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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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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: How is the new PGA schedule looking? Gross golf bag cleaning story!

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The new PGA schedule is out and how will so much major golf look in the fall. What golf gear would you buy with your stimulus check if you could blow it all on golf? Knudson has a gross story about cleaning out a golf bag.

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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19th Hole

Tiger at the Masters: The 3 that got away

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This time last year, Tiger Woods earned his fifth green jacket at the 2019 Masters, breaking a 14-year drought at Augusta National and completing a storybook career comeback (see Tiger Woods’ 2019 Masters WITB here).

Between his 2005 and 2019 victories, Woods gave himself several chances to reclaim the green jacket, but for one reason or another, the championship continuously eluded the 15-time major winner.

Looking back on that drought, three years in particular stick out in my mind where Woods (being the ruthless closer that he is) could, and maybe should, have capitalized on massive opportunities.

2007 Masters

A unique tournament broke out at the 2007 Masters with chilly and windy conditions meaning we would see an over-par score winning the event for the first time in a generation.

Unusually however was the fact that Tiger Woods had got himself into a fantastic position heading into the final day’s play—one stroke back of the lead and in the final group.

By the first hole on Sunday, Woods had a share of the lead. A couple of holes later, and he was the sole leader. But instead of the game’s greatest ever closer doing what he does best, we saw the first small chink in Tiger’s major armor.

Unable to keep up with the improved scoring on Sunday, Woods finished the championship two strokes behind Zach Johnson. It was the first time Woods lost a major in which he held the lead at some point in the final round.

11th hole Sunday. Woods saved par.

Summing up after the round why things hadn’t turned out the way the entire golf world expected, Woods said

“Looking back over the week I basically blew this tournament with two rounds where I had bogey, bogey finishes. That’s 4-over in two holes. The last two holes, you just can’t afford to do that and win major championships.”

2011 Masters

In one of the most exciting final rounds in Masters history, an electric front-nine charge from Woods coupled with a Rory McIlroy collapse saw the then 35-year-old tied for the lead heading into the back nine.

After back-to-back pars on the challenging 10th and 11th holes, Woods found the green on the 12th before it all slipped away. A disastrous three-putt was followed by a deflating five on the par-5 13th and an agonizing near-miss for birdie on 14.

In typical defiant fashion, Woods then flushed a long iron on the par-5 15th to give him five feet for eagle and what would have been the outright lead. But he couldn’t find the cup.

Directly following his round, a visibly miffed Woods said

“I should have shot an easy 3- or 4-under on the back nine and I only posted even. But I’m right there in the thick of it and a bunch of guys have a chance. We’ll see what happens.”

What happened was eventual champion Charl Schwartzel did what Woods said he should have done—shooting 4 under on the back to win his first major.

2013 Masters

Luck, or lack of, is a contentious topic when it comes to sports fans, but at the 2013 Masters, Woods’ shocking fate played out as if those on Mount Olympus were orchestrating the tournament.

Woods entered the 2013 Masters as the World Number One, brimming with confidence having won three out of his first five tournaments to start the year.

By Friday afternoon, Woods had cruised into a share of the lead, before crisply striking a wedge on the par-5 15th as he hunted for another birdie.

In a cruel twist of fate, Woods’ ball struck the pin and ricocheted back into the water. “Royally cheated!” shouted on-course announcer David Feherty. Nobody could argue otherwise.

A subsequent “bad drop” turned a probable birdie into a triple-bogey placing Woods behind the proverbial 8-ball for the rest of the tournament. The game’s ultimate closer should have been in the lead with two rounds to play on a front-runner’s paradise of a course; instead, he was in chase-mode. (From 1991-2012, 19 of the 22 winners came from the final group).

Woods tried to rally over the weekend, but if he didn’t think the 2013 Masters was ill-fated for himself by Friday evening, then he would have been excused to do so on the eighth hole on Saturday.

 

Had Woods’ golf ball missed the pin at 15 on that hot and humid Spring afternoon in 2013, then he not only wins, but he likely wins going away.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Power Leak No. 1: Your grip

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One of the things I like the best is when a friend or stranger asks me to take a look at their swing to see if I can help them. I never get into the “lesson” business, because that is the domain of our golf staff at the club. But I have spent a lifetime in this game, and have studied the golf swing pretty relentlessly. I also have been blessed with a pretty good eye.

So, the other day, I was out hitting some balls in the afternoon, and a good friend from the club asked if I’d take a look at where he is losing power. Darrell is a big guy and a good player, but not nearly as long as you would think he’d be. He plays with the “big dog” money game, which has a few really big hitters that can be quite intimidating.

I’ve played with Darrell enough to know exactly where his power leaks were, so when he came out to the range, I watched him hit a few and dropped the first one on him.

“It’s your grip!”

He, like so many amateur golfers, was holding the club too far out on the end, and much too high in his palms — not low in the fingers like you should. I’ve always been of the opinion that the grip is the most important fundamental in the entire golf swing. Without a solid and fundamentally sound hold on the golf club, the rest of the swing cannot function at its best. Hogan thought it was so important, he dedicated a whole chapter of “Five Lessons” to the subject.

You’ll see the occasional pretty good scorer at the club with a funky grip, but you never see a bad grip on tour. The golfer who has mastered a great grip is the most teachable there is.

In my opinion, the grip is only ‘personal’ to a small degree. Whether you like to overlap, interlock or use the full finger grip (not baseball)…whether you like to rotate your hands a little stronger or weaker . . . the fundamentals are the same, and they aren’t negotiable.

The club has to be in your fingers to allow the “lag” that builds power, and to allow or even force the optimum release of the club through impact. The last three fingers of the left hand have to control the club so that it can be pulled through the impact zone. The right hand hold is limited to the curling of the two middle fingers around the grip, and neither set of forefingers and thumbs should be engaged much at all. One of the best drills for any golfer is to hit balls with the right forefinger and thumb totally disengaged from the grip. Google “Hogan grip photos” and study them!!!!!!

So, with the changes in the grip I had Darrell make, he immediately began ripping drivers 15-20 yards further downrange than he had. The ball flight and even sound of the ball off the driver was more impressive. So we went out to play a few holes to see what happened.

Historically, Darrell is only 5-10 yards longer than me at best, and sometimes I outdrive him. But not anymore!! On those five holes we played late that afternoon, he consistently flew it out there 20-25 yards past my best drives.

And that made us both really happy!

Next Tuesday, I’ll talk about the second in this series on Power Leaks.

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