Most of the mistakes you’ll make in a round of golf are mental, not physical. I know, you’re thinking that’s an easy thing for a tour player to say – we all have pretty much honed a good swing. But I’d argue that if you reach a level where you hit a number of solid shots every round, what’s holding you back from hitting more is mostly in your head and not some urgent technical flaw.
When I look back on a round, my bad shots are almost always the ones where I wasn’t fully committed. I can remember the tinge of doubt I felt over the ball, or that the vision of how I wanted the ball to fly wasn’t fully crystallised in my mind. As a result, I’m something less than totally aggressive through the shot, and the clubface wavers. I can only kick myself for not having backed off and reset.
A lot of people think the mental part of sports is inscrutable and can’t really be taught, but I disagree. It comes out in physical ways, and in golf, there’s no clearer evidence of what’s going on in a person’s mind than how they finish a swing. If you’re feeling the least bit tentative, it’ll look that way. If you’re wild and unfocused, that’s obvious, too. Using the body to train the brain might sound like reverse-engineering, but it works. By making a perfect finish my primary goal, it helps ensure my commitment. What I consider to be a perfect finish, by the way, is what you see here: chest fully rotated, head released, eyes on target and absolutely zero wobble in my body or club. I arrive sharp as a statue.
In your next round, try to finish swings holding a crisp pose. You might be surprised how hard it is to end every swing like this, but it’s the simplest way to actually see and evaluate your mental game. Which, if you’re breaking 90, is pretty much the whole game.
Rickie Fowler has four wins on the US PGA Tour.
– with Max Adler