28th August 2017
Discussing my golf at the moment with DT, the topic came up of how well I can play and practice feeling I am good for my handicap to the difference when a Competition comes along and I can literally feel my shots slipping away from me. I am sure it is a common problem for you amateur guys out there. Play with your mates, or a knock down on the range and it all feels like it comes together. Play in the big comp medal on a Saturday and your half way through your handicap shots after 5 holes!
The first thing to advise everyone, and it isn’t easy, is to stay in the moment. Every Zen Golf book out there will tell you this. Forget about what has happened and what is to come. Just stay right in the moment and worry about process not the emotion of outcomes. This is a game of a swing and sending the ball the way you intended. You can make sure you factor in bunkers, hazards, trees and all the challenges the course lays out but you can’t control that ball other than the fraction of a second in how you hit it with the club or putter.
The discussion led to a great bit of advise from DT. Have the process not just be about hitting the ball. Have a consistent shot routine from the moment you come to your ball. This commitment to consistency every single shot or putt will help you to forget about everything else but what you are about to do. Your mind has a tendency to wander, to get emotional or excited, but all these things have a danger to distract from your golf game. I can remember the best I ever played under pressure was at the BMW Golf Cup International National Final at St Andrews where I knew my goal was to come 1st. Only the winner qualified for Dubai and I was there for that outcome. Somehow I made it happen and scored 40 points to top the leader board of probably 100+ guys. Thinking back to my mental process that day it was great to have a good caddy Ross Angus. Even after a bad start from 2 holes he helped me see the shot and stay one shot at a time. I remember being over the ball every time and wanting it to be a good shot SO much that I actually celebrated to myself every time it came out well. That helped and bar a 5 putt on the 17th, the round went like clockwork and I was striding between each hole with a confidence to attack it.
So guys getting myself back to that consistent state will help me (and you) in the big comps. Here is the shot routine I worked out with DT:
- Evaluate the shot conditions.
- Club selection.
- See the shot you want to execute.
- Take a practice swing and see that swing sending the ball in the way you want to execute the shot.
- Make that swing.
- Evaluated the shot conditions.
You may have seen the adverts on TV (TaylorMade I think) where just like Dustin Johnson and John Rahm are looking at shots and you can see their mental notes. First thing you do when you approach your ball is to be taking in information. Distance to pin, wind and the target area are the three that come to mind. Others include the lie of the ball, hazards between you and the target (over trees, under branches) and looking at different risk and reward balances. All of this information then help you see the shot you want to achieve and let you move onto stage two.
- Club Selection
Taking in all of the information you gathered in the first stage will lead you to picking the club you think will achieve your desired goal. Knowing your distances is important as without them you don’t know what club to select. The conditions of the shot then may have an impact on taking distance off or adding more depending on what else is going to cause that ball to move other than your swing. Being confident of the club selection is important to having a clear mind when taking the swing.
- See the shot you want to execute
Standing behind the ball, club selected in hand, take all the conditions information in hand and see the shot you want to execute. Tee shot down to a spot on the fairway, approach shot in the air and where it lands on the green or pitches before it, shot over a hazard – whatever it may be. Like a shot tracer app you see these days see it from the ground all the way through the air to finish.
- Practice swing to achieve that shot
Confidently step up to where you take your practice swing from. Settle in and take one practice swing and again hammer in that shot tracer this time from your shot perspective and feel the swing that will achieve the shot you are seeing in your mind. Imagine the ball leave your club and take off to where you want it to finish.
- Execute the shot and swing you have seen and felt.
By doing this consistently and committing to yourself that you will do this for every shot in the round, it should take you back to a ground zero after a good shot or a bad shot to start the process again. Like a reset button. I know from playing as a mid handicapper now that I am going to hit good shots and some awful shots and its only when I let them linger and take focus away from the next shot that a round can get away from me.
Give this routine a try for a round and regardless of how you are playing keep doing it. Only having one practice swing shouldn’t slow you down too much to be in danger of having the piss taken out of you! You will be the one with the last laugh if you collect the money.