Sunday, April 29, 2012

Training Aids

The other day I spent a large portion of my afternoon watching the Golf Channel. I started paying special attention to the commercials and full length programs touting products, swing types, videos, books, schools programs and websites that all claimed to take strokes off your game. It was truly amazing. Apparently all I needed to do was buy a few books, a half a dozen training aids, take some pills watch an Englishman and a rather loud golf instructor, go to a couple of websites, and watch some DVDs get fitted for new clubs and new balls and suddenly I will be setting scores below that of the best touring pros.

I actually added up all the claims to lower my score by 3 strokes, 2 strokes, or even more! The total I could shave was a remarkable 34 strokes. For an investment of just under $5000 I could be shooting in the 50s for 18 holes. Fame and fortune would certainly be mine!

I doubt it.

In reality lowering your average score or handicap index by even one stroke is quite an accomplishment. Any one should be capable, through commitment, of taking several stroke off their handicap over the period of a year or so.  I restate emphatically. "through commitment!" 

A wise man once said to me, that if he knew where I spent my time, effort and money he could tell me what I was committed to.

So maybe all those training aids and programs are really best at keeping us committed. Will swinging  the latest triple jointed speed enhanced whippy wonder stick make you have a better swing? Yes! So will swinging the trusty old 5 iron you have your golf bag right now.

We get better with repetition, spaced-repetition. Do it over and over again over a long period of time and even the worst swing will produce better results. There are no shortcuts. All the aids, lesson, books and TV shows will help you stay committed but YOU have to swing the stick.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Swing Thoughts

What are swing thoughts, how many should you have? Good questions. 

To fully understand "swing thoughts", let's figure what they are actually for, because in reality they are not necessarily thoughts you have while you swing! I believe you should break down the swing thoughts into three segments.
  1. preparation
  2. execution
  3. focus
1. PREPARATION These are the thoughts that take place while you are deciding what you want to do. What club do I choose? What is my target? What distance do I have to carry it? What ball flight am I expecting? Wind, terrain, stance, pin location, lie, and a myriad of other factors come into play while you are in the preparation phase of your swing thought. Before you move on to execution thoughts, you must be totally committed and totally confident that the choices you made during preparation are complete and are the right choices. You must believe that the the choices you made will result in a swing that you know you can do, and do it well.

2. EXECUTION This is the golfer's version of the pilot's pre-flight checklist. Take an overall census of your swing fundamentals; grip, stance, alignment and relax!!  This is happening just before you take your stance over the ball. Finally remind your self to do those 2 or 3 things that you have been working on with your coach or on the practice tee and take one or two rehearsal swings to create the short term memory you need for confidence. Now you are ready to focus.

3. FOCUS This is where you create the confident state that generates the great swing. From a few feet behind the ball you begin your focus process. Focus on the target! Stare from the ball to the target, see the ball's intended line of flight, visualize the club's swing path and breath smooth and easily. Take your grip, lead hand first. Focus on the grip and get it exactly how you want it, based on the decisions you made earlier. Now add the trail hand precisely like you have practiced it. Calmly walk to the ball and place the club head behind the ball with the face of the club exactly on the target line, step into your stance with the trail foot first then the lead foot. Get into your well practiced and confident stance and mood. Focus on the ball! Pick the smallest spot on the ball that you can see and commit to strike the ball on that precise spot. Focus on the swing! Each golfer must find that one key thought that enables them to freely swing the club with confidence. It may be a tempo or rhythm thought. It might be all about swing path. Or perhaps you need to focus on the shoulder turn or the finish, the important thing is to hold that one thought vividly in your mind until the swing is completed.

The brain can only hold one thought at a time, and it will always have a thought. Either the thought you put there or something random and not helpful that just creeps in. Like "get over the water", "don't chunk it", or "where's the beverage cart?".

Practice those three steps, make them automatic. Until they are automatic create a cheat sheet, to remind you of the things you should be thinking about before every shot.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Finally a good round

Played a leisurely round with Flip and shot a pretty easy 74. I was even par on the front with 2 bogies, both caused by mental errors, then on the back I repeated those same mental mistakes but without any birdies to offset.

It seems the mistakes are caused by trying to get more out of a shot than I really need. Hit it further, stop it fayster, cut it or hook it more than I really can. We see Bubba, and we all want to work it.

By trying to do more than I was capable of I took a below par round and wrecked it.  Like Clint says, "A man has to know his limits." So I spent some time reflecting back on past lives, as a baseball catcher, as a coach, as an employer, and I remembered that my success came from getting the best out of my teamates, my self and my employees. To get that very best performance I had to make sure I never set them or myself up for failure. Never ask them to do something that they might not able to do; unless I was sure that failure was not going to be catastrophic.

In golf we just need to make decisions that will not create a catastrophic failure if we can't pull the shot off. That means spending enough time on the range to know exactly what your safe limits are, and just how far you can push it if you need to.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Near the end of the winter season.

Last posted in September, right when my busy season was about to start. And start it did, I had a wonderful Snowbird season this year, worked with a lot of old friends and made several new ones. Did things a little different this year; added 2 several hour walk in clinics.  Tried to pattern them after a doctor's clinic, you come in anytime during clinic hours and I'll try to fix whatever ails your swing.

The Saturday morning clinic at Longwood was expanded to 3 hours, plenty of time to work on several aspects of the game. We had short game areas, putting, and just about everything imaginable and of course everything was on video so the students could review later, good old YouTube!

The Academy @ Sunnybreeze was a new addition this year, the clinic hours were Thursday mornings from 8 AM to Noon. That's four hours to hit as many balls as you want, or as you can. The setting at the Academy is really very nice, we have 2 putting greens and chipping areas, a huge grass tee-box and a massive range with targets every 25 yards. The Academy is the new permanent setting for my golf school campus, this allows for multiple video sessions, 2 launch monitors and a variety of training aids. Also we are located on a great Old Florida golf course with 18 holes of championship play, and a 9 hole par three course to sharpen those scoring skills.

Well I suppose I have no excuse not to start working on my own game again. I did manage to end the winter season with a single digit handicap index, maybe by the start of the next winter season I can cut it in half.