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Haime: Get back to your natural you

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I have the great privilege of working with some of the world’s leading athletes (including PGA Tour players and other professionals) in the area of mental and emotional development. When athletes, agents and coaches don’t know what’s wrong with a player, they call me to “fix” it.

It has been my experience that the mental/emotional capabilities are always the separator for golfers — surprisingly few spend adequate time developing the skills that will help them take advantage of physical abilities. There’s a reason why many very accomplished performers declare the importance of the mental/emotional “game,” often stating it accounts for a large slice of the performance pie.

And, it’s important to you.

If you want to jump to the next level in golf, it’s not a bad idea to understand what you can do to improve your mental/emotional game. It will directly impact your results and your enjoyment of the game.

During the coming months, I will coach you and provide you with tried and tested approaches — and real-world examples of how to improve your mental and emotional capabilities. You can tailor the approaches and examples to your game and apply the principles.

Let’s start with something simple.

When I sit with players for the first time — the discovery meeting — I try to find out what makes them tick and how well they know themselves. It’s important for the player (you) to intimately know your strengths, limitations, triggers and the source of your abilities. There are original qualities in all players that are the starting point of the development and these natural instincts are not to be tampered with. They are to be protected and built upon by skillful coaches with a solid, simple, fundamental approach.

Think about all the great players through the years and how original each player is — and how different they all are from each other. Willie Park, Hagen, Jones, Hogan, Nelson, Thomsen, Player, Palmer, Nicklaus, Ballesteros, Faldo, Woods. All of these players are completely different, but they all used their original tendencies and instincts to rise to the top of the game. As Arnold Palmer suggests in the recent Dick’s Sporting Goods commercials — all of these players “swing their swing” and carefully crafted their originality into a world-class game.

In my opinion, golf has become so overcoached that many golfers, perhaps you, get separated from their instincts and natural tendencies and the originality is lost. We are currently seeing this idea with Tiger Woods as he analyzes the game to such an extent and puts his trust in a line of coaches or “consultants” and his natural DNA has faded. The skinny, natural genius has become an overcoached, bulky veteran with eroded instincts. You’ve seen it in recent months where one of the greatest players who ever played has hit some shocking shots from inside 20 yards. That’s the result of far too much thinking and not enough playing.

So, like I would with a world-class player, let’s start there with you. What makes you original and what comes naturally to you? What are your tendencies? What are your restrictions? Carefully consider what you do well, your strengths, what you struggle with, your limitations, what might be a great target of quality, fundamental coaching and what might be something that shouldn’t be tinkered with.

As another exercise to start, consider what creates strong negative emotion in you when you play. What makes you hesitate on the course? What frustrates you? What makes you angry? These are all good questions to begin a self-examination to help you understand the player you are — leading to the player you can be. Self-awareness is critical for a golfer as it is for all athletes and performers. It is the first step in development.

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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: [email protected]

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Prime21

    Mar 3, 2015 at 1:22 am

    Swing your swing……love that one! For the general golf population, that means swing your arms and hands at the ball, powder puff your driver out their 205, & sign for that 95 you just carded. Oh wait, get in tune with your emotions and fine tune your mental approach and that 95 magically drop to 72? Not happening.
    Was Faldo’s “swing” #1 before he hooked up with Leadbetter? Woods won a Masters by 12 before he hooked up with Butch? If I’m not mistaken, 2000 was arguably the greatest competitive season ever recorded. But was he using “his swing”? Hogan…. well, he had Hogan. How many times did “his swing” change before he found his secret?
    If one lacks talent, the easiest excuse is a poor mental game. Now, I am by no means insinuating that the mental game is not important, but in no way can it override poor swing mechanics. Look at a Tour players stable and you see a trusted advisor in swing, fitness, nutrition, mentality, etc. Why? Because one better have each base covered to compete at the highest level. To believe that there are any short cuts is the quickest way to failure. But until your mechanics are sound or at the very least you are happy with your current distance and accuracy levels and your swing is repeatable, the mental fix alone will do you no good.
    While its easy to bash Tiger these days, remember sir, without him your company does not exist. While he may be guilty of taking his pursuit of perfection too far, this same desire created the blueprint for the modern day golfer, one who is strong across the board, not merely in one category.
    Though your article is well written, as I’m sure your additional ones will be as well. An offer for a quick fix is nothing more than a ploy to sell more books. In your next article can you answer a question for me? A chain is only as strong as its weakest ………?

  2. Philip

    Feb 28, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    Very interested as these articles evolve. I have been focusing on “my” abilities and staying away from all the noise in the media and forums since last fall. It has been paying dividends this off-season. Know thyself has always been the wall between most people and success in whatever they desire to a larger degree than they would like to admit. As it is just easier to stick to what is visible to a video camera or recording device. Many seem to want to forget that everyone did pretty good long before our modern technological wonders existed. We don’t have to go back to the stone age, but keeping an open mind to simpler things can often result in quicker success.

  3. morty

    Feb 28, 2015 at 7:02 pm

    I don’t buy it. Author is manufacturing a dilemma.

    How does one become “one of the world’s leading authorities in Emotional Intelligence” anyway?

    • other paul

      Feb 28, 2015 at 9:14 pm

      I would ask how his relationship is with his wife. If they have been married for 20 years, have some teenage girls and he still likes and loves her, then he might know a thing.
      Otherwise he might not be worth listening to.

    • John Haime

      Mar 2, 2015 at 10:20 am

      Many thanks for the comment and a quick reply …

      I believe you become one of the world’s leading authorities by working with the world’s leading performers and gaining their trust. A bestselling book also doesn’t hurt. Appreciate the comment – but let the work and writing tell the story – the bio is a result of my experience, my successes and my client list.

      Just curious – how is using one’s own natural tendencies a manufactured dilemma? Know thyself has been a critical philosophical fundamental from the beginning of time and it applies to everything – including the games we play.

      Thanks again for the comment and hope you enjoy the articles moving forward – and they add some value to your game!

  4. Kenny

    Feb 28, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    Great article love the simplicity to it..I’ve been playing this game for over thirty years and I agree that the game is over analyzed you have so much information out there …companies coming out with different clubs claiming to do this and that …funny that all the hype doesn’t work. The biggest thing today is the golf ball and some of the technology. When I was coming up as a young golfer we had forged clubs and persimmon headed drivers and balata balls if we were lucky to find one…the pro showed you how to grip the club correctly and then said go play….today it’s not like that everything has to match up and in my opinion it has cost some players there career …The thing that I don’t like is that the people teaching the game today as far as swing coaches want to change what a person has and show him the method that they are teaching…wish my old pro was still around he showed you the fundamentals and that was it…we need people that can teach like the did in the old days…unfortunaley most have died off…

    • Snowman

      Feb 28, 2015 at 7:52 pm

      Does anyone realize how much better players are today than they were back in the days when everyone just “went out and played their natural swing” or whatever? Might work for Bubba, Phil, Palmer, and Trevino, but not us. It sounds great too — wack a couple on the range, play 18, grab a beer, repeat..But these days that’s a recipe for calling it quits and becoming a club-tec at golf galaxy..I don’t understand why people are so satisfied by picking on pro golfers for doing everything they can to get better..especially when the level of play is so much higher than previous generations

      • Philip

        Feb 28, 2015 at 8:57 pm

        What does maximizing your natural abilities have to do with being just plain ole lazy (though many do just want to hit a few on the range, play 18, drink some beer and eat and head home – doesn’t sound like fun to me, but to them maybe it is. We all have a choice after all). I tried the modern methods and nothing really clicked, went back to trying it on my own – golf isn’t rocket science – and it happened to click for myself. Now that I have a basic foundation that is working I can re-read all those books and watch videos, as well as see a new coach at a new course I started last fall. I’m always watching games on the tube and sometimes I notice something and run to grab a club and practice a few swings in my living room.

        For some it is doing it yourself, for others a coach, and even for others video and trackman – the trick is to figure out what is the most efficient and effective method for yourself. Horses for courses. Now if I can just get winter to end a month early……

  5. Gloover

    Feb 28, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    Great, more inner child work. Someone get the empty chair!

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Instruction

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 2)

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Golf is very much a monkey-see-monkey-do sport. If you ever go to the local range, you are sure to see golfers trying to copy the moves of their favorite player. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not. While I understand the logic of trying to mimic the “secret move” of the most recent winner on tour, I always balk when the person trying to create their best impression fails to realize the physical differences between them and the best golfing athletes in the world.

Read part 1 here. 

In addition to most golfers not being at the same fitness levels as the best players in the world, they also do not have bodies that are identical to their favorite player. This single statement proves why there is not one golf swing; we all are different sizes and are going to swing the club differently due to these physical differences.

You have to understand your swing

The biggest reason I believe that golfers are better than they think is most golfers I meet do not understand what their swings should look like. Armed with video after video of their golf swing, I will always hear about the one thing that the golfer wishes they could change. However, that one thing is generally the “glue” or athleticism of the athlete on display and is also the thing that allows them to make decent contact with the ball.

We are just coming out of the “video age” of golf instruction, and while I think that recording your golf swing can be extremely helpful, I think that it is important to understand what you are looking for in your swing. As a young coach, I fell victim to trying to create “pretty swings”, but quickly learned that there is not a trophy for prettiest swing.

It comes down to form or function, and I choose function

The greatest gift I have ever received as an instructor was the recommendation to investigate Mike Adams and BioSwing Dynamics. Mike, E.A. Tischler, and Terry Rowles have done extensive research both with tour-level players as well as club golfers and have developed a way to test or screen each athlete to determine not only how their golf swing will look, but also how they will use the ground to create their maximum speed. This screen can be completed with a tape measure and takes about five minutes, and I have never seen results like I have since I began measuring.

For example, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a golf swing that tracks more to the outside during the backswing and intersects the body more towards the trail shoulder plane during the backswing. A golfer with a shorter wingspan than height will have a swing that tracks more to the inside and intersects the body closer to the trail hip plane. Also, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a more upright dynamic posture than a golfer with a shorter wingspan than height who will be more “bent over” at the address position.

Sport coats and golf swings

Have you ever bought a sport coat or suit for a special occasion? If so, pay attention to whether it is a short, regular, or long. If you buy a long, then it means that your arms are longer than your torso and you can now understand why you produce a “steeper” backswing. Also, if you stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your middle-finger tips touching the top of your kneecaps, you will have perfect dynamic posture that matches your anatomy. If it appears that you are in a taller posture, then you have your second clue that your wingspan is greater than your height.

Translation to improvement

Using this and five other screens, we can help the athletes understand a complete blueprint of their golf swing based off their anatomy. It is due to the work of Mike, E.A., and Terry that we can now matchup the player to their swing and help them play their best. The reason that I believe that most golfers are better than they think is that most golfers have most of the correct puzzle pieces already. By screening each athlete, we can make the one or two adjustments to get the player back to trusting their swing and feeling in control. More importantly, the athlete can revisit their screen sheet when things misfire and focus on what they need to do, instead of what not to do.

We are all different and all have different swings. There is no one way to swing a golf club because there is no one kind of golfer. I encourage every golfer to make their swing because it is the only one that fits.

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How golf should be learned

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With the COVID-19 pandemic, golf is more popular than ever. Beginners being introduced to the game often find that golf is very hard, much harder than other sports they have played. To simplify the golf swing and make the game easier, it needs to start with a concept.

Golf should first be learned from a horizontal position. If the ball was placed four feet above the ground on a large tee, players would naturally turn in an efficient direction with the proper sequence to strike the ball on the tee.

Take for example, a person throwing a ball towards a target. With their eyes out in front of them? having an awareness to the target, their body would naturally turn in a direction to go forward and around towards the target. In golf, we are bent over from the hips, and we are playing from the side of the golf ball, so players tend to tilt their body or over-rotate, causing an inefficient backswing.

This is why the golf swing should be looked at as a throwing motion. The trail arm folds up as the body coils around. To throw a ball further, the motion doesn’t require more body turn or a tilt of the body.

To get the feeling of this horizontal hitting position or throwing motion, start by taking your golf posture. Make sure your trail elbow is bent and tucked with your trail shoulder below your lead shoulder.

From here, simply lift your arms in front of you while you maintain the bend from your hips. Look over your lead shoulder looking at the target. Get the clubhead traveling first and swing your arms around you. Note how your body coils. Return the club back to its original position.

After a few repetitions, simply lower your arms back to the ball position, swing your arms around you like you did from the horizontal position. Allow your shoulders, chest and hips to be slightly pulled around. This is now your “throwing position” in the golf swing. From here, you are ready to make a downswing with less movement needed to make a proper strike.

Note: Another great drill to get the feel for this motion is practicing Hitting driver off your knees.

Twitter: @KKelley_golf

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Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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