ORLANDO, Fla. -- The "range swing is better than golf course swing" isn't exactly an exclusive club. In fact, from the pros to mid-handicappers, everyone has experienced this phenomenon. And for most amateurs, it's the rule instead of the exception, which is just one of the many reasons golf can be so frustrating.
Why this occurs, though, really isn't a mystery. After all, there's no pressure on the range. And while on the practice tee there might be targets you can aim at, they really don't mean anything. If you miss your target, you simply slide another ball from the pile onto a good piece of turf and take another whack at it. Mulligans are unlimited. You're not posting a score, there are no bets on the line and you never have to hunt for golf balls.
So, of course, the million-dollar question is how do we bring that range swing to the golf course? And how do you accomplish this most of the time?
There is a way, according to Steven Yellin, author of the book, "The Fluid Motion Factor."
"If someone is consistent on the range, that means they've developed enough muscle memory to be consistent when they play," said Yellin, who works out of the David Leadbetter Golf Academy Headquarters at Omni ChampionsGate Resort in Orlando, Fla. "It's just that they can't access what they already own."
The good swings are always with you
As the name implies, Yellin, who was an all-Ivy League tennis player in the early '70s, has figured out a system that allows athletes to access their best and most unencumbered motions, pretty much without thinking about them. It basically stems from these questions: When a high-level athlete -- whether it's in basketball, baseball, tennis or golf -- has a career game or day, how much thinking went on during the game or match? Were there many technical thoughts?
The answer is almost always the same from athletes who turn in great performances. There was very little conscious thought about technique and the effort level wasn't over the top. Sure, in golf, you have swing thoughts, but they can't dominate the process.
"FMF is really not sports psychology in the true sense, which, I might add, I am a big fan of," Yellin writes in his book. "Certainly, one needs to be in the right frame of mind, stick to a routine, be organized, and have a good attitude, etc. -- areas that sports psychologists work hard on with players. FMF is, in my mind, the bridge between the psychology and the mechanical aspect of the game. In the case of golf, it is all about hitting good, solid, on-line shots with effortless power."
The secret, Yellin said, lies in our muscle memory. Of course, the muscles don't have memory, but the memories of those good swings and how they felt are in the brain, and they haven't gone anywhere. The trick is accessing them, and Yellin said you can actually do that most of the time if you'll let it happen.
Think less, play better
What gets in the way is conscious thought. It's not that you shouldn't have conscious thought on the golf course, but it shouldn't happen during the second or so it takes to make a golf swing. There's not enough time to process those technical thoughts -- much less fear or trepidation or anticipation of what the shot means. Complex technical thoughts and fear make it nearly impossible to impart a fluid and free swing, which is what you need to play your best golf.
"You don't have to reinvent the wheel," Yellin said. "And you don't have to start from scratch every time you play golf. All you have to do is access what you already own."
A simple concept, to be sure, but it takes a little training to figure this out, which Yellin helps golfers do through what he calls Fluid Motion cues, first, on the range, then on the golf course and, finally, in competition.
Some of the exercises involve tactics such as counting backwards from nine to lower anxiety over the ball. Much of it is about getting in the right frame of mind when hitting shots. Or to use a term people are more familiar with -- how to get into the zone.
Another method Yellin recommended and uses with his students is something called the Focus Band. The no. 1 player in the world, Jason Day, swears by it.
The Focus Band is a neuro-feedback device that wraps around the forehead and connects via Bluetooth to smartphone app. It basically measures your state of mind. The app has an avatar of the user. Red indicated your mind is too busy for optimum performance. When two green beams emit from the eyes of the avatar, this is known as the quiet eye, when the mind is emptied of most conscious thought, and the athlete is free to access ability from a different place. It's the so-called zone, where good things happen on the golf course. Training with it helps golfers understand how to find the zone.
Fluid Motion Factor can benefit most golfers
The Fluid Motion Factor works best, Yellin said, for players who have grooved a swing. In other words, if you can hit well on the range, you can hit it well on the course.
But you don't have to be a college or tour player to benefit from the training, he said.
"You can teach a beginner using the principles of the Fluid Motion Factor," said Yellin, who works with pros such as Cameron Beckman on the PGA Tour and Gabby Lopez on the LPGA Tour. "In fact, high-handicap players probably need it more than anyone, because they're really thrown into the middle of the ocean, and a lot of times they can't access their mind-body coordination. But for the most part, I work with elite players who were top amateur, college or professional golfers."
Yellin also has certified instructors in different parts of the world, including a new Fluid Motion Academy in Denmark. Or you can also get training from Yellin himself at the Leadbetter Golf Academy. Sessions range from three hours ($775) to two full days ($2,500), which includes follow up training via Skype or phone calls.