Have you ever felt rushed off the tee and you hit a poor drive? Have you ever missed a short putt within three feet? Rushing your golf swing can lead to additional strokes and frustration. Sometimes our nerves and emotions force us to make poor decisions when hitting golf shots. So what do we do to slow down?… PRACTICE SWINGS!.
Taking practice swings before hitting the golf ball will help with muscle memory, confidence and focus when out on the golf course.
Our muscles love repetition. They receive information from the brain and respond based on what motion is practiced most often. It just so happens, golf is a very repetitive game, and we need our muscles activated as much as possible so that the brain can fire the correct message to the muscles resulting in consistent golf shots.
WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH PRACTICE SWINGS?
Practice swings are merely, a warm-up for your muscles before you hit your shot. So by making a practice swing the same as your real swing, your muscles will know what to expect when it comes time for the real thing. They don’t know that you’re not hitting the ball, they are just doing what your brain tells them to do. Adding a practice swing to every shot, you will allow your muscles to adapt and prepare for the upcoming swing. This helps them know exactly what is to be expected and create a better result during the real swing.
HOW MANY SHOULD YOU TAKE
My advice is to take as many as you need to feel comfortable. Usually, two swings are all I need to prepare my muscles for a regular shot. A lot of my students feel more pressure around the green when pitching or chipping and will take 3-4 practice swings. Find your comfort zone and only hit when you are ready!
Don’t forget to warm up those muscles before we start playing! There’s nothing worse than having an early tee time and feeling “stiff” for your first few shots. Your muscles need to be ready for play so you can speed up their activation process from the brain. I recommend that you take a quick read here on my article all about warmups and exercise so that your muscles will be awake and ready to play!
Going up to a tee box with strangers watching can be intimidating for a lot of beginning golfers. Sometimes it’s easier to rush the shot, to get it over. Below is a pre-shot routine that professional golfer Kevin Na used for his tee shots. Yes, it is a bit long, but he kept waiting to hit until “he” was ready.
TAKE YOUR TIME AND VISUALIZE YOUR SHOT WITH PRACTICE SWINGS
Using practice swings before your swing will help you feel confident and prepared for your golf shot. Confidence is a HUGE part of the mental side of golf, and by practicing your shot, you are allowing your mind to be more comfortable and relaxed. The more relaxed you feel, the easier it is for your brain to focus on firing those motor messages to your muscles to achieve consistent contact. Not only will you see an improvement by taking a few practice swings, but you will also start to find your groove by creating a PRE-SHOT ROUTINE
All the greats have a routine that helps them perform well under pressure. They visualize and practice the shot before they make their attempt (Just think free throw line in basketball). Finding your pre-shot routine is going to accelerate your confidence in all the various shots types you encounter out on the course.
To develop your pre-shot routine:
- Visualize your shot
- Take a deep breath
- Take however many practice swings you feel are necessary to feel comfortable
- Execute your shot
Using your pre-shot routine is going to put you in the correct mental state to get the most out of each shot you encounter. The mental part of the game is so essential when trying to learn and improve your skills out on the golf course. That’s why if you have the time, read some of my mental golf hacks here so you can master your mind when playing!
Do you remember when Tiger Woods had his knee injury in 2008 and he still went on to win the U.S Open?
How did he do it?….. FOCUS!
One of the most important things a practice swing improves is your ability to focus in on the shot at hand. Too often have I seen a rushed shot or a missed two-foot putt that could have easily been avoided if the individual would have just taken a couple of practice swings, and then hit. Our brain is continuously trying to solve problems and is often distracted when you are overthinking out on the course. So by slowing down your reactions and concentrating only on the current shot, you will be put in the correct mindset to hit a high-quality golf shot.
The Power of Visualization
There’s an old saying that says “If you can see it, you can achieve it.” So to use this power to our advantage in golf: If we can “visualize” our desired shot, we can “achieve” our desired outcome!
Here are a few tricks you can use to utilize the power of visualization:
- Pick a target in the distance that is on the same line as your desired golf shot. Know, when swinging through the golf ball, imagine swinging out at your target. This will help you control your swing plane and create less side spin on the golf ball!
- The next time you are walking up to hit your golf ball, stand “behind” the ball and make your practice swings while looking at your target. This is a quick wake up call to your brain saying, “Hey, I want the golf ball to go in this direction,” which will make your brain much more active and aware during your swing!
- When making practice swings, actually pretend that you are hitting a golf ball. This means making sure that when you are swinging, that you are hitting the ground and “feeling” where the low point of your swing is. I see too many beginners aimlessly swing during their practice swings and then wonder why their actual shot didn’t turn out the way that they had hoped. PRETEND YOU PRACTICE SWINGS ARE THE REAL THING!
ALWAYS start with a practice swing for every shot you take on the course. The practice swing will help
- Prepare your muscles for the shot
- Help you visualize the swing needed
- Increase your confidence and lower your nerves
- Increase your focus and put you in the correct golfing state of mind
I guarantee that by adding practice swings and creating a pre-shot routine, you will see your score start to get lower and lower!
There’s no rush out there so take your time, take one big breath, feel comfortable and execute the shot you need to hit by practicing first!
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