Thursday, December 26, 2013

Challenged!

Are you challenged?  Has anyone questioned your ability to succeed?  Have people scoffed at your passion?  Are your goals far-fetched?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, you will have a shot at success. 



As I read biographies and stories of very successful people, I tend to catch a theme.  Most felt challenged, either by others or by the largeness of their goals.  Many had to fight just to prove that their passion was worthy.  And within the fight and challenge, grew a resolve to succeed at any cost. 

It seems as though our world has changed and instead of challenging our young people, we want to make their paths easy.  While it makes sense to provide a young golfer with all he or she needs to play well, including a swing coach and great practice facilities, there also needs to be a challenge.  If a young player wants ownership over her game, she needs to feel challenged and rise to that challenge with resolve.

If you never have to defend your passion to others, have you stated it clearly to yourself?  If you are always given a magic carpet ride to what you need, will you make the effort to get what you want when it becomes hard?  If your goals seem crazy and far-fetched, will you still get up every morning and allow them to be what propels you through your day?

Not all successful golfers have dealt with real challenges, but those who haven't have felt imagined challenges along the way.  They practice the game with a chip on their shoulder.  They tee off with the intention of beating their playing partners by ten shots.  They challenge the course with overpowering shots.  They find a way to feel challenged and to rise to it. 

The next time you go to the course, whether for a practice session or a game, challenge yourself in some way.  Walk 36 holes.  Hit balls until your hands hurt.  Make 100 putts in a row.  Do something, anything, to get your attention on what it is about golf that you love and why you would do something so crazy.  Fight through your frustration, focus through repetition, conquer a tough shot, tire yourself!  Figure out in your own head and heart how far you would go to be successful in your passion and then begin the journey.

Diana Nyad's Ted Talk  This is an example of a person challenged by an overwhelming goal.
Larry Smith's Ted Talk  In case you need a challenge!





Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sharing by Great Coaches

Today's blog is simply some sharing of great coaching.  Check out this video and article for a sense of what great coaching is all about.


One thing I liked was what the very best in the world do and how most junior's and college player's expectations are out of line with what a good shot is from 150 yards.  A favorite line I hear from parents when a kid 3 putts is, "She needs to learn to hit it closer."  They value the skill of ball striking more than putting.  That valuation puts more pressure on the ball striking and alleviates the need for performance on the putting green.  The best juniors and collegiate players are usually great putters and good enough ball strikers.  I watched Nicole Morales paired with Casey Danielson at the Thunderbird last year.  It was a fun group to watch.  Nicole didn't hit the ball as well as Casey, but she didn't make mistakes.  However, she made a lot of yardage of putts.  She won! 

Another funny thing that Foley had to say was his main goal is to not hurt them (great players).  That was the advice that Dick Harmon gave me often.  Foley said it can happen in three weeks.  Imagine if a coach works the wrong direction for four years.  Proceed with caution and know your stuff is what I take away.

The second article is about Cameron McCormick's journey with Jordan Spieth.  Here is an excerpt about the same concept.

Golf Magazine:  Were you excited to uncover this talent or nervous about whether you were ready to teach such a talent?
Cameron McCormick:  "That's an insightful question. I was excited and had a little trepidation -- what if I go about changing his style and he doesn't hit it as well? I could destroy this ultra-talent. I went to Jerry Smith, the Brook Hollow head pro and my mentor, and explained the situation. His advice was, "Whatever you do, do it confidently and see it through in such a confident manner that you have no doubt that the athlete and the parent will have no doubt." With a very special player, it's a challenge. I needed the reassurance. After the lesson, I sent his dad an email and said I'd love to help him. I suggested we get together after his summer schedule and sent him some changes we'd go through to turn Jordan into a better ball-striker and a better putter. He was a poor putter back then, quite frankly.
Fast-forward to when Jordan was 16 and playing in the Byron Nelson. Even then he had the skills-the ball control, the putting and short game skills to win a PGA Tour event. The validation of that was how well he played, finishing 16th. He wasn't ready, psychologically or emotionally, to win, but he certainly was of the mindset that he could compete."

I also like that Cameron has helped Jordan be a self-sufficient player instead of a dependent player.  Allowing a player to have ownership is the mark of a good coach.

Golf Magazine:  What kind of maintenance does he need?
Cameron McCormick:  "I'm proud of the fact that he's developed into a very self-sufficient player. A player who has self-awareness -- what's my body feel like, what does the club feel like and what does the contact feel like-can create a change that allows him to play. Sometimes, he'll have his caddie shoot video on the range. Sometimes, he'll email me a video. I went to PGA Championship. He prepared great, took the week before off, but he didn't play well. He missed the cut and said, "I'm going to play Wyndham next week. Can I get some time?" I said, "Sure, but we're not going to the range, we're going to play." I said, "What I saw out there translated to performing on the course." We played 18 on Sunday of the PGA Championship and he shot 64 or 65 at Brook Hollow, had great ball control with only a small alignment tweak. The course is closed Monday, but I have the luxury of taking a few people out there. He shoots 29 on the front. I said, "Jordan, this is affirmation for you that things were in place and you didn't need much more than validation to set your mind free to play golf." And then he went to Wyndham and lost in a playoff to Patrick Reed.
I'll go to four or five PGA Tour events next year, and I see Jordan every week he comes home, but he doesn't require much of an overhaul."




Read more: http://www.golf.com/tour-and-news/interview-cameron-mccormick-swing-coach-jordan-spieth#ixzz2nrO6SYFy

Friday, December 6, 2013

Blank Slate

A quick blog about some things we learned this week at tour school.  I was there to support and coach Casey Grice, who is playing it for the first time.  Tour school is a learning process in and of itself.  First of all, it's five days with two practice rounds.  That means a full week of intense focus on two golf courses.  Second, you can feel the importance of each shot more than in any tournament I've been associated with.  It is sort of like the final few holes on Sunday in a group with three players all close to the lead, only for 90 holes.  If a 3 foot putt lips out, everyone in the group wonders if that little piece of bad luck will make a difference.  It is the ultimate test of staying in the moment, relying on your routine and holding your attitude and focus together on each shot.

Casey has started with a birdie almost every round of every stage of Q school.  She did so again today!  She goes to the first tee excited, ready and happy.  Yesterday, after her round, I asked her if she could conjure up that attitude 18 times.  As the rounds progressed, Casey started to carry things along with her, such as a missed putt or a pulled drive.  On the first tee, she had a blank slate of experience and it lead to a beautiful start.  By the 10th tee, there seemed to be a bit of tentativeness, pressing and playing not to miss.  Within the round, the skills remained very strong, but the attitude had changed ever so slightly.  Ever so slightly is all you need at this level and with this amount of stress.  Her goal for today was to go to each tee with the same openness she carried to the first tee.



Stress was the other thing we talked about yesterday.  We played the first two rounds with Sophia Sheridan, who played at Cal and is a beautiful player.  She didn't do anything outstanding either round, but she played stress free golf.  That allowed her to score well and carry her momentum along throughout the rounds.  When she had a 20-30 footer, if it didn't fall, she rarely had to mark, but instead, tapped in.  She played the par 5's from the widest spots after 2 shots and placed her wedges within 10-15 feet on her 3rd shots.  When she missed the green, she played the high percentage shot and accepted an occasional 5 footer, which she made more than missed.  After two rounds, she stands at -2.  She looked like a consummate professional as she made her way around the golf course.  On the other hand, Casey's round involved a lot of stress and that eventually caught up with her.  She was often in the narrowest part of the fairway on par 5's or just off the fairway in the rough after her second shot.  That made it tougher to spin the wedge shot and made it tougher to get close.  A 20-30 footer for birdie was often followed by a 4 footer coming back and the greens aren't perfect, so those come backs aren't going to fall all day long.  As the day went on, there were a lot of little things that took their toll and most were due to management and aggressiveness instead of poor shots.  It is an important lesson to learn that ball striking and position are of equal importance to scoring. 



The final thing we talked about was mindset and readiness.  Jaye Marie Green started the first round of Tour School with four birdies in a row.  She ended the day with 11 birdies and a bogey on the card to shoot 62.  Her mindset most likely stayed consistent all day.  Her good play didn't cause her to relax or play more aggressively, but to stick to her game plan.  She also accepted her good play and was ready for a record breaking performance.  Casey and I talked about the importance of that readiness and preparation.  If you have the game to shoot 62, you must also have the mindset to support that great play. 



As I write this, Casey is -2 through 4.  Sadly, I have to travel today, so I will miss the round, but I know that she is ready and has a good mindset and attitude to match her game today.  I'm pulling for her to play well and achieve her goal of reaching the LPGA, but either way, she is doing well on the journey.  She learns and grows as a player every day and will get there at some point for sure.  I am also sending good thoughts to all the other players I'm pulling for to earn their cards.  Good luck to Jamie, Julia and Maddie! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Moment in Time

So often I am asked what I look for in recruits.  My answer, often answered jokingly, is low scores.  That is the simple answer, but it isn't really true.  Why?  Because low scores at the age of 15 doesn't really predict low scores at the age of 20.  Much of the time, the trend continues and an outstanding 15 year old becomes a star in college.  Once in awhile, a star in college becomes a tour player.  Even more rarely, a player who scored well when she was 15 becomes a star on tour. 

Why is it so rare?  What would I look for in a player if not low scores?  Is there a way to predict success?  What will protect a young player from slumps or peaking at a young age?  What causes talented players to pack it in when others fight through and come out better for the adversity?  All of these answers can be answered by understanding that we aren't who we are at any moment in time.  Instead, we are a constantly changing, growing, learning and emotional being.

If I were to ask you, what has been the most defining moment in your life to date, how would you answer?  Take a moment and think.  Does that moment define who you are as a person?  Could it be the other way around?  Could who you are as a person decide your defining moment?  Write down your thoughts before going to the next section.



Was this hard to answer?  Are these valid questions?  Did you choose a successful moment or a failure?  Did that moment signify the end of something or the beginning?  Would those close to you choose the same moment?  Did you choose a moment because it was significant to others?  Now, think of the emotions you felt in that moment.  Will those emotions help you reach your goals or keep you from them?

How you answered the first question might give you insight into how you view yourself as a golfer, a competitor and a person.  The second set of questions will give you insight into whether or not this view will help you or hurt you as you strive to become a great player.  The answer of the moment or what it is that you believe defines you isn't the most important answer.  The emotion that you attach to that moment is!  What do you want?  Will the emotion which you connect with how you see yourself allow you to achieve what you want?  Whatever the emotion is, it will ultimately decide your path.  It will shape your view of yourself along that path.  It will feed your passion or desert it in search of a new passion.

Over my 20 years of coaching, I've seen "can't miss" players miss and I've seen anonymous players become stars.  This happens in every transition.  From junior golf to college golf and from college golf to professional golf.  You could go further and look at the transition to making it to a new level and winning at that level or winning majors.  There are so many levels of transitions in the life of a competitive golfer that you could honestly say transition is constant.  In fact, watching Yani Tseng, Stacy Lewis and In Bee Park work through the transition of becoming #1 in the World and holding on to it has been as interesting as watching Jordan Spieth transition from UT to the President's Cup.  For every Jordan Spieth, there are ten All American's each year who never get to the big tour.  Is it talent, resolve, resources or luck?  In my mind, success often boils down to how a player defines him or herself and the emotion attached to that definition or the moment in time that formed the definition.

Jordan Spieth has had one of the smoothest transitions from junior golf to college golf to winning on the PGA Tour of any player in a


It would seem that an All American would be chock full of confidence and have all the emotions needed to be successful, wouldn't it?  However, what if the player defines himself as a winner based on his past, but struggles to make cuts?  Does the confidence stay intact?  Does the definition change to that of a loser?  Does the player see a process of transition or a time of failure?  Now do you see the problem with definitions?  What could possibly be wrong with defining yourself as a winner?  Not winning is the answer.

Any way you have of defining yourself can be either positive or negative which is why it is important to give it some thought and make it a conscious choice.  The young man mentioned above could allow his definition to lead to positive emotions, such as resolve, determination or confidence.  He could define winning differently, such as winning might mean playing a round of golf with a positive mental attitude.  However, so many times, young players fall into slumps or fail to progress when they develop negative emotions from their own definitions.  One of my most talented players to coach was a Swede who hit an amazing 90% of her greens in junior golf.  She defined herself as a ball striker.  She won a lot!  When she got to college, she didn't have as much time to practice.  She played in a lot of wind for the first time in her life.  She was ill a lot and didn't feel very strong.  Every course was unfamiliar and seemed a lot longer than in junior golf.  You can guess what happened.  She dropped to hitting 50% of her greens in her first semester.  Now she had some choices to make.  She could either change her definition of herself or she could stick with ball striking and fight through until she was back to 90%.  It took her a full year to change her definition.  It was her choice and it came from her desire to help her team.  As soon as she changed her definition she began to develop her short game.  She worked to understand course management.  Her scores dropped and she was ready to turn pro after her college career.  Her ability to see herself differently and adapt her definition of herself allowed her to achieve her goal of playing professional golf.  In as many cases as this that are successful, there are probably five that aren't.

Nike seems to understand the need for believing in something other than results in this ad.


When the Swede arrived at college, she was defining herself based on a statistic of which she was proud.  Basing your definition on your score, a tournament finish or a skill is risky, because you will always judge yourself based on results.  Her ball striking was fantastic because she was a great athlete who worked hard to build a great swing.  She was methodical in her practice and trusting of her golf teacher and her swing.  She was very disciplined in her pre-shot routine and great at focusing on her targets.  Any and all of these factors could be used in a player's definition of herself and would allow her to move away from results.  She could have defined herself as a great athlete, a hard worker, methodical in her approach, trusting, disciplined or focused.  However, the fact that she thought that hitting greens was the key to her success discounted all the qualities that lead to the skill.  Not only that, it made her opinion of herself vary constantly.  Some days she hit 17 greens and knew she was a good player, but other days she hit only 12 greens and knew she wasn't a good player.

If a moment in time defines you, make sure it defines you because of what went into that moment.  Understand that a big win came because of your determination or great attitude, not simply because you were the best golfer that day.

Another player I coached didn't hit the ball very far or very high.  Her definition was more of a comparison than based on her own strengths.  She was on the range for hours working to get longer and better.  I asked her one day if it was possible for her to be the best putter on the team and she immediately understood what was behind the question.  It might have been the 50th time I helped her try to form a new definition of her golf game, but for some reason that question was the one that lit the light bulb.  She changed her focus to defining herself as a "rock roller" and became an important player for us and helped us reach the NCAA Tournament.

Make sure your definition is based on your gifts and talents, not based on a comparison to others.

A third player defined herself by what she didn't do well and what she didn't have in her game.  Her transition from junior golf in a small place to college golf didn't go well.  Her new definition of herself and her game was a long time coming, but it came in time for her to be a valuable asset to the team and to make her experience in college a great one.  Her journey through her tough times taught her a lot about herself and she is now a successful mom, wife and golf professional.  She gave me a little embroidered pillow with this quote on it:

"The woman who challenges herself to invent herself daily displays sublime creativity." 
Maya Angelou.

I think that pillow defined my player's transition perfectly and as a gift it reminds me whenever I look at it to believe in the power of transformations, which, in my mind, is the whole purpose of coaching.

When you think of how you would like to define yourself, don't think about what you can't do or what you don't have.  Some of the greatest people in history took what they could do and what little they had and turned it into greatness.
 
This blog post started with what I look for in recruits and quickly turned into transformations and transitions and the mindset required for them, because it all ties together.  I'm looking for players who define themselves not by their successes or failures, but by their love of the game.  Not by their past, but by their ability to grow as a player.  I'm looking for players who have enough balance in their lives to understand that defining moments as a golfer might not be as important as defining moments in other areas of life or that the two might intertwine.  I'm looking for players from families who aren't fixated on a defining moment from the past, but understand there will be more in the future.  I'm looking for players who don't allow the last shot or score to define them.  I'm looking for players who understand that their best qualities define them and not the trophies that those qualities earn.

What is it you want?  Whatever it is, make sure you have a way of defining yourself that provides you with the positive emotions that will help you achieve it.  If you want to make a transition, understand that it might require a transformation.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

An Unofficial Visit

Here is an itinerary for an unofficial visit. 




Your Visit to SMU - Meet us at any point!

9:30 AM            Dallas Athletic Club tour and stop by Lakewood CC on the way back to campus. 

11:00                  Meet with Coaches and Academic Advisor at Loyd Center.

Noon                  Meet team members at tailgate and go with them to see dorms and The Boulevard.

12:30                  Eat at Women’s Golf tent and tailgate between MoMac and the Natatorium.  
                           Cost:     $10/per person

2:00                    Football vs. UConn.  Pony Up!
                   



Thursday, October 31, 2013

Matching Speed with Break

Today, we spent some time on the putting green talking through the process of reading putts.  I have seen players approach this skill as though it is a mystery, something quite complicated or a process that also involves some luck.  It is none of those.  It is a skill just as all things in golf are skills.  It is best approached as a systematic series of steps to avoid having it feel mysterious.  It is best to keep the steps simple and limited to keep it from getting too complicated.  It is something that doesn't involve luck or guessing, but instead requires awareness, feel and good vision.  Here is a series of steps you can use to get started or to evaluate your approach.

1.  Take a look at the green from 50 yards away and figure out the high and low points of the green. From this far away, you can also see features such as ridges.  Give a quick thought to where the water flows from the green.

This view of the practice green at Dallas Athletic Club gives a clear look at water and where the water on the green will flow. The overall topography of the green will have a low side that favors water and its your job to be aware of the general direction of flow.  You can check for hills, slopes, thick vegetation or actual streams and lakes.

2.  When you get to the green, take note of the green itself.  Are there ridges, slopes, bunkers, mounds, wet spots, dry spots or grain?  You are still in the big picture mode, but now you are paying attention to what the green looks like in areas that will have a direct effect on the roll of your putt.  You can also think of them on your approach shot to get some help from the terrain.  When will a backstop help you?  Which ridge or slope will carry your ball to the hole?  Is the green dry and firm?  Should you choose an aiming point 10-15 yards short of the hole?  I'm digressing a bit from green reading to using the terrain to hit shots, but the point is, be aware of the terrain and the conditions and use them in your favor instead of not paying attention or fighting against them.

This is the hole location sheet for #16 at Ballyneal.  Ballyneal is a gem of a Tom Doak course nestled in the northeast corner of Colorado along with nothing but wind and horizon.  This is taken from a great blog:  ballynealcaddy.blogspot.com by C. Mulligan.  What a great golf name. 


"This is a picture of the 16th green viewed from the right side of the fairway. The flag is in the "B" pin position. Use the ridge to the left of the green to bring a shot into this pin."  Mr. Mulligan's words describing Ballyneal #16.  Notice, he is asking the player to aim off the green to get close to this pin.  When I played Ballyneal, I relied on my caddy to give me aim points.  It was often far from the hole due to the hills, high winds and ridges on the greens.  Sometimes its better to be 15 feet from the hole than to risk a shot that is 5 feet or 50 feet if you catch the wrong ridge.  Take another look at the green.  The high spot is clearly to the right and behind, but that isn't consistent on the green.  The designer creates different high spots to funnel water and offset nature.  The mound in front of the front bunker is important to keep water from running straight into the bunker.  This is a consistent feature of all greens and will influence your putts if they roll near bunker complexes. 

3.  Read your putt.  You should take a quick peek from the side to see if you have an uphill or downhill putt.  From behind, first pick out the center of the cup for your putt.  This is very important because it will help you establish the break point and it will also increase the odds of your putt falling.  If you have a putt that breaks from right to left a lot, your center might be 4 O'Clock.  If you choose that as your center, you can drop a putt into the hole at 3 O'Clock or 5 O'Clock if the speed is good.  If you choose a center that is too low for the break, you have chosen your low side as the center and that gives you very little hole to work with to make your putt.  Now, see the path of the ball as though you were rewinding a tape; from the hole back to your putter face.  Pause at the spot you want to roll it over.  Now, at the ball, figure out if you need to play break to get the ball to roll over that spot.  Visualize the putt from the ball to the hole.  Work on your visualization until you can do this in real time.  This is very helpful for putting with mounds or tiers in between you and the hole.  It helps you break the putt into portions and find the speed needed at each juncture.  

Now, you are ready to aim.  Your aim is responsible for the first 6" of the putt, but no more!  You want to roll the ball on the path you just visualized at the speed you need to roll it in the hole.  If you are still thinking of the line of the entire putt, you are not going to have good speed control.  Let go of the line as soon as you aim and roll the ball freely.

That is your process for reading greens.  First, see the green from 50 yards away.  Next, see the greens terrain.  Finally, read the line of the putt.  

We had a few good drills today that might help you, too.  
One drill we did that aids in visualization is putting balls from 4 feet back to 30 feet along the same line.  We did it with breakers and double breakers and learned what to look for along the way.  This is Casey Grice working on matching her read with the correct speed.  
 Another drill we did that was good was to put a ball down at the middle of the hole as chosen for a breaking putt.  The goal was to hit a putt and knock the ball in.  It is good because it gives you a good sense of the proper speed and if you hit the ball low or high side, it deflects to the sides of the cup.  It really helped cement the fact that the center of the hole isn't always the closest point to you as you putt.

Finally, we talked through putts and put balls down at important points to reflect points the ball would go over in its path to the hole.  
This was a tricky little double breaker.  The ball in front of the first ball is the aim point.  The mound causes the putt to fall right in the first third.  It then straightened out and went a bit left off of another mound.  At the end, as the putt slows down, it goes to the right, because that is the low spot on the green.  The tee behind the hole signifies 1 foot behind the hole or the speed that we would like the putt to be traveling when it reaches the hole.  
Finally, we spent some time today talking about the speed you want to carry to the hole.  On uphill putts, on bumpy greens and on wet greens, you can hit the ball a foot past the hole.  You can stretch that to 18 inches if any of the above are severe.  Just remember to read less break at the end of the putt.  On downhill putts, slick greens or big breakers, roll the ball to end 6 inches to a foot past the hole.  As you become good at controlling your speed, you will begin to naturally see when to give the putt a run and when to die it in the cup.  I agree with many of the experts that there is one speed for a putt to have the maximum chance to roll in, but I also know that sometimes a little more speed is helpful in overcoming bumpiness or to hold the line on uphill putts.  I also believe that slick greens call for balls to die, especially when there is a lot of break around the hole.  If you misread a putt with a lot of break on slick greens, chances are it will begin to work away from the hole very early after you hit it and give you a testy putt to finish up. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Goals, Golf Shots & Busy Minds

Imagine a caddy and a pro talking through a shot:

Caddy:  You have 152 to the pin.  This green releases, so you want to land it at 145.  You want to be a bit left of this pin.

Player:  Okay, I'm going to grip down on my 9 iron and hit a little, low draw.  I'll start it at the tallest tree branch a few feet right of the pin and let it release a few feet left of it.

That was a very clear conversation.  The caddy gave the player facts, observation and strategy.  The player gave the caddy a plan, a visual of the shot and an aim point. 

With this plan, visualization and aim point in mind, the player commits to and executes the shot.

Phil Mickleson talks over a shot with his caddy, Jim "Bones" Mackay.


It all seems pretty simple on t.v., doesn't it?  Here is what I often hear when coaching.

Coach:  What's the plan here?  What's your yardage?  Where are you going to land it?  What shot do you see?

Player:  I don't want to be short on this shot.  (You can substitute the words left, right, long or over for the word short).

Coach:  Okay, what's your target?

Player:  I have 152 to the pin.  I guess I'll hit my 150 club. (You can substitute the words "I should probably", "maybe it's a 7 iron" or "I think it's a" in place of I guess I'll hit....)

When Tom Brady throws a pass, what is his goal?  To avoid interceptions or to complete the pass?  When you play golf, what is your goal?  To avoid trouble or to hit your target?  In both cases, it you focus on the second, the first is also accomplished. 


So far, as the observer of the situation, the coach, has learned what the player doesn't want and what the player is guessing.  Imagine what the player's brain is doing.  It is hard at work thinking on what to avoid, what could happen, what should happen and which doubtful decision presents the best option.

Instead, the conversation you have in your head needs to be as follows:
  1. Anchored in facts.  Yardage, lie, wind.
  2. Observant.  Hard green, room behind the hole, tough putt from the right.
  3. Produce a plan.  ie.:  I want to hit a shot that lands at 145 and releases to the hole and ends up a little left of the hole.
  4. Creates a vivid visual.  ie.:  I see a low shot that draws, lands and rolls out 5 yards and moves left.  It is going to start right at that tree and land on that dark spot on the green.
  5. Leaves the player with a clear target and the ability to commit and execute. 
This conversation needs to happen on every single shot you hit all day long.  It is okay to respect trouble on the course.  It is part of the second step; being observant.  If there is an overhanging branch on the right side of the fairway that could catch your drive or block your second shot, you see that and plan a shot that avoids it.  However, your goal for your shot isn't, "I want to avoid that tree branch."  Instead, your goal is, "I'm going to drive the ball on the left side of the fairway at that pine tree with a bit of a cut."  If you choose your goals by what you avoid, you can be successful and unsuccessful at the same time.  If you said you wanted to avoid that tree on the right, you could be in the left rough or even out of bounds left and both drives would have achieved your goal.  

It's important to have a clear goal and not a wish for what you don't want.


It would be nice if we all had caddies when we played who provided us with the facts of the shot, took care of our observations, provided a clear plan, painted a picture of the shot and stepped away after a commitment to the shot and the target, but we don't.  We have ourselves and our cluttered mind that is busy with avoidance, fear, doubt, guessing, shoulds, and mechanics.  If you unclutter your mind and talk to yourself as a caddy would talk with you, it will help you to have a goal for your shot.

We also worked this week with busy minds.  One of our players gets bogged down with mechanics during the round.  Another has a mind that is busy telling her what not to do.  With both, we played a little game of saying your name as you swing.  Once they saw the shot and committed to it, they started saying their full name.  It is a technique I learned many years ago from Fred Shoemaker, who introduced it to my players as they putted.  It simply keeps your mind busy which means it can't get busy on things you don't want.  I learned to use a mantra as a young player.  We had mental game help from our wrestling coach, Chuck Patten, who was also a +3 handicap and a black belt in karate.  He taught us the power of playing without allowing unwanted thoughts in your head.  Mine was simple and I kept it for ever.  It was, "take it back slow and hit it hard".  It allowed me to go to the shot without thinking about the water on the right or the last shot I chunked.  It was a powerful tool.

If your mind is busy with all the wrong stuff, spend some time playing and practicing while making it busy on nonsensical stuff.  Then, replace the nonsensical stuff with a mantra that is specific to you.  It might be focused on your tempo or a swing thought.  There is no right or wrong thing to say to yourself, because the goal is to busy your mind in a way that you can control and better yet, repeat.

Have fun with this process.  Create conversations with yourself about the shots you face that cover the five points outlined above.  Busy your mind in ways that you choose and have a goal for each and every shot!



Sunday, October 20, 2013

Slopes, Rough and Flyers


There have been a lot of blogs about the mental game lately so it's time to shift gears and get back to hitting shots.  We recently played in Austin and faced a lot of uneven lies and Bermuda rough.  We also saw a lot of flyer lies.  We came home and worked on what we had seen after the event.  While it would have been better to reverse the order of those two events, travel and competition are both crucial to learning what you need as a player.  Addressing problems after an event will help you improve and grow as a player.

Here are some things to try when you face an uneven lie:
  • Ball Below Your Feet - 

    • Your inclination will be to hang on to the end of your club to make it easier to reach the ball which is further away from you than normal.  However, one goal for this shot is to be steep so the heel of the club doesn't hit the ground first.  Gripping down a bit on your club will help you get the posture needed to have a steep approach and hit down on the ball.  
    • Keep your head still and make a turn around your center.  Picture a Ferris Wheel and create that with your swing.  

    •  Because your club is approaching from a steeper angle, it is easier to have an open club face at impact.  That means the ball will tend to go right.  However, if your ball is in the rough, the heel may catch and shut the face.  I witnessed this a few times from my players, so we worked on this shot by controlling the face better through impact.  If you allow the heel to pass the toe with the ball below your feet in the rough, you will likely face the same shot again. 
    • A ball below your feet will usually travel a shorter distance due to the loft created by steepening the shaft at impact.  It will also come out without a lot of spin.
  • Ball Above Your Feet
    • Once again, your inclination is to grip down on the club, because the ball is closer to you.  But, once again, fight your inclination and stay on the end of your club so your posture matches the shot.  Your shot will more closely match that of a baseball player's stance than a golf stance and a longer club will allow your posture to match that.  
    • Stay centered and turn around yourself.  You can pretend you are a Merry Go Round as your club swings around center.  

    •  With the ball above your feet, the club face will close easily and earlier, causing the ball to go left.  It's best not to fight it, but if you have to protect from the left side, lay the club open to start with and keep your right hand under the shaft as you swing it.  Spend time practicing this shot to learn how much the ball will go left with no manipulation and how to keep it from going left if needed. This is also important to learn if you face the ball above your feet in the rough.  First of all, loft is your friend in this situation.  Secondly, if you allow the toe to pass the heel, you won't get much distance from the shot.  A ball above your feet in tough rough will go low, left and short. 
    • Hitting the ball above your feet usually causes a lower ball flight and a bit of extra distance.
  • Ball On a Downhill Slope
    • As with both uphill and downhill, it is important to keep your head still on this shot.  This will help you keep you centered and balanced throughout your swing.
    • Set up with your hips and shoulders matching the hill.   This will put more weight on your front foot.  Don't fight it.
    • Set your wrists quickly and sharply in your backswing and don't make a big turn away from the ball.  Keep that weight solidly over your front foot and use an armsy swing back.  Quiet legs are key.
    • You can make a big turn through the ball.  A tip for remembering which way you turn on slopes is, allow your turn to follow the slope.  If water runs downhill, your turn can run downhill, too.  Exaggerate your finish by keeping your chest low and if needed, take a step toward the target.
    • Your club will have less loft at impact, so your shot will go lower.  Your shot will also come from a steep angle, which will take spin off the shot.  You can probably take less club due to those two factors.
  • Ball On an Upslople
    • Once again, stay centered on this shot.  
    • Set up with your hips and shoulders matching the hill.  This will put more weight on your back foot.  Don't fight it.
    • Make a good turn away from the ball, but feel as though you finish your swing with only your arms.  Again, keep your legs quiet and your head still.
    • Your club will have more loft on it at impact causing the ball to fly higher.  You might need more club due to this.  
    • You will finish on your back foot, but it's ok in this situation.
Graeme McDowell from Today'sGolfer.co.uk

  • Ball in the rough
    • You can take what you learned from sloped lies to use in this situation.  If your ball is down in deep rough, grip down and create a posture that allows for a steeper swing.  If your ball is sitting up in the rough as though on a tee, hang on to the end of the club and stand an inch further from the ball to assure a shallow, round swing.  Set your hands and wrists early to also create steepness.
    • Learn to control the shaft and face of the club.  Don't allow the shaft to tip back in the rough, but make sure that it drives forward through the shot.  That might mean that you don't worry about making a full finish and you will need a firm grip.  You can control the face by setting up with the face a bit more open and holding it open through impact.  This requires grip and forearm strength.  I often witness players trying to "muscle" shots out of the rough with a strong shoulder move.  This will often cause the hands to lose tension and the face will shut when the rough grabs it.  Keep the tension in your hands, not your shoulders.
    • Loft is your friend.  Out is the first goal and you might need to take less club to make that happen.  Pay attention to angles and landing areas and practice from the rough so you can more easily predict the shots out. 

  • Flyer Lies
    • We played our last event in wetness from beginning to end.  The players had a tough time predicting the distance of their shots.  The culprit was the water and grass getting in between the club face and the ball at impact, even from the middle of the fairway.  Flyers generally happen in the rough, but these were happening everywhere, but not consistently.  The water caused the club to lose grip with the ball, which in turn causes the ball to flight higher with less spin.  Think of the smoothness of the driver face and you will understand that your iron is now mirroring that face and its goal of maximum distance.  There isn't much you can do about this situation, but you can be aware if you face this lie with trouble over the green.  Sometimes it might be better to putt from the front edge than tempt fate to that back hole location from a flyer lie.
    • I also heard a lot of questioning about clubbing in cool and/or humid weather.  Air density will have a bit of an effect on your distance.  However, you probably don't understand what makes the air more dense, because it is a bit counter-intuitive.  Here are conditions that lessen air density and increase distance:  high altitude, high temperatures, high humidity.  Players often think that high humidity slows the ball, but in fact, dry air is more dense. 
I hope these ideas help you handle the shots you face on the golf course.   Golf is a very individual game, so you need to see if these approaches work for you.  The only way to know is through experimentation and practice.  Put your ball in tough places and figure out how you can hit shots you can predict from those lies.  Figure out what works for you.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Mental Toughness Training

Training in anything that requires performance under pressure usually involves challenges.  Pilots go into the simulator and have hours of practice dealing with mechanical failures and horrible weather.  The military has boot camp to toughen recruits both mentally and physically.  In sports, coaches set up practices with challenges and scenarios that predict situations their players will face in competition.  Focus is a learned skill and developed through situational learning.  It can be practiced in any situation and you have to remember that you can train your focus at any time.  It is all about practicing the control you need over all aspects of your self.

U.S. Airways Flt. 1549 landed in the Hudson River when both engines failed.  Chelsey Sullenberger was the pilot. Speaking with news anchor Katie Couric, Sullenberger said: "One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I've been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal."  Perhaps your training is preparing you to win the U.S. Open in twenty years time.

Focus seems to be about mental toughness, but leaders know it requires more.  It requires a strong spirit, too.  Your mind is held aloft by your spirit.  Think of your spirit as your best friend, your biggest supporter and as having your back.  On the golf course, your spirit is what keeps your feet moving and your head up.  It is what reminds you that you love golf, love the challenge, and you can do it.  Your spirit is as important to your mental toughness as anything your mind does to help you.

Your body is also important to your mental toughness.  Your toughness will show in your posture and in your step.  Your spirit and mental game are reflected by your body language, which means that training your body is an important part of the process.  As a high school basketball player, we were not allowed to put our hands on our knees and bend over.  No matter how many suicides we ran, we had to stand up straight afterwards.  Our coach was training mental toughness through our body language.  Think of yourself on the range after a poor shot.  Do you take a moment to reflect on the adjustment you need or do you pull another ball over quickly to erase the image?  Do you maintain a focused attitude or do you slump your shoulders and bang your club?  The relationship between your thoughts, emotions and body language is unquestionable.  In order to train your mental toughness, you need to model the body language you want at all times.  You can relax after golf!

The third facet of mental toughness is your control of your mind.  No one can control the thoughts that flit through their mind.  However, you can control what you choose to pay attention to and how you react to your thoughts.  If you are nervous on the first tee, you can decide to focus on your swing thought or a mantra, such as "slow and steady".  You can visualize the shot vividly and make sure you stick to your practiced routine.  All of us have nerves, bad thoughts, doubts, and fear, but how we choose to deal with them and where we put our focus is what separates the mentally tough from the mentally feeble.  Mental toughness means that you have a plan for your focus.  It means that you learn from mistakes you've made under pressure.  It means that you understand how important your spirit and body language are to the big picture.  It means that you look forward to challenges to test it.

If you choose to believe in yourself, you will find examples of your success throughout your day.  If you don't believe in yourself, you will also find ample examples to show you are correct.  Your belief in yourself shapes your focus and expectations.

Now it's time to train and test your mental toughness.  There are a number of ways you can add adversity to your golf practice.  You can play from longer distances than normal.  You can play a round of worst ball.  (Play two balls from the tee, choose the worst outcome and play two balls from there.  Keep going until you hole out both balls.)  You can play the rough as out of bounds.  You can play with three clubs instead of a whole set.  You can play a game where your competitors are allowed to move your ball a club length.  Golf is tough enough normally, but by heightening the challenges and pressure, you will learn quickly what bothers you on the course and eventually learn a response to it that allows you to stay strong in mind, body and spirit.

In our last tournament in Austin, TX, we had a bad weather day.  Our attitudes were excellent and we held our focus throughout the day.  The team's approach was just as it was in good weather and that allowed them to maintain not only their good play, but their spirits were high throughout the day and their body language was strong and uplifted.  I was also very impressed with Iowa State, who used the bad weather to excel and pick themselves up from a tie for 9th place to 4th place with the low round of the day.  They showed composure, toughness and had an opportunistic approach to the day.  They knocked eight shots off the previous day's score when the average team added five shots.  Playing in bad weather is another opportunity to test your toughness.



Tomorrow, we are playing from the back tees on the Blue Course at DAC.  Here are the things I hope to see from the team.
  • Composure.  Composure is the feeling of being calm and in control.  It is important for golfers, especially when facing challenges.  It allows you to keep your head in the game and not get emotional over mistakes or problems. 
  • Game Plans.  Game plans will be necessary both in how to play the course and in how to deal with situations.  We will have a south wind tomorrow, which will make the 4th hole a long one over water.  It is 210 and the wind will be in our faces.  Will anyone consider playing it in two shots and gaining a putt for par instead of hitting 3 wood or driver?  Will the team think about putting themselves in the right position on long par 4's to have their go-to wedge distance on their 3rd shot or to give themselves an angle to the hole?  Will each player have a goal for the day that will help her get focused and stay in each shot until the 18th hole?
  • Athleticism.  Athleticism means relying upon your strengths as a player and maintaining them throughout your round.  If you have a smooth tempo, will you destroy it by swinging hard or will you maintain it and get what you can from each shot?  Can you maintain your swing in tough conditions and not give in to tension and pressure?  Can you be yourself or will you try to be perfect?  Will you play the game?
  • Attitude.  Will your spirit be there for you?  Will it keep your head up and a spring in your step? Will you see the fun in facing a challenge?  Will you let go of mistakes and problems? Can you keep pressure from making you press and instead decide you will do what you can with each shot?
  • Momentum.  Can you create momentum for yourself when you need it?  Can you capitalize when you are given chances and minimize your problems when you get in trouble?  Can you bounce back? 
  • Scoring.  Will the team do whatever they can to score?  Will they play position golf?  Will they have sharp short games?  Will they make putts when needed?   
  • Accountability.  Finally and most importantly, will the team have full accountability for their games?  There is always an opportunity to make excuses when the challenge gets the better of you, but as a player, your responsibility is to your score and your team's score.
Mental toughness means you are strong in mind, body and spirit.



Thursday, October 3, 2013

Practice Schedule Prior to a Tournament

Thursday, October 3rd

SMU Women’s Golf

Get this done today!

1.  Make 50 4 footers.  Use your routine!!!  No time limit.  Put at least 10 tees around the hole so you don’t wear the green out.

2.  Putt to the string from 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 feet.  Get one ball within a putter head from each distance and then repeat from the beginning.  Use your routine!!!  No time limit.

3.  Play 18 holes of match play with a teammate.  Closest to the hole chipping and pitching contest.  Winner chooses the shot.  Drop the ball, use your routine.  No time limit.

4.  Put 3 towels on the green and hit 3 bunker shots – 1 to each towel.  Don’t repeat the same shot twice.  Land a ball on each towel.  Use your routine!!!  Now do the same from a fried egg lie, a downhill lie, an uphill lie, ball above your feet and ball below your feet.  Get help if you need it.  5 minute limit for each type of shot.  End with good lies, routines and great shots!

5.  Put 5 piles of 10 balls at 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 yards.  Hit each of the 10 using your routine, visualizing the shot’s trajectory, landing point and spin and roll.   No time limit.

If you finish early, work on knock downs on the range.   Challenge a teammate to closest to the pin contests on the range controlling trajectory and spin.

“Stay focused, go after your dreams and keep moving toward your goals.”  LL Cool J

Prior to travel, I like to write a schedule that focuses on repetition for confidence and focus.  There is always a bit of competition in there plus a lot of pre shot routine.  I want the players to get into their pre shot routine in order to choose targets, visualize and commit.  Having a repetitive practice needs to include the things that are important to hitting good shots.  We have had plenty of range time this week, along with play, so the team will spend today focused on short game and preparing to play in the wind.  We leave tonight for Norman, OK and the Schooner Invitational at Belmar CC. It is a great field and we are excited to compete!


PONY UP!






Thursday, September 26, 2013

Did You Give Up Today? 10 Questions to Ask

Here are some questions for young athletes to determine if you gave up today.  Most young athletes think giving up means to quit trying, but it isn't based on trying or effort, it is based on belief.  You are your own best or worst asset on the golf course.  If you don't believe in yourself, your preparation or your abilities, then you have given up.

The idea of today's blog is to show you the choices you face throughout your day.  All of us face these choices throughout our days in relationship to our goals and effort.  We can commit to what we want and pay the price or we can give in to what is easy.

If you are a golfer, here are some questions to ask yourself about the choices you are making.

1.  Did you warm-up for the round with the goal of getting loose and having a good day?
OR
Did you go to the range or practice green and focus on bad shots, bad swings, poor tempo or pressure?

2.  Did you decide what you would focus on throughout your round, such as target or tempo and stick with it? 
OR
Did you go to the first tee wondering what sort of day you would have and hoping it wasn't a bad one?

3.  Did you decide what you wanted to do with each and every shot and commit to that decision and execute it?
OR
Did you try not to miss the shot, not to hit into trouble or not to make mistakes?

4.  Did you rely on your preparation and situations to choose your targets and create shots?
OR
Did you over-analyze situations and try for perfection on your shots?

5.  Did you forgive yourself for mistakes and focus on your ability to bounce back?
OR
Did you beat yourself up for your mistakes and create more problems?

6. Did you appreciate the golf course, your fellow competitors, the beauty of the golf course, the birds in the sky and your chance to play golf?
OR
Did you walk along wishing you were somewhere else, that the day was over and that the people you were playing with would just shut up?

7.  Did you compete?  Did you do as well as you could with each chance you were given?
OR
Did you fail to focus on each shot, because it didn't really matter?

8.  Did you have positive self-talk that got you pumped up and refocused?
OR
Did you have negative self-talk that made you feel angry, sad and defeated?

9.  Did you choose the fun of the challenge and know you were up to it?
OR
Did you think you were unlucky and getting bad bounces and feeling powerless? 

10.  Did you believe in yourself?
OR
Did you give up on yourself?

When I'm out recruiting, these are the things I'm looking for in players.  It is tough to see from the outside, but body language, focus, routine, attitude, and bounce backs are good guides.  If you can answer each question with the first option, you are a fighter.  If not, you need to learn to be one.  That is the only option if you want to be a player!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Art of Misdirection

I love to watch Ted Talks.  You can find them on youtube or at Ted.com.  They are short, but usually thought provoking.  I watch random ones looking for new ways of looking at old problems. I found one today called The Art of Misdirection.  It is by Apollo Robbins, a world class pickpocket.  He shows the audience how he can easily control a person's attention and predict their behavior.  He explains that what you choose to attend to is what you are aware of.  His job as a pickpocket is to control your attention and he tells us that your attention is a limited resource.   Watch it!  It is both entertaining and enlightening.

Apollo Robbins plying his trade


If your attention is a limited resource, where would you choose to place it when you play golf.  On the first tee, what do you attend to?  Do you notice the tee markers and where they aim you?  Do you feel the wind's direction and strength?  Can you feel tension in your shoulders?  Is your breathing slow and deep or fast and shallow?  Can you clearly visualize the shot you want to hit?  Can you focus on the target?  Can you feel your pre-shot routine being rushed or slowing down?  Do you notice the people watching you?  Does your coach or dad or fellow-competitor make you nervous?  Are you remembering the shots you hit on the driving range during warm up or the shot you hit here yesterday?  Are you thinking about how tough that hole location will be unless you hit a perfect second shot?  Did you notice how the other players' balls flew in the wind?

Oh my!  There are so many things you could pay attention to in any given moment on the golf course.  Your job is to figure out how to use this limited resource in a way that helps you stay in the present, focus on the shot at hand and keep the faith that you possess the skill needed to perform.



Apollo's job is to distract a person's awareness and perception of what is happening and to use this distraction for his gain.  Golf's job is much the same.  The game works constantly to distract you from the moment and take you away from attending to what will truly help you create, learn and score.

Those three areas of the game, create, learn and score, need to be approached by attending to different things.  To create shots, you need to have an awareness of what the club is doing and how.  This is a big segment of today's teaching since Trackman and Flightscope have shown us how our impact creates shots.  To learn the game, you need to have an awareness of what your body is doing and how.  This has been a big focus in teaching since t.v. was invented and we were able to document what players did to hit the ball.  To score, you need to have an awareness of what the ball is doing versus the golf course.  This is how golf is learned by all players eventually, if the score matters.  You might laugh at the last part of that sentence, but there are players who would rather hit it long or swing the club perfectly than score well. 

All three areas are important and require you to pay attention to different things.  As coaches, we often see overlearning in one area, which leads to attention problems in other areas.  For example, players hit a bunch of balls thinking about what their right arm or left knee is doing to learn the proper movement, but continue to turn their attention to it on the golf course, when they would be better served being "outside" their bodies and aware of the golf course or conditions.  Most great tournament players focus on the ball, the course, the conditions, the club and themselves in that order.  If a tournament player flips the order of attention, she is in trouble of losing track of what is happening in the round.  As coaches, we are amazed at players not feeling the wind, playing break or seeing that a shot or putt is downhill, but the reality is, attention is a limited resource and where a player places it during a round of golf is completely under her control.  Our job then becomes to train players where to place attention to be most effective at playing the game.

Another way that a golfer can have her attention pickpocketed is by leaving the present and going to past memories or thinking about future events out of her control.  In the film, Apollo talks about asking a question that focuses his mark's thoughts inward, effectively taking away his perceptions of what is happening around him.  He says that you can access memory or you can be aware of the present, but you can't do both effectively.

Think of the questions you ask yourself during a round of golf and how quickly you can turn your attention inward.  Do you recognize any of these?  What's wrong with my swing?  What is my problem today?  How many times am I going to leave it short?  What am I going to shoot today?  When you ask yourself these questions, do you search for the answers inside?  Are you distracting yourself and losing your perception of the reality around you?



How about asking yourself different questions such as; Where is the landing area?  What is the wind doing?  What is my ball flight today?  Which way will the ball bounce?  How much break does this putt have?  Is this putt uphill or downhill?  Will this chip shot roll out or check?  Will my ball spin from this bunker lie?

It doesn't have to be all about the outside.  You can check in on your self-awareness as a player, too.  You can ask yourself questions that will help you attend to yourself as a player.  How is my tempo?  Am I tense?  Is my head up so I see the green before I get to it?  Am I focused on what will help me?  Can I relax a bit between shots?  Any and all of these questions are appropriate ways for you to check in on yourself as you play.  If you are in control of where you place your attention, it might be appropriate to check in once in awhile and make adjustments when needed.  Self-awareness is not the same as self-consciousness.  Awareness means you understand what you need to be successful, while consciousness means you can think of little else but yourself.

The point to all of this is, you need to be aware of your attention and where you are placing it.  You need to control situations differently depending on your needs.  You need to understand that attention is a finite quantity and if you have just a little bit to focus on, be careful how you use it.

Lack of attention can create a spiral that gets away from a player quickly.  For example, I often ask players during warm up from which direction the wind is blowing.  If I don't allow them to check before answering, they often can't answer.  Yet, I am witnessing them work to offset the fade that the wind is creating.  By not having awareness of conditions, they could disrupt their swing, their alignment or their club choices.  Warm up for a round of golf quickly becomes a worrisome session of "fixing" when in fact, paying attention was all that was needed. 

As a coach, my job is to teach you to pay attention to what you pay attention to.  Got it?  If you walk down the second hole paying attention to the putt you just missed on the first green, you are already in trouble after only 15 or 20 minutes of golf.  However, if you are walking down the second fairway, taking note of the breeze, the hills, how the green looks in front of you and your pace, you are paying attention to all the right stuff. 


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mission, Goals and a lot of Heart!

SMU Women's Golf 2013-14

Our morning workout today was a brutal one.  We are 12 days from playing a tournament at 8000 feet on a hilly golf course, so I've asked our strength coach to get our legs and lungs ready.  The team ran gassers today and they really impressed me with their work ethic and heart.  They ran as hard on the 10th as they did on the first with burpees, squats, lunges, wall sits, sit ups, push ups, etc in between each gasser.  What I witnessed brings me to talk about an article I sent to them yesterday.  In the article, the author talked about a visible culture that was consistent and constant in a group.  Each person seemed to reflect the culture in all they did.  To me, that is the mark of a group that believes in what they are doing.  It is the definition of total buy in.  It is what I see in this team.

In a small group dynamic, such as a golf team, leadership comes from every member of the group.  While there may be more vocal leaders within the group, modeling is equally effective as a leadership tool.  We believe in the equality of each in the group and this year we designed our leadership and communication to reflect that belief.  We asked each person to give a touchstone that reflected an important value of the team.  Each week, anyone can award that touchstone to a teammate who demonstrated the value.  It can also be used as a teaching moment by awarding it to a teammate who needs to commit more attention to a value.  We spend time talking about our week as a team and we pass a talking rock to make sure that we all have a voice. 

Next, we set our team goals in much the same way.  Each player and each coach offered one goal that we wanted the team to reach.  It lead to one of the more powerful goal setting meetings I have seen in my coaching career.  The differences are due to the ownership each player felt during the meeting and the emotional tie to the goals that were presented.  I've been through many a meeting with fewer goals that were set without much attachment, but this was different.  Each player explained her team goal and why it was important.  Eleven goals are a lot for a team, but they are very diverse and each will accomplish a different aspect of success, including competition, cooperation and attitude.

Finally, the team set their mission.  This is the only thing I want to share in public, but my hope is that it is shared visibly in all we do.  It took a few minutes of discussion of what we wanted to stand for and how we could define what we did and how, but in the end, the team decided that one word would do it.  SMU Women's Golf Mission:  We are ONE!



Now that we know who we are, what we want and what is important to us, all that is left is the work of achieving all of it.  The work won't just be on our golf games, but also on our relationships, our values, our beliefs and our mission.  Together, we will achieve great things.  We are ONE!






Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mustang Golf Practice


8:00 AM practice at DAC and the team is focused already.  We have two putting goals on today's practice schedule and it is our team's culture to begin each practice on the putting green.  Our goal is to be the best putting team in the nation and our priorities for practice reflect that goal.


We now have four competitive rounds in the books and we have some good statistics to study and use for planning practice and formulating game plans.  We have a week of practice prior to the next competitive round of qualifying.  The coach's focus for Tuesday is improving the team's bunker play, getting ready for Red Sky's large greens with some long chip practice and as always, making putts.  

Thursday, we are going to work on a skill that we have seen lacking, which is learning to hit less than full shots to the prescribed distance or hitting punch shots from trouble to a certain distance.  We played a wedge game last week that was 3-fold.  First, they were asked to lay up to a certain yardage and record how well they did with that task.  Second, they were asked to hit their preferred wedge shots into the green and finally, they were asked to get that shot up and down.  What we found out was, we weren't very good at the first skill, which greatly effected the second and third skills.  This is also what we often see in competition.  

Players practice their "go-to" shot from 80 yards, but when in trouble, they have a hard time punching out to 80 yards.  Their punches often travel 20 extra yards into the far rough or even into more trouble.  In addition to learning to punch the ball or control trajectory, Thursday's game will help them learn the little things that help you control your distance, such as gripping down on the club, taking a shorter swing or laying the face of the club open and playing a cut shot.  We will keep score and compete and it will be a fun way to learn a new skill.  The truly competitive players will read ahead and practice what they will do and further their learning.  The determined players will leave the course and go to the range to improve upon what they did during the 9 holes.  The mark of a great team is finding the challenges of each practice and working until they are mastered.
            

Tuesday Team Practice from 8-9:30 AM: 
(4) 20 minute segments:
1.  Bunker – Use 9 balls in the bunker.  Hit 3 to each flag on the green.  You must get 2/3 within your wedge’s length to finish the set. 
2.  On the green over the hill, hit chips from the bottom to two towels.  Hit 3 balls to each towel.  You must get at least one ball to settle onto the towel and one ball to be within a wedge length of the towel.  The 3rd ball must be within 2 wedge lengths.  If you get it done prior to 20 minutes, hit to downhill targets.
3.  Put 5 tees in the ground around the hole at 4 feet.  Use a hole with a lot of break.  Make 10 in a row.  Use your routine, putt one ball from each tee and then work your way back around.  No do overs from the same place.  Focus on speed and using the high side of the hole to help you.
4.  Do the Mustang Drill - Put 5 tees down around the hole at 10 feet for each tee.  Putt from each tee once.  Use your routine.  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.  Play with a teammate to make it more fun.
                                                9:30-11:00 Work on what you need or go play.

Thursday:

On the 1st hole, use 1 more club than you normally would from that distance.  On the 2nd hole, use 2 more clubs than you normally would from that distance.  On the 3rd hole, use 3 more clubs than you normally would from that distance.  On the 4th hole, use 1 more club than normal and follow that pattern.   Work on controlling your trajectory, tempo and swing length to take a little off the shot and control your distance.  After play, we will have a team goal to reach prior to leaving practice.

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