Friday, December 16, 2016

Trinity Forest - A Great Coach

Some of you might know that we were invited to be members at Trinity Forest Golf Club, a new course in South Dallas.  That invitation is a game changer for SMU Golf in so many ways.  This course is sweet!  When I say sweet, I mean one of the finest I've been on and I've played most of the best.  When you're out there, you have the same feeling you have at Cypress Point or The Old Course.  Its a special feeling that's hard to explain.  You might think I'm exaggerating, but the vibe is the same to me.  The course is hard and fast, so you have to pay attention.  If you take a shot off, you'll make a bogey or worse.  It happens fast.  With that being said, my players talk about how fun it is to play each and every time they play it.  It's a joy to tee it up there.

The Mustangs walking down #18 deep in conversation. #family

As a coach, I'm thrilled.  A good golf course is the best teacher in the world and in ways you might not imagine.  First, it's not completely about how you hit it out there.  Good ball strikers do have an advantage, but good strategists have a bigger advantage.  You have to play the course as you play chess.  You must know your moves for the hole before you tee it up.  If the hole is cut short right on a green, it will be crucial for your approach to be from the left.  Position is important.

Distance control is also important.  If you need to land a ball 10 yards short of a green, then that is the spot you need to land it.  15 yards short and it will be short.  Five yards short and it will hit a ridge and roll over the green.  The golf course is built to either help you or punish you and your job is to figure out how to get help.  What ridges and rolls will take the ball to the hole?  What ridges and rolls protect the hole and send your ball the wrong direction?  Figure that out and it's worth a few shots.

Next and maybe the best thing to watch as it develops is the ability to use the ground vs. the air.  Using the air or using your 60 degree wedge means you have to learn to land it on a dime and hope that you've predicted the roll out and spin perfectly.  If either prediction is a bit off and you hit it well, you'll still face a 10 footer.  If you hit it poorly, you'll face the same shot again, either at your feet when it rolls back to you or over the green.  However, you can bump a 9 iron or putt from off the green and have a good shot at predicting the path the ball will roll on and anticipating the speed.  It has already increased the team's skills and imaginations as they've figured out how to get the ball rolling at the right speeds.

#13 fairway on a misty morning.

Another wonderful thing that the course has taught is that bounces are bounces.  One of my freshmen came off the course on the first round of qualifying and told me she had a lot of bad bounces.  I told her she wasn't going to score well with that attitude.  The sooner she figured out that bounces aren't good or bad, but simply bounces, she would learn what to expect.  By saying they were bad bounces, she made them seem random and wouldn't make the proper adjustments to avoid those areas in the future.  She hit every shot that bounced so she better figure out how to hit those shots differently.  She listened, learned and soon used the bounces to her advantage.  The ability to take complete responsibility for your score is a big step to greatness.  It turns mistakes into moments for learning and takes excuses out of the equation.

This blog is focused on how the golf course can make our players better, but there are other ways our new facilities will help us.  The learning center that will open soon will enhance our ability to teach mechanics with all the latest technology.  Our players can learn their swings and understand what makes them great and what causes misses.  The short game area will hone their wedges and bunker games offering four greens and lots of room to hit any type of shot into the green.  The bunkers even have different types of sand so our games travel well.  The short course, named The Horse Course is probably the best thing.  It's a nine hole course with the longest hole setting up at about 145 yards.  You can also play longer holes by teeing it up on one and playing to the 2nd.  It's already showed it's benefit to me.  I went out one day with two players to work only on mindset.  The goal was to hit each shot and see it go in.  There could be no thoughts of how - only a vision, a commitment and a shot.  We talked about each shot in the simplest of terms, we envisioned the proper speed for the shot, whether off the tee, around the green or a putt.  The second time around working on mindset, one of the players had a hole in one - her first.  That wasn't a coincidence.

My thanks to Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw for designing a course that mirrors the game; it's endlessly fascinating.  It is challenging, fun and fast.  You have to pay attention and as a college coach, that might be the best lesson it could possibly teach.  I also learned an important lesson as a coach.  Make sure your team plays on the worst days, because that might be what you face when you host.  Our tournament days came with a lot of rain, which was a first for us.  We weren't prepared for the adjustments needed.  Hey Ladies, if it's pouring, know that you'll be playing from now on.  Pony Up!

Players putt on #18 at Trinity Forest during our inaugural invitational.  

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