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Five keys to building your golf toughness



Are you “golf tough?”

Do you have what it takes to deal with all of golf’s situations and challenges and really use your talent and capabilities?

While there will be some ebb and flow in your rounds, let’s face it, most rounds of golf look like the ticker tape on the stock market — way up and way down. Is your game like the stock market?

I think you might know what this looks like for you. Things are going well, and then, unannounced, a string of bad play or that nasty triple bogey creates the big black mark on your card — there goes another round! The symptoms of this syndrome are quite recognizable.

The Bum Drag

An important area I work on with athletes is resilience or mental toughness, as some call it. For our purposes, we’ll call it “golf toughness.” It really is a separator between those who have consistent performances and careers, and those who struggle. The line in competitive sports is fine — and wasting a shot here and there because of a lack of golf toughness can be the difference between winning and losing, a great season or a mediocre one, or a great round and an average one.

Over dinner at the Masters a few years ago, Butch Harmon was asked the difference between good golfers and great ones. He apparently didn’t take long to answer.

[quote_box_center]“The ability to recover from adversity faster than everyone else,” Harmon said.[/quote_box_center]

You need golf toughness to reach your capabilities and develop consistency in your game.

I just returned from watching a high-level junior event and it is fascinating watching the kids and seeing the heads go up and down — the body language come alive and then sag as they go through the peaks and valleys of a typical round. Peaks and valleys are a reality in golf, but it’s how long they last that separates players. For some kids at the junior event, this feeling lasts for one hole, some for four holes, and others more.

And, junior events aren’t the only events I see bums dragging! I see the spectrum of “golf toughness” at all levels and ages.

Bouncing Back

You are probably familiar with the PGA Tour’s “bounce back” stat. It calculates the percentage of time a player has a bogey on one hole and then comes back with a birdie on the next. It’s an important stat because it suggests resilience in a player — how quickly they are able to turn things around and not allow mistakes to dictate their play. The top three leaders in the bounce back stat in 2015 are Jordan Speith, Bubba Watson and Jason Day — all in the top 10 on the money list. J.B. Holmes, who has had the ultimate “bounce back” from brain surgery to the PGA Tour, is having a great year and well up on the bounce-back list.

jb holmes

J.B. Holmes underwent brain surgery in 2011. He regained his form and is once again a top Tour player.

Golf fans probably also saw Rory McIlroy in the recent WGC-Cadillac Match Play get down late in matches to world-class players, but he stayed the course, played to his strengths and turned the matches around. His “golf toughness” led him to the eventual win.

And like yours, the rounds of PGA Tour players ebb and flow, too. But how players recover from the “valleys” often determines the size of their paycheck. The bounce back stat demonstrates that there’s a definite relationship between resilience and great results.

I assess the emotional competencies of many players during the course of the year, and one interesting thing to note about their results is the link between emotional self control, focus and resilience (or “golf toughness”). As I have mentioned in previous articles, emotions run the show in golf and if emotion bubbles to such an extent you don’t have a handle on it, the ability to focus becomes a problem and the ability to bounce back also becomes difficult. All are intertwined and this performance drop can lead to extended trips on the bogey train, big numbers and overall inconsistency.

How Can You Become More Golf Tough?

So what are some actions you can take to begin building golf toughness in your game? It will take some work and won’t happen overnight, but here are a few keys you can apply to begin the process of creating some resilience in your game:

  • Have a game plan. Both a long-term plan for your development, and a day-to-day game plan to play the course will keep you organized, help you work toward an attainable goal and level out the short-term bumps. The ride will be much smoother if there is structure in your game and you know where you’re going. Stick to the plan and modify based on circumstances.
  • Accept that golf is a game of misses. The reality is you will miss a lot of shots. Tour players do, and you will, too. Decide to let go of those misses quickly if things don’t go to plan. View little setbacks in rounds as challenges and an opportunity to build your mental/emotional resolve. Use victories and failures as important feedback that can be looked at after the round.
  • Become emotionally aware. Developing golf toughness involves becoming more emotionally aware; remember you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. Pay attention to both the negative emotions that block your ideal playing state and lead you into the valley, as well as the positive emotions that can elevate you. High-level performance is about focusing on the shot you are playing with no distraction emotionally from the one you’ve just played or the next one you’ll play.
  • Be your own best friend or your own “emotional caddie.” This is where young people really struggle. They have trouble accepting mediocre/bad shots, they beat themselves up, and then bums drag. Support yourself like you would your best friend. The way you talk to yourself sets the tone.
  • Adapt to each situation. Jack Nicklaus says golf is primarily about emotions and adjustments. Pretenders allow unusual and unknown circumstances to negatively affect them. Contenders recognize that every situation they encounter on the course is completely different. They adapt and find a positive solution.

With some effort, these ideas will help to create some golf toughness in your game. Resilience or golf toughness is a non-negotiable competency if you want to be a contender. It will help you take advantage of your capabilities, trim shots off of your game and help you have more fun.

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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 for more. Email:

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Brooks Koepka’s grip secret



Here is a great video on understanding what allows a great player to get through the ball and deliver hardcore to his targets. Without this part of his grip, he would be hard-pressed to deliver anything with any kind of smash factor and compression. See what you can learn from his grip.

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Swing speed vs. quality impact



In today’s age of hitting the ball as hard and as far as you can on tour, I am amazed at the number of amateur golfers who totally disregard the idea of quality impact. In fact, you can hit the ball further with better impact than you can with poor impact and more speed (to a point.) Sure, if you can kick the clubhead speed up 10 MPH-plus versus your normal speed, then this is not a requirement, but in reality most players only swing a few MPH faster when they actually try. Yes, this is true, I see it day after day. You might think you can swing 10 MPH faster but rarely do I see more than 2-3 MPH tops.

I had a student that came in the other day and was obsessed with swinging harder but when he did his impacts were terrible! When I put him on Trackman and showed him the data he was astounded that he could swing slower yet produce more distance.

Here was a typical swing he made when swinging faster 105.8 mph where the impact was low on the face and the ball carried 222.3 yards.

Here was a typical swing he made when swinging slower 102.9 mph where the impact was much better on the face and the ball carried 242.7 yards.

Now, obviously we know that this works to a certain degree of swing speed but it does show you that focusing on quality impact is a key as well. I’m always telling my players that I want them to swing as hard and as fast as they can AND maintain quality impact location — if you can do both then you can have it all!

The best way to understand impact quality without dismantling your swing is to use foot spray to coat the face of the club then hit a few balls to see where impact normally occurs and see if you can adjust.

If you can, great, if not, then go see your teaching professional and figure out why so you can find quality impact once and for all!

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How to warm up for golf PROPERLY



Leo Rooney, Director of Performance at Urban Golf Performance, shows you how to get ready to hit balls and/or hit the golf course.

Who is Leo Rooney?

Director of Performance at Urban Golf Performance
B.Sc Exercise Physiology

Leo Rooney played 16 years of competitive golf, in both college and professionally. He got a degree in exercise physiology and has worked with anyone from top tour players to beginners. Leo is now the Director of Performance at Urban Golf Performance and is responsible for the overall operations but still works closely with some elite tour players and the UCLA Men’s Golf Team.

He also has experience in long driving with a personal best 445-yard drive in the 2010 European Long driving Championship.

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19th Hole