The word that I hear most from my new clients when we first meet is “consistency”.
“I want to be more consistent… I need consistency. I wish I was more consistent.” It’s a word in Golf that, by itself, has no meaning. It’s only by digging down a little deeper that we find out what the person actually means.
The dictionary definition reads like this;
Consistency def. - conformity in the application of something, typically that which is necessary for the sake of logic, accuracy, or fairness.
Of course, I understand what is meant by this when it comes to Golf. It’s about accuracy and a repeatable swing. People want to hit the same shot over and over again instead of the myriad of ones that they don’t like. Military golf (left, right, left, right) is not consistent, nor is connecting well with one, scuttling one along the ground off the leading edge and following with by a huge chunk.
The problem lies in golfers being “consistent” in their “inconsistency”. It’s a pattern that most golfers at one time or another have struggled with and certainly as we learn the game, we’ll have this all the time.
For the most part golfers struggle to play “consistently” because they have no idea how to “fix” themselves and they struggle from one bad shot to the next trying to correct the previous one. This doubt and fear and “trying” to not “do that one again” has them in a constant state of flux and frustration. The not-knowing, confusion and panic pervades everything they do on the course and it becomes self fulfilling.
I think the whole issue stems from our reluctance to take professional advice to start with. For any number of reasons, people start out in golf and whack away until finally they realize that some guidance might help. Coupled with this is the “inconsistent” approach taken by many when it comes to practicing, set up and repetition of movements.
Golf is hard. When I talk to people about routines, practice, set-up, ball position, swing ideas, thought processes, commitment, language, state management and visualization, it is staggering how many people are inconsistent in what they are doing.
People for example, practice inconsistently. When they hit balls at a range, they have no pre-shot routine. They just beat balls with no target in mind, no consistency in ball position, no rehearsal swing, no thought process or intention. They allow the previous and badly hit ball to become the “coach” or advisor to how to hit the next one.
Here’s a simple idea when it comes to range based practice. Next time you go out to the range, decide on something that you are going to do in your swing or in your pre-shot routine that you are going to commit to do, they same way for 10 shots. It could be anything from focusing on your balance, your rhythm or trying to sense where the clubhead is throughout the swing. To begin with, just notice if you can stay committed to that facet of the swing throughout the entire movement. It may surprise you how your attention wanders to different things about your swing or the result. Stay on top of the urge and re-focus. Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott, the creators of “Vision 54” have some wonderful ideas and techniques when it comes to this kind of work and I’d also recommend Fred Shoemaker’s “Extraordinary Golf”.
To add a little more consistency to your game, try this ball position idea. Set-up to an 8-iron shot, to a specific target on the range. Take a note of your feet position by placing clubs or alignment sticks on the ground outside each foot, so that you’ll stand in the same position over the next few swings. Use tees to mark 4 different ball positions about 2 inches apart and hit shots from each of those positions keeping your feet in the same spots. Rather than thinking that you MUST hit a shot from a certain position, to hit a certain type of shot, just notice the results you get from each of these.
Then, and here’s the fun bit, just pick the one YOU liked best. If you got a better result from one of the 4, hit shots from that one and make a mental note of where that one is positioned in relation to your feet.
In golf instruction, there’s too much “you have to hit balls from here or like this…” It really doesn’t matter to me where you hit them from. If you like it, use it. But most importantly, start doing it consistently both at the range and on the golf course. When you set-up, just check that you’ve picked a target and then positioned yourself and the ball in the same spot. Over time, you’ll get better and better at this until it just becomes what you do.
To play better golf, we must take control of our consistent actions in all of the facets of golf. In life, we get good at things by being creatures of habit and by following consistent routines and processes. Why should golf be any different.