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Feedback that will change your game

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This year I was a captain of a Ryder Cup-style event at my golf course. It was a fantastic experience that deepened my love of golf and provided so many valuable lessons, many of which go much deeper than just the game of golf.

Here are three of those lessons that can improve your golf game, and also your life beyond the course.

Process goals

Every time I caught up with one of my players on the course, they instinctively expected me to ask them what their current score was in their match. Over the course of the weekend they instead realised that what I cared more about was their best shot over the last two holes. Seeing their faces light up as they recalled described hitting a low shot through branches and up to the green or a lob shot over a bunker with no green to play with was priceless. Instead of forgetting the great shots they hit, they were really cementing these memories in their minds.

By switching from an outcome-related goal to a controllable and task-orientated goal, golfers can keep their attention closely linked to their intention. Additionally, the score of a match, which is in part out of the control of golfers as they do not know what the opponent will do) seems to take care of itself if golfers focus on just hitting good shots and cementing those memories in their head.

I wrote about some more ways to help stay focused on the task at hand in my a previous GolfWRX story, The Power of the Scorecard.

Expectation levels

No doubt, I want the golfers I spend time with to strive to be the absolute best that they can be (This is on an individual basis, however, as not everybody wants to be a tour player. But that’s a whole different article!) In any circumstance, the idea of conforming to being “average” is not high on my priority list.

That being said, the averages of PGA Tour players from the 2013 prove that their play is not always so perfect. In 2013, the average Tour player made only 50 percent of his 8-foot putts, hit only 60 percent of his fairways and averaged a mere 23 feet from the hole on approach shots from 125-to-150 yards.

When I told golfers these averages, they were shocked. Coverage of professional golf events tends to show more great shots than average and bad shots, making professional golfers seem infallible, but they’re not. Of course professional golfers are incredibly good, but Gio Valiante’s book Flow confirmed my thought that the best players are the most accepting, and that golf is a game that will never be mastered. Failures are merely opportunities to grow and develop.

Post-event learning

As a coach, I was most excited with the opportunity to see my players compete on the course so I could better understand how to continue to improve their golf games. I heard a great quote when I was studying at university that nicely sums it up for me:

“10 years of coaching without reflection is just 1 year of coaching repeated 10 times”

If Tiger Woods, who has logged an incredibly amount of hours golfing, can still take some learning from each round of golf that he has played, so can you. Spot your progress, notice what you’ve done that you were once not able to do and set a plan with your professional on how to improve on the rest.

The lessons that this weekend showed to many players will change lives. Will you let them improve yours?

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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

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Hieronymus

    Jan 30, 2014 at 11:59 am

    Yes, but can he teach Barney how to golf with just one bullet?

  2. Chris

    Jan 30, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Awesome article! Some great stuff to build off of here.

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Instruction

Clement: Weak grips are injuries in the making for many golfers

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The crazy things golfers do to square the face!

Like Jordan Spieth, trying to go to a bowed wrist at the top or in the downswing to square the club is placing you in a dangerous position for your lead wrist; you are one tree root or deep rough situation away from a nasty injury that could easily require surgery. Don’t let this be you.

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Clement: Laid-off or perfect fade? Across-the-line or perfect draw?

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Some call the image on the left laid off, but if you are hitting a fade, this could be a perfect backswing for it! Same for across the line for a draw! Stop racking your brain with perceived mistakes and simply match backswing to shot shape!

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The Wedge Guy: The easiest-to-learn golf basic

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My golf learning began with this simple fact – if you don’t have a fundamentally sound hold on the golf club, it is practically impossible for your body to execute a fundamentally sound golf swing. I’m still a big believer that the golf swing is much easier to execute if you begin with the proper hold on the club.

As you might imagine, I come into contact with hundreds of golfers of all skill levels. And it is very rare to see a good player with a bad hold on the golf club. There are some exceptions, for sure, but they are very few and very far between, and they typically have beat so many balls with their poor grip that they’ve found a way to work around it.

The reality of biophysics is that the body moves only in certain ways – and the particulars of the way you hold the golf club can totally prevent a sound swing motion that allows the club to release properly through the impact zone. The wonderful thing is that anyone can learn how to put a fundamentally sound hold on the golf club, and you can practice it anywhere your hands are not otherwise engaged, like watching TV or just sitting and relaxing.

Whether you prefer an overlap, interlock or full-finger (not baseball!) grip on the club, the same fundamentals apply.  Here are the major grip faults I see most often, in the order of the frequency:

Mis-aligned hands

By this I mean that the palms of the two hands are not parallel to each other. Too many golfers have a weak left hand and strong right, or vice versa. The easiest way to learn how to hold the club with your palms aligned properly is to grip a plain wooden ruler or yardstick. It forces the hands to align properly and shows you how that feels. If you grip and re-grip a yardstick several times, then grip a club, you’ll see that the learning curve is almost immediate.

The position of the grip in the upper/left hand

I also observe many golfers who have the butt of the grip too far into the heel pad of the upper hand (the left hand for right-handed players). It’s amazing how much easier it is to release the club through the ball if even 1/4-1/2″ of the butt is beyond the left heel pad. Try this yourself to see what I mean.  Swing the club freely with just your left hand and notice the difference in its release from when you hold it at the end of the grip, versus gripping down even a half inch.

To help you really understand how this works, go to the range and hit shots with your five-iron gripped down a full inch to make the club the same length as your seven-iron. You will probably see an amazing shot shape difference, and likely not see as much distance loss as you would expect.

Too much lower (right) hand on the club

It seems like almost all golfers of 8-10 handicap or higher have the club too far into the palm of the lower hand, because that feels “good” if you are trying to control the path of the clubhead to the ball. But the golf swing is not an effort to hit at the ball – it is a swing of the club. The proper hold on the club has the grip underneath the pad at the base of the fingers. This will likely feel “weak” to you — like you cannot control the club like that. EXACTLY. You should not be trying to control the club with your lower/master hand.

Gripping too tightly

Nearly all golfers hold the club too tightly, which tenses up the forearms and prevents a proper release of the club through impact. In order for the club to move back and through properly, you must feel that the club is controlled by the last three fingers of the upper hand, and the middle two fingers of the lower hand. If you engage your thumbs and forefingers in “holding” the club, the result will almost always be a grip that is too tight. Try this for yourself. Hold the club in your upper hand only, and squeeze firmly with just the last three fingers, with the forefinger and thumb off the club entirely. You have good control, but your forearms are not tense. Then begin to squeeze down with your thumb and forefinger and observe the tensing of the entire forearm. This is the way we are made, so the key to preventing tenseness in the arms is to hold the club very lightly with the “pinchers” — the thumbs and forefingers.

So, those are what I believe are the four fundamentals of a good grip. Anyone can learn them in their home or office very quickly. There is no easier way to improve your ball striking consistency and add distance than giving more attention to the way you hold the golf club.

More from the Wedge Guy

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