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Haime: Get back to your natural you

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I have the great privilege of working with some of the world’s leading athletes (including PGA Tour players and other professionals) in the area of mental and emotional development. When athletes, agents and coaches don’t know what’s wrong with a player, they call me to “fix” it.

It has been my experience that the mental/emotional capabilities are always the separator for golfers — surprisingly few spend adequate time developing the skills that will help them take advantage of physical abilities. There’s a reason why many very accomplished performers declare the importance of the mental/emotional “game,” often stating it accounts for a large slice of the performance pie.

And, it’s important to you.

If you want to jump to the next level in golf, it’s not a bad idea to understand what you can do to improve your mental/emotional game. It will directly impact your results and your enjoyment of the game.

During the coming months, I will coach you and provide you with tried and tested approaches — and real-world examples of how to improve your mental and emotional capabilities. You can tailor the approaches and examples to your game and apply the principles.

Let’s start with something simple.

When I sit with players for the first time — the discovery meeting — I try to find out what makes them tick and how well they know themselves. It’s important for the player (you) to intimately know your strengths, limitations, triggers and the source of your abilities. There are original qualities in all players that are the starting point of the development and these natural instincts are not to be tampered with. They are to be protected and built upon by skillful coaches with a solid, simple, fundamental approach.

Think about all the great players through the years and how original each player is — and how different they all are from each other. Willie Park, Hagen, Jones, Hogan, Nelson, Thomsen, Player, Palmer, Nicklaus, Ballesteros, Faldo, Woods. All of these players are completely different, but they all used their original tendencies and instincts to rise to the top of the game. As Arnold Palmer suggests in the recent Dick’s Sporting Goods commercials — all of these players “swing their swing” and carefully crafted their originality into a world-class game.

In my opinion, golf has become so overcoached that many golfers, perhaps you, get separated from their instincts and natural tendencies and the originality is lost. We are currently seeing this idea with Tiger Woods as he analyzes the game to such an extent and puts his trust in a line of coaches or “consultants” and his natural DNA has faded. The skinny, natural genius has become an overcoached, bulky veteran with eroded instincts. You’ve seen it in recent months where one of the greatest players who ever played has hit some shocking shots from inside 20 yards. That’s the result of far too much thinking and not enough playing.

So, like I would with a world-class player, let’s start there with you. What makes you original and what comes naturally to you? What are your tendencies? What are your restrictions? Carefully consider what you do well, your strengths, what you struggle with, your limitations, what might be a great target of quality, fundamental coaching and what might be something that shouldn’t be tinkered with.

As another exercise to start, consider what creates strong negative emotion in you when you play. What makes you hesitate on the course? What frustrates you? What makes you angry? These are all good questions to begin a self-examination to help you understand the player you are — leading to the player you can be. Self-awareness is critical for a golfer as it is for all athletes and performers. It is the first step in development.

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John Haime is the President of New Edge Performance. He's a Human Performance Coach who prepares performers to be the their best by helping them tap into the elusive 10 percent of their abilities that will get them to the top. This is something that anyone with a goal craves, and John Haime knows how to get performers there. John closes the gap for performers in sports and business by taking them from where they currently are to where they want to go.  The best in the world trust John. They choose him because he doesn’t just talk about the world of high performance – he has lived it and lives in it everyday. He is a former Tournament Professional Golfer with professional wins. He has a best-selling book, “You are a Contender,” which is widely read by world-class athletes, coaches and business performers.  He has worked around the globe for some of the world’s leading companies. Athlete clients include performers who regularly rank in the Top-50 in their respective sports. John has the rare ability to work as seamlessly in the world of professional sports as he does in the world of corporate performance. His primary ambition writing for GolfWRX is to help you become the golfer you'd like to be. See www.johnhaime.com for more. Email: john@newedgeperformance.org

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Prime21

    Mar 3, 2015 at 1:22 am

    Swing your swing……love that one! For the general golf population, that means swing your arms and hands at the ball, powder puff your driver out their 205, & sign for that 95 you just carded. Oh wait, get in tune with your emotions and fine tune your mental approach and that 95 magically drop to 72? Not happening.
    Was Faldo’s “swing” #1 before he hooked up with Leadbetter? Woods won a Masters by 12 before he hooked up with Butch? If I’m not mistaken, 2000 was arguably the greatest competitive season ever recorded. But was he using “his swing”? Hogan…. well, he had Hogan. How many times did “his swing” change before he found his secret?
    If one lacks talent, the easiest excuse is a poor mental game. Now, I am by no means insinuating that the mental game is not important, but in no way can it override poor swing mechanics. Look at a Tour players stable and you see a trusted advisor in swing, fitness, nutrition, mentality, etc. Why? Because one better have each base covered to compete at the highest level. To believe that there are any short cuts is the quickest way to failure. But until your mechanics are sound or at the very least you are happy with your current distance and accuracy levels and your swing is repeatable, the mental fix alone will do you no good.
    While its easy to bash Tiger these days, remember sir, without him your company does not exist. While he may be guilty of taking his pursuit of perfection too far, this same desire created the blueprint for the modern day golfer, one who is strong across the board, not merely in one category.
    Though your article is well written, as I’m sure your additional ones will be as well. An offer for a quick fix is nothing more than a ploy to sell more books. In your next article can you answer a question for me? A chain is only as strong as its weakest ………?

  2. Philip

    Feb 28, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    Very interested as these articles evolve. I have been focusing on “my” abilities and staying away from all the noise in the media and forums since last fall. It has been paying dividends this off-season. Know thyself has always been the wall between most people and success in whatever they desire to a larger degree than they would like to admit. As it is just easier to stick to what is visible to a video camera or recording device. Many seem to want to forget that everyone did pretty good long before our modern technological wonders existed. We don’t have to go back to the stone age, but keeping an open mind to simpler things can often result in quicker success.

  3. morty

    Feb 28, 2015 at 7:02 pm

    I don’t buy it. Author is manufacturing a dilemma.

    How does one become “one of the world’s leading authorities in Emotional Intelligence” anyway?

    • other paul

      Feb 28, 2015 at 9:14 pm

      I would ask how his relationship is with his wife. If they have been married for 20 years, have some teenage girls and he still likes and loves her, then he might know a thing.
      Otherwise he might not be worth listening to.

    • John Haime

      Mar 2, 2015 at 10:20 am

      Many thanks for the comment and a quick reply …

      I believe you become one of the world’s leading authorities by working with the world’s leading performers and gaining their trust. A bestselling book also doesn’t hurt. Appreciate the comment – but let the work and writing tell the story – the bio is a result of my experience, my successes and my client list.

      Just curious – how is using one’s own natural tendencies a manufactured dilemma? Know thyself has been a critical philosophical fundamental from the beginning of time and it applies to everything – including the games we play.

      Thanks again for the comment and hope you enjoy the articles moving forward – and they add some value to your game!

  4. Kenny

    Feb 28, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    Great article love the simplicity to it..I’ve been playing this game for over thirty years and I agree that the game is over analyzed you have so much information out there …companies coming out with different clubs claiming to do this and that …funny that all the hype doesn’t work. The biggest thing today is the golf ball and some of the technology. When I was coming up as a young golfer we had forged clubs and persimmon headed drivers and balata balls if we were lucky to find one…the pro showed you how to grip the club correctly and then said go play….today it’s not like that everything has to match up and in my opinion it has cost some players there career …The thing that I don’t like is that the people teaching the game today as far as swing coaches want to change what a person has and show him the method that they are teaching…wish my old pro was still around he showed you the fundamentals and that was it…we need people that can teach like the did in the old days…unfortunaley most have died off…

    • Snowman

      Feb 28, 2015 at 7:52 pm

      Does anyone realize how much better players are today than they were back in the days when everyone just “went out and played their natural swing” or whatever? Might work for Bubba, Phil, Palmer, and Trevino, but not us. It sounds great too — wack a couple on the range, play 18, grab a beer, repeat..But these days that’s a recipe for calling it quits and becoming a club-tec at golf galaxy..I don’t understand why people are so satisfied by picking on pro golfers for doing everything they can to get better..especially when the level of play is so much higher than previous generations

      • Philip

        Feb 28, 2015 at 8:57 pm

        What does maximizing your natural abilities have to do with being just plain ole lazy (though many do just want to hit a few on the range, play 18, drink some beer and eat and head home – doesn’t sound like fun to me, but to them maybe it is. We all have a choice after all). I tried the modern methods and nothing really clicked, went back to trying it on my own – golf isn’t rocket science – and it happened to click for myself. Now that I have a basic foundation that is working I can re-read all those books and watch videos, as well as see a new coach at a new course I started last fall. I’m always watching games on the tube and sometimes I notice something and run to grab a club and practice a few swings in my living room.

        For some it is doing it yourself, for others a coach, and even for others video and trackman – the trick is to figure out what is the most efficient and effective method for yourself. Horses for courses. Now if I can just get winter to end a month early……

  5. Gloover

    Feb 28, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    Great, more inner child work. Someone get the empty chair!

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Instruction

Tip of the week: Let the left heel lift for a bigger turn to the top

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In this week’s tip, Tom Stickney gives a suggestion that would make Brandel Chamblee proud: lift the left heel on the backswing for a bigger turn.

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How I train tour players

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There is a lot of speculation about how tour pros train, and with tantalizing snippets of gym sessions being shared on social media, it’s tempting to draw large conclusions from small amounts of insight. One thing I can tell you from my time on tour is that there isn’t just one way that golfers should train, far from it. I’ve seen many different approaches work for many different pros, a strong indicator is the wide variety of body shapes we see at the top level of the game. Take for example Brooks Koepka, Mark Leishman, Ricker Fowler, and Patrick Reed. Put these four players through a physical testing protocol and the results would be extremely varied, and yet, over 18 holes of golf there is just 0.79 shots difference between first and last.

This example serves to highlight the importance of a customized approach to training. Sometimes common sense training programs backed by scientific evidence simply don’t work for an individual. One of the athletes I work with, Cameron Smith, over the course of a season recorded his slowest club-head speed when he was strongest and heaviest (muscle mass) and fastest club-head speed when he was lightest and weakest. That lead me to seriously question the widely accepted concept of stronger = more powerful and instead search for a smarter and more customized methodology. I’ll continue to use Cam and his training as an example throughout this article.

Cam working on his rotational speed (push band on his arm)

What I’m going to outline below is my current method of training tour pros, it’s a fluid process that has changed a lot over the years and will hopefully continue to morph into something more efficient and customized as time goes on.

Assessment

I have poached and adapted aspects from various different testing methods including TPI, GravityFit, Ramsay McMaster, Scott Williams and Train With Push. The result is a 5-stage process that aims to identify areas for improvement that can be easily compared to measure progress.

Subjective – This is a simple set of questions that sets the parameters for the upcoming training program. Information on training and injury history, time available for training, access to facilities and goal setting all help to inform the structure of the training program design that will fit in with the individual’s life.

Postural – I take photos in standing and golf set up from in-front, behind and both sides. I’m simply trying to establish postural tendencies that can be identified by alignment of major joints. For example a straight line between the ear, shoulder, hip and ankle is considered ideal.

Muskulo Skeletal – This is a series of very simple range of motion and localized stability tests for the major joints and spinal segments. These tests help explain movement patterns demonstrated in the gym and the golf swing. For example ankle restrictions make it very difficult to squat effectively, whilst scapula (shoulder blade) instability can help explain poor shoulder and arm control in the golf swing.

Stability and Balance – I use a protocol developed by GravityFit called the Core Body Benchmark. It measures the player’s ability to hold good posture, balance and stability through a series of increasingly complex movements.

Basic Strength and Power – I measure strength relative to bodyweight in a squat, push, pull and core brace/hold. I also measure power in a vertical leap and rotation movement.

At the age of 16, Cam Smith initially tested poorly in many of these areas; he was a skinny weak kid with posture and mobility issues that needed addressing to help him to continue playing amateur golf around the world without increasing his risk of injury.

An example scoring profile

Report

From these 5 areas of assessment I write a report detailing the areas for improvement and set specific and measurable short terms goals. I generally share this report with the player’s other team members (coach, manager, caddie etc).

Training Program

Next step is putting together the training program. For this I actually designed and built (with the help of a developer) my own app. I use ‘Golf Fit Pro’ to write programs that are generally split into 3 or 4 strength sessions per week with additional mobility and posture work. The actual distribution of exercises, sets, reps and load (weights) can vary a lot, but generally follows this structure:

Warm Up – foam roll / spiky ball, short cardio, 5 or 6 movements that help warm up the major joints and muscles

Stability / Function – 2 or 3 exercises that activate key stability/postural muscles around the hips and shoulders.

Strength / Power – 4 or 5 exercises designed to elicit a strength or power adaptation whilst challenging the ability to hold posture and balance.

Core – 1 or 2 exercises that specifically strengthen the core

Mobility – 5-10 stretches, often a mixture of static and dynamic

An example of the Golf Fit Pro app

Cam Smith has followed this structure for the entire time we have been working together. His choice would be to skip the warm-up and stability sections, instead jumping straight into the power and strength work, which he considers to be “the fun part.” However, Cam also recognizes the importance of warming up properly and doing to his stability drills to reduce the risk of injury and make sure his spine, hips and shoulders are in good posture and moving well under the load-bearing strength work.

Training Sessions

My approach to supervising training sessions is to stick to the prescribed program and focus attention firstly on perfecting technique and secondly driving intent. What I mean by this is making sure that every rep is done with great focus and determination. I often use an accelerometer that tracks velocity (speed) to measure the quality and intent of a rep and provide immediate feedback and accountability to the individual.

Cam especially enjoys using the accelerometer to get real-time feedback on how high he is jumping or fast he is squatting. He thrives on competing with both himself and others in his gym work, pretty typical of an elite athlete!

Maintenance

The physical, mental and emotional demands of a tournament week make it tricky to continue to train with the same volume and intensity as usual. I will often prescribe a watered down version of the usual program, reducing reps and sets whilst still focusing on great technique. Soreness and fatigue are the last thing players want to deal with whilst trying to perform at their best. It’s quite the balancing act to try and maintain fitness levels whilst not getting in the way of performance. My experience is that each player is quite different and the process has to be fluid and adaptable in order to get the balance right from week to week.

Equipment

Aside from the usual gym equipment, resistance bands, and self massage tools, the following are my favourite bits of kit:

GravityFit – Absolutely the best equipment available for training posture, stability and movement quality. The immediate feedback system means I can say less, watch more and see players improve their technique and posture faster.

Push Band – This wearable accelerometer has really transformed the way I write programs, set loads and measure progression. It’s allowed the whole process to become more fluid and reactive, improved quality of training sessions and made it more fun for the players. It also allows me to remotely view what has happened in a training session, down to the exact speed of each rep, as demonstrated in the image below.

Details from one of Cam’s recent training sessions

Examples

Below are some of the PGA Tour players that I have worked with and the key areas identified for each individual, based of the process outlined above:

Cam Smith – Improving posture in head/neck/shoulders, maintenance of mobility throughout the body, increasing power output into the floor (vertical force) and rotational speed.

Jonas Blixt – Core stability, hip mobility and postural endurance in order to keep lower back healthy (site of previous injury). Overall strength and muscle growth.

Harris English – Improving posture in spine, including head/neck. Scapula control and stability, improving hip and ankle mobility. Overall strength and muscle growth.

Recommendations

My advice if you want to get your fitness regime right, is to see a professional for an assessment and personalized program, then work hard at it whilst listening to your body and measuring results. I’m sure this advice won’t rock your world, but from all that I’ve seen and done on tour, it’s by far the best recommendation I can give you.

If you are a golfer interested in using a structured approach to your golf fitness, then you can check out my online services here.

If you are a fitness professional working with golfers, and would like to ask questions about my methods, please send an email to nick@golffitpro.net

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Me and My Golf: Top 5 putting grips

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In this week’s Impact Show, we take a look at our top 5 putting grips. We discuss which grips we prefer, and which putting grips can suit you and why.

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