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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Some Thoughts on Practice Swings

I have a book called Bobby Jones on Golf. It's a collection of instructional articles he wrote for various newspapers during the 1930s. One of those articles (on page 19) starts out like this:
One day when my father and I were playing together, he was driving last from the back of a very long tee. With a swing that could only be described as labored, he bashed the head of his driver into the turf so that the ball popped almost straight up, and dropped just in front of the teeing ground. As we started forward, he called to me, "Come back here a minute." Then, with as graceful a swing as I could imagine, he clipped a dandelion from the grass. Glaring at me, he said in a strangely challenging tone, "Now what's the matter with that swing?" "Nothing," I said, "why don't you use it sometime?"
I love that story, primarily because I think it's a familiar one for most of us. How often have we made a practice swing -- or two, or three -- with such superb technique that we could almost hear angels sing, only to follow it up with a wretched lash at the ball that sent it only God knows where?

Perhaps the problem is your practice swing rather than your "real" swing.

Does your practice swing really resemble the swing you intend to hit the ball with? For too many players, the answer is NO.
  • You swing much slower. It's much easier to make a good swing when you don't swing hard.
  • You make a different kind of swing. Many players make a classic-style practice swing when their normal swing is more modern. (I wrote about the differences between the two last week. The first of those three posts is here.)
  • You didn't have a target in mind. Any swing is a good swing when it doesn't matter where it goes.
  • You didn't practice from the same lie. While you don't want to swing too close to the real ball and unintentionally move it, you want -- as much as is possible -- the same thick or thin lie, the same ground slope, the same obstacles in the way for your practice swing.
A practice swing isn't just about getting loose before you hit your shot, it's a rehearsal of your shot. Take a moment and visualize the shot you intend to make, then make a practice swing that will create that shot. Your practice swing should be as much about your mental preparation for the shot as it is about your physical preparation. Don't waste your practice swing!

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