Tag Archives: golf strategy

You Don’t Lose Your Swing, You Lose Your Focus.

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.

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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?

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There are 3 things you need to do:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

 

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Wind + Machismo = High Scores

As a coach I observe a lot of golf. I observe much more than I play. As I study golfers, I notice tendencies in individuals, teams, demographics, whatever. After years of observation coaches develop a sort of sixth sense. I now have the ability to see into the future. I can see the mistakes that golfers are going make before they happen. As a result, watching golf can be a very sad and predictable affair for me. In this lesson I am going to speak of one of the most frustrating miscalculations that I see. It involves playing in windy conditions.

Here’s the scenario:

Lets say Joe Golfer shows up at the course to play, and today it’s gonna’ be windy — a constant 20 mile per hour wind. He gets to the first tee and the hole is playing straight downwind. Joe hits a much longer drive than usual, because the wind is pumping at his back. Because of the wind he then hits 2 clubs less than normal into the green on his approach shot. The next hole comes back in the opposite direction, with the wind straight into his face. He hits his drive solidly but ends up noticeably shorter than normal. He can feel the force of the wind on his face but on the approach shot he only takes 1 extra club into the wind. Of course his approach comes well short of the green and he is standing in the fairway with his hat off scratching his head wondering how in the world, because he is so manly, the shot could have come up so short. I’ve seen it a million times. This is one of the main reasons I see scores balloon on windy days.

Pop Quiz: If 20 mph tailwind = 20 more yards of distance then when does 20 mph of headwind = 10 yards less distance?

a) always

b) after 3 Red Bulls

c) never

I’ll wait while you think about it………..

The correct answer is c) never.

The force of the wind is EQUAL whether it’s in your face or at your back.

I don’t know if it’s ego or disbelief or what, but most golfers can’t find it in themselves to take enough club into the wind, and it costs them a ton of strokes. Here’s why:

Think of the course architecture of your home golf course. Green complexes are usually designed to have most of the trouble (bunkering and ponds) just short of the green or in the first third of the green.

Constantly coming up short puts tremendous pressure on your chipping, pitching and putting. The last thing you want to do on a windy day is put extra pressure on your putting. If you are always putting from 6-10 feet for par or bogie when the wind is blowing you’ll quickly find yourself losing strokes, energy and the ability to stay focused.

So, here’s the lesson: If you are hitting 2 clubs less downwind, you’ll also need to hit 2 clubs more when you are hitting into the wind.

There is no shame in pulling more club. No one has to know. Anyway, who cares? All that matters is score. Also, I’m sure you have heard that hitting less club into a headwind and swinging hard creates more spin and causes the ball to rise, or balloon in the air. Well, it’s true.

One thing I can tell you is this: rarely do I ever see anyone go over a green when hitting into the wind. And like I said, look at your home course’s architecture. Most of the time, missing long provides you a much easier chip or pitch than you’d have if you miss short.

Macho Man Tip: Missing long always appears more macho than constantly coming up short.

Friggin’ Brain

One of the ironies of golf is that you have to really use your brain, but it can also can kill your game. Learning how and when to use it is the key to good golf. The brain and the body should have a dialogue. However, if your brain is speaking when the body should be swinging, you’re gonna’ play bad golf. After their best rounds, all golfers say the same thing: “I wasn’t thinking about anything. I just let is happen.” Turning off the brain at the right time is crucial.

Standing over the ball at address for more than a few seconds rarely produces good results. If you linger over the ball on any golf shot, all your brain is doing is creating doubt and fear. I know, I know. You’re going through a check-list of all the things that you need to remember before you swing. While running through your mental list of to-do’s may seem like a positive, this practice is actually sabotaging your game.

Concentrating harder does not equate to better results. The opposite is actually true. If you let yourself be an athlete over the ball and turn your brain off during the swing you will have better results. You’ll swing more freely and you’ll have a lot more fun.

Scientists have determined that the brain can only think about one thing at a time. The key is to distract the brain from from thinking about golf while in the address position. In fact, Golfpsych, one of the top mental training programs employed by tour pros, recommends that many of their golfers think about anything other than golf between shots. Sometimes even while over shots.

Vision 54, another golf mental training program, teaches golfers to cross what they call the “commitment line.” You can think about technical things while you are behind the ball, but once you are over the ball you must rely on your athletic skill and intution. If while over the ball you start having technical thoughts you must then step away from the ball, clear your mind and start your pre-shot routine again.

What we need is a little self-hypnosis. When you drive your car to work you don’t think about what you’re doing or how it happens very often because we’ve done it thousands of times. Poof, you magically arrive without much conscious effort. You just let it happen. Your mind was elsewhere. You were on auto-pilot.

I like to have my golfers swing the club as soon as possible after they address the ball, not allowing time for the brain to do bad things. Brandt Snedecker does this. He commits, steps in and hits it. I work with many of my students to  determine the ideal amount of time it takes for them to get comfortable and then swing. On the range, I count out loud to train them on their timing. At first, most of them feel rushed, and you may, too. This makes sense, because almost everyone takes too long over the ball. As a coach I work together with my players to shorten their time.

While I count the player will settle into the shot. He sets his feet; sometimes there is a waggle of the club or a tug on the shirt. Each golfer has his own unique way of addressing the ball. I will count slowly, “5… 4… 3… 2… 1.” When I say, “one,” it is time to pull the trigger. Ready or not. Boom! Players are always amazed at how much more frequently they hit the ball great, once they employ the countdown. They quickly realize all of the prep work they used to do was no help at all. If fact, it hurt them! This is a very liberating discovery. Greatness was there all the time, hiding behind that friggtin’ brain.

The countdown is a great pre-shot routine to adopt because if your brain is busy counting, you are not thinking about your swing, or O.B., or hazards, or score. Thinking about that stuff keeps you from playing your best. The countdown helps get you into auto-pilot mode.

Get over the ball. Tell your brain to shut up. And swing! Make sure you yell, “Boom!” while the ball is screaming through the air.

Each month I will be doing another piece about the Friggin’ Brain.

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