel Easier
Ditch the Outcome
Without a doubt, one of the hardest hurdles to cross when making improvements to your technique – is over concentrating on the outcome.
This can really be a brain f**k.
Once your brain sees that ball fly 50 yards right (as it did initially with me when I initially weakened my grip) it becomes hard to switch it off.
You can lose belief in what your trying to do and only results in you not fully committing.
So, if you have an issue with ignoring the outcome, especially in the initial stages of learning the new movement pattern. A great tool is to just hit balls into a net. By doing this you can just 100% concentrate on the movement without any distractions of what the ball is doing.
You can exaggerate your life away without any thought of the ball.
I love doing this – I have a net at my club which I use, but if you don’t have this facility, you could always build one in your back garden for a reasonable sum.
Imagine the Change
‘Oh blimey here he goes with the psychobabble’
Not so fast.
Not only is visualisation the main mental skill used by the best players on the planet… research has also been carried out that suggests, that just by imagining something, new pathways can be created in the brain just as effectively as if you were doing the task for real.
A study undertook by Australian Psychologist Alan Richardson involved three different groups of people practicing free throws in basketball. (I know it’s not golf but same rules apply)
– The first group practiced free throws everyday for 20 days.
– The second group practiced free throws on the 1st and the 20th day.
– The third group didn’t physically practice at all. They spent 20 minutes visualisation their free throws everyday for twenty days.
The results were astounding. The first group improved by 24%.
Not really surprisingly, the second group didn’t improve at all.
But the third group Improved by 23% without throwing one basketball. Nearly as much as the people who practised every day.
I respect this is only one study but the results are hard to ignore. It is also a well known fact, that the great Ben Hogan incorporated lots of visualisation when making swing changes. I suppose his impact position weren’t too shabby.
Compartmentalize Your Practice Sessions
This is in my opinion an absolute must. Not only for your results but your overall mindset.
Typical Session for me:
- 1/3 – Technical. So this is where I only focus on technique. The result is secondary. (Balls going off at right angles are not a problem)
- 1/3 – Skill Drills. I apply a number of skill drills where I ignore technique and only focus on the task. ie focus on my strike pattern.
- 1/3 Play a round. This is where I imagine 9 holes on the course and play them. I practice completely randomly just trying to hit different types of shots, whilst again, completely ignoring technique.
Practising like this not only enhances my overall learning from my session.
But it also keeps me sane during technical changes.
Of course the last two thirds of my session, my technique might slip back slightly to more what I’m more comfortable with, BUT it allows me to still hit some solid shots whilst making changes.
I don’t come out of the session completely bemused with life and I am letting the change slowly ingrain, whilst still learning how to play my most effective golf on the course.
Which is the ultimate goal.
Ok, there’s a fair bit to take in here, so let’s summarize all of this…
- Only make a swing change if it will improve your ball flight or prevent future injuries.
- If the change doesn’t feel awful and unnatural to begin with, you are more than likely doing it wrong or not exaggerating the move enough.
- Although there is no specific amount of time or reps required to ingrain new positions, it’s normally more than you think. Patience is the important factor here.
- Exaggerate the move you are trying to incorporate. This will also help when you’re on the course, as you’ll find some kind of middle ground between your old and new position without thinking about it.
- Always use external feedback to understand progression. Your perception of feel and real will alter as the change feels more natural.
- I wouldn’t advise to ditch the course whilst making big technical changes. Having a solid technique is only one piece of the puzzle. Learn how to play golf by ingraining the correct mental skills on the course, no matter what technical changes you are going through.
- Use strategies such as ‘hitting into a net’ if your finding the outcome is getting in the way of you initially making the change.
- Use strategies such as psychobabble – (sorry I meant visualization) to speed things up when you’re not hitting balls.
- Learn to enjoy the process. Making big technical changes can be awkward but they are all part of your becoming a better golfer.
I hope this has given you some reassurance as to what is involved when making positive changes to your technique. I know from personal experience, it can feel like a bit of a never ending slog, but with the right mindset, you’ll easily get there.
If you want some more game changing mindset tips, check out our ‘Simple Mindset Habits to Unlock Your Best Golf’ Ebook.