One of the questions I often get asked from club level golfers is how can they improve their games and what components of their golf should they be practicing.
Let’s start with exactly what practice is for. We practice to train, acquire, or polish a new skill. In golf this might mean to be able to play a new shot (higher, lower etc.), or to reduce the amount of movement our golf ball makes in the air (slice, hook), we might even need to alter our swing due to an injury or to help us play with less pain.
I hear this all the time from average golfers and even struggling tour players: “I hit the ball great on the range, but I’m a different golfer on the course. I don’t have the confidence to make the same swing when I know a bad shot will get me in trouble.”
Confidence comes from controlling the ball, but how do you go from hitting solid and accurate shots on the range to producing those same shots on the course? It’s helpful to understand the four stages of becoming a confident player:
First, you are unconsciously incompetent. You have no idea what to do in your swing or how to get there. This is the stage in which you learn the basics of the swing.
Second, you are consciously incompetent. You know what you want to do with your swing, but you can’t do it. You use drills prescribed by your teacher. It’s helpful to place rods or clubs on the ground to set up a “learning station” to check your alignment.
Third, you are consciously competent. On the range, you hit balls to perfect your swing, but you have to think mechanically to make the shot happen. Because you’re using verbal cues and thinking of positions, you often lose your tempo and rhythm.
Fourth, you are unconsciously competent. The best golfers compete in this stage. On the course they think about the conditions, select the right club, and play shots from point A to point B by focusing on the target. They no longer think about positions but feel how to use the club to create shots.
So how do you get from the first stage to the fourth? As Jack Nicklaus once said, “I practice mechanics and play by feel.” Remember that practicing and warming up are two different things. When good players practice, they break the swing down into mechanical parts and then put those parts together to control the clubhead–and the ball. This is the only time these players think about swing mechanics. When they warm up before a round, they forget mechanics and rehearse hitting shots to various targets, creating playing situations. Seve Ballesteros would “play” entire holes before his round: Replicating a par 5, he’d hit a driver, then a 4-iron layup then a wedge approach. When he got to the first tee, he felt he’d already played a few holes and was in the rhythm of the round.
A strong picture can override a flaw in your swing to produce a playable shot. On the range, practice visualizing the entire shot, the ball curving in the direction you want, then landing where you intend and rolling to your target. Use the same visual technique when you hit real shots on the course. You’ll be on your way to playing your best golf ever.
Realize your potential to be an exceptional coach.
The key to achieving this is all about developing self-awareness, and understanding your athletes as individuals.
Self-awareness is the recognition of one’s behaviors, strengths, weaknesses, beliefs and values and how these help create your experiences in life. Coaches who are more self-aware can control and exhibit the types of behaviors that create great and consistent performances.
Exceptional coaching is about much more than technical knowledge. Did you know that.
Technical knowledge is not a determining factor in coaching performance.
Everything you say and do as a coach impacts your athletes’ performance.
Over the last 60 years technological advances in clubs and balls have helped golfers hit the ball farther and straighter than any time in history. The science of bio-mechanics has identified the perfect swing for every body type and improvements in error detection equipment help professionals pinpoint exactly where a golfer’s swing deviates from the ideal. How much have golfers, as a whole, improved their ability to score. According to the USGA, nothing! Both amateurs and professionals alike still score, on average, exactly the same as their counterparts of six decades ago. Not to minimize the great strides a small percentage of golfers make in their own journey, one would expect that these advances would lead to lower scores. They haven’t. In fact, USGA statistics show, that as a whole, golfers don’t improve after the third year in the game.
This week has seen the 2012 Srixon Coaching Summit. Where the Asia Pacific’s leading PGA Professionals meet. With an amazing array of keynote speakers this years summit did not disappoint.
Dr. Ric Charlesworth speaking on “Reflections of a Coaching Life”, engaging stories and insights to a coaching career filled with some amazing successes. Sharing his experiences on coaching both the men’s and women’s Australian Hockey Team. Detailing the Australian Men’s Hockey Team’s journey in London. How cruel the game of hockey can be. The Australian team was only ever behind for 10 minutes in the entire tournament, all games. That 10 minute period was the difference between playing for Gold rather than bronze.
Michael Hebron PGA Master Professional from America speaking on “Modernizing Approaches to Learning”. Work your instrument, making conscious attempts to learn, learning is a survival skill, the rules are for the golf club, inconsistency is part of the deal of golf, it’s not a hard game, how questions are asked, we are all great learners, no judgements.
S – Students M – Minds A – Are R – Really T – Talented
Tony Bennett PGA of GB and I Master Professional speaking on “Skill & Attributes of the Modern PGA Professional” With over 40 years of experience educating, coaching and influencing the pathway and direction of golf in Great Britain. Creating a modern professional, adding value to your club, generating new and innovative ideas on education and development of the game.
Denis McDade the 2012 Australian Teaching Professional of the year. “The Changing Demographics of the Junior Golfer and Coping With the Challenges they Present Coaches” An amazing presentation specifically designed with junior golfers and junior golfer development in mind. Structuring and running a golf class for early primary school children.
Mark Sweeney the Innovator and Founder of AimPoint Technologies. “Accelerated Skill Acquisition in Putting”
Matthew Frelich PGA of America and VP of Sales and Business Development at Trackman. “Is that a Good Coach” A fresh look into club delivery, ball flight and performance assessment for golf.
Dr David Alred, specialist in mental preparation, skill acquisition and performing under pressure. “The 8 Principals of Performing Under Pressure” Although touching on the 2003 Rugby World Cup loss to England, Dr David Alred is one of the most profound speakers and if you ever get an opportunity to listen to one of his presentations I recommend you do. You will not regret it for a moment.
I look forward to sharing with you as much information as possible to encourage you and develop your game.
One other speaker I failed to mention was Virginia Irwin. I had the pleasure of co-presenting with Master professional Peter Knight on “What Women Want” It was a fantastic opportunity to share with the members some very important information pertaining to women specifically. I would like to thank Peter very much for inviting me to participate in the study with him and look forward to releasing the findings of our survey as soon as possible.
Knowledge is everything. If you cease to learn to cease to grow. Be your best always.
Are You Guilty of Practicing Only Swing Technique?
Solution: Use other types of training: competitive, routine, shot shaping, and mental skills.
There is nothing better than the feel of a well-struck shot or the sight of a drive soaring through the air. Striking the ball correctly is one of the most impressive aspects of the game, especially when you are the one doing the striking. Perhaps this is the reason for such a preoccupation with the golf swing with both players and coaches.
A constant focus on swing technique, no matter how justified it may seem will be detrimental to the overall development of your game and the ability to transfer your practice to the course.
In order to create a more seamless transfer, other types of practice must be utilised. When you go to the course, the focus is on scoring rather than swing positions (at least it should be). Other types of practice include competitive drills; performance in these has a direct correlation to performance on the course. Ideally you should do some competitive practice a few times a week and record the results so you can monitor your progress.
Routines should be considered to be part of the shot. As such they should be practiced at every session. When you practice routines, include shot visualisation, planning, focussing and creating your playing state. Development of your routines is a skill and should be treated the same as the development of any other skill.
Routines include pre-shot (assessment of lie, target, wind direction and strength), shot (walk-in, looks and waggles, etc) and post-shot (no emotional attachment to a poor shot and full emotional attachment to a great shot). Shot shaping is useful not only for developing a skill that you can use on the course, but there is an added benefit: noting the shapes that are easy or difficult to play can point to areas that need to be addressed with your swing. If one shot is difficult to hit (for example a draw), then practicing hitting the draw will positively influence your entire swing.
Mental skills including visualisation, self-talk, goal setting, state management, concentration, etc can all be practiced during any training session. There is no need to develop them in isolation, as they can all be incorporated into any practice (except perhaps for relaxation). In fact they are either developed as good habits or bad habits during your practice as you respond to good and poor shots you hit while practicing.
My Challenge to You – develop your own practice plan for a 2-hour session incorporating every type of practice.
Before you pick up a bucket of balls, choose a spot on the driving range and take out a club, think about why you are out here in the first place. The obvious answer is to practice. But by practicing what do you hope to accomplish? Yes you want to play “better.” But unfortunately for most recreational golfers, a trip to the driving range rarely results in effective practice and game improvement. For most recreational golfers hitting balls on the driving range may be little more than exercise.
For many, it becomes an opportunity to further reinforce and practice a misguided swing or an ineffective strategy.
This doesn’t have to be the case, even for recreational golfers. If you are willing to examine your mindset on the range, practice with a purpose and, finally, be sufficiently disciplined to stick to a practice plan you can begin to build an important foundation to begin to play well. Below Continue Reading→