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.





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