Thursday, October 11, 2012

Freedom vs. Pressing

What is a "Try Scale"?

Grit your teeth and try as hard as you possibly can to make a 5 footer.  You will be at 10 on the scale.  Now, lazily swing the putter and hit the ball toward the hole.  You will be at 1 on the scale.  Most golfers play somewhere in between those two extremes.  If you take a survey of great players and ask them where they are when they are playing their best golf, most will answer between 3 and 6.  There is a recognition that trying hard isn't the answer to great play.

Instead of playing with effort, great play seems effortless.  Effort, in and of itself, isn't a bad thing.  It is a what makes great players great.  It occurs in practice when things are going the wrong way.  It occurs when its raining and you have to drag yourself to the first tee.  It occurs when your core needs strengthening and you're sweating in the gym.

Increased effort on the golf course can turn into pressing.  Pressing is simply the adding of pressure to a situation.  Some pressure is a good thing.  It reminds us that what we are doing is important.  It creates heightened focus.  However, there is a balance to achieve with all things and too much pressure can take you away from your natural game.  Achieving the balance of playing with freedom instead of pressing is a competitive skill that all players should focus on learning.  The ability to dial in your "try scale" is the ability to get into the zone.

The first step is to think about where you are when you play your best.  Put a number on it.  Define it.  What does it feel like?  Do you breath hard or fast?  Do you walk with rhythm?  Do you see the trees and talk to your fellow competitors?  Notice what it feels like when you are in the zone.  These clues and cues will be what will help you get into your zone when you slip away from it.  When you crank up the try scale, what happens?  How do you press?  Do you change your posture?  Do you drop your head?  Do you quit talking?  Does your grip tighten?  Do you walk faster?  Does your routine slow down?

Trevino was known for looking loose and talking a lot when he played his best golf.  He used his time between shots getting energy from the crowd, joking with his fellow competitors and laughing.  This helped him keep himself in his zone.

Pressing isn't the only thing that can happen to your "Try Scale".  It can go the other direction, too!  You can lose interest in a round, even when its important.  What changes when you lose focus?  Do you shut down?  Do you talk more?  Does your routine change?  What triggers the interest dropping?  Are you disgusted with mistakes?  Do you feel bored?  What will it take to get you back into your round?  Can you find a new challenge?  Can you forgive yourself and start over? 

In coaching, we see trying too hard more often than giving up.  Pressing can be caused by a lot of things.  Hitting into trouble can cause a player to make decisions based on "have to's" and attempt to hit hero shots through forests.  Playing smart golf is often making decisions with the best option in mind instead of your score.  Another example happens on the greens.  Standing over a 10 foot putt that you really need and want can cause pressing.  Standing over a 10 foot putt that you want to see, feel and roll with trust is completely different.  The first mindset is being in the future and thinking about the result of the putt while the second is being in the moment.  Pressing is often the result of being out of the moment.  Can you let go of past mistakes or bad holes so they don't effect future decisions?  Can you focus on the task at hand vs. the results of your shots so you aren't jumping into the future?

Figure out what you need to do to put yourself in your zone!  Recognize it when you get over or below your best try number.  Find some little cues that will put you in your best state of mind.  Play golf with freedom by trusting the effort you put into your preparation.

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