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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!

Previous Games of the Weekend

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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

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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Instruction

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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Instruction

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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