Golf is a tad frustrating at times. One minute we can be playing the best golf of our lives, the next minute it goes completely wrong and we hit a shot of disastrous proportions that costs us our place at the top of the podium in the monthly medal and fail to reduce our handicap when we were all set up for a huge reduction.
Ever wondered why this is?
Of course you have, we wouldn't be human otherwise. Our curious brain tries to define and focus as to why we might have hit that shank/thin/fat (delete as appropriate). The mind gets clouded up with the potential areas of our swing that were the prime cause of the shot that costs us golfing glory and stains our near perfect scorecard. The problem with this is though there are hundreds upon hundreds of reasons in the swing that a certain bad shot could have happened. On the course though, we only have one chance to put it right which limits our options of correction and, usually, our hunches turn out to be either wrong or we just don't fully commit to the shot in hand, leading to more disasters as opposed to fixing the issue.
'How do we avoid such disasters though'? I hear you scream into your browser!
If I had one definitive answer I would be the golfing oracle. Unfortunately there isn't one specific answer as we are all different. Some swing thoughts that work well with one person will work the opposite with another golfer.
There is, however, something we can do to help, and this goes out to a large majority of you who don't practice (yes you, I see you out there just on the course and not hitting any shots on your local driving range).
The majority of poor shots are caused by ONE issue(yes, just one). And it is the simplest of all elements to correct as we don't have to think to much about it to correct and is fairly obvious when we've done it well or not performed it as well as we could.
Its called CONTACT. In my definition, it's simply where the ball has contacted the face of the club. It's either toe of the club, heel (hosel), top, bottom (leading edge) or centre and these have a HUGE influence on the distance and the direction that the golf balls travels. But it is also the simplest way of improving your golf if you get it right!
The first step, however, is to discover WHERE on the face you are striking the ball. For example, I have seen many a golfer hit the ball very low to the right consistently, disaster shots which are otherwise known as a shank, a shot where the ball is striking the hosel of the golf club. But when I ask the player where they feel they contacted the ball, more often than not they are not 100% sure and it's a guess.
So why will it help a golfer to know and understand where the ball is coming out of the face to help improve these bad shots?
You imagine trying to hammer a nail into a piece of wood but you keep hitting your thumb! Do you, to avoid hitting your thumb, think about how your hammer arm is moving (direction, angle etc) or do you focus your mind on the hammer head hitting the nail head? I hope for the sake of your thumb it is the latter and you'll focus on your tools as opposed to what movements your body is making.
It's the same in Golf. If we focus on our tools (the club and ball which are external factors) as opposed to our body positions (internal factors) it makes it a lot easier to correct poor shots.
Back to contact and the relevance of it in Golf. We are looking to make an already complicated game easier. Why would we want to make a difficult and already complicated sport more complicated?
To improve in the game of golf, this is by far the most important point. We are not looking for consistency as consistency is unachievable. If it was achievable the best in the world would shoot 54 every time they go out. The goal to improve in the game is to MAKE OUR BAD SHOTS BETTER!
Read that again please.
The best in the world hit less disastrous shots. Yes, they hit shots that many of us could only dream of but their bad shots are barely in the rough or, when they miss a green, they still have a chance of getting the ball up and down.
I would estimate that 85% of bad shots are caused by poor contact, whether it be a loss of distance or greater dispersion of accuracy.
Yes, poor contact can be caused by a swing fault, but as stated before, there are hundreds of swing faults it could be. By recognising where we are hitting the ball out of the face we can use our instinctive movement patterns to get back to as centred an impact and efficient impact as we can. As I like to say............ subconscious competence.........understanding the task without thinking about it.