High Performance Golf 1: Performance-Based Golf – Antidote to the Mechanics Trap

Your Antidote to the Mechanics Trap

Have you ever felt like the more you learn about the golf swing the worse you get? There’s a reason you don’t play better golf more often. There’s also a reason you may struggle with your consistency.

And it’s not your fault.

The current model of golf improvement is upside down, and it’s keeping you from playing your best golf.

Watch the video to see  why the focus on technique and the mechanics of the golf swing actually leads to lower performance levels on the golf course.

Then we’ll outline a new approach.

An approach taken by US Olympic athletes more than 25 years ago that dramatically improved athlete performance and the medal count. An approach that can have the average golfer lowering their index and shooting a new career best low round. This year.

The big switch the US Olympic athletes made was focusing on performance. Not just technique. It’s time the golf industry adopted these newer training methods and newer approaches that have been proven effective in other sports.

Performance-based golf is the answer, and it will help you play better golf.

Here’s what I mean.

If you think of golf from a performance perspective you recognize that you experience different “levels” of play.

Some good days. Some not so good days.

On the very best of days you might experience being “In the Zone” and playing really well. Golf feels effortless, focused, easy, fluid, timeless, and joyous.

By contrast, the worst days are the opposite: golf feels like a total grind, difficult, exhausting, and a complete battle.

Performance Pyramid Albaugh2What’s interesting is that by thinking in terms of performance levels you can identify a hierarchy of skills associated with the different levels of play. That’s where the idea of the performance pyramid came from: associating higher levels of play with specific skills.

The great news is that we can identify three specific skills that lead to those “in the Zone” moments. These are the three highest level “performance” skills, and if they are not present while you are playing, you have no chance of getting into the Zone state:

  1. Target Focus
  2. Confidence
  3. Being totally absorbed in the moment

These three skills are all performance skills. There is no hint of mechanics or swing technique.

In fact, from a performance perspective swing mechanics are near the bottom of the performance pyramid. At the opposite end of the Zone experience.

And yet we obsess over swing mechanics and the nuances of technique. Every golf magazine and TV show is filled with mechanics. Every golfer on the range is working on some aspect of technique.

So it’s no wonder the vast majority of golfers focus on mechanics when they play. Thinking about swing mechanics is fine when you are on the range.

But swing mechanics is at the bottom end of the pyramid.

Thinking about mechanics when playing will inevitably drag your play down to a lower level of performance.

In the next article we’ll go into some detail on the roles of your three brains – your Thinking, Emotional, and Athletic Brains. We’ll discuss how they can help or interfere with your game. You’ll understand how to compartmentalize your activities when you analyze your shot, develop a strategy, commit to your decision, and execute the shot. You’ll know how to use your three brains to get closer to the Zone state. So keep an eye out for the next newsletter.

In the mean time what I’d like you to consider is that your best path to a higher level of play will be to use higher level performance skills.

One of the best skills you can develop is the ability to maintain a target focus throughout the swing.

Here’s your take-away: The next time you play, pay attention to what you are focusing on during your swing. Mechanics? Or the Target?

The first step in making any change is awareness. If you are not aware of something, you can’t change it. So start by developing some awareness around your thoughts during the swing. If it is on the Target, you are on the right path to better golf.


Past Newsletters
Golf and the Performance Pyramid
Journey to the Worlds 2012 (see the whole process)

21 Responses

  1. Alberto says:

    Hi Eric

    Have applied this to my game over the last few weeks and am seeing a big improvement. No more swing thoughts, just chose the club, visualize the shot, take a practice swing and then hit down on the ball. It truly works. Gone are the cluttered thoughts I would have prior to the actual shot. My confidence has improved no end and just 2 days ago shot a season best of 85……. am playing off a 24 hcp. Now I just have to take this to the course when am playing a tournament !!

    Many thanks for your insightful posts and also for the BLAST program. The BALANCE section has had a overwhelming positive effect on my game. Also the Course Management pdf is perfect, this has truly been an eye opener for me. Many thanks again!

    Finally, the very best of luck at Mesquite later this month. You’re probably right now training like mad, keep up the good work. Also just to add, you don’t need any luck, you’re a very professional guy who prepares extremely well and doesn’t leave anything to chance. Blow them away Eric, you’re the BEST!! And I mean that MOST sincerely.

    Best regards

  2. Fenton Taylor says:

    Interesting ideas Eric, I agree with what you are saying. You can’t force yourself into a “zone”, you have to let yourself go there. By the way, congrats on your 2nd long drive championship. I have competed against/ with you a few times in Mesquite and Des Moines. Thanks for the ideas.

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Thanks Fenton. Appreciate the props on the Worlds. Will we see you in Mesquite in September?

  3. Tony Reddy says:

    Having explored Zen, Sufism, etc – this makes so much sense! The mind is the key to whole body integration

  4. Andrew says:


    I have read how focusing on the target puts you in the future away from the present. Not sure the exact meaning of this, I guess it is referring feeling your swing and being aware throughout the swing not necisserily on technical aspects just being present.

    I would love to hear your thoghts on this.

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Hi Andrew,
      Good question regarding target thoughts.
      Thinking about the target location is a present-centered activity. Thinking about the OUTCOME puts you in the future. Once you’ve hit the ball there is nothing you can do to change the outcome. But being aware of the target location, especially during the swing, tell your body how to orient during the swing. It gives your athletic brain a specific task. And your athletic brain operates only in the present. It is your Thinking brain and your Emotional brain that can consider the future. The better your Athletic brain knows where the target is, the more consistent you will be.

  5. Steve says:

    Thanks for the informative reply to my first response. One clarification question-is it better to focus during the swing on the specific target (I.e a spot in the fairway for example) or is it better to focus on the path or shape of the shot? My focus yesterday was a mental image of the spot I was positioning myself for and aiming at when I swung the club. That was the only thing on my mind during the swing.
    Thanks again

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Hi Steve – Good question on where to focus during the swing. Here’s the issue: There is a difference between Focus and Concentration. Concentration is something you do “on” something. Like concentrating “on” a spot on the ball.
      But Focus has a directional or intentional element. In other words, we say that the “focus” or our efforts is to move the ball to the target.
      The trick is to be able to maintain your “focus” on the target, even while you are concentrating on the golf ball. The tendency for most golfers is to bring their focus back to the ball when they concentrate on it during the swing.
      That said, you want to maintain your “focus” on the target. The smaller and more precise the target, the better.
      Ultimately your goal is to communicate from your Thinking Brain to your Athletic Brain what you want to accomplish, in the form of a picture, so your body can get a feel for how to create the shot. A mental image of the path or shape could work, provided the path or shape leads TO something … the target. Otherwise it is just a swing. As I said to one of my students this weekend, the difference between a swing and a shot is that a shot always has a target.
      Since you mentioned that your “target spot” focus worked well for you, I’d stick with that.

  6. Robert (Robb) Bright says:

    I have been a student of yours for about 2 years. In that time my handicap moved from 15 to 6. More importantly I enjoy all aspects of the game more even preparation/ practice….I have a purpose now. Side note my driver club head speed increased from 100 to 118! This new video is just what was missing for me… Of late I slipped into a mechanics mode and was bringing that to the course. Thank you for your paradigm shifting, innovative, cerebral, teaching approach! Unmatched in results.
    Thank you!

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Wow Robb! That’s fantastic progress. Well done. I really appreciate hearing from you. Hope it is ok if I put your comments on the site as a testimonial for others to read.
      As for the paradigm shift – I really do think it is time the golf industry got on board with more advanced training methods. We’re starting a movement with Performance-Based Golf. I’ll have much more to say about it soon. It’s really helpful for me to hear your opinions and thoughts to let me know I am on the right track. Keep me posted on your progress. Cheers!

  7. Steve says:

    First of all thanks for sharing this video. It is really valuable and I am sure i will watch it again and again. Yesterday, ironically, after struggling on th e course the previous day, I placed my focus solely on the target. I improved dramatically, enjoyed the round, and even felt little or no stress. I clearly was not tied up in knots. This is not today that technique thought didn’t creep in once in awhile but for the most part my swing key for the round was focusing on the target, aligning towards the target, and finally swinging with the picture of my target in my mind throughout the swing. I hit many good shots (some bad ones too but didn’t let that change my focus). My question is when it is time to swing, is it a good idea to focus on that mental picture of the target, or is it better to swing with a clear mind i.e. no mental image. I feel that I am on the right track and this video really reinforces that. Any insight you could provide to this would be appreciated. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Hi Steve – Really appreciate you taking the time to leave your comments. Glad you liked the video. First thing I want to say is that you are absolutely on the right track. And you even described what often happens when you let go of mechanical thoughts – you improved dramatically, enjoyed the round, and felt little stress.
      As for your question of what your mind should be doing during the swing: The answer will become more clear when we next cover the 3 brains, but in essence the clearer your image of what kind of shot you want to hit and where you want it to go (target), the better your results will be.
      Your left-side thinking brain does the analysis and comes up with a shot strategy. Then your right-side creative brain imagines the shot. That mental image is what you send to what I call your “Athletic” brain, which carries out the movement. It is the clarity of communication between the thinking brain and the athletic brain that allows tension-free swings. And the only form of communication the athletic brain understands is images. Not words.
      So by all means keep a clear image of the shot in your mind, and try to feel it in your swing. Then let your athletic brain take over. It’s a lot more fun playing golf that way. And you usually play much better – as you experienced.

  8. Don says:

    Hi Eric,

    My first comment was deleted for some reason so I will try again.

    I am a golf instructor and I have students that I help with their fundamentals. Most golfers can improve their fundamental and do but most do not improve the scoring part more than five shots. I am interested in learning more about your three pillars.

    I first saw you in a video when you were with a site on the internet about getting more distance. I know that you are very gifted in the long distance area. The most important gift you have is communication. You are a gifted speaker and very well educated in the field of golf in many ways. I look forward in getting more info.

    Thanks for your time

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Hi Don,
      Always great to hear from another Pro! Thanks for taking the time to post a comment. If there is any way I can help you or if you want to know more about performance-based teaching for your students, please let me know. Cheers!

  9. Mike O'Donnell says:

    Golf season hasn’t quite arrived here in Grand Rapids, MI but, I’m going to keep reviewing this presentation as it meshes very easily with and reinforces concepts I agree with. Thanks Eric for sharing.

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Hi Mike – Thanks for leaving a comment. I grew up in Michigan, so I know what it is like to wait for spring.
      I’ll have a lot more coming soon on Performance-Based Golf. It’s a heck of a lot more fun than always grinding away at technique.

  10. Michael Gregora says:

    Thanks very much Eric
    I think this is a great way to approach the game, from one who’s head has been full of swing mechanics for many years. I will follow your advice at my next game.
    Kind regards
    Michael Gregora

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Hi Michael – Thanks for posting a comment. Thinking about mechanics is great … on the range.
      But when you play it is your ability to retain the memory of the target location that frees up your swing for more consistency and greater accuracy. Letting go of mechanical thoughts will be hard. But worth the effort. I encourage you to be patient, and at first just observe your thoughts when you play. Awareness is always the first step toward change.

  11. Fred says:


    Well done. To me the crux of the situation is simply this. Choice. Does one choose to be good at golf or not and what effort is that person willing to put forward to be effectual?

    Keep up the good work.

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Hi Fred – Appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment. You are right about choice. And while I agree with you that improvement is a function of the effort put in, it’s also my job as a PGA professional to help grow the game. What I like about Performance Based Golf is that it is simpler for golfers at all levels. I believe it is a faster path to a better golf game for those who are willing to put in the time. But for those golfers who can’t, I believe it is a simpler way to have more fun and enjoy the game more. Look forward to hearing more of your thoughts.

  1. 2013-04-30

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