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Either plan for excellence, or underachieve

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In late December, I returned from working with young professionals and preparing them for 2018 and tours ahead. From my experience, in the past 10 years, the challenge to get to the top ranks has become so much more difficult in professional sports – and golf is no exception. There are just so many more talented players attempting to make a living out of the game. That’s why being ultra prepared technically, physically, strategically, mentally and emotionally is so important.

The preparation and planning sessions are so critical to the young players’ year ahead and directly related to their year-long results. I typically spend at least a day with the player. The day includes their approach in every part of their game and the mindset around each piece. We critically examine every aspect of their game: from the time they drive in the parking lot to practice habits to round preparation to decision-making on the course to reflection after the round. I break the sessions into the following areas:

  1. Swing motion and the long game
  2. Short game (chipping, pitching, bunker play)
  3. Putting
  4. Trouble/recovery shots
  5. Practice
  6. Strategy/Decision-making on-course
  7. Preparation
  8. Assessment/Reflection

My approach with these young professionals is to highlight how to develop a great mindset and functional game plan in each area to best maximize their time and abilities. Without structure and a customized plan, their careers become a hit-and-hope scenario, potentially leading to long stints on the mini-tours and frivolously throwing sponsor money into the wind.

Let me now share with you an example of a few key points we consider in each of the areas above to highlight how we help players get into the right mindset around all areas of the game. All work is meant to build a more self-aware, self-confident, focused, resilient, optimistic and independent player. The work always starts with both a detailed yearly plan with targets, steps to action and weekly activity plans committed to by the player.

1. Swing motion and the long game

  • Structured 30 percent of practice time dedicated to long game
  • Make sure player owns and embraces any movements in the swing that make the player unique (every player has them)
  • A critical attention to fundamentals in practice sessions with a focus on balance and rhythm
  • A dedicated amount of time to build a process that develops distance control in the wedge game
  • An emphasis on functionality of the swing vs “the look” of it on video
  • Emphasis of elimination of one side of the course with a chosen driver shape
  • The process for testing any changes before bringing them to the course

2. Short game (chipping, pitching, bunker play)

  • Structured 40 percent of practice time dedicated to short game shots
  • Embrace the short game understanding that ball striking comes and goes. A well-developed short game is a constant and the key to scoring
  • Review developmental exercises and activities focusing on creativity. Practice must have a level of pressure, urgency and intensity
  • The process for testing any changes before bringing them to the course

3. Putting

  • Structured 30 precent of practice time dedicated to putting
  • Making sure there’s an emphasis on feel, flow and instinct, not a robotic mindset and obsession with precision and perfection that creates tension and apprehension
  • Evaluation of putting routine consistency. Preparation factors include grain, break and speed
  • Attitude around lag putts, short putts, birdie putts and par putts

4. Trouble/recovery shots

  • The decision-making process when considering options (risk and reward)
  • Embracing the challenge of trouble shots (mindset)
  • Ensuring practice of a variety of trouble shots (long and short) as a part of long-game and short-game time allocation

5. Practice

  • Ensuring every practice session has an objective. What am I trying to achieve?
  • Every shot in practice must have meaning (similar to golf course feelings)
  • Eliminate distractions. Put away the phone until after practice
  • Helping the player leverage their weekly practice schedule. Identifying current needs/priorities
  • Practice must always end in testing if any changes are made. Agreement around the process for long-game, short-game and putting

6. Strategy/decision-making on-course … and the mindset around it

  • Structuring the consistent routine from time of arrival at tee, green, ball in fairway to executing shot
  • Think box (conscious) and play box (subconscious) shot preparation evaluation
  • Link between feelings of the day and strategy (making adjustments)
  • Decisions re: green, yellow and red light pin locations
  • Par-5 strategy based on strengths (risk vs. reward)
  • Planning the time between shots

7. Preparation

  • Routine (time before tournament rounds). What works best
  • Structure of practice on tournament days. Allocation of time
  • Equipment: making sure equipment meets the needs of how the player wants to play and complements strengths
  • Exercises to develop key mental/emotional competencies to support overall plan (i.e. practical mindfulness exercises)

8. Assessment/reflection: how to take the lessons out of the action

  • Understanding how to take the learning out of each practice session and round
  • Development of questions to ask to efficiently extract the learning
  • Use of customized questionnaires to assess performance
  • Making sure the performance journal tool (written or digital) is a habit

There is a significant amount of detail and planning that goes in to creating the right professional plan for a player. The points above highlight the basic structure and are always customized based on needs of the player. I hope you can take some of these points and apply them to help you plan for excellence in your golf game in the coming season.

In my next article, I will highlight the key roadblocks/mistakes I see holding players back from maximizing their abilities in the professional game.

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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]

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. steve

    Feb 16, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    “Without structure and a customized plan, their careers become a hit-and-hope scenario, potentially leading to long stints on the mini-tours and frivolously throwing sponsor money into the wind.”
    This is such a telling comment on the arrested mentality of most aspiring young players. Unfortunately, most are immature mentally and physically regardless of their playing ability. They cannot discipline themselves because they have a childish approach to the game and career. They play for fun and practice becomes a painful experience. Only those with an obsessive-compulsive mentality and proper mentoring and training can succeed. They are few.

  2. Philip

    Feb 16, 2018 at 10:42 am

    Very nice … going to use it as a template for this season to ensure I get on track fast and do not drift – thanks

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The 19th Hole Episode 141: The (golf) show must go on!

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Host Michael Williams has breaking news on The PGA Merchandise Show going virtual in 2021 from Marc Simon of PGA Golf Exhibitions. Also features John Buboltz with the latest putters and irons from Argolf.

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Barney Adams: Ball rollback isn’t the right move to combat “The Golfer of Tomorrow”

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The announcing crew at the 2020 U.S. Open seemed obsessed with “the bombers”—players who drove the ball extreme distances with little regard for the occasional tee shot into the rough. TV has selected Bryson DeChambeau as their representative, given his length and victory.

I thought I’d wait a bit to see what the industry sources had to say. I can’t say it’s unanimous, because I haven’t seen everything, but the theme is: “Get Ready for The Golfer of Tomorrow”

  • 350-yard carry
  • Clubhead speed which tears through the rough allowing the ball to launch high and carry to the green
  • The ‘new’ instructor who teaches distance be it ground up or whatever new method is used
  • Gym sessions producing athletes who look more like football players
  • And last, a whole new shelf of steroids for golf

At the same time the USGA and its organizational allies are planning meetings focusing on not if the ball will be rolled back, but when—clearly, influenced by visual evidence from a great Winged Foot course in our national championship.

Let’s look deeper!

A hypothetical: go back a few months. You are on the planning committee for the U.S. Open to be held at Winged Foot, one of America’s great venues. This year because of COVID-19 there will be no galleries, something never experienced at a USGA major golf event. I repeat, your committee is planning for the U.S. Open. That implies “Open Rough” a term that is significant on its own. You don’t play from Open Rough, you escape…maybe.

The nature of Open Rough is a thick chunky base with long tendrils reaching skyward. These make it very difficult to find your ball in the best of circumstances and when attempting to advance these tendrils wrap themselves around your hosel closing the face, sending your ball deeper into hostile territory. That’s if you can even find it, Open rough has “disappeared” many balls over the years and done so within full view of gallery spectators aiding course marshals. The rule of thumb for competitors has always been to find the most reasonable patch of fairway and get out.

But this is the year of COVID-19. No galleries. Marshals, but relatively few because of no galleries. Now, considering that normal U.S. Open rough will produce many searches where marshals are important, the shortage of them will cause endless searches—which don’t make for great TV viewing. So, a decision is made, cut the rough down so shots can be found. Still in the rough but sitting on the chunky base and very often can be played. A tough call for the purist but an objective economic evaluation leaves no choice.

The announcers regale us with astonishing distances and swing speeds that allow escape from Open Rough that used to be impossible! The golf publications jump on this theme and predict that the Golfer of Tomorrow will be “DeChambeau-like” not sweet swingers but physical hulks rewriting the book on distance strongly influenced by no fear of the rough.

My point here is those publications and instructors, jumping on the “longer and slightly crooked is better” bandwagon have added 2+2 and gotten 5 when using the 2020 U.S. Open as a premise.

DeChambeau is a great and powerful player, however, I don’t think he’s known for his putting. Now I may have dozed off but I don’t remember him being widely praised for his putting. He should have been, it was terrific, probably influenced his score! He is our National Champion, an unsurpassable honor. But his style has me betting that the USGA is working on dates to discuss changing the golf ball, as in making it shorter.

I’m 100% against such a move. Golf is a game where amateurs can go to the same course play the same clubs and given a huge difference in skill achieve some measure of affiliation with the pros. A birdie is a birdie, not a long or short ball birdie. From a business perspective, the overwhelming majority of those golfers financially supporting golf are over 50. And we want them to hit it shorter?

Well, Mr. Adams what would you do? I know zero about golf ball manufacturing, but keeping the distance the same I’d change the dimples to increase curvature—just enough so it doesn’t affect slower swings that much but very high swing speeds so it’s in the player’s head

More thoughts. As an admitted TV viewer, get rid of those yardage books. Fine for practice rounds but when the bell rings it should be player and caddie, not an “on green” conference. What’s next, a staff meeting?

I’ll conclude with a note to the PGA Tour and, importantly, an admonition. To the PGA Tour: The minute a tee goes into the ground on #1 every player is on the clock. Stroke penalties, not fines, will get their attention.

To the rest of the golfing world: Let’s not blindly pursue the Golfer of Tomorrow concept without considerably deeper study.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Lessons from your glove

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Almost all golfers wear a glove, but most don’t realize that a close inspection of your glove can tell you a lot about your golf swing and your equipment. It’s like your own little barometer of some things that could be going on that can negatively affect your performance.

One of the simplest things to look at is how quickly your new white glove begins to turn black . . . even if you are using grips on your clubs that are some other color. That’s because the moist and tacky glove picks up dirt and grime from your grips. Yes, they get dirty down in the bottom of your golf bag, and grips need to be cleaned regularly. The best way to do that is with a soft bristle brush and a dry, mildly abrasive cleanser like Ajax, Comet, etc. It’s a good way to invest about a half hour in your equipment on a regular basis.

Just rinse each grip with warm water, sprinkle the cleaner on it, and brush away. The white foam will quickly darken as dirt is removed from the grip and then you can just rinse thoroughly. Be sure to rub the grip with your hands while rinsing so that you can feel when there is no more soap residue – you do NOT want to leave any soap on the grip. When you are finished, your grips will feel like new.

Another great reveal from your glove is the soundness of your left hand hold on the club. The vast majority of golfers wear out their gloves in the heel of the hand, many of you much more quickly than you should. That’s because almost all golfers allow the club to move in their left hand during the swing. There are two reasons for this movement, which, by the way, is a power killer and accuracy thief.

The first problem is that most golfers hold the club too much in their palm, so that the club is across this heel pad – rather than under it – from the start. That kind of hold on the club prevents you from having the left-hand control good golf requires. [NOTE: This is actually aggravated by the fact that the largest part of the golf club grip is being held by the shortest pinky finger. Why that has never changed is beyond me.]

If you will grip down on every club even an inch, you will find that it is easier to hold the club firmly in the fingers of the left hand, and that will improve your distance and performance dramatically. Don’t worry about “shortening” the golf club as you try this, but I knew a very good player once who purchased all his clubs an inch longer than standard, so that he could grip down on them by that same amount to get a better hold on the club . . . pretty smart idea, actually.

The other reason golfers wear out their gloves in the heel pad area is that they are allowing their wrists to “hinge” in the downswing, rather than rotate through impact. The angle between the golf club and your left forearm should remain relatively constant from address to top of backswing back to impact. Yes, there is a little hinging, but it must be minimized to allow a proper rotational release through the impact zone.

If you do that incorrectly, you will lose much of your stored-up power. But if you do it right, the golf swing becomes much more efficient . . . and your gloves last a lot longer.

Another wear pattern I see often is a wearing of the glove at the first segment of the forefinger. This also indicates “looseness” at the top, which allows the club to “hinge” at that point. Again, a firm hold with the left hand throughout the swing is paramount to repeated solid contact.

So, take a close look at your gloves and see what you can learn. My bet is that it will be a bit eye-opening for you.

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