Golf is a game that requires both physical and mental skills. In order to perform at your highest level, you need to understand how to manage both these aspects of your game.
To best manage the mental part of your game, understand that you need to minimize what’s going through your mind when you play. Concentration involves selecting a few simple swing thoughts before each shot to prevent tension. When you feel like too many things are going through your head just prior to a shot, then your body feels overwhelmed and tenses up.
A consistent pre-swing routine will help you overcome this. Your pre-swing routine should address things like target, grip, balance, and tempo. When it comes time for your shot, all you need to do is make a couple of relaxed practise swings and then swing! Build your pre-swing routine on the practise range. Then when you use it on the golf course, this familiar routine will help you focus and relax when you play.
Tension can also occur when the muscles in your body tighten up. Many golfers tend to flex their muscles when they swing, in an attempt to hit the ball far. Actually the opposite should occur when you swing the club. The muscles in your shoulders, arms, and hands should be in a relaxed state, both before and during a golf swing. At address your arms should hang comfortably from your shoulders as you set up to swing. When you swing the golf club your arms should simply swing up and down as your body turns.
Your grip is the key to a relaxed and rhythmic golf swing. Too much pressure in the fingers transmits tension up into your forearms, biceps, and shoulders before a swing. The strongest fingers in your hands are your thumbs and index fingers. When you hold the club more softly with these four fingers then the club feels 'different'. The head of the club will feel heavier and the tension in your fingers will disappear.
A waggle prior to a golf swing is a great way to check one’s grip pressure. At address, simply lift your club above the ball by standing a bit taller and then let the club head swing back and forth above the ball. If you do this with your eyes closed, you will get the true feel of what good grip pressure feels like.
Finally, to ensure that you have no tension in your chest when you swing, check your breathing. Many golfers actually hold their breath when they swing. When you inhale and fill your lungs with air prior to a swing you create tension. This tension then is transmitted into the muscles of your shoulders, forearms, and fingers before you swing. To control tension, control your breathing when you swing. Waggle the club before each shot and remember to exhale before you swing. Your arms should feel like they are made of rubber as they swing back and forth, and you should be ready to make a tension-free swing!
Drills are great for reinforcing muscle memory. Two great drills to build a tension-free swing are the 'hand clap' drill and the 'rapid fire' drill.
The hand clap drill is done without a golf club. Stand in your normal swing, address position. Extend your target arm out as though it was pointing at the ball. Leave this arm pointing at the ground as you make your back-swing. Turn and swing your trailing arm back and up as you make your back-swing. Then simply let this trailing arm swing forward as you swing towards your target. The trailing arm and hand will 'clap' your target hand as both swing forward. Your arms should simply swing and follow the turning motion of your body.
The rapid fire drill is done by swinging a club with just one arm. First swing the club back and forth with just your trailing arm. As it swings, hold the club softly and let your wrist hinge as the club swings back and forth. Then switch arms and do the same with just your target arm. Finally swing the club back and forth using both arms. Hold the club softly and let both wrists hinge as the club swings back and forth.
Finally introduce a line of four golf balls all teed up in a row. Using the same swinging motion, swing through all four balls in a 'rapid fire' motion.
You should find that your arms are now swinging freely and that you are able to swing tension-free through every shot!
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