by Louise Ball.
Before Ben Hogan became the great player he was, he was known as “Hooking Hogan”. To fix this, Hogan’s “secret” was cupping his left wrist at the top of his swing, thus leaving the clubface more open through impact, helping him hit the ball straight. Once Hogan figured out his “secret”, he went on to win 64 times on the PGA Tour, including 9 majors.
Curt Sampson, the author of the book, Hogan, states that “Hogan was not some mediocre player who suddenly found the secret. In fact, he was an excellent young player and almost won a huge event right after he turned pro, at age 18.” According to Sampson, the cupping of Hogan’s left hand, or his “secret”, was mostly hype. The swing tweak was a small piece of the larger puzzle. In his book, Sampson goes on to say that “the biggest piece of the puzzle, his real secret, was his mind. He knew himself. He knew how to put himself in the state to play great golf. Long before anyone said it, Hogan knew the game was 90% mental. He’d let himself get angry at the course, he said, ‘anger drives out fear.’ His mental focus is what made him great.”
Ever since joining the LPGA, I’ve been fascinated at the brain’s control over “good golf” vs. “bad golf.” It seems we are dealing with thousands of years of evolution. It is possible to retrain our brains, but it takes know-how and effort.
Consider this; the human race has survived for thousands of years. The adrenaline rush helps us survive when danger is near. There’s a call to action! When our cavemen ancestors saw a saber-toothed tiger, a message of “RUN!” shot from his brain stem, though his nerves to his muscles. He fled, and survived, and here we are today. Although that’s great for our species, it’s not so great for our golf swing. Our minds work the same way today, only that saber-toothed tiger is a five-foot putt for birdie with the match on the line. It activates the same danger signals; your heart rate spikes, you sweat, and your knees knock because your legs literally want to run! It’s a primitive primal reaction to fear. So how do we retrain our caveman instincts so we can be more successful or Hogan-like when it matters on the golf course?
Here are a three suggestions for you to try:
- Recognize your anxiety. Don’t deny you’re nervous, or it sneaks up on you. It’s there, learn to deal with it, be aware.
- Paint a positive picture. Visualization is not a myth. It works because seeing your ball land in the fairway or seeing a putt dropping gives your mind something positive to focus on, which helps your brain stem send calming, business-as-usual pulses to your muscles.
- Finish it. I’m a very auditory learner, so I like to add a verbal cue in my head to help me with a final swing thought, like “slow arms” with my driver, and “smooth” or “solid” with my putter. I use these small swing thoughts before each swing or stroke, they are paired down sentences, and they mean something to me.
Learn to play golf in the moment. Be aware of your thoughts and feelings while you’re playing. How you react will have a direct effect on the next shot. Negative reaction = negative pulses = negative results. You can learn to create the state you need to be in to play your best. The “zone” is not that elusive. It is not something that just happens. It takes practice, mental practice. That is the real secret!
Louise Ball is a Class A LPGA Teaching & Club Professionals Member and the Owner/Director of Instruction at the Tennessee Golf Academy in Knoxville.
A graduate of Shenandoah University – BS 1985 Therapeutic Recreation & Psychology, Louise has received national recognition of her expert instruction including the 2014 LPGA National Jr. Golf Leadership Award.
Contact Louise at the Gettysvue Country Club on (865) 382-5575 and for more information visit www.louisegolfball.com.
INTEGRATED PERFORMANCE SYSTEM
Golf Instruction the LPGA Way
The LPGA Global Teacher Education Program offers a curriculum for teaching, learning, and playing golf based on a framework for golf skill acquisition and improved performance. The LPGA Teaching and Club Professional’s student-centered, research-based Integrated Performance System (IPS) model is adaptable to the golfer and to the environment, integrating biomechanics, physical assessment, equipment, and motor learning/motor control concepts. The LPGA recognizes that individuals of all ages and abilities participate in golf for many differing reasons.
There is more than one way to swing a club and it is our goal to help our students with effective, efficient, and compatible motions based on who they are and what they can do. Through the LPGA Teaching and Club Professional’s IPS, our goal is to guide our students to learn the skills, learn to perform the skills, learn the game and learn to perform the game, integrating physical and psychological. Golf is energy in motion!
LPGA Master Professional
LPGA Global Education Team Lead Instructor