On the line yesterday a first-time student asked how to best prepare for a tournament. He’s going to tee it up in 10 days, and wanted to get a swing check and some things to work on to get ready.
The best advice I could give him – or to anybody – is to split your practice so you spend half your time working on shot-making, and half on mechanics. Only half your time on mechanics! In fact, the closer you get to your tournament the more your emphasis should be on shot-making, and the less you should be working on mechanics.
To be honest, I think he was used to the kind of lesson that picked apart his swing and focused mostly on mechanical elements. He’s a very good player with a very solid swing. But he’s been consistently under-performing in tournaments. I suspected the big issue was his thinking, not his swinging.
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a better swing will result in better scores. He wanted to get on the video and check his take-away, swing plane, and release positions. But I knew it wouldn’t help him score better.
Hitting better shots closer to his targets would help him score better.
That’s the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.
We work on mechanics to make our swings more efficient, and then we work on shot-making to make our swings more effective. The two should work hand-in-glove as you climb the skill ladder and your game improves. Unfortunately, a more efficient swing doesn’t automatically guarantee more effective results, and we seem to have largely gotten away from talking about how to make swings more effective in favor of getting ever-deeper into mechanical analysis.
Rather than focus on his take-away I asked him to focus on targets and his connection to the target.
We picked a target, then I asked him to take his address position, close his eyes, and point with his left hand to where he thought the target was. When he opened his eyes he was surprised to see he was pointing 30 yards left! He self-rated his connection to the target as a 2 (scale of 10). His next try was an 8, and his third a 10.
Then we hit balls, using the same self-rating scale. He started at 4 and worked his way up to 8’s and 9’s. He got the idea, and I believe he realized how it would help him get ready to play better golf.
The elements of shot making are skills, just like the mechanical elements of swinging on plane and making a pivot are skills. They can be practiced and the skills can be developed.
I asked him which he would prefer to know about his game as he was stepping up to the tee for the tournament:
1. That he could hit 9 out of 10 within 20 feet of a target from 120 yards, or
2. That his club face tended to get a little open at impact whenever his backswing got above plane?
If you’ve got a story about how you play when you are thinking about mechanics vs. thinking about targets, I’d love to hear it.