TSS Blog

Over the past 15 years, research on focus of attention has consistently demonstrated that an external focus (i.e., on the movement effect) enhances motor performance and learning relative to an internal focus (i.e., on body movements). - Gabriele Wulf

Recently, I engaged in a discussion with a friend who is a golf movement analyst, exploring the pivotal role of focus in the development of swing consistency. Various opinions abound, suggesting that mastery of every swing position and sequence alone can yield precision and consistency at impact.

In essence, by adopting an internal focus and meticulously perfecting the procedural intricacies, such as transitioning seamlessly from one leg to another, orchestrating the positions of distinct body segments and the club, one purportedly attains automatic precision in ball contact.

This approach resembles programming a machine, much like the robot Iron Byron, yet it falls short when applied to humans. A human cannot replicate all that a robot does, and conversely, a human possesses unique capabilities beyond a robot's reach. While one might argue that the human body and brain function like machines, they remain inherently distinct.

Devoting attention to perfecting swing mechanics and bodily positions is undoubtedly valuable, but it overlooks the essential factor of direct sweet spot precision. Consequently, one may become proficient in executing the various body movements, yet achieving automatic precision during ball contact remains improbable. A mere few millimeters of inconsistency at this crucial juncture can lead to undesirable and erratic shots.

Mastering the fundamentals of the golf swing technique is a relatively brief endeavor. However, transitioning from learned knowledge to natural execution takes time, allowing for tension-free, fluid, and rapid swings. This progression can and should occur without fixating on hitting precision, or even in the absence of a ball—through practice swings.

Once this foundational swing form becomes second nature, one can shift focus to authentic practice—the cultivation of the skill to strike the ball with the sweet spot. As Moe Norman aptly put it, "Put this dumb guy on that dumb guy..."

Intentionally directing one's concentration toward striking the ball with the sweet spot stimulates the activation of neurons responsible for these thoughts, sensations, and actions.

At this juncture, the sensation of a well-executed sweet spot strike should assume primary attention, fostering the myelination of neural pathways associated with this feeling. Subsequently, as the body repeatedly strives for optimal sweet spot contact, other facets of the swing are inherently honed. The body instinctively aligns itself to facilitate the desired outcome—the precise sweet spot impact—thus inviting subtle modifications to the swing that the body itself desires.

In an interview, professional golfer Padraig Harrington revealed that visualizing and aiming for different shots triggers automatic swing adjustments.

Consequently, the crux of this matter emerges: when striving to enhance impact precision, success materializes by channeling direct focus into precise ball contact. The inverse is not necessarily true; dedicating separate efforts to other swing aspects—weight transfer, backswing, downswing, etc.—does not automatically refine impact precision.

Consider an example where one concentrates inwardly on perfecting their shoulder turn during the swing. Neurons associated with the shoulder turn—encompassing movement and sensation—are more intensely activated than those tied to other swing elements. Post-practice, the shoulder turn may indeed be well-trained, yet precise impact remains elusive.

Here is a picture of correct alignment:

truck train

The truck, akin to the most commanding and influential "neuron," stands at the forefront of the procession. It exerts a formidable pull, effectively leading the synchronized movement of all other cisterns that obediently trail behind. Consequently, the entire task unfolds with remarkable fluidity and coherence. The truck assumes center stage, housing the engine, the steering mechanism, and the driver who orchestrates the entire procession.

Now, envision a scenario where one or two cisterns are positioned ahead of the truck, causing it to find itself somewhere amid the procession. The implications are dire, as the cisterns, lacking direction and situated ahead of the truck, veer off course autonomously, resulting in a disastrous outcome.

Top players emphasize a remarkable phenomenon: they sense the impact and anticipate the ball's trajectory even before initiating the swing. The moment they conjure an image of the shot and envisage the ball's flight, an impetus surges within their bodies, propelling them to execute the swing. Consequently, neurons associated with this visceral sensation and vivid visualization activate with extraordinary intensity, in turn, compelling all other neurons linked to swing execution to fall in line, much like the truck compelling the cisterns to follow.

The most harmonious progress is achieved when the truck and cisterns experience minimal interference. Should an attempt be made to equip one of the cisterns with an additional engine or steering mechanism, the seamless flow achieved when the truck exclusively houses these controls would be disrupted. The optimal outcome is realized when the truck remains the sole bearer of the steering mechanism and engine, with the cisterns dutifully adhering to its lead.

Hence, if the aspiration is to achieve a specific impact and ball trajectory, it becomes imperative to allow the sensation of impact and the vision of the ball's flight to shape the desired alterations to the swing.

This perspective resonates harmoniously with Harrington's proclamation, describing how adjustments in his swing materialize instinctively in harmony with his envisioned ball trajectory.

Naturally, the ideal focal point shifts in accordance with the skill level. A novice, upon acquiring the rudiments of the technique, typically directs their focus internally, honing in on the intricate movements of individual body parts. As the foundational swing mechanics become second nature, the transition to an external focus becomes opportune, as delineated earlier.

Random Quote

"Advanced techniques are the basics mastered."

From the 17th century Samurai Code

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