Tag Archives: coachofgolf
How many times has this happened to you?
Mid-round you start hitting it sideways, your score balloons and you for the rest of the round you literally don’t know where the next shot is going. Confidence is zero and you just want the round to end so you can go to the range to begin the reconstruction project that is your swing that has left you yet again.
The round mercifully ends and you immediately make your way to the range with a couple of buckets of balls. You hit your first shot and…wait, that one was perfect! Must have been a fluke. You hit another, What? That one was flushed too! You hit shot after shot and most are struck just like the old you. You ask in total frustration, “Where was that when I was playing!!!?”
We’ve all been there.
I’ve seen this scenario more times then I can count. When I was a University coach often during a tournament round I’d have a player really struggle. Afterward we’d go to the range to sort things out and he’d immediately and without much if any instruction from me hit it perfect. After seeing this pattern happen over and over I started to ask myself, Why? What I eventually determined is that a player doesn’t lose their SWING, they lose their FOCUS.
On the golf course everything is set up to make you uncomfortable. At it’s core that is really a course designers job. Beautiful lakes and brilliant white sand are fun if you are on holiday, but in golf those are the places of misery. The courses that are considered the greatest in the world are not easy, they are torture chambers. Course designers who are considered genius’s are really diabolical sadists.
Golf courses are set up to make you question every decision, see things that aren’t there, worry about things that actually are there and to create confusion and doubt with a variety of unpleasant obstacles. And if you know a course well, many times you’re worrying about holes you haven’t even played yet! Bunkers, water, trees, OB, etc. All of these distractions make it difficult to fully commit to your shot which translates into a swing that is not committed, which means that the ball is probably going fly to places you don’t want it to. After a while, you’ll feel helpless, which leads to even less committed swings which makes you think you perhaps you should be committed (institutionalized). Pause for laughter.
When this happens your focus becomes very wide. Meaning you see everything. Especially the bad things. You become so focused on the things you don’t want to happen that it becomes hard if not impossible to focus on the things you actually do want to happen. This confuses the brain which makes your body tense. The result, a weak and uncommitted swing. Time to re-load.
To combat this mental warfare we need to focus our attention on the smallest target possible. Try this, stare at something very small and notice that pretty quickly everything else seems to disappear. This is called Tunnel Vision. This tunnel vision sends clear signals to the brain on what you want to have happen. The result will be a far better shot.
This can also explain why you hit balls on the range so much better. There are no hazards or OB to worry about. Nor is there any scoring consequence for a shot flying off line. Since you are not playing for a score, your attitude is more carefree and thus you are more able to swing free. Which of course leads to a better result.
So the question is, How do you take your range swing to the course?
There are 3 things you need to do:
- The first thing I want is to completely focus your attention on the smallest possible target. Look where you want the ball to finish, refuse to look at where where you don’t want it to go. Try this and notice how the “tunnel vision” effect takes over. You won’t see much else other than your target. This sends clear signals to the brain on what you want to do. The result will be a far better shot.
- The second thing I want you for you to do is to have an empty head over the ball. There should be no technical thoughts and especially no worry or negative thoughts running through your mind. Now is the time to be an athlete, it is not the time to be analytical. It’s time to react, not think. If you do have negative thoughts over the ball, step away and go through your pre-shot routine again. You’ll end up saving a lot of time because you won’t be off somewhere looking for your ball.
- The last thing I want to see my golfers do is commit to make a full finish on each swing. A full finish to me means the club finishes well behind your head. Preferably the shaft touches you somewhere on your back, neck or head. This will help you get off your back foot and a million other things that encourage a good shot.
Regardless of level, a non committed swing leads to bad results. Even pros get nervous over shots or feel uncomfortable. They overcome this by being able to commit to their swing and live with the consequences. If it works for them, it will work for you too.
This article also appears in the September, 2018 issue of New Zealand Golf Magazine.
If there is one swing position that I think is the key for the rest of the swing, this is it.
Over the years I have noticed one swing position common to almost all tour pros regardless of their size or build. If you study the swing sequences from month to month in Golf Digest or Golf Magazine, you too will notice this position.
I don’t believe that there is only one way to swing a golf club; however, over the years I have studied countless tour swings on video. After seeing this common thread among the best in the world, I have made it one of the main things I focus on when teaching the golf swing. I know from experience that if I get my golfers into the pro position in the backswing that they will have the ability to play confident, consistent, top-level golf.
Here are the facts: Most pros keep the clubhead outside the hands when the shaft is parallel to the ground during the backswing (as shown in the photo, right). This not only ensures the club is on a great path, it also creates tremendous width, which maximizes distance. That’s one of the reasons the pros hit it so far. Even the smaller guys like Ricky Fowler pound it! He really exaggerates this move.
Most amateurs take the clubhead inside the hands and feet by the time the shaft is parallel to the ground during the backswing. The problem with this faulty technique is that once the clubhead comes inside the hands you are more or less on a recovery mission for the rest of the swing. This leads to bad habits and shots being hit impressively and embarrassingly off-line, going in multiple directions. End result: shattered confidence.
When I get my golfers into the pro position, they no longer fear going left. Once that fear is eliminated, they can swing freely. Confidence replaces fear. Not only does my students’ accuracy dramatically improve, so does their distance.
The great thing about adapting to this swing adjustment is that it happens so early in the swing it is easy to incorporate without feeling too technical. Once you have made it to this position, the only thing left to do is commit to a full, firm swing.
For those of you who whip the clubhead inside during the takeaway, when you first start to work on getting into the pro position, it will probably feel awkward, as if you’re taking the club on an exagerated outside path. But as Butch Harmon says, “Feel and real are two different things.” If something feels awkward, I say great! It is easy to “feel” what awkward is. So embrace that awkward feeling until it feels natural. You’ll love the results!
I’ll explain more about this move in my next lesson.
If you have a topic you would like addressed please leave a comment and I’ll get to it. Thanks for following!
Recently I read that the first New Zealand Mini Golf Open Championship was going to be played right here in Auckland. I thought, No way! I have to be a part of this!
Sure, like all of you, at first I was thinking, Come on, this can’t be serious. But everything associated with the event seemed like a big-time tournament. There was qualifying to get into the event, and there were par 2s, 3s and par 4s on the course. There is a New Zealand Mini Golf Federation, and there are even professional mini golfers! I quickly learned that this is pretty serious stuff and that competitive mini-golf is massively popular in Europe.
I couldn’t help but think to myself, What kind of weirdo is going to play in this event? Then I answered my question: ME! That’s who!
Over the next weeks I qualified and practiced enthusiastically. I’ve never played mini golf seriously before. The winner of the event would even gain automatic entry into the World Mini Golf Championship in Croatia later in the year! All the while I was thinking, This is can’t be a real thing. But at the same time I was thinking This is going to be an absolute blast!
I showed up on the day of the event to find that around 85 golfers had registered to play in the first NZ Mini Golf Open Championship. There was even a professional mini golfer (Allan Cox) who came over from Australia to participate. He’s been a professional mini golfer for 25 years.
I was a little surprised when I showed up. I was expecting a nuttier vibe. It was just a really fun group of people. Fun, and serious! I made it a point to talk to the experienced mini golfers. I spoke to the New Zealand current women’s and men’s national champion, Lucy Geisen, and Bobby Hart. Both have participated in the World Mini Golf Championships. I had to ask them two questions: Why? and How did this happen?
The answer was simple—competition—which was no different from the reason that I was participating. Bobby Hart is a soccer coach, and Lucy is an athlete who played many sports in her life, and both craved the same thing, an avenue in which to compete. AND mini golf is so much fun! Lucy and Bobby both also commented on the quality of people they have encountered through mini golf.
What I experienced as I teed off on the first hole with people watching and cameras pointed in my direction was the same first tee jitters I have felt during important golf tournaments. And over short putts, I felt the the same real nerves.
The format for the men’s division were as such: we’d play in foursomes in a 54-hole stroke-play event, played over 2 courses, with a cut after 36 holes. The ten lowest players would compete for the title in the final round. I was determined to make the cut. I didn’t think I could win, because I was immediately intimidated by the serious mini putt players. You could tell who they were by their equipment (special balls) and their outfits. Yeah, I felt like a rookie.
The tournament was run very professionally, with Red Bull and others as sponsors. There was a scoreboard, and there were first class trophies and rules officials. You had to sign your card after the round, too… all aspects of a traditional golf tournament carried over to the Mini Golf Championship. We had fans, media coverage, cameras, and a lot of cheering. I’ve been to The Masters in Augusta many times. I’ve heard the roars from distant holes. You even had that. Yes, even the roars and groans. Many of the holes were completely surrounded with on-lookers craning to get a view of the action. When you made an important putt or a hole-in-one, there was applause. It was fun to tip the cap in acknowledgement of the spectators—who appreciated fist-pumps with even more enthusiasm. There was a lot of energy and excitement surrounding the event.
After a few holes I settled down and was playing well. At the end of the first round I was one under, and I believe only one off the lead. I had even beaten the professionals in my group.
I started the second round slowly, missing some short putts. Hey, I admit it! I was nervous. I figured the professionals in my group would be very motivated to show their stuff in the 2nd round, and I was right. Both Alan (from Australia) and Bobby (the New Zealand Champion) came out on fire. They played well on the front nine, and I struggled. I pulled it together on the back nine and ended up even par for the round. Alan, the professional from Australia, came back strong after a disappointing first round and shot -4. Bobby played well the 2nd round, shooting under par after struggling in the first round.
We waited for about half an hour after the 2nd round while scores were being entered into the scoreboard, and we were all wondering if we’d make the cut. This time gave me a chance to get to know more about some of the hard-core mini golfers.
We were all a little nervous.
Then came the results… I was in! I made the cut! Mission accomplished. I was 4 shots out of the lead going into the last round and would need a strong showing on a tough and unforgiving course. Anyone within 5 shots of the lead had a chance. There were some tricky holes out there that could blow up your score. For example, there was a 3-tiered hole where in the first round I made a hole-in-one and the defending champ made a 5. So, anyone in the final 10 had a chance to win.
In the final round I got paired with a lad named James Turner. He is a professional rugby player from the Hamilton Chiefs. He and some of the other boys from the team who were on injured reserve came out to participate for a couple of reasons: 1) to have a laugh, and 2) to compete.
I struggled the last round in spite of hitting two holes-in-one. I was really disappointed! I thought I might able to win, but my nerves got to me. I missed some crucial second putts and also got some bad breaks, as you’ll tend to get in mini-golf, or any form of golf. I think I shot a 3 over par. I ended up finishing 6th, a respectable showing in my first mini putt major.
My 15 year old son also played in the youth division. He came 3rd, which was awesome.
Would I do it again? Absolutely! I already can’t wait till next year and have been contacted about joining the local professional mini putt tour.
This was some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I would recommend competing in the Mini Golf tournaments to everyone, golfers and non-golfers alike. I’m going to get as many friends as I can to come next year and give it a try. Anyone can do it, at any age! There are also divisions for youth, parent/child, and women.
Who doesn’t love mini-golf? Nobody. Not many other activities can lay that claim. We all have great memories of playing mini golf as a kid. Perhaps we should all do more of it, if for no other reason than to feel like a kid again.
SOOO much fun!! Give it a try if you can.
Seems I’ve been talking putting a lot lately with my clients. This is one of my favorite and one of my most popular articles from way back in 2012. Thought I’d repost it. It’s always relevant. Thanks to my friend Pete Bilheimer back in Savannah, Georgia, for posing for the photo.
Here’s a golfing tale with which we’re all familiar. If it doesn’t describe you, it surely describes one of your golfing buddies.
So, you’ve just bought a new Scotty Cameron because you can’t make a 4 foot putt to save your life. It sure is pretty! Not only that, it’s a trophy. It’s proof that not only are you a serious golfer, but one of taste as well. You can’t wait to show the guys because they’re going to want one too. They’ll envy you. Status, baby! That’s what it’s all about.
You go to the course and one by one each of your friends sees, inspects and takes a few whacks with your new baby. Everyone is drooling over her and telling you how good she feels. The attention is intoxicating. You’re a star!
So you now go to play your round and as you approach each green, everyone in your group has their eyes squarely on you—because now you’ll make everything. Right?
As the round goes on and the short ones fail to drop, you can sense your friends’ disappointment, because it’s the same old story. You’re still one of them. You have been exposed. Your buddies know that there is no magic cure in that stick. You use your same tired excuses, “I’ve just got to get used to it,” and, “It’s a little different than my other Scotty.” Then one of your friends asks, “What are you going to do with your old putter? Can I buy it from you?” You respond, “Which one? I have a garage full of them.”
Boom. The lightbulb finally goes off. You realize that your putting is not getting any better. You’ve struggled with the same problem for as long as you can remember, and worse than that, you are not so much a golfer as you are a “collector.” You own enough putters to start a putt-putt course. You cry out in desperation, “Why don’t I ever get better?!”
~ The End ~
When I give a putting lesson the very first thing I look at is whether the putter is soled properly. Sounds basic, but rarely do I see it sitting on the green the way it was designed to sit.
Scotty Cameron and other top club designers have dedicated their working lives trying to make putting easier for all golfers, both amateur and pro. However, not one of them that I know of has ever designed a putter that wasn’t intended to be soled squarely on the ground. Yet, I see more toes in the air then you’d see at a morgue. So then the question I ask is, “Why do you do that?”
If you don’t sole the club properly you are, in essence, voiding the warranty, with any putter. Club designers like Scotty Cameron are craftsmen. If he saw you using his creation incorrectly, he’d be sad. Don’t undo his genius.
There are many reasons golfers miss putts, but if you don’t set the club up properly before it ever starts in motion, you’re fighting a losing battle—emphasis on losing.
When the toe is in the air, many things are going wrong. For one thing, you’re probably standing too far from the ball, which means the ball isn’t directly under your eyes, as almost every teacher in the world encourages.
If you are too far from the ball, and your toe is in the air, you will pull many putts. When you get tired of pulling putts, you’re hands will say, “This stinks, I don’t want to do that.” Then you will begin to push putts. After your confidence has been completely eroded away, you will find yourself standing over 3 and 4 footers wondering things like, “Who am I? Where am I?” Then, it’s off to Edwin Watts! You think, “Maybe I can buy my way out of this funk.”
Fact of the matter is, all of your putters work! The problem is that most golfers adjust the putter to their own faulty set-up.
So, here’s the lesson: Sole the putter flat on the ground, then adjust your stance so that the putter stays soled properly. It’s pretty easy. Just keep inching in a little closer to the ball until the putter head is perfectly flat. Some of you will feel too close to the ball, but you’re not! If you feel too close, it’s only because you were too far away to begin with. In the proper position (second photo), you’ll use your hands less, your big muscles more, and you’ll hole tons more putts.
All golfers need to come to terms with the fact that they can’t buy their way out of bad mechanics.
Do me a favor. Send me the next 300 beans you would have spent on a new putter. Leave a comment and I’ll give you my address.
We’ll talk a lot more about putting soon.
I just got to see the first copies of the new book and over the next few days I’m showing the book around at the #PGAShow in Orlando, Florida.
Big News! The publisher (Punchline ideas) is pushing the release date up from April to February. A good sign!! The official release date is now on Valentine’s Day—which makes 50 REASONS TO HATE GOLF AND WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER STOP PLAYING the perfect gift for your golfing sweetie!
Charlie Rymer of the Golf Channel was gracious enough to read my book early on and even wrote a blurb for the cover. Today I got to hand him a copy for his golfing library.
More to come.
Here is a great tip to hit longer, straighter tee shots!
Do you hit low drives? Do you hit drives that curve a lot left or right? Are most of your friends longer off the tee than you?
If your answer to any of these questions is YES, it could be because you’re focused on hitting the wrong thing. If you want to smash longer, straighter drives then don’t hit the ball. You read this right– don’t hit the ball! Focus all of your attention on hitting the TEE!
If you look down after a drive and see the tee hasn’t moved there is a great chance you mis-hit your drive.
Anyone who has taken lessons from me has heard me say countless times, “HIT THE TEE!” It’s a very simple way to hit better quality tee shots. I tell my students, “I don’t ever want them to hit the ball, I want them to hit what’s under the ball.”
Here is why:
If you focus on hitting the ball there is a very good chance you will lift up during impact and the ball will hit the lower half of the club face. Hitting the ball low in the club face will result in lower, shorter drives that spin more which cause the ball to curve a great deal more left or right.
Something most people don’t know is that all of the top club manufacturers have built a “Hot Spot” on face of your driver. This spot is high on the face. If you do hit the tee, the ball will hit high on the driver face (in the hot spot). If you hit the hot spot the ball will spin far less. The result–the ball carries farther and because it is spinning less, when it hits the ground the ball will jump forward like it hit pavement. That is how the pros get the impressive distances they do. Yes, they do carry it far but much of their mammoth distance comes from the ball bounding down the fairway after it lands.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Ok then, how do we do this?
- Make sure the ball is teed up properly. We want to have half the ball higher than the top of the club.
2. Your main goal on the swing is knocking the tee out of the ground (or at least have it leaning forward) after your tee shot. If you look down after the tee shot and the tee hasn’t budged, UGH! Try again.
One thing I can promise you– the next time you’re on the first tee feeling nervous, if you ignore the ball completely and focus on hitting the tee, you’ll start off your round with a much better tee shot.
This article will also appear in February 2017 issue of New Zealand Golf Magazine.
Photographs courtesy of Elizabeth Witton.