The Power of Sitting and Thinking

The Power of Sitting and Thinking


The power of sitting and thinking, it is a logical and meaningful task many great players undertake.  It’s unfortunately a task most other golfers never undertake.  Sitting down and thinking critically about one’s game can be extremely helpful, especially in moments of struggle.  Sitting down and thinking critically about cause and effect often leads players down the quickest road to improvement and recovery from struggle.

When Ben Hogan used to practice through the years of his career, one of the most important things he did was sitting down in each practice session and thinking about the current state of his game.  Ben would often sit down and smoke a cigarette while contemplating every aspect of his current game and practice strategy.  He would do so especially in moments and times of struggle.  Ben would sit down and think about what his golf shots were telling him about his game.  He would think about his ball flight, his divots, and caliber of contact at impact.  He would think about what he was currently trying to do.  He would then develop a strategy for the future in order to improve.  Ben did so on countless occasions, a process which was witnessed by many players and spectators through his years.  Ben did so in many locations, often while he practiced at home and often while he practiced and prepared at some of the biggest tournaments in the world.

Jack Nicklaus did the same thing throughout his entire career, a process which contributed to his ability to quickly recover from times of struggle.  Jack discovered at an early age that logically thinking about his shots was more beneficial to the experimental search many golfers undertake in moments of struggle.  He always approached practice and playing with a meaningful game plan, a plan he developed from logically pondering the current state of his game, time thinking about cause and effect, and logically developing a plan for near and long term improvement.

It is unfortunate many golfers in the game do the opposite of sitting down and logically thinking in moments of struggle.  I often see struggling golfers undertake a process I would describe as a frantic trial and error search.  I often see golfers begin to struggle, have no reason why, and begin illogically trying countless new things to see better results.  I can’t tell the number of times I have witnessed golfers doing so on driving ranges and on courses.  I often see golfers frantically trying different technique after technique, different swing thought after swing thought, often to no avail of improvement, often even worsening the amount of struggle.  It is a process which leads to many to leaving ranges and courses with great frustration and dismay, and can even to quitting playing the game permanently.  To my benefit, it is a process which leads many golfers to obtaining help from others, often to getting lessons from golf professionals or teachers.  I have seen golfers of all levels go through countless times of struggle and frustration, then to take part in the illogical process of experimentation to see improvement, even some of the game’s best players.

Sitting and thinking greatly aids golfers, it not only helps ease levels of frustration and calm their minds, most importantly it often leads to discovering the most logical approach to improvement and recovery.  Next time you begin struggling I want you to do the same, step back from the range, sit down somewhere, and think about what is occurring with your game.  Think about your ball flight, how your shots are curving in the air, both for good shots and bad shots.  Think about the quality of contact at the moment of impact.  Think about where on the clubface you are striking shots, both good shots and bad shots.  Think about how far you are hitting shots compared to your normal shots in the past.  Finally, think about what you are currently attempting to do and how this might be affecting these shots.  Sitting down and thinking about these factors allows cause and effect to enter your mind.  This is a reason why golfers must have an understanding of ball flight laws and a basic understanding of their own swing tendencies.  If you do not understand these, you first need to learn them through obtaining help from a qualified professional.  Once you have an understanding of these elements, you will be at the stage where sitting and thinking will benefit your recovery from struggle.

After you have sat down, took some time, and reflected on the shots you are currently seeing in your game, you will be ready to put together an approach for improvement.  In this process you need to think about an approach geared towards improving the patterns your current shots are demonstrating.  You need to think about simple changes in technique or a simple feel to use to improve these patterns.  You need to think about a simple feel which suits your swings tendencies, a feel your body can successfully undertake.  If you are going to go back and work on technique, the technical feel needs to have a logical meaning.

Here is an example of how this process might work.  Say you are out practicing full shots one day on the driving range.  You plan on going out and having a two hour practice session to aid in future improvement with your ball striking.  To your dismay, you go out and greatly struggle with the majority of shots you are attempting.  You are quite perplexed by this considering you played a great round just three days prior.  After about 30 minutes, you are completely frustrated and begin to feel the strain of frustration in your body and your mind.  You see a park bench in the distance and decide to go sit down for 15 minutes.  After sitting down for a few minutes your mind begins to settle, and you then begin to think logically about what might be occurring.  You think about how you are tremendously struggling with hitting hooks so far today on the range.  The majority of your bad shots hooked quite a bit to the left of your targets.  You definitely know your current miss in terms of ball flight is a hook.  You now begin to think about your good shots.  You realize your better shots on this day are draws.  On these shots the ball flight begins to the right of the target and then curves to the left and finishes near the target.  You realize your good shots are slightly bigger draws than compared to your normal good shots in the past.  You then think about your divots.  You noticed some of your divots pointed to the right of the target with the iron shots you hit earlier.  You then think about your contact, realizing you did hit slightly more shots heavy and thin compared to the past.  Your distance for the day you would describe as normal.

You realize your ball flight and contact pattern is telling you’re currently too inside-to-outside with their swing path through impact.  You realize this would explain the hooks to the left on your current misses, why your divots are pointing right, and why your better shots are big draws.  You then begin to draw conclusions on what might be occurring in your golf swing.  You know from knowledge learned through lessons you have a tendency in the downswing to clear your lower body too fast, often causing the club to fall and travel too much from inside-to-outside through impact.  You realize this is probably why you’re having inconsistent contact and hitting multiple thin and heavy shots at the same time, resulting from the shallow angle of attack of being inside-to-outside.  You then begin to develop your approach for improving your path.  You know feeling a quieter lower body while trying to hit fades has helped in the past, and is a feel your body can undertake in a simple manner.  You decide this will be your first approach when you get up and continue practice for the day.  To no surprise, the feel works great and you begin to instantly hit straighter and more solid shots.

My friends, this is an example of how sitting and thinking works.  As you can see, it is completely based upon logical reasoning, quieting the mind, and thinking about cause and effect, as well thinking about personal tendencies.  It is much more beneficial than hitting balls during states of frustration, frantically trying different feels and technique changes with no reasoning behind them.

Sitting and thinking is a process many of the best in the game undertake in their practice sessions, players like Hogan, Nicklaus, Woods, and others.  I want you to do the same.  Next time you begin to struggle, take some time, find a seat, clear your mind, and think about what is going on.  This is what practicing with a purpose is all about; it is something I teach my students.   I want students to become their own best coach, and without sitting and thinking on occasion, this would not be possible.  It will help you when you struggle, it will help you improve from one level to another, most importantly, it will help you enjoy practice and playing the game.

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