Oct
29

Trust your unconscious golf mind to align your club for a better pre-shot routine

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How much is the accuracy of your golf shot influenced by club alignment at address and how much is down to your instinctive or unconscious golf ability? Now I’m not talking here about the complexity of aligning the various parts of your body when you address the ball. That’s a subject for your golf pro, not your golf psychologist. All I’m interested in here is the alignment of your club face at address.

I’ve been writing a lot recently about the importance, in golf psychology terms, of a quick transition from the conscious processes of planning your golf shot and selecting the right club and the unconscious process of taking your stance and hitting the ball. What concerns me most is that while the best golfers seem to take as little as 11 seconds to complete this transition the average golfer seems to take that long just to align their stance and the clubface.

Now, I don’t want you to go straight out and time how long you take, as that would introduce an unnecessary conscious activity into what should be an unconscious process and I don’t want you blaming me for making you play worse. You probably already know whether you are quick or slow in this area and if you don’t, just ask a golfing friend to tell you.

How accurately can you consciously aim your club face? Well, let’s look at a few technical facts. A typical club head is about 3 inches long from heel to toe and the hitting area is less than 2 inches wide. With a mid-iron, those two inches sit on the ground about 4-5 feet from your eyes, depending on your height and style.

And how precise can you be with the alignment of that clubhead from that distance? If you were an eight of an inch out with the face alignment, then your club would be facing about 10 yards wide of your target 160 yards away – the difference between hitting or missing an average green. Now, I know that the path the club head takes at impact has more affect on the direction the ball starts flying than the alignment of the clubface, but that’s more than compensated for by the slice or draw swing created and the tendency for us golfers to swing square to our clubface.

So, how do the better golfers maintain their accuracy if it’s so difficult to align the clubface accurately? Well, let’s look at other sports where the action is so rapid that we don’t have time to think consciously about alignment. How often have you seen a top-class cricket fielder throw the ball from maybe 40 yards more than a yard either side of the wicket-keeper? That’s despite having to run some way for the ball, pick it up, turn and throw it back as quickly as possible. I suspect that something similar happens in baseball. Now, do they spend any time aligning themselves consciously before they throw the ball? I don’t think so, they just turn and throw the ball and trust their amazing bodies and unconscious mind to assess all the variables and let fly.

The same goes for tennis where there’s little or no time for alignment. Timothy Gallwey’s original Inner Game book made similar arguments for the capabilities of the unconscious mind in the game of tennis. When he talked about Self 1 and Self 2 he was talking about what I describe as the conscious and unconscious minds. Even with the dynamic nature of tennis, he found a need for a distraction to stop the conscious mind interfering with the shot – calling out "Bounce" and "Hit" when the ball bounced or you hit it with the racket.

Now, what are you suggesting I should do to shorten my alignment time, Andrew? Well, all I’m saying is to think about taking less time with your club alignment when you’re setting up to play your shots and trust your unconscious to hit the shot where you want it to go. Work on it on the practice ground and in your mental practice until it becomes second nature and you know it works well for you. Then take it to the course and enjoy the results.

Comments

  1. Andrew Fogg says:

    I’m surprised that no-one has corrected my error about the path of the clubhead having more effect on the on the direction the ball starts flying than the alignment of the clubface.

    What I should have said was that the alignment of the clubface affects the initial direction of flight and the club path affects the draw or hook spin. Either way the key thing is that our unconscious minds tend to compensate automatically for a slight misalignment of the clubface at address.

    The Golf Hypnotist

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