Tension Is The Enemy of the Golf Swing

I had a revelation on the course yesterday. And although it was more of the smack-myself-in-the-head variety than of the burning bush, it was a revelation nonetheless.

I was standing in the fairway of the fifth when it hit me. Having just hit a six iron from 150 that travelled in a high, soaring arc and sailed far over the green, I decided to move down a couple of clubs and give it another try. This time it was a seven, and the shot fell twenty yards short. It was typical of the inconsistency that has plagued me for years.

But, as there was no one behind me and a foursome in front, I lingered a while longer and contemplated the situation. It was clear that the second shot just had not felt as good as the first. The group ahead was still standing on the tee, so I dropped a few more balls. As is usual, some shots went beautifully, while others travelled like they were made of lead.

So what was the difference? I took a few practice swings and thought about it. And the more I considered, the more evident it became that the on the good shots, I felt long and loose. And on the bad ones, I felt like I was stabbing at the ball.

And that’s when the voice spoke: Tension is the enemy of the golf swing.

It was not a new message. Indeed, it was obvious. But it was one to which I had not paid enough attention in the past. I know that tension causes all sorts of swing faults, but the issue always seemed to be secondary to grip, stance, backswing, avoiding an over-the-top swing and so on. I had always been convinced that if I was hitting the ball poorly, it was something technical.

But at that Eureka moment, I wondered if I had been doing all of those things right, and it was mere tension that brought me down.

So I took out an eight iron and gripped it—as Sam Snead advised—as if I was holding a baby bird. Ditching all swing thoughts, I concentrated on just relaxing. Then, letting out a deep breath, I swung.

And the ball flew the green. One hundred fifty plus with an eight iron. Not bad.

For the rest of the round, I was a model of consistency. I didn’t hit anything fat or thin and was one-and-a-half to two clubs longer on every shot. My hook disappeared. It was nice to play a round where I didn’t have to scramble on every hole.

Of course, it’s the nature of golf that—just when you think you’ve found the key, it eludes you once again. I am under no illusions that I have found the magic bullet.

But for now, I’m going to enjoy my revitalized swing.



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2 thoughts on “Tension Is The Enemy of the Golf Swing”

  1. This is a major part of my inconsistency.  I strangle the club.  For some reason, I cannot keep it in my mind to loosen up on the grip.  In addition to hurting my distance and consistency, it hurts like anything on the hard Tennessee turf, it tears up my gloves and it tears up my grips.

    But I cannot remember and integrate the inverse relationship to grip strength to consistency. 

    Part of it does have to do with fear the club will leave my hands, and part of it is I prefer to use leather gloves but wear them until there are holes and usually they are so dirty that there isn’t much more grip than my sweaty hands.

    I am trying to put this into my pre-shot routine.  Aim, address, relax grip, and count to 3 in the backswing.  But at some point I will get excited or impatient, and I strangle that club and then whip it back so fast I will lay the shaft across the back of my neck.


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