If you knew everything there was to know about golf that would be a shame. At least, it would be a problem if you wanted to play your best golf. Let me explain.

If you knew everything then you’d know too much. You would,

– hold back and be too scared to swing the club
– complicate things to the point of paralysis
– over analyse your swing/game/round to the point of being a pain in the arse
– only experience great golf once in a while. You’d then interrupt this good golf so it would disappear quickly and not return
– burn so much energy trying to figure things out that golf would not be fun
– miss out on true enjoyment and satisfaction

What you need is a more simplistic approach. You need less information not more. What you need is a basic objective that allows you to get the ball to the target with the minimum of fuss. Check this out.

Last week my round got off to a shaky start. While I was hitting the ball good enough, my putting was letting me down. I was “trying” hard to putt correctly. Picking spots, trying to read the green with the right amount of break and generally stuffing about. I was also feeling nervous on the green – there was a lot of anxiety and internal pressure to sink the putts. It was all wasted effort.

Had a shocker of a miss on 2 (three putts)
Didn’t hit the hole from six feet on 5.
Left a simple putt short on 7.
Missed the hole from 3 feet on the 9th.

It was all very ugly and disappointing at the same time. With better putting I could have been scoring really well. These days I tend to stop the rot more quickly and walking to the tenth 10 I made a commitment to putt more freely – to “just hit the putt”. No analysis, no fear. My goal was to hit each putt like it was already in the hole.

Instantly this little mental trick gave me a shot of confidence. My system relaxed and I felt better about my game – almost like a weight lifted from my shoulders.

On 10 I made a free flowing stroke and watched the ball curve across the green and find the hole.

On 11 my long birdie putt shaved the hole. I then stepped up and made a pure stroke for par. The ball hit the hole and popped out. Arrgh! It was annoying but I didn’t do anything wrong – I hit the putt without fear.

I then proceeded to make a series of long putts.

15 footer on 3 – birdie
10 footer on 5 – birdie
40 footer on 7 – birdie
35 footer on 8 – eagle

Wow! It was one of the best streaks of golf I’ve ever had and it all came down to putting more and thinking less. It was fun and a bit scary at the same time (what happens if I knock the ball off the green?). But the bad stuff didn’t happen. It was all good.

The most pleasing putt was for par on 18. The 8 footer smashed into the back of the hole. It was pure and there was no internal conflict or self-doubt. “Just hit the putt!” was my objective and my subconscious did the rest. This is automatic golf in it’s finest form and something I wish all golfers could experience more of the time. You’re not guaranteed to always shoot unbelievable scores, but you’re maximising the chances. You’re also reducing the chances of having those horrible rounds where nothing goes right and you walk from the course feeling like a hacker.

I didn’t give my round too much thought until I receive the following email from Grayden.

I’ve finally realized that golf is about “hit ball to spot” (period) of course I go and get new clubs, start worrying about my swing again and find myself playing some of the worst golf of my life in yesterday’s comp, all the while obsessing over “what I’m doing”. I was about to say “how feeble our brains are” – but you know what? I won’t. Because the fact that I can even SEE what I’m doing means I’m OK πŸ™‚

Here’s the thing: I come over the top a little, its how I play. Its good enough for Craig Parry so its going to be good enough for me! But when I truly play “hit to spot” none of that seems to get in the way. I seem to be able to put the ball roughly where I want despite those things. How? Don’t know actually. There must be a whole lot of compensations going on I guess. All I know is that as soon as I take my focus off “hit to spot” those compensations obviously stop happening. The body is obviously just a LOT smarter than I realize (and I thought I realized!) “Hit to spot” – your body finds a way. How? Don’t know.

There’s some good stuff in there. You may want to read it a few times to fully grasp what he’s saying. “Hit ball to spot” is Grayden’s way of playing the game. It’s not complicated and it certainly allows him to be the best player he can be. How simple is this? Could he make the game any easier? It’s brilliant.

After years of researching automatic learning (and falling off the wagon lots of times) he has realised the talent is inside him. All he needs to do is hit the ball without any interference and he’ll do just fine. Most of the left brain analysis just gets in the way and inhibits scoring and enjoyment.

Here’s a follow-up email.

If someone took a wheelie bin out to the middle of the fairway and called out to me and my mate on the tee “first bloke to hit it gets the contents and its full of cash” I guarantee we’d be getting pretty close to it REAL QUICK. I can also guarantee there wouldn’t be ANY wild slices or hooks into the rough either side of the fairway! “Hit to spot” is the beginning and end of it. But you have to SERIOUSLY have a spot and DECIDE that that ball is going there by WHATEVER MEANS IT TAKES. You wouldn’t give a toss about what your mechanics are doing or what you look like or anything like that. You would be more than happy to swing ugly if that’s what it takes to hit that bin. THAT’S why I reckon “hit the spot” actually works.

I like this a lot. It takes a level of courage to step up to the ball and whack it without any concern. It takes serious commitment to keep doing it shot after shot. Your commitment is tested not when you’re playing well. True commitment comes when you’ll invariably hit a few strays. You’ll master your golf game when you don’t let the odd miss distract you from your mission.

Finally, I was reminded how profound this “simplistic” approach is while watching one of the young guns from my club.

Junior is a good player but he over complicates the game. He has more talent than most but sometimes this is a hindrance rather than a help.

– He chips when he should putt
– Hits driver when a 3 wood will do
– Goes for the pin when safety is the order of the day
– Tries for birdie when par is a great score
– Blames the course/weather/playing partners when he makes a mistake

He’s got it all wrong. He’s not playing the game and he’s too stubborn to listen and see the errors of his ways. Reminds me of myself when I was the same age. He needs to step back and make the game as simple as he can. He has gotta take control by easing up and not trying so damn hard. When he learns to do this he’ll take the massive jump from good to great.

Filling our minds with lots of information seems like the right thing to do. But if you really want to play golf in a way that gives you full enjoyment and satisfaction, then you’d better start to think less and play more. It really is the best way.

How are you going to play the next time you venture out?