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Game of the Weekend: A.C.E.

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Sports psychologists are constantly preaching to golfers to get into “the process” of hitting a shot. Jason Day has been discussing it in various post-round interviews, as have other tour players. But what is inside of that process? What should you be doing or thinking? This Game of the Weekend gives you a template and a game to use when you practice or play.

Game of the Weekend: A.C.E.

The goal in golf is to get the ball in the hole in the fewest number of attempts — obviously. Your personal goal, however, should be to do the best you can with every shot you’re faced with by staying in the present.

But how do you stay focused on each individual shot when the overall goal is record the lowest score possible? It comes down to the process, or your routine, for each shot. With so many tour players and great golfers talking about getting engaged in the process of each shot, there needs to be a way to measure the success rate in which you’re in the present and into the process; that’s where A.C.E. comes in. This game will help create a quieter, productive mind instead of being bogged down with a busy, congested mind.

Here’s what A.C.E. stands for:

“A”: Analyze

This is where you evaluate all of the factors that go into choosing the appropriate target, shot and club. Items you must thoroughly Analyze include:

  • How the ball lies
  • Yardage to pin, yardage to clear any trouble/front of green, yardage behind the pin
  • Wind speed and direction
  • Location of hazards and obstacles; the best place to miss
  • Elevation change
  • Temperature
  • Surface of landing area
  • Altitude

“C”: Commit 

This is the few seconds just before you hit the shot and where you need to create your own trigger that confirms you’re in a beneficial frame of mind and ready to swing. A commitment trigger helps fill those vital few seconds, assists with keeping the demons out of your thoughts and keeps things focused what TO DO instead of what not to do.

Visual examples:

  • “I see a runway leading from my ball to the target, then I swing.”
  • “I see the apex of the shot in the air, then I swing.”
  • “I burn a thin red laser line into the green on the trail that my ball will take to the hole, then I roll the putt.”

Verbal examples:

  • Say to yourself “This is perfect!” then swing.
  • Say to yourself “Right at it!” then swing.
  • Say to yourself “I own this!” then swing.

Feel/Sensations:

  • “I let out a breath, then swing.”
  • “When my feet feel grounded and solid, then I swing.”
  • “When I feel connected to the target, then I swing.”

Rhythm examples:

  • “I look at the target three times, then swing.”
  • “I count to four … 1) is positioning my club behind the ball, 2) is my feet getting set, 3) is when I look at the target, and 4) is my backswing begins.”

[quote_box_center]

A high handicapper will be surprised at how often the mind will make the muscles hit the ball to the target, even with a far less than perfect swing.

— Harvey Penick

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“E”: Execute or Exit

Execution is simply swinging the club. There is virtually no time that takes place between the time you become committed and the time you swing. The commitment trigger not only counters any negativity but also fills the timeframe when most negative thoughts creep into your mind. However, there are times when you need to back off (Exit) a shot and regroup. This would include:

  • Any negativity creeps in your mind
  • Your eyes drift to, say the pin, when your target is something else
  • You get distracted
  • Score comes to mind
  • The wind speed or direction change
  • You’re not really 100 percent committed
  • You’re thinking about what others might be thinking about you

No one else is to blame for the shots you hit — it is purely your responsibility. Back away and gather yourself if needed. The best level of commitment is one that engrosses you so much in your shot that you don’t even notice the distractions that are around you. Being so into the process of your shot allows you to disregard poor shots helping you to put them behind you and dramatically aiding your ability to bring a clear and focused approach to your next shot.

Rules

When using the scorecard for A.C.E. you can enter your percentage score for 9-hole or 18-hole rounds of golf into the website www.golfscrimmages.com. You earn dots for each shot based on the following:

  • If you correctly ANALYZE the shot, place a dot in the “A” box. If after hitting the shot you realize that you failed to Analyze a factor then you do not get a dot in the “A” box.
  • If you wholeheartedly go through your COMMITMENT trigger on the shot, place a dot in the “C” box.
  • You automatically get a dot in the “E” EXECUTE box unless you hit the ball when you should have Exited the shot (ie: score came to mind, wind changed, doubt, negativity, eyes looked at something other than your target, the result, etc.)

A.C.E. every shot and watch your scores go down and your enjoyment go up!

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Trent Wearner is the No. 1-rated teacher in Colorado by Golf Digest Magazine, as well as a two-time Colorado PGA Teacher of the Year (2004, 2014). Along the way, he has been recognized as a Top 20 Teacher Under Age 40 by Golf Digest, a Top 50 Kids Teacher in America by U.S. Kids Golf and a Top Teacher in the Southwestern U.S. by GOLF Magazine. Trent is also the author of the book Golf Scrimmages and creator of the website GolfScrimmages.com

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. marcel

    Oct 22, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    there is no confidence with no skill. you can only apply mental training to skills… or in another words you can be as cocky as Donald T. and it all goes away after a shank and no clue how to play 😉

  2. Trent Wearner

    Oct 18, 2015 at 9:31 am

    Hello OCD – I understand that a routine (A.C.E.) is not a traditional game but hopefully by turning it into a game at first, it will become more appealing to people, that they’ll begin to realize the importance of having one, that they’ll have some sort of guidance to its inner workings, and then hopefully it will become a more permanent part of all of their shots.

  3. OCD

    Oct 17, 2015 at 2:52 am

    Calling this fundamental routine a GAME is why most players fail.

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Instruction

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.

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Clement: Stop ripping off your swing with this drill!

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Not the dreaded headcover under the armpit drill! As if your body is defective and can’t function by itself! Have you seen how incredible the human machine is with all the incredible feats of agility all kinds of athletes are accomplishing? You think your body is so defective (the good Lord is laughing his head off at you) that it needs a headcover tucked under the armpit so you can swing like T-Rex?

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How a towel can fix your golf swing

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This is a classic drill that has been used for decades. However, the world of marketed training aids has grown so much during that time that this simple practice has been virtually forgotten. Because why teach people how to play golf using everyday items when you can create and sell a product that reinforces the same thing? Nevertheless, I am here to give you helpful advice without running to the nearest Edwin Watts or adding something to your Amazon cart.

For the “scoring clubs,” having a solid connection between the arms and body during the swing, especially through impact, is paramount to creating long-lasting consistency. And keeping that connection throughout the swing helps rotate the shoulders more to generate more power to help you hit it farther. So, how does this drill work, and what will your game benefit from it? Well, let’s get into it.

Setup

You can use this for basic chip shots up to complete swings. I use this with every club in my bag, up to a 9 or 8-iron. It’s natural to create incrementally more separation between the arms and body as you progress up the set. So doing this with a high iron or a wood is not recommended.

While you set up to hit a ball, simply tuck the towel underneath both armpits. The length of the towel will determine how tight it will be across your chest but don’t make it so loose that it gets in the way of your vision. After both sides are tucked, make some focused swings, keeping both arms firmly connected to the body during the backswing and follow through. (Note: It’s normal to lose connection on your lead arm during your finishing pose.) When you’re ready, put a ball in the way of those swings and get to work.

Get a Better Shoulder Turn

Many of us struggle to have proper shoulder rotation in our golf swing, especially during long layoffs. Making a swing that is all arms and no shoulders is a surefire way to have less control with wedges and less distance with full swings. Notice how I can get in a similar-looking position in both 60° wedge photos. However, one is weak and uncontrollable, while the other is strong and connected. One allows me to use my larger muscles to create my swing, and one doesn’t. The follow-through is another critical point where having a good connection, as well as solid shoulder rotation, is a must. This drill is great for those who tend to have a “chicken wing” form in their lead arm, which happens when it becomes separated from the body through impact.

In full swings, getting your shoulders to rotate in your golf swing is a great way to reinforce proper weight distribution. If your swing is all arms, it’s much harder to get your weight to naturally shift to the inside part of your trail foot in the backswing. Sure, you could make the mistake of “sliding” to get weight on your back foot, but that doesn’t fix the issue. You must turn into your trial leg to generate power. Additionally, look at the difference in separation between my hands and my head in the 8-iron examples. The green picture has more separation and has my hands lower. This will help me lessen my angle of attack and make it easier to hit the inside part of the golf ball, rather than the over-the-top move that the other picture produces.

Stay Better Connected in the Backswing

When you don’t keep everything in your upper body working as one, getting to a good spot at the top of your swing is very hard to do. It would take impeccable timing along with great hand-eye coordination to hit quality shots with any sort of regularity if the arms are working separately from the body.

Notice in the red pictures of both my 60-degree wedge and 8-iron how high my hands are and the fact you can clearly see my shoulder through the gap in my arms. That has happened because the right arm, just above my elbow, has become totally disconnected from my body. That separation causes me to lift my hands as well as lose some of the extension in my left arm. This has been corrected in the green pictures by using this drill to reinforce that connection. It will also make you focus on keeping the lead arm close to your body as well. Because the moment either one loses that relationship, the towel falls.

Conclusion

I have been diligent this year in finding a few drills that target some of the issues that plague my golf game; either by simply forgetting fundamental things or by coming to terms with the faults that have bitten me my whole career. I have found that having a few drills to fall back on to reinforce certain feelings helps me find my game a little easier, and the “towel drill” is most definitely one of them.

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