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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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