Not many know that CBS announcer and Golf Digest staff instructor Peter Kostis has a Twitter feed, and on it you will find some entertaining wit and incredible insight into the golf swing and his television job. Peter Kostis is, after all, a top expert on the golf swing, and if he doesn't know something about the PGA Tour, it's probably not worth knowing. That said, if you have a Twitter account, it's well worth it to follow his posts.
This morning on his feed, Mr. Kostis posted one of the best aphorisms I have ever come across about competing, whether it is on the PGA Tour, your club's championship, or even with your buddies in your weekly Sunday Nassau:
"To play your best, you must try hard to not try hard."
Indeed. Golf is one of the few sports where one can't really grit their teeth and as we say in the South, "bow your neck and go at it hard." In other words, it is a game where success comes from being calm, cool and collected in all circumstances, whether it is in on the tee, in the middle of the fairway, in a bunker fifty feet from the hole or standing over an eight foot putt to seal the match. In any of those situations, trying too hard will usually result in a bad effort because trying too hard is a quick shortcut to tension, and that in turn will lead more often than not to losing rhythm and using our smaller fast-twitch muscles instead of the larger and more powerful muscles at our body's core. Have you ever wondered why almost all of the top pros make their golf swing look so easy: it's because they are trying hard to not try hard.
Think of it this way: if you are honest with yourself, you usually hit a good shot when you are not trying to hit the ball hard, and instead swing in a smooth steady rhythm. When you "go hard" at the ball, the result is usually not as good and quite often, the ball ignores the flight path you had in mind. That's trying too hard, and just like Mr. Kostis says, it's smarter to try hard to not try hard.
Bobby Jones made the same point, and in far fewer words than I did above:
"You must swing smoothly to play golf well and you must be relaxed to swing smoothly."
So next time you are in a tense situation, like a forced carry, take a deep breath, slowly exhale, and consciously relax yourself before you take your swing. Take a couple of practice swings where you are concentrating on being smooth and mentally picture the ball going right to the target you have in mind. Don't say don't and keep it positive. If you can pull that off, you'll have a far better chance of pulling off that difficult shot.
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