Archive for the ‘Mental Game’ category

Golf Lessons – Feedback vs. Outcome

October 8th, 2010

FeedbackIt interests me why some player’s have an innate understanding that improvement in golf comes with time and practice.  Other player’s seem shocked when they can’t hit the ball perfectly after a year of self help instruction.  I hear this phrase often, “I don’t understand why I can’t improve in golf like I did in all the other sports I’ve played?” Usually this phrase comes from younger men that have played many stick and ball sports and recently took up golf.

These men are coming to grips with the difference that is golf.  In all the other sports they’ve played, they are reacting. In golf, there is no reacting. In golf, you must be proactive.  The ball just sits there waiting for something to happen. The ball doesn’t know when it will happen. The ball doesn’t care where you aim your feet or what your back swing looks like.  The ball only know a few things. It knows where the face was pointed, what direction that face was moving, how fast it was moving and where on the face the ball made contact.  Let me say that again. The ball does not know or care about many of the things we struggle to perfect.

Golf seems to turn athlete’s into mechanical perfectionists incapable of feeling what is going on.  I’m not really sure where this comes from or why.  Clearly there are a couple of things I am trying to control in the golf swing.  One is the club and the other is me.  Some focus on only one and seem to forget the other.  There also seems to be a fascination with where the ball went.  So much so, that it prevents an athlete from being able to determine where the club head is.  How does a rational adult come to a place where they don’t consider the location of the club head as an important factor in learning the game? That’s the piece that’s going to hit the ball!  Learn from it to determine what your body is doing to put it in that place.

I believe if more students focused on feedback vs outcome, they would improve more quickly.  What is it that I am feeling? What is it that I am doing? Why is my practice swing smoother and better than my real golf swing? Aren’t people asking themselves these questions?  In my experience, almost none are.

As 2010 comes to end, consider adding this to your New Year’s resolution. I will resolve to pay attention to what is happening when I swing and I’ll seek out a golf professional with a proven track record.

JG

2010-John Graham’s Inventory Time

August 19th, 2010

Like many of you, as the season starts to wind down, I find it a good time to reflect and take inventory.  By inventory, I mean what I have left to do compared to what I set out to do.  This year, I’m happy to report that I am fully sold out.

I generally have a problem with setting goals for myself and don’t often have a clear picture of what I want to accomplish.  I keep assuming I will be fine.  I am at a point in my family life where I know that my career is taking a back seat to family obligations.  I have struggled with that for a couple of years and this year I finally became more comfortable with that idea.  I know when all the kids are in school, I will be hungry to go after it again.  For now, I am quite content to continue building my knowledge base, create and expand my network of experts I can call on for information, support and help.  I can tell you twitter has made a huge difference in the amount and rate of information I can access over the course of a day.

I also wanted to begin the process of focusing more and more of my time on helping people read the green.  Becoming a certified instructor of AimPoint Green Reading opened my eyes on how poorly green reading was being taught.  I’ve used that information to teach over 100 players and coaches this summer how to apply the basics of improved green reading.  I was also able to teach a little overseas thanks to Jamie Donaldson and James Ridyard.  Jamie was kind enough to host me and my wife in their home, secure a location for the clinics and drum up all of the customers.  James gave me an opportunity to show AimPoint to a couple Ladies from the European Tour and a Tour Caddie.  This all from a people I have never met and only spoken to on twitter and skype.  How people can say that twitter does nothing for your business is simply beyond me.

I also wanted to produce a few short videos for YouTube and my YouTube channel to start putting myself out there for the masses to see.  I selected only a few topics but made some good content driven videos which you can see by clicking on the link above.  Some time in the future, I may decide to have these video’s done more professionally but we’ll see.

I completed my first step into the physical side also by becoming TPI Certified.  This will allow me to screen students to search for physical reasons why they may be unable to perform a task that will help their swing.  I hope to start using this feature more often as we prepare for a winter of snow.  Use that time to get screened and get a workout plan to help you prepare for the spring.

I also want to thank Andy Morrison for providing such wonderful content on the mental side of golf.  Please check out his posts here. It has become very clear to me that a more wholistic approach to coaching needs to entail some mental strategies along with all the rest.  It shouldn’t be something we leave to the end to “see if we need it”.  Prepare during the process so all the pieces are working well together.

Thanks again for reading. Please leave comments if you feel the urge and get ready for another busy and active winter season on twitter.  Learn how to use it and it will improve your business.

John

Conviction – By @The_Golf_Geek

July 29th, 2010

This post was written almost a month ago by a golfer I met on Twitter.  He started a blog to discuss his journey in learning the game.  This post from his “Lessons from the Links” series is titled Conviction.  I believe it is an absolute must read for all beginners or near beginners.  Great job Allan!

“Not the type that follows a “guilty” verdict, but instead the virtue. Having the courage of one’s convictions is indeed laudable, but perhaps not something a casual observer would identify as a core requirement for a golfer who intends to improve.

Nothing could be further from the truth, as I’m starting to discover. It manifests in so many ways, and even if you’re a confident, determined and positive person, you have to be on guard at all times as the fear and negativity of others can be both pervasive and persuasive.

I recently completed a round with a new playing partner, there had been a space on the board, and we both took advantage. I admire this player- he plays off 13, despite being of senior age, and despite a swing that could be charitably described as idiosyncratic, and a resultant ball flight that, remaining in charitable vein, was a bit of a slice. He golfed his ball in excellent fashion around the course, and had at least 7 up & downs throughout the round. I learned a lot, not least that whatever I think about my swing, it’s not what is currently limiting my scoring. Short game, putting and strategy (I’ve been working on my putting, so this is the correct order of descending importance at time of writing), and forgetting about trying to think technically on the course. I’ve also realised that, while a good looking golf swing would be nice, an effective, repeating and above all predictable swing would be nicer.

The last few sentences are all very well, but what do they have to do with conviction? Not a lot, in themselves. But this player, who sets up with all clubs like he’s about to play a forward defensive stroke to an in-swinging yorker and before starting his swing rotates his left hand through 70 degrees to a much “stronger” position, saw fit to critique my swing all of the way around the course. I must admit it amused rather than irked me, as although I started a bit disappointingly I settled into my rhythm and felt happy with my swing. It’s a funny situation after all- one might think that a player with such an individual style might have enough experience of unsolicited swing critique by “Expertise-less Experts”- but no. And he’s by no means the only one, the most voluble or the highest handicapper doing this. Marc Solomon, the uncompromising New Jersey pro behind Golf Made Simple, frequently disparages this, and divides golfers into “players” & “monkeys” ( the former reserved those who have a plan, the others following latest fad or magazine craze like the “Tilt into the Xfactor Stack Square to Toe up”) An amusingly vitriolic rant of his can be found here , with many more here. It takes a strong person to withstand this constant barrage of well intentioned mostly unhelpful advice, and even if we were to stumble across that which we need to improve consistency, we wouldn’t have the requisite faith or conviction and we would be likely to discard it when we’re offered still more advice at the first signs of struggling.

It’s also difficult to maintain the requisite conviction in one’s long-term plan. Golf clubs are full of those who have been at the same level for years, and they don’t want to acknowledge that improvement is possible, as this then reflects poorly on them for not having managed to do it themselves. This is their own judgement; I’m well aware that my interest in golf borders on obsession, and others may not be so driven, or have so many commitments that their weekly round and beer afterward is all the time they can spare. The idea of players they can beat comfortably beating them interferes with their sense of self, and they react with negativity to try to dissuade you from your lofty ambitions.

Conviction is also necessary in practice and preparation. I’ve read a lot about golf, and particularly on how to practice (the answer to this is to practice deep and deliberate practice- see The Game Before the Game and Neil Plimmer’s Open Mind Golf blog and in particular his ideas on driving range practice for long game), but it’s very difficult to do this when everyone around you is doing very different things, and when you’re unconvinced, it affects your motivation & you’re therefore much less likelyto practice. This happened to me when I first started stretching, I wasn’t convinced it was helping until I saw Karen Young. As soon as I had faith, I regained my motivation.

Conviction is therefore necessary, and can be difficult to come by and easy to misplace. I’m countering this by making sure my coaches and mentors are people I hold in high regard who are happy to be consulted, and by resolving never to follow blindly unsolicited advice. In fact, I’m going to pretend Mrs Geek is talking about wall coverings & soft furnishings, which ought to ensure absolutely none of this information will make it into my brain.

I’m hopefully playing again on Saturday, so normal service should be resumed! Let me know if you enjoyed this, and whether more like this to supplemnent my round reports would interest you.”

You can follow Allan here to stay up to date with his informative blog posts.

Thank You for letting us share this post.

How to Make More Birdies

April 27th, 2010

I get this question often. How do I make more birdies? I wrote a blog post a while ago called Make More Birdies!!!! that talked about getting comfortable knowing that you need to make at least 5 birdies a round to be tournament competitive.  However, that post didn’t give any advice on how to do it.  Let’s address a common problem I see for very good golfers.

I see too many golfers trying to make birdie with their irons.  By that, I mean they are trying to stuff it in every chance they get so they skip over the putt part of making the birdie.  I think Jason Sutton wrote a nice post about red, yellow and green light pins.  Here’s a link to his article.  This post talks about how player’s will aim at every flag.  As a player improves, there needs to be a point when they determine for themselves which opportunities to try and take advantage of.   There also needs to be a point where they determine where is the best place on the green to be putting from.

Players need to learn that the best rounds come from making birdies with the putter and not the iron.  Clearly, having an iron game that will allow you to hit specific places on the green is important but more attention needs to be paid to sinking more putts from the easy locations on the green even if they are a little farther away.  Where to putt from is at least as important to birdie making as distance from the hole.  I’ve seen many player’s miss 3 footers from the wrong side of the hole and ended up in a far worse situation than someone 10 feet from the hole but on the right side.  Learn how to read the green from the fairway so you can choose a proper landing position.  This will not only give your putter a chance to shine, it will also help prevent bogies.  Many times, 3 putt bogies are due to poor iron play location and not necessarily poor putting.

Clearly, the par 5′s will provide the best chances for birdies.  Good driving and wedge play become very important for making birdies here.

Just remember that you will more often shoot lower scores by making birdies with the putter vs. the irons.

Is Your “Practice” a Rehersal or a Different Game?

April 21st, 2010

I wanted to write a follow up to Andy Morrison’s post “Practice vs Competition….There is only ONE game” because it is one of the most frequent mistakes I see good golfers make.  I think it all comes down to how you define practice.  What is the role of practice?  What is it supposed to accomplish?

Here’s the definition I prefer to use from Google : “rehearse: engage in a rehearsal”

If this is the case, then it only makes sense that when you are playing for practice that you are trying to rehearse shots you will use in competition.  There seems to be this disconnect between practice round golf and tournament golf.  I think the way practice is carried out can be one of the main reasons.  As a golfer begins to compete in tournaments, there is a study in course management that I think may actually hurt some people.  There seems to be some generally accepted practices that player’s know they ‘should’ do vs. what they actually want to do.  In fact, sometimes they may choose what they ‘should’ do over what they are good at doing.

As a college coach, I see this to often from many competitors.  Examples can be chipping or putting from the fringe, going for it on par fives and working the ball.  First off, I think it is important to distinguish the difference between trying to figure out the best play and practice.  Trying to figure out the best play is not practice as I have defined it above.  Remember, I am defining practice as a rehersal.  I see many players from 235 out on a par five go for it without even thinking during a practice round and lay up from the same place in the tournament.

All the practice (rehersal) they have done has been meaningless because when the time comes to hit the shot they’ve been rehersing, a different shot is selected.  It’s as if they are trying to learn two separate games; a practice game and a tournament game.  If these two are not the same than no amount of practice will aid the tournament golf.  Like Andy said, there is only one game.  You choose in advance what that game is and you practice it and apply what you practiced to a tournament round.  I also agree with Andy that the main difference between practice golf and tournament golf is the value we assign to each.  Aside from the value judgment we make about them, there is no difference.  Same tools, same grass, same holes and same everything else.

Learn to practice and compete with the same game.  It will be more comfortable, familiar and relaxing.  These things will allow for more trust and lower scores when you want them the most.