Monday, June 22, 2015

Ball Striking Practice

Here is a practice schedule for you to work on controlling your ball flight, club, club face and swing.

Jordan Spieth
Ball Striking Practice

  • Start with wedges - Do each of these in sets of 3 balls and note distance of each shot hit.
    • waist high swing or ½ swing, neutral ball position
    • waist high swing, back ball postion, low ball flight
    • waist high swing, front ball position, high ball flight
    • shoulder high swing or ¾ swing, neutral ball position
    • shoulder high swing, back ball position, low ball flight
    • shoulder high swing, front ball position, high ball flight
      • Repeat with each wedge, remember sets of 3.  
      • Take a break and reset after each set for complete focus.  
  • Irons - Hit these in sets of 3 also.  Always have a target and be aware of where the ball is starting.  Use aiming sticks in front of you to assure you start it on the intended line.
    • shoulder high swing or ¾ swing, neutral ball position
    • shoulder high swing, back ball position, low ball flight
    • shoulder high swing, front ball position, high ball flight
    • shoulder high swing, start to right of aiming sticks and draw it back to target
    • shoulder high swing, start to left of aiming sticks and cut it back to target
    • shoulder high swing, back ball position, low ball flight, start to right and draw
    • shoulder high swing, front ball position, high ball flight, start to left and cut
      • Experiment with grip pressure to control release.
      • Work with ¾ swings until get the results you want.  When you can easily do it with a ¾ swing, you can move to full swings.  The goal is control. You can choose to move back and forth between swing lengths or vary it by varying your target distance.
      • Continue to work in sets of 3 balls.  After 3 shots, stand up and walk or clean your club.  
      • This is 54 shots with each iron, so you can do odd irons one day and even irons the next.  
      • The goal is to learn to feel and control your swing and what the club does through the shot.  The ball flight is the teacher.  If it isn’t what you want, make an adjustment.  Learn to release or hold off the club.  Learn to tip the shaft.  Learn to sync your turn and your swing to match no matter what the length.  

  • Hybrids and Woods - Continue to work in sets of 3.  Have a target and use your aiming sticks to start it where intended.
    • Full swing
      • Hit 9 shots with each club.  
        • High draw
        • High cut
        • High straight
        • Low draw
        • Low cut
        • Low straight
        • Your favorite ball flight (3 shots)

There is no real instruction here as to how to move the ball left or right, but a quick guide is aim your body where you want to start the ball and your club face to where you want the ball to go. This creates the lines you need to move the ball left or right. Other factors to experiment with are grip pressure, ball position and finish position. Trial and error is the greatest teacher for learning ball flight. If you can work the ball in practice, you will have a better idea of how to control your club, your clubface, your hands and your swing. Learn by doing!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Playing With the Lead or Coming From Behind

Over the years, I've heard players say they would rather come from behind to win a tournament, while others say they would prefer as many shots in the clear as possible.  Either way, the key is that you learn to look past the trophy, the check, the result and the win and focus only on hitting the shot in front of you to the best of your ability.  That is much easier said than done.

We often watch golf on Sunday to see players charge up the leaderboard only to stumble coming in.  We also see players go to sleep on the lead only to look like completely different players the next day.  What changes?  Usually, it's their mindsets.  Here are some scenarios and strategies for you to thing about as you prepare for your next event.

Scenario:  First Round Lead
The main thing to understand in this case is, you're playing good golf.  Nothing needs to change.  There doesn't need to be more aggressiveness or protection of the lead.  Your next round isn't about proving your worthy of the lead.  Human nature leads you down all of these paths, but as an athlete who seeks excellence, your goal is to develop your own human nature that allows you to be your best.

Your job in round two is to continue to follow your game plan from the minute you get up in the morning until you hole out on 18th hole of the second round.  It might be nice for you to jot down a few notes in your golf journal following your first round.  They could include how you warmed up, how you visualized, how the target appeared to you, your mindset, your game plan or your approach to the day, the round, the shots and the putts.  This is your journal, so anything you jot down will be for your use in the future to help you learn, adjust and continue to put up good numbers.  Figuring out what helps you achieve success is a big part of becoming a consistent performer.

The trick here isn't to copy your success, but to create it again.  Were you loose and happy as you played?  It will be tough to create a loose and happy mindset if you wake up crabby or nervous, but you can then make adjustments to your warm up or game plan that allow you to leave your mood or nerves behind.  First, you have to be open to changes.  Many golfers feel there is one way to be successful for them and they get so caught up in doing the same things daily that they lose track of why they are even doing them.  Success isn't reliant upon habit or dogma, it is reliant upon focus, learning, adjusting, and playing to your strengths.  You might find ways to tap into those qualities that work well for you when you are coming into a tournament, but that don't help you in the final round.  The trick isn't to do the same thing, but to do what works.  The only way to figure out what works is to question your habits on tough days and be open to making small adjustments that alter your approach, your mood, your mindset and your focus.

Scenario:  Final Round Lead
There is still a lot of golf to be played.  So much can happen in 18 holes.  You can birdie the first three holes in the final round and relax a little and everything unravels.  Or, you can have a shaky start, make some mistakes and settle into a good rhythm as you continue to play.   You will have a million thoughts and emotions playing with you as you play the round.  The trick in the final round is your preparation.  You have to tell yourself prior to the round that it will take a focused and tough mindset for as long as it takes to get the job done.  That's right, prepare for a playoff before you even start the final round.

Prepare by choosing the mindset and focus you will have prior to the round.  If you play your best by visualizing well, then decide you won't step into any shot until you see it clearly.  If you play your best by choosing a target a few inches in front of your ball, make that target vivid and keep track of it through your pre-shot routine.  If you play best by committing completely to your plan, then keep track of your commitment score and work to have a high number of tallies at the end of the day.  Give yourself a tally mark whenever you hit a shot with full commitment and don't base the tally on the result of the shot.  The common theme for all of these things is, you are deeply into the process of hitting shots and not into the result, the score or the final outcome.  Learning to compete for a win means being your best self more than it means beating your opponent.  

If you have the notion that you are better coming from behind, you need to figure out how to play golf in the moment and not be afraid of taking a lead into the round.  To give up shots to the field based on your comfort level means you need to adjust your comfort level to embrace any and all situations, but especially those that put you in the lead!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Worst Word You Can Use on the Golf Course

What's the worst word you can use on the golf course?  No, it isn't a four-letter word; it has six.  The word is SHOULD.  Should is a word that saps your strength.  It causes anger.  It takes your mind into the past and causes you to put pressure on your future.  It gives power to what isn't happening and weakens what is happening.

How could a single word have all of this power?  Let's role play a conversation and see if you can see the power of the word should.

Q:  "How was your day?"
A:  "I was hitting it great, but I wasn't making anything.  It was really frustrating.  I should have had at least two or three birdies by the turn.  I was inside 15 feet five times, but made nothing.  I should have made at least a couple of those."
Q:  "What happened on the back nine?
A:  "I don't know.  I was pretty angry with not taking advantage of how well I was hitting it and I guess it got to me.  You know I should have been under par then.  I missed a few shots and started to lose my focus.  I made a couple of bogies coming in and shot 75."

If you look at how the word should is used in this conversation, you understand that the player isn't in the moment when she is playing.  Instead, she is mired in the past and in what didn't happen for her.  The other thing that using the word should does is it takes the power away from what you are doing well.  In this example, the player is hitting it well, but she doesn't maintain that throughout the round.  Her focus on what should be happening has taken away from the focus she needs to play good golf. 

If you want to bring the best possible attitude that will help you during your round of golf, you have to embrace the almost cliche statement and stay in the moment.  If that is your goal, then the word should shouldn't be used in your self-talk.  Not once!

We've all been there!  We hit a short putt too hard and lipped it out.  We hit a lay-up shot through the fairway and into the deep rough.  We get scared of a chip shot and hit it fat only to face it again.  All of these are things we shouldn't do.  The problem is, we did them.  They are done and it's time to move on.  This is a list of mistakes and players are often trained to let go of mistakes.  They understand that it's important to refocus and deal with what they face because of the mistake.

It is common in mental game training to teach players how to deal with problems, mistakes and adversity.  However, it is often assumed that mental game techniques that are needed when players begin to see success will come automatically.   Many players hit scoring plateaus due to the lack of these skills, despite improvements in their physical skills.  Players are taught from a young age to battle through adversity.  They are taught to keep good body language following a bad hole.  They are taught to stay positive when things aren't going well.  But often, the same people who are teaching them how to have a good attitude use the word should often and without regard.  Parents and coaches watch players hit it close and miss 10-15 footers and lament what should have happened as a result.  They watch a flawless practice round and question the player's tournament round with more "shoulds".  They question on-course strategy with "shoulds" instead of solid plans prior to the round.  When a player's physical skills rise, the word should is a popular one when discussing a round.

In order to allow the mental game skills to keep up with the physical skills, the word should needs to be set aside.  Instead, a player needs to learn to stay in the moment for an entire 18 holes of golf through specific techniques designed to increase focus on what the player needs and when he needs it.  Following the round, it is still out of place.  A player's stats will tell the areas where improvement is needed, while reinforcing the strengths.  The word should usually brings emotions into the equation instead of a logical look at what needs to get better.  Every round played is an opportunity to learn about a player's strengths and weaknesses.

This is what your development as a golfer will look like.  

The mental game skills that need to be taught to players who have highly developed physical skills are patience, acceptance, intention of focus, responsibility, strategy and presence.  Patience seems to be a self-explanatory skill, but coupled with acceptance, it allows a player to stay completely in the present while on the course.  These first two skills are dependent upon each other.  Most players are able to focus on one thing, but the trick is whether or not that one thing is what will help or what the player wants.  Choosing what to focus on is a big step in learning to play competitive golf.  Taking responsibility for whatever happens to your golf ball, your score, your equipment and your attitude is another big step that you need if you want to become a great player.  While it seems to be more common sense than a skill, it is a sign of maturation as a player and signals the ability to learn from mistakes and improve upon them independently of others.  Strategy is important for scoring and it is an important mental game skill to develop.  Planning how you will play and how you will act and then sticking to the plan on the course allows you to be organized and systematic in your own unique way.  The final skill listed, that of presence, is tough to learn, but maybe the most important if you want to win.  It is the ability to create your own momentum; often from a stand still.  It is the quality of being offended by bogies.  It is the ability to show your skills at important times and pull off shots that no one expects of you.  It is the ability to bounce back from a bad shot, a bad hole or a bad round.  A player with presence never uses the word should during a round of golf.  He or she is too busy doing instead of judging.

intention of focus 



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