Stop “Tinkering” on the Golf Course

John Stahlschmidt
PGA Director of Instruction
JW Marriott Camelback Golf Club
Scottsdale, AZ

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Do you work on your golf swing while on the golf course? If so, it has been proven to greatly inhibit your ability to shoot good scores.  More often than not, “tinkering” or constantly trying new swing thoughts while playing can be disastrous. So, what should you be thinking about? Research indicates that there are better or more proven concepts to focus on while playing golf.  These non-technical concepts have been proven to create “performance states” where the golfer can maximize the ability to play and score at a high level. There are many things you can focus on that will help you play better. The three I am writing about this month are tension, balance and tempo.

Tension – Excessive tension has been proven to disrupt and rob a player of positive results. Too much tension makes it impossible to produce consistently good golf swings. In addition, high tension levels in the short game equal poor touch and inconsistent distance control. Think back to that ever important putt or chip from just of the green. Did you have a death grip going? In most cases the answer is yes. Tension levels are something we as golfers can control. Ideally your fingers should be gripping the handle firm enough that the club won’t twist in your hands when hitting the ball, but at the same time your arms and even your shoulders should be relaxed and not stiff.  Just as important, you should maintain these tension levels throughout the entire swing whether it occurs in the short game or long game.

Balance – Maintaining balance in the golf swing is imperative to hitting good golf shots. When is the last time you watched the best players in the world lose their balance? The answer is never. Attempting to swing in balance will allow you to move the club more on plane resulting in consistent golf shots.  When addressing the golf ball, your balance should be around 50-50 left to right foot and in the middle of your feet not favoring toes or heels. As you swing back, the weight should move into the trail foot more towards the heel.  It is imperative the weight stays inside the foot and not outside. As the down swing starts, the weight should move towards the lead foot without shifting towards the toes. Finally, just like every great player, you should finish with all your weight onto the lead foot. The only part of the back shoe that should be still on the ground would be the toe. This finish should be maintained until the ball lands. This will lead to good balance.

Tempo – The word tempo is used a lot in golf instruction. What exactly does tempo mean? I would describe good tempo as a player’s ability to swing at the same speed thoughout the entire swing. Also, players with good tempo don’t have any hitches or jerky moves in the swing. Take Nick Price for example.  Nick has a very fast golf swing both back and through but he maintains the same tempo. Conversely, a player like Fred Couples has a lot slower tempo. It almost looks like Fred is going to fall asleep during his swing but still has the ability to generate as much swing speed through impact as Nick Price. Tempo is a great concept to focus on while playing golf.  Ideally you should attempt to maintain your same tempo during the entire round. Counting has proven to work very well. For example, count one-two during backswing and three-four during your downswing. Someone with faster tempo might count one for the back swing and then two for the downswing. Counting and feeling tempo in the golf swing will rid your mind of technical thoughts. This will allow you to be “freed up” so that a performance state can be obtained.

The reality is there are many different ideas or concepts that are better than others to focus on while on the golf course. Technical swing thoughts, while might be good in practice, will not allow you to play at a high level. Work on your swing on the range but allow your mind to turn off those thoughts while on the course. Focusing on tension, balance and tempo will help you maximize your ability to play your best golf and shoot your lowest scores!

John Stahlschmidt is the Senior Head Instructor for the TOURAcademy TPC Scottsdale. To book a lesson or to comment, email John at