February 24

“Design Thinking”, and How it Applies to Golf

Golf Lessons


There’s power in positive thinking.  I know you’ve heard that before.

There’s another mental technique I want to talk to you about, called “design thinking”, as Stanford professor Bernard Roth calls it.

It’s very simple, and as you can read here, in a nutshell, it’s about swapping out two specific words from your vocabulary with two other specific words.  Here, we’ll discuss “Design Thinking”, and how it applies to golf.

The way you speak not only affects how others perceive you; it also has the potential to shape your behavior. -Shana  Lebowitz

That’s no different if we’re talking about business, doing house work, or golfing.

Swap ‘but’ for ‘and’

As Lebowitz writes, “You might be tempted to say, ‘I want to go to the movies, but I have work to do.  Instead, Roth suggests saying, ‘I want to go to the movies, and I have work to do’.”

Now, as it applies to golf:

“I want to be good at golf, but I need to work at it” swaps out to “I want to be good at golf, and I need to work at it”.

When you use the word but, you create a conflict (and sometimes a reason) for yourself that does not really exist- Bernard Roth

Roth states that “(w)hen you use the word but, you create a conflict (and sometimes a reason) for yourself that does not really exist.”  Lebowitz adds that “it’s possible to go to the movies as well as do your work — you just need to find a solution (emphasis mine)”.

[su_highlight background=”#ece80c”]When we talk about golfing solutions, GLG can help with that![/su_highlight]

There’s no way around it; to get better at anything, you have to work at it.

You don’t necessarily have to work harder, but if you work smarter you’ll see improvements.  The word “but” can’t be a part of your vocabulary.

It isn’t about beating balls on a range for hours, or until your hands bleed, though.  That’s unnecessary, especially if you’re doing something wrong.  All you’re doing is ingraining piss-poor habits.

When you start to get tired, or frustrated with your output- to the point you can’t swing the club the way you want- just stop.  Go home, get some food, whatever.

If you don’t want to go home, do something else.  You could:

  • Go to the putting green,
  • Take a seat for a few minutes and check Facebook,
  • Work on chipping…

Just do something else.  The focus is on quality, not quantity.

There’s an indoor dome near me that I frequent during the winter months.  That’s the best, in my opinion, for the times when you can’t get out and do the real thing.

They have a putting green with a few holes, so when I get tired of swinging the club, I just go putt.  There’s something therapeutic about putting; the process, the breath control and just making the stroke.  “Zen-like” is the best way I can describe it.

Try it next time you’re on the course.  Swap out the word “but” for “and”.  I’ll bet you that you’ll find yourself playing better.

Swap “Have to” for “want to”

Roth has a very simple exercise: any time you feel the phrase “have to” coming, swap it for “want to”.

From the article, Roth says: “This exercise is very effective in getting people to realize that what they do in their lives — even the things they find unpleasant — are in fact what they have chosen”.

When you’re on the course, do you “have to” fly it over a pond 200 yards away?  Or, do you “want to”…?

You don’t “have to” do anything crazy on the course.  There’s no shame in laying up, or punching out from behind a tree, or clubbing down and swinging smoother.

There’s a hole on one of my local courses that doglegs left, with a grove of pines inside the dogleg.  As I’m a lefty, if I slice power fade the ball, I risk running into trouble.

You might be wondering, “why the hell would you risk it?”, which is fair.  I shouldn’t do it; the distance to carry the trees is right on the cusp of my carry distance.  But to play smarter, I shouldn’t say “I have to” try it; I should be asking myself “do I want to?“.  The answer’s pretty clear when put in that perspective.

Related: How to Get Explosive Distance Off The Tee

The point is, everything we do on the course is a choice, just as Professor Roth states.  Every shot, every play, has options:

  • Find yourself behind a tree?  Do you have to hit a low draw around the trunk, or a high flop over it?
  • Long forced carry over water?  Do you have to use the LW?
  • On a tee box with a tight, narrow fairway?  Do you have to use the driver?

No… those are shots that you want to pull off.  There’s nothing wrong with punching out back to the fairway, or hitting a smooth GW pitch shot, or clubbing down to an easier-to-hit 3w.

You can lower your scores by deciphering the difference between these two phrases.

Time for some homework!

I promise you’ll see improvement in your score.


About the author 

Justin Blair

Justin Blair is the founder of Green Lantern Golf. When he isn't bringing his 10+ years of excellent craftsmanship experience to golf club fitting, building, and repair, he's geeking out about Star Wars (he's watched them all about 8,437 times!) and things like the MCU and LOTR, he's drinking mead and craft brews. If you wanna know more, check out my About Page!

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