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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

Clement: Best drill for weight shift and clearing hips (bonus on direction too)

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This is, by far, one of the most essential drills for your golf swing development. To throw the club well is a liberating experience! Here we catch Munashe up with how important the exercise is not only in the movement pattern but also in the realization that the side vision is viciously trying to get you to make sure you don’t throw the golf club in the wrong direction. Which, in essence, is the wrong direction to start with!

This drill is also a cure for your weight shift problems and clearing your body issues during the swing which makes this an awesome all-around golf swing drill beauty! Stay with us as we take you through, step by step, how this excellent drill of discovery will set you straight; pardon the pun!

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Confessions of a hacker: Chipping yips and equipment fixes

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There’s a saying in golf that, paraphrasing here, it’s the person holding the weapon, not the weapon. Basically, if you hit a bad shot, it’s almost certain that it was your fault, not the fault of the golf club. It has a better design than your swing. And while that truism is often correct, it ain’t necessarily so.

For example, if I were to try to hit one of those long drive drivers, I’d probably mis-hit it so badly that the ball might not be findable. That stick is way too long, stiff, and heavy for me. Similarly, if I were to use one of those senior flex drivers, I’d probably hit it badly, because it would be too floppy for my swing. It’s clear that there are arrows that this Indian can’t shoot well. Maybe a pro could adapt to whatever club you put in his hand, but there’s no reason he would accept less than a perfect fit. And there’s little reason why any amateur ought to accept less than a good fit.

I was never a competitive athlete, although I’m a competitive person. My path led a different direction, and as my medical career reached its mature years, I was introduced to our wonderful and frustrating game.

Being one who hates playing poorly, I immediately sought instruction. After fifteen years, multiple instructors, a wallet full of videos, and a wall full of clubs, I am finally learning how to do one particularly vexing part of the game reasonable well. I can chip! But as you may have guessed, the largest part of this journey has to do with the arrow, not the Indian.

We may immediately dismiss the golf shaft as a significant issue since chipping generally involves a low-speed movement. And as long as the grip is a reasonable fit for the hands, it’s not a big deal either. The rubber meets the road at the clubhead.

Manufacturers have worked hard to get the best ball spin out of the grooves. Their shape is precisely milled, and then smaller grooves and roughness are added to the exact maximum allowed under the rules. Various weighting schemes have been tried, with some success in tailoring wedges to players. And some manufacturers market the “newest” designs to make it impossible to screw up wedge shots. And yet, nothing seemed to solve my yips.

So I went on a mission. I studied all sorts of chipping techniques. Some advocate placing the ball far back to strike a descending blow. Others place it near the center of the stance. The swing must have no wrist hinge. The swing must have a hinge that is held. It should be a short swing. It should be a long swing. The face should be square. The face should be open. There should be a “pop.” There should be no power added.

If you are confused, join my club. So I went on a different mission. I started looking at sole construction. Ever since Gene Sarazen popularized a sole with bounce for use in the sand, manufacturers have been creating massive numbers of “different” sand wedges. They have one thing in common. They are generally all built to 55 or 56-degrees of loft.

The basic design feature of the sand wedge is that the sole extends down and aft from the leading edge at some angle. This generally ranges from 6 to 18-degrees. Its purpose is to allow the wedge to dig into the sand, but not too far. As the club goes down into the sand, the “bounce” pushes it back up.

 

One problem with having a lot of bounce on the wedge is that it can’t be opened up to allow certain specialty shots or have a higher effective loft. When the player does that, the leading edge lifts, resulting in thin shots. So manufacturers do various things to make the wedge more versatile, typically by removing bounce in the heel area.

At my last count, I have eight 56-degree wedges in my collection. Each one was thought to be a solution to my yips. Yet, until I listened to an interview with Dave Edel, I had almost no real understanding of why I was laying sod over a lot of my chips. Since gardening did not reduce my scores, I had to find another solution.

My first step was to look at the effective loft of a wedge in various ball positions. (Pictures were shot with the butt of the club at the left hip, in a recommended forward lean position. Since the protractor is not exactly lined up with the face, the angles are approximate.)

I had no idea that there was so much forward lean with a simple chip. If I were to use the most extreme rearward position, I would have to have 21-degrees of bounce just to keep the leading edge from digging in at impact. If there were the slightest error in my swing, I would be auditioning for greenskeeper.

My appreciation for the pros who can chip from this position suddenly became immense. For an amateur like me, the complete lack of forgiveness in this technique suddenly removed it from my alleged repertoire.

My next step was to look at bounce. As I commented before, bounce on sand wedges ranges between 6 and 18-degrees. As the drawing above shows, that’s a simple angle measurement. If I were to chip from the forward position, a 6-degree bounce sand wedge would have an effective bounce of 1-degree. That’s only fractionally better than the impossible chip behind my right foot. So I went to my local PGA Superstore to look at wedges with my Maltby Triangle Gauge in hand.

As you can see from the photos, there is a wide variation in wedges. What’s most curious, however, is that this variation is between two designs that are within one degree of the same nominal bounce. Could it be that “bounce is not bounce is not bounce?” Or should I say that “12-degrees is not 12-degrees is not 12-degrees?” If one looks below the name on the gauge, a curious bit of text appears. “Measuring effective bounce on wedges.” Hmmm… What is “effective bounce?”

The Maltby Triangle Gauge allows you to measure three things: leading-edge height, sole tangent point, and leading-edge sharpness. The last is the most obvious. If I’m chipping at the hairy edge of an adequate bounce, a sharp leading edge will dig in more easily than a blunt one. So if I’m using that far back ball position, I’ll need the 1OutPlus for safety, since its leading edge is the bluntest of the blunt. Even in that position, its 11-degree bounce keeps the leading edge an eighth of an inch up.

Wait a minute! How can that be? In the back position, the wedge is at 35-degrees effective loft, and 11-degrees of bounce ought to be 10-degrees less than we need. The difference here is found in combining all three parameters measured by the gauge, and not just the angle of the bounce.

The 1OutPlus is a very wide sole wedge. Its tangent point is a massive 1.7″ back. The leading edge rises .36″ off the ground and is very blunt. In other words, it has every possible design feature to create safety in case the chip from back in the stance isn’t as perfect as it might be. Since a golf ball is 1.68″ in diameter, that’s still less than halfway up to the center of the ball. But if you play the ball forward, this may not be the wedge for you.

Here are the measurements for the eight sand wedges that happen to be in my garage. All are either 56-degrees from the factory or bent to 56-degrees.

A couple of things jump out from this table. The Callaway PM Grind at 13-degrees has a lower leading edge (.26 inches) than the 11-degree Bazooka 1OutPlus (.36 inches). How can a lower bounce have a higher leading edge? Simple geometry suggests that if you want a higher leading edge, you will need a higher bounce angle. But it gets worse. The Wishon WS (wide sole) at 6-degrees (55-degree wedge bent to 56-degrees) has a leading-edge height of .28 inches, higher than the Callaway which has over twice the nominal bounce angle!

One thing is missing from this simple discussion of angles.

If I place one line at 34-degrees above the horizontal (loft is measured from the vertical), and then extend another at some angle below horizontal, the height above ground where the two join depends on how long the lower line is. This means that an 18-degree bounce with a narrow “C” grind will raise the leading edge a little bit. A 6-degree bounce on a wide sole may raise it more because the end of the bounce on the first wedge is so close to the leading edge.

 

Let’s look at this in the picture. If the red line of the bounce is very short, it doesn’t get far below the black ground line. But if it goes further, it gets lower. This is the difference between narrow and wide soles.

This diagram describes the mathematical description of these relationships.

Our first task is to realize that the angle 0 in this diagram is the complement of the 56-degree loft of the wedge, or 90 – 56 = 34-degrees since loft is measured from vertical, not horizontal. But the angle 0 in the bounce equation is just that, the bounce value. These two angles will now allow us to calculate the theoretical values of various parts of the wedge, and then compare them to our real-world examples.

My PM Grind Callaway wedge has its 3rd groove, the supposed “perfect” impact point, 0.54 inches above the leading edge. This should put it 0.8 inches back from the leading edge, roughly matching the measured 0.82 inches. So far, so good. (I’m using the gauge correctly!)

The 13-degree bounce at 1.14″ calculates out to 0.284″ of leading-edge rise. I measured 0.26″, so Callaway seems to be doing the numbers properly, until I realize that the leading edge is already .45″ back, given a real tangent of .69″. Something is out of whack. Re-doing the math suggests that the real bounce is 20-degrees, 40 min. Hmmm…

Maybe that bounce angle measurement isn’t such a good number to look at. Without digging through all the different wedges (which would make you cross-eyed), we should go back to basics. What is it that we really need?

Most instructors will suggest that striking the ball on about the third groove will give the best results. It will put the ball close to the center of mass (sweet spot) of the wedge and give the best spin action. If my wedge is at an effective 45-degree angle (about my right big toe), it will strike the ball about half-way up to its equator. It will also be close to the third groove. But to make that strike with minimal risk of gardening, I have to enough protection to keep the edge out of the turf if I mis-hit the ball by a little bit. That can be determined by the leading edge height! The higher the edge, the more forgiveness there is on a mis-hit.

Now this is an incomplete answer. If the bounce is short, with a sharp back side, it will tend to dig into the turf a bit. It may not do it a lot, but it will have more resistance than a wider, smoother bounce. In the extreme case, the 1OutPlus will simply glide over the ground on anything less than a ridiculous angle.

The amount of leading-edge height you need will depend on your style. If you play the ball forward, you may not need much. But as you move the ball back, you’ll need to increase it. And if you are still inconsistent, a wider sole with a smooth contour will help you avoid episodes of extreme gardening. A blunt leading edge will also help. It may slow your club in the sand, but it will protect your chips.

There is no substitute for practice, but if you’re practicing chips from behind your right foot using a wedge with a sharp, low leading edge, you’re asking for frustration. If you’re chipping from a forward position with a blunt, wide sole wedge, you’ll be blading a lot of balls. So look at your chipping style and find a leading-edge height and profile that match your technique. Forget about the “high bounce” and “low bounce” wedges. That language doesn’t answer the right question.

Get a wedge that presents the club to the ball with the leading edge far enough off the ground to provide you with some forgiveness. Then knock ’em stiff!

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Golf 101: What is a strong grip?

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What is a strong grip? Before we answer that, consider this: How you grip it might be the first thing you learn, and arguably the first foundation you adapt—and it can form the DNA for your whole golf swing.

The proper way to hold a golf club has many variables: hand size, finger size, sports you play, where you feel strength, etc. It’s not an exact science. However, when you begin, you will get introduced to the common terminology for describing a grip—strong, weak, and neutral.

Let’s focus on the strong grip as it is, in my opinion, the best way to hold a club when you are young as it puts the clubface in a stronger position at the top and instinctively encourages a fair bit of rotation to not only hit it solid but straight.

The list of players on tour with strong grips is long: Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson, Fred Couples, David Duval, and Bernhard Langer all play with a strong grip.

But what is a strong grip? Well like my first teacher Mike Montgomery (Director of Golf at Glendale CC in Seattle) used to say to me, “it looks like you are revving up a Harley with that grip”. Point is the knuckles on my left hand were pointing to the sky and my right palm was facing the same way.

Something like this:

Of course, there are variations to it, but that is your run of the mill, monkey wrench strong grip. Players typically will start there when they are young and tweak as they gain more experience. The right hand might make it’s way more on top, left-hand knuckles might show two instead of three, and the club may move its way out of the palms and further down into the fingers.

Good golf can be played from any position you find comfortable, especially when you find the body matchup to go with it.

Watch this great vid from @JakeHuttGolf

In very simple terms, here are 3 pros and 3 cons of a strong grip.

Pros

  1. Encourages a closed clubface which helps deloft the club at impact and helps you hit further
  2. It’s an athletic position which encourages rotation
  3. Players with strong grips tend to strike it solidly

Cons

  1. Encourages a closed clubface which helps deloft the club at impact and can cause you to hit it low and left
  2. If you don’t learn to rotate you could be in for a long career of ducks and trees
  3. Players with strong grips tend to fight a hook and getting the ball in the air

 

Make Sense?

 

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