As you set-up to the ball, your eyes are pointing at the ball. As you swing the club back, your eyes continue to point at the ball. At impact your eyes are still pointing at the ball. But, I say you should not try to keep your eyes on the ball. Does that make sense? Too a lot of golfers, it does not.
If you ask a great player what they see when they set-up to the ball, you will not hear the statement “I am looking at the ball”. The great player isn’t focused on the ball; they are focused on the target. The ball is the least important part of golf. Obviously you couldn’t play without a ball, but it shouldn’t be the most important thought on your mind when you are going to play a shot. If you are staring at the ball, you are too fixated on it.
The most important thoughts in your head (pre-swing and in-swing) should be the target, the golf swing and confidence in your ability. The thought of the golf ball can only give you more tension than you already have before trying to hit a golf shot.
Just think of your practice swings. There isn’t a ball you are trying to hit. Therefore the ball isn’t in your thoughts. How great does your practice swing usually feel? The comment often heard around the golf course is “I wish my regular swing could feel as fantastic as my practice swing. My practice swings seem so fluid. Then I put the ball there and it all falls apart”.
Well, what causes a regular swing to be a lot less effective than a practice swing? The obvious answer is the golf ball. So the obvious answer is to forget the golf ball is there. Easier said than done, but it can be done. We need to take your mind off the ball. We need to get you thinking of the swing. Just like when you take those effortless practice swings. They are so free flowing.
When a player like Jack Nicklaus sets up to the ball, his eyes are pointing at the ball. His mind’s eye sees the target. It remembers what the target looked like. It pictures the golf ball landing next to the target. But the mind never thinks of hitting the ball. It may picture the ball in flight, but it doesn’t see the club hit the ball. If you ever get the chance to speak with some of the top players in the world, that is what you will hear.
The best drill I can give you to conquer the habit of keeping your eyes on the ball is to practice hitting tees with your eyes closed. The next time you go to practice (after you have stretched) start your practice session by sticking a tee into the ground. Push the tee in enough so that the top is the same height as the middle of a golf ball. Do this with 5 tees that are about 6 inches apart.
Now start at the first tee and make a golf swing trying to clip the tee out of the ground. Without stopping the motion of the swing take a step forward to clip out the next tee. Continue this until all the tees are out of the ground. The key to this drill is not to stop between swings. Keep the motion going back and forth.
By continuing the motion you are taking your mind off the tees and focusing on the movements of the swing. What you will learn is you didn’t need to keep your “eyes fixated on the tee”. You were able to hit them out of the ground and up in the air without staring at them. So why if it is easily accomplished with tees can’t you do it with a golf ball. Think about that for a few seconds before continuing reading. Read this paragraph again if you need too before continuing.
Try this drill a few more times. Then when your confidence is bursting through, try it again with your eyes closed. It probably will feel very different at first. It might even take two or three attempts to successfully accomplish the task. When your eyes are closed you are developing the sense of “feel” for your golf swing. You are feeling your golf swing. Hopefully you are learning how to see your golf swing in your minds eye. If that is happening you are successfully taking your mind off that “dang” ball.
The real test now comes when you tee up a golf ball and close your eyes. Take a swing at it. What do you have to lose? You might even hit it pretty good. I guarantee that by your 6th attempt you will hit the ball perfectly on the sweet spot. I suggest trying this using a 7 iron.
The golf tips that are passed down from generation to generation are like the game we played in grade school called Telephone. Telephone was when every kid in the class stood in a single file line. The teacher told the first kid a message and he/she told the next kid in line that same message. This kept going till the end of the line and the last kid would tell everybody what the message was. The message was never close to the original.
Well, that is what has happened with “keeping your eyes on the ball”. What started as a well-intentioned tip has been converted to “a golf swing killing epidemic.” That saying (and many others like it) are over taught and misinterpreted. That is one of the main focuses of this column and my golf school. We debunk the myths and give you solutions.