Hello Golf Friends:
Is what you are doing in golf leading to improvement? Is what you are doing leading to added golf enjoyment? Are your scores going down like you want them to?
If you said yes to all of the above, congratulations and continue on with the show!
If you said no, especially to the second question, then I want you to carefully read this blog and take ACTION!
I am primarily a self-taught golfer. By that I mean I have spent thousands of hours on the range and course trying to find “The truth in the dirt”. I have spent hundreds of hours watching and reading about the golf swing. I have had the help of some great instructors along the way when the time was needed and just recently got a great bit of advice from a fellow golf professional. I generally know what I want and need to work on but I can’t always come up with the solution. I know my breaking point and that is when I seek advice from someone that I know and trust with MY swing! I know a lot but I don’t know everything and another “set of eyes” and some discussion is always a good thing to get me back on track.
I, like many other golfers, am always trying to improve. I want to be the best golfer I can be given my time, resources, physical ability, and intellect. I wanted to share this month my six keys to golf improvement.
Key 1 : Time
Quality of time spent vs. quantity of time spent. In the winter months, even in FL, I don’t have the time to practice like I want to. My “other” job keeps me busy during the days and I do golf instruction in the evening and on weekends. Hence, my winter golf expectations are not the same as spring, summer, fall with longer daylight hours. My goal (did I say goal?) is to maintain what I had that was good while very slowly and patiently implementing something that I need to fix. My winter golf becomes more enjoyment golf than competitive golf. My practice time is one-half of what I would like it to be. So the important thing in the time I do have is to have a quality practice session (which I try to do every time out but I think it is more directed in the winter months). In my quality practice session I hit fewer balls but focus more on my routine and mechanics. I rarely finish the “large bucket”. My goal is to be comfortable and confident enough at the end to leave balls in the bucket. I also use more drill and practice situations during the winter. I HIT A TON OF BALLS OFF TEES when I’m doing this to get the right sensations down that I want in my swing. I also make my short game time focused on quality. I may only hit 12-15 chip shots. But I will go through my routine on each one just like a course situation. I may only hit 12-15 putts, but I will use my practice station for each putt making sure that I’m rehearsing and feeling the right stroke. And rarely will I putt anything over 5 footers!
Key 2 : Physical Plan
I always have a plan when it comes to golf. It keeps me focused and directed. If I find myself wandering off, my plan will redirect me. “What did I come here to accomplish today?” Am I focused on wedges? Full swing? Rhythm? Pivot? And so on… I’ve found that if I just go out and “swing away” my practice sessions are usually not that great. A great practice session you can do is to play your favorite course while on the range. Visualize the hole, pick the club, swing to your target. Another practice plan could be to hit 5 balls with every club, never hitting more than 5 balls in a row with the same club. How about hitting one ball every thirty seconds or one minute; making sure you go through your routine between each ball? If you are working with an instructor, hopefully the two of you have worked on some things for you to do in between the times you visit the instructor.
Key 3 : Mental Plan
Mental Plan: If you’ve read my book, The Complete Golfer, you know that I dwell on mental, emotional, and strategic/management areas of golf. You should constantly be working on goal setting and goal achievement. Dare yourself to get better! Develop successful mental and course strategies that will put you in the right frame of mind to give yourself the best chance for success on the range or course! I have read 10-15 books from the “Self-help” category. I love them and they truly are about challenging ourselves to be the best that we can be; to set a goal and bust your butt to achieve it; that when you hit a roadblock, there is always another path and so on. The only thing that limits us, are the limits we put on ourselves!
Key 4 : Physical Ability
Please don’t try to do something in golf that you know you’re body won’t support. About 5 years ago, I wanted to add 15-20 yards to my driver. FAIL! I was trying to do it in a manner my body wouldn’t support and I kind of lost MY swing. It took me an enlightened comment from a friend…. She said “Paul, what the Hell are you doing? You’re smooth tempo and rhythm are gone!” Enough said. My search for distance would have to come through technology and spending some $$$$. I work out about 350 days a year. I stretch and do yoga. I want to give my body the best opportunity for success. But only a few weeks away from the big 5-0; I know there are certain things my body won’t do. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can do something that you simply can’t do. You can get better; you just have to find the right system that works for you. And yes, the more physically fit and flexible you are the more improvement you will see in your golf game!
Key 5 : Instruction
While I work very hard on my own and try to be my own swing coach, I do know when I need my own lesson. Golf is a difficult game! Every part of your body is moving to hit a little round ball with a little piece of metal. Finding an instructor that works with you and for you; an instructor that you trust; an instructor that can communicate simply to you is very important. Together, you can develop a plan to make your improvement faster, more effective, and lasting. Take the time to do some research to find the instructor that is right for you and invest some time and money to get better. Make it a weekly or bi-weekly visit to begin with and then taper down as what you are working on comes to fruition. Go back and visit that instructor when the swing starts feeling a little off. Many golfers can apply their own “band-aid” for an immediate fix but can rarely perform the needed procedure or surgery to make the permanent fix.
Key 6 : Equipment
I’m a golfaholic. I love equipment. Love trading equipment in to get new equipment. We all want the latest and greatest but quite often our budgets can’t afford it. I don’t believe you have to buy brand new equipment to get better. You have to have good equipment that fits you and your swing. Having the correct shaft, correct grip size, correct lie, correct length, and even the correct ball are all very important. Every golfer that wants to get better should know their “specs”. These rarely change in an adult lifetime so once you have them you’re probably good. Meaning you don’t necessarily need to be fitted every time you purchase (purchase based on your specs) unless it is recommended by your instructor due to swing changes. Most of us can pick a set of tools off the shelf (with the right shaft) and go play away.
Improvement takes effort. It just doesn’t happen automatically. With an increased commitment to quality practice, setting a plan and goal for improvement, thinking better, finding the right instructor, and getting the right equipment, you will be able to enjoy this great game even more.
And, for my northern friends fighting the cold and snow, I refer you to my book or to my earlier blog on how to stay golf ready in the winter!
Til Next Month,
Heritage Isles Golf & Country Club