By Rich O’Brien
While interviewing Long Drive legend Mike Gorton he shared that the best tip he ever received was from Mike Dunaway when he told him to think of only one thing while hitting a shot. Gorton’s swing thought typically has been to make a full shoulder turn. A good swing thought serves the purpose of occupying the mind.
Some examples of excellent swing thoughts are “Take dead aim”, which was the favorite of Harvey Penick, and “See it, feel, it, trust”, which has been popularized by sport psychologist, Dr. David Cook.
Fred Gutierrez is a veteran that is paralyzed on the left side of his body after a traumatic brain injury. He also developed spasticity in his left arm and leg which means he suffers from extreme pain levels.
After watching me recover from my injuries by using golf as therapy, Fred asked me to teach him how to play. By the time I was ready to teach him he had obsessively read every golf instruction article he could find and watched Golf Channel for hours trying to learn pearls of wisdom.
It wasn’t long before he had 37 swing thoughts going through his head and it literally took one minute before he could attempt to hit a shot.
The first time I played golf with Fred I watched him for nine holes before I offered him more than encouragement. After hearing his laundry list of swing thoughts I realized that many of them did not work well when mixed together and that the conflicting swing thoughts were, in many ways, paralyzing his brain. I told him if he wanted to get good at golf he should use just one swing thought. Fred is the most spiritual person I know and he immediately responded “For the glory to God”. About a minute later I suggested that he modify it “Hands high for the Glory to God” because it would remind him to finish his swing.
Armed with that one powerful swing thought each swing became a form of worship for a very spiritual man and a miracle of sorts happened on the back nine. First, his pre-shot routine went from one minute to about 10.5 seconds and that allowed us to play the back nine one hour faster than the front nine. Second, with his hand finishing high on every swing he started hitting the ball very solidly and much straighter. His score on the front side had been a 64. Armed with this powerful new swing thought on the back nine he shot a 48. By using a powerful swing thought he had improved 32 strokes in one day.
This story demonstrates the amazing power that a swing thought can have. Every golfer should develop their own swing thought that will occupy their mind and help the player stay focused.
About the Author
Rich O’Brien is mental performance coach and the co-author with Fred Gutierrez of the book Half Paralyzed, Twice Strong which is now available on Amazon. The book has been called the most inspirational golf story in the past 40 years.