Do your scores range from the North to South Pole on a day-to-day or
hole-to-hole basis? Do you want to score consistently lower than you
have been? If so, read on. One or more of the following suggestions may
work for you and your game.
Without relaxation, it is more difficult to maintain your tempo or rhythm
from swing to swing and stay in good balance from start to finish. Because it
is essential for the golf swing to function properly, relaxation of the mind
and body should be our first priority. Please keep in mind that this also applies
to the short game, even though I will be referring to the full swing.
Tension restricts movement. A quiet, relaxed mind and body allows you to
swing more freely. Simply stated, muscle groups respond more easily to a natural, balanced
If your mind is tense, your muscles will be too. If you have had a hectic day
at work or at home, chances are you will take that tension and anxiety to the
first tee. This tension not only causes tight muscles, but can also increase the
speed of your swing. When that happens, the little muscles (hands and arms) take over the big
muscles (shoulders, hips, and legs) throughout the golf swing. The big muscle
groups cannot move as fast as the little muscles. All body parts must be given
time to do their jobs efficiently and in harmony.
First, clear your mind. Picture your mind as a blackboard, and written on it
are all the thoughts and happenings of the day. The key is that you've got the
eraser! Erase your mind of everything and take a moment to put yourself in an
environment that makes you relaxed, quiet and happy. Envision yourself listening to soft
music, reading a good book, relaxing in your favorite chair, strolling in the park,
hiking, fishing, walking on the beach, or simply being in the mountains. Have I named one for you yet?
If not, pick whatever image that helps you relax, then put your mind and
senses in that personal place. Be explicit. Actually hear the music or
the waves. Feel the warm breeze or the water flowing around your body.
See the mountains in all their glory. Smell the flowers. Take a deep breath and
let it out slowly. Allow your mind and body to come down so that you can be
up and ready to play a good round of golf. Now your mind and body can focus
more clearly on one shot, one hole at a time.
Second, practice more relaxation in your grip, stance, and swing. Check the
tension level in your grip. The hand pressure on the club should be light. If
it is too tight, your takeaway will tend to be jerky and too fast. If your are
not sure of the amount of pressure, let your hands feel the difference by squeezing tightly
and then releasing to a very light grip.
Notice that when you squeeze tightly, your forearms are tense. This generates tension throughout
the body. You want just enough grip pressure so that you won'
t lose the club during the swing. No white knuckle! What little pressure you do feel
should be in the last three fingers of the let hand, and the third and fourth fingers of the right.
When addressing the ball, your arms should hand relaxed. The forearms should be
soft-like ashes, wet noodles, or any other descriptive word of your choice that triggers
relaxation. If your left arm is jammed straight, tension is created in the shoulders. I've
seen some golfers who looked like they were trying to jab their left shoulders into their left ears.
The left arm should hang comfortably straight and the shoulders should droop. The legs
should also be set in a relaxed starting position. Trying to force your weight to your insteps
can cause lower body immobility.
Now waggle! The waggle helps keep the body loose and in motion. Freezing over the ball
can cause tension. Chances are you are thinking too much, and paralysis of analysis can
set in. Develop a waggle that is comfortable to you. Most waggles consist of moving the
club to and fro over the ball (not up and down) with a slight weight shift back and forth from
foot to foot, while you look at the ball, then to the target, then back to the ball.
If you do not have a clear picture of what a waggle is, observe golfers on television or
other golfers on your course. Waggles vary, but good golfers always stay in motion.
Most importantly, your waggle must be one that your are comfortable with. When I
played on tour, I was considered a fast player, so I decided to try to develop three
waggles the ball instead of my usual two to help me slow down. After a week of diligent
work in the off-season, I started having trouble initiating my swing; my tempo had changed
and I felt totally out of sync. As soon as I went back to my two waggles, everything fell into place.
Each person has her own waggle personality. Find yours and practice until it
becomes ingrained in your swing routine. You can work on this in your backyard.
Initiate the swing and swing!-relaxed. To practice a relaxed swing, take continuous
swings back and forth without stopping. Be aware of any tension you might feel during
these swings. Try to stay totally relaxed and loose as you swing back and forth. Don't
be in a hurry to start or finish the swing. When you get to the finish, allow your body to
be lazy in returning the club to another backswing. No jerks!
Notice whether your hands and forearms tense when initiating the first swing of the series.
If they are tense, then repeatedly practice starting your swing with a feathery grip
pressure so that no tension runs through to your forearms and thereby to the rest of your body.
Tension can cause quite an array of problems such as reverse pivots; fast
takeaways; forced swings; loss of clubhead speed; rolling on the outside of the
right foot; incorrect swing plane; fat or topped shots; big and little muscle
groups not working together; lack of balance; or a fast tempo that your swing
cannot handle with any efficiency.