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 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.
#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.