Golfers? "Swing Thoughts"


Diamond Member
Apr 12, 2012
Golfers are familiar with the term, "Swing Thoughts."

Because hitting a golf ball consistently well is impossible, and because the only true way to LEARN the golf swing is when you are a kid, so that muscle memory will take over, we all basically suck. To one degree or another. Except for the people who were fortunate enough to learn as kids.

Every time we go out on the course or to the range, striking the ball is slightly different. You can have a great session at the range before a round of golf, and when you come up to the first, it all goes out the window. One of the ways that "we" can bring some sanity to our game is by identifying a corrective "swing thought," usually with the help of a fellow golfer or a pro from whom you have just had a lesson. A golf thought might be,
  • Keep your head down!'
  • Lock your left elbow!
  • Stick out your butt!
  • "Aim for three inches in front of the ball!"
Often that one swing thought can help you get through a round in fairly good order. It might not work the next time out, but one round is enough. Sadly, one of the biggest problems with taking a golf lesson is that the pro will give you SEVERAL swing thoughts, making you so confused that you have a hard time even hitting the ball. You can have one, or at most two, swing thoughts that can help you in a given round of golf.

There are a lot of pretty good golfers who do everything or nearly everything "wrong." They have just figure out the game on their own, and it works for them. When THOSE people take a golf lesson, it can destroy their game for months if not a year. They are bombarded with useless swing thoughts, all of which seem important to the pro, but the accumulation of them is simply too much for a human to internalize.

In my case, my game changes from month to month, and by strong points and shortcomings evolve. I actually write down and date my successful swing thoughts (on a binder that I keep in my golf bag), so I can look back to any time in the past 20 years and see what I was reminding myself of at that time. It's not very instructive, but it is worth checking when I'm really having a bad time of it.

One of the common practices among GOOD golfers is that when they hit the ball with an iron, they strike the ball cleanly with the club hitting at a slight downward angle, then their club continues into the ground, taking out a small divot. Most golfers, whether they are trying or not, just sweep the ball off the grass (or whatever), not taking out a divot. This means that your shot has to be perfect every time - which is why most golfers suck. It's nearly impossible.

Yesterday, whilst hitting balls on the range (the weather has been terrible this Spring), I was working on a few basics and it occurred to me that I could think about striking the back of the ball with a downward hit. Mind you, I was not consciously trying to modify my swing - just thinking about that one element of it: hitting the back side of the ball with a slightly downward stroke.

It worked like magic. I hit almost every iron with the trajectory and distance that it was designed to produce. I think it was the best practice session I've ever had. So I wrote it all down in my journal.

Too late to qualify for the Masters this year.
I asked my son once if he would be up for buying some golf clubs and stuff so we could learn the game and play together. He laughed at me and made me feel like an idiot. So I have not thought about taking up golf again since that time.
Golf is psychologically addictive. As Behavioral Psychologists have noted, the most compelling force in human nature is intermittent reinforcement. When something provides great satisfaction unpredictably, we will keep trying until we can no longer keep trying. Hitting a good golf shot is just such an experience. This is why people who "suck" keep coming back. Because sometimes they have a great shot, a great hole, or even a great round. And we keep trying because we know it can happen at any time.

My entire history as a golfer is moving from one successful swing thought to the next one. I need one now.

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