Play Tournament Tough!
Enter The Big Stuff!
A lot of times we feel like we need to work up to being ready to play in bigger events, but nothing accelerates the growth and learning process like putting yourself out there amongst the best competitors. Think big, pick your dream event and go for it. You’ll find the rewards will be way greater than playing safe or going small. Check out the tournament lineup in your part of the country and sign-up for an event that takes your competitive experience to the next level!
Play The Percentages
One misconception recreational players have about professionals is the assumption the game’s best don’t hit really terrible golf shots. The reality is golf is a challenging game at any level, and even top talent hits it off the mark every now and again. The secret to low scores is keeping your ball consistently in position where scoring is even possible. This means leaving yourself with easy shots, even if your contact is less than your best. When playing from the tee, use your natural ball flight to maximize your landing area. The average fairway is approximately 30 yards in width. Being that the majority of tee shots will exhibit curvature, aiming down the middle essentially limits your available landing space to only 15 yards to either side. To maximize landing area, aim to the appropriate perimeter based on your normal ball flight. In this scenario, an unlikely straight shot will still find the edge of the fairway. A normal curve will find the middle, and an aggressive curve will find the opposite portion of the fairway.
Approach shots are all about hitting a safe part of the green that allow for an easy par or run at birdie. Architects and course supertintendants love to sucker players into choosing overly risky decisions. Flags tucked in tricky corners, near water or protected by daunting bunkers are meant to invite you to danger. Getting close to the pin requires a perfect shot and the risk rarely matches the reward. Instead of falling prey to the diabolical, adopt the mantra of making “confident swings at conservative targets!” It’s a great strategy that will keep you in position to score, while eliminating any blow up holes. See Photo Gallery.
Flags tucked in tricky corners, near water or protected by daunting bunkers are meant to invite you to danger.
Stand and Deliver
High level short game players understand the nuances associated with playing green side shots. One cool technical element to take note of is how basic posture changes through the progression of chipping, pitching and sand shots. When chipping, consider standing closer and taller than normal. This adjustment makes the club sit more “toe down” ensuring an easier glide through the grass, while minimizing the amount of arc in the swing. Two important factors in producing clean contact and on target hits.
Pitch shots adopt a more traditional posture, with the club soled naturally to the turf, whereas bunker shots requires a substantially lowered body position. Take note of the sink in my knees and low position of the handle. Two position changes that help produce a shallow cut leading to high, soft spinners! See Photo Gallery.
Shift Your Perspective
One of the more confusing aspects associated with putting is green reading. The most common problem I see golfers make is significantly under-reading the break. In fact, research has shown most golfers, even very good players tend to under read putts by up to 75 percent.
I learned a lot about reading greens during my years coaching for Dave Pelz. Part of the learning process was demonstrating just how far off a person’s read actually was. I always loved setting up a test putt for a big group. I’d pick a putt with about three to four feet of break and then let each individual offer their best guess. In the hundreds of times doing this exercise, I don’t believe a single person ever nailed the exact break. Like the research suggests, most were at or below the 25 percent line. The secret to creating a more accurate read lies in your ability to make the break “come to life.” When we view the hole from a straight line perspective the break remains partially hidden, however, when we shift perspective in most cases the truth reveals itself. See Photo Gallery.
World Class Warm-Up
Today’s top players have a much more advanced approach to pre-game preparation. In fact, most pros are already fully warmed up before they set foot on the practice tee. In general they’ll spend about an hour preparing their bodies to swing the club ahead of time, whereas the average player thinks hitting a few shots before they reach the first tee will get them loose. When you’re watching your favorite stars hit balls before play, it’s got nothing to do with preparing the body, but rather honing specific shots and getting into the proper mindset for competition.
It’s not only the extra time put in that makes the difference. Today’s players have made getting ready a science. Some research has even shown that basic stretching might not be as effective as you think. What golfers should understand is that there are two different kinds of stretches … either static or dynamic. Static stretches would most commonly be positions you hold for 30 seconds or longer, whereas a dynamic stretch prepares the muscle though continuous motion.
Research shows dynamic stretching can lead to a 1.6 percent increase in vertical jump height (a common test for explosive power). But static stretching right before golf can actually diminish a player’s explosiveness.
Dynamic stretching with light resistance using elastic bands and tubing can lead to up to a 5.6 percent improvement in driving distance. This upgraded stretching practice can even keep the increased power output elevated for up to 24 hours after the warmup. With evidence like that, it’s no wonder players are paying more attention to their preparation.
So what does a typical PGA Tour player warmup look like? It normally begins with a cardio warmup on a treadmill, bike, stair climber or elliptical machine to help get the player’s heart rate elevated and blood flow moving. Dynamic and (elastic-band) stretches often focus on glute activation, hip and shoulder mobility as well as balance. Also included are myo-fascial release therapies such as massaging muscles with a foam roller or other trigger-point devices designed to break up tightness or knots. The key is to plan ahead and put in some effort. If you’re playing to win, the extra time will definitely be worth the effort! See Photo Gallery.
Here’s the deal. People are at their best when they FEEL their best. Period. If you’re going to play your best golf, you need to consistently be operating from an elevated mood. The great news is YOU control your mood. How? Through the thoughts you choose. The “Freedom Formula” is understanding the connection between thoughts, feelings, actions and results. Positive thoughts elevate our mood leading to greatest access to our “best stuff.” Conversely, negative thinking lowers our mood leading to mostly garbage or at best a lesser version of what we’re capable of. The challenge is to practice kickstarting the formula on each and every shot by thinking of something that makes you feel pumped. It doesn’t even have to be rooted in reality. If it gets you excited, any thought is fair game. Following your shot, learn to suspend judgement of the outcome. The mentally tough athlete understands that judging an outcome in a negative way lowers their mood, which will in turn possibly have a negative affect on their ability to perform on the next shot.
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