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Golf is FUN

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I’ve just moved jobs. I’ve gone to a fantastic new place, with a huge number of golfers of all ages and abilities. This has given me time to question why I do what I do. I feel very fortunate to be in a job that I honestly love. The truth is that I teach golf and build connections with my players because I truly believe the game of golf can teach us so much. To share this gift and do my part in improving people’s game thus increasing their enjoyment and having a positive impact on their outlook on life is my way of giving back.

With that in mind, this article is going to be about how you, the golfer, can have some more fun on the links. After all, if you really thought about it, isn’t that why you play the game? To have fun? To enjoy being outside with good company?

Just this week I taught a member who was considering leaving the game after a run of terrible rounds. Of course, as a golf professional and coach, my advice would be to get alongside your golf professional who can work with you to help you reach your goals but this article will give you other ways.

Play an appropriate length course

If you look at the average driving distances for PGA Tour professionals (compared to the length of course they play) and then compare that with your distances, you may realize how difficult reaching your goals are. Chances are the tees on the course you play are disproportionately long for the driving distance you have. If just playing with some friends, try this one out: Play from a forward set of tees, maybe even from the very forward tees and enjoy the feeling of driving close to the green of a par 4 or marking a birdie down on your card. It is fun hitting more greens in regulation too. After working with a lot of juniors this summer with Nike Junior Camps in Pebble Beach, I know how resistant they were to trying. When this was tried out though, the levels of fun shot up massively. Give it a go; it is also a fantastic way to build confidence and your comfort shooting lower scores.

Play some different formats

There are a whole heap of alternatives to typical stroke play, which can be a lot of fun to try. Rather than stroke play where each mistake is seen and attention drawn to it, have fun with a skins game or stableford round where you can move on quickly and not let a bad hole get you riled up. Away from the mistake-avoidance environment that stroke play often induces, you will have more opportunities to learn and discover new things while trying other formats. If you are playing with a group of friends, but not in a monthly medal, why not go out and try a Texas scramble competition. Or in a pair, allow yourself to play the hole, alternate shots, from the position of your best drive or, if you really want a challenge, from the worst ball. From personal experience, I can say that playing golf with friends who play much less than me, but within a fun format, can greatly increase enjoyment for all of you. If you find this one tough to do, perhaps start tracking a few stats and see how your improvements go. A few examples that will leave you focused on the positives rather than your score could be: number of solid drives hit/crisp irons hit/birdies or pars made.

Lose the scorecard

Every golfer is different, and there are many way to enjoy this great game. But, as a challenge, in the next round that you play just forget to pick up a scorecard and play a round without keeping track of your strokes. Less focus on your score frees you up to really enjoy the company, the surroundings and much more. As crazy as this idea sounds, give it a go. See what happens. You may even notice your level of play greatly improve.

Go play a different course

I’ve been fortunate enough to play a few courses that hold top professional events, and it is a great feeling to go out there, on holes you may recognize from TV, and see how you fare. This season, go try a few different courses and make a day of it. I can’t imagine you won’t enjoy it.

Practice with games

Rather than just treating some putting practice as something boring that you need to do to lower your score, bring a friend along and play some games at the same time. Sudden-death holing-out competitions starting from near the hole and getting farther away are sure to get interesting when the loser is paying for food in the clubhouse afterwards. On the driving range, experiment with different heights and curves of golf shots. Imagine golf holes out on the range that you hit toward, or create nearest-the-pin competitions. I imagine your practice will suddenly become more interesting.

For those of you who don’t want to throw away the scorecard, move away from your current golf course and the back tees or deviate from playing stroke play, I have one final idea that may help:

You know that strange phenomenon where you have nine great holes and then nine terrible holes? Or you start awful only to finish it off with a great back nine and end up finishing somewhere near your handicap? My suggestion is this; next time you go to play, split your scorecard into six rounds of three holes instead of one round of 18 or two halves of nine each. This simple change in mindset often allows you to let go of previous bad holes a lot more easily than having to wait till the back nine for a new start. It also helps you stay in the present, not getting nervous/excited/ahead of yourself when on for a career best round after 12 holes, before it all falls apart.

I hope to hear from you soon, and that you have some more fun out on the course. I imagine you have even more ideas too; please feel free to leave them in the comments below. Remember as a great coaching friend of mine, Sara, says on Twitter: #golfisfun

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Andy is currently coaching in Shanghai, China. He is a UKPGA member and graduate of the AGMS degree at the University of Birmingham. Andy has coached in more than 30 countries and traveled to work with many of the best minds in golf to constantly improve his coaching. His No. 1 desire is to help golfers reach their dreams, and to enjoy the process! Website: andygriffithsgolf.com Online Lessons: swingfix.golfchannel.com/instructors/andy-griffiths Twitter: twitter.com/andygriffiths1 Facebook: facebook.com/andygriffithsgolf

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Andy Griffiths

    Feb 26, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    Thanks Carson and I hope you got some good ideas out of it. I really hope out of any article I write, that this one gets out there and is seen by the most!

  2. Carson

    Feb 26, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    love, Love, LOVE the “lose the scorecard” idea! Great article on how to ENJOY the game, not just play it well! Awesome job!

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Instruction

A Jedi Mind Trick For Improved Target Awareness

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I think all golfers, at some point in their life playing the game of golf, has gotten stuck, or become frozen over the golf ball. Why?  They’re trying to remember which of the 23 different swing thoughts they used for the day performed the best.

The disheartening reality: none of us are going to perform well on a consistent basis with our thoughts being so internally driven. Swing thoughts force our awareness inward. Is the shaft in the correct position? Am I making a proper pressure shift? Was that a reverse pivot? Close that club face! Regardless of the technique you are trying to manage or modify, these kinds of questions make you acquire sensations internally.

To complicate things further, we are taught to look at the golf ball, not the target, while hitting our golf shot. And yet instinctively, in almost all other skills of making a ball or object finish towards a target (throwing a ball or frisbee, kicking a soccer ball, skipping a rock across water, shooting a basket ball) our awareness is not on the ball or the motion itself, but rather the ultimate target.

So, can we develop a skill that allows us to still keep our eye on the ball, like the game of golf encourages, but have awareness of our target, like so many other target sports demand?  Yes, the answer is (third rate Yoda Speak), and the skill can easily be yours.

Here’s where this gets fun. You already have learned this skill set, but under different conditions. Perhaps this example resonates with you. Did you ever play hide-and-seek as a child? Remember how you used to close your eyes and count to 10? During those 10 seconds of having your eyes closed, weren’t you using all of your senses externally, trying to track where your friends were going to hide? Weren’t you, just like a bloodhound, able to go directly to a few of the less skillful hiders’ hiding places and locate them?

Or how about this example. When you are driving down your own local multilane highway, aren’t you aware of all the cars around you while keeping your eyes firmly on the road in front of you? Reconnecting, recognizing and/or developing these skills that all of us already use is the first step in knowing you’re not too far away from doing this with your golf game.

Here’s what I want you to do. Grab a putter and place your golf ball 3 feet away from the hole on a straight putt. Aim your putter, and then look at the hole. As you bring your eyes back to the golf ball, maintain part of your awareness back at the hole. Each successive time your eyes leave your golf ball and head back to the hole, your eyes will be able to confirm your target. It hasn’t moved; it’s still in the same location; your confidence builds.

When you know for certain that your external awareness of the target is locked in while still looking at your golf ball, step up and execute your putt.

The wonderful beauty of this skill set is that you now have the best of both worlds. You are still looking at the golf ball, which gives you a better chance of striking the golf ball solidly… AND you are now target aware just like you are when you are throwing an object at a target.

As always, acquire this skill set from a close target with a slower, smaller motion. If you don’t execute properly, you have a better chance of making the proper corrective assessment from a slower, smaller motion and closer target. As you become more proficient with this skill, allow the target to get farther away and try to add more speed with a larger range of motion.

So give learning this skill set a go. I don’t think there is anything more valuable in playing the game of golf than keeping your “athlete” attached to the target. Become proficient at developing this awareness and you can tell all your friends that the primary reason your scores are getting lower and you’re getting deeper into their wallets is because of Jedi Mind tricks. Good luck!

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6 things to consider before aiming at the flagstick

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One of the most impactful improvements you can make for your game is to hit more greens; you’ll have more birdie opportunities and will avoid bogeys more often. In fact, hitting more greens is the key to golfing success, in my opinion… more so than anything else.

However, there is a misconception among players when it comes to hitting approach shots. When people think “greens,” they tend to only think about the flagstick, when the pin may be the last thing you should be looking at. Obviously, we’d like to stick it on every shot, but shooting at the pin at the wrong time can cost you more pain than gain.

So I’d like to give you a few rules for hitting greens and aiming at the flagstick.

1) Avoid Sucker Pins

I want you to think about Hole No. 12 at Augusta and when the pin is on the far right side of the green… you know, the Sunday pin. Where do the pros try and aim? The center of the green! That’s because the right pin is by all means a sucker pin. If they miss the shot just a touch, they’re in the water, in the bunker, or left with an impossible up-and-down.

Sucker pins are the ones at the extreme sides of the green complex, and especially the ones that go against your normal shot pattern.

So go back to No. 12 with a far right pin, and say your natural shot shape is right-to-left. Would you really aim out over the water and move it towards the pin? That would be a terrible idea! It’s a center of the green shot all day, even for those who work it left-to-right. Learn to recognize sucker pins, and you won’t short side yourself ever again.

2) Are You a Good Bunker Player?

A “sucker pin,” or just a difficult hole location, is often tucked behind a bunker. Therefore, you should ask yourself, “am I a good bunker player?” Because if you are not, then you should never aim at a pin stuck behind one. If I wanted to shoot at pins all day, I’d make sure I was the best lob wedge player around. If you are not a short-game wizard, then you will have a serious problem attacking pins all round.

For those who lack confidence in their short game, or simply are not skilled on all the shots, it’s a good idea to hit to the fat part of the green most of the time. You must find ways to work around your weaknesses, and hitting “away” from the pin isn’t a bad thing, it’s a smart thing for your game.

3) Hitting the Correct Shelf

I want you to imagine a pin placed on top of a shelf. What things would you consider in order to attack this type of pin? You should answer: shot trajectory, type of golf ball, your landing angle with the club you’re hitting, the green conditions, and the consequences of your miss. This is where people really struggle as they forget to take into account these factors.

If you don’t consider what you can and cannot do with the shot at hand, you will miss greens, especially when aiming at a pin on a shelf. Sometimes, you will simply have to aim at the wrong level of the green in order to not bring the big number into play. Remember, if you aim for a top shelf and miss, you will leave yourself with an even more difficult pitch shot back onto that same shelf you just missed.

4) Know your Carry Distances

In my opinion, there is no excuse these days to not know your carry distances down to the last yard. Back when I was growing up, I had to go to a flat hole and chart these distances as best I could by the ball marks on the green. Now, I just spend an hour on Trackman.

My question to you is if you don’t know how far you carry the ball, how could you possibly shoot at a pin with any type of confidence? If you cannot determine what specific number you carry the ball, and how the ball will react on the green, then you should hit the ball in the center of the green. However, if the conditions are soft and you know your yardages, then the green becomes a dart board. My advice: spend some time this off-season getting to know your distances, and you’ll have more “green lights” come Spring.

5) When do you have the Green Light?

Do you really know when it’s OK to aim at the pin? Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help:

  • How are you hitting the ball that day?
  • How is your yardage control?
  • What is the slope of the green doing to help or hinder your ball on the green?
  • Do you have a backstop behind the pin?

It’s thoughts such as these that will help you to determine if you should hit at the pin or not. Remember, hitting at the pin (for amateurs) does not happen too often per nine holes of golf. You must leave your ego in the car and make the best decisions based on what information you have at that time. Simple mistakes on your approach shot can easily lead to bogeys and doubles.

6) When is Any Part of the Green Considered a Success?

There are some times when you have a terrible angle, or you’re in the rough/a fairway bunker. These are times when you must accept “anywhere on the green.”

Left in these situations, some players immediatly think to try and pull off the “miracle” shot, and wonder why they compound mistakes during a round. Learn to recognize if you should be happy with anywhere on the green, or the best place to miss the ball for the easiest up and down.

Think of Ben Hogan at Augusta on No. 11; he said that if you see him on that green in regulation then you know he missed the shot. He decided that short right was better than even trying to hit the green… sometimes you must do this too. But for now analyze your situation and make the best choice possible. When in doubt, eliminate the big numbers!

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Instruction

Is There An Ideal Backswing?

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In this video, I talk about the backswing and look into optimal positions. I also discuss the positives and negatives of different backswing positions.

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19th Hole

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