What is a golf swing, if not the sum of many smaller, beautifully interlocking elements? From lengthening or shortening your back swing, to adjusting your grip or subtly changing your head position, there are hundreds of tiny adjustments that you can make that can radically transform your swing.
And I actually believe that the whole game of golf is in some ways like this – in my experience there are always some small changes you can make that will make a real difference to the way you play. Of course I’m not advocating constantly adjusting how you approach your game – rhythm and routine are also hugely important in the game of golf – but rather that is possible sometimes to break out of a poor run of form just by making a few minor adjustments. Here are just some of the small things, mental and physical, that I’ve found can make a big difference sometimes.
- Think again about the club you’re about to use.
Are you trying to push a particular club to do a job it shouldn’t really be doing? Every golf club is designed with a particular shot in mind, but it’s also easy to gravitate back to a favourite. So, sometimes it pays to put the club back in the bag and just take a moment to decide if it’s really the club you should use for the shot in hand, or if it’s just the one you feel most comfortable with.
- Switch to a positive mindset.
I’ve spoken about the importance of the mental side of the game of golf before, but it really can’t be overstated. One great habit to get into – other than to try and forget whatever has gone on before and to concentrate on the shot in front of you – is to always stay relentlessly positive. Whether you’re having a good round or a bad one, it’s all good experience – and this little mental switch in attitude can stop you from abandoning early and can take you all the way to the 18th.
- Stick to your pre-shot routine, whatever happens.
A good pre-shot routine is essential to preparing both body and mind for the shot you’re about to make, and it should never be skipped, regardless of how much pressure you’re under. You’ve developed it because it works for you, but it is remarkably easy to slip out of the habit of doing a pre-shot routine when the pressure is on (or even sometimes when it is off). So, once again it’s a small part of your game, but something that can have a huge impact on the preparation and execution of your shots.
- If you’re starting to struggle with your swing, practice a full one at half speed.
As I’ve mentioned before, your golf swing can be broken down into a number of interlocking moving parts. How these parts work together isn’t always easy to see – but one of the best ways to get an indication of where things might be going wrong is simply to slow everything down to half speed. Take a full swing, but just more slowly, and get used to feeling all the various phases of your swing once again. As you start to feel more comfortable, and the component pieces are starting flow more naturally again, then it’s time to speed up and resume normal service.
- Remember the basics of club face alignment
What are you trying to line up with the target? Your feet? Your shoulders? Everything? In fact, it should be the club face – but it’s incredibly easy to forget this basic in the heat of a round. The best way to make sure you don’t is to get into the habit of always looking at the target from behind the ball, and then aligning your club face accordingly. Then – and only then – should you worry about where your feet are placed, or which way your shoulders or your torso are facing. Get the club aligned first, and then build your stance around that.
I really do believe that golf is one of the few games where the small things can make a disproportional difference to the quality of your game. So, next time you’re out on the course, and you’re tempted to dig yourself out of a hole by trying a ‘big’ shot, maybe take a quick a look at the small things you can try first. It might just make a big difference.