That swing feels so good. It even looks great. It's going to produce a fantastic shot. Day after day we watch players taking those lovely practice swings as they wait their turns on the first tee. Then the moment of truth arrives.
A few days back one of my students summed it up when he asked, 'Why can't I repeat my practice swing while actually hitting the ball? If I could repeat that during the swing that counts I think I would be a better player.'
He couldn't be more right. Stand witness to just about any average golfer taking two or three beautiful practice swings and then, as they approach the ball for their shot, they uncannily conjure up some strange motions that produce a distorted result.
So why that sudden mess up when it matters? While making a practice swing a player is not under the same pressure as they are while making the actual shot. Thus, thoughts like squaring the clubface at impact or hitting fat don't enter the mind. The swing is freer. However, when the ball has to be hit, the subconscious is aware that the clubface must be square and proper contact made. Tension sets in causing all sorts of faults and often results in a terrible shot.
What's the cure? From my experience most amateurs take practice swings without any aim in mind. Just an air shot. These swings are great for loosening up the muscles but they're no good when it comes to hitting a ball. The proper way to take a practice swing is to aim at something, such as a blade of grass, with the leading edge of the club. Having a target will help you learn to square the clubface at impact.
Another thing to keep in mind is that most golfers have two different swing speeds-one for practice and another for the real swing. Be conscious of the speed of the swing as the different pace can not only break down the body's angle and balance but the swing plane itself.
So please, do take a practice swing before every shot and try to brush the target spot on the ground. Beware though not to damage the course by taking big divots and don't take too many of those warm up swings as it unnecessarily delays the game.
Practice your practice swings the proper way and re-groove your game.
Deepak Acharya is a golf instructor and Golf Director at Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa, Kathmandu. [email protected]