Please trust your unconscious golf mind to remember to play good golf, Ian Baker-Finch


Regular readers of my blog will be familiar with my rants about golfers changing their swings in response to what I see as their golf psychology problems. Sometimes they change their swings in the often mistaken belief that they somehow need to play better. This generally seems to have one of two results and neither are better than trusting their unconscious golf mind to remember how to play well.

If they are really talented and especially strong mentally, they struggle their way through the changeover period and emerge a season or two later scoring almost as well as they did before the change. They of course believe that they are now better and more consistent golfers and clearly have a new swing. I’m thinking here of people like Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods. Now don’t get me wrong, they are both fantastic golfers. It’s just that they don’t seem to be better golfers than before their swing changes.

Nick Faldo was a phenomenal golfer and regular winner long before he had even heard the name David Leadbetter. I’m sure that he thinks he became a better golfer as a result of his swing changes and that may have helped him. I’m also sure that with the same self-belief, he could have won just as much with his old golf swing, possibly even more. I also think that he he’d still be competitive today with his old more natural swing. By most normal standards, Arnold Palmer is still playing fantastic golf in his 80th year and looks to be enjoying himself. What’s more, he’s still using the same far from classical swing he started winning with 60 years ago.

While I know that Tiger’s latest swing change has in part been influenced by his need to protect his damaged knee, it’s not his first new swing. He’s still the world number one and possibly the best golfer ever, but is he as good as he was 10 years ago? He’s almost overtaken Jack Nicklaus’ record number of major wins and he’s only 33. Jack was still using the same old swing to win 7 more majors between the ages of 33 and 46. I hope I’m wrong, but I can’t see Tiger continuing to play that well for that length of time.

So what’s the second general result of top players making swing changes? Well, these are the people who lose their ability to score well, despite still striking the ball as well as ever. Here I’m thinking of people like Ian Baker-Finch and David Duval.

Now I’m sure you’ve heard the news that Ian Baker-Finch is making a comeback this weekend at the Crowne Plaza Invitational tournament at Colonial, where he won his only US PGA tournament back in 1989. You may even recall how Ian went on to win the (British) Open at Royal Birkdale in 1991 and a further dozen or so tournaments in Europe, Australia and Japan.

Ian’s game went downhill rapidly in the early 90s and he ended up missing the cut at all 18 tournaments he entered in 1995. Although he continued to hit the ball perfectly on the practice ground, to hole putts on the practice green and to play well in friendly matches, Ian decided that the problem was with his swing, so he spent a lot of time tinkering with it. He worked with a great many swing coaches, interestingly including David Leadbetter, before giving up the professional game and becoming a much loved television commentator on the US PGA tour.

So here’s wishing Ian Baker-Finch well with his comeback this weekend at Colonial. Let’s hope that he remembers how good a golfer he really is and let’s his unconscious golf mind get on with the job of hitting the ball as well as it remembers and he knows he can. Trust your swing, Ian! Your old swing, that is!

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