Posts Tagged ‘Mental Game’

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.

Golf Lessons – The Laundry List

March 15th, 2010

The Laundry List is the name I give to the things a student should go through when struggling with their swing in practice and in competitions.  I feel it is my job to teach my students how to fix themselves when I’m not around.  They will be on their own much more often than they will be with me.  I think it is important to give the student some if/then’s.  A list of two or three items maximum that if the ball is doing X, then it is probably because of Y.  I don’t want them just tinkering with their swing to try and solve the problem.  This Laundry List is there to give them a roadmap and some comfort that they can solve an issue on their own.

As I work more and more with better players, there seems to me to be a reoccuring list of issues.  They are usually things that we have worked on in the past and were personal traits to their swing growing up.  These traits can be worked through but never eliminated.  Every so often they will come back in and because the golfer is accustom to them, the traits don’t register as something they are doing different.  This is one place where the power of the journal shows it’s true value.

If you can’t remember your Laundry List then it’s too long, you need a journal or both.  Use that journal folks.  It’s like sunscreen and flossing.  You know you’re supposed to and you hear all the time.

You’ll wish you had listened.

Make More Birdies!!!!

July 16th, 2009
I hope it is becoming clear to you tournament player’s out there. You can not compete without birdies and lots of them. Rarely do you see 67′s or lower without at least one bogey. If you make 6 or 7 or 8 birdies, it’s pretty hard to shoot a high score. If you only make 1 or 2 birdies, you can not shoot low. Add in a couple bogeys and you can’t compete.

So how does someone learn to make more birdies? I think it starts with the understanding that the goal is make more birdies. It isn’t about getting 1 or 2 under. That is not enough. You need to keep trying for more. Learning to let go of the fear of messing up your round is the challenge. Just as it is to mentally prepare for the idea that you need to birdie a bunch of holes and not to let up.

I’ve always said to try and make everything. This does not mean hit it harder. It means make putts. Working with the aimchart and getting a better understanding of how to read the green will help. When you start making more birdies, you will see a change in your scoring.

Finishing the Round

July 10th, 2009
I felt it necessary to write a little something about this topic and give a few pointers on how to get it done. There has been a local tournament the last couple of days and there have been at least a few people that had a good round going and gave it all away toward the end. This blog will give you some ammo to combat this tendency.What causes a player to struggle bringing a good round in? Usually, it’s a lack of experience. This lack of experience is fostered mentally as a lack of true, inner belief. Only players that are unsure of their true ability struggle bringing it in. This lack of inner belief causes a player to not trust their ability. They no longer are confident in there ability to avoid making a mistake.Because they were playing so well, any mistakes cause them to think they are on  the verge of choking. This is not the case. When a player gets low enough to feel uncomfortable, they are worried that all their hard work will be lost and they race for the house shouting the war cry “Let me just par out.” The confident player with true inner belief says “all right let’s go get more birdies because I’m playing well.” The unconfident player starts to play defense because they don’t want to lose what they have. They trick themselves in believing 3 under is good enough to compete against someone trying to get to 6 under. That will not work.

At the beginning of the day, I’m sure they would have been very happy with 18 pars. Now that they are 3 or 4 under, pars seem to become taken for granted. Somehow par has been cheapened and just finishing with a bunch is good enough. Par is a good score and it requires a strong mind to go get it. You don’t just get to par out. Par is way more difficult than that and if you treat it like something easier than what it is, you are doomed not to achieve it. You are not putting in enough effort to deserve pars so you shouldn’t expect them.

Don’t take pars for granted and learn to stay involved in each shot. Earn what you have/want and don’t play 12 or 15 holes. Play them all and I can promise you, the value of 4 on 18 equals the value of 4 on number 3. If you think you shouldn’t go for more than deep down you believe you don’t deserve what you already have.

When is it good enough?

May 17th, 2009
This is a question I have struggled with for many years and one I see my students struggle with also. We all know(or should know) that the quality of the mistakes determines our skill level in golf. Or at the very least, we see the best player’s in the world hit bad shots on a regular basis. For some reason, the expectation of continual consistency seems to be an unattainable goal for many of us.

How do we know when we are good enough to compete. I think this answer varies on the confidence of the player. How did Bruce Lietzke know he was good enough when he hit his 30 yard “slice” all around the golf course. I mean, is hitting it basically straight the only way to determine a golfer’s abilty? Absolutely not. Many of you that read my forum and this blog are better than you know. The thing is, many of you don’t apply what you do in the heat of competition. With everything we have learned about course management we know what “should” be done. If what “should” be done is a weakness of ours, are we strong enough, mentally, to do what we can do vs. what we should do.

The ability to stay mentally strong enough to aim 30 yards left over out of bounds says alot about Lietzke. He had to know very few people were doing it and I’m sure a bunch of people were mocking it. Yet, he has led one of the best lives of a professional golfer that there ever was. He KNEW what he could do and he did it over and over and over and over until he got his paycheck at the end of the week.

So, what can we learn from this? Those of you that hit it far enough to compete, need to be ok with what it is that you do. Does someone need to be able to hit a draw and fade wedge on demand to compete? No! They need to be able to take advantage of the times that match their strengths and survive the times that challenge their weaknesses.

I remember watching last year’s US Open at Torrey Pines and I guarantee you if there was no gallery that week, Tiger would not have been on TV. He hit the ball all over the map and if the rough wasn’t trampled down we would have seen a lot more holes like his first during the playoff where he made double bogey because he couldn’t hit it out of the grass. Is Tiger the best player in the world? No question! Is he even close to being the best ball striker? Nope. But he knows what he is capable of at any time and is strong enough in his belief.

In short, you only need the ability to hit it far enough to reach all the holes. After that, how you get there doesn’t really matter.