If you've taken the decision to make technical changes to your swing, the road ahead is perilous. Follow this five-step plan that will help you reap the rewards

Just had a lesson? Thinking of making a swing change? I’ve got some advice for you. Before we get started, there are a couple of points to keep in mind. Firstly, the idea is to develop functional technique – the ability to hit the shot you want to hit under pressure – and not just something that’s aesthetically pleasing. Secondly, the use of feedback technology like TrackMan and high-speed video may also be beneficial but ensure it honours your intention.

Making a swing change: Step 1 – Intention

The primary element to making any change is to understand why you are making it – it needs to serve a purpose. For example:

  1. Improve ball flight/impact – connect intended flight with actual flight
  2. Reduce ball flight variability
  3. Reduce the risk of injury

It’s vital you have total understanding of the function and purpose of any recommended changes a coach suggests before you embark on this journey. Without that you’re destined for disappointment.

Making a swing change: Step 2 – Verify

Verify you need to make the change. Advice I’ve adopted from Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott of Vision54 is to ensure players always check their balance, tempo, and tension awareness before committing to any changes. Each of these elements influence the other as well as a person’s ability to deliver the club as intended. You might well discover that improving one or all of these elements eliminates the issue and creates the desired outcome.

Making a swing change: Step 3 – Sense

Establish a sensory focus (seeing, hearing, feeling) for the change, void of any outcome concerns (what the ball is doing). It’s essential you are deeply immersed in what you sense during the move and spend time training the ability to focus solely on that.

For example, hit 5 x 3 sets of balls, being 100% focused on what you sense. Evaluate your awareness on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being 100% focused through your senses and 1 being highly distracted or completely lacking in focus.

Here’s a template that might help:

Making a swing change: Step 4 – Combine and Ingrain

Now is the time to combine external feedback with your sense, such as associating the sensory focus with the desired outcome. For example, with a right-handed player’s functional fade shot, the ball starts left of the target, curves right in the air, and finishes within 10% proximity of the target, or within 15 yards of a 150 yards target.

Ingraining the change can be done in a variety of ways:

Block: Training a single skill over and over, with repetition being the key. Variability is minimised or non-existent, for example hitting the same shot to the same target using the same club.

Varied: Repeating a skill in a variety of situations, such as hitting five fades with your driver to the same target, then hitting five fades with your 8-iron to the same target.

Random: Training multiple skills in a random order, minimising the number of consecutive repetitions of any one skill. For example, playing a simulated hole on the range – hitting a fade with your driver, hitting a fade with a mid-iron, then chipping and putting

Here’s a further example of how to practice short chipping using the different styles:

The effective composition of training – the amount of each style of practice is personal – however research tells us to avoid excessive repetition (block) as it results in a false sense of mastery. Blend the styles to your needs.

Be sure to utilise the golf course as well as the practice facilities. I’d also recommend making your practice task vs. time orientated (play games).

Making a swing change: Step 5 – Reflect

Spend some time after your practice/performance reflecting on your experience. Note what was good, what could have been better, and how you are going to improve.

If you need help, please get in touch.

Oliver Morton is an holistic coach based at the Archerfield Performance Centre and founder of the Leading Edge Golf Company. If you have any questions for Oliver, you can find him on Twitter.