Golfers commonly believe that improving their technique will automatically lead to an improvement in their skills and while there’s truth to that thinking, I believe it’s better to go about improving your ability to hit quality golf shots differently.
On the practice tee, I’ll ask a student “what do you think happened on that shot?” and the most common answer is something about the mechanics of their body movement, or how they swung the club differently. What most golfers fail to realise is that it’s extremely difficult to change or override an ingrained motor pattern and the odds you just performed a radically different swing to the one before is very unlikely.
So what then? Well to start with, when I ask “what do you think happened on that shot?” I want to know what happened at impact. What were the club delivery and impact dynamics that caused the ball flight? Often the golfer simply hit the good shot out of the centre of the club face and the poor one nowhere near it. So “what do I need to change in my swing to hit the next one good?” they ask. “Nothing”, is my point. If you just hit a great shot two balls prior “your swing” is capable of doing that again. What I propose is you stop asking how can I improve my technique all the time and instead ask “how can I improve my skills”?
In regards to the full swing, some of these skills include impact location, ability to hit the ground consistently in the right spot, starting the ball on line, managing a functional face- to-path relationship to control the curvature of the ball and club head/ball speed. If you can improve these skills, you will certainly improve the quality and consistency of your golf shots, and they are the two things almost every golfer is searching for. Focusing on the task and achieving an outcome, versus focusing on internal technical thoughts, is a far better way to train and improve your skills.
Here a few simple drills you can use in practice to start working on one of the most important skills in golf.
I consider impact location or the quality of the strike as the most important skill to improve if you want to get better at golf. If you can strike the ball fairly close to the centre of the club face on a consistent basis, you will play consistent golf. The problem for most golfers is they don’t have any real idea where they are striking the ball with the club face.
Today’s super-forgiving, oversized golf clubs makes this task even more difficult. In order to improve the skill of a more consistent strike, we need feedback to help guide our improvement.
Here are two great drills to hone your focus on the strike.
- Use a whiteboard marker or can of powder spray (a foot spray is a great option as it is cheap and wipes off easily) to check impact location on the club face. Avoid using face tape as it affects the spin of the shot, which can give you some strange ball flights.
When you are getting reliable, real-time feedback on your strike quality, you have valuable information to help identify trends and patterns in your ball striking that you were probably never aware of. I think many golfers will be surprised at how much an added focus on the strike can improve the quality of their shots and how trying to affect a different strike location can positively influence technique without conscious control.
- The second drill involves ditching your latest, super forgiving, distance guaranteed irons for a moment and purchasing a pure blade golf club (preferably a long iron). You just need one and they can be found easily on eBay. There is nothing like being forced to focus sharply on the strike than by holding a small, thin club next to the ball.
Small blade irons are very punishing on off-centre strikes but feel amazing out of the middle. This feedback is invaluable to your skill improvement and will make your regular irons seem impossible to miss when you put them back down.
Another reason to work on impact location is distance! You won’t find many golfers out there who wouldn’t like to hit it further. Increased distance can be achieved two ways:
a) Increasing club head speed which will increase ball speed and distance.
b) Optimising your launch conditions.
An effective way to increase your average distance is to get the most ‘bang for your buck’ by maximising your smash factor (ball speed divided by club speed). This is done by finding the centre of the club face more often. Improving your impact location will ensure a more efficient energy transfer from the club to the ball which all adds up to faster ball speed and more distance.
I would recommend making these drills a regular part of your practice routine regardless of your ability, as impact location is a skill that can always be refined!
I hope this help you on your quest to better golf.