Monday, January 22, 2018

Enthusiasm or Dread

We had a great camp with 10 junior girls this past weekend.  We focused our time on how to practice, how to prepare for competition, how to think on the golf course and how to put action to theory.  The last is probably the most important message we relate.  If you can create an action that leads you to your desire, you can begin to form good habits that lead to your success.  How can you move from an idea to a habit?  The answer is, by creating an action that means something significant to you.

We offer simple rules for actions, such as when the club goes in the bag, the shot is over.  The action of replacing the club means you move on.  Another rule is take ten steps and move on.  In other words, you get ten steps to walk off excitement, anger, disappointment or hype.  The goal is to put yourself in your best mindset after those 10 steps.  Even if you have to drop from the same place you just hit it, take 5 steps away and 5 back before you pull a club. It's one thing to tell a player to get over it, but much more powerful to give them a system to do it.  These juniors loved it.  Now, we need to keep encouraging, reminding and applauding these actions when we see them.  When that 10th step happens and the body language snaps into place, we need a big thumbs up!

This is how you act after a shot!  This will help you isolate mistakes and not string them together.  One bad shot doesn't have to affect any more shots that day.  We added two more actions to the post-shot routine.  The first is, you can always go to your happy place.  Plan before the day what you will think of when you need to keep your brain from spinning over something that went wrong.  Between shots, relax into thoughts of you on the beach, with your favorite person or petting your sweet dog.  Then, the second thing is, as you near your ball, ask yourself, "What's the best I can do from where I am now?"  That one question will put you in the present and get you focused on action.  We always go back to action as the important feature for mental game.  By linking your mental game goals to a physical movement, you get to build habits based on action.  If you need to say this out loud to make it effective, go ahead.  No one really cares if you talk to yourself once in awhile.

We also worked on pre-shot routines.  Much like Lynn and Pia, who are the founders of Vision54, we teach players to have different areas for different tasks.  Here is our flow chart for our pre-shot routine.
 By actually putting shapes on the ground, it gives players visual cues for their responsibilities in each area.  In the Think Box, you will plan your shot.  You will take all the information you gathered, such as distance to hole, distance to front or landing spot, wind, slope, lie, etc and come up with the club and shot needed.  Then we step up into the V and visualize.  We aim it from behind and see it happen before we actually perform it.  We put an aiming stick between the V space and the performance circle to assure that players know that circle is a pure space.  It is for performing the shot and nothing else.  The action of stepping into that circle is a habit that produces the mental state a junior needs to focus on the shot at hand.  It was great to watch even the youngest players step out of the circle when they didn't feel ready when they played yesterday afternoon.  Catching them doing things right is important to learning.

We spent a great deal of time on routines, because the actions of a routine lead directly to readiness.  Your pre-shot routine is the bridge that carries you from your preparation to your performance.  Your post-shot routine allows you to create the mindset you want without it being reliant upon results. Both routines allow you to take actions that move you around the course matching your talents to the situations you will face.

One thing that we talked about that I believe is hugely important for a player is the enthusiasm to hit a shot.  When you step into your performance circle, you have to be excited for your shot.  You have to have a bit of joy in your heart.  The performance circle is when you are completely present.  It's a place for you to see opportunities instead of threats.  But so often, the performance circle is a place where the threats are overwhelming.  You step into a shot with dread in your heart.  You want to know how it comes out more than you want to hit it.  You have fear or nervousness lurking.  You are focused more on what you don't want than what you want.  Sometimes, hopefulness is the best you can conjure, instead of faith or belief in yourself.  All of those thoughts and feelings lead you closer to dread than enthusiasm.  Dread, doubt, fear, sadness, anxiety and result thinking have no place in your performance circle.  You can create an action that allows you to channel enthusiasm.  How about a little smile or a self-talk mantra such as "I got this!" repeated 2 or 3 times?  Come up with a performance statement that channels your emotion to enthusiasm no matter what shot you face.  Your routine is your time to be ready, so you can do whatever you want to get to a state of enthusiasm for your shot.

Fear sucks the fun out of golf.  Our biggest message to our junior golfers is, let's figure out how to perform and have some fun!  How can you be loose instead of tight?  How can you connect to what you want instead of avoid what you don't want?  How can you take your game to the course and do your best when it matters most?  The answer is to tap into the enthusiasm of what can be.  The ability to focus on opportunities and what you want is the key to being present in the moment and giving your best.  Belief in yourself means you know you can handle any challenge you face on the golf course.

It is always special to have our players as teachers in the camp.  They are living these processes daily and they relate them honestly and positively to the juniors.  Kenzie Wright took the time to explain to the juniors how tension in her shoulders was blocking her from a good finish in her swing.  She related to them that she dedicated a moment in her routine to focusing her energy into the middle of her lower back to relax her shoulders.  It is important for juniors to realize that their routine is their chance to be completely prepared for their shot and Kenzie's experience allows them to see how another player did just that.  She solved a swing issue by addressing her tension for a moment in her routine and that lead to better flow and better ball striking.
Kenzie with flow to the target at UNM South.  Great balance and target focus are keys to great play!

Brigitte talked about her path to understanding her confidence.  Instead of wondering whether or not she is confident enough, she now uses her routines to stay in the moment and have positive self-talk.  She quit chasing the elusive quality that doesn't have any action associated with it and replaced it with the actions of solid routines, positive self-talk and strong body language.  She told the players that confidence is a by-product of those things, not the overall goal.  It's important for junior golfers to understand that confidence isn't the goal, but mastery of their skills and actions is the goal.  That gives them the tools to move forward.

Me and B.  She has the best smile in the game and the best time to see it is during her play on the course.

We have a great team.  The players are enthusiastic, love the game and work hard and smart.  That came across to the juniors and it is the best message they can receive.  Golf is fun!

Team celebrations are the best and most joyous moments we have!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Picking a Teacher

Yesterday, I had a discussion with another pro about teachers and where we are on our paths.  Today, a good friend asked me what I thought of a popular teacher's style.  That brings forth the question of "how do I find the right teacher?"  It is a question that a lot of parents talk about as they follow their junior golfers around the course.  Here are some criteria I think might help you choose the right one.

  1. Make sure he/she is someone you trust and respect.  This person will be important to your child and will spend a lot of one-on-one time with her, so that has to be the starting point.
  2. Make sure the person loves the game of golf and the role of teacher.  
  3. Can you afford this teacher?  Does the teacher have time in his/her schedule for you?
  4. Does this teacher have the expertise to advance your child's game?
  5. Do this teacher's students suffer from injuries or burn out?
  6. Does this teacher have a plan?
  7. Does this teacher teach all facets of the game?
  8. Does this teacher watch your child play under pressure?
  9. Does this teacher talk about course management, the mental game & emotional control?
  10. Does this teacher inspect your child's equipment to make sure it fits and is good?
That is a lot of information to figure out.  If you are just getting started, you can probably start with just the top three items on the list.  As your child advances in the sport, you will want to continue to move down the list.  Often, parents feel the need to send their children to golf academies, because local teachers don't cover all of these facets of playing championship golf. That doesn't have to be the only answer.  You can sit down with your child's golf professional and come up with a plan.  As your child's skills advance, you can keep them moving forward by asking for everything on the list to be covered within lessons.  You can agree to keep lessons and practice fun.  You can ask for time on the course, but make sure you are willing to pay for that time.  You can do a 1-hour playing lesson if you plan ahead.  You can offer to pay for the teacher's time to come watch your child play 9 holes of tournament golf.  

Communication is the key to the relationship and you are paying the bill, so you can ask for any dimension of teaching that is possible.  Just remember, your golf professional is often paying 100% of his/her bills through lessons, so don't expect free time that they can fill with other clients who would pay.  

There is a lot of information out there in today's world and a lot of self-promotion.  Many teachers feel the need to keep up with social media as do all businesses, but there are a lot of good pros who aren't online.  Keep searching for a teacher who offers you what you need to get better and score lower.  Here are some of the things I see that I like in the pros who've worked with my players over the past 25 years.

  • They understand the schedule and do mechanical changes in the off-season.  They give simple, clear instruction during competitive cycles.
  • They teach motion more than position.  
  • They communicate well with the player, the parents if requested and the coach (me).
  • They give their students ways to practice with drills, checkpoints and an understanding of ball flight.
  • They treat the player with respect at all times.
  • They are positive and encouraging.
  • They have a plan for long-term progress.
  • They ask for stats, scores, feedback and videos.
  • They understand that results are reliant upon process and work-ethic.  
  • They are open to listen and respond to my input about what happens under pressure.
Finally, look for teachers who have success, loyalty and good relationships with their students.  Those three aspects of teaching tells the most about a pro's attitude, communication skills and connection to his/her students.  The best teachers in the world start as teachers, move to become mentors and finally become team members of their students.  The respect they get is equal to the respect they give to their student.  John Wooden's quote fits this idea perfectly.  "No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."

Monday, January 15, 2018

You Must Have a Vision

Our world today is one of instant gratification.  What have you done for me lately is a question on everyone's mind.  Celebrities tumble from fame due to their transgressions and athletes earn negative labels with poor showings in big games.  The truth is, we are all one misstep from being perceived in a negative way, but the important thing isn't other's perception of us, but how we perceive ourselves.  Our own vision isn't susceptible to the ups and downs of competition or missteps, because we know our long-term goals are in place.  We know the big picture and our place within it.  We know our character and intention.

Do you have a vision of who you are?  Do you have goals for what you want? How you view yourself will dictate your choices.  It will be what gets you out of bed when you are tired or sore.  It will keep you on a positive path of your choosing or take you down a path that leads to negativity.  It will be the guide to how you treat others.  Your vision of who you are and where you're going is your anchor.

What is your vision of your future?  Do you see yourself as a winner, as a leader, as a success, as a happy person or as someone with strong character?  If so, your daily activities will support that vision.  You will work hard to support your vision.  You will see setbacks as opportunities to learn or to adjust your direction.  Your character will be strong whether you are alone or with others.  You will be your own leader.

Everyone has moments of doubt, negativity and failure.  It is simply human nature to focus on what isn't happening, but it doesn't have to be your base.  In those moments of doubt or fear, you can commit to your vision.  You can think the thoughts you choose to think.  You can decide to be positive about your opportunities instead of focusing on your obstacles.

Let's relate this to your golf game.  Imagine you've just doubled your first hole of the day.  It is a pretty straightforward hole that one of your playing partners birdied.  You hit a poor tee shot and then 3 putted to add another shot to what was probably going to be a bogey.  Your head starts spinning with "what ifs" and negative self-talk.  We've all been there.  It happens at every level of the game.  However, the players at the top are the best at calming themselves and changing gears.  They know who they are and they can go back to that foundation for support.  Here is what their self-talk might sound like.

"Ok, deep breath.  That wasn't good, but there is a lot of golf left to play today.  I'm ready to do it.  I'm going to slow myself down and put my next shot into play by really digging into my pre-shot routine.  I'm going to see my shot and smooth it down the middle."  

It's ok to acknowledge your mistake, but then you must accept it and move on.  There must be resolve and action. If your vision of yourself is that of a good player who is up to any challenge, this is your basis for calming down.  However, if your vision of yourself is of a player who is up and down and not a great putter, you might not be able to calmly talk yourself into acceptance, focus and action.  You might not be able to break down the next shot into simple actions of slowing the pace, relying on your routine and remembering the swing thought that is your security blanket.  That poorly formed vision will keep you in a whirl of problem-solving, worry, doubt and fear of the future.  Your greatest tool in your mental game is your vision of yourself.  It is the basis for all other mental game goals.  

In today's world, there are hundreds of ways that your image is formed for you by others.  A string of bad shots might elicit a chuckle from a spectator that catches your attention.  A bad tournament might lead to questions by a coach or parent that leads to self-doubt.  A slump might cause you to look for other activities that aren't as painful.  Each big score is posted behind your name and your attention becomes on what isn't happening instead of what is happening.  However, if you see yourself as a player on her path to greatness, each of those occurrences will be bumps in the road, but not signs of doom or dead ends.

Our vision of ourselves often gets mixed up with our image these days.  Social media makes it tough to know that we're ok when things aren't going well, because we are inundated with other people's success and happiness.  Who would post a picture of themselves coming in last or making a triple bogey?  No one!  However, every winner has been a loser.  Comparisons make no sense if you have your own unshakable vision of yourself.  If you know who you are, what you stand for and where you are going, then your comparisons can be based on those things instead of comparing yourself to other people. 

Am I doing what I need to do today?  How would I want to be treated?  Am I doing something today that will make me better?  Those are questions and comparisons you can and should make.  Comparing yourself to others has no real value to your vision.

So, it's time for you to sit down and give this some thought if you haven't already. What is your vision for yourself?  Are your actions and words based on your character?  Does your daily schedule prepare you for what you want from your future?  How do you define success?  Who is on your team?  Who do you want to be?  Can you love the journey you're on?  

Over my years of coaching I've heard so many young people tell me that they would choose their profession based on how they were doing with their golf when college was finished.  They were in a constant state of judgment; always looking to results for their answers.  I've also heard from the select few who told me that they were going to play on the tour.  They said it unequivocally and then lived the process of becoming great.  It was their path.  Most all of them made it there to some degree, while only a few of the others made it on a professional tour.  The vision was the basis for the mindset, the choices, the daily takeaways, the work ethic, the commitment and the resilience. 

Golf is a tough game and no one will ever hit a shot for you.  The vision you have of yourself as a player and as a person is the foundation of your success. The choice of playing professional golf is simply an example.  You don't have to want to play professional golf to set your mindset.  You might want to play on a great college team while you're earning an engineering or business degree.  You can still see yourself as a champion, be a champion and live the life of one each and every day.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Where is Your Focus?

Sometimes team meetings take their own directions.  My goal for one of our meetings in our off-season was to get the team members to think through what they wanted to focus on in the 12 weeks between competitive segments.  I had recently read an article about how Warren Buffet sets goals.  He writes down 25 things he'd like to do, do better, change, learn, etc.  Then he circles five of them and lets the other 20 go.  I loved this idea.  Here is a recap if you want to check it out.

We had our individual meetings earlier and talked about stats and goals with each player.  The players all had a clear idea of what they needed and wanted to do.  So, we did the 25.  Then we all pared our list down to five goals.  I asked each player to talk through what they chose in front of the group.  I hammered them on their language as always, which makes the older players giggle.  If a freshman says, "I'd kinda like to maybe improve on my lag putting" the older players start smiling.  They know what's coming.  We talk in absolutes, such as "I will improve my lag putting."  So we started going around the table and I noticed a trend that I didn't like.  So, we stopped and talked about it.

The players were choosing five weaknesses or things they didn't already do.  I did the exercise along with the players.  Some of my five goals had to do with long-term projects and some with changing daily habits.  When it came to coaching, I picked what I thought was my best strength and vowed to keep it in mind in all situations and to rely upon it in all of my interactions.  It is to coach optimistically and with positiveness.  This was a different approach than most of the team took.  Only one player chose her biggest strength among her five goals.  Most chose their biggest weaknesses.

So, we stopped the exercise and talked about what leads to success, winning and low scores.  The team agreed that it usually followed days when the strengths were especially strong.  My players who make a lot of putts when they score well should keep their putting in front of them as a goal to strengthen.  My players who hit the ball well on great scoring days need to keep their ball striking in front of them as a goal.  My players who are skilled from 100 yards and in and use those skills to score, need to stay sharp in those areas.  After these conversations, we took some time to re-choose our five and then started again. The players chose more balanced five goals.  Some based on strengths they wanted to strengthen, some based on habits they wanted to start or stop and some on improving on weaknesses. 

It's important to improve upon your weaknesses, but not in lieu of bolstering your strengths.  I'd challenge you as you start your 2018 season to write down 25 things you would like to do, do better, do more of or quit doing entirely.  Then pick five to actually plan for and focus on.  Don't forget to include your strengths among the five.  They will be what lifts your game and allows you to go low.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Coaching in 2018

2018 marks my 25th year of coaching.  Over the years, my style has adapted to the players' needs, while I've continually worked to increase my golf knowledge and communication skills.  Have kids changed?  Yes and no.  Here are some of the ways they have changed.  They bring more knowledge with them and they have access to whatever knowledge is out there on the internet.  They don't always know quite what to do with what they know, but they know a lot.  Yes, they are more self-aware and image conscious than they once were as a whole.  Yes, they've had far more instruction prior to arriving on campus, much of it technical.  Yes, they don't rely on memory, but instead on search engines.  I'm amazed by what they don't know, but if it's trivial, it is seen as unneeded.  Yes, there seems to be more emphasis on achievement and perfection vs.desire and learning.  Yes, they might not make eye contact or openly talk much, especially on the phone.

None of these things are good or bad, they simply are cultural changes.  Imagine the cultural changes you had between your teen years and today.  The changes are based on trends in technology, globalism, social media and platforms for communication.  The focus on achievement is founded in our world today.  There is a definite have and have not society and all parents want their children in the first category.  I get it.  My job isn't to change any of my players' cultures, but to understand them and work within them.  Maybe to get them to loosen up a bit and remember to have more fun and less worry.  How have kids not changed?  They still want to be loved, have fun playing golf and feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves.  They still show respect and trust when earned and feel the need to give back to the world around them.  They have the resilience of youth and the capacity for very hard work and focus.  They are still the best part of the world we live in.  They are hopeful, thoughtful and positive.

Over the years, one of the things I've adjusted in style is the intrusiveness of coaching.  I listen and watch for cues from my players to offer coaching.  I've had players who've either needed very little coaching or simply didn't want to be coached.  Whether I believed them to be uncoachable or they were simply great self-coaches doesn't really matter.  My goal is to offer to them only what they ask for from me.  This is hard, because I have always believed I can help a golfer become better.  Learning it isn't about what I think or want means setting my ego aside and being more of a servant coach.   I've had great players on my team who've not needed much from me at all other than booking flights and reserving hotel rooms.  Often, the ones who are adept at self-coaching have gone on to great things based on the fact that they already knew how to structure their days and their games to achieve great things.  Some come to me so over-coached that they use college as their time to learn to be self-sufficient in thought and deed.  It has taken me all these years to understand and accept that.

Other players are like sponges.  They want to learn and grow quickly like a weed!  There is an inherent trust in our relationships and the give and take is good for all of us.  We all come away a bit wiser or more grounded after our coaching talks.  Even with those players, my goal is to help them coach themselves, learn to be self-reliant, accept their tendencies and work on bringing their strengths to the forefront when they tee it up on the first tee.  Perhaps the biggest adjustment I've made as a coach since I began the job is to understand that the expert on the player is the player.  My job is to be there for them, but they are the ones in the action.  In other words, I listen more and ask permission to ask for change.  Allowing my players more autonomy has allowed them to go the direction they want to go and trust their choices more than if they were simply following direction.  It doesn't make change easier, but it does make the commitment to it complete, which is perhaps the biggest indicator for success.

There is a lot of responsibility that comes with coaching.  You can be a mentor or a controller.  You can be a guide or a tyrant.  You can be true or false.  You can support or tear down.  You can ask or demand.  You can be patient or impatient.  You can develop or let go.  You can communicate or ruminate.  You can love or withhold love.  You can treat each player as an important person or you can think of them as a commodity.  I've seen both sides of each of these over my years and I'm quite sure I've been guilty of both sides many times.  What I've learned in my 25 years is, being on the right side of each of these dualities is often more important than the ranking at the end of the year.  So here's to 2018 and my 25th year.  I sat down to write this in the hopes of coming up with the one word that would define my year as Jon Gordon purports, but I found it impossible.  Instead, I have all of these hopes.  I hope to be a mentor to my players and other coaches.  I hope to be a guide who is honest and supportive.  I will ask to be invited instead of intrusive as a coach.  I won't give up on anyone.  I will love and value each member of my team.  

Monday, January 1, 2018

Solution-Based Coaching

Happy New Year!  Here's to the 9th year of the blog 12 Months of Golf!  It was started because I wanted to stay in touch with golf through the long winters in Vail, where I was working as a head pro.  It continues, because there is so much to share through the experiences I've had teaching and coaching golf.  It is important to me to write, because it focuses my thoughts and distills my learning and provides clarity.  It is important for me to share, because much of my learning has come from others.  It's simply the act of passing it on.  My hope is it inspires others to play better, coach gently, support endlessly and look for the positives in all things and all people.

If you are coaching yourself in the game or if you are coaching others, you will find more success if you focus on solutions.  As a young coach, my focus was often on problem-solving.  That meant I was constantly looking for problems.  I was in a "fix-it" mode and was reactive to the problem of the day.  If I successfully fixed a problem, it fed my ego.  A solution-based approach means you coach what you want to see from your team or from yourself.  It allows the players to make their own adjustments based on cues.

If you are self-coaching during a round and are caught up in problem-solving, your focus will be on the past, on your mistakes and on what is wrong.  If instead you are self-coaching in a solution-based manner, you will be thinking about what makes you successful, how you want to be, what are smart targets and how to do your best on your next shot.

It all seems very logical when written out in this manner, but in truth, problem-solving is the default in golf.  Taking the steps to be solution-based takes change and focus and you have to give up the role of the "fixer".

As golfers, we get caught up in a cycle of fixing on the range and on the course.  We think about what went wrong, how not to do it and what we want to avoid.  The entire cycle is based on avoidance and inaction.  If we are playing a different sport, our approach would more naturally move to solutions.  If you're playing tennis and your backhand is weak, you'd go to net instead of trying to fix it during the match.  If you're playing basketball and your jumper isn't going down, you'd drive the lane.  In the heat of the game, you make adjustments and compete.  Golf is the same!  The goal is to do whatever works and allows you to get the ball in the hole.  You have to change your mindset from one of worry and perfection to one of opportunity and competitiveness.  Simply put, a solution-based mindset allows you to do the best you can from where you stand.

My team has decided that this year, their mission is to play fearless golf.  It doesn't mean there won't be fear, because fear is inevitable if you are pushing your limits.  It's about finding courage in those moments when you have to hang it out there.  That would be the solution to fear; finding your courage.  If you get caught up in why you're fearful or when fear occurs, you get sucked down the rabbit hole of problem-solving your fear.  If you choose to be brave in moments of fear, you are embracing the solution.

Here's to another great year of learning, growing and performing when it matters most.  C'mon 2018, we are ready for you!  #fearless

Friday, December 15, 2017


Where do you place your awareness?  This is a gigantic question, because there are so many things, thoughts, people and conditions to be aware of in any given moment.  Your choices might be your key to success in your next round of golf.  Let's go through some scenarios of the importance of awareness.

You step to the first tee of the US Girl's Junior.  There are about 25 college coaches milling about, a woman in a blue blazer holding a clipboard, ropes, signs and a bunch of players waiting their turn.  The wind is blowing hard in your face and the afternoon sun is hot.  Your name is called and it's your turn to peg it.  Where is your awareness?

  • Have you noticed which way the wind is blowing?
  • Do you feel rushed?
  • Are you thinking about the coach of the school you really want to attend?
  • Do you see your dad out ahead standing expectantly?
  • Did the first player in your group take forever standing over the ball?  
  • Are you focused on your routine?
  • Do you have a game plan that includes your target on the first hole?
  • Can you feel your heart beating quickly?
  • Do you take a deep breath and get yourself centered?
  • Are you in your own bubble?
  • Did you remember to grab water, sunscreen or a snack?
  • Do you have your notes and hole locations?
  • Are you still thinking about how you hit it during you warm up?
After all my years of standing on the first tee waiting for that player I'm going to set off after, I've seen all of these scenes played out in group after group.  So much of a young player's success is based on experience, but your experience doesn't have to be the actual situation you are in at the moment.  You can prepare for the first tee of the US Girl's Junior by becoming great at your process whenever you play.  You can place your awareness where you choose and it can be consistent no matter the situation.  Here is an outline for you to start getting ready for the 1st tee of the major you have coming up.

Be aware of:
  • The time.  Make sure you have time to warm up your body, go through your routine, stop in the bathroom,  mark and compare your golf ball, grab a water and feel calm when your name is called.  
  • The conditions.  Take note of the wind on the driving range and think about whether or not it's the same as it was on prior days.  Is the course firm or soft?  Are the greens quick on the practice green?  Is the wind strong enough to affect the ball on the greens?  Is the bunker sand wet?  Then when you get to the first tee, make sure to take note of the conditions there, too.
  • Your body.  Are you loose or tight?  Are you pumped up and jumpy?  Are you focused?  Are you feeling centered and rhythmic?  Are you breathing deeply or from your chest?  
  • Your equipment.  Have you counted your clubs?  Are they clean?  Do you have your umbrella?  Have you marked your tournament golf balls?  
  • Your surroundings.  Take note of the teeing ground area.  Check in on the possible distractions so there are no surprises.  If you are on the 10th tee, know how much time it will take to get there.  Note the yardage you're playing from each round.  
  • People.  Who should you allow in your bubble?  Can you acknowledge people without losing focus?  Does anyone bother you and if so, what's the plan for dealing with them?
  • Your game plan.  Know where you want the ball.  Weigh the conditions and your feel with the path to your target.  
  • Your tendencies.  Perhaps the most important awareness you can have.  If you tend to rush when you're nervous, you can have a plan to go through your pre-shot routine slowly.  If you tend to grip it tight when you're on the first tee, you can put a moment in your routine to check your grip pressure.  
This is a lot to be aware of, which is precisely why you need to pick and choose how to deal with each thing on the list.  You can have a routine of cleaning and counting your clubs after you hit your last shot in warm ups.  You can take out your course notes when you arrive on the first tee and note the wind direction and how it compares to the days before.  Everything on this list can be surprising, off putting or a distraction if you don't have a plan for it.  Everything on this list can cost you shots or lower your score, depending on how you approach it.

There really isn't anything you want to be unaware of in your day.  If something helps you, you want to make sure to place it in your routine.  If something distracts you, you want to plan for how you'll deal with it.  However, you want your awareness where it will help you most when you step up to hit your shot.  This is the problem I see the most.  Players are often still fidgety or rushing when they step up the ball.  Their target looks are quick or even non-existent.  They often seem as curious as to where the ball goes as are the spectators. In short, they hit their first ball with more hope than focus.  

Where you place your awareness is based on your preparation and priorities.  Pay attention to how you handle yourself on the 1st tee of your next event and what helped you.  Keep a journal and keep the thoughts, actions, focus points and routines that helped you.  Also pay attention to what distracted you or made you uncomfortable and plan to alleviate it or handle it differently next time.  If you make your routine great, nothing will shift your awareness from the things that truly help you focus.  

This blog was about one moment on the golf course, the first tee shot of the day.  It was chosen because many find it to be the toughest shot they hit.  However, the process used to prepare for the first tee is the same that great players use for all of their shots.  They choose what they want to be aware of and allow that awareness to channel their energy in a way that helps them succeed.

Enthusiasm or Dread

We had a great camp with 10 junior girls this past weekend.  We focused our time on how to practice, how to prepare for competition, how to ...