5 Tips to Avoid Paralysis from Over Analysis


overthink swingThe pressure is on. You are about to play an important shot. What should you think about? How much should you think?

Golfing nirvana (apparently) is where you don’t think about anything as you are playing a shot.  In Caddyshack, Ty Webb had this to say, “I’m going to give you a little advice. There’s a force in the universe that makes things happen. And all you have to do is get in touch with it, stop thinking, let things happen, and be the ball.”  If only it were that simple.

Give advice like that to a golfer struggling with too many thoughts and you could find yourself ducking a low flying 7 iron.

As a general rule, the more automated your golf swing (think experienced player with a high level of ability) the less you should think about.  For a more experienced player, thinking about technique interferes with an unconscious, automated action, often with disastrous results.  When a golf swing has been well-learned it is best to let it be, especially on the course when the results are good.  Leave any swing work until you are practicing.

If you are newer to the game, then having a swing thought can be the mortar that holds your technique together, allowing you to play good shots.  The emphasis here is on ‘a’ swing thought, not half a dozen.

World Golf Hall of Fame member Chi Chi Rodriguez, who won 8 events on the PGA Tour bemoaned the time he was asked to describe why he was such a great putter, “I never knew what I did putting, I just knew that there was a hole, there was a ball, there was a putter, I was supposed to knock the ball in the hole. A magazine paid me $50 to figure out what I did putting, and I haven’t putted good since.”

We can’t all be Hall of Famers, but can still get tied up in knots by overthinking the swing.  Here are five ideas to help you through those times you become tangled in mental knots.

Objective Approach
The thing that is most lacking in your swing is trust.  You don’t believe you can hit the ball where you want to.

Golf is a percentages game.  You will only make a certain percentage of putts from 6 feet.  You will only hit a certain number of greens and fairways in regulation each round.  Let’s say you average hitting 6 greens per round, then for any shot to the green you might say to yourself, “well I have on average one chance in three of hitting this green.”

If you record your putting statistics and know that you hole 50% of putts from 6 feet (actually not too bad), then when you miss two in a row, it is probably reasonable to do so.  It just hurts more when it is to lose a match or miss your personal best score by one shot.

Over time the percentages average out. Keep your stats so you understand what are reasonable expectations for you.

Develop an Automated Shot Routine
There are four steps to your shot routine.

  1. Make an assessment of the shot you have to play. Take into consideration distance to your target, wind strength and direction, elevation changes, position of any hazards and your lie. Use this information to make a decision on the shot you plan to play and the club you will use.
  2. Create a mental blueprint for the shot. It includes a visual and feel rehearsal. This might also include a practice swing to reinforce the feel.
  3. Go through a practiced series of steps to approach the ball. This includes walking in, taking your set up and maybe a waggle or two.
  4. Hit the shot.

Once you have assessed the shot, developed your mental and feel blueprint, approached the ball as part of your shot routine, then all that’s left is to execute.  While that is easier said than done, if you allow the shot routine and execution to have its own rhythm and tempo, then the swing will be easier to trigger.

One Word Trigger
If you have multiple thoughts about the position of your hands, club or body in the backswing and downswing, then using a single word could be just the thing to bring it all together. Usually this word relates to rhythm or tempo. It could be something like ‘smooth’, ‘easy’, ‘flow’, ‘balance’, ‘finish’.

A single word can bring all of your thoughts together in a single word which usually relates to an overall feel. There is a good article on this item written by Dr Jay-Lee Nair from Mental Notes Consulting. You can read that article here.

Target Orientation
I have written before about practice and including variety and competitive practice with your technique work. Even so, in practice there will always be some technical bias. as you are looking to develop different elements of your game. A defining difference between practicing and playing golf is that when you are playing, your focus should be on the target and strategy. Your objective is to score as well as you can.

In work done on the concept of Quiet Eye, one of the keys involves the final step of your shot routine. When you are standing over the ball, take a final look at the target for 1-2 seconds to engage with it. Reminding yourself that that is where you want the ball to go. Focussing on the target just prior to beginning your swing is not only the correct step in your shot routine; it is also a mental distractor; you can’t focus effectively on the target and your golf swing at the same time.

2 Second Routine
Once you have taken your stance, you have a maximum of 2 seconds before you have to begin your swing. For anyone fussing over their technique, this will feel like a massive rush. You won’t be able to get your thoughts settled before you begin your swing … this of course is precisely the purpose of the 2 second routine.

After hitting a few shots this way, you might be pleasantly surprised that your shots have great rhythm and go where you want them to with far less mental anguish.

Here is another article I have written on this concept

While this article specifically addresses the issue of over-thinking, it is useful for any golfer. Incorporate one or more of the concepts in practice and notice whether that provides any benefits for your game.

Which one helps the most for your game. Do you have any strategies that you have successfully used that you would like to share?



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