- Ball flight control (where it starts, how it spins)
- Speed control on the greens
- Hitting it on intented line with the putter
- Hitting the ball solidly in all areas of the game
- Ability to control landing area, spin and trajectory within 50 yards
- Distance control with wedges
- Distance and trajectory control with irons
- Reading greens
- Ability to shape shots when needed (trouble shots, high winds)
- Fitness, stability and stamina
- The ability to focus on what's important for scoring
- Setting a mindset that supports consistent success
- Forming a strategy for the golf course
- Flow (Staying in the moment, sticking with process)
- Recognition of state
- Play to play your best, not to avoid mistakes
- Trust/Belief in self
As I said, no two players need exactly the same combination to be successful, but any weaknesses in this list need to be addressed to assure improvement for all players. When players start to see success, they are often not clear on what skill allowed them to break through. For this reason, players often go up and down like a yoyo until they do figure it out. This picture is probably a good depiction of a young player learning to put scores together in tournament play.
Hank Haney recently tweeted about this very process:
Start at the bottom of the tweets to see that he is talking about the very same process. As a coach, we build and strengthen the links in the chain. Sometimes, the links in the chain are strong, but still not producing good scores. An example would be a player who is a good ball striker, but doesn't play to a smart game plan. When they are taught to manage the golf course and stick to the plan for a round, they often come away with the idea that they hit it well, not that they managed their games well. This is what will lead to that squiggly line above. They take the idea away that they hit it well and then let go of their game plan the next round and the score goes back up. Improvement in skills doesn't necessarily lead to improved scoring. One of our players recently added length/power to her game, but had a hard time in tournament play trusting her new yardages. The process of scoring isn't directly reliant upon skills, but the combination of putting the skills to use.
The very best way to approach this puzzle as a young player is to keep statistics and keep a journal. Here is a screenshot of one of our player's scoring stats.
As a coach, I'm looking at overall numbers, trends and red flags. This player has positive trends in some key areas. The bottom line is her scoring is improving. She's making more birdies and cutting down on bogies and doubles. Her par 3's and 4's were very good at the last event, but her par 5's suffered. We will make sure to talk about the improvements and the success and explore what lead to it. We will talk about 5s in terms of position off tee, position of lay up or if going for it, choice of target and finally, mindset. The reason these are the factors we choose to look at is based on her success in other areas, which indicates to me it probably isn't a physical problem, but instead a strategy or mindset problem. Her ball striking is solid, as is her putting.
The reason that we couple this with journaling is, there are other factors that don't show up in the stats, such as weather conditions or length of course. Also, many things change from day to day within a player. This player needs to write down what her mindset was prior to each round, if she had a sound game plan, whether or not she stuck to the plan, what was good in her game and what caused her to lose shots. It would also be good to note what challenges she faced and how she dealt with them. We also talk about flow, resilience and patience every time we play.
The better you get as a player at separating your ego from your game, the quicker you'll improve. Journaling is a great way to make this step. You can set aside the emotions of a bad hole or a poor round by simply stating the facts of the round, like detectives do on television police dramas. Every thing you do on the course is based on your skills. The skill of having a game plan and following it is something you need to learn. The skill of playing with patience and acceptance is something you need to learn. Young players seem to think that you either have it or you don't, but that couldn't be further from the truth. All you do on the golf course is based on skills. After a tough day, you might be emotional (angry, sad, disappointed, etc), but those emotions will only help you if the pain of them causes you to reflect on the learning needed to move on and move up. Journaling will help you focus on what happened during the day to cause success or failure. What did you set out to do? What did you do well? What could have done better? What challenges tripped you up? What weren't you prepared for? Did you have the proper equipment? What shots do you need to improve? What did you do in warmup? What did you eat and drink? What was great? Finally, what are you going to do before your next practice and tournament round? What adjustments can you make to improve? What did you learn? When you make the big time and walk into a press conference, this skill will serve you well. You can answer the questions about your 3 putt as though it's factual and not allow it to cause you disappointment all over again!
It's really tough to know exactly what causes your success, but consistency in your approach and reflection on both good and bad days will help you figure it out. Keep stats, keep a journal and keep a great attitude! Good luck with the process.