Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Putting Spectrum

Where are you on this spectrum?  Do you hit and hope or are you in a trusting mindset?  Are you trying too hard because you really need the putt or are you working on how to make the putt as you are putting it?  When golfers have great days on the course, they often call their mindset The Zone.  If you want to putt in The Zone, you must recognize your mindset as you are playing and commit to the proper mindset.  That mindset is the one at the far right side of the spectrum, the "see it, feel it, trust it, roll it" mindset.

If you aren't confident or have a tough time committing to a line or speed, you will have a tough time with all facets of the far right mindset.  We all know that there are times when we need to make a putt.  We can feel momentum slipping away from us on a hole or during a round.  Even though we recognize those times, we must set it aside and putt with a trusting mindset, not a pressing mindset.  Wanting often leads to trying.  Trying often leads to tension.  Tension leads to a lack of feel for speed.  When players try too hard to make a putt, they often face a long putt coming back.  Are you thinking mechanics?  If so, you are probably not doing any part of the far right mindset well.  Mechanics seem to overtake all thoughts and will produce good putts at times, but will also whittle away at your trust as the day goes on.  As you move to the right, you get to the place where you are putting a good roll on the ball.  This is close to the right mindset.  However, if you have this thought, you are still a bit too cerebral and not allowing your eyes to simply see it, your brain to commit to it and your heart to trust it.  The Zone is when all three of your intelligence centers line up to allow you to be your best self.

Here is Brittany Lang talking about her visualization on the golf course.

How can you putt from The Zone 100% of the time?  The first step is practice.  There are times when you need to practice mechanics and there are times to focus on putting a good roll on the ball.  Both of these things need to be planned and executed during specific times at practice.  When you move on from these tasks, make sure to spend some time in The Zone.  Your routine should include a look when you see or visualize what the putt will do.  As you do this, you will improve to the point where you can see the ball roll along the green in real time.  If this is tough at first, choose your favorite color and have the ball roll down a ribbon of that color.  You can also see things like a highway, a railroad track or a yellow brick road.  In other words, allow your imagination to work in order to help your visualization.  Once you "see" the putt, take a practice stroke and feel it.  It is easy to mess this step up, too.  Lots of people use this to think about mechanics instead of putting themselves in the actual position they will be in when they putt.  NO!  This is the time to feel, not to think. 

How do you trust it?  Well, you have to pay attention to what is going on in your mind.  If you see it, feel it and then have a thought such as, "this is going to break more than that" when you step up to the ball, you are not in the trusting mindset.  Step off, re read the putt and start over.  This lack of trust might be a lack of commitment or it could be a misread.  If you continuously step off the ball, you need to learn to commit.  Stepping off is a great tool when you recognize you aren't in the trusting mindset.  However, if it is overused, it signals a problem with commitment.  A trusting mindset is a clear mind that allows the stroke to mimic what you saw and felt.  It is a mind free of interference from distraction, either internal or external.  It is a simple approach to your task at hand.

Roll it!  Did you let it go?  Were you free of tension?  Did it feel like you weren't even conscious of your movements?  This is the final step to a free mindset.  There is a stillness in the mind that allows you to be still until the putt is well on its way.  Great putters look quiet over the ball and after the stroke mainly because their mindset is right! 

Here are a bunch of winning putts to watch.  See if you can tell if these pros are in the right mindset.



Friday, September 21, 2012

The Football!

I have had so many coaches and players ask me, "Hey Coach, what's up with the football?"

My golf teams spend some time every morning prior to play tossing a football around.  We listen to some fun music, laugh a little, get warm and loose and have some fun as a team.  Why?  We do it to start our day with a loose mindset.  We want to be free to play.  That is one of our touchstones as a team.  If we play with freedom, we play our best.  The football reminds us to have some fun and laugh a little.  We are so bad at throwing the football, we can easily laugh at ourselves, so that is a great lesson to take into the day.

Check out this video of the talented hurdler from Australia, Michelle Jenneke.

I LOVE this video.  She is loose, she is smiling and she is appreciative of the fans.  Those are emotions that will help her run a great race.  Her mindset for competition is to be loose.

At SMU, we know we have worked hard all week to prepare to play well.  When we get to the tournament, we prepare on the practice round day by learning the course and the greens.  Then, on tournament day, we let it all go!  We PLAY!  The football reminds us to do just that, play.  We start our day with play, smiles and laughter as a team and we take that mindset out to the golf course.


Liz Wells with the 2011-12 football in San Antonio.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

SMU Golf Team Practice

SMU Women’s Golf
Week 3 Team Practices

Here are our practices from our structured days.  With four rounds of qualifying, the coaches had a good look at stats as well as lots of observation to know what our focus needed to be.  Because we want to be the best putting team in the nation, we will always start our practice on the putting green and constantly work to be great on the greens.  We also saw that we needed some bunker and wedge work.  Finally, with a trip to a tight course, we wanted to set up a situation that challenged the players and then allowed for discussion afterward.  That was the punch shot contest in day 2.  

2:00 Practice at DAC
Please start on the putting green and accomplish these goals:
  • Play around the world from 5, 6 and 10 feet.  Put tees in 6 spots around the hole.  Go around and back.  To win you must make 12 in a row.  You get one second chance at 6 feet and two second chances at 10 feet. You may do this challenge only once per day!  Make it count. Write down your score in your journal.
  • Make 8 in a row from 3 feet, 7 in a row from 4 feet, 5 in a row from 5 feet, 3 in a row from 6 feet and 2 in a row from 10 feet.  This is 25 putts in a row.  You get up to three chances per day to make 25 in a row.  How did you do?  Thought for the Challenge -Repetition doesn't equal mindlessness.  Instead, it should present you with an opportunity to focus and gain confidence through repeated success.  

  • There will be a string around the hole.  Put 4 tees in the ground from four distances each day and putt 3 balls.  Your goal is to get at least 2 of 3 in the donut hole!  The distances can be anything from 20 feet to 50 feet!  Great putters are great at controlling their speed!

  • Make 10 putts in a row from 3 feet using your sand wedge as a putter.  Hit the ball with the leading edge of the club in the equator of the ball.  This drill will help both your concentration and the steadiness of your head and body as you putt.  When you are great from 3 feet, move farther from the hole.  Thought for the Challenge - Is your stroke level at impact?  This challenge will answer that question!

Bunker Shots:
Put 25 balls in the bunker.  Hit to two targets.  If you hole out, take 5 balls off of your pile.  If you put a shot within a club length, take 2 balls off of your pile.  If you leave a ball in the bunker, add 5 balls to your pile.  If you leave a ball more than 30 feet (10 paces) away from the hole, add 2 balls to the pile.  Hit until you have no balls in your pile. 

Do the same drill from 3 distances:  Your full shot with lob wedge, sand wedge and gap wedge.  If you get the ball within 1 club length of the hole, take 5 balls off of your pile.  If you get the ball within 10 feet of the hole, take 2 balls off of your pile.  If you miss the green, add 5 balls to your pile. If you leave a ball 30 feet or more from the hole, add 2 balls to your pile. 

Spend the rest of practice working on what you need.

Note:  Today's practice took about 2 1/2 to 3 hours to complete.  

Touchstone Thursday!
We need to start by talking about team communication and our touchstones.  Which touchstone helps you on the golf course?  Which touchstone helps you off the golf course?  What do we want our mission to be?

Caitlin, Mehar and Felicia
Alex, Jenny and Melanie
Elena, Kim and Jennifer

Task #1 - The punch shot:
You will be asked to hit 3 punch shots each to 3 different targets.  Your combined distance from each target will be your score. 
Task #2 – Bunker shots:
You will each hit 3 bunker shots at 2 targets.  Measure your middle distance.  That means throw out your best and your worst shot and count the middle to each target.  Combine them with your teammates.  Low distance total wins. 
Task #3 – Putting
30 putt challenge.  Each of you will do the 30 putt challenge and combine your scores.  The team with the highest number of made putts wins.  You might want to consider doing your pre shot routine.  Other teams are allowed to distract you. 
30 putt challenge = a tee at 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 feet.  Putt each putt back, forth and back.  A perfect score is 30!

Note: This practice took about 90 minutes to complete.  We had one person on a team putting at one time.  We want to have a person standing alone and having pressure from her teammates to make the putt.  We had a good discussion of the punch shots following the practice.  Here was what we talked about:  Our team adage is, always have a putt for par.  The young players tended to look at the pin when they were in trouble.  The fact that they were measuring the shot put pressure on them to go at the pin.  This is much the same as they feel on the course.  A few of the older players played to different areas of the greens and got themselves a putt for par and were closer to the pin as a result.  Also, we talked about seeing the shot from beginning to end.  The first obstacle is the most important.  If you don't clear it, you will face it again.  What is it hiding?  That is the second obstacle.  The final thing we talked about is distance control.  If you are great at clearing your obstacles because you can control trajectory, can you also control your distance?  We came up with a clear plan:

Goal:  Have a putt for par if possible.
1.  See the entire shot
2.  Control trajectory
3.  Control distance
If you are playing away from the hole, don't be greedy!  Give yourself a cushion. 

Friday – OYO Day. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The O's

Colin Cowherd just played a clip from Buck Showalter, in which he stated, "My job is to not screw these guys up."  He also talked about the O's success this year versus years past and his role in the year they are having.  Showalter is a smart guy.

Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post - Buck Showalter’s Baltimore Orioles have ignored the critics and remain a legitimate contender for the playoffs as the season enters its final month.

His quote reminded me of advice I used to receive from Dick Harmon.  He often tipped me off to great players he met overseas.  He would tell me about their talents and then he would add, "If you get her, don't screw her up."

Lots of people would be offended by that remark and I will admit, the first time I heard it, it scared me.  Then I started to figure out what he meant.  Your role as a coach isn't to control your players.  It isn't to change your players.  It isn't to make all of your players the same.  Your role as a coach is to bring out the very best in your players.  If a kid does things differently than her teammates or than anyone you have coached before, that doesn't make it wrong.  It makes her different and different is okay.  

I loved hearing Buck Showalter say it out loud that his job was to not screw these guys up.  We have a bit of momentum going into our first event of the year.  I like each player's focus and what they have identified as a need to help them compete at their best.  Our job as coaches is to not screw it up!  Here we go!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Own Your Game!

What makes Bubba cool?  He is his own man.  He is self-taught and takes complete ownership for his form.  He doesn’t listen to others, nor does he need to.  He plays with a lot of feel and learns through his mistakes.  He doesn’t fit the mold of the average touring pro who has a support staff of three or four people at many events.  He also cares little what you or anyone else thinks of him or his methods.  That's what makes him cool!

Think about the criticism that Tiger has been taking over his reliance upon his teachers.  Although what Tiger does is more typical of the culture on tour, he is viewed as not being his own man.  He takes the idea of a swing guru further than most by putting his game completely in their hands and making wholesale changes based on their opinions.  Many think he is crazy.  Here is a great blog by Kevin Garside, who is the golf writer for London's Daily Telegraph.  Lee Trevino's Advice to Tiger  The one thing that Tiger and Bubba have in common is, neither is interested in anyone's opinion. 

What can we learn from these approaches to greatness from two winners?  

From Bubba, you can take the idea that you learn on your own through trial and error and hard work.  You can also learn that whatever you do, you need to trust it 100%.  Bubba’s approach can also teach you that convention isn’t the goal.  Instead, learning what your swing can do for you should be the goal.  From Tiger, you can learn that guidance is okay.  It is good to be a part of a team at any level and Tiger carefully picks his and relies upon them.  

If you want to be great, the main question you need to ask yourself is, can I learn a swing and take complete ownership of it?  Does my swing fit me, my body and my abilities?

The more common question I hear from players is, how do I make the perfect swing?

How about if instead of chasing a perfect swing, you chase a swing that allows you to shape shots and control your trajectory?  How would your practice change?  You would probably begin to think more about what the ball is doing instead of what your body is doing.  I spent a lot of hours listening to Dick Harmon talk about golf and the golf swing.  He would watch a pre-shot routine and be either intrigued or dismissive of the player.  What caused his reactions?  He liked watching players with long target looks, quiet bodies, soft hands and arms and a little rhythm in their pre-shot.  A player with short target looks, who was twitchy and concerned about how his body was situated caused Dick to look away.  He would tell me that the player would never be successful thinking so much about himself and so little about the target.  He grew up around the best players in the world and spent as much time observing greatness as anyone around the game.  He understood the difference between outward focus and inward focus.  An outward focused player plays the course.  He takes in the conditions, the slopes, the grass, the wind.  An inward focused player plays his swing.  He gets lost in hitting good shots and blames poor scoring days on poor ball striking. 

Your golf swing needs certain things.  It needs to be reliable and better yet, reliable under pressure.  In other words, you need to know that the ball will go where you aim and the proper distance.  It would be nice if your swing provided you with power, but there have been many great players who were comparably short, yet quite successful.  It is important to develop a swing that allows you to control your trajectory and distance.  The other factor that needs to be controlled is spin.  Can you put spin on the ball?  Can you predict the amount of spin?  Can you hit a ball without spin?   These are questions that will lead you to score well. 

In our first team meeting this year, I showed my team these two videos of Jeff Wolff.
Video 1 and Video 2
Jeff has a +2 handicap and plays with a lot of power.  I'm not sure if you noticed, but he doesn't put his hands on the club in the conventional way.  I watched him hit a lot of balls and I loved his ball flight.  I asked him how long he had played and he told me he started at age 2 and this was how he picked up the club and hit the ball.  When he was 10, he had some lessons and they tried to change his grip, but he couldn't hit with power, so he quit taking lessons and stuck to what he knew.  He also told me that his most important focus is his tempo.

The reason I showed my team these videos is because I wanted them to understand that it is okay to be different.  It's okay to be unconventional.  It's okay to be yourself.  So many young players spend most of their time trying to be perfect or trying to fit a mold set up by someone else.  This is time poorly spent.  Most young players need to spend time learning to score.  They need to figure out how to hit bunker shots from crummy lies or how to flight a ball under a tree branch.  They need to become experts in hitting shots that are low and release or high and check.  There is a lot to learn in golf if you want to be great, but spending all of your time working on a perfect swing won't help you as much as you think it will.

Instead, work on trusting what you do and understanding what makes you tick.  Jeff Wolff told me his key was tempo.  What key do you have on the first tee to focus on during your round?  When you play, can you control trajectory, control distance, shape shots or take a little off a full shot?  Now, perfectionists will inevitably say that all of that will come if my swing is perfect, but they are wrong.  The tours are full of great swingers who don't score well and there are plenty of unique swings that earn big checks.  

Learn a swing, commit to it, figure out how to hit it where you want to, then figure out how to change the trajectory of the shot, then figure out how to shape your shots, then figure out how to do it all under pressure.  Then and only then will you be a great player!

Here is a little video of athletes who are unique and successful.  Think about how these athletes learn to make do and be successful!  Paralympics.  

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 ...