Maybe not the most appealing of free swinging actions, but one of supreme golfing achievement no less. The man to your left is four time major winner and winner of 22 PGA Tour victories, Ray Floyd. He is without doubt a golfing great, one of distinct presence, poise, stature and grace. So his golf swing was maybe far from enviable in the eyes of many a modern swing technician, this maybe so, but what undoubtably stands him apart from many who have is quite beautifully captured in the following extract from his essential book, The Elements of Scoring: A Masters Guide to the Art of Scoring Your Best When You're Not Playing Your Best. He was a scoring magician, turning 5 into 4 and 4 into 3 he had the grit and drive to see the most disturbing of golfing nightmares turn visually into dreams of great wealth and golfing fortune. Enjoy his vision, marvel in his grace.
The Target Is Everything.
Good thoughts start and end with the ultimate object of every golf shot; the target. All other things golfers are encouraged to think can breed paralysis by analysis; target-orientated golf does the exact opposite. Rather than promote confusion, it induces focus. The more you can become target-aware when you're on the golf course, the better you will play.
When you're thinking only of the target, you're thinking only of the shot at hand and executing it as well as possible. Do that shot after shot, and you're truly playing golf. You'll be doing what the pros call "hitting it where you're looking." It' pure play, the highest state in the game.
If you want to be a scorer, you have to know how to mentally hone in on the target. That means always having one, whether in practice or on the golf course. By getting used to having a target, your mind will get better at taking in information and at narrowing down its focus. To be a scorer, make your target small: On a tee shot, rather than aiming at a tree in the distance, pick out a limb on that tree. Rather than aiming at the centre of the green, aim at a small discolouration on the putting surface. Don't just aim at the flag, but at the bottom of the flag. While putting, aim at the very back of the hole, or the exact blade of grass on the lip that the ball will roll over on its way in. Having small targets increases focus and helps shut out distraction.
All this target projection is done during the pre-shot routine. To illustrate how I focus on the target, I'll walk you through mine. When I'm within 20 yards of my ball, and often earlier than that, I begin to study what kind of shot I might want to play. When I get to the ball, I get the yardage from my caddy, assess where the pin is, and take in all the factors that will give this shot its own particular character, the lay of the land, the wind, the lie, etc.
After I've chosen a club, I really get focused. I back up to a position about 4 yards behind the ball, directly in line with my intended target, with the club in my right hand. As I let my senses absorb all the elements of the shot, I allow the club to swing gently back and forth, letting myself literally feel the coming shot. As I'm doing this, I let my imagination see the ball flying through the air to the target, its line and trajectory forming a visible path across the sky. I don't force the image to confirm to what I want; if it doesn't come easily, thats a sign that I'm not ready to hit the shot, and I back away until the image does come easily. I've found that the clearer the picture, generally the better a shot I'll hit.
With a vivid image of my shot in my mind, and a corresponding feel in my hand, I stride to the ball, gripping the club with both hands and placing my right foot in its approximate address position. I'm still looking at the target, and I don't look down until I step forward with my left foot and assume my stance. Once I'm comfortable, I look at the target again, more intensely than ever. As I allow my senses to drink in the target, I rock gently from left foot to right foot in a rhythmic motion and simultaneously hold the clubhead slightly above the ball and waggle, letting my body really get the feel for the coming shot. I stop rocking when my body feels loose and ready to fire and my mind is locked into a by now very specific target. With that image in my minds eye, I then make a swing that sends the ball to the target.
If at any point during my pre-shot routine I'm thinking of anything other than the target, I'm not being totally efficient. But if I've done things right, my only thought is where I want the ball to go.
It's amazing how often the ball does just that when you trust your target-orientated mind to direct your body in an instinctual, athletic way. I'll give you an example from the 1992 Masters. I had just bogeyed the twelfth hole and failed to birdie the thirteenth to fall two strokes behind Fred Couples, who was playing behind me. Then from the middle of the fourteenth, with the pin in the back of the green over a huge knob, I mishit an 8-iron and left the ball in the one place you absolutely cannot leave it on that hole-short.
I knew I had "done the no," and the Masters was slipping away. When I got to my ball, I was faced with what legitimately could be called an impossible shot. The bank was only about 20 feet in front of me, and it rose 4 feet at a very steep angle, with the hole on a downslope only abut 10 feet on the other side. If I had chosen to run the ball, it would have taken infinite touch to get it just to the top of the bank and let it trickle down to the hole.
In fact, even if I did it perfectly, it would still probably run by. And the risk was that I wouldn't get the ball to the top of the hill and I'd end up watching it roll past me back into the fairway.
There was no way to stop the ball by flying the bank. My only option if I wanted to give myself a realistic chance to save par was to punch the ball into the bank, hoping the upslope would kill it enough that it would take one bounce over the ledge and begin to bite.
Well, believe me, there was no way to consciously calculate this shot in terms of exactly where to land it or how hard to hit it. I just stared at it for a long time, letting my senses take in all the variables, literally letting my body feel the shot. I was totally trusting of whatever my body told me.
When I felt I had absorbed it, I took a 60-degree lob wedge and closed it down as far as possible. I wanted the most backspin on the lowest shot I could hit. It was the merging of two extremes. In my pre-shot, I looked at the bank, looked at the hole, and let the information filter to my hands. I didn't think of the potential disaster of landing too high up the bank, or even flying it completely, or chunking it short-all real possibilities. I thought only about what my minds eye was seeing.
I hit the shot solid, and watched as the ball slammed into the bank, took one big hop nearly straight up in the air, just cleared the top of the ledge, took two quick bounces, and dived into the hole.
I never made a more difficult shot from around the green, and certainly never in a bigger situation. It was probably the most amazing shot I've ever hit in my life. I didn't win the Masters, because Fred played great coming in, but that shot ranks as the greatest short-game shot of my career. It was eerie. It was the product of pure imagination, creativity, and all the resources that we have at our command but routinely underutilize. More than anything, it came from my intense focus on the target. That shot convinced me forever that there is no more powerful force in golf than the mind.
The Elements of Scoring, a masters guide to the art of scoring your best when you're not playing your best.
by Raymond Floyd.
Enjoy the game./