Annika Sorenstam's 24-second rule
By Golfer Pacific editor Paul Gueorgieff
Annika Sorenstam has a 24-second rule.
It’s not a rule for everyone but it underlines the attention to detail that the world’s greatest women golfer went to.
Sorenstam revealed her 24-second rule at a golf clinic during the inaugural Australasian version of the Annika Invitational held in Wellington last month.
Sorenstam, 48, has been retired from competitive golf for 10 years. But when she was playing she found she played her best golf when it took 24 seconds to visualise and play each shot.
At the clinic the Swede showed how she divided her pre-shot routine into two parts.
The first part was about two or three paces behind the ball which she described as the think box.
“This is where I prepare and get ready for the shot,’’ Sorenstam told the tournament players and many others.
The second part was alongside the ball which she called the play box.
“This is where I execute the shot.’'
The 24 seconds was timed from the moment the velcro on her glove was wrapped together. Then came visualisation of the shot, stepping forward and finally hitting the ball.
“It’s pretty simple,’’ she said. “We think in the think box and we play in the play box.’'
Sorenstam had no doubt this was a key to her wonderfully successful career in which she won an incredible 72 LPGA Tour events and 10 major championships.
“This routine has helped me tremendously from a mental standpoint, a preparation standpoint, focus and also execution. It took me a few years to figure it out but it was that time that kept me in the right frame of mind.’'
Sorenstam said the procedure would put her in the right frame of mind which she said was critical because the longest distance in golf is between the ears.
“This is a drill to help you make a decision and then commit to the shot. When we are committed to a shot, I would say most of the time we are pretty successful.
“When we are not committed to a shot, we don’t get the results that we want.’'
Sorenstam could not underline more the importance of having a strong mind. It was something every golfer should work on.
“I believe that creating the right frame of mind is not by accident. It’s not just a freaky thing.
“I believe that you can be in the right frame of mind more often than people believe.
“The only way you can do that is to create that environment in your mind on your own. And if you can create that environment on your own, I believe you can shoot consistently lower scores.’'
Practice is obviously important but more important was correct practice. Sorenstam admitted as a younger player she fell into the trap of practicing what she did well.
“It’s fun to practice your strengths. And guess what I was practising — my strengths, because it was fun.’'
She soon learned that her short game was suffering as a consequence.
“So my strengths got better and better and my short game got worse and worse. It took a little while to learn that I needed to spend time on the things I’m not good at. It’s the weaknesses that define you as a player.’'
One of the things you can make a choice of in golf is your clubs. Sorenstam still plays in some pro-am tournaments and is sometimes surprised at the comments some golfers make about their clubs.
“I see players with all kinds of clubs in their bag. And when I ask about them, half of the clubs they don’t like.
“I would say why are you carrying them around if you don’t like them? I say take out the clubs you don’t like and put in the clubs you do like.’'
Sorenstam said when she was playing competitively she was never one to change clubs regularly.
“There are a lot of players out there that like to change clubs back and forth. I was maybe one of the few players that would stick with clubs for quite some time.
“It’s all about confidence, knowing how to hit certain shots at the right time. The last thing I want to do is take a new club in a new situation and have to worry if it works or not. Really make sure you have clubs that you like and are comfortable with.’'
Sorenstam is also big on having a positive mindset. We all play bad shots and she said it is fine to be disappointed initially. But the most important shot in golf is the next one and Sorenstam said it was best to have your good shots to the forefront of the mind.
“When you hit a good shot, put it in your memory bank. Remember those shots. Remember the occasion, where you stood and what it meant at that time.
“If you hit a bad shot, do not remember it. Throw all bad shots out and keep all your good shots. During the round there is no need to keep on talking about the hook you had with the three wood. It really does have no purpose.’’
Your golf grip is clearly a fundamental of the golf swing but so was breathing, Sorenstam said.
“If you grip your club and you start to see the veins in you foreman, you are probably gripping the club a little too hard.
“If you have a relaxed grip you are most likely to have relaxed forearms, relaxed shoulders
“And take a big breath. Breathing is important. You need to get oxygen into your muscles so you can relax. A relaxed swing is much more efficient than a tight swing.’'