Friday, September 30, 2011

How to NOT Have Fun on the Golf Course

 The Top Ten Ways to NOT Have Fun on the Golf Course! 

  1. Compare yourself to others.  For extra misery, pick others who do well what you do poorly.
  2. Judge your day soley on your score.
  3. Don't chat with your fellow competitors.  Your goal instead is to walk along silently and focus on your golf 100% of the time on the course.
  4. Fail to appreciate the beauty of the course, the sounds of birds or the colors of nature.
  5. Blame any problems on a: the course conditions b: the weather c: the pace  d: others
  6. Whenever you make a mistake, give yourself a good talking to.  Include derogatory terms such as idiot and moron.  For extra emphasis, dwell on the negative self-talk for at least a hole.
  7. Spend a good deal of time going over past shots in the round.
  8. Spend any remaining time thinking about the shot over water coming up on the next par 3.
  9. Picture your score being printed online while still playing.
  10. Look to your parents, your teacher, your fans for constant approval and base your happiness on their reactions.  Make sure that they can tell you are unhappy when you don't hit a good shot so they know you expect more from yourself.  Bogies should be followed by scowls, while birdies are what you expect, so no real need to smile. 

Golf is a game to be played. 

golf

[golf, gawlf; Brit. also gof] Show IPA
noun
1.
a game in which clubs with wooden or metal heads are used to hit a small, white ball into a number of holes, usually 9 or 18, in succession, situated at various distances over a course having natural or artificial obstacles, the object being to get the ball into each hole in as few strokes as possible.

game

1 [geym] Show IPA noun, adjective, gam·er, gam·est, verb, gamed, gam·ing.
noun
1.
an amusement or pastime: children's games.
2.
the material or equipment used in playing certain games: a store selling toys and games.
3.
a competitive activity involving skill, chance, or endurance on the part of two or more persons who play according to a set of rules, usually for their own amusement or for that of spectators.
 

play

verb (used without object)
45.
to exercise or employ oneself in diversion, amusement, or recreation.
46.
to do something in sport that is not to be taken seriously.
47.
to amuse oneself; toy; trifle (often followed by with ).
48.
to take part or engage in a game.
 
 


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mental Game Tools

What is my job as a coach?  In my mind, it is to free my players up to play the game at their best.  How do I do that?  Offer them the mental game tools to play with freedom to go along with the physical skills needed to strike the ball well, get it up and down and get it in the hole.  What are these mental game tools?  That is the subject of today's blog.



Today's blog is about the first and most important tool and that is the focus of a champion.  Focus in and of itself isn't a great thing.  I have coached players who had fantastic focus, but aimed it on the wrong things, such as being perfect, solving problems, or on past events.  Focus is powerful and if misused, can lead to just as many problems as a total lack of focus.  

The focus we want at SMU is simple and goal focused.  Here is an example of goal focused practice.  Practice Goal:  I want to be a great putter!  To do that, I need to roll the ball where I aim it and control the speed of every putt I face.  At practice, I will separate these two skills and work on one at a time.  When I work on speed control, I will focus on the rhythm of my stroke and match the distance of the putt to the rhythm I need to hit it the proper distance.  I will do drills that test my distance control and make sure I am great at controlling the speed of all lengths of putts.  When I work on starting the ball on line, I will set up things so I have feedback, like the gate drill and have Coach watch my alignment and where I am starting the ball. 


This is a focus based on results.  It is a focus based on what you want as a player.  It is the type of focus that keeps you focused on the future.  Players get in trouble when their focus moves to problem solving.  If you have a rough time at a tournament with your putting and come out of it asking things like, "why can't I putt?" or "how did I miss so many putts?" then your focus will not be on results.  It will be stuck in problem solving and aimed at what isn't happening.  Champions continually move forward.  They don't spend time thinking about what isn't happening.  If you do fall into this cycle, your brain will start answering the questions and you will soon have a list going of "why you can't putt".  Once that happens, your brain will get attached to a few of those things and defend them.  As soon as you get into this mode of thinking, you are spending energy trying not to do things.  That is energy wasted.

Mike Singletary, who played for the Chicago Bears, had a singular focus on the field.  He wanted to stop the ball from moving into his territory.

A great way to approach practice following a poor putting round would be to ask yourself some simple questions.  What can I do today to be a better putter?  Is there something specific I can do better?  Who can I find to help me get better?  What can I do in the next hour that will make me better?

These questions are results based and will take you closer to your goal of being a great putter.  There is a huge amount of power in having this consistent approach to your game.  This is how champions think.



How can something so simple help you so much?  First, there is a clarity of purpose and direction.  You know what you want and how to get there.  Second, there is confidence in keeping your goals in front of you.  If you know what you want, failures along the way are insignificant.  You can be open to failures as learning opportunities to help you refocus.

As coaches, Dave and I look at your stats, we watch your play and we come away with areas we think could be improved and also a clear sense of your strengths.  We come up with a finite list of skills that need improvement, we develop a plan to work for that improvement and we guide you through the process.  We also laud the strengths and encourage you to build on them.  We are always working on what we want to see.  We never focus on what we don’t want to see.  We never think about the reasons you aren’t great at certain skills, but instead we develop those skills with no thought of obstacles.  If you also approach your golf skills in this way, you will be in a mode of constant learning and openness, not stuck in defending what you do or reasoning why you aren’t achieving your best possible score. 

Have you gone to practice your game with no clear purpose?  Does that lead to your mind hopping around from one thing to another?  When you hit balls, do you have a target for your distance and direction?  Do you use your routine at practice?  Do you compare yourself to others on the range?  Do you become upset when things don't work the way you want or quickly enough?  Of course, no one plans to do things this way at practice, but if you don’t control your focus, it is exactly what happens.  An hour of practice with this approach leads to confusion and no progress.



How about your tournament focus?  Here is an example of an approach that is focused on results.
Tournament Goal:  I will have great speed control today on the greens.  To do that, I will take a good look at the terrain of the putt and notice slopes and grain.  I will allow my eyes to focus in on the hole and judge the rhythm needed to swing the putter.  I will be an athlete and trust that I will make the putt and take that freedom to the stroke.

If you have a three putt, do you stay in the goal or do you start to look for reasons you failed?  Can you stay in the mode of “trusting doer” and out of the mode of focusing on the problem of a prior stroke?  


Focus isn’t only the ability to think about the shot at hand, but also your ability to think about how to be successful.  No matter what the weather or the obstacles faced, successful scorers who stay in the mode of having a mental game plan and staying with it on each and every shot have a great opportunity for consistency in scoring and will tackle challenges with a mind focused on success.  Golfers who allow poor results to change their focus into problem solving or what isn’t happening will soon see their scores fluctuate based on their approach to the game, not a change in their actual skills.  Are you a consistent scorer?  Do you find a way to get the ball in the hole no matter what?  If you approach each round focused on the result you want, you will have a great chance to get all you can out of your round.  

This type of focus takes practice, motivation and consistency.  It needs to become a habit. It needs to start today and you need to commit to it no matter what the pressures or problems faced.  It is a big step toward consistent greatness.  Start at practice tomorrow.  Choose one skill that will help you become a great player and figure out how to work on that skill and improve it.  The next time you play a tournament round, decide who you want to be, how you want to act, what you want to think and how you will play.  Here is an example of how you can think about your goals. 

When I play my tournament tomorrow, I will be calm and loose out there.  I will focus on the shot in front of me and see it clearly before I hit it.  I will give myself a chance to shoot the best score I have ever shot by having a great attitude no matter what I face.  


It always helps to have a technique. In golf, it's all about visualizing. You have to practice; being in the situation is the only thing that helps. You have to make all the mistakes and you have to learn from them. The more you do it, the more comfortable you feel and then you learn.
LORENA OCHOA, Newsweek, Oct. 15, 2007



Good luck and if you do it for six holes tomorrow, that is a great start.  Make it nine the next time out.  Don't feel like a failure if you have to work at it.  Remember, if you are open to failures, they are simply opportunities to learn and refocus.  You can do it!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Golf Fitness for Young Players

One of the most common questions I hear during recruiting is, how does your team work out and what can I do to help my daughter get stronger.  This is a great question and it is really a pretty simple formula for fitness, but still very scary for parents who don't have the knowledge needed to lead their daughters through a workout.

In the old days, most golfers played multiple sports.  We played basketball, volleyball or other team sports when it wasn't golf season.  Our fitness was formed in the gym by coaches with whistles and our muscles grew with each season and the diversity of our pursuits gave us a balanced body.  Those days are gone.  Golfers now rarely play anything besides golf, making their fitness routine extremely important to prevent injuries and provide strength, body balance, explosiveness and speed.


The first goal in fitness is injury prevention.  For our purposes, that means protecting the joints, building core strength and providing the balance our muscles need.  Here is what each of those things entails.  Protecting your joints in golf means building the building the muscles around them and increasing flexibility.  The more developed your muscles are around the joint, the more they will absorb the vibrations caused by impact.  The muscles around your joint will also help with stability during the swing.  Finally, your muscles will be important for stamina throughout your round.  Playing 18 holes of golf while carrying a bag in 90 degree heat puts a lot of stress on your body.  Having strength will allow you to have consistency through your round.

Bear Crawl

Two crucial areas where many overuse injuries show up in golfers are the shoulders and the hips.  With a simple theraband, you can begin to build and stretch both of these areas to protect yourself.  Here are some links to great exercises for your shoulders.  Simple Shoulder Exercises  You will see in this link that the exercises are fairly simple and the weights should be very light or you can use a band.  Here is another link to a great fitness expert, Mindy Boysen, who shows us rotator cuff exercises that will help prevent shoulder injuries.  Mindy Boysen's Fab Four  Old favorites that we used in our warm ups are bear crawls and crab walks.  It is great to do fun stuff and use only your body weight to help you get a great work out.
Crab Walk




The strength and flexibility of the hips is often overlooked and one of the most important areas to focus on for good golf and injury prevention.  Maintaining great golf posture throughout the swing is reliant upon hamstring flexibility and strong hips and glutes.  This is often one of the weakest areas we test in incoming players and because the hip turn creates a lot of the speed in your golf swing, it is an area of focus for players who want to gain distance.  Once again, simple things can be done to increase your hip strength and flexibility.  The first exercise is hip abduction.  It can be done on a machine or with a theraband.  Here is a youtube video of abduction on a swiss ball.  Adding the swiss ball will get your core engaged.  You can also use a theraband loop around your feet and do monster walks and lateral steps.
More body weight exercises you can do are walking lunges, squats and box jumps.  All are great for strengthening the hips and glutes and developing explosiveness.

These are just two areas we focus on in our workouts at SMU.  We also develop core strength and overall fitness.  We do a lot of over and backs, which are runs across the football field to develop our cardiovascular system.  Our goal is to get our heart rate up and recover just as quickly.  This is important if you have to walk up a hill and then set up to hit an important shot.  There are plenty of sources out there for you to tap into to help you get started with your golf fitness.  Make sure that you warm up your body, do some stretching and don't do anything that hurts when you are starting out.  It is okay if you hurt a bit the next day though.

Find a trainer in your area or better yet, a TPI certified instructor.  Good luck!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Simpleist Things

A big part of coaching is providing your golfers with the tools needed to face the situations that come up in a competitive round of golf.  If you are a basketball coach and you see a player have a major momentum change, you can either call a time out or substitute for that player to make sure he remains in a positive state and stays focused on his game plan.  Golfers don't have that luxury.  There is no one to watch over your state of mind but you.  There are no time outs or substitutions.  Instead, it is up to you to recognize when you need to change your focus or state of being.  Once you recognize it, you then have to make the change and finally, it is up to you to commit to the proper state and maintain it throughout your round.


Here is how you can help yourself maintain a great competitive mindset throughout a round of golf, no matter what challenges you face.  The first step is to decide what mindset helps you play your best.  Every player is different.  Here are some examples of mindsets that my players have adopted and used successfully.
1.  Have fun!  This type of player recognizes that she needs to keep things light and "play" the game.  When coaching these players, we stay in the moment and never offer analysis or feedback during a round. 
2.  Visualize!  This type of players recognizes the process of seeing the shot before hitting the shot.  It is important for her to use her eyes and stay very involved with what she wants the ball to do.  When coaching this player, always focus on what the ball will do and not in what the player will do.
3.  Fairways and Greens!  This is a player who likes to keep it simple.  She focuses on game plan and takes it one hole at a time.  When coaching this player, it is important to talk about what is at hand and not jump into the past or future.

Next, understand that you will face both positive and negative challenges that will threaten your momentum, your confidence, your patience and your temper.  Influences, such as the pace of play or a talkative partner could also disrupt the "perfect" state of mind for competition, so problems can come in many forms.  Decide in advance how you will handle these challenges.  Your plan doesn't have to be complicated or too specific, but it does need to be memorable and unique to you.  Here are some examples of scripted actions you can use during a competitive round and written in first hand.
1.  I play my best when I have some bounce in my step like Tigger.  No matter what happens today, I am going to maintain a bounce in my step, keep my head up and my shoulders back!

2.  I play my best when I stay in the moment.  If anything happens to shake me up today, I am going to look at the blueness of the sky or the greenness of the grass and become absorbed by the colors and the moment at hand.  Only then will I continue with my round.
3.  I play my best when I stay calm and think of fairways and greens.  I am going to take slow, deep breaths prior to hitting shots and I will read my yardage book on each hole to connect with my game plan.  If things aren't going well, I will count my steps rhythmically walking up the fairway to get that calming and rhythmic feeling before I get to the ball.  If things are going well, I might need to do the same to keep myself from getting too excited.


4.  I am going to focus on my pre shot routine today.  I am going to be deeply into it and use it to visualize and commit to the shot at hand.  It will be a source of strength for me today.
5.  No matter what happens today, I am going to be totally into the shot at hand. If I go under par, I am going to work to go further under par. If I make a mistake, I will work to be completely into the next shot.  I am committed to the shot at hand today.

The important thing for deciding on your actions is to have an understanding of what happens when things go wrong.  If you get down on yourself or beat yourself up in your mind, you need to plan on how to do the opposite before it happens.  If your body language reflects anger, frustration or impatience, you need to figure out how your body language looks when it is helpful and adopt it at all times.  If you know that you get ahead of yourself, you need to commit to your game plan.  This is a very individual plan and your coach's job is to help you form it, support it and remind you of it during your round.  Your job is remember that your day will be one of "action" and you won't be a victim of circumstances.  Victims rarely win golf tournaments. 

Another key to deciding how you want to act is keeping track of what you do when you play well.  If you keep a journal, you can write down what is happening on a great day.  Don't ever be worried about writing down silly or seemingly unimportant things.  I have seen players win tournaments using an action such as counting airplanes between shots or seeing how many birds they could recognize in a day.  The importance for them was in relaxing between shots and finding a way to do it.  Better yet, they competed with a teammate for how many airplanes they noticed throughout the day.  Now they are accounting for their thoughts between shots, they are competing to make it more fun and they are accountable for it at the end of the day.  That is an example of a great strategy!







Monday, September 19, 2011

Silence is Golden in Coaching

Question:  If you are a parent, teacher or a coach, can you watch your golfer make a mistake and not correct it?  Try it and see if perhaps the golfer makes the proper adjustment on her own.



As coaches, we can often get caught up in the error correction cycle of watching a player, seeing mistakes and making immediate corrections.  There are two things wrong with this cycle.  First, it takes you away from your main task of teaching.  Teaching is a skill that starts with an end point in mind and proceeds to that end point.  Error correction can take you many directions and often they don't point toward the original goal.  Second, good athletes can learn on their own.  If you see a mistake, you will learn more as a coach by seeing what adjustment your golfer makes instead of offering correction.  The act of digesting the mistake, thinking through what is needed and doing something different on the next swing is an important part of the development of a golfer.  If you are constantly chirping in the golfer's ear, you will take away the autonomy of the golfer and slow the development toward greatness.

And you thought you were helping, didn't you?  There are times when you do need to help by offering corrections or instruction.  However, most kids are over taught and miss out on learning on their own.  When your child was learning to walk, there were those tense moments when you stopped yourself from helping her and let her take a few steps all on her own.  She struggled with balance, figuring out what her feet were for and how momentum took her places.  No matter how much you wanted to help her or protect her, ultimately, she learned to walk on her own.  Golf is much the same.



Parents, teachers and coaches need to allow players to make mistakes.  Mistakes are what we learn from.  Yes, there are a small percentage of players who don't learn from their mistakes and as I often say, greatness isn't meant for everyone.  The vast majority of young golfers will make mistakes and figure out how they are hurting them.  This happens on the driving range, on the practice green and on the golf course.  Our goal as coaches should be to provide guidance, support and confirmation instead of constant error correction.

As I said before, teaching starts with an end point in mind.  Course management is a great example.  Young players often see the flag as the only target and see no trouble on the course.  Their one-mindedness is unbelievable.  This is a great trait for a great player and one we don't want to completely change or "coach out" of a player.  Instead, we want to temper the focus somewhat and introduce the player to recognition of trouble and continued focus on chosen targets.  If we want a young player to have good course management, we probably need to allow some big mistakes at important times.  The pain of the mistake will be the best teacher and the desire to win or bring home a great score will offset the desire to ignore trouble and see only the flag.  However, if we don't allow those big, painful mistakes, learning won't take place and the player will mature as a poor manager of the golf course.

 

On a smaller scale, the next time you see a student or your daughter make a bad swing with a glaring problem, don't say anything and see what adjustment she makes.  If it was glaring to you, it probably felt big to her, too.  She will most likely make a good adjustment and learn from it.  Remember, the job at hand is to produce a great player, not prove that you know what you are doing on the lesson tee.  Silence is often golden when you are coaching and teaching.  Allow players to learn, adjust, experiment and create on their own and you will be fostering greatness.  Save your error correction for times when it is needed and make it clear, concise and supportive of your overall goals in teaching. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Practice Schedule #4 - More Short Game Challenges!


Today's blog is a copy of this week's practice schedule.  The team is fresh off a win at the University of Nebraska, so motivation is high!  You will notice in the drills that we are repeating some of the drills we did in the last few weeks.  Also, notice that there is a time limit for all drills and challenges.  The repetition is important because players like to track their practice and see if they are improving.  At practice yesterday, I had two players tell me with a big smile that they got through a drill on the first try for the first time.  That is exactly what we want - mastery!  We want to see progress and success at practice, as well as being challenged with tough tasks.  


The time limits are important for these challenges, because we need to stay focused and not become bored or lose interest.  While I have had "bulldogs" in the past, who could focus on a task until it was accomplished, most players simply lose interest in the task and start to go through the motions.  If each task is interesting, tough and limited by time, players have a good chance of being engaged from beginning to end. 

SMU Women’s Golf
P.S. #4
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Spend 15 minutes each on the following challenges, except wedges:
Putting:
  1. Daily Do It:  3 from 3 ft., 3 from 4 ft., 3 from 5 ft., and one from 6 feet.
  2. Mustang Challenge:  Put 5 tees down around the hole at 10 feet for each tee.  Putt from each tee.  When you make a putt, move the tee back one putter length.  When you have moved a tee twice, pick it up when you make the 3rd putt.

Chipping:
  1. Putt from off of the green until you make one at each hole on the putting green.  Vary the lengths and the surfaces you are rolling the ball through.  Experiment with where the ball is in your stance to find the best roll.
  2. Do the ladder drill.  Lay down four clubs on the green with 10 feet in between.  Land your chip shot in the right rung from 10 feet off, 20 feet off and 30 feet off.  Fix all ball marks.

Bunkers
  1. Find a bunker on one of the practice greens and get 10 balls up and down.  You may only use one ball at a time.  Hit your bunker shot and go putt it out.  Focus!  Use your routine.
  2. Hit 10 bunker shots from a great lie and get at least 5 of them within 5 feet and all 10 of them within 10 feet.  When you accomplish that, hit 5 bunker shots from uphill, downhill, sidehill and fried egg lies and get at least 3 within 10 feet.  If that was easy, use 5 feet as your goals.

Wedges
  1. Find one of the practice greens that isn’t busy.  Put 10 balls down 20 yards away from the hole, 30 yards away, 40 yards away, 50 yards away, and 60 yards away.  All 10 in each pile must land and hold the green.  5 of each pile should end within 10 feet of the hole.  2 of each pile should end within 6 feet of the hole.  This can take you 30 minutes.  Focus!  Go through your routine.  

When you finish, you can work on whatever you need or go play nine.  

Friday:  
Report to duty on either #7 or #16 on the Gold Course at DAC for the Men’s Assoc. Shamble.

Saturday:  Recruit weekend was cancelled due to chicken pox!

Monday:
Team meeting at Elizabeth’s house at 5:30 PM.  Dinner will be served. Plan on at least two hours.  It is about 5 minutes from campus.  We will meet with Dr. Deb Wade after dinner.  Fun stuff!

Tuesday:  OYO

Wednesday:  Play day at Lakewood.
 
Thursday:  
Spend no more than 15 minutes on each challenge.  We will have a trajectory and distance control clinic today.
Putting:
  1. Daily Do it:  3 from 3 ft., 3 from 4 ft., 3 from 5 ft., and one from 6 feet.
  2. Mustang Challenge:  Put 5 tees down around the hole at 10 feet for each tee.  Putt from each tee.  When you make a putt, move the tee back one putter length.  When you have moved a tee twice, pick it up when you make the 3rd putt.
  3. Long Lags – Putt to the string on the green from 25, 35, 45 and 60 feet.  You must get five balls to stop within your putter length from the string.  Your putter must lay down so the string cuts it in half.  
  4. Make 20 in a row from 5 feet.  Go through your routine.  Move around so you don’t make footprints.  

Chipping:  
  1. Chip in with your SW, PW and 9 iron.
  2. Play an up and down game with a teammate.  First one to 10 up and downs wins.  Choose tough spots and putt them all out.  

Bunkers:
  1. Challenge a teammate to a “closest to” contest from a bunker.  First one to 10 points wins.  You can vary the lies.

Wedges:
  1. Go to 100 yards from one of the practice greens.  Hit 3 shots with the same club, one high, one medium and one low.  Continue to do it until you can easily control both your trajectory and distance. 

My Gentle Teacher

My dad was a good man.  He passed in 1998 and I still miss him a lot.  He had a smile that lit up his eyes and he had bright blue eyes.  He ...