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Five keys to building your golf toughness

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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 www.johnhaime.com for more. Email: john@newedgeperformance.org

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Instruction

The Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training

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If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”

Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.

In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.

The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.

[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]

Baseball/Softball Hitters

Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.

Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.

So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!

Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers

There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.

If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.


Dance

My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).

Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.

Hockey

Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.

If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.

Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.

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Clement: Effortless power for senior golfers

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Are you struggling with range of motion? Want more EFFORTLESS POWER? We are truly the experts at this having taught these methods for 25 plus years, while others were teaching resistance, breaking everyone’s backs and screwing up their minds with endless positions to hit and defects to fix. Welcome home to Wisdom in Golf!

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Clement: How to turbo charge your swing

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The shift in golf instruction continues and Wisdom in Golf and GolfWRX are right out there blazing a trail of fantastic content and techniques to get you to feel the most blissful, rhythmic golf shots you can strike! This here is the humdinger that keeps on giving and is now used by a plethora of tour players who are benefitting greatly and moving up the world rankings because of it.

The new trend (ours is about 25 years young) is the antithesis of the “be careful, don’t move too much, don’t make a mistake” approach we have endured for the last 30 years plus. Time to break free of the shackles that hold you back and experience the greatness that is already right there inside that gorgeous human machine you have that is so far from being defective! Enjoy!

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