Tag Archives: new zealand golf

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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Commandment #6: Love the Fat!

After decades of coaching I have noticed that almost all golfers, regardless of skill level, make the same silly mistakes over and over again. Many of these mistakes are not swing related. Most result from a lack of awareness of course design, or a failure to play the odds.

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Long ago when I was a university coach I began listing the most common mistakes I saw golfers make on the course. I created 11 rules—known as “The Commandments”—to help my team eliminate common mental mistakes that cost them valuable strokes. Each Commandment was our do’s and don’ts list. We knew if we did not break one of these Commandments in competition that we would be successful. Following The Commandments gave our team a definite competitive advantage and had an immediate and lasting impact on our success year after year. In future articles I’ll discuss other Commandments. This month, I give you Commandment #6: Love the fat! In other words, aim for the widest part of the green. The area where the pin usually isn’t. The rationale: If most of the time you aim for the middle of the green, you will avoid short-siding yourself in bunkers, ponds and grassy areas. You will see your scores drop– dramatically and consistently. I know that aiming for the widest part of the green seems simple, but it takes discipline. Another added benefits of adopting this philosophy is that it will increase the odds of your ending up on the green by as much as 200-400%–- odds you should like! Because you’re hitting to a much bigger area! It allows you to post a good score, even when you’re less than perfect. Your rounds will have less stress and be more fun.

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Here’s a story from when I was a collegiate coach to illustrate the impact of this Commandment. One year my team was fortunate enough to qualify for a prestigious tournament called the Gordin Classic. Only the top 13 teams from the previous year’s NCAA National Championships are invited to play. That year we had an advantage: one of my golfers, Clint Colbert was the #1 golfer in NCAA Division III.

The tournament was a 54 hole event. The first day, the field played 36 holes. In the first round, Clint fired an effortless 7 under par, 65. AND he had to assess himself a stroke penalty because his ball moved on the green after he addressed it! Between rounds he revealed to me that he forgot to pick up his pin sheet. While collecting his scorecard from round one, I asked him if he wanted the pin sheet for the second round. I’ll never forget his response. In his Oklahoma twang he said, “Nah, I’ll just keep hitting the center of the green. I figure I can’t miss everything (putts)!” We both laughed.

Clint went on to shoot 69 in the 2nd round, and had a 7-shot lead on the field after the first day. Remember, this was the best field in the nation on a tough course. He went on to win the tournament easily. His 36-hole and 54-hole score are still a record for that tournament to this day.

A version of this article also appears in the February 2018 issue of New Zealand Golf Magazine.

Let’s Be Realistic About Your Chances of Making That Putt.

The PGA Tour’s Strokes Gained Putting Statistic shows how often tour players make a given putt. In this graphic I’ve flipped the numbers to show how often they actually miss, hopefully to provide a fresh perspective of what you should expect of yourself on the greens.

2nd putt

Notice that the pros seldom miss a short putt of 3 to 4 feet, but the odds of them missing a 10-foot putt jump to a whopping 62%! And surprisingly they only make a 30-footer 7% of the time. I don’t want to be a downer, but if you play once a week and practice putting for 10 minutes before you tee off, your expectations should be lower than the pros who practice 8 hours a day and play golf with millions of people watching. So, don’t beat yourself up for missing most of your putts outside of 6-feet. Even the pros miss…A LOT! What they don’t do is miss the next one.

Become a Master of Your 2nd Putt.

If you want to putt your best, practice hitting your putts the correct distance. Then really hone your skills from 6 feet and in. Eliminating 3-putts is your way to shoot lower scores.

How to do this:

This is how I started practice everyday when I was a college coach. The first thing my players did when they arrived at practice was to take their driver and stick the head in one of the holes on the practice green. Then, they would place a tee in the ground at the end of the grip. They would then remove the driver. This would leave a putt of a distance somewhere between 3 and 4 feet. They would then have to make 30 of those putts in a row. Nothing else would happen at practice for them until they completed this drill.

It becomes as much a mental drill as a technical one.

As you get into the drill it become pretty easy to make the first 20 in a row. Then as you get closer to the end you start to feel your heart pump and your hands shake a little. You’ve come all this way and you know if you miss you have to start all over again. That was exactly the point of the drill…to replicate tournament pressure.

My players became so good at this drill that on the course we would almost never miss a short putt. It was the difference between winning and losing.

You don’t have to do 30 in a row. Since your playing time is limited start by making 10 or 15 in a row. Then as you get good at the short ones increase until you get up to 30 in a row. After a time my golfers would usually complete this drill in usually 5 to 10 minutes. Become good at this drill and you’ll start to see a massive difference in your score.

 

This article will also appear in the December 2017 issue of New Zealand Golf Magazine.

The Pro Position

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!