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Thursday, 26 March 2015

Hammer the Nail

In golf, as in life, focus is important. Most of us wish we could be more focussed when we play. However, the question is, what should we focus on? With the plethora of dos and don'ts that we receive from instructors, there are numerous positive and negative things we can choose to focus on while executing the golf swing. But we do so at our peril. The reality is there is really only one thing we should want to be focussed on as we make our swing: striking the ball. Bobby Jones felt that the strike was the thing to focus on, and made the strike the object of his intense concentration. He felt, by doing so, his swing essentially took care of itself.

While it may seem obvious that we should focus on striking the ball, the sad fact is, in the second and a half or so that it takes to make a golf swing, our mind can do some real gymnastics. I'm speaking from experience when I say we can think of, or find our focus shifting to, several things during that short period of time that comprises our swing; none of which that are likely to help the end result. I have observed myself often thinking about several things, like the direction and pace of my takeaway, whether I've completed the backswing, whether my right knee is braced, where my right elbow is at the top of the swing, and so on: all during the short time it took me to make a swing. Not to mention, sometimes experiencing the sudden "don't hit it left" voice, just at or prior to impact.

A quiet, focussed mind makes golf more fun, and definitely improves our play. But, how do you achieve a quiet, or focussed mind? And, more importantly, what do you focus your mind on? Bobby Jones indicated that he made the strike the object of his intense concentration. He knew from experience, and a knowledge of physics, how and where the ball had to be struck in order to achieve the result he was looking for. He then thought of nothing more than executing the precise strike necessary to produce the ball flight he was looking for. When he did so, he felt assured that his swing would take care of itself. For more information on how the ball must be struck, you might care to refer to my article entitled "The Wisdom of Bobby Jones: Striking the Ball," or, better still, if you have the book Golf is my Game, by Bobby Jones, refer to Chapter two. Bobby Jones felt that this information alone could literally transform your game over night.

I have found, by making my focus the driving of an imaginary nail going through the back of the ball directly down the target line, or the intended line of flight, the quality of my ball striking greatly improves. Intense focus on hammering that nail definitely helps prevent the intrusion of swing thoughts, or mechanical thoughts, or thoughts about water or out of bounds stakes. I have often suggested this tip to playing partners when they start badly thinning, topping, or fatting their shots. Their shots immediately improve, at least until they forget about focussing on hammering the nail, and get back to thinking about their shoulder turn, or trying to keep their head down, or whatever.

If you find yourself wondering what to focus on, or you find you are not striking the ball solidly, why not give the hammer the nail tip a try? It isn't guaranteed to take ten stokes off your game the next time you play, but it often seems to work. It also works very well for chipping and putting. It's all about the strike. Focus on the strike and let your swing take care of itself. If you can hammer the nail, you can be a ball striker.