Playing Golf vs Playing Golf Swing

Golf vs. Golf Swing

The dichotomy between “playing golf” and “playing golf swing” is one that’s frequently heard, but like any bit of jargon, it leaves many people scratching their heads.  In this short lesson, I’m going to discuss what it means and how you can use it to think about what you’re doing on the range and on the course.

Playing Golf Swing

If every swing is followed by an analysis of what you did right, what went wrong, and what cues you’re going to use on the next swing, you’re playing golf swing.  We’ve all seen this, and most of us have done it.  This is the guy who lays the sod over the ball, then steps back and makes practice swings while muttering about hip rotation.  It’s also the guy who walks into a shot with a bunch of swing thoughts.

When you’re playing golf swing, you’re focused internally.  You’re thinking about the pieces of your swing – shoulder turn, wrist angles, etc.  You’re not thinking about what the shot itself.

Playing Golf

Playing golf is getting the ball into the hole in as few strokes as possible.  In this mindset, you’re focused on all the things that affect the shot – lie, wind, etc – and what you want the ball to do.  You may give a couple thoughts to how you’re going to accomplish the shot you need – “I want a low shot, so I’m going to ____” – but the focus stays on the shot, not the swing.

Analogies to other sports illustrate the difference well.  If you’re playing basketball, you look at the defense and make a decision about where to pass the ball.  That’s playing the game.  If you were to look at the defense and think, “I need to bend my right elbow, cradle the ball in my right hand, then pivot my body while extending my right elbow and wrist to push the ball toward my teammate,” that would be the basketball equivalent of playing golf swing.

The Takeaways

#1) Staying in the “play golf” mode is hard.  It requires discipline to not make changes after a few bad swings.  Plus there’s the social pressure.  If you look mad and start rehearsing something after a miss, at least you’ll look like you know what you’re doing.

#2) Golf swing is for the range.  Working on your swing is fine, but it should be done on the range.  Just as importantly, it needs to be done with focus.  If you’re changing what you’re “working on” every few swings, or even every few days, you’re not actually working on anything.

#3) Staying in the “play golf” mode is worth it.  When you focus on playing the game, you will play better.  You’ll also have more fun.  Take in all the information affecting each shot.  Make a decision about the shot you want to play.  Visualize it and hit it.  Repeat for 18 holes.

Matt Saternus


  1. Matt, this is maybe the worst article you wrote. The main point is clear, it is better to “play golf” than “make swings”. However, for majority a golf swing is a very unnatural and often counterintuitive movement, unless you are scratch golfers, picking golf as a sport at young age and thus golf swing is a second nature for them. Even worse, this unnatural movement must be fast and extremely precise to give out a good outcome. I come to course to play golf, and I do. Until I mess up a shot, or even worse I mess up two shots into row. Immediately I switch into self correction mode (like most of us!!!) and start making swings instead. Or should I continue making bad swings? Though even if thinking the swing, I also check wind, lie, think strategy, have a clear vision of the shot… But you can’t make a shot without mechanics. PGA Tour pros rehears mechanics and think “swing” during their rounds, especially after missed shot!!! Recommending to bogey golfers (but also single digits) to just “play golf” is unrealistic!!! In golf a good golf shot is paramount if importance. If you are ignorant to wind, lie, or strategy but make good shots, you end up much better than paying attention to above and play poor shots… Therefore also comparision to basketball is totally wrong. In basketball the mechanics of passing, shooting and even dribbling are way more natural than golf shot. Complexity of basketball arises from the 9 other people on the court and increasing speed with increasing level. Complexity of golf is mostly concentrated in correct golf swing. With no time pressure.

    • Matt Saternus


      Happy Tuesday to you as well.
      Two questions:
      1) Why is the golf swing inherently less natural than shooting a basketball? I’ve never seen anyone walk into a gym and shoot like JJ Redick.
      2) How is thinking about mechanics working for all those bogey golfers now?



      • Robert Redekop

        First, I generally agree with Matt’s point in this article (love your articles by the way), but I wanted to give my answer the “why is the golf swing inherently less natural…”. Shooting a basketball uses our built-in (via evolution) hard-wired ability to throw something at a target we can see. In golf, you do not face the target and hitting the ball requires manipulating a tool instead of just throwing a ball. With practice it can become more “natural”, but the feedback loop we get while shooting a basketball – watching the ball (peripheral vision) and feeling our arms as they move on a line (hopefully) to the target – is a much shorter one with a lot more room for error and adjustment than the one we have when we are controlling the handle of a lever and trying to use the remote end of that lever to strike a very small target with very exacting conditions of path, face angle, angle of attack, all while trying to do that with speed. Thus, i believe that shooting a basketball is inherently an easier action for most people.

        Having said all that, please notice that this is way too much to actually think about. It cannot be done by a human being. We have to build up a mental model somewhere in our brains and let that model control our movements based on what we want to achieve. Matt mentioned before that all our swings are consistent and I agree – that mental model likes to do things in a certain way. Fiddle with that and you can actually make things worse. I think our goal is to use this model we’ve built and the metaphor of “just shoot it” to help us focus on our goal and let the model take care of the details. After their round, that’s when we go to the range and try to improve that !@#$ model.

        So, I’ve been there – nothing seems to work, absolutely horrible soul-destroying chunks and/or tops or other issues seem to be all you can do. Please note the seem however. Those horrible shots are, in reality, fewer than it feels. We just have to – somehow- mange to make them not bother us so much. That way we can do our post-shot analysis, assign it the weight it deserves, and let the mental model update. But when we get to that next swing, focus on target and your routine – then let ‘er rip! Personally, my routine usually includes one thought/feel to help me trigger better behaviour. And I’ve adjusted that thought mid-round based on analysis of serious issues, but I try to stick to 1 thought and hit at the target. I fail sometimes, but that’s my goal. (Not a scratch golfer, just a high single digit)

        And that’s my 5 cents. (I tried to keep it to 2 cents, but apparently I had more to say…)

      • Geoff Wattoff

        I don’t think the golf swing is any less natural than any other motion. There are two main problems I see with the guys I play with:

        1. Unrealistic expectations – We see the pros play and wonder why we cant do what they do. The truth is, they are tremendous athletes and they spend hours practicing. None of us would expect to throw 100mph fastballs but somehow we should be able to hit 300 yard drives with a 2 yard fade. If we tempered our expectations, golf would be a lot more fun.

        2. The plethora or golf instruction material that is available. While much of it is good, too much of it leads to paralysis by analysis. We have forgotten how to swing and have fun.


  2. Matt Meeker

    Spot on Saternus. I’m always amazed at how well I hit the ball when I don’t think – like NO thinking. Often it’s after a long time of no play when I’m glad to be out on the course. Other times it’s when I jump out of the cart with my Dad to just play a couple holes with zero warm-up. Muscle memory and such kick in and it seems the subconscious just knows what to do. Once I start thinking about the swing all bets are off.

    Sure, there’s times when I need a simple reminder – like actual shoulder turn when I’m getting tired – but I always try to keep it as simple as that.

    – Meeks

  3. Matt, I would like to suggest a book by W. Timothy Gallawey called “The Inner Game Of Golf”. Been a great help for me.

  4. I liked the article.

    Golf is the most insanely taught sport/game in the whole world.

    Playing golf swing is the fault (in my opinion) of grossly poor coaching even at the highest level.

    I’ve taught people to break 100 in less than 30 minutes:.. guys who were with ‘teachers’ for years and unable to stay out of the triple digits.

    It’s unfortunate…it’s a fun game when the ball goes in the air and close to where you aim…

    • Matt Saternus


      I couldn’t agree more. I think Adam Young has a lot of things figured out, and I hope the industry moves toward what he’s doing…though I tend to doubt that it will.



  5. You good golfers, who picked up a golf club as children, you do not realize how tough is golf to pick up in later age. Matt, my comment was really for people who did not play golf as children. To your second comment. I fully agree with you that overthinking the mechanics, or having 10 swing thoughts during the swing are not helpfull at all. And I also agree with you that you play your best golf, when you do not need to think about golf swing – simply because you play well. What is cause and what is consequence? Hit it well, and you do not need to think swing. Hit it badly and you WILL start thinking swing. As I wrote, Tour Pros reahears swings, correct their mechanics, think swing, as soon as they are not happy with their play. Yes, if they are on route to 59, you do not see them correcting their swing planes or set up… Again, what is cause and what is consequence. I also played my best golf when not thinking swing. Simply because on those days I hit it well from the first tee… My last outing I played well from 12th hole, not thinking swing. But only after 2 fixes done on first 9… And when I go playing careless, I play worse than when focused. Like most people.
    To your other comment. Ask 10 people, and I guess 9 out of 10 will tell you golf swing mechanics are less natural. And I willing to bet that you much faster teach people to look like JJ Redick when shooting (maybe not so precise) than you would teach them a swing which looks like Adam Scott (certainly not so precise…).
    Sorry for critics here, normally I love your articles and they are great!!!

    • Matt Saternus


      I didn’t play golf until my 20’s, so I’m not sure who you’re referring to with that initial comment.

      I agree that you that the question is one of cause and consequence. The research tells us that thinking about the mechanics causes poor performance.

      Finally, I am uninterested in what “9 out of 10” people will guess about what’s more mechanically difficult. I asked, “Why is a basketball shot inherently more difficult than a golf swing?” and am still waiting for an answer.



  6. Matt,
    Contrary to Peter, I think the basketball comparison was spot on. It’s true you don’t always think of all the permutations and body mechanics, but if your passing sucks, trust me, your coach will show you how. And speaking of great books, “The Zen of Golf” is terrific. The goal isn’t to hit the ball, but “send” it to your target. Takes a lot of the swing analysis out of your mind. Because if you’re anyplace but in your body, your shot’s probably going to be less than terrific.

  7. Over the years I’ve seen my “playing golf” evolve into “playing the swing.” Your game goes haywire and suddenly you’re looking for fixes and your confidence is no longer there making the problem harder to get away from. Playing baseball and basketball I never thought about the movements just react. It’s not easy to overcome that mechanical golf game. Good article.

  8. Kyle Antonson


    I would also recommend another book, “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect”

    • Matt Saternus

      Great book. I’m a big fan of Rotella.



      • Kyle Antonson


        This is what I enjoy about your website!

        When I began playing golf, I didn’t give much thought to swings and mechanics, I just played. As I got older and started to take golf more seriously, I began to worry about such things while trying to play my best round. I have found that the internet has actually brought down the average golfer due to the unlimited amount of swing tips and secrets out there.

        I recently have changed my approach to the game and have begun to actually play golf while on the course. For example, if I am hitting a fade or a slice in warmups, or on the first few holes, then I am going to adjust to play that shot for the rest of the round, not fight it. Golf is hard enough without fighting against yourself. (Not to compare but) Nicklaus would do the same thing, and only play what he brought with him that day. Tiger once famously won the Open without his driver because he couldn’t trust it.

        I not play in the mid 80’s and enjoy the game much more than I ever did. Keep up the great work with your fantastic articles!



  10. Tom Donnelly

    I agree completely with Peter. This article has it completely wrong and fails to acknowledge the realities of most of us for whom golf is a struggle. I would love to go out and play golf thinking of nothing more than shot shape, wind, elevation. Unfortunately, if I don’t think about how I’m going to swing, I never make the kind of contact required to achieve the shot I want to make and factors like wind and elevation become irrelevant. What’s worse, if I don’t make corrections as I play, I will continue to hit bad shots for the remainder of the round. My swing does not “self correct” as I play. In fact, when I’m swinging poorly, it gets worse if not corrected. That translates into extra strokes and less fun.

    Your analogy that the golf swing should be as easy and unconscious as throwing a basketball is a total fallacy. You only have to look at various basketball players who have taken up golf to realize how ridiculous this assertion is. Ask Charles Barkley is the golf swing is as simple and athletic as throwing a basketball.

    I sincerely hope I can someday go out and simply “play golf”. That I someday develop a golf swing that is so automatic I don’t have to think about how to do it each time I stand over the ball. However, after 8 years of hard work and many, many lessons, it’s still not automatic enough that I can afford to not think about what I need to do. Telling someone at my level to simply “go out and don’t think” is not very helpful.

    • Matt Saternus


      First of all, I am one of those people for whom golf is a struggle. I came to golf later in life, or at least not as a child, and have always had to work at it.

      To your points: why can’t you go out and just swing? Have you tried? I appreciate that it seems difficult to “give up” control, but I think the results will surprise you.

      Your point about Charles Barkley is poor, at best. One basketball player’s struggles with golf proves that golf is more difficult than basketball? What do you think would happen if we put a bunch of PGA Tour players on a basketball court? There’s no question that at least one would look at bad shooting a free throw as Charles does hitting a drive. More people play basketball than play golf. That doesn’t mean the motions are any more or less difficult.


  11. Although I agree with the poster, re: it’s really hard for the average recreational golfer – and especially one who took up the game at an advanced age – to separate Playing vs. Practicing …. I still think it’s an interesting and informative article, and a great reminder for most of us.

    I see way too many (average recreational) golfers taking way too long before, during and after each shot running through those mental checklists, practicing what they think they want to do (as per their most recent swing tip) and then doing the shot post-mortem….

    Was able to take a lesson from a Hall Of Fame instructor – the very first thing he looked at was my swing tempo .. with the putter! Then he explained to me the difference between “Playing the Game of Golf vs. Practicing Golf Swing” – the essence being every shot out on the course is different and none of them are what you practice on the range.

    (and all of this before even going to the range and evaluating my swing….)

    Again, this gentleman is a HOF PGA instructor and coach and I’m fortunate to have received that wisdom from him.

  12. A. Commoner

    Good grief, Peter! Find something else to do!

  13. Firstly, Peter’s comment is so far off the mark it’s laughable. Secondly, I agree with the concept of what Matt is stating in his post, but it can be even simpler. I strongly recommend everyone to try Darrell Klassen’s methodology. I’ve been playing golf for 45+ years now plus 12 years as a tour caddy and let me tell you this, the pros DO NOT work on mechanics as their principal swing method. They all have their own NATURAL swings ( as we all do ) and that swing works because they know how to use their HANDS correctly. PGA teaching pros worldwide, will not teach us amateurs how to use our hands correctly, because if they did they would all eventually go out of business because we wouldn’t need lessons from them anymore. Has anyone ever given thought as to why more than 90% of the world’s amateur golfers scores are in the 90’s or over 100. It’s not because they can’t play, it’s because the pros teach us wrong. Learn to use your hands correctly AND shape your shots and you will be a much better golfer. Darrell has numerous free videos on YouTube, so if you are struggling to break 100, 90 or even 80 then have a look at his videos. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the simplicity of his teaching, and it works provided you practice what he teaches. Absolutely NO mechanics involved.

    • Hands!! It literally IS all about the hands. But, if teaching pros taught the average player about the hands, they’d go out of business fairly quickly.

  14. I started playing golf after retirement, age 62, I’ve played for 2 seasons now,64. Talk about a hard game to play. Hitting a small ball that’s SITTING STILL, and make it go where you want it to !!
    I grew up playing baseball and was very good at it, so I loved hitting moving fast balls.
    The one thing I’ve carried away from a few instructions from a club pro and the many on line instructors is that the golf swing is the foundation of the game. So I’m not sure how you can even begin to play a 100 round of golf (that’s where I’m at) without thinking about what your suppose to do when getting ready to strike the golf ball. Please enlighten me….

    • Matt Saternus


      When you were swinging at a baseball, did you ever think about unhinging your wrists, or did you think about driving the ball into left field?



  15. Sean Frazier

    Good article Matt, this is something I’ve been trying to do more of lately. I know what I need to do but sometimes I feel like I get in my own head

  16. Great artice Matt!! Keep them coming!! #SecretGiveaway

  17. Christos Makris

    I think it’s a great article. I have a shoulder injury that prevents me from having the so called proper golf swing. I have adjusted and have done pretty well with my swing. I agree that the need to learn some proper mechanics is there but you need to just “Play Golf”

  18. Thanks for the article. I keep thinking about swing things instead of focusing on the target and swinging away. Thanks. #SecretGiveaway.

  19. Free give away club.

  20. Richard Moore

    Thanks for this I really did not realize I was doing this until I read this. I passed this on to my grandson who plays high school golf. Keep up the great advice. #SecretGiveaway.
    Rick Moore

  21. Zachary C Dice

    despite some negative feedback this article speaks volumes to me!! I’m a double digit handicap that almost always strings together at least 4 or 5 holes per 9 of par or better golf (so that should tell you how bad the bad ones are…) and almost everyone I play with can attest I’m an over thinker. 1 or 2 bad drives and my whole game swirls into a spiral of physics and how to expertise I’ve heard on one video or article. the “golf game” mentality is something I need to really work on keeping while on the course and it’s a great thing to see in an article for reassurance as well. #SecretGiveaway

  22. I agree with the article – also as a latecomer to the game (62) it is hard not to think about what I need to do to hit the ball correctly, but when I do that 7 times out of 10 I will screw up. I am better off thinking about where I want to hit the ball and keeping my mind focused on the ball, not wandering to other thoughts about swing mechanics. #SecretGiveaway

  23. Great article. @SecretGiveaway

  24. Your narrative is spot on and I have many personal memories that would prove you’re correct. As a coach, I find this so helpful that I’m going to print it out and give it to each of the kids on our high school golf team. Thank you very much and keep up the great work you’ve done for a long time. #GiveAway

  25. #secretgiveaway
    Anything and everything in Golf is valuable. Any recreational golfer who wants to improve, must practice.

  26. #SecretGiveway


    Plugged in Golf , even the home page is refreshing and very clear . Just viewed the article above and i PERSONALLY believe that it’s best to go for the option of getting all the elements working and THEN feeling more confident to hit the greens . Must be better to “go through the boring motions ” in the privacy of the range for half an hour BEFORE heading for the first Tee #SecretGiveaway

  28. Trent Rogers

    Good insight, I’ve gotten into the playing golf swing mode lately and even though I go out to play golf, “it” always creeps back in. I’ve played my worst rounds by playing golf swing.

  29. Timothy Vice

    Although this is interesting I’m really here for the #SecretGiveaway :)

  30. Spero L Kripotos

    Yes. #SecretGiveaway

  31. Nick Johnson


  32. I think you’ve just described my greatest failing as a golfer. I worry over each shot in technique mode rather than play-the-shot mode. Wish I wasn’t so technique conscious. Wish I could turn off my inner coach, if you will. It would make the game I love more of what I want it to be at this point in my life…fun.

    Thanks for helping point out that which I really need to work on, as much as takeaway, release and spine angle. Oh, and I’m all in on your #SecretGiveaway.

  33. Dayson pearce

    I started playing golf at 28 with no sporting background. Just when out played with starting h/c of 24 couple of lesson got myself down to 10 just playing and not think a lot about swing . Am now 50 and playing of 4 but I yo yo up to 5 and back to 4 . When I play competition and just swing and stay in the present I beat my h/c .but it’s the hardest thing to do and almost impossible for me to do on a regular basis. It is great advice and if you can do you will play better but it’s hard very hard to do

  34. I’ve wasted whole seasons playing golf swing! #SecretGiveaway!

  35. #SecretGiveaway

  36. Stan Dusinski

    It’s easy to lose focus on what you are doing, “play golf”. Everyone wants to improve by working their swing, but we all need to remember to play golf.


  37. I like your message about visualizing the shot you would like to play and proceeding to hit THAT shot. I did try your advise the last time I played with good results. I don’t think I play golf with too many swing thoughts, maybe with a lack of any commitment other than direction. Visualizing the shot shape and outcome do seem to help. Thanks for the strategy.

  38. Matthew Scheidegger

    Thanks for the info. Will focus on the shot to the target and not mechanics. #SecretGiveaway

  39. A great article with ideas that, in my own golf game, I struggle with. Thanks for bringing a refreshing look at the all important thought of actually playing golf. #SecretGiveaway

  40. I’m so in a Golf swing mode… good to understanding the difference. #SecretGiveaway

  41. Great article Matt. From someone who took up golf later in life, you are spot on when it comes to practice golf vs. playing golf. I have found that I have much more fun when I concentrate on the game while on the course and concentrate on game improvement while on the range. I found that out most recently when I purchased a few new clubs, and would hope to continue that thought process should I be a lucky winner in the #SecretGiveaway opportunity. Thanks again!

  42. This is one of the better debates I have seen on the internet for awhile. Comparing the swing to other sports is valid.
    I had a pretty good jump shot back in the day. When it wasn’t falling, I passed the ball more. I often wished I could let someone else take over my putter.
    #Secret Giveaway

  43. Been doing a lot of golf swing lately instead of playing what shot I have that day since I’m not getting to play much anymore. #SecretGiveaway

  44. Roman Stadler

    Great article

  45. Being a high handicapper and old guy trying to lower the handicap without giving thought to how you swing is difficult but I look to leaving the course with at least one positive memory, good drive, iron shot into the green, chip or put. If it’s none of these then usually a playing partner has provided a memory. What ever the outcome it’s still good to know you can try another day. #SecretGiveaway

  46. Very good advice stuck to it this morning and shot 76 very pleasant to not think so much

  47. That’s why when you play your best rounds you’re thinking of the game one shot at a time . Not one swing at a time.

  48. Bill Courtney

    Matt – Really good article – with much interesting comment and good suggestions from others also!!

    Couple of days ago, I was talking to our golf pro about driving the ball further by using an upward launch angle and how to do this ( I’m 77 and obviously would like to hit the ball farther – and I have a descending to flat launch angle presently ). He took me out to the range and we set up behind a 30 – 35′ high pine tree which was 50-60 yards in front of me. Then he said – “hit the driver over the tree!!!”
    I thought he was nuts, but after 4-5 tries I actually did it! And then, I did it 4-5 to 5 consecutive times with a better strike each time??! My angle of attack was ascending (approx 4-5*), and, my average carry was 20-25 yards further as well.

    I then said “Now what, I have no idea how I did that???” His response was “you and most guys in your handicap range (I’m a 13) have pretty good fundamentals, and you can see the shots you want to make – just go out, see the shot, and hit it!!” Well, I’ve gone to the range and played a round or two since this experience – can’t say this has worked every time, but I’ve had some really excellent drives with more height and distance then I’ve seen in awhile by simply imagining that tree in front of me and visualizing an upward angle of attack with the driver during the swing.

    Just my two cents, but seeing the shot and then executing the shot makes the game so much fun when you let it happen!!


  49. Just think one shot at a time not how you’re going to hit it. #supergiveaway

  50. A thought provoking article. Well done. I especially liked your point about the importance of avoiding the temptation to change multiple things in one’s swing, especially mid-round. That’s something that I think we all struggle with. It’s hard to focus on one thing at a time and work on it long enough to make it muscle memory before moving on to the next change. I think that’s part of why we get stuck in the cycle of playing swing thought. We never properly engrain any of our movements before moving on to the next swing change, so we always have multiple things to think about with every swing. A coach once advised me to pick a single swing thought to use during a round that correlates with what I’ve been working on and stick with that the entire round. That way, if I properly execute my single swing thought, but hit a bad shot, I have something positive to take out of that bad shot. I can also chalk the bad shot up to being part of the learning process. I think expectations during a round are also key. Dustin Johnson once said during an interview that he hits bad shots every single round and that too many amateurs expect perfection with every single shot. If the #1 player in the world expects imperfections, we certainly should. Bad shots are inevitable and every bad shot doesn’t necessitate a swing change. I have found that mid-round corrections, more often than not lead to overcorrections, and even more bad shots. I tend to play better when I recognize that a bad shot may have been an isolated incident and just stick to my original plan on the next shot.


  51. Steve DeMond

    My best rounds have come when I have not focused on swing thoughts, but merely on targets. #SecretGiveaway

  52. Gary McCandless

    Great article, thank you. #secretgiveaway

  53. Bruce M Eanet


  54. Thanks for the info. #SecretGiveaway

  55. Matthew Conville

    This is on point! When you focus on “playing golf swing” its possible to put yourself into a bad state while playing golf. Golf is a very mental game as well. When you focus on “playing golf” you are focusing on all the important things. What I do to help with mechanics is create a habit while on the driving range. This gets me subconsciously thinking about what I should be doing through the swing and set-up. I follow this same method while playing golf and has helped me tremendously.


  56. Ugh, this is me. It is true though, I tend to do everything better when I do the thing and not the how to do the thing aspect. Oh yes, #secretgiveaway
    Where else do we do this?

  57. I think you’re right on cue with this one. It’s about being in the moment and pulling the trigger. I struggle with this sometimes. I get to thinking about all the different things I want to accomplish and then try to make it happen during the swing. My instructor has always preferred that I work on the moves and swing at home and at times on the range…but says to forget about it once you get to the course and just hit the ball. And I think professionals are great at compartmentalizing this….but they do it more in terms of focusing on the certain move or feeling hoping it sticks….and then step up and swing.

    When I struggle, my big issue is usually that I’m thinking a lot about the mechanics and such, instead of just hitting the shot. One way I’ve tried to combat this is to make a practice swing or two behind the ball and then address the ball and just swing. Let my practice and prior work take over. Eliminates my technical, complicated, and detrimental thoughts….or at least that’s my purpose….doesn’t always happen of course.

    Such a fine line for sure, but I think all the swing thoughts of one’s swing and what needs to be done is certainly a big hurdle for all amateurs…..which leads to struggles they may not see on the range or even during rounds where they’re just messing around on the course.. #SecretGiveaway

  58. I’ve been playing golf for about 35 years (during summer /fall) and I still play golf swing. #SecretGiveaway

  59. I used this advise at the course the other day and found it was very useful. Made me think of

  60. Clayton Hall

    I find that if I go out on a non-busy course and work on my game, I accomplish more than on the driving range. #SecretGiveaway

  61. Craig Goodwin

    #SecretGiveaway is going to help my golf game for sure.

  62. love it #secretgiveaway

  63. Will Rowland

    KISS Method


  64. David Snazell

    I think I’ve found what I do! I play golfswing!

  65. Great discussion and BIG THANK to Matt for his reactions, though we do not agree with each other on many things here. And big respect to you, if you never played golf before 20s and got to low single digit and ability to play mostly golf, not swing.
    I am happy that Matt at least agreed that it is interesting to discuss Cause and Consequence concept. I also agreed that overthinking swing does not help on course, and that play golf is better than play swing, for those who can.
    Other concept is analytical people vs non-analytical people. I am an analytical person. I learned my English by grammar, vocabulary, lessons and only then developed it “on the street”. I envy people who have ears and brain to pick up language on streets… Similar is probably with golf swing. I need to know, what I am doing. Anything wrong with it, Bryson? ;-)
    Other concept is golf vs other sports. Most sports (baseball, basketball, football…) are reactional sports. You react there. Quickly. In golf, the ball is laying down waiting for you. There is no reaction, you have all the time you need to prepare for a swing. So any comparision with e.g. basketball need to be very carefull not to be off.
    “Why is a golf swing inherently more difficult than a basketball shot?”. I have never ever seen people having such bad basketball shot mechanics (and results) after some time of play/practice, as you can see on golf course every day by people playing for years. But I am not engineer of biomechanics to describe it, but just from looking at it golf swing is way more difficult, and by playing both sports, there is no comparision in difficulty of the basic mechanics. In golf, basic/correct mechanic is 90% of success. In basketball it is 50%. Mental aspects aside.
    To conclude. It is certainly good to play on the course golf (the swing you have) and maybe worry about swing mechanics only on the range, if at all. Problem arises on your bad day on course, you have option to think swing and try to find a fix (for that you must understand your/correct swing a bit…), or you just go on and hope you get back to it. As suggested above, we are all different people with different problem solving nature.
    Have a nice day all!

  66. #SecretGiveaway
    thanks for a great article…as a new golfer at age 64, to learn to enjoy the game is as important as the mechanics. If I don’t enjoy it, what is the point of the analysis paralysis?

  67. Re John.
    Sorry for one more post but this guy started with “Firstly, Peter’s comment is so far off the mark it’s laughable.”… then promoted Darrell Klassen… you judge who is more off the point of discussion….
    Darrell Klassen is a teacher who tries to teach that golf is simple and also thinking golf shot, not golf swing. However, before that step, Darrell surely teaches correct basis – grip, stance, plane, lag and finish, and then you can progress to think shot, not swing. Or you wonna tell me, that Darrell sends a guy with wrong grip, funny backswing and reverse pivot swing, falling backwards after swing, to the course “Hummm a mantra – I am Tiger and I am going to make shots today” and the guy breaks his best by 20 shots? Surely, he makes first the mechanical corrections!!! And sells that as playing simply afterwords… John writes that Darrell is not using any mechanics. Well, I see no funny swings in his videos of his advanced pupils…
    Quouting Darrel himself: “Pretty much every Pro has those same answers. (it’s just that no-one in the media talks about it much). We all were scratch as young teenagers or better because we worked on shotmaking. And we all got away from mechanical thoughts in our pre-shot routine.”. The point to notice is that Pros, he refers to, were all scratch at young teen age. And they probably started to play golf, not swing, somewhere on the way to scratch…. Still, our friend John claims importantly ” the pros DO NOT work on mechanics as their principal swing method.”, surely not!!! Because they mastered the mechanics before their early teens!!! Like Matt mastered the mechanics in his 20s and now can go playing golf… and we hackers struggling still with swing, wish him best of luck ;-) But even pros divide on more analytical and more natural. And look what most of them do after a bad shot. They rehears the shot again in slo-mo, focusing on mechanics – on the swing (!!!), making a fix. But it is true that next shot they probably play shot, not swing. As they are pros…

  68. Very true. My best and most fun rounds are always when I’m not thinking about my swing at all. #SecretGiveaway

  69. Matt, with the golf ball being static I think your article fundamentally misleading. Comparing other sports which are in reaction to an event in motion isn’t the same. I think most of us are hard wired to try and correct a mistake, kind of hard to do with out thinking… over thinking, will that’s something different and I guess that would have made a good article.

  70. michael paxton

    Great article as usual. #SecretGiveaway

  71. Keeping the focus is definitely the hardest part of this game, this is a great reminder of where to maintain the focus.


  72. Todd Williams

    I’m guilty of playing golf swing on occasion and it is usually when things are going bad. It is hard to just say I have work on somethings later and just play. #SecretGiveaway

  73. I thought the article/message was good. I am newer to the sport and do experience getting too focused on my swing faults while playing and and not having as good a time. I understand that it is part of the sport but I think it is good to have a reminder now and again to play the hole and relax a bit.

  74. Mark Heinrich

    Good to keep this in mind. Good article.

  75. Very good article # secret giveaway

  76. Daniel Dickson

    I think one point is being lost on a few readers. Unless I am wrong Matt Saternus, you are not saying that golfers should never “Play Golf Swing”, just not on a course. You should Play Golf Swing at the range, where you are practicing your swing. If you haven’t figured it out by the time you step up to the tee box, probably not going to figure it out in the next 30 seconds. I say this all the time to people, its my little line. #SecretGiveaway.

  77. Scott Underhill

    Interesting article. #SecretGiveaway

  78. I agree with most of the article’s points. In my own experience on the course is not the place to make your primary focus be mechanics, that is for the practice areas. However, as a high handicapper it is difficult not to think about set-up & swing. What I have tried is to follow the notion of ingraining my pre-shot routine to minimize having too much going on in my head over the ball. My on course pre-shot “mechanics” focus is just taking a proper grip & a practice swing and the play golf: step in, aim & hit it. My game is better & more fun doing that then reciting a checklist in my head for every swing. #SecretGiveaway

  79. This made all the difference for me for going from the range to the course…I used to got from the range to the course thinking about trying to maintain my “fixes” and translate them to the course…which worked for the first few holes (thinking: I can maintain this swing) until I either sliced it or topped it off the tee….then I would be like, what did I do wrong? And then I’d spend the rest of my round trying to fix my swing…now that I have identified my key flaws that I didn’t know I was doing (takeaway and closing the face plus setting up correctly to improve my ball striking)…I no longer swing a at balls to work on my swing before I play, rather, I now just warm up with a small bucket and practice mostly green side shots and putting…but my mind is on visualizing the shot and what I want to do and then commit. My mind is now on the game and course management not preoccupation with my swing. So, if I make a bad swing while playing , I don’t panic…I just go back to fundamental steps that got me to making good shots…but I don’t dwell on it…because that’s golf. But, the mental aspect of playing golf versus playing my golf swing has made all the difference in improving my game…thanks for all your advice and tips on this website…cheers!

  80. Oh and one other crucial thing that I forgot to mention…you still have to practice, practice, and practice some more…including visualizing the shot so you can think about playing golf rather than playing golf swing.

  81. Jessica Howells

    Awesome Idea. I like it. Thanks for sharing.

  82. Jacky Racky

    It’s really a nice and useful piece of info. I am satisfied that you simply shared this
    helpful info with us. Please stay us up to date like this.
    Thank you for sharing.

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