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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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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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