Thursday, December 31, 2015

Seve


Today, I was prowling youtube looking for something I hadn't seen before.  I found it!  A six minute video of Seve Ballesteros practicing.  Here are some things you can take away from this very simple, yet profound video.

*  Seve is connected to his target.
 On each and every swing, he takes a long look at his target.  After hitting the shot, he is once again completely into his target as he faces it and watches his ball flight.  So many times when I watch young people practice, they lose track of their target and instead focus on their motion.  Remember, golf is about making a motion to send the ball to the target, not simply to perfect your motion.

*  Seve has beautiful rhythm, balance and tempo.
He doesn't hurry his transition, but instead sets the top of his swing and lets the arms fall.  It seems effortless because of his smooth transition, but his body is quick to the target giving him speed and his balance is superb, giving him consistency.  Many young players want to rush their swing to gain power, but the building blocks of greatness are rhythm, balance and tempo.

*  Seve has great footwork.
Seve has active legs in his swing.  This is directly related to his rhythm.  Many players feel their rhythm in their feet and have a little dance in their swing.  This is important, because in today's world, there are teachers asking young players to keep their feet quiet or even flat.  Remember that methodology in teaching is never the answer and individuality is key.  If you are a player who has active feet, you might be the next Seve.  Don't make unneeded changes to who you are.

*  Seve doesn't mess around.
Seve sets up, looks at his target and swings the club.  He doesn't spend a lot of time fidgeting or aiming.  He knows what he's doing and he trusts himself.  It shows.  The best in any pursuit seem simple and easy, but that simplicity is based on hours of honing their craft.  Young players should be constantly working toward simplicity, not complexity.  A clear mind, a commitment to the shot and a vivid picture of what will happen are all you need when you step into your shot.  Your connection to the target will take care of your aim and your picture of the shot will turn into reality if you keep it simple.

*Seve uses his full motion.
Accept for one time when he worked to feel his swing at the top, Seve used a full motion on the practice tee.  The important word is motion.  He didn't seem worried about positions or in breaking down his move into parts.  Instead, he made full swings to his target.  He gave each swing pause and analysis and probably made some small adjustment in the next one, but he didn't break down his full motion.  If you spend time at a junior event, you see players working on postitions and breaking down their swings even prior to a round.  Wholeness is key as Seve shows us.  Breaking down leads to break downs.

Thanks to the pro, David Bown, who filmed this for doing so without commentarty and for seeing greatness and capturing it on film for all of us.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Don't Hide the Star Ingredient

We (golf coaches) get a few days to hang around the house this time of year which is rare and wonderful.  One of the things I did was catch up on one of my favorite shows, A Chef's Life.  It's a PBS show about a couple who opened a fine dining restaurant in eastern North Carolina.  The reason I like it is, it combines cooking with real life angst and family life.  The main character, Vivian Howard, is a real person.  Her strengths are her care for her food, her love of community and her ambition.  In one of the episodes, she was given a piece of advice by another chef.  It was, "Don't hide the main ingredient."  He continued by saying, "keep it simple and let the ingredient shine."

This is exactly the right advice for coaching, too.  So many times, coaches want to add to our player's skills and perfect them instead of allowing them to keep it simple and play to their strengths.  Unlike cooking ingredients, players have consciousness and pay attention to the messages they are receiving.  If you have a player who is extremely competitive and can score, but isn't as long as other players, you can point out her weakness and spend time working to make her longer.  Or, you can celebrate her strengths and coach her to continue to improve all of her skills.  That doesn't mean you have to ignore a weakness or not strive to improve it, but instead, keep it in perspective.

Winners win because of their strengths.  As an Iowan, I'm a Hawkeye and a fan of Zach Johnson.  Johnson isn't the longest hitter on tour.  In 2015, he ranked 148th at an average of 282 yards.  Guys like Bubba are outdriving him by 40 yards and if that were the only factor that lead to scoring, Zach would be toast.  However, if I stay with the cooking analogy I started with, golf is a game of many ingredients.  Johnson knows his game and sticks to his plan to allow his strengths to serve him.  He hits fairways, he makes putt and he is a great wedge player.  He was both jeered and lauded by the press for winning the Masters by laying up on every par 5, but he played to one of his strengths, his wedge game.  Johnson plays the game and strategizes based on what he knows about his game and himself.  Along with the physical stats, you can add the ingredients of a deep faith and a love of pressure and you have a guy who can produce wins while others fall away from the spotlight.

(Photo: Ian Rutherford, USA TODAY Sports)


If Johnson's coach decided that he needed to be longer to win on tour and then set off to make changes to his mechanics to accomplish that goal, his coach might take Johnson away from his star ingredients outlined above.  Here is a quote from his coach, Mike Bender, on the process of improvement.  This was from Jaime Diaz's article in Golf Digest 9/15/15:   "We work on weaknesses," Bender says, "but make sure his strengths stay strong."  Bender understands that as a coach, all skills need to be addressed, but Johnson's strengths will be what leads him to success, not the lack of weaknesses.

As a recruiter of players, I look at players for the skills that I can effect through better mechanics, better practice and better strategy.  There are, however, skills that are tough to effect in the limited time we have in college golf.  Some coaches avoid players with a poor showing in those skills, but there are a lot of great players out there getting the ball in the hole with a variety of skill sets.  The goal of recruiting or coaching should never be based on what you want to develop or change in a player, but more in what you love about a player and her skill set.  If I love a player's competitiveness or her iron play, I will relay that to her through my words and attitude.  If you coach with an eye on what is wrong with a player or what needs to be changed, you will relay a lack of confidence or a worry about her skill set that will eventually effect the player's game.  The key to consistency in golf is to work on your weaknesses, but the key to greatness in golf is to work on your strengths.  Finding a way to strike a balance between the two goals will lead you to success. Every player you coach will be unique and bring an array of physical, mental and emotional skills to the golf course each day.  Your job as a coach is to celebrate the strengths and work a little bit each day on developing the weaknesses.  Your job as a player is to know your strengths and play to them.  Don't hide the star ingredients!  Keep it simple and celebrate them.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Evolution of Recruiting

This week, as I watched players at the Dixie Am in Florida, a fellow coach asked me what’s changed over the years of coaching.  After 20 years as a head coach, the answer is a lot!  My players from my early years tell me I’ve gotten soft and I smile and agree.  It’s true if you use the things that players hate as a gauge.  I no longer force them to work out at 6 AM, but that’s because I’ve figured out that one of my biggest enemies against excellent performance is sleep and energy levels.  We still work out in the morning most days and players still don’t sleep enough, but  morning now means 7:30 and I keep an eye on the team and grant days off occasionally so they can get their rest.  Compared to my early days, that is definitely soft.  

Coaching is about the relationships you make and continue.  A dad this weekend described recruiting as dating with musical chairs at the end.  Funny and pretty accurate.  Glad I have these two on the team.


One of the biggest differences in my early self versus my coaching now is in my recruiting.  Ann Pitts, the great coach at Oklahoma State when I was a young coach, gave me advice that I wasn’t ready to accept or learn from at the time.  She heard me lament the loss of a player to a third school after outworking the coach throughout the recruiting process.  She told me, “Jeanne, you will get the players you are supposed to get and lose the ones you should lose.  There will always be another player for you if you look hard enough, but you need to focus on what’s important.”  I remembered what she had to say and tried hard to understand it and use it to bolster my confidence and motivation, but I just didn’t get it.  At the time, it seemed to me that recruiting was a zero-sum game.  Someone wins and someone loses.  I was losing a lot!  


As with most things, you have to live and learn and eventually, I understood what Ann was trying to tell me and I was able to put it into practice. The teams we put together were made up of great girls who gave me all they had and it continues today.  When I was a young coach, here is what I looked for in a player:  physical skills, power, ability to score, attitude and ability to putt.  As an older coach, here is what I look for in a player:  work ethic, motivation, attitude, familial support and balance, control and ability to score.  I still love great ball strikers and power, but I’ve learned that great players come wrapped in a lot of different packages.  

Aurora Kirchner was my very first commitment as a new head coach.  What a wonderful person I was lucky to sign.


My first question in recruiting is, does she work hard?  Can she work on her game with no supervision?  Is she focused on goals?  These three questions are all about work ethic and the three answers tell me about different facets of the player.  Golf takes time to learn and a lot of reps.  There are no shortcuts that I’ve seen, so a hard worker will improve more quickly than someone less engaged.  Working hard can mean playing every day. It seems like people today assume working means hitting the same shot over and over, but I love players.  


Players who need supervision or who get it daily from a parent or pro will often struggle in college.  One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that independence is a crucial step to achievement. So many young players have someone standing over them on the range or directing their play on the course and this supervision not only slows down their progress, it also makes the transition to college or the pros tough.  My goal in coaching is to create self-sufficiency in a player, not dependence.  

The final question of goals is important for many reasons.  Over the years, I’ve learned what goals to steer away from and which ones to latch onto.  I run as fast as I can from a player who’s goal is to get a scholarship or a full ride for her golf.  That goal will be fulfilled as soon as you make an offer and I’ve learned the hard way that it might be the last goal that player sets for her golf game.  I listen for goals that include the words team, wins, improvement, process, fun, coachability, degree, etc.  I want players who want to join our team, buy into our system 100%, work hard on the process of achievement and have some fun throughout her time on the team.  


Motivation is a tough thing to figure out, but I would say a love of the game and the desire to improve daily are the two things that strike me as the best motivators or at least the two that I’m most drawn to in a player.  Players who love the game don’t get burned out.  They can have a bad day and bounce back quickly, because of the draw the game has on them.  
The team is always more important than the individual and when you do great things, it's because of the group.  This team did a lot of great things.

The other goal, the desire to improve daily strikes me as coachability.  It’s so much fun to have players on the team who actively seek out ways to improve.  They aren’t defensive about what they do and they don’t talk about skills as “your way” or “my way”.  Instead, they want to learn new skills and improve the skills they brought and be the best they can be.  They ask questions and want to know why on a daily basis.  They know the process of putting new skills into play and learn from their mistakes.  I’m not talking about a player who is chasing perfection or working to hone the perfect swing.  I’m talking about a player who wants to take what she has and make it sharper or learn to use it in new ways.  The essence of greatness in golf is trust and players who think what they do isn’t good enough will never have complete trust.  Players who take what they have and learn to use it creatively to produce shots or work to allow for freedom under the most intense pressure are the players I love to coach.  The greatest players I’ve coached have all had what is now called a “learner’s mindset” but I’ve always called them sponges.  They soak up knowledge and work to squeeze it out under pressure.  


Attitude is what all coaches in all sports are constantly monitoring.  Attitude shows in body language and style of play.  I want a heads up player who looks ahead, stays positive and plays with freedom.  When my players drop their head after a poor shot, that’s my cue to help them lift it and offer support and perspective.  I want players who play confidently to a target, not defensively away from trouble. I want players with the ability to bounce back after mistakes or tough holes.  You can’t see attitude clearly, but you can see the small things that reflect a positive approach both toward the game and toward herself as a player.  


How important is the family to my process of recruiting?  It’s huge!  I want love, fun and balance in the families of my players.  The love has to be unconditional and not based on a golf score.  The fun has to be at another’s expense or in other words, a player can’t take herself so seriously that she can’t laugh at herself or take teasing from a parent or sibling.  Finally, there must be balance.  I want players who excel in school and work to be a good person each and every day.  There must be family qualities of gratitude, faith, education, giving and fun.  I’ve run across so many families who are so driven for their daughter to achieve a golf goal they they will set aside education or look the other way when gratitude isn’t shown.  Golf should be important, but it can never be the most important thing.  


Control is a tough thing to talk about, because we watch players who are so young these days and to expect them to have control of so many things often leads to developing players who don’t make mistakes or push their boundaries.  In young players, the control that I’m looking for is the ability to focus on something positive.  The best players are able to channel their natural instincts into a “can do” attitude.  In other words, they use their best traits to help them play their best.  If a player is emotional, she owns the best fist pump on the course and when something bad happens, she is able to give herself an emotional pep talk to get refocused.  As a coach, I would never ask an emotional person to play unemotional golf.  When I watch recruits, I’m looking for players who have a golf personality that allows them to be at their best.  


The final thing that I’m looking for in players is the abiltiy to score.  That might seem like a no-brainer, but there is more to it than that.  Once again, keep in mind that we are now recruiting players who are 14 and 15 years old.  The players who are winning at that age are often the ones who have a good short game, good wedges and don’t hit it out of play.  Those are all fantastic qualities in a golfer.  Sometimes though, those players don’t develop into the players who shoot 65 for you.  For me, the ability to score means the abiltiy to put a low number on the board, not necessarily the ability to be consistent.  As I write this, I have so many former players who come to mind in each category.  Consistency is often what parents see as important, but from a coach’s standpoint, we figure out what we can teach and coach to rid a player of high scores and tap into that potential we see with the occasional low score.  

Here is our current team at SMU.  In our fifth year here, Dave and I have recruited a great group who are also doing great things, both on and off the golf course.  Pony Up!

This was a long-winded blog and for that I apologize.  It is what happens when you take a month’s break from writing.  In the blog, you got my recruiting philosophy from A to Z.  Will I still make mistakes?  Of course I will.  That is part of the business.  We are guessing which 15 year old will help us win a NCAA Championship in 6 years.  Without a crystal ball, no one will ever be 100%.  However, I do know that if we continue to recruit based on character, love of the game, good families and balance, we will always have a good team ready to compete and who loves one another.  That’s what we have now and our future is bright.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Best Blog Ever

Our season is wrapped up and it was a good one.  I'm proud of our players for giving 100% to all that they do each day and it shows in the results.  We understand the importance of the process and we talk about it a lot.  We understand the importance of enjoying the competition and we have a ton of fun.  We understand the idea of working every day to be better than you were the day before and we did that this fall.  We will be ready when the spring season rolls around!

Why is this the best blog ever?  Because, I'm not going to write one.  I'm simply going to have you check out one of my student's blogs on her website.  Casey Grice just earned full status on the LPGA. Her blog celebrating this achievement speaks to all I just said above.  Success is based on many things, but the most important thing is, understand your own definition of success.  Also, understand the path is filled with helping hands and the relationships that you build might be the best part of the journey.

Check it out here:
Casey Grice Golf


Saturday, October 24, 2015

Defensive Driving

It's one of those long days in a hotel room watching it rain that all golfers have known at one time or another.  And, it's a great day to blog.  We've been playing some great golf in practice and qualifying, but haven't gone as low in our last few competitive rounds.  We have a bunch of kids on this team who can take it deep and they do it a lot.  When no one on the team goes low, there are a few things I look at to understand what's holding us back.  One thing can be our approach to playing the golf course.  Was our plan too aggressive or not aggressive enough?  Another factor is the course set up or conditions.  Were the hole locations in tough spots or were the conditions tough?  Last week at UT, it was a combination of a few factors.  The greens were quick, the hole locations were guarded by slopes and knolls and we began to play defensively.

Learning to play competitive golf on a tough course or in tough conditions is a lot like learning to drive.  When you're taught to be a defensive driver and see all the possibilities, it really slows you down at first.   The guy backing out of his driveway might or might not stop and you swerve to the left a bit as you go past.  The lady waiting to turn left up ahead is inching forward and making you slow down and swerve a bit to the right.  Soon, you realize that you can be aware of others, but if you swerve or stop your progress, you might cause your own accident.  Paying attention to possible hazards is part of driving, but not letting them disrupt you from your destination is equally important.  This is a lot like golf.



As you make your way to your destination on the course, you need to be aware of the hazards and problems you could face, but you can't let them deter you from your goal.  Swinging away from trouble is a lot different than swinging to your target.  The first means that your goal is based on what you don't want to happen and the second is based on what you do want to happen.  Think now of a simple goal you have.  Perhaps it is to save $100 a month or to make an A on a test.  Those are simple and easy to state.  Now, what sort of goal would you have if you based these needs on what you don't want?  I don't want to be broke at the end of the month or I don't want to make another C on this test.  Neither of these goals state the actual outcome you're working toward.  You might reach the first goals with these or you might not.  In fact, it isn't really clear what you want!  That is much the same as playing away from trouble or basing your golf shot on what you don't want.

This green is really fast back to front.  I don't want to be above the pin.
Instead of:
I'm going to keep this shot under the hole, so I can give my putt a good run.

I don't want to hit in that right bunker.
Instead of:
I'm going to hit this drive at that tree that will put me in the left center of the fairway.


I don't want to hit this putt too hard and face a 3 putt.
Instead of:
I'm going to hit this putt so it drops in the front edge of the hole.

I don't want to miss this putt.
Instead of:
I am going to roll this putt right on my line.

This hole doesn't set up well for my game.  I'm hoping to get out of here with a par.
Instead of:
I'm going to hit my 3 wood and control my length so I can get a full shot at this green.

Do you get the picture?  You need to be 100% in charge of your goal with each shot and make your goal a positive act that you can accomplish.  If you get too caught up in being defensive, you can play good golf, but you can't play your best.  Playing with clear goals of what you want allows your body to connect with what you mind sees.  It will respond with freedom.  Playing with thoughts of what you don't want to have happen takes away your freedom and replaces it with anxiety.  The key to freedom on the course is to have full control over your process.  Your control lies in your strategy, your visualization, your commitment and your trust in yourself.  When you base your approach on what you don't want to happen, you might think you're being strategic, but you're missing out on clear visualization, a reason for commitment and the trust needed to play with freedom.



For us to get back to playing the golf we are capable of playing, we will make sure we state our goals for each shot based on what we want to happen and not what we don't want.  Pony Up!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Competitive Thursdays

Today, we had another competitive day at practice.  Each player hit 5 shots from the following yardages:  100,110,120,130,140,150
Points
Within a flagstick - 10 points
Within 10 feet - 6 points
Within 15 feet - 4 points
Within 20 feet - 2 points
On the green - 1 point
Missed green - negative 2 points
Most points wins!

We had four players at our early practice today and here were their scores:
100 Yards
Rossi - 20 points
Tygret - 19 points
Page - 16 points
Dunne - 11 points
110 Yards
Rossi - 16 points
Page - 16 points
Dunne - 13 points
Tygret - 12 points
120 Yards
Page - 13 points
Tygret - 10 points
Rossi - 6 points
Dunne - 3 points
130 yards
Rossi - 24 points
Page - 22 points
Tygret - 14 points
Dunne - 13 points
140 yards
Page - 20 points
Rossi - 19 points
Dunne - 18 points
Tygret - 6 points
150 yards
Dunne - 17 points
Page - 5 points
Rossi - 2 points
Tygret - -4 points

Totals:
Page - 92 points
Rossi - 87 points
Dunne - 75 points
Tygret - 57 points

Once again, it was a very good test for the players.  It required focus and measurement.  We learned a lot from the competition.  One of our good ball strikers, Dunne, didn't score particularly well inside 140, so we went back to the short yardages and put an extra club in her hand.  She was immediately better with a smaller, smoother swing.  Instead of using the same swing she used with her driver, she was forced to use a smaller swing that relied more on rotation and less on leg drive.  She was also better at controlling the face of the club with the smaller swing and could hold it off or release it.  

Rossi had a really tough time going at the back left hole locations (120 & 150). They weren't pleasing to her eye and it showed.  We will practice to those more in our short game area and also know that for those locations during tournaments, perhaps we use the middle of the green and accept a longer putt to alleviate the uncomfortable feeling she has when she goes at them.  

The 150 yard hole location was tucked and what we learned as coaches is, that is definitely not a "GO" distance for most of our players.  Dunne and Tygret were hitting 7 irons, but the other two had 6 irons in their hands.  It played a bit uphill and today, all shots were 100% carry.  It is important to know when you need to back off of a club and aim away from tucked positions.  This tested their abilities and it wasn't meant as a management exercise.  We wanted them to go at these targets.  

Overall, we were pleased as coaches to see a good practice that provided us with "real" results that we can use to coach better decision making and better technique.  

Here are our actual stats from Golfstat after two tournaments on green hits and green hits within 15'.
Greens in Regulation  CL     GIR   Rank  Out Of
Lindsey McCurdy       JR    .722     41     403
Haley Tygret          FR    .700     59
Jenny Haglund         SR    .667     78
Brigitte Dunne        FR    .656     99
Katie Page            JR    .644    117
Alexandra Rossi       SR    .611    140
Alexandria Celli      SR    .472    277
SMU                              .642     20      64



GIR within 15 ft.     CL   15 Ft   Rank  Out Of
Lindsey McCurdy       JR    .356     20     286
Brigitte Dunne        FR    .256     76
Katie Page            JR    .244     88
Alexandra Rossi       SR    .233     99
Alexandria Celli      SR    .167    157
Jenny Haglund         SR    .167    157
Haley Tygret          FR    .100    231
SMU                              .256     11      48


It's interesting to see the game's results compared with actual play.  Tygret hits a lot of greens, but isn't getting it close.  Today was much the same.  Moving forward, we will work on both accuracy and distance control of her irons.  If she spends more time practicing in our short game area than on the range, she will start to develop those skills more quickly due to better feedback.  






Monday, October 5, 2015

Control the Handle to be a Great Wedge Player


The most needed skill in most junior and college female players is good wedge play.  It seems odd that the easiest club to control would be the last one mastered, but if you understand the golf swing, it makes perfect sense.

Young players learn to create speed with lag and release, but generally lack the strength to control the release point.  They rely on timing to hit good shots.  As they mature and gain strength and technique, they become better at controlling the release point, but still fail to control the entire club through all shots.  They learn to hit good shots by controlling the club head, which makes perfect sense, but to become a master of the wedge, you also need to control the handle of the club.  If you understand what your handle is doing and how that controls the shaft and the club head, you can create any shot you need to score.  

Here is a quick video that introduces the idea of swinging the handle of the club from Eddie Merrins, a great instructor of the game.  He uses the visual of controlling a tennis racket to relate the move you need.



The first time I learned to truly control my wedges was after a PGA short game clinic I attended in Houston.  Those were the days when they would host these small, regional clinics and I went to all I could.  This one was taught by Dick Harmon, Butch Harmon and Phil Rodgers.  What a great opportunity to learn from the best!  I walked away with clear understanding of how to use my club as a tool for the first time.  Dick taught me how to use the shaft lean to control trajectory.  Phil taught me to use the bounce of the club.  Butch taught me to use both of these skills in the bunker.  In turn, I pass along these lessons to young players who have the same aha moment I had back then.

Dick started out by telling us that to be great around the green, you need to be able to deliver the club with control of your hands and the handle of the club.  He gave me the challenge of hitting great wedge shots with only my right hand on the club.  If you hit wedges by controlling only the club head and timing its release, you will be one-dimensional and have just one shot.  If you learn to control the handle, you can lean the shaft and hit low shots or tip the shaft back and hit high, soft shots.  By hitting with only your right hand on the club, you get instant feedback if you have an early release.  You will hit behind the ball and will feel the scoop.  When you start to get the feel of swinging with only the right hand, you will begin to feel how momentum controls your wedges.  Your swing will get a bit bigger to create the same speed you had previously by throwing the club at the ball by releasing your right hand.

Here is a video with a little drill to help you with that feel.  It is by Shawn Clement, a Canadian teaching pro.  He gives props to Eddie Merrins as he explains the drill.

Now, move past the drill and into the shoes of a good player through Butch Harmon's instruction.  He wants you to get your hands past the ball.  He doesn't want scoopy and he doesn't want you to drag the club.




One thing Dick taught in conjunction with controlling the handle was to have a shallow approach.  He had me hit wedges as though I was hitting low hooks.  This went against what I had learned in my PGA training, but after studying tour players as much as I could after leaving the clinic, I realized that this is how they all hit their wedges.  Shallow swings create spin and a missed shot will be a bit thin.  Steep swings don't spin and create fat shots when missed.  Fat shots won't earn any money on tour.

Here is a nice video of Steve Stricker talking through a chip shot.  What I want you to notice here is the width of this chip shot.  By width, I mean the distance that his hands or the handle travel back and through the shot.  He is shallow and wide, which means that his handle moves through the shot.

When you get good at hitting the stock pitch shot and you are in control of your handle and therefor the speed of your swing, you can now start to work on variations.  These will happen by opening the face of the club, changing the ball position in your stance and changing clubs.  All of these factors will control what your club does at impact.  If you need to hit a high, soft shot, you can move the ball forward and open the club face.  By moving the ball forward, the shaft will be more up and down instead of leaned forward at impact.  Your hands will still lead the club through.  You don't have to throw the club head to hit it high.  If you want to hit a low shot that spins, move the ball back in your stance and have a wide take away so you stay shallow to create spin.  You can make the same basic swing in both shots and control most of what you want the club to do through your setup.  Here is a fun video of Lee Trevino teaching the same thing.  He obviously watched the same video that we just did of Steve Striker.  



Your first goal to become a great short game and wedge player is to get control of the handle of your club and learn to swing it back and through your shots with width.  Good luck and get to work!  I'll end with some video of a bunch of good players hitting pitches and chips.  You can watch all of them and see that they are in full control of their entire club, not just tossing the club head at the ball.  This will give you some great visualization to get started.  Thanks to RollYourRock for providing so many great short game videos!

Here is Graeme McDowell hitting a nice pitch off a tight lie.


Here is Tiger doing the right hand only pitching drill mentioned above.



Henrik Stenson controls a shot with his set up and speed.



Another of a pro, Martin Kaymer, working on controlling his club with his right hand only.



And another shot of Martin practicing a 50 yard pitch.  Once again, notice the width his hands and the handle move back and through the swing.  His wrists are very quiet.  He allows the loft of the club to work by returning the club to the ball with the same loft as set up as Lee Trevino talks about above.  Beautiful pitching motion.  



Here is a great shot of Dufner hitting the low spinner.  Notice, to hit the low shot, he moves the ball back to his right foot at set up.  However, to get the spin, he keeps the swing wide and shallow.  He has great control of the handle through the shot and you can really see it in the slow motion video.  Learn from the best in the world!




If you have access to a Trackman, this will help you see your numbers and relate them to hitting low, spinning wedges.  Chuck Cook has always been a leader in instruction and I love that he evolved his teaching with technology every step of the way.


If you have time, also go to youtube and check out Secret in the Dirt's lessons with Phil Rodgers.  Those are also some great illustrations of how to teach and learn great wedge play.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Short Game Decathlon

Today, the SMU Women’s Golf Team participated in the Golf Olympics.  Today’s event was the Short Game Decathlon.  Here is the medal count from today’s games:

6’ Putts (Number of made putts)
·        Gold       Alex Rossi 5/5
·        Silver     3-way tie between Haley Tygret, Brigitte Dunne & Lindsey McCurdy with 3/5

15’ Putts (Number of made putts)
·        Gold       Jenny Haglund 2/5
·        Silver     3-way tie between Katie Page, Brigitte Dunne, Alex Rossi & Haley Tygret with 1/5

40’ Putts (Total sum of the distance of the 5 putts from the hole)
·        Gold       Haley Tygret – 54 inches
·        Silver     Lindsey McCurdy –  67 inches
·        Bronze  Katie Page – 90 inches

Short Chip (Players hit 5 shots and the closest and farthest shots were tossed out, leaving the middle three to be counted for distance from the hole. )
·        Gold       Lindsey McCurdy – 18 inches 
·        Silver     Brigitte Dunne – 43 inches
·        Bronze  Jenny Haglund – 46 inches

Long Chip (Players hit 5 shots and the closest and farthest shots were tossed out, leaving the middle three to be counted for distance from the hole.)
·        Gold       Lindsey McCurdy – 6.7 feet
·        Silver     Alex Rossi – 8.7 feet
·        Bronze  Brigitte Dunne – 11 feet

Short Sided Bunker Shot (Players hit 5 shots and the closest and farthest shots were tossed out, leaving the middle three to be counted for distance from the hole.)
·        Gold       Lindsey McCurdy – 8.1 feet
·        Silver     Brigitte Dunne – 10.8 feet
·        Bronze  Alex Rossi -17.3 feet

Long Bunker Shots (Players hit 5 shots and the closest and farthest shots were tossed out, leaving the middle three to be counted for distance from the hole.)
·        Gold       Haley Tygret -20.2 feet
·        Silver     Katie Page -28.6 feet
·        Bronze  Lindsey McCurdy -46.6 feet

Short side pitch from the rough (Players hit 5 shots and the closest and farthest shots were tossed out, leaving the middle three to be counted for distance from the hole.)
·        Gold       Brigitte Dunne – 16 feet
·        Silver     Jenny Haglund – 20 feet
·        Bronze  Katie Page -25 feet

50 Yard Pitch Shot (Players hit 5 shots and the closest and farthest shots were tossed out, leaving the middle three to be counted for distance from the hole.)
·        Gold       Jenny Haglund -27 feet
·        Silver     Haley Tygret -28 feet
           Bronze  tie between Katie Page and Brigitte Dunne with 38 feet.

50 Yard Bunker Shot (Players hit 5 shots and the closest and farthest shots were tossed out, leaving the middle three to be counted for distance from the hole.)
·        Gold       Katie Page -33 yards
·        Silver     Alex Rossi  -35 yards
·        Bronze Brigitte Dunne – 42 yards

Total Medal Count                                                               Gold                 Silver              Bronze


Senior
Jenny Haglund
2
1
1

Senior
Alex Rossi
1
3
1

Junior
Katie Page
1
2
3

Junior
Lindsey McCurdy
3
2
1

Freshman
Brigitte Dunne

1
4
3

Freshman
Haley Tygret
2
3
0

David and I learned a lot as we watched our players go through these games today.  Here are some of our thoughts.

The players were allowed to practice from each place until they wanted to start the competition.  This allowed them to dial in what they wanted. Rarely, if ever, did players adjust the shot they chose to hit for a different trajectory or club.  Instead, they tried harder to be more perfect if it was a tough shot.  For example, the 50 yard pitch they were given was from well below the level of the green where the hole was.  It was a bit damp because it was early in the morning.  The ball often skipped instead of spinning when it hit.  Only one of the six players hit high, soft shots into the hole.  The other five hit low, spinning wedges.  This was by far the toughest shot choice given the height of the green and the variability of the surface, yet during practice, they didn't try all shots.

On the pitch from the rough, only two players tried different clubs and different landing areas.  It was a tricky, downhill pitch shot with very little green to work with.  The majority of the practice for this shot was spent on landing the ball in the right spot instead of trying different shots. 

David saw the same with the chipping and bunker shots.  We both talked about the need for players to make adjustments to what they do during practice time.  A good drill for this would be to hit 3 different types of shots or 3 different clubs from every position around the green and deciding which the easiest or highest percentage shot was after trying them all. 

Another thing we learned was, we need to practice tough shots in practice.  So often, we drop our balls and hit shots we are comfortable with instead of shots that challenge us to stretch and learn.  Confidence isn't gained through easy success, but by battling through challenges and coming out a better player. 

The 50 yard bunker shot was really tough and we did pretty poorly as a team.  The point of this is, we will be playing in Austin in a few weeks and there are quite a few places on par 4’s and 5’s where you can be faced with a 50 yard bunker shot.  We need to game plan effectively to avoid that shot, because what we found out today is, 3 out of 5 of those will probably result in bogeys.  This is one of the reasons our par 5’s haven’t been as good this year as we would like.  We have placed ourselves in tough spots after our second shots and are often scrambling for par instead of putting for birdie.  We need to pay close attention to our lay-up shots or go for it when that presents the best option.

Finally, if you combine how we did with our 6 feet putts with our short game skills, you will notice that we have a high probability of getting the ball up and down when we have short chips or short bunker shots, but as we move away from the hole, our probability goes down.  This might seem like an obvious statement, but we need to do a better job of getting the ball within 6 feet whenever we have a chip, bunker shot or pitch.  That will give us a 60-70% chance of getting it up and down based on our putting stats.  In other words, after every pitching session, simply figuring out which balls are within a flagstick of the hole would be a good guide if you were successful.    

Next week’s practice will definite include a bunker clinic, a course-management talk and some work on hitting differing trajectories and different clubs for many shots.

Just in case you want to see our "real-world" short game and putting stats, here is a link to our golfstat page which includes all of our stats.  You will see that the player with the most gold medals, currently holds the lowest scoring average and the highest short game percentage.  The team's short game stats are over .500, which is a great thing, but we can always be better! 



Thursday, September 24, 2015

You Have Nothing to Protect

Golf is a funny game, as anyone who has played it already knows.  When things are going well and the ball goes where you are looking and putts fall, that's when you often tighten up.  Wait, I'm playing well, you think.  I need to keep going.  As soon as you have that thought, you've straddled the past and the future without dipping your toe in the present.  When you leave the present in golf, your game will suffer.

Sometimes, protecting happens in a big picture.  You're leading a tournament, you're on track to make All American, you're high on the money list or you're putting your game out there for coaches to evaluate.  The reality is, you have nothing to protect.  Imagine a horse race at the midpoint.  They've run one lap of the circuit and still have a lap to run.  Could the horse in the lead protect his advantage?  No, he needs to run and run hard.  In fact, chasers often have more motivation than front-runners, so the odds are good he will be run down by the finish line.  Just like the lead horse, you have nothing to protect.  Any competition that isn't finished needs to be played out and with total effort.  Golf is no different.



The minute your mind wanders to what you want, you've given power to what might be instead of what is.  The most important thing in golf is the shot at hand, whether it is your first drive on the first hole or the final putt on the 72nd hole.  They are both worth one and both worthy of your full attention.  In order to protect what you have, you need to focus on your past and your hopes.  Neither is worth your time on the course.

If you need protection, that probably means you're afraid of something.  To protect means to defend or secure.  There is no defense in golf, only offense.  That means that you're either working to score or you aren't.  If you go into a protection mode, you will quit working to score.  You play safe and start guiding your shots.  Before you know it, you've lost track of the target and instead you're playing away from trouble.  You begin to make your goals based on what you don't want instead of what you do want.  You're protecting something you don't actually possess.



Imagine the horse race once again.  If the horse in the lead decides to protect the lead, he will start to expend energy working to keep other horses from passing him instead of running his race.  That energy could have gone to running, but instead it's going to the stress of protecting his position.  Your golf is much the same.  Ask yourself this; what do you give your energy to when you're playing well?  Can that be protected?  When you are in the zone and things are flowing for you, it is simply you in the moment, doing what you've trained to do and letting it happen.  That can't be protected.  It is a matter of being in the moment and trusting yourself and your preparation.

The next time you feel like you want to protect your score, your standing or your game, remember, there is nothing to protect. Competitions are ongoing and if you are mid-race, you need to keep running.


My Gentle Teacher

My dad was a good man.  He passed in 1998 and I still miss him a lot.  He had a smile that lit up his eyes and he had bright blue eyes.  He ...