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When good swings do bad things

I love the game of golf. Especially when I’m having a great day and everything seems to be working the way it should. But golf is a fickle game.

You can be having a great day on the course and suddenly the ball acts as if it has a mind of its own. You haven’t changed your swing thoughts but suddenly the ball starts misbehaving and you can’t figure out what went wrong. One ball goes straight and the next one slices and you don’t have a clue what you did different. You start to get anxious and keep trying different ideas until finally you get so frustrated that you stop having fun and the love/hate relationship with the game makes you wish you were someplace else.

So what causes bad shots when we think we are doing everything the same? What happens in between the moment we make a perfect practice swing and then step up to the ball is a good place to start looking for answers.

Tension is the greatest saboteur of any swing because it has the biggest impact on the timing and sequence of our swing. If you swing to the same positions but do this in a different order you will probably look very similar but the hands might turn over a little early or the weight shift might be a little late and the ball could go anywhere.

When you focus more on where you don’t want to hit it, or what you did on the last hole you start to develop a sense of over control and lack of trust. If you step up to the ball angry, tense or scared you can’t ever sustain a good round and you won’t have much fun. The focus needs to be more on where you want the ball to go and a relaxed feeling that will allow your natural rhythm to take place.

You shouldn’t try to figure out what you did wrong. Instead, try to find a way to relax more. Whether it be through some deep breathing or telling jokes or just trying to feel good in general with some positive emotions, you need to get out of the “I need to figure this out” mode and step into the “I don’t care” and the “dance with the one you brought” mentality so you can get closer to playing in the “zone”.

Playing golf in the “Zone” is something we all strive for but is very elusive. Being in the Zone means playing without judgment or evaluation and just letting it happen. The ability to play one shot at a time and stay in the present is mentioned in every interview with anyone who has ever played their best golf. Even Ben Hogan, who was known as one of the greatest ball strikers of all time has been quoted as saying that on his best days he only hit about 7 perfect shots in a round.

These are some clues as to how to have fun and enjoy golf more and just accept that you are not a machine and mistakes are not something you can avoid. Learn how to relax and just let it happen and remember that even a bad day on the course is better than a good day at the office.

Mark Guttenberg is the PGA Director of Instruction for Raspberry Golf Schools at Bull Run Golf Club in Haymarket. Contact him at 703-327-7288 or email

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