Friday, July 3, 2015

Do You Want to Play Great Golf? Fall in Love!

What?  Yes, fall in love...with the process of playing the game and let go of your fixation on results.  How?

Simple, keep a different score.  Keep your own personal focus score (FS) and base it on what you need to play great.

What can your FS goal be?  That is completely up to you.  Figure out what you do when you play your best and put that "right stuff" into your routine.  Or, you can take the opposite approach and figure out what doesn't happen or what is bad when you run into trouble on the course and create a goal that offsets the problem.  Written below are a bunch of examples.  Perhaps one of them fits your game, but everyone has unique needs and your goal is completely up to you.  By the way, don't be an overachiever and come up with two or three.  One goal is all you can have out there!  Don't confuse yourself with doing too much or water down the importance of your FS by doing more than one.

After every shot, you get a yes or no.  If you get a yes, give yourself a tally mark.  If you fail to do it, you don't get a tally.  Here's the key; no stories.  It's a simple yes or no question to yourself without explanations, excuses or stories.  Stories are emotional and the goal is to get the emotion out of your assessment of your play.  Excuses block learning by substituting the failure with rationalization.  Explanations get involved in circumstances and while they might be the case, it takes away the focus on the simple question of "did you do what you wanted on the shot?"

Examples of FS Goals:
  • I will completely commit to the shot I want.
  • I will be decisive about what I want on each shot.
  • I will see the shot before I hit it.
  • I will breathe deep and let go of tension before I step into the shot.
  • I will play aggressively to conservative targets today.
  • I will keep it simple.  Fairways and greens.
  • I will feel my rhythm and take it into my shots with me.
  • I will paint a picture of what my shot will look like.
  • I will choose small targets and stay focused on them in my routine.
  • I will trust myself completely today.
  • I will play the game with freedom today.
  • I will accept each shot I hit today within 10 steps after hitting it.
  • I will watch my ball fly and let it go completely without emotional attachment.
  • I will show myself patience and kindness.
  • I will smile today in between shots.

Staying in the Moment:  (You could start each of these with "When my mind wanders ahead or behind..."
  • I will recognize that I'm wandering and snap my fingers to snap back to NOW.
  • I will count the birds I can see or hear (airplanes, shades of green, clouds, etc)
  • I will say, shot at hand until I'm back and completely present before I start my routine.
  • I will be creative and imaginative as I walk to the shot.
Over the years, I've asked my players the same question on the first tee to get them to commit to a FS goal.  I've heard countless goals and I know when the goal is successful, because I hear it again and again.  Here are some that I've heard:
  • Complete acceptance
  • Roll the rock
  • Fairways and greens
  • Commit completely
  • Have fun and smile
  • Show off my skills
  • See and play shots
  • Let it go
  • Look for airplane trails between shots
  • Listen for birds
As you can see, anything and everything can work, if it works for you.  As a coach, it is very important that I accept whatever goal the player gives me and then cue the player throughout the round to remember it's importance.  Often, a player new to the process will talk through with me what FS goal would help her the most and a bit of trial and error goes into it.  Other players need to constantly tweak their goals to keep it fresh and not get bored with it.  Everyone is different, so figure out what you need.  My other role as a coach is keeping the goal positive.  Your goal can't be a negative such as, I don't want to quit today or I don't want to worry about trouble.  Keep it positive!

Now that you have your ONE FS goal, keep score.  If you make a five on the first hole, how many shots did you achieve your goal?  Write down the number below your score and do this after each hole.  It is very important to remember that you can be successful with your FS goal and still have a bad result.  Only you know if you were successful with your goal.  No one else can judge it for you.  You can also fail to achieve your goal on every shot and still make par.  We've all hit and hoped and had it work out, haven't we? 

After you're done, count your Focus Score and divide it by your actual golf score.  If you decided prior to playing that you would see every shot before you hit it, that is what you score.  At the end of the day, you shot a 75 and you saw the shot 65 times.  Divide 65 by 75 and you will come up with 87%.  That is a very strong focus score.  Players generally score well when they've chosen the right goal for them and achieve 90% or over.  When you are new to the process, you might find that you are closer to a 60% success rate.  The reason you track your percentages is to track your improvement.  Don't get involved with the score as you're playing, simply record it and let it go. I once had a player score 100% and it matched her lowest golf score in competition.  She had no idea what she was scoring in either area as she was playing. 

This tool is like any other skill in golf.  It takes practice!  Players who've employed this skill for years know it's power and also fail to use it effectively at all times. You need to decide and commit to a FS goal on each and every round for it to be powerful.  Simply doing what you've always done isn't good enough.

When you get good at using a focus goal, you can start to recognize times when you aren't focused on what you need and figure out how to approach those situations in the future.  For example, you have a tough time seeing the shot on tight holes or you forgot to breathe deeply and let go of tension on birdie putts.  That sort of knowledge will empower you to notice those situations and sharpen your focus and place it on what you need.

Your golf score is important to you and that number that is posted next to your name signifies how well you played on that day.  It doesn't take into account how you felt, how hard you prepared, how tough the course played, good breaks, bad breaks, weather delays, annoying competitors, bumpy greens or perfect conditions.  It is simply a number in the box.  If you can learn to let go of the power of that number in a box and shift your attention to the number that you generate with your focus score, you will help yourself play your best golf every time out.  

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