I think we have all been there. You are staring down a long par 4 from the tee box. The fairway is lined with trees on both sides. The landing area is "tight" and hitting 3 wood or iron is not an option, the hole is too long.
You pull out driver and tee up the ball, knowing to win the skin with your buddy you have to land this tee shot in the fairway. You take a few practice swings, address the ball, look down the fairway (it looks a little tighter than before), begin your backswing, and bang!
Your body tightens up. You hold onto the club and hook it into the tress. You think to yourself that bogey will now be a good score. You are upset at yourself and watch as your playing partner swings a smooth driver that lands the ball on the left side of the fairway.
You begin to grudgingly walk towards your ball, hoping you will find it, saying a few things under your breath, and questioning your swing mechanics.
What just happened? A situation that most of us have encountered at some time in our golfing career. We take some smooth practice swings, but when the ball is before us and we have to execute the shot we "tighten up" and hit a chunky, thin, or fat shot. We have allowed tension to seep into our golf swing. We all know that the swing is a free-flowing movement that requires your body to be loose.
Dean Reinmuth, one of Golf Digest's top instructors, speaks extensively about this term in his book. He discusses how a swing needs to be free and flowing. This allows for the club to travel on the correct swing path and develop club head speed. Muscle tension will impede and ruin your swing.
If your muscles are tight, how will you be able to swing a club in a free-flowing manner? You will not be able to do so. If you are gripping the club with a Hulk Hogan "sleeper hold," how are you going to swing the club freely? You can not. If you are unable to "feel" the club head, how are you going to swing the club freely? Again, the answer is you will be unable to do so.
If you have your doubts, give it a try. Head out to the range, purchase a bucket of balls and go at it! Warm up with a few wedges and then grab your 7-iron. Hit a few half shots and let's begin the experiment. First off, take the club and grip it as hard as you can. Now, attempt to hit the ball. What happened? I am guessing not a good outcome. One more time with our experiment, grab the 7-iron and address the ball. Now, when hitting the ball your thought should be: "I am going to hit this ball as hard as I possibly can." Go ahead, try to hit the ball. What happened? Again, I am guessing the outcome was not good. What happened in both of these situations? You developed "tension" in your swing, and it impeded your hitting the ball solidly.
Next question: how do you develop a smooth, free-flowing swing that is tension-free? Quite a few aspects are part of this equation. Developing proper swing mechanics is part of the answer. The swing is an intricate movement that is the "blending" of a series of movements into one free-flowing movement. In order to develop a "tension-free swing" you must develop your swing. This is a process that takes time, proper instruction, and practice.
Additionally, you must develop the proper mental confidence in your game. The example in the beginning of this article is a prime example. If you are not mentally confident in your swing, what do you think is going to happen on the tee box? Your body reacts to your mind and "tightens up," resulting in a poor swing.
How do you develop the mental side of the game? This is again done through the development of your swing, practice, and playing. As your game develops, confidence in your swing will develop. It is a give and take, so to speak. As your golf swing improves, so will the mental aspect of your game.
Finally, we must discuss the body. Yes, the body has an effect on a "tension-free" swing as well. Follow the logic, for muscles to be loose and free-flowing, they must be flexible. Being "tight" and not flexible puts you in a state of tension even before you get to the first tee! If you do not believe me, go to the gym and do 10 sets of heavy bench presses and then go to the range. See how well or poorly you hit that bucket of balls!
If your body is not flexible, you will not be able to perform the free-flowing movements of the swing. The body needs to be flexible for a tension-free swing. If you are inflexible, the ability to even develop your swing mechanics to a point where they are free-flowing will be impossible.
Bottom line is you need to develop your flexibility around your swing.
How do you go about doing this? The implementation of golf-specific flexibility exercises into a training program will do the trick.
The swing and the mind work together to develop a tension-free swing. You can not develop one without the other. A comprehensive approach is required when developing a tension-free swing. Working only on your swing mechanics will not work if your body is inflexible. Doing only flexibility exercises will not do the trick if your swing mechanics are incorrect. And focusing only on the mental side of the game will not work if your swing is a mess, and your body is as well.
A tension-free swing allows for great shots from all over the course. Developing this type of swing takes time and effort. You must train the body, the swing, and the mind. This is the ticket to your "tension-free swing".