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Sunday, October 24, 2010

On Just Hitting the Ball

Dexter put up another post about his golfing adventures with his new swing. He's learning to just hit the ball, which is what we all should be trying to do. After all, the practice tee is the place to think about technique. On the course, we should just hit the ball.

I posted a comment there to help him figure out where to hit the ball, and decided it might be something the rest of you would find useful too.

See, Dex has been plagued by the eternal bane of our existence -- the part of our brain that pops up and tells us where NOT to hit the ball. That little guy (I think he's a bureaucrat in a tiny suit and tie who has no time for such a stupid game as golf, ahem, ahem) grabs the microphone connected to our nervous system and starts chanting a little mantra: "DON'T hit it there, DON'T hit it there, DON'T, DON'T, DON'T hit it there..." DJ Skrooz It Up joins him with a little scratchy backup, and together they manage to take over the golf ball guidance system. (It would never make a hit single, and it makes sure we never get a hit either.)

The way you beat these guys is to pick the smallest target you can find in the area where you want your ball to land. Pick a tree trunk way out at the end of the fairway (the skinnier the better) or roadkill from the beverage girl's cart or that vulture staring at you from the middle of the fairway (because he's certain you won't hit him there). You might even want to pick the flag on the green if you can see it from where you are.

If you think about it, you'll realize that you've heard players tell you this time after time on television; just listen when they're asked what they're aiming at. (You'll probably hear about the tree or the flag more often than the roadkill or vulture, but those players aren't on municipal courses.)

Why does this work? I think it's because we tend to lock onto things and become oblivious to everything else. The smaller the target is, the more we focus on it (perhaps our brains want more detail and a small target is harder to see) and we tend to block out everything around it. I remember being taught something similar way back in Driver's Ed; the instructor told us that we would tend to steer the car in the direction we were looking. It's not something we do intentionally, but we seem to do it naturally.

So learn how to play "target golf." (How many times have you heard players use that term? Dexter uses the term "visualization." It's the same thing.) Pick out a small target in the general area you want your ball to go, and then try to hit that target. It's amazing how much better your ball striking becomes once you stop worrying about where you don't want the ball to go.


  1. How about video of Jonathan Byrd's ace to win in Vegas today and Woods 8-iron to about 4 feet at Firestone a few years ago ? Both amazing shots in near dark conditions. All they could do was line up as best they could and swing. No thought of the target they couldn't see - just pure swing.

  2. Uhhhh... I don't know how to teach you to use radar to find your target. You might consult an expert in the study of bats. ;-)

    Good heavens, what do you think will happen at Disney? I don't think even the Imagineers could top the last two weeks!

  3. WHAT ? You don't ? It's pretty easy..."Be the ball." (lol)

  4. Are you sure? Didn't the pressure pretty much turn Ty into a vegetable by the end of Caddyshack? He sure couldn't find the hole. "Na-na-na-na-na," indeed!