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The Hidden Fundamentals of Golf

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Golfers, in general, are under performing even with the technical advancements of today, and many get very frustrated playing the game. What’s missing to get golfers to play better and enjoy it more? In our opinion, golf has two sets of fundamentals: technical fundamentals and human fundamentals.

Technical Skills x Human Skills = How Well You Play 

You are not a robot playing golf; you are a human being. As a human being, you are variable from day to day and even during the day. Your body, mind, and emotions are dynamic, and the state of each influences your technique to a great extent. For example:

  • If your body is tight and sore, it might make your rotation limited.
  • If your mind worries about the future, it might make your tempo too quick.
  • If you are getting frustrated because the pace of play is slow, it might make your grip pressure too tight.

A deficiency of trained and practiced human skills shows up as a golfer with a solid-looking technique, or even a great ball striker, but one that can’t score. We often call the human skills of the game the “hidden fundamentals.” They are hidden because they are within one’s mental, emotional, and physical state. They are the interior of the human experience, so they can’t be seen as clearly and as obviously as one’s technique. For example, you can’t see a golfer’s self talk on a screen, but there’s no question that it will most definitely influence and manifest a change in their technique.

Rory McIlroy spoke specifically of that change in the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. He opened the tournament with a 5-over par 39 and then proceeded to play 10-under over the final 63 holes, finishing T4. The shift was his caddie’s reminder of his prodigious talent and accomplishments. 

“It was a rough start,” McIlroy said. “I was just indecisive out there. Mentally I was not engaged, and I was half caught between playing the golf shot I needed to and my golf swing.”

Jordan Spieth was the premier display of developed human skills in action after a disastrous drive on No. 13 on Sunday at The Open. All of us could watch his body language, the focus in his eyes, and his commitment to the shots ahead. We also heard some of the affirmative self talk between himself and his caddie. He played the final five holes in 5-under to win by three shots, a stretch that many have called the best golf performance in major championship history.

Human skills always play a huge role on performance, but we don’t hear much about them in the golf world. They get wrapped up in words that are general and elusive, like “trust” or “process.” For this reason, golf instruction doesn’t pay much attention to them. More than 90 percent of articles on how to improve at golf are about technical skills. They’re good and necessary, of course, but they’re not the whole story. It’s time for human skills to get their due, and that’s what the rest of this article is about.

At VISION54, we complement a golfer’s technique with the human skills. It’s about learning to manage yourself before a shot (Think Box), during a shot (Play Box), after a shot (Memory Box), and in between shots. We’ve found that any golfer at any level will improve when human skills are developed along with the technical skills.

Practice Time

Memory_Box_Think_Box_Play_Box

The only way to learn the human skills is to explore options on the golf course. Below is one exploration for the Play Box, Think Box and Memory Box. In our new book, “Be A Player,” there are nine holes of explorations after each chapter. You are unique as a golfer, and it’s important to discover what makes you play better.

Play Box: BE Focused!

Every shot requires you to be focused/present/athletic until the end of the motion. No more thinking. The shorter time you need, the easier it is under pressure.

Do: Play 3 holes and hold your finish for 3 seconds to make sure you are staying present until the end of the swing or stroke.

Think Box: BE Decisive!

Every shot requires you to make a decision in a confident way and to trust your decision about the club, shot and your Play Box. Also, it allows you to get present and engaged before stepping into the shot.

Do: Play 3 holes and say your decision about the shot in a confident manner before stepping into the shot or putt to make sure you have made a clear decision.

Memory Box: BE Confident!

For every shot, you want to manage what your brain stores as a memory. Be neutral/ objective to shots and processes you did not like. Be positive/happy to shots and processes that are great/good/good enough. Emotions make memories stick in the brain.

Do: Play 3 holes and feel emotionally happy for every shot that is good or good enough. Have no commentary on shots you don’t like. 

For more exercises like this, you can visit our website: http://www.vision54.com/html/be-a-player.html

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Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson are co-founders of VISION54, bestselling authors of four VISION54 books, and Golf Digest top 50 teachers. They have coached eight different major winners and three world No. 1 LPGA players. Their golf schools and coach trainings gets the highest rankings possible.

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A Guide (Secret) to Better Putting

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Putting is a part of the game where we can all do small things to get better. You don’t have to practice 40 hours a week or have a stroke that gets a perfect score on a SAM PuttLab. The universal answer is to simplify the approach as much as possible.

While being a world class putter is an art form, being competent at putting is probably the least physically daunting task in golf — aside from maybe driving the cart. Putting generally provides the most stress and frustration, however, as our results are almost never aligned with our exceptions, which drives us to create unnecessary roadblocks to success.

That being the case, let’s narrow this down to as few variables as possible and get ourselves holing more putts. First off, you need to have proper expectations. If you look at the PGA Tour averages for made putts, you will find that the rates of success overall are far lower than what we see on on TV on Sunday afternoon. That’s because we are seeing the best players in the world, who in a moment in time, are holing putts at a clip the average plus-handicap club champion couldn’t dream of during a near death experience on his way to walking into the light.

If you have ever seen golf balls rolled on a stimpmeter ramp (the device used to measure green speed), you have probably seen something shocking. Golf balls rolling perfectly — the perfect speed, on a perfect green, on a perfectly straight putt — sometimes miss on both sides of the hole on consecutive efforts.

This is a very important point. The farther you get from the hole, the less control you have over making the putt. That’s why actually making putts outside a few feet should not be your priority. Hitting the best putt possible is your only priority. Then be resigned that the putt will either go in or it won’t. This might seem defeatist, but it’s not; its just a perception change. If you judge yourself on whether the ball goes in or not, you are setting yourself up for failure. If you judge yourself on whether or not you hit a good putt, you will be more successful… and you’re going to make more putts.

This sounds like something you’d hear at a Tony Robbins positive thinking seminar, but it has proven successful for every one of my clients who has embraced it. So what’s the secret to hitting the best putt possible each time?

Simplify the process.

  1.  Read the green to the best of your ability.
  2.  Pick a line and do your best to set up to it.
  3.  Do your best to hit the putt solid and at the right speed.

Reading the green is something that gets better with experience and practice. Some will be better than others, so this is an intangible thing that countless books are written about. My advice is simple; DON’T OVER THINK IT. Look at the terrain and get a general sense of where low point is in relation to the hole.

The reason why perfect green reading and perfect alignment are overrated is because there is no one line to the hole. The hole is over 4-inches wide and putts break differently with changes in speed and solidness of contact. I saw a video at the Scotty Cameron Putting Studio many years ago of dozens of PGA Tour players. There was a worm’s-eye camera on a 4-5 foot putt that was basically straight on the artificial grass. Few were aimed at the middle of the hole and many weren’t even aimed at the hole at all… but I didn’t see one miss.

So have a look at the terrain and be decent at lining up in the general direction that will give a chance for a well struck putt to go in or finish close enough for a tap in. Simple. After rambling on for several paragraphs, we get to the heart of how you can improve your putting. Narrow it down to doing your best to hit a solid putt at the right speed.

The “Right Speed”

I ask people after they addressed a putt how much attention they pay to line and speed. Any answer but 100 percent speed is wrong. You’ve already read the putt and lined up. Why is line any longer a variable? Plus, have you ever missed the line on a 20-foot putt by 5 feet? Maybe once in your life on a crazy green, but you sure as heck have left it 5-feet short and long on several occasions.

Imagine I handed you a basketball and said shoot it in the basket. Or what if I told you to toss a crumpled piece of paper into the trash? Having the requisite coordination is an acquired skill, but you wouldn’t grind over innocuous details when it came to the feel of making the object go the right distance. You’d react to the object in your hand and the target for the right speed/distance.

Putting is no different, save one variable. There’s the sense and feel of how the the green interacts with the ball, and that’s a direct result of how solidly you hit the putt. If you use X amount of force and it goes 18 feet one effort and 23 feet the next, how are you ever going to acquire speed control? That is the mark of almost every poor lag putter. They don’t hit putts consistently solid, so they never acquire the skill of distance control.

Since speed is a learned reaction to the terrain/target and consistency is a direct result of how consistently solid you strike the ball, that is what we’re left with.

Learn to Hit Putts More Solid

The road to better putting is as simple as hitting your putts more solid. Put most/all of your effort into what it takes to hit more putts solid. Now for each individual, it’s less about doing what’s right. Instead, it’s about avoiding movements and alignments that make it difficult to hit the ball solid. It would take an encyclopedia to cover all of the issues that fall into this category, so I will list the most common that will cover more than 90 percent of golfers.

The most common one I see — and it is nearly universal in people who are plagued by poor lag putting — is excess hip rotation. Sometimes there’s even an actual weight shift. Think of it this way; take a backstroke and stop. Rotate your hips 20 degrees without moving anything else. The putter and the arc is now pointed left of your intended line. You have to shove it with your arms and hands not to pull it. Good luck hitting it solid while doing all of that.

I had a golf school in Baltimore and told this story. Ten of the 15 people there assured me they didn’t do that. After 8 people had putted, we were 8-for-8. No. 9 said, “There is no ******* way I am going to move my hips after watching this.”

The entire group laughed after his putt told him he was wrong. The last 6 did everything they could to avoid the fault. We went 15 for 15. Many people are unaware that this issue is so dire. If you add the people that are unaware they have this issue, we are near 100 percent of golfers. I have gotten emails from 8-10 of them telling me how much their putting improved after all they did was focus on minimizing hip rotation and just hitting the ball solid.

This issue is not just the bane of average golfers; I’ve had several mini-tour players with putting issues improve with this. We are all aware Fred Couples would have won many more majors if not for a career-long battle with his putter. Watch the next time he misses a 6-foot putt to the left. As you will see, it’s not just a problem for a high-handicappers.

The best way to judge and practice avoiding this, it putting with an alignment stick in you belt loops.  If your hips rotate too much, the stick will definitely let you know.

Other issues include the well know chest/sternum coming up too soon in an effort to see the ball go in the hole, as well as:

  • Not aligning the putter shaft properly with the lead arm
  • Grip pressure issues (too much and too little)
  • Too much tension in neck and shoulders
  • Poor rhythm
  • Long back stroke

I could go on and on and on. The main point; find out why you aren’t hitting putts solid and do whatever it takes to do so, even if it’s something crazy like a super wide-open stance (with my tongue firmly implanted in my cheek). See the Jack Nicklaus picture at the top of the story.

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WATCH: How to Improve Your Golf Club Release

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Many golfers release the club way too early. The low point of the swing moves back and they hit the ground behind the ball or pick the ball clean off the top of the surface. They then dream of “lag” and the “late hit” trying to achieve this by thinking of holding on the the wrist angle too long.

In this video, I share a drill that it will improve the way you release the club.

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Alistair Davies: My 3 Best Swing Tips

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In this video, I share with you my three best swing tips. Watch the video to get on the path to lower scores straight away.

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