Battling your inner-demons: How many swing thoughts do you have?
This week Dan Murphy, Steve Carroll and Harvey Jamison join me in Fourball and explain their inner-most concerns and hotchpotch of swing thoughts.
Brace yourselves, it’s not very pretty…
Let’s delve a little deeper into the recesses of your brain and your swing thoughts. First up, the 1st tee. In the words of Tim Barter: “What are you thinking, what are you feeling?”
Dan: Well, my initial thought on the 1st tee is, ‘Can I use my driver here?’ Sometimes when playing my home course off the yellow tees, I don’t use my driver again until the last. But the opening tee shot should always be a driver. I concluded as much after one roofed 3-wood and a couple of heavy long irons too many and have never looked back since.
Harvey: ‘Grip it and rip it’. Ah, the infamous words that lead to an immediate top. It’s true I have the backswing of John Daly but not the length. My 1st tee decisions are the main cause for countless qualifiers I’ve NR’d, mainly by hitting driver when a hybrid would stay well short of the crap – can I say crap? – but, when in doubt, I always utter the words ‘head still, head still, head still’.
Steve: I’m usually thinking, ‘Why am I not hitting a 3-wood?’ That’s usually followed by ‘Don’t shank/top/hook/flare/pull (*delete as appropriate considering where the last drive went the last time I played golf.) I’m trying not to think, to be honest. But I am feeling plenty. That feeling is fear.
Mark First things first I’ll go with a pink castle tee which is a bit too high but eliminates any nerves and drawn-out process of re-teeing things up when the hands get a little shaky. As the round progresses I’ll go lower and start squeezing them out into the right rough.
I think I’ve made peace with myself that this will be the shot that I’m uncomfortable in terms of set-up, ball position and ‘visuals’ so I’ll just concentrate on my breathing to ensure that there isn’t too big an incident. If I’m quite relaxed I might go as deep as ‘full shoulder turn’.
What are your fundamentals and how often do they change?
Steve: Fundamentals? That would imply that I have an idea of what I’m doing.
Harvey: In 2019 I’m trying something new. No practice swings, no thoughts, no slow play, just feel. We’re 79 days into the new year.. I’ll report back when this works.
Dan: They are many, they are reoccurring and they change with the flimsiest of supporting evidence. Once underway, I simply don’t know how to hit a shot without some kind of swing key. My lowest ebb on a course is when I reach that very stage, which is usually a couple of times a year. I need to feel like I’m working on something, even if just for appearance’s sake. Ideally, I’ve got one thing to occupy my troubled mind pre-shot, a second while over the ball, a third for the backswing and a final one for the following blur.
Mark: I’ve just been to the range at lunch and my fundamentals have since shifted. This year it’s all been about a wider base to try and alleviate any pipes and not get stuck too much on my heels. This also helps to keep the swing a little shorter and, in my head, I’m performing some sort of stack-and-tilt motion. When I’m playing OK there’s a bit more scope to ramp up my swing speed which has been shambolic with the advent of children and a new tummy.
I’d say I’ve had approximately 250 ‘basics’ over the years which generally revolve around something Faldo has explained on his website, something Rock does in my imagination or something Bobby Karlsson did about a decade ago.
None of it bears any resemblance to the reality.
What’s the most amount of swing thoughts you’ve ever had during one round of golf?
Steve: Keep your back straight, don’t let your grip get too strong, where’s the ball position?, are my knees flexed?, make sure the face doesn’t get closed, don’t overswing, hit the back of the ball, don’t jump at it, turn to the target. That’s one swing on Sunday. No wonder I’m messed up.
Harvey: I’m stood on the 1st tee, Saturday morning, scorecard filled out and the smell of ripe excitement and anticipation in the air, for a round that could cut my handicap down from 14.5 to 14.3.
What’s the wind doing? How long is the hole playing? What club did I hit here last week? Am I too stiff for a full turn? I’m breathing too fast. Slow down. Can I play a nice low cut up there? Don’t break your wrists too early? Did I really need two KitKats from the pro shop? What would Rory do? Remember to pause at the top. Keep your head still.
Dan: I really don’t like being given technical advice unless I have specifically asked for it, in which case I will drink it in. So my worst experience would be the time when I was in the middle of what was, in my own tiny world, a Faldo-esque swing rebuild. I found myself playing in a pro-am and the well-meaning pro, who had watched me struggle badly through the front nine, tried to offer a few pointers. I’m sure he was hoping I might make a contribution or two to the team score on the way in, which was entirely reasonable.
I felt obliged to go along with his suggestions while resolving to honour my commitment to my own teaching pro at the time. It was no reflection on the advice either of them gave me but the result was a disgusting mess.
Mark: I won’t go more than two though that is liable to change every three holes. There was a very brief passage when I didn’t have any after visiting some sort of golfing head doctor and it was incredible – just full-on visuals on every shot which involved some sort of weird Owen Farrell pre-kick charade and I had the lowest round I’ve had for the past 20 years.
By the time I next played I had forgotten bits of what I was meant to be doing and, within a month, it was gone. Like a cloud passing by the moon.