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Opinion & Analysis

When golfers create their own reality

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“Great players always deflect it away,” Tom Weiskopf said during the 2015 U.S. Open broadcast.

His quote explains how many professional golfers deal with the difficult realities they face as a part of their job… without going crazy. Everyone wonders what goes on in the mind of the best players as they react to shots and rounds that contain both good and bad results. As a former tour pro, and now a golf instructor, I wanted to share my insights on the topic.

Here are some things great players think and some of the things I coach my students.

It is never their fault

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This is a common reaction of a many tour players (and many poor players, too). You’ll see a golfer miss a putt and immediately fix an old ball mark or tap down a spike mark that was supposedly in their line. Sometimes it is legit. Players see their ball do something they did not expect and blame a hidden imperfection on their green for the outcome. It allows golfers to tell themselves that they made the perfect stroke, and only missed the putt because of something outside their control. They can move on with their round without harming their confidence.

The flip side of the coin is when outside influences, such as the spotty greens at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, expose the mental insecurities of the player. You saw it with Billy Horschel and his putting. Never known as a really good putter, the green irregularities exposed that mental side of his game that needs everything to be perfect in order for it to succeed both inwardly and outwardly. When it is not perfect, it can lead to some quirky and unprofessional behavior.

Do I recommend this process? No, but I don’t want my golfers thinking about their stroke mechanics in a tournament, either.

Retroactive “wins”

A tour player came to work with me after spending the past two years with different coaches. He was hitting it awful and putting terrible for him. He was exempt on the PGA Tour Latin America circuit, and results from several years ago show he can go super low. We spent a half day together and improved his ball striking, showing him the practice path he needed to dial in his swing in for the long haul, and then tightened up his short game and got the putter hot again.

In his first tournament since we did all that work, his stats were solid with only two missed greens and one missed fairway. So we created our own “reality show” out of the ball striking. Where would he have finished if he had hit the ball that well at a recent PGA Tour LA event?

“I win by eight!” he said immediately.

I agreed, and told him that what we do is we count that as a “retroactive win.” It does not show up in his bio or his bank account as a win, but in his mind he knows that if he hits it like that he wins by a lot. I asked the same question of another tournament he recently played in, and he said if he hit the ball the same way he did in our practice session he would have won that one also. In his mind, he now has two wins. That gives him a jolt of confidence in his game that tells him he can win with what we are working on.

Fixing the bad shots and bad breaks

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This is the one that my dad struggled with the most to understand. It happens most to elite players, and it is called the “if scenario.” In a tournament practice rounds and casual rounds with him, I would finish and do a review of how I played. It would go something like this:

Dad: “Nice round, son. Your 68 was pretty solid today.”

Me: “Thanks, but if I don’t catch that bad lie on No. 4 and make bogey, and then get that one up and down on the par-5… and make those two 10-foot putts coming in then it is 64!”

Dad: “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts we would all have a Merry Christmas. If, if if.”

Yes, if! Dad didn’t understand that a golfer’s analysis is unreal to the point of creating a separate reality — we were just blink of an eye from three, four, or five shots better. We think we will get all of our shots to go our way, and sometimes they do. And if you only look at the dark side of the game, it will drive you crazy.

Try to look at your bad rounds through a different lens, and expect that things will go your way more often than not. At the very least, believe that the bad breaks will be evened out with good breaks… eventually. You’ll find yourself thinking positively more often, and for that reason you’ll shoot lower scores.

Par is not always par

Here is an example from junior golf. I coach two 9-year-old golfers who are fantastic players. In a recent tournament, both struggled to break 50 for nine holes. Why? Because that tournament setup the course WAY TOO LONG! The juniors could not reach any of the holes in regulation. None of them! So when we discussed the event, we created our own effective par, since the scorecard par of 36 was invalid. What we arrived at was that even par for them was 49. With the new par, both players shot either even par or a couple over. That is much more like how they normally play.

As you look at your course and the tee markers you prefer to play, check and see if you are playing a couple of holes that might make more sense at a different par. Then create your own realistic par and play to that score. You might just find yourself playing those holes better when you remove the stress of trying to make a normal par on a hole that’s too long or especially difficult for you.

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If you are an avid Golf Channel viewer you are familiar with Rob Strano the Director of Instruction for the Strano Golf Academy at Kelly Plantation Golf Club in Destin, FL. He has appeared in popular segments on Morning Drive and School of Golf and is known in studio as the “Pop Culture” coach for his fun and entertaining Golf Channel segments using things like movie scenes*, song lyrics* and familiar catch phrases to teach players. His Golf Channel Academy series "Where in the World is Rob?" showed him giving great tips from such historic landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, on a Gondola in Venice, Tuscany Winery, the Roman Colissum and several other European locations. Rob played professionally for 15 years, competing on the PGA, Nike/Buy.com/Nationwide and NGA/Hooters Tours. Shortly after embarking on a teaching career, he became a Lead Instructor with the golf schools at Pine Needles Resort in Pinehurst, NC, opening the Strano Golf Academy in 2003. A native of St. Louis, MO, Rob is a four time honorable mention U.S. Kids Golf Top 50 Youth Golf Instructor and has enjoyed great success with junior golfers, as more than 40 of his students have gone on to compete on the collegiate level at such established programs as Florida State, Florida and Southern Mississippi. During the 2017 season Coach Strano had a player win the DII National Championship and the prestigious Nicklaus Award. He has also taught a Super Bowl and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, a two-time NCAA men’s basketball national championship coach, and several PGA Tour and LPGA Tour players. His PGA Tour players have led such statistical categories as Driving Accuracy, Total Driving and 3-Putt Avoidance, just to name a few. In 2003 Rob developed a nationwide outreach program for Deaf children teaching them how to play golf in sign language. As the Director of the United States Deaf Golf Camps, Rob travels the country conducting instruction clinics for the Deaf at various PGA and LPGA Tour events. Rob is also a Level 2 certified AimPoint Express Level 2 green reading instructor and a member of the FlightScope Advisory Board, and is the developer of the Fuzion Dyn-A-line putting training aid. * Golf Channel segments have included: Caddyshack Top Gun Final Countdown Gangnam Style The Carlton Playing Quarters Pump You Up

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. mc3jack

    Feb 11, 2016 at 3:00 am

    Golfers are delusional. Humans are delusional. All the time. When we’re ‘picturing’ that 30 foot downhill, sidehill breaker rolling in the hole, we’re being delusional. It’s 25 to 1 shot, or worse. That’s reality.

    Many, many golfers show up at the course delusional. They’re dreaming that ‘today is the day’ they’ll finally play at the level of their delusions…and then reality crushes their delusion and they make themselves mad or sad. It’s dumb. But it’s very human.

    Here’s one of my favorite delusions: I’m the World’s Greatest Bogey Golfer. Yes, people line the fairways to watch my exhibitions of flawless bogey golf. I make it look so easy! Know what? WugBug (WGBG) as my legion of fans call me, makes tour-level number of bogey-birdies, and almost never makes a bogey-bogey. He pours on the Tour Sauce thick and rich, and by the end of the day his scorecard isn’t anywhere near 18 over.

  2. Dennis Clark

    Feb 10, 2016 at 10:34 pm

    i read all your posts on my articles M…

  3. Bob Jones

    Feb 10, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    I’m a good enough golfer to save my score after a bad shot, and a bad enough golfer to hit bad shots I can’t recover from. I hit good shots that have fabulous outcomes by sheer luck. I hit great shots that don’t turn out well because of bad bounces and the like. At the end of the round, I always get the score I deserved for that day. I have no need to fool myself and live in a false reality. That some touring pros that need to lie to themselves on the course makes me wonder how much that carries over into their personal life.

  4. Obee

    Feb 10, 2016 at 10:33 am

    Great article. Thank you. As an aging (I’m 48), competitive amateur, anything I can learn about the mental side of the game is helpful. And you’re certainly right about top players “creating their own realities.” I’ve seen it time and time again over the years with top ams — their mental processes are just a bit different than others’….

  5. Brian

    Feb 10, 2016 at 10:05 am

    Par is never setup for 1 putting. Hence why a par 3 allows for two putts. Par 4s allow for 2 putts. Par 5s allow for 2 putts. What in the world do you mean?

  6. steve

    Feb 10, 2016 at 8:32 am

    I don’t think they create their own reality. Its a impulse to blame something outside their control at the moment, but in “reality” they know they made a bad read or bad putt. This way of thinking is in all parts of life from sports to business, its never their fault. If you never take ownership of it, you never will learn and grow from it

  7. 2Short

    Feb 10, 2016 at 4:42 am

    Your reality is exactly what you think it is.

  8. Dave

    Feb 9, 2016 at 10:11 pm

    I understand what your getting at with this article but this is the same logic that 2 handicaps use to brainwash themselves into thinking they can play on tour.

    There’s a lot of guys spending 20-30 grand per year playing mini tours and q schools with no hope in hell.

  9. Cez

    Feb 9, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    Eldrick most certainly created his own reality by ramming ho’s and then ramming his truck into the hydrant and thinking he can appear sorry for doing it all by making a grandiose speech to boast about it on TV.

  10. Rob Strano

    Feb 9, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    If this comment is directed at the last point of the article I suggest you reread it. The par 5’s were so long these kids could not reach the green with 4 of their best shots back-to-back. So they would hit the green with their 5th or 6th shot and one or two putt. Par was an unattainable number. Kind of like at Torrey Pines last weekend.

    • steve

      Feb 10, 2016 at 8:51 am

      who cares what par is? your in a tournament what place you end up in matters. you created a fake reality for the kids, that was a mistake. if you shoot 10 over and win, are you upset because you shoot 10 over on a tough long course. I would have compared their games to where they placed in the tournament, that is what matters nothing else. did you give them a participation trophy?

      • Scott

        Feb 11, 2016 at 10:49 am

        Golf is a game of you against the course. All else being equal, when the bounces go your way you can win, and when they don’t you lose. When courses are set up unfairly for the players playing, that is a different story. I help my wife set realistic goal on the course also. Most courses have holes that she can not reach in regulation. She is not fixated on score, but it does make her feel better to “par” a par 4 with a 5.

        • steve

          Feb 11, 2016 at 2:17 pm

          I understand what you are saying. But playing in a tournament is different. You compare yourself to the field, not the scorecard. It is hard for me to think of a course being setup unfair if everyone is playing the same course. Will there be bad breaks, like when it is windy and raining in the morning and calm and sunny in the afternoon, yes. But that is not course setup. I rather win ugly then lose pretty. Why would he tell kids to change par and give them a “fake reality”. Why not just look at tournament average score and compare to that?

  11. Dev

    Feb 9, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    This was seriously one of the best articles I have read on the mental game of serious golf in a long time. It goes well with some tips I read last week about choosing what time of day you are going to have.

    I am not a great golfer by any means but things like this can always be helpful to lower scores. I made a decision this year that I want to get good. Most likely not tour good but get down to shooting par or better. Even though deep down I know what I should be thinking its always good to have someone else remind you.

    Thanks for a great read.

    • Rob Strano

      Feb 9, 2016 at 7:56 pm

      Dev, thanks for your note and comments. Appreciate your decision to want to get good at the game and seeking the information to do it! The mental game is important to improving and you read the article and grasped my points. Many others will read it and still not get it and that puts you ahead of the game. Have a great 2016 working on getting better every day.

  12. Dennis Clark

    Feb 9, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    It’s always a fine line between positive thinking and denial. And we all walk it. Good job, Rob.

    • Rob Strano

      Feb 9, 2016 at 7:52 pm

      Thanks Dennis…You are right, it is a fine line, and those of us who have played the game and posted scores in big tournaments understand where that line is and how to deal with it and improve off of it.

    • Rob Strano

      Feb 9, 2016 at 8:08 pm

      Dennis, thanks for the note and the supportive comment. You are right it is a fine line. Those of us that have played and posted scores in big tournaments or coach players that do that easily understand the points of the article and how to walk that line and use it to motivate/improve. Hopefully this will help outsiders get the same insights we know to be true.

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Opinion & Analysis

The biggest influence on your child’s development in sports

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If you had the answer to youth development, you would have a very busy calendar. But joking aside, no one holds the golden ticket. The development of children is multi-faceted, diverse, and certainly does not follow a linear pattern; but what is possibly the most important factor to consider in your junior program?

Forget the grip, length of swing, or throwing skills. Social aspects are arguably the greatest influence on youth development and actually underpin everything we do. More worryingly, they have often been dismissed and unaccounted for in widely used participant development models, such as the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model.

So, what social aspects may be affecting children on your program?

Family

Parents are the bulk of this category and can often, but not always, act as role models whilst providing access and opportunity for children. On the reverse, parents can be can harmful and grouped into

  • the uninterested parent, who is never present
  • the overcritical parent, who is never satisfied
  • the yelling from the sideline parent, who often shouts louder than the coaches
  • the parent who coaches, who often contradicts the coach
  • the over-concerned parent, who is afraid of the dangers of sport and threatens to remove their child.

Do any of the children enrolled on your programs have parents that sound like the above? And how could this be affecting their performance and development?

It may also be worth mentioning at this point that siblings also play a huge part in development for obvious reasons related to motivation and role models. Have you ever wondered why it is so common for the youngest sibling to be the best goalkeeper? Is this luck? Another classic is children turning up late for sessions: this is obviously completely out of their control and coaches should not single out or highlight the fact that a particular child is late. The late child often wanders in with their head down, embarrassed about the fact they are turning up late.

Finally, has a recent divorce or family death affected a child in your Saturday morning class? The reason for their quietness and ‘uninterested look’ may in fact be stemming from a much deeper root. And to not pick this child for a team or to single him out for not being interested would be a disaster move at this point!

Socioeconomics

These are closely linked to parents and are quite simply financial factors. The cost of memberships, transport, equipment and time can often be a barrier for children. Can the family afford to pay for practice buckets out of sessions? And how could this be affecting a child’s development? Furthermore, should a child who hasn’t been practicing be inadvertently singled out when the reason for not practicing may often be totally out of their control? Again, how can we as coaches best handle these situations?

From a slightly different angle, how does the child in the group who has ‘hand me down’ clubs and an old scruffy bag feel? And how does the fact all the other children have brand new shiny clubs make them feel? More importantly, how can we as coaches make that child feel at ease?

Schooling/education

The guy that Henry sits next to on his first day of high school could quite possibly shape his future. The influence of peer groups is a huge factor in how attitudes, interests and ultimately behaviors are developed. Furthermore, the friendships developed at golf sessions could be pivotal in future development. What are we doing as coaches to create the best possible social environment for our players?

Additionally, the provision of sport varies across schools and can limit opportunities for different groups of children. This is totally out of a coach’s control but must be acknowledged. The popular named fundamental movement skills can heavily be influenced by the amount of school sport experienced; are children being dismissed from ‘talent ID’ programs for a lack of fundamental movement skills? And is this purely down to a lack of opportunity to develop these skills?

Finally, relative age effect has been shown to play an important role in youth sport and relates to the birth month of school children. Children born close to the start of the academic year (September in the UK) are often selected for school teams as opposed to children in the same year group that are nine months younger (born in Spring/Summer of the following year). The reason for being selected is often only because these children are bigger and stronger so therefore ‘suit’ the team better. So much for little Billy who loves the game but just gets “out muscled” by the big kids! (is this just bad luck?).

How can we tackle these issues?

Of course, we cannot hand out questionnaires to children and parents demanding fine details about their personal lives, however a big part of this puzzle does lie in TALKING to children and parents.

Talking to children/parents during a session about more than their grip or posture is invaluable for everyone involved.

  • For starters, these chats will help you build relationships with the children, a vital component of Self Determination Theory which is linked heavily to lifelong participation.
  • You will start to gather important information about the child. It is surprising what you may find out, but this is not nosey!  Discovering that a child is being picked on at school may in fact be the most important thing that child has ever told you.  And can for sure help you in how you behave and interact with that child.
  • Some of the most useful sessions are the ones spent talking for over half the time with the parents. Finding out what is going on in a child’s life could play a pivotal role in how you interact with different children.
  • Also, spending time with parents educating them is just as important. Let them know your plans/views.  Pushy parents are the evil in youth sport but education can help them change their approach. Imagine if you could change the car journey home conversation from, “Why did you miss that putt?” to, “Did you enjoy that today? I love watching you play!”

Summary of points

Whilst participation development models that acknowledge physical, technical, and other assets do hold great value, a model that completely disregards any social aspects of development has to be questioned. Below are the important take home points

  • Social aspects underpin everything we do and an acknowledgement of unique social situations is paramount in youth development
  • Luck can often play a huge part in youth development
  • Children should not be judged or selected based upon something that is out of their control.
  • Be aware of relative age effect/biological age…..(but, do not make it your priority as neurological age is more important than biological age!!
  • Talking to parents and children is the key catalyst to bridging the gap between development and social issues.
  • The relationships we develop with children are critical to motivations and lifelong participation.

Reference

Bailey, R; Collins, D; Ford, P; MacNamara, A; Toms, M; and Pearce, G. (2010). Participant Development in Sport: An academic review.

 

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: St. James Bay Golf Club in Carrabelle, Florida

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day comes from GolfWRX member Bimmer1, who submitted St. James Bay Golf Club in Carrabelle, Florida as his gem of a course. Situated within the North Flordia pines, St. James Bay gets praised for both its value, quietness and excellent layout in Bimmer1’s description of the course.

“I’ve played this course for good prices over the years. Excellent and challenging layout.  I’ve been out there when there is almost no one on the course at all.  I often wonder how they have enough money to keep it in the shape they do.”

According to St. James Bay Golf Club’s website, those good prices range from $35-$59 in summer, while their winter rates drop into the $30-$45 range.

@GroupGolferFL

@StJamesBayGolf

@Porteous3187

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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Hidden Gem of the Day: Aguila Golf Course in Phoenix, Arizona

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member evgolfer, who takes us to Aguila Golf Course in Phoenix, Arizona. The course sits at the base of South Mountain, offering up some stunning scenic mountain views, and in his description of the track evgolfer praises the fair test that the course offers up to players of all levels.

“I love it because the price is always right as a City of Phoenix municipal course. The conditions are usually fairly decent. Also, the course presents a fair challenge to me as a high handicapper and still appeals to low caps. It is easily walkable. Not surrounded by houses, not overly tight or cramped. Designed by Gary Panks. Not overly penal.”

According to Aguila Golf Course’s website, in peak time, an 18 hole round can be booked for $29, with the rate rising to $44 should you wish to add a cart. While, off-peak the price drops to $34, which includes a cart.

@TheHectorRios

@VernonLorenz

@HSTuscon

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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