Play With Freedom
Story: You are on the first tee in an important tournament round. There are a lot of spectators. You want to play well, but right now, you just want to get off the tee well. You top the ball and it dribbles about 20 yards in front of you. What emotions do you feel?
Story #2: You are on the first tee in an important tournament round. There are a lot of spectators. You want to play well, but right now, you just want to get off the tee well. You top the ball and it dribbles about 20 yards in front of you. You go on to shoot a 68 and win the tournament by two shots. What emotions do you feel after your tee shot knowing what you know?
The point is, you are in charge of how you act on the course and you don't have to react to the situation or the result of the shot. All the emotions that flooded in after the first story, such as anger, embarrassment, surprise, shame or disappointment are not automatic. They depend upon you and the choices you make. You can decide prior to a round that you will have a calm demeanor no matter how many butterflies are flying in your stomach. You can choose to see any problems you face as your Challenge of the Day and rise to it and gain confidence from it. You can choose to keep track of how well you bounce back after a bad shot or a bad hole and take pride in your big bounces. If you have a plan for how you will act, you will often be in stories like the second one instead of the first.
Next, we talked about the "Try Scale". I asked the group where they were on a scale of 1-10 when they played their best golf. I heard a lot of 3s, 4s and 5s. A couple of 6s and one or two 2s. Then I asked where they were on the first tee today and I heard a lot of 7s and 8s. Once again, as a player, you have to understand that it is up to you to recognize where you want to be on your try scale and find a strategy to get there and stay there. If you find you are starting to press and try too hard, can you imagine your favorite place or talk with your playing partners? Can you look for birds or sing your favorite song? Do something, anything, to take your Try Scale down to the level that allows you to play with freedom. Here is a link to a past blog about Pressing.
|Here is an example of the many ways you can approach a putt. Choose the circle you want to be in on the green.|
We then talked about the importance of knowing your strengths and weaknesses and how those things play into your try scale. If you are great at bunker shots, you step in with confidence and a low try effort. If you haven't gotten it up and down from a bunker in weeks, you try harder, press, see less of the green and tighten up. As you prepare for tournament play, understand your strengths and weaknesses. Have a plan for adjusting your goals. An example might be, if you are struggling from bunkers, spend a little time in the warm up hitting some shots from the bunker to lessen your anxiety and on the course, have a simple goal, such as get it out and on the green. Keep your try scale consistent no matter what skill you are faced with.
From this discussion, we moved into talking about what it takes to be great. The pros who win at the most important events understand that they need to have a balance between their mental game skills, their physical game skills and their emotional skills on the course. Using Phil Mickleson's performance at the British Open is an example of this balance. His family was with him and he seemed happy and content with his life. His mental approach was simple and clear, "to do the best with each shot I'm faced with all day long." His physical game was on point. Contrast his play with Tiger's play and you come away with two great players in very different places. Tiger spoke of how well he hit the ball, but continually pointed to the slow greens as a reason for his poor scoring. Instead of adjusting his mental and physical approach to the greens, he used them as an excuse and blamed them for his lack of scoring. Tiger is probably the best putter I've ever witnessed play the game, but his triangle of balance was skewed at the British Open.
If you want to win tournaments, you can do it with a weakness in one area, but never two. You can have a virus and feel poorly, but your mental and emotional game will need to be strong to play well. You can have a poor mental approach and feel a lack of confidence, but strike the ball well and overcome it physically. The toughest one to overcome is the emotional factor. If you aren't yourself on the course or you're sad or angry with life off the course, it is tough to be strong mentally and focus on your physical.
We went on to talk about your strengths and to write a letter to yourself. Here was the exercise:
1. Write down two or three things your best friends would say about you. What are your good characteristics from their perspective. It's better to think of non-golfing friends to get a clearer idea of who you are away from the course.
2. Write down two or three things you would call your mental game strengths or "go-to" characteristics.
3. Write down two or three things you are good at physically in the game.
4. Now, write down one thing that bugs your friends. Think about how it affects you on the course.
5. Write down a problem you recognize in your mental game.
6. Write down a physical weakness you have on the golf course.
|Go ahead and channel your inner super hero! Flex your strengths!|
Using these six things, figure out how you can use your strengths and your personal characteristics to help you be successful. Also, figure out a strategy to offset your weaknesses and game plan to avoid their affect on the course. Write yourself a letter and tell yourself who you are, what your strengths are, how they serve you on the golf course and how you will strategize to improve your weaknesses and not allow them to ruin your day on the golf course.
Finally, we talked about how great players act and think on the range, versus how they act and think on the golf course. On the range, they work hard to perfect their craft. They use training aids, pros, mirrors and deep analysis to have good mechanics and learn more. On the course, they think about and talk about what the ball does and sometimes what the club will do. They rarely, if ever talk about what their body does. To play with freedom, you need to understand how to be into what the ball does and how it will fit the golf course.
Good luck playing with freedom. Be yourself on the course. You are unique. Don't compare yourself or model yourself so closely after another that you lose your sense of self. Take total responsibility for your score. Don't blame your score on others, conditions or make excuses for it. To play with total freedom means to be your best self!