Golf 101: Locating a swing thought

By Bob Carney – Golf Digest


Every golfer in the Cox Classic needs a swing thought. Wander out there without one, my fellow competitor, and you might as well hunt geese with-out a honking tool, or whatever they call those.


How do you find a swing thought? How don’t you, is more like it.


Swing thoughts come at you from every direction in a dozen varieties and may last you up to three, four holes if they’re especially effective. Turn in a Barrel, for example, has lasted centuries, three or four holes at a time, making its author, Percy Boomer, a legend. Come to think of it, “Percy Boomer” is not a bad swing thought. Perfect combination of sensitivity and fury. Percy (backswing) Boomer! (downswing). Beautiful. We’re keeping that one.


Other popular ones, and let’s face it, you’ll prob-ably need four or five for your round are:


Imagine a Beach Ball Between Your Legs on the Downswing (David Leadbetter), a good one for the double-jointed; imagine You’re Throwing a Bucket of Water (Jimmy Ballard), for guys who still wash their own cars; and, imagine You’re a Patient Etherized Upon A Table by Tom Eliot, for the well-read alcoholic.


The first key to a swing thought’s success is your total commitment to it, no matter what the score or circumstances. You’re faced with a shot over water. You stay with your swing thought. You’re the last team member on the 18th hole to be playing their original ball and you’re hitting to a green with twelve bunkers. You stay with your swing thought. You’re down to the final putt and it’s all up to you. You stay with your swing thought.


The second key is your ability to know exactly when to abandon your swing thought. Say, you’ve just chunked a gap wedge, your teammates are shaking their heads and your inner monologue veers into: “Turn in a barrel, my ass! From now on, I’m just Gripping It and Ripping It! (John Daly)” That’s a swing-thought transition if there ever was one. Well done.


Some swing thoughts are almost poetic: Hold it Like You Would a Bird (Sam Snead); Feel Oily When You Swing (Bob Toski), Hold the Club as Lightly as a Feather (Davis Love Jr.). Some are geometric: Maintain the Triangle (Ballard again); Square to Square (Jim Flick) and Hold the Angle (George Meade). Some are compassionate—Be Your Own Best Friend (Bob Rotella)—but many are violent border-in on homicidal: Take Dead Aim (Harvey Penick); Drive a Nail into the Back of the Ball (Snead), Imagine Clinton’s Face on the Ball (The Other Clinton). Don’t let a good one frighten you.


Before your round, on the range, monitor your mood. Are you just happy to be here? Do you nod at your fellow practicers and say things like, “Sure beats work, doesn’t it?” or “Let’s play two!” In that case you’ll need a thought like, “Be the Ball” (Carl Spackler) or Nanananananana (Ty Webb). However, be prepared to change swing thoughts almost immediately. Have a back-up ready, such as, “Beat it Senseless,” as reality descends. If, on the other hand, you feel nothing but frustration, anger and rage on the range, be confident that you are, indeed, close to your chakra. A swing thought such as “It’s Pointless, Let’s Get this Over With,” or “Next Year I’m Just Sending a Check,” might work beautifully.


As you may have surmised, we recommend that you use only one swing thought at a time. Having more than one is like conducting an affair. It briefly appears to work, but then you’re basket case.


Most successful swing thought ever? This has been debated from the time of Seymour Dunn (“Continue in a State of Grace Until it is Succeeded by a State of Glory”) to today’s era of Tiger and his guru, Hank Haney (“Swing as @#$%^&*! Hard As You Possibly Can, but Make Sure You’re On Plane”). I can only speak for myself, but there is one very effective swing thought I would recommend to you. Five syllables: Scar – lett Jo – han – sson

© 2020 Steven A. Cox Foundation

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