Trying Too Hard in Golf

Is there such a thing as trying too hard when playing a sport? Most coaches demand 110% effort from their players (although I never understood that saying)! As a coach of many sports, I expected the players to give their best effort for that day! Sometimes, it exceeded their average effort, other times they needed some motivational encouragement.

Golf is a different kettle of fish. Most amateurs, including myself, don’t really have that second gear to ‘step up’ our game. Unlike soccer, football, hockey, or rugby, golf is a sport where maintaining a constant effort wins the day. Golf is about control and focus for two seconds followed by minutes of patience and waiting. Unfortunately for most players, it is the two seconds of maximum effort that causes the problem in their game!

Swing mechanics is a critical aspect of golf. I could talk about set up, backswing, follow through and a million intricacies of a golf swing, but that is a discussion for another day. Today is about that 1/1000th of a second where a player decides to ‘help their swing’. In essence they are trying too hard to improve the results of their explosive movement.

I cannot pin point that exact time when you decide to make that 110% effort, but I can tell you that it happens faster than blowing out a candle. It is that millisecond of time when the world drops to slow motion like Neo avoiding the bullets in the matrix. And just as quick, time resumes it’s normal path and the results of our golf swing are disappointing!

Unlike Neo, we quietly scream for help! We are puzzled and confused about why our golf shot veered off course and is sucked out-of-bounds like a black hole absorbs stars! Generally, during those two seconds of a swing, our mind tells our body to ‘step up’ and our body responds with a “huh?!” and by then it is too late. A poor swing incurs.

Lost and Confused Signpost

Interestingly, the decision to try harder is made during the pre-shot routine. We decide that we need that extra 10 yards and start gearing up to do something slightly different. We stand over the ball and just before we start our swing, our mind tells our body to release the hands quicker or to increase our swing speed. The body naturally responds with a “huh?!” and the swing is over and our ball is in the cabbage!

My best results on the golf course occurred when I was under constant control of my swing. I stayed within my capabilities, but still provided the maximum effort for that day. I kept my thoughts clear and accepted the results of my swing without trying to squeeze out that extra little bit of distance. I just played golf and accepted the results of each swing.

My zen like calm does not mean I did not use course management to maximize my results, it just means that during my swing, I kept my proper tempo and let the club do all the work.

Trying too hard on the course is a constant battle for amateurs. It generally means attempting something we are unprepared to execute. Therefore, I recommend that you do not “try too hard”, but to focus on accepting what your swing has to offer on that day!

What do you think?

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

6 thoughts on “Trying Too Hard in Golf

  1. The closer I get to my first par round the more important this advice feels. The few times I have been close, this is exactly the problem that kept me from achieving my goal. A couple of bad shots during the round because some thought took place during the swing that caused me to adjust some way or other and broke my swing.

    Things that help include practicing my routine because that helps with setting the mind for the “normal” swing. It’s been hard for me to do though. I have always played fast. Alone I am done with 18 in 2 hours if the course is pretty empty and I don’t have to wait behind a foursome too long. Taking some extra time to go through a routine first doesn’t slow me down much. And the extra time it does take is worth it for the consistency gain.

    The practice I’ve done with shorter swings has helped cut down on the bad swing thoughts as well. A simple easy 1/2 to 3/4 swing with a pitching wedge to 80-110 yards has yielded less trouble and closer to the pin results than a full swing with a sand wedge after practicing the shot enough.

    And the last and most important issue is showing off. The better I have gotten, the more confidence I built, but also the bigger ego. The simple act of trying to make a shot that you would probably not have chosen if playing alone is a sure fire way to have a bad thought enter you mind while the swing is in progress and doom you to failure. Ego can take you out of your game and increase the frequency of these types of thoughts.

    The only other thing I thought it would be good to add is that as an amateur, we should’t feel too bad if we struggle with this. It is the most frequent reason for a pro’s bad shot too I would bet. And they have the benefit of psychologists to help them train their minds to keep them from happening.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jim,

    You’re preaching to the choir here! I definitely find myself trying too hard sometimes, or biting off more than I can chew. It’s often tempting but the best rounds are usually the ones that just happen “naturally”. Good post.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jim, great post! Today I am heading out to play for the first time in two weeks. Haven’t touched a club since my 3-day beach trip. I am simply thinking to accept what my game has in store for me, enjoy myself, and not try too hard. Thanks for the excellent advice!


    Liked by 1 person

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