hitting too hard

by Jim Corbett

One of the most common mistakes that people make when swinging a golf club is the attempt to use too much force in striking the ball. The fact is, the power needed to hit a golf ball does not come from swinging the club hard. It comes from the clubhead speed which is ideally generated as the wrists snap the clubhead through the bottom of the swing (at the exact moment of impact). And ironically, trying to increase that power by exerting too much power with the upper body can actually have the opposite effect than desired, due to the physiological effects on the body during an over-strenuous swing.

When you try to hit the ball too hard, a number of things happen that cause your swing to get fouled up. The first thing that happens is that your body tenses up which throws off your balance and tempo. (Balance and tempo are critical to getting a good hit.) The next thing that happens is that your legs tend to push up which elevates your upper body and can cause you to miss the center of the ball. (Not missing the ball is also a pretty important part of a good hit.) Another thing that happens is that as your body strains to hit the ball as hard as possible, your eyes will inadvertently close, causing you to momentarily lose sight of and concentration on the ball. (Eye contact is essential for getting a good hit.)

There are probably other physiological phenomena that occur during an attempt to hit too hard that will cause you to swing poorly, but frankly, these three seem like enough reason not to do it.

When people try too hard at life the exact same set of phenomena can occur. Think of a person who, for whatever reason, feels he has to win at any cost. Maybe you know someone like that, maybe you’ve worked with someone like that, maybe you’re married to someone like that (now that would be tough).

People that feel that they have to win at any cost can turn even the most casual conversation into a nightmare of competitive sparring and degrading “one-upsmanship.” They develop their skills and talents, not as tools, but as weapons where humor becomes a device to humiliate and intelligence is a snare to confuse and trap their hapless victim.

Just like the person who swings too hard at the golf ball, their tempo is off which puts them out of balance with the rest of the world. When you want to have a simple conversation or get some work done, they force you to keep up your guard. People find it difficult and unsatisfying to deal with their hacking, slashing style.

Consumed by a constant need to show their superiority to others, they often find they have missed their target completely. As they try to push themselves higher, they are confused as to why, despite their greatest efforts, they were unable to connect with others.

The answer lies in understanding the last of these phenomena. In straining so hard to make things work their way, they have inadvertently closed their eyes to the people and the signs around them . When you close your eyes, you not only lose sight of your own target, but you lose awareness of everything around you. It is said, “There is none so blind as he who will not see.” But that doesn’t seem to stop people from operating at “full speed ahead” with their eyes firmly shut.

Picasso (who, unbeknownst to many, was a 3- handicap golfer) once said, “It took me a lifetime to learn to paint like a child.” (I was, frankly, always amazed at that since my own children had figured it out by the time they were 4 years old.) But what Picasso meant was that it took a lifetime to strip away all of the burdens and baggage that we carry as “so-called” adults and get in touch with the pure, free and unadulterated person that lives inside all of us. Bob Dylan struck a similar theme in the song, “My Back Pages,” when he sang, “But I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”

There is a similar experience in golf, and that is: we must work our whole lives to learn to swing the golf club easily. Even though it seems logical that by swing harder we will get more power, we must overcome the tendencies we have to over-swing and to get distance and power by killing the ball.

If you are having trouble with topping the ball and shanking the ball and hitting fat and hitting thin, perhaps you should think about hitting the ball a little easier — maybe you’re trying to hard to get all the way into the cup in one shot. Maybe you should realize that by slowing down and taking a relaxed and balanced approach to your shot, you will, no doubt, connect a lot better and experience a better result.

When you swing, take a deep breath, relax and swing naturally — that is, be yourself. In golf and in life.

Hitting The Ball Too Hard