Saturday, June 29, 2013

What Exactly is Focus?

What exactly is focus and how do you manage it?  It is one thing to say, "I'm going to focus on the target today" and quite another to actually do it.  In an earlier blog, Get Stronger, I promised to move on to other mental game skills that you could work on, but on second thought, I think I would be skipping something very important, the how of the task.

Part of the allure of the mental game is, some people seem to come to it easily and others don't.  That is merely an appearance.  All of us struggle with random thoughts that fleet through our mind.  We all see the water hazard or the white stakes lining the left side.  We all feel discontent with our swing at times.  We all lose confidence, feel doubt, worry about our challenges and get down on ourselves.  The difference between mentally strong players and others is the ability to shift gears quickly and put your thoughts where you want them.  Mentally strong players are able to stay in the present, because they have strategies to do so.  They understand that bad swings happen, but to dwell on them and work on them during a round is a goal that won't help them at the moment.

"The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire not things we fear."  Brian Tracy  

The ability to focus on what you choose comes from practice on planned strategies.  Here are some strategies you can use:
  • Trigger:  Many golfers have a trigger that tells them to focus.  It can be a tug of the cap, a lift of the sleeve, a waggle and tap combo or a last exhaled breath.  Whatever it is, it is a conscious thing that gets you ready.
  • Cue:  It should be short, positive and all yours.  Put the picture or thought in your mind that will help you perform.  You can use rhythm, mental game, physical movements or motivational things as your cue.  We have had some as a team that help us perform, such as "aggressive to conservative targets" or "get a putt for par" which is a cue we use if we get in trouble.  Other examples are: "keep it smooth" "see the shot" "finish low and around" "you got this".
  • Breathing:  I know it sounds silly to use breathing as a strategy, but anxiety can be lessened by breathing deeply and using your stomach muscles to really fill your diaphragm with air.  A big deep breath slowly let out can lead you into your cue or your trigger and on to the shot.  
  • Routine:  Your pre-shot routine can be your best friend when faced with lapses in focus.  Your routine holds all your practiced keys to success and is a comfortable thing in an uncomfortable situation.  You should know how long your routine takes and if it becomes inefficient during stressful times, you should recognize it and step off.  Most of the best routines take between 15 and 30 seconds, so it doesn't take long to get in the right frame of mind.  Anything over that time gives you the opportunity to think of the wrong things or get caught up in the ritual of the routine.  Routine isn't about ritual, it's about focus.
  • Time Outs: Every sport has time outs.  In golf, you have time in between shots to take a time out.  Use the time to relax and have positive self-talk.  It is also a good time to be in the present.  Become a bird watcher or look at the clouds in the sky.  Put your focus on something that is happening right in front of you instead of thinking of what you did in the past or what the future holds.  
Here is a focus plan a tournament player might have at a major event that she knows will be tough:
Today, I know I will need good focus, patience and imagination to play this course well.  When I step up to the shot, I will have a clear plan for it.  If I don't get it done, I'm going to take a deep breath and let it go so I can do my best on the next shot.  I'm going to appreciate the views between shots and remember to eat and drink during the round. 

How many players take the time to formulate a plan for the day or even come up with one goal that they will remember as they tour the course?  Doing this one thing may help you immensely.

"Resolve never to quit, never to give up, no matter what the situation.
Jack Nicklaus   

It is so important to practice these skills on the course.  So many players believe that playing a meaningless round of golf is just another opportunity to work on mechanics or have a "go for broke" attitude, so they never practice the real skills needed for scoring.  I believe that is one of the reasons that players like Paula Creamer reached a high level of success at an early age.  She played tournament golf every week as a junior.  She honed both her mental and physical game skills with the responsibility of posting scores.

Focus is a natural skill and one that children employ when they play.  It is interrupted by adult ego thoughts of fear, doubt, failure, comparisons and worry.  The ability to let go of your ego, just as you did as a child, will help you achieve focus.


As a coach involved in constant evaluation of players and recruits, this is one skill that I look for constantly.  Lots of players pass the "eye test" and look good on the range or the first tee, but their scores don't reflect the image.  Others fail the eye test, but seem to manage to bring in a low score.  My goal is to not allow myself to get caught up in "eye tests" but see the essence of the player.  Who understands the true game of golf and who focuses on what she can do to score with each and every shot? 

"That's been one of my mantras - focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains."  Steve Jobs







Friday, June 28, 2013

Ownership Worksheet

Name:
Date:

Who Are You as a Player? (2-7) (See The Definition of You Blog for examples)
1.
2.
3.

Big Goals: (1-5)
1.
2.

Little Goals: (5-10)
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Supporting Behaviors:
1.
2.
3.
4.

Important Details:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Evaluation Times:
1.

My Team:
1.
2.
3.
4.

Strengths to Use:

Weakness to work on or offset:
 
___________________________________________________________________________________
Here is an example for you to see.  This is not real, but it is realistic.  This is typical for a college player.


Name:  Julie Chapman
Date:  June 26, 2013

Who Are You as a Player?
Tenacious
Great Wedge Player
Competitive
Fiesty
Pumped

Big Goals:
1.  Win a Conference Championship with my team!
2.  Win a tournament this year.
3.  Average 74 or lower this year.
4.  Appreciate how cool it is to play college golf.
5.  Have fun with my teammates and coaches.

Little Goals: (5-10)
To Win a Conference Championship as a team I will need to:
1.  Be a good teammate.  Be supportive, be a leader, do the right things.
Evaluation:  The evaluation of this is totally on me.  If I can be a leader, I will do it by good behavior, good words and a good heart.  I will know if I am not a good teammate and will apologize and start over.
2.  Be consistent and contribute good scores.  Fight for every shot on the golf course.
Evaluation:  I can keep track of this by keeping a tally if I had a plan for each shot, focused on the execution and accepted the outcome.  I don't need to keep track of this all the time, but I will do so if I feel like I'm losing focus on the golf course.  The real goal here is staying in the moment.

To Win a Tournament this year I will need to:
1.  Be focused on what I can do successfully on the golf course at all times.
Evaluation:  Same as the one above.
2.  Get rest by finishing schoolwork, turning off my phone and avoiding caffeine.
Evaluation:  Goal is 100% on this one.  Evaluate after every tournament and look at problems if it isn't 100%.
3.  Be ready for my opportunity when it presents itself to me.  Be mentally prepared.  SFT
Evaluation:  Simple, be ready!  Tough to evaluate, but I want to see it, feel it, trust it on every shot.  If I'm struggling with this, I need to start keeping tally marks and working on improvement.  I also need to notice if the tally marks are easier with some skills than others.  I can track SFT and that is the key to my readiness.

To Average 74 or lower this year I will need to:
1.  I need to make one more putt per 9 holes to achieve this goal.
Evaluation:  Keep track of ppr, pgir and 1 putts vs. 3 putts.
2.  Work on my putting skills for an hour every day.  Aiming, distance control, reading greens, execution.
Evaluation:  Go to practice with a plan and find ways to keep it interesting, challenging and fun.
3.  Be diligent in practice rounds at looking at greens for slopes, breaks and grain.
Evaluation:  Check notes after leaving every green.  
4.  Maintain my ball striking and short game skills by working on them daily and keeping track of my statistics.
Evaluation:
Keep stats and look at them occasionally.

To appreciate how cool it is to play college golf I need to:
1.  Avoid getting stressed out about stuff I can't control and recognize the stuff I can control and take care of it.
Evaluation: Keep track of my stress and address issues that cause it.
2.  Stay organized with my time so I can have fun when I have free time, study when I need to and be focused on golf when I'm on the course.
Evaluation:  Check my calendar and be detailed.  
3.  Not worry about stuff coming up or dwell on mistakes made.
Evaluation:  Am I in the moment?  Get in the habit of letting it go vs. the other stuff.

To have fun with my teammates and coaches I need to:
1.  Keep an open mind with those around me.
2.  Let them know me and get to know them.
Evaluation:  Am I able to laugh, relax and socialize in a way that makes me happy and comfortable?


Supporting Behaviors:
1.  Good time manager.  Organized.
2.  Start on the putting green at practice every day.
3.  Smile a lot.
4.  Focus when practicing and playing.  No wandering mind out there!
5.  Walk like a champion in practice, qualifying and tournaments.  Be my feisty self out there!
6.  Help the young players be prepared for practice, workouts, travel, competition, and school.

Important Details:
1.  Check my alignment and ball position with swing and putter each week.
2.  Take time every Sunday to look at my upcoming week for qualifying, tests and quizzes and other responsibilities.
3.  Check in with my teammates one on one and find out what's going on with them weekly.
4.  If something in my game doesn't feel right, address it, work on it and manage it.


Evaluation Times:
I will keep these goals for my entire junior year.  I will look at them after every tournament to see if I need to adjust anything.  I will look closely at them after the semester to make sure they are what I need for the spring.

My Team:
1.  My parents
2.  My swing coach
3.  My coaches at school

I will share this worksheet with them and ask for their help along the way. 

Strengths:
Faith, determination, wedge game, competitive edge and ability to focus

Weaknesses: 
Length (offset by playing smart position golf and being great with my wedges), anger (offset by breathing techniques and refocusing), impatience (offset by thinking about other things between shots and by forgiving myself quickly), bunker play (offset by working on it daily and game planning to the center of greens when hole is cut over bunker).









Thursday, June 27, 2013

Get Stronger

I bet you think this is a blog about muscles, but you're wrong.  It's a blog about  your mental game.  Let's come up with a plan to get stronger from the neck up!



Let's use the analogy of working to build muscles.  We are going to choose one or two exercises to focus on to get stronger.  We are going to slowly build our reps, our speed and our strength.  Remember, muscles grow because we work them and stress them.  That is how we want to view our mental games.  Identify a weakness and work to master the skill to offset it.  When you feel strong in that skill, choose another skill to add to your mental game.  You don't have to do this by yourself.  You can find a coach, a guide, a mentor or someone who is successful doing what you want to do. Technique will be important to staying on track and building strength, as will determination and you should find someone to remind you of that and talk through your progress with you.

Okay, let's start.  What part of your mental game do you want to improve?  Here are some choices:

Focus
Visualization
Breathing
Calm/Balance/Steady
Commitment/Decision Making
Staying in the Present
Rhythm
Toughness/Resilience
Game Planning
Positiveness
Enjoyment/Happiness/Fun
Handling Pressure & Challenges

Let's choose the first, focus.  First of all, just saying focus isn't enough.  Where do you want your focus to be?  Good players can focus well, but often turn their focus on the wrong things.  That is as detrimental as no focus.   What is it you want to focus on?  An example would be targets.

Goal:  I want to focus on my target on every shot.



How will you go about reaching this goal?  Here are the steps.  Remember to keep it simple and quick so you can do it easily under pressure.

1.  On each hole, think of your game plan.
2.  Choose an appropriate target for the shot.
3.  Visualize the shot going to your target.
4.  Commit and execute the shot.

If you shoot 75 tomorrow, you will have had 75 opportunities to focus on your target.  In order to build your strength in this area, keep track of how many times you actually did it.  Along with your score, keep a tally for each shot you did all four of the things listed above.  Ask yourself, "Did I stick to my game plan?  Did I choose a target?  Did I see the shot before I hit it?  Did I stay committed to the shot and execute the shot?   If you did those four things, give yourself a check mark after you hole out.  Be honest with yourself in your evaluation.  If your mind wandered to the water on the right during your pre-shot routine, did you refocus or just rush through the shot?  If you thought about  your takeaway mid swing instead of sticking with the picture of your target, don't give yourself the tally.  You can hit a bad shot and still get a tally mark if you stayed committed to your target until you hit the ball.  You can hit a good shot and lose a tally if you know you got by with a swing that wasn't focused where you wanted it.



As you continue to work on this one skill, you will see your strength grow.  You will create good habits and catch yourself when your mind wanders or focuses on things you don't want to think about.  You should see an increase in reps, just as you would in the weight room.  After every round, figure out the percentage of your success and work until you are consistently at or over 90%  Every once in awhile, you will finish your round and realize you got 100%.  Your scoring will be low on those days, but that isn't what will stand out to you.  Instead, you will be proud of the strength you gained on your focus. 



Over the next few days, we will talk about some of the other mental game skills listed above.  If you want to work on your mental game, start with just one and stick with it until you see real success.   I mentioned earlier that speed will come along with strength.  What I mean by that is, you will be quicker to recognize when you aren't in the state of mind you want to be in to play your best golf.  When that happens, simply go to the simple plan you drew up and focus on the steps involved.  Evaluate yourself anew with each shot and don't give up on your plan in the round.  Failure once or twice just means you need more time in the gym to gain strength.

I also talked about how a coach or guide could help you.  One of my current players got that type of mentorship from a former tour player who offered his advice.  The person you talk to doesn't necessarily need to be a golfer.  There are a lot of mentally tough people out there who can encourage you and give you guidance along the way.  The important thing for you to improve is that you recognize your needs, give yourself a plan, work to execute the plan over a period of time, evaluate your results and stick with it until you reach mastery.

Larry Mowry reached out to mentor a Mustang this past year and helped her with her mental game. 


Your brain isn't a muscle, but if you treat it like one, it takes the mystery out of the mental game.  Get started today!

Keep Your Stats

Own Your Game!

Where you are now?  Keep stats for at least 180 holes of golf and average them.  Here is a great example of a stat sheet you can use.  
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Course:


Tees:


Date:



Conditions:




Entered stats sheet:



Hole # 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T --Fold -- 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 T T
Gold - Par 4 4 5 3 4 4 3 4 4 35 --Line -- 4 5 4 5 4 3 4 3 5 37 72
Par (away)



















Blue - Par 5 4 5 3 4 4 3 4 4 36 5 4 4 5 3 4 3 4 4 36 72
Score Score
F-ways (L,R) F-ways
GIR (L,R,S,O,NC) GIR (L,R,S,O,NC)
        w/i 15 ft         w/i 15 ft
Putts # Putts #
Up/Down (Y/N) Up/Down (Y/N)
        Bunker U/D         Bunker U/D
Par 2 score Par 2 score
Penalties Penalties
Putts/GIR   Count after 9 or 18 by circling putts on holes w/ a check in GIR box

Putts/GIR








Birdies   Count after 9 or 18  totaling circles in score box



Birdies








Eagles   Count after 9 or 18  totaling circles in score box



Eagles








Others   Count after 9 or 18  totaling circles in score box



Others








Bounce-backs   Count after 9 or 18 by totaling BB's in score box after square holes

Bounce-backs








  --------------------------------------------------------Optional tear Line-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Optional Tear Line--------------------------------------------------------------------------






























Notes - not printed as part of  scorecard





















Sharpie or pencil thru par on course not playing; fold card in half for easier use; optional - can scissors or tear extra space on bottom of card










Will need a color printer to print colored portions of the scorecard


















Score - use circles and squares for birdies and bogeys (others) to allow easy bounce back calculations, birdie, eagles and others totals











F-ways box will be a check mark or indicate the miss (L,R)




















GIR (Greens) box will be a checkmark or indicate the miss(S,O,L,R,NC)
NC = no chance















Bounce backs counted as a BB in right hand corner of the score line following a boxed score on previous hole













Up and downs tracked by indicating a Y(converted) or N (not converted in Up/Dn line - total of Y and N equals total up/down opportunities










Same for w/i 15 feet category






















Easiest way to count putts/GIR is to circle or mark the check marks in GIR box then count putts on those holes













Par 2 score begins the moment player reaches 100 yards or inside 100 yards - keep separate score for all strokes within 100 yards (full swing, pitch, chip, bunker, putts)







Note: print in landscape mode on legal size paper





















Stat sheet compliments of Lance Patterson, Head Professional at Dallas Athletic Club

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Daily Do It #10 - The Best and The Worst

Go play 18 holes when it isn't really busy.  Play two balls.

On the first nine, always go to your worst shot and play your two balls from there.

On your second nine, always go to your best shot and play two balls from there.

What did you learn from both nines? 

Keep playing this game until you can score close to the same on both nines.




Ownership

Our next blog in the series of how to get out of your own way is on Ownership!  Owning your game is an important step toward possessing self-confidence on the course.  What does it mean to own your game?  This blog will be followed up with a stat sheet tomorrow to track your game and an Ownership Worksheet on Friday to help you set your goals.

Here are some outward signs of self-confidence.  Remember, 50% of our communication is non-verbal.
  • The ability to accept compliments and see them as affirmations to your hard work.
  • Calm acceptance of mistakes as simply that, mistakes.
  • Consistent body language that shows focus and engagement in your task. 
  • A pre and post shot routine that is consistent and measured.  
  • You are able to listen thoughtfully to criticism and use what will help while discarding unneeded advice.
Here are some outward signs that you lack self-confidence:
  • Mistakes lead to angry outbursts.
  • Poor results lead to poor body language.
  • You feel the need to explain/defend your actions.
  • You respond to criticism quickly and aggressively.

Here are some inward signs that you are confident:
  • Making decisions without worry of what others think.
  • The ability to commit to your decisions.
  • The willingness to sometimes take risks and accept consequences.
  • Setting goals based on success instead of the avoidance of failure.
  • You look forward to the next tournament round and the challenges it will hold.
Here are some inward signs that you lack self-confidence:
  • You are concerned about what others will think when they see your score posted.
  • You worry about an upcoming performance.
  • You cling to a perfectionist attitude to evaluate your performance.
  • You give yourself excuses for your mistakes. 
  • You complain about your bad luck or other examples of being a victim on the course.
Peanuts by Charles Schulz

Where do you see yourself in these examples?  How can you work to own your game?
  • Be the CEO of your golf game.  Know what your goals are and what you need to do to achieve them.
    • Keep track of statistics and use them to rely on strengths and work to offset weaknesses.
    • Have a voice in your instruction.  Ask questions to be clear on goals, plan and implementation.
    • Be clear on who is on your support team and keep them closely involved in your goals.
    • Take care of the little details needed to be successful.  Eat right, get your rest, stay fit and be prepared when you go to the course.  
    • Become an expert in your tools of the trade, your clubs.  Make sure they are right for you and stay in good shape.
  • Set goals that you can track and achieve to gain confidence in yourself.
    • Goals don't have to be based on physical things only.  Choose other ways to evaluate your game to track improvement.  For example, have a goal of a focused pre-shot routine and give yourself a tally for each routine that you achieved your goal.  
    • Work for steady improvement.
    • Celebrate when you achieve a goal with a ritual, such as an ice cream cone from your favorite place.  
  • Be yourself.  Be honest with yourself.  Keep perspective.  Don't use excuses.  Never be a victim to circumstances.  Don't allow others to do these things for you. 
    • Evaluate what you do by what is important to you.  Go back to the Define Yourself blog and remember what you chose as who you are as a player.  Remember to use those things to evaluate your performance.
    • Your behavior is more indicative of who you are than your score.  Remember that on good days and bad.  Does your character show on the golf course and how?
    • You are probably not as good as your best shot or as bad as your worst shot.  Keep your perspective in check.
    • Be authentic.  You are unique.  You can model others, but remember to mold yourself in your own way. It's okay to be different if you have a plan.
  • Find fun, passion and joy in the game.  Be grateful for your opportunities and talent.
    • Balance a serious approach with celebrations, awareness of beauty and camraderie.
    • Forgive yourself for mistakes and move on.  Dwelling is in the past and worry is in the future.  Be in your shoes where you are standing.
    •  Remember to acknowledge your opportunities and abilities daily.
  • Work as hard as you can to achieve your goals.
    • There is no substitute for hard work.
    • You are in total control of your work ethic.
    • By avoiding work, you provide yourself with an excuse for failure.  In the end, it is still failure.



    • Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson



Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Daily Do It #9 PROPS!

You will need some preparation today for your practice.  Each challenge calls for you to take household items with you to the golf course.  Today is a fun day filled with props to help you with your game.

Putting Challenge:
String Drill - Put a string at least 6-10 feet long on the green.  Putt to it until you get 3 balls to stop within a putter head distance from 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 feet.



Quarter Drill - Put a tee in the ground at 3 feet from the hole.  Put a quarter down and putt it.  Make sure you move it at least a few inches.  When successful, hit 3 putts into the hole with the same feel for the stroke.  Continue until you can do it with ease.  This is a great drill to keep your hands ahead of the club face as you putt.

Short Game Challenge:
Intermediate Target Drill -  We've done this one before.  Find a margarine tub lid and bring it with you to the course.  Put it on the green and anchor it with a tee.  Feel free to use multiple lids if you have them.  Throw balls out randomly and chip each one to land on the lid.  Learning to land the ball on the spot you want is an important skill to a good golf game.



Trajectory Drill - Save your gallon milk jugs for this one.  Stick your aiming stick in the ground and put the jug on it by turning it upside down.  Now, throw balls down 5 to 30 yards away from the jug.  Can you chip these balls and have them hit the jug?  As you move around, you will have to control your trajectory to accomplish this challenge.  When you hit the jug, you will be rewarded with a loud noise!  Learn to visualize and control the height of your shots!

Ball Striking Challenge:  It's all about the snacks!

Nilla Wafer Drill - Hitting good golf shots means hitting down and through the ball.  Throw a Nilla Wafer on the ground and hit it.  If you can send it flying, you are making a downward strike and getting to the bottom of the ball. 




Pringles Drill - Can you hit golf shots with a Pringle in your mouth without breaking it at impact?  Unwanted tension is important to recognize.  Can you be this relaxed when you hit golf shots?

White Board Marker - Mark each range ball prior to hitting it and then check the face of your club to see where you are impacting the ball.  Shots hit from the center of the face are more solid and predictable.  


Fitness Challenge
Step Ups - Find a high step and step onto it. Get your whole foot on the step, not just the ball of your foot.  Raise your other knee to your chest, step down and back into a lunge.  Switch legs and do it again. Do two sets of 15.  


Monday, June 24, 2013

Build Your Skills For Scoring

Are you learning the game of golf?  What does that mean?  If your goal is to play at the highest level, it means that you are learning to score.  In today's world, there are a lot of confused golfers who believe that learning golf means something else.  They are intent on learning a perfect swing.  They work hard on a pre-shot routine.  They can throw 20 balls down in a greenside pile and get most up and down.  They work out hard in the gym to hone muscles that produce power and stability.  All of these things are important to becoming a player, but they are only a combination of skills.  The true skill needed is get the ball in the hole as quickly and efficiently as possible.

"Weight and size have little to do with golf..It is all about having a functional golf swing. The primary purpose in a tournament is to shoot the lowest score, not to have the prettiest swing"

Ben Hogan 

I know many of you are confused.  You are thinking, "Of course these skills are for playing better golf."  However, there are many who don't make that leap.  This spring, a player from another team was overheard saying, "I just want to go to the range and practice."  This was on the 9th hole of a 36 hole day.  Hmmm, that player was interested in hitting good shots, not in scoring.  Golf isn't about how you hit it or how you look doing it.  It is about getting the ball in the hole.  Better yet, getting it in the hole when it matters.

This is Bubba Watson's roadmap of the first playoff hole in the 2012 Masters.  On the scorecard, it merely said 4. 

Scoring means that you do what it takes to get the ball in the hole.  If you aren't hitting it well, you change your approach.  Perhaps you aim for the ball flight you see or take more club and hit knock downs.  When you are hitting it well, you remember that you have a game plan and stick to it in order to score.  If you aren't putting well, you don't give up or try harder.  Instead, you keep an open mind and a good attitude and approach each putt as though it is the one that will reverse the trend and fall.  If your irons are off line, you find the fun in the challenge of getting the ball up and down.  The point is, the skills you are learning when you hit balls, watch video, use launch monitors, do chipping drills or putt on a chalk line won't help you if you don't understand that their doing means nothing on the course.  When it comes time to tee it up on the first hole, you will face the reality of the game.  It can entail wind, rain, cold or heat.  The grass can be long and sticky or bare and hard.  The pace of play can be excruciatingly slow or quick.  Your swing can feel off kilter and your putting stroke can feel jerky.  The greens can be bumpy and slow or quick as lightning.  In other words, you are not in control of your world.

The sooner you decide that golf is about scoring with whatever you have that day in whatever setting the course offers you, the better player you will be.  The best way to learn this attitude is to play and score.  Today, I heard an interview with a very talented junior golfer, Matt Gilchrist of Dallas.  He recently shot a 62 in competition.  His previous best in competition was a 66, but he mentioned shooting a 61 in practice.  When he remembered that round, he said it was very cold and windy and getting dark.  Many players wouldn't be out playing in that weather, but this young man was out in it and working hard to shoot as low as possible.  That experience probably helped him when he had the opportunity to shoot 62.

This week, Lauren Diaz-Yi won the USGA WAPL in Norman, OK.  Her interview revealed that she thinks like a player with the goal of getting the ball in the hole.

"Today my distance control on like the long lag putts, they were kind of lacking a little bit compared to earlier this week.  Doris had fantastic speed control on those putts, and I knew she was just going to nestle those close to the hole for easy pars, and I would have to convert my three‑, four‑footers.
I knew that putting on these greens was going to be a factor with these tricky pin placements today.  I mean, literally everything was tucked.  If you don't play from the fairway in the right position, you'll be having a tough up‑and‑down.  Getting up‑and‑down and making those crucial putts to stay alive is‑‑ I knew it was key today.  So I really worked on my putting a lot, especially within five feet, because in the end that's really what saved me today."


Diaz-Yi didn't talk about what she was doing well during the round, but about what wasn't going well and how she focused to offset it.  This is a crucial skill that winners develop on the golf course.  Sometimes we think that winners hit it great and make everything, but often, they are simply the best at managing and offsetting their problems.

Lauren Diaz-Yi (from NewsOK.com)
Diaz-Yi also talked about her ball flight given the windy conditions:
"...Second 18 the wind was really gusting up, clubbing up a lot more than earlier this morning, and I think just keeping my ball in play with the driver rather than having it like rocket in the air helped a lot, because I like to keep it low, and when you play a Pub Links they always choose the windy locations, so you've got to make sure your game is on top in that department."

She had prepared for the tournament with the knowledge that it would be windy and she would need to control her flight.  She didn't practice by hitting perfect drives with no wind, but by flighting it low.

Lauren Diaz-Yi won the 2013 WAPL this week in Norman, OK (from NewsOK.com)
This excerpt shows us that she is taking care of all that is needed to be at her best during the round.
"I just made sure I was hydrated.  That was so important for me, like drinking lots of water, getting a fresh new bottle on every hole.  Drinking a lot of Gatorade, I had like the little Gatorade gummies that really helped me a lot.  My teammate Briana, she actually dehydrated in her round of, what was it, quarters, I think, but she wasn't eating, she wasn't drinking from what I hear.  So that's going to kill you out here with all this heat and playing 36 holes a day.  So I just made sure that I was eating, I was drinking a lot, and just like getting those electrolytes.  Yeah."

Diaz-Yi kept giving great insight in her interview.  Here she talks about what she came away with after the event.  "I think the most thing I learned is that if I'm patient with myself and I pace myself, I can really perform and be however good I think I should be.  Like I said, like those‑‑ within five feet, those are so crucial, and I don't think I've ever made that many clutch inside‑five‑foot putts that actually mattered in my life of golf.  So I think just knowing that if I'm calm, I'll be able to get as far as I want to.  That's just having a positive outlook and just being as relaxed as possible without any stress or pressure."


These are the skills that you learn by playing the game.  When you go out for 18 holes that seemingly don't matter for anything, are you working on your mindset?  Are you thinking about patience and handling pressure?  Are you staying positive and doing what it takes to get the ball in the hole no matter what you face?  Or, are you still thinking about making perfect swings and having great form?  Do you give up on scoring when playing in tough conditions and use them as an excuse or do you work harder than normal to focus and manage the course?  If things aren't going well, do you leave and go to the range to work it out or do you work it out by doing what you are capable of on the course?  Can you find the challenge of the day and rise to it?  Are you preparing yourself for the crucial round you will face in competition by practicing the way you want to play?

Golfers use scores to evaluate their games.  Make sure you remember to use scoring as your yardstick. Use your practice and your skills for confidence building, but remember, scoring is the most important skill in golf.





Sunday, June 23, 2013

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

The first two posts in the series to help you get out of your own way on the course were about Defining Yourself and Evaluating Yourself.  Today, I'd like to talk about what can go wrong out there on the golf course.  Any of us who have played competitive golf knows that a lot can go wrong and at any time.  Look at Steve Stricker at last week's U.S. Open.  Arguably, one of the best U.S. players hit a ball out of bounds and then shanked another ball out of bounds on #2.  Headlines read, Stricker Falls Apart (Kyle Porter for CBS Sports Online).  What did Stricker have to say?  “Not the start I was looking for, I felt good, felt relaxed. I was excited for the day. Just the nature of the game, I guess. It puts you in place rather quickly at times."  Stricker wasn't happy with his start, but he understands that golf is a tough game and mistakes will happen during a round.

NBC showed the shank on Shot Tracker.  I'm not sure why...


Commentators spoke of the doom of the shank, but Stricker still had 16 holes to play.  He bogeyed the next, which was a 240 yard par 3 into the wind, but then bounced back and played the final 15 holes in +2.  He was only two shots over the average score for the day.  There were 50 double bogeys and 16 "others" meaning triple or higher in the final round at the 2013 Open.  Stricker wasn't the only player who faced the challenge of accepting a big score and going on.

If the best in the world can make these mistakes, then we should all understand the importance of perspective and learning from what we do.  If we want to continually move forward and improve, we need to be able to step back from the heat of the battle and see our game for its strengths and weaknesses. 
Here is a quote from Jack Nicklaus that says it all, "Professional golf is the only sport where, if you win 20% of the time, you’re the best."  Golf is a tough sport and to perform at your best takes great physical talent, mental focus and hard work.  Perhaps the most important aspect of greatness though, is perspective.  If players took the same things away from a round that the commentators or fans took away, they would not play the game too long or too well.  Here is what Stricker had to say about his week at the Open, ".....But still a good week.  I competed well this week.  I did a lot of good things.  Surely not what I was looking for today, but still things I can build on and work towards when I play next at the John Deere."



That last line is important.  Stricker is 46 years old and he is focused on learning and improving.  That is the attitude that has carried him to Ryder Cup appearances and gotten him through tough times.  That is the attitude you will need to have if you want to become a great player.  A lot can go wrong in a round of golf and in a golf career.  However, you will need to keep your perspective and remember to define yourself in your own terms.  Stricker is a life long learner and a self-proclaimed grinder.  Here is an interview he did on July 1, 2008 at the AT&T:

Q. I know you've struggled recently; tell us what's going on there.
STEVE STRICKER: Got off to a good start this year. Probably through the first nine events or something like that, played pretty well and had a chance to win early on, and just kind of hit a wall I think. Mentally got a little fatigued I think. My swing kind of -- my tempo kind of left me there for a while, starting to get that back, but I think for so long, for a good, solid, year and a half, two years, I was playing at a pretty high level, and it's tough to maintain.  I always have kind of known that there's still going to be bumps in the road. I'm not a Tiger Woods. I'm still going to have some bad tournaments along with some good tournaments, so I realize that more than ever now, and I'm just working hard to get it back again and moving in the right direction. I had a decent U.S. Open. I did some really good things there again, so I feel like I'm turning the corner and heading in the right direction, at least. 

Here is another good interview from the 2006 Western Open on July 5th.
Q. Can you take us through why your game went where it went and how long it took you to bring it back? We talked a little bit at St. Charles; you really had it going that day at sectional qualifier.
STEVE STRICKER: I don't know why it went the way it did. I think it's just the nature of the game. You know, it's filled with ups and downs. You know, it's a determination game where you have to just keep grinding away, keep practicing, keep trying to focus and get better. Even though you try hard sometimes, it just doesn't work.
I think for me personally, I was trying hard there for a while, and then it wasn't working and I had some good years in there and some down years, but the last three weren't very well. But then kind of this last winter, through that Tour school business of going to the finals and working on my game all the way through December, I kind of rededicated myself, kind of started working out again. You know, I practiced hard over the winter. Not that I didn't before, but kind of had a new outlook on things, and my attitude has been good, too. I think that's part of the reason.



Your path to greatness will have its up and downs.  There are many opportunities to shine all around the world and if you want your moment in the sun and the winner's circle, you need to remember to keep your perspective and hold to the things that will make you great.  Steve Stricker is a great example of consistency in his approach to the game.  He has always believed in learning from what he has done, working hard to improve and keeping a level and positive attitude as he moves along his path.  

Friday, June 21, 2013

Daily Do It #8 Awkward!

Today, we are going to work on awkward shots.  It is easy to practice from great lies on the driving range, but when we play the game, we face slopes, rough, elevation changes and buried lies.  Have some fun today practicing some of these shots.

For these awkward shots, you will pick up on a theme of balance.  Find a way to be balanced and to keep your head still when faced with an awkward lie.  Often, you will have a wider stance and stand a bit more flat footed.  Another common theme in awkward lies is to be quieter with your body.  One way to do that is to use an early and sharp wrist cock and keep your arms close to you as you swing instead of a wide arc.

Today's goal is to figure out how to manage the unusual.  Try different stances and balance points.  Learn to use your hands effectively to control the face of the club.  Move your ball position around.  Use your eyes to visualize the shot, the club's motion and to see your target.  Finally, and this might be the most important thing, learn what a good shot really is.  By that I mean, when you have a really tough lie, figuring out how to get a 15 footer might be the best you can do.  Having a 15 footer for par is a lot better than repeating a tough shot and making double or triple. 

Even though it is a learning day, give yourself some goals.  Play to your level.  You can do each challenge until you get all five balls on the green or all five on and 2 within 5 feet, etc.  You choose!

Here is a good shot of Tiger hitting from an uphill bunker lie.  Notice how his right shoulder works down and low through the shot.  Also, he looks centered as he swings through.  Keeping quiet with his legs helps him be precise with where the club enters the sand. 


1.  Find a bunker that is deep.  If you don't have one in a practice area, sneak out onto the course early in the morning before golfers are making the turn.  shhhh!  Throw down five balls on the up slope. Find a steep one.  Set your weight on your back foot and get your shoulders on a line that is closer to the slope you are on instead of flat.  You won't need much if any follow-thru.  Your goal is to learn how much swing it takes to drive the club under the ball and get the sand to explode up and take the ball out.

2.  If you can find a grassy bank in front of the bunker, throw five balls down there, too.  This shot isn't too different.  If the shot needs to travel a short distance, feel your right hand pass under your left as you follow through.  If you need a long shot, take a long back swing and create momentum.  Your follow through will have firmer hands than the first, but your arms will be close to your chest when you hold your finish.  If the lie is in deep rough, don't set your shoulders with the slope.  Instead, set up against the slope and swing directly into the hill.  No follow through will be needed.

3.  Work your way around the bunker.  Throw five balls down that stay high and require you to stand outside the bunker with the ball below your feet.  The easiest way to get lower is to widen your stance as much as possible.
Give yourself a lot of knee bend and use those quads.  The stronger you are, the easier it will be to have stability over the shot, so make sure you are doing your lunges daily!  Remember to keep a quiet head and keep your chest low as you swing the club.

4.  As you continue around the bunker, you find the dreaded downhill lie.  This shot requires practice and technique, so stay here and learn to hit it.  Find joy in the challenge instead of frustration in the result.  When you set up for this shot, all of your weight will go to the front leg.
Picture from golftoday.co.uk
Unlike the uphill shot, your shoulders won't mirror the slope as much.  Once you figure out how to be balanced and stable, use a quick, sharp wrist hinge to take the club away.  Focus on where the club will enter the sand and stay down through the shot.  Your finish should feel like you are in a room with a low ceiling and you have to duck to make a follow through.  The shot will roll out due to the sand flying over the ball as you hit it.  Play for roll and take your medicine.

5.  You are now on the side of the bunker where you are standing in it and the ball is out of it.  Grip down on the club and stand tall.  Once again, you will need a sharp wrist cock to get elevation on the club path.  This club face will be closed at impact, so the ball will come out hot and left.  Play for it!

Since today's challenge was about getting the ball as close as possible from awkward lies, follow the challenges with some work on putts from 15-20 feet.  Imagine having one of the tough lies you faced in a round of golf.  You knock it out to 15 feet, you recognize you did all you could and you calmly roll the putt in the hole.  HUGE MOMENTUM is gained from a tough break.  When you learn to accept what the course hands you and do your best with it, you have learned to play without judgment.  When you take the next step and make the putt, you are a PLAYER!

Putting Challenge:  Today, do the Annika Drill.  Put 5 tees down around the hole at varying distances from 10-20 feet.  Put one ball at each and putt all five using your routine.  If you make 3/5 you can move holes or be finished.  Find holes with slope and work on getting your ball working into the hole from the high side and dropping into the hole at the right speed.  FOCUS

Fitness Challenge:  If you read the above instruction closely, you caught the mention of the importance of leg strength to your balance and stability over a tough lie.  Here are some lunges and squats that will get you ready for tough stances.  Do all three a few times and you will feel it the next day!



 


Thursday, June 20, 2013

How Do You Evaluate Yourself?

This is the second post in the series based on how to perform at your best and get out of your own way.  Today, we will talk about how you evaluate yourself.  When players aren't playing their best, they are often their own worst critics.  They judge themselves harshly and often in minutia. Every bogey confirms a doubt.  Every stray shot confirms a fear.  Every negative thought is dissected.  The player who is in her own way judges her game constantly.

Do you judge yourself harshly on the golf course?


Yesterday, we talked about defining yourself as a golfer.  What did you come up with?  Whatever it is, it will be the criteria you will learn to use to evaluate your game, your effort and yourself.  This is tricky but very powerful.  The importance of how you define yourself is crucial.  My old definition of myself as a golfer has had to change completely since a bad injury in 2011.  The shift in my definition has allowed me to begin to enjoy the game again.  I gave up the idea of power and risk taking and embraced smooth and resilient.  I have also embraced accepting as a strong definition of who I am as both a golfer and a person.  That was a key.  Let's choose three qualities that were listed yesterday and pretend they are yours.
  • Athletic
  • Determined
  • Playful
If this is who you are as a player, these are the criteria you will use to evaluate yourself.  You can think about them at every stage of playing the game; practice, preparation and competition.  Here is an example:

Are you living like an athlete?  Is your nutrition what it should be?  Are you sleeping enough?  Are you fit and ready for anything?  When you practice, do you work as an athlete?  That means are you creating habits that are positive and will help you perform under pressure?  Do you find pleasure in the physical feats you perform for their own sake and not for the score they produce?  Do you use all of yourself, your eyes, your muscles, your mind, your heart and your gut to perform?  

What does it mean to be determined?  It means that you know what you want and will work tirelessly until you achieve it.  That can mean one shot or a career.  Very determined players work to learn what they need to be successful.  Determined players work hard to do something great even when it doesn't seem to matter.  Determined players believe that they will be successful if they keep at it.


Playful!  The player who is playful is finding joy in the game.  She is able to find fun in the challenges she faces instead of seriousness.  She can smile when things go wrong because she is still playing the great game. 

If these three characteristics were your three, you would evaluate your performances using these criteria.  If you practice, do you stay playful?  When things get tough, do you stay determined?  Are you able to tap into your athleticism to solve problems or overcome obstacles?  When you compete, do you remember to have a playful attitude?  Do you find a skill, such as staying in the moment and stay determined to achieve it?  Do you walk and act like an athlete with your head up and your arms swinging? 

Things can and do go wrong on the golf course, but it doesn't have to be what defines you.  Rory is a great example of creating his own definition of himself in trying times.  His collapse at the 2011 Masters lead to an 80, but in a few months, he bounced back to win the U.S. Open and in 2012, he lead both the PGA and the European Tours in money earned.

If things go wrong on the course, can you remember to tap into who you are?  Would a double bogey cause you to lose your playfulness?  Can it make your playfulness seem frivolous and unimportant?  Does it cause you to turn on your very strength?  Yes, golf can do that to you.  We see it all the time.  If you are playing golf as an athlete, but make a few bad swings, do you change to a mechanic?  Does your mind take over from your eyes and body?  Does your brain get busy on problem solving instead of playing the great game?  Yes, we see this reaction all of the time also.  You may be an athlete, but you retreat into bad habits or the safety of being a mechanic as soon as the challenges seem too big.  If you chose determined, can you remain determined during an entire round of golf?  Can you stay with the shot at hand?  Can you walk with a purpose and stay resolute in your decision making?  If you are true to who you are and how you define yourself, you will understand that this is your salvation and will eventually bring your game to the top.

By tapping into who you want to be and how you want to act, you create the positive habits that will transform you into a strong player.  Your body language will reflect your state of mind.  You will not spend time or energy working to be someone you aren't or fighting who you are on the course. 

Your task now is to check out yesterday's list again and confirm your definition of yourself as a player.  Then write down some ways that your attributes will show in your practice, preparation and play.  Think about when things go wrong and you don't feel like yourself on the course.  What attributes do you adopt then?  Does your happy turn into unhappy?  Do you turn from a fighter into a thinker?  Does your goal orientation become one of avoiding mistakes?  Commit to thinking about your attributes and how you will use them each and every time you step on the course.  It can happen off the course, too.  If you want to be an athlete, you must treat your body as an athlete does all the time.  You can take this as far as you want to, but it must happen on the course. 






Perfectionists, Read This!

Today, I was scheduled to recruit in North Texas, but my player's plans changed, so I have some bonus time on my hands and I get to do s...