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Opinion & Analysis

Either plan for excellence, or underachieve

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In late December, I returned from working with young professionals and preparing them for 2018 and tours ahead. From my experience, in the past 10 years, the challenge to get to the top ranks has become so much more difficult in professional sports – and golf is no exception. There are just so many more talented players attempting to make a living out of the game. That’s why being ultra prepared technically, physically, strategically, mentally and emotionally is so important.

The preparation and planning sessions are so critical to the young players’ year ahead and directly related to their year-long results. I typically spend at least a day with the player. The day includes their approach in every part of their game and the mindset around each piece. We critically examine every aspect of their game: from the time they drive in the parking lot to practice habits to round preparation to decision-making on the course to reflection after the round. I break the sessions into the following areas:

  1. Swing motion and the long game
  2. Short game (chipping, pitching, bunker play)
  3. Putting
  4. Trouble/recovery shots
  5. Practice
  6. Strategy/Decision-making on-course
  7. Preparation
  8. Assessment/Reflection

My approach with these young professionals is to highlight how to develop a great mindset and functional game plan in each area to best maximize their time and abilities. Without structure and a customized plan, their careers become a hit-and-hope scenario, potentially leading to long stints on the mini-tours and frivolously throwing sponsor money into the wind.

Let me now share with you an example of a few key points we consider in each of the areas above to highlight how we help players get into the right mindset around all areas of the game. All work is meant to build a more self-aware, self-confident, focused, resilient, optimistic and independent player. The work always starts with both a detailed yearly plan with targets, steps to action and weekly activity plans committed to by the player.

1. Swing motion and the long game

  • Structured 30 percent of practice time dedicated to long game
  • Make sure player owns and embraces any movements in the swing that make the player unique (every player has them)
  • A critical attention to fundamentals in practice sessions with a focus on balance and rhythm
  • A dedicated amount of time to build a process that develops distance control in the wedge game
  • An emphasis on functionality of the swing vs “the look” of it on video
  • Emphasis of elimination of one side of the course with a chosen driver shape
  • The process for testing any changes before bringing them to the course

2. Short game (chipping, pitching, bunker play)

  • Structured 40 percent of practice time dedicated to short game shots
  • Embrace the short game understanding that ball striking comes and goes. A well-developed short game is a constant and the key to scoring
  • Review developmental exercises and activities focusing on creativity. Practice must have a level of pressure, urgency and intensity
  • The process for testing any changes before bringing them to the course

3. Putting

  • Structured 30 precent of practice time dedicated to putting
  • Making sure there’s an emphasis on feel, flow and instinct, not a robotic mindset and obsession with precision and perfection that creates tension and apprehension
  • Evaluation of putting routine consistency. Preparation factors include grain, break and speed
  • Attitude around lag putts, short putts, birdie putts and par putts

4. Trouble/recovery shots

  • The decision-making process when considering options (risk and reward)
  • Embracing the challenge of trouble shots (mindset)
  • Ensuring practice of a variety of trouble shots (long and short) as a part of long-game and short-game time allocation

5. Practice

  • Ensuring every practice session has an objective. What am I trying to achieve?
  • Every shot in practice must have meaning (similar to golf course feelings)
  • Eliminate distractions. Put away the phone until after practice
  • Helping the player leverage their weekly practice schedule. Identifying current needs/priorities
  • Practice must always end in testing if any changes are made. Agreement around the process for long-game, short-game and putting

6. Strategy/decision-making on-course … and the mindset around it

  • Structuring the consistent routine from time of arrival at tee, green, ball in fairway to executing shot
  • Think box (conscious) and play box (subconscious) shot preparation evaluation
  • Link between feelings of the day and strategy (making adjustments)
  • Decisions re: green, yellow and red light pin locations
  • Par-5 strategy based on strengths (risk vs. reward)
  • Planning the time between shots

7. Preparation

  • Routine (time before tournament rounds). What works best
  • Structure of practice on tournament days. Allocation of time
  • Equipment: making sure equipment meets the needs of how the player wants to play and complements strengths
  • Exercises to develop key mental/emotional competencies to support overall plan (i.e. practical mindfulness exercises)

8. Assessment/reflection: how to take the lessons out of the action

  • Understanding how to take the learning out of each practice session and round
  • Development of questions to ask to efficiently extract the learning
  • Use of customized questionnaires to assess performance
  • Making sure the performance journal tool (written or digital) is a habit

There is a significant amount of detail and planning that goes in to creating the right professional plan for a player. The points above highlight the basic structure and are always customized based on needs of the player. I hope you can take some of these points and apply them to help you plan for excellence in your golf game in the coming season.

In my next article, I will highlight the key roadblocks/mistakes I see holding players back from maximizing their abilities in the professional 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

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. steve

    Feb 16, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    “Without structure and a customized plan, their careers become a hit-and-hope scenario, potentially leading to long stints on the mini-tours and frivolously throwing sponsor money into the wind.”
    This is such a telling comment on the arrested mentality of most aspiring young players. Unfortunately, most are immature mentally and physically regardless of their playing ability. They cannot discipline themselves because they have a childish approach to the game and career. They play for fun and practice becomes a painful experience. Only those with an obsessive-compulsive mentality and proper mentoring and training can succeed. They are few.

  2. Philip

    Feb 16, 2018 at 10:42 am

    Very nice … going to use it as a template for this season to ensure I get on track fast and do not drift – thanks

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Opinion & Analysis

Nutrition: The lowdown for fueling golf performance

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Fitness and nutrition go hand in hand. In reality, nutrition is the foundation for health, fitness, and performance.

What you eat every day is going to affect how you feel, how you operate and how you perform.

And what about during a round of golf? Four hours(-ish) of walking, swinging, raking, laughing, shouting, etc. all take a lot of energy, and if you’re consuming a Mars bar and a Coke, you’re in a bad place.

The typical pro shop rations are more or less the worst choice you could possibly make. Such a high glycemic load (lots of sugar) will leave you on a constant rollercoaster of highs and lows throughout the round. This isn’t good. It makes it very difficult for the body to function accurately and optimally, it’s going to cloud your mind, impair your performance and generally be negative for your health.

If you’ve rushed out of bed, had two cups of coffee and no breakfast on top of this, then I’m not even sure you should be making it through 18 holes never mind posting a good number!

So, what should you do? Well, as stated, everyone is individual, but a great guideline for gameday would be the following.

A filling breakfast of quality protein & fats with a smaller amount of quality carbohydrates – eggs, meat, fish, veggies, avocado, fruits (berries are best) and oats. My go-to would always be eggs, smoked salmon, avocado. A modified ‘cooked breakfast’ is also a good idea; bacon/sausage (not too much) with eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes other veggies and no beans, toast or worse gets you off to a great start.

Caffeine is also a good way to get cognitively fired up and combined with a quality breakfast it will be released more gradually, therefore assisting performance in many cases.

During the round, the requirements remain similar, but timing is critical. Over such a long period of time, the body is burning fat for energy, so a consistent supply of it makes sense! Nuts and seeds are the best options due to nutrient density and the satiety (feeling full) they create. They also contain enough protein for the body to continue to function and repair during the round. For optimal performance and speed, I would combine those nuts with some fruit, berries, apple, banana, etc. and spread it out over the course of the round. Swapping this out for a performance bar is cool, just check the label! So many of the bars out there are so jacked up with sugar they’re really no different to other sugary options!

Eating a reasonably small amount every three or four holes will ensure your body has the necessary fuel to perform at its best and also mean that it will focus on the task at hand as opposed to digesting a huge hit of food or calories!

And before you say it, you do not need sugar for energy. That’s a terrible scenario on the course and in everyday life. Ditch the chocolate, poor quality protein bars, sugary drinks, and Gatorade to see your performance improve!

Some people work better with more carbs, some better with more fats—but having an overall understanding of your needs during a round can make or break your performance!

After the round its all about recovery. A good meal predominantly of quality protein, matched with some quality carbs (eg. sweet potato) and plenty of vegetables and some fats will get you back to your best in no time!

Hydration is so important yet its very simple—you must be hydrated! If you allow yourself to get dehydrated, muscular performance will suffer, cognitive performance will suffer, and basically, you will feel terrible—not good for playing your best golf!

Water is the most important aspect and you should be drinking some basically every hole! A coffee at the turn or throughout the round can also help you be at your sharpest, but that depends how you react to caffeine and how you rehydrate following that coffee.

Whether you drink a ‘sports drink’ is up to you, again there are so many variations you have to do your research and test them out. But as with the food, the greater the variation in blood sugar and insulin response, the more difficult it will be to maintain optimal performance throughout the round.

There are many, many aspects to consider but if you are training in the gym, have a hectic lifestyle and playing golf you are likely to be burning a bunch of calories! This is where it gets really fun, matching your nutrition to your training is going to guarantee the best results and leave you as a ripped up golfing machine!

Look out for the GOLFWOD Nutritional challenge, and also our online nutritional coaching designed to make you a beast on and off the course!

This change can and will absolutely change your game and your health!

Don’t overlook your fuel in 2019!

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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: The Open Championship drama and Knudson’s golf trip

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The Open Championship is over and we talk some drama with Brooks and JB Holmes. Knudson talks about his golf trip and if his back held up. We finally talk about Xander Schauffele’s illegal driver.

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

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Scoring Series Part 4: Chipping fundamentals

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Editor’s Note: Pictured above, Bud Cauley is the PGA Tour leader in strokes gained: around the green this season, picking up an average of .684 strokes on the field. 

In this fourth part of my series on short range performance, I am going to dive into what I consider the basics of chipping. Understand that I know some of you are already superb chippers of the ball, while others struggle with this part of the game. It is this latter group that I hope to help with my thoughts today.

One of the odd things about chipping is that you can see golfers with their own “home-made” technique that do just fine, possibly even much better than average. We all know some of those guys. This treatise, however, is to try to break down some of the basic fundamentals that will help you become better on those short shots around the greens.

When the ball is off the putting surface, and you face a basic chip, think of it as a mini-swing or a long putt. You are trying to execute a rather relaxed back-and-through with only a little movement in the wrists…but there will always be some if you are relaxed. The essence of the chipping stroke, however, is a rotation of the shoulders. With that as our foundation, here is my take on the basics

  1. Your basic chipping posture is somewhere between your putting set up and that for a half-wedge. Knees should be flexed, and your upper body should be bent over from the hips so that your free-hanging left arm puts your left hand clear of your thigh. Your front foot should be pulled back from the line a little so that your hips and shoulders are slightly open to square to the intended line. Notice where your naturally hanging left-hand position is in relation to your body—I’m a believer that in the shorter golf shots you want the left hand to “cover” its address position as it comes back through the impact zone.
  2. Set up with the ball at or just back of the center of your stance. Pay attention to this, as you will find that the open stance might visually throw you off here. Use your naturally hanging left hand as your guide. Gripping the club there, the shaft should have a slight backward angle so that your hands are just forward of the ball. The most common error I see in chipping setups is that golfers have a severe backward angle of the shaft, which de-lofts the club too much for good chipping. But having the ball too far forward will cause you to “flip” the clubhead at the ball, usually resulting in very thin contact, or chunking the club behind the ball.
  3. Use a very light grip on the club. This is a feel shot, and a tight grip destroys all sensation of touch, and ruins tempo. I like to feel like my left arm and hand are holding the club with control, and my right hand is taking it back and through with precision and touch. If you are right-handed, your eye-hand coordination is firmly established between your eyes and right fingers and thumb. Use this natural “touch” in your putting and chipping as much as you can.
  4. The back stroke is almost lazy. —A very simple backward rotation of the body core, allowing the right hand to “feel” the shot all the way. A slight break of the wrists can be allowed at the end of the backstroke, and you should feel the club stop and reverse direction—pause if you have to. But a hurried downstroke is the killer.
  5. On the through stroke, the body core and shoulders lead, with the left arm and hand guiding the path and the right hand determining the touch required to generate the proper force. Do not make an awkward attempt to “accelerate” but just emulate a pendulum stroke—back and through, keeping the hands ahead of the clubhead. Your goal is for the impact position to exactly duplicate your set up position.
  6. Finally, I’m a proponent of chipping with different clubs, while others believe you should always chip with your sand wedge or even lob wedge. My philosophy is that you should choose a club that will just loft the ball safely over the fringe, so that it lands on the green where bounce and roll-out are predictable. For consistency, figure out where the ball needs to land on the green, and then how much roll to allow for after that, to get it all the way to the hole. If you want to carry it only 10-20 percent of the way, a 6- 8-iron is usually good. At the other end, if you want to carry it more than half-way to the hole, you might opt for a pitching or gap wedge or even more loft. Of course, green speed and firmness have to be taken into account. It only takes a little experimenting learn this basic piece of the puzzle.

To give yourself the best chance at giving the shot the right touch and speed control, pick out the exact spot you want the ball to land…and then forget the hole! Focus intently on this landing spot. Your natural eye-hand coordination will always register on where you are looking, and if you are looking at the hole, you will usually fly the ball too far and hit your chips long more often than not.

So, that is my guide to a good chipping technique. I hope many of you can put at least one or two of these fundamentals to work right away.
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