It's no surprise that golf is one of the most difficult games to master. It's probably one of the few games that when the ball is being played it is sitting still. I think this simple fact contributes to the challenges faced by all golfers. Since the ball isn't moving like in other sports, the tendency is to swing the golf club at the ball as opposed to through it.
When I first started playing this game, I remember how much I was paralyzed by the ball. At the time I didn't understand it, but I just naturally wanted to swing at the ball. Not to mention that I was scared to death about where it was going to end up. I think a lot of golfers must feel this way. I can't remember the exact day or moment when I got past it, but I remember being frustrated on the range so I tried to convince myself that the ball wasn't even there. It forced me to just swing the club without a care in the world where the ball ended up. To my surprise, I hit the ball much better. Plus, it taught me to focus on the shot I was making, not the ball.
How does one swing through the ball, not at it? First, you should try to figure out if you are in fact swinging at the ball. One way to determine this is if you sense that your backswing and downswing are two separate motions. If so, you're probably swinging at the ball. If you sense a stopping feeling at the ball or a feeling of helping the ball into the air, you're probably swinging at the ball. The cure for me was twofold. I focused on the ball in a different way and didn't care where the ball ended up. What I mean by this is, even though I'm looking at the ball during my swing, my real focus is on the swinging club, not the ball. I try to look at the spot where the ball was sitting even after the club has struck the ball. Thinking this way forces you to watch the swinging club go through the ball as opposed to getting fixated on the ball itself. However, you don't want to overdo this either. The head will naturally want to rotate through the swing. Plus, most importantly, you have to have the attitude or mindset that you don't care where the ball goes. Being concerned with ball destination will cause all sorts of mid-swing manipulations and a sense of trying to steer the ball to where you want it to go.
In a nutshell, if you set up to the ball properly and make a smooth swing while watching the trace of the club swing through the ball, you are more likely to hit a good shot. However, you have to convince yourself that the ball just happens to be in the way of your swing. If you can do this, I truly believe you will make better shots.
Check out Pelican Bay North Course every Monday starting March 15, at 5:30 p.m. They hold a shotgun style nine-hole game. Cash is paid for skins and closest to the pin. For more information, call (386) 756-0040.
Sal Martignetti is an independent golf coach and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (603) 986-3376. His free e-book is available at elusivegolfswing.weebly.com.