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Do you know your golf blind spots?

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I was inspired to write this article by a quote I come across from a friend of mine, Melinda Harrison, a former Olympic swimmer who specializes in helping athletes transition from the world of sport to their next great venture.

“If you do not see the wave coming, it can smack you down and pull you under leaving you feeling tossed around, upside down, gasping for breath and picking out sand from areas you never knew existed,” she wrote.          

I knew this feeling well in my golf game. I was tossed around often. In fact, these waves were blind spots that eventually derailed a golf career that had promise. I found myself metaphorically picking sand from areas I never knew existed (far too many times), and I wasn’t understanding how it was happened.

What are the blind spots in your game? Those waves you don’t see coming that leave you tossed around and falling short of your capabilities.

Right now is a great time of the year to roll up your sleeves and reflect on what happened during the year — and what you might do in 2017 to get more enjoyment and make some positive strides in your game. How was your golf year? Happy with it? Wanting more?

In a reflection exercise, I highly recommend you consider your own blind spots, and what might be unconsciously holding you back from moving forward and getting more out of your game.

Blind spots damage performance

Working with world-class performers every day, I can assure you that understanding blind spots is important in performance. Almost every performer I have worked with has them, and I expect you do, too. Part of my job is to help these world-class performers identify their blind spots, making sure they have a clear view of what’s beneath their awareness and might therefore be holding them back.

Let’s highlight the idea of blind spots by using my own professional golf career as an example. This may help you start thinking about your own blind spots and get the wheels turning. I had a few tendencies that were constantly beneath my awareness that kept me on the treadmill and not striding forward on a steady, consistent career path.

A few examples:

  • Spending far too much practice time trying to perfect driving when I was a solid, consistent driver of the ball.
  • Focusing too much time on the long game, obsessing about it and not allocating more effort to the game from 100 yards and in from the green. I neglected to keep the object of the game in mind (shooting the lowest score possible!).
  • Failing to develop my self-awareness. I had limited awareness how my emotions were knocking me around and creating a blurry focus, especially under the pressures of professional golf.
  • Not fully understanding the critical impact of expectations on my day-to-day performance.
  • No clear path forward. I did not have a well-defined vision or detailed steps in place to guide day-to-day progress and development.

You can imagine how these blind spots could make sustainable progress in the game difficult. Each of the areas above needed attention in order to have a better opportunity to reach new levels.

What are your blind spots?

What is holding you back that may be beneath your awareness? This offseason, I encourage you to think about your own blind spots, and also consider some help from others who may know your game. Chances are an honest assessment of your blind spots, and some outside feedback, will shed some light on the factors that are limiting you.

To help you further, here are a few common golf blind spots that I have seen in players I work with at a variety of levels. Could any of these apply to you?

  • Spending a large percentage of your time on the long game (constantly “fine-tuning” your motion) and a small percentage of your time on the scoring areas, when that ratio should be reversed.
  • Getting far too caught up in the science of the game and neglecting the art component.
  • Having trouble taking your game from the practice tee to the first tee and not understanding why.
  • Your practice is not functional, meaning your practice has no real relationship to creating a score on the course.
  • Losing focus over poor shots and not being able to get it back on track the rest of the round.
  • Scores on your nines are often wide apart, i.e. you play great on the front nine and stumble on the back nine (or vice versa) and you don’t know why.
  • Not enjoying the game as much as you should and not knowing why.

These ideas should help you get started on your own assessment. Take some time to think about it in the off-season. Reflection is an important characteristic in high performers and a key to improvement. Identifying your blind spots is a great first step in understanding what may be holding you back in your game.

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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

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Dave R

    Nov 28, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    My blind spot is when I miss a putt I only see red and then I go blind only for a second.

  2. Jordan Speeth

    Nov 27, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    Where does one start when you’re dead-shanking 30% of your shots, including chips and pitches. All you can do is hit full shots until you can conquer it and get some sort of confidence back. It’s good that my memory is fading…maybe it’ll be easier to forget this phase when/if it’s over. I’m trying everything, without much success. Cheers to all…Happy Holidays!

  3. Bert

    Nov 27, 2016 at 8:33 am

    Well thought out topic, thanks I appreciate the read. I will evaluate my declining game, this past year, and see where I need to get back on track. I’m not a super player, mostly around a 7 handicap, but this year up to an 11. I’ve noticed my normal felling for short shots surrounding the green after a miss are really lacking confidence. In the past I always felt I could “get it close”, but now not so much.

    • John Haime

      Nov 28, 2016 at 10:59 am

      thank-you Bert.

      Carefully evaluate why the short game might be eroding – is it related to problems in the long game and putting more pressure on the short game to maintain the 7 handicap? How much are you working on the short shots? “Knowing” you can do it is developed through practice, repetition. Work on technique and test changes in practice and then take it to the course. Check out little ebook on confidence I wrote with PGA Tour coach Steve Bann – http://www.golfconfidencetraining.com.

  4. R

    Nov 26, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    “metaphorically”
    is why you FAIL. Your mind is not equipped to think in the NOW, in the moment, to feel and stare at the reality of the situation at hand. That’s just how it is for some people, just as it is that some people won’t have the foggiest (metaphorically speaking, haha) what you’re talking about.

  5. Double Mocha Man

    Nov 26, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    The most difficult thing to do during a round is rebound from some bad, totally puzzling shots. But you must. Continue to swing your swing, almost robotically. Put your emotions on the back burner and move forward. When you finish with an acceptable 77 go to the parking lot and smash your windshield. I made a career of beating better players in college golf because I would only “give up” after I heard the rattle of my ball in the cup on the 18th hole.

  6. M Smizzle

    Nov 26, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    Rory Or Danny McBride?

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Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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The Wedge Guy: The 5 indisputable rules of bunker play

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I received a particularly interesting question this week from Art S., who said he has read all the tips about how to hit different sand shots, from different sand conditions, but it would be helpful to know why. Specifically, here’s what Art had to say:

“I recently found myself in a few sand traps in multiple lies and multiple degrees of wetness. I tried remembering all of the “rules” of how to stand, how much to open my club, how much weight to shift forward or back, etc. based on the Golf Channel but was hoping that you might be able to do a blog on the ‘why’ of sand play so that we can understand it rather than memorizing what to do. Is there any way you can discuss what the club is doing and why you open the club, open your stance, what you’re aiming for when you open up, and any other tips?”

Well, Art, you asked a very good question, so let’s try to cover the basics of sand play–the “geometry and physics” at work in the bunkers–and see if we can make all of this more clear for you.

First of all, I think bunkers are among the toughest of places to find your ball. We see the tour players hit these spectacular bunker shots every week, but realize that they are playing courses where the bunkers are maintained to PGA Tour standards, so they are pretty much the same every hole and every week. This helps the players to produce the “product” the tour is trying to deliver–excitement. Of course, those guys also practice bunker play every day.

All of us, on the other hand, play courses where the bunkers are different from one another. This one is a little firmer, that one a little softer. So, let me see if I can shed a little light on the “whys and wherefores” of bunker play.

The sand wedge has a sole with a downward/backward angle built into it – we call that bounce. It’s sole (no pun intended) function is to provide a measure of “rejection” force or lift when the club makes contact with the sand. The more bounce that is built into the sole of the wedge, the more this rejection force is applied. And when we open the face of the wedge, we increase the effective bounce so that this force is increased as well.

The most basic thing you have to assess when you step into a bunker is the firmness of the sand. It stands to reason that the firmer the texture, the more it will reject the digging effect of the wedge. That “rejection quotient” also determines the most desirable swing path for the shot at hand. Firmer sand will reject the club more, so you can hit the shot with a slightly more descending clubhead path. Conversely, softer or fluffier sand will provide less rejection force, so you need to hit the shot with a shallower clubhead path so that you don’t dig a trench.

So, with these basic principles at work, it makes sense to remember these “Five Indisputable Rules of Bunker Play”

  1. Firmer sand will provide more rejection force – open the club less and play the ball back a little to steepen the bottom of the clubhead path.
  2. Softer sand will provide less rejection force – open the club more and play the ball slighter further forward in your stance to create a flatter clubhead path through the impact zone.
  3. The ball will come out on a path roughly halfway between the alignment of your body and the direction the face is pointing – the more you open the face, the further left your body should be aligned.
  4. On downslope or upslope lies, try to set your body at right angles to the lie, so that your swing path can be as close to parallel with the ground as possible, so this geometry can still work. Remember that downhill slopes reduce the loft of the club and uphill slopes increase the loft.
  5. Most recreational golfers are going to hit better shots from the rough than the bunkers, so play away from them when possible (unless bunker play is your strength).

So, there you go, Art. I hope this gives you the basics you were seeking.

As always, I invite all of you to send in your questions to be considered for a future article. It can be about anything related to golf equipment or playing the game–just send it in. You can’t win if you don’t ask!

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