Tag Archives: performance

Self Awareness – Play To Your Golf Identity

Can you think back to a time when you played a golf shot that was completely out of character for you?  We’ve all done it, but can you also recall a situation where someone else’s behavior, strategy, or club selection, caused you to change your plans for the worse?  Whether we compete in a friendly game or a serious tournament round, it’s not an uncommon occurrence.  Why?  Because we don’t play to our identity.

Recently, I was playing a match in Myrtle Beach at the Barefoot Fazio course.  The driving range was closed and the fellas agreed to take “breakfast balls” on the first tee.  Personally, I am not a mulligan guy and never have been.  I’ve always prepared myself mentally to put my full energy into my first shot and live with the result.  I have nothing against mulligan guys but that’s not me.  So, everyone was taking a breakfast ball on their first shot unless they struck one pure (and most didn’t).  My first shot went in the right rough but was in play.  Since everyone was taking a mulligan, I did too.  I hit it poorly and into a wet fairway bunker.  The rule is that if you take a breakfast ball, you must play it.  I took two to get out and chopped my way to a 7 on the first hole.  My original tee shot was sitting decent about 110 yards from the green – aarrrggg!

I could have avoided this situation and played to my own identity.  The key is to have total self-awareness.  Understand your capabilities and what you want to do for a given situation.  Understand that opponents may try and get in your head – but deny them entry.  Understand that you can work this to your advantage as well.  A reverse example:  Several years back, I was playing a stroke play round in my club championship.  The third hole was a 175-yard par-3 that was playing into a freshening breeze.  I was hitting second or third in the foursome and made up my mind that it was a 4-iron.  I rushed to the tee box, got there first, and pulled a 3-wood and started taking practice swings.  I got some strange looks from my fellow competitors, but the first guy took too much club and blew his shot over the green into trouble.  I had influenced his behavior because he was paying attention to me rather than his own game.  Yes, this works – if you are discrete and don’t overuse it.

Self-awareness is essential.  Know what you do well, what weaknesses you should stay away from, and try not to fix those weaknesses on the golf course under pressure.  Some folks think they know their strengths and weaknesses, but they don’t.  Try this.  After a round, review your scorecard and jot down single shots that caused you to have good holes or bad holes.  This exercise can be revealing.  Last week, I pushed a drive on my par-4, 2nd hole way right.  I hit a nice punch with a 5-iron to get back in position about 110 yards from the green.  I hit a decent wedge to 25 feet and struggled to two putt for a very lucky bogey.  I was frustrated with my poor first putt, but during the post round analysis, I recognized it was the poor drive that had set up the hole.  My notes also showed that I struggled on a couple par-fives with long iron layup shots.

I was fortunate enough to make three birdies.  My notes included: 50-yard lob wedge, 80-yard sand wedge, 133-yard knock-down 7-iron.  An indication that my partial iron shots were working.  With this data, I have something to work on in practice, and something to try and lean on in future rounds that may yield better scores.

Admittedly, I am a metrics freak but this small amount of data is easy to capture and can improve your focus and concentration.  Give it a try, learn your identity, play and practice to it, and let me know how it goes.

Play well!

How Do You Play Under Pressure?

PressureThink back over the entire course of your golf career to the couple times that you were under the most pressure. How did you handle it? What were the circumstances of the situation and the true source of the pressure? Did you manage to overcome or did you choke? As long as golf and other sports are played at the professional and recreational level there will be pressure situations.Performance Under Pressure

I just finished the New York Times Bestseller Performing Under Pressure by Hendrie Weisinger and J.P. Pawliw-Fry, and it was a fascinating look into the nature of pressure situations and what strategies we can use to combat it. Pawliw-Fry has a background of working with Olympic athletes and interjected many helpful sports analogies which were great for tying golf into the conversation.

The book is divided into three parts. First is an examination of what pressure is and how it’s different from stress. Stress is defined as a constant nagging type entity that comes in many forms and wears you down over time, but pressure is an immediate positive or negative result based on a specific action you might take. You win or lose the tournament based on a single shot or you succeed or fail at the plate with one swing of the bat. In evolutionary terms, you successfully hunted food or you starved, or worse, you were hunted by predatory animals and needed to escape to survive. These are real pressure situations. The authors align many of our present day pressure situations with our evolutionary history.  Included are fascinating data from sports studies supporting the conclusion that it’s mostly a myth that anyone excels under pressure,.  Rather, some are more capable than others to perform close to their natural abilities under pressure and are termed “clutch”.  Among the several nuggets:   clutch hitting in late inning and post-season major league baseball games is mostly a myth, with no hitters consistently able to perform better under these pressure situations. compared to regular season action.  Even Reggie Jackson (Mr. October) never hit better in the post season than the regular season, with his best post season batting average equaling only his fifth best regular season average.

Part two contains a breakdown of short-term strategies you can use to regulate and release the flow of pressure. One interesting study they did was with golfers and the concept of using word anchors compared to swing thoughts. One control group was told to think mechanical thoughts while hitting shots under pressure while another was to think the anchor thought. Anchors were non-concrete action words like “smooth” and “balanced”, and they proved that the group using the anchors performed much better than the mechanical group. This should come as no surprise.  Players who play golf swing instead of golf take note.

Part three describes developing a long term strategy of building a COTE of armor to immunize yourself against pressure. COTE stands for Confidence, Optimism, Tenacity, and Enthusiasm. Each of these are examined in depth with strategies provided to better yourself across the board. Build up each area and you immunize yourself better to all pressure situations.

Most of these strategies will help you handle pressure in life, at work, as well as on the golf course. It’s an eye opening read and I highly recommend it. Get the book and tell me what you think. Now it’s out to practice and work on my COTE.  Play well!

2015 Season Wrap Up

WrapAlas, it’s supposed to be 72 degrees the day after Christmas in the DMV and no doubt the season could be extended another week, but I’ll be in New England for the holidays.  Let’s call it a wrap on the 2015 golf season and analyze performance.

Usually, not much changes with my game from year to year but 2015 had a notable exception.  This was the year where I made great strides on the greens.  Late in 2014 I had made a change to my pre-shot putting routine that allowed for better speed judgment.  I leveraged that into nearly a full stroke less in putts per round.  The benefit was fully reflected in a lower scoring average and better relation to par stats.  The discovery was exciting and I’ll continue with this in 2016.

My ball striking with the driver also improved as I worked to simplify my mechanics by focusing on making a full shoulder turn.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t parlay better driving into more GIRs and the stats were virtually identical to the previous year.  In fact, every year I’m somewhere between eight and nine greens per round and can’t seem to get over that hump.  No doubt ingrained swing habits and my reluctance to try wholesale changes are playing a part, and while I’d like to ultimately get to an average of 10 GIRs, that’s a stretch goal.

The bad news was short game.  I wasn’t a basket case like Tiger before The Masters, but struggled mentally all year, and played defensively from the fringe and primary rough. TigerChunk Oddly, my sand game was good since I made a technique change early in the season, but I’ve committed to taking short game lessons in the spring to refresh my approach.

On a positive note, last Saturday I spent a couple of hours at the short game area trying to work the problem and think I may have stumbled into an “ah-ha” moment.  It’s been my hypothesis all along that I have the shots but just cannot decide what to execute and then cannot perform them for whatever reason.  In addition to playing defensively, I feel defensive when thinking of what shot to play.  So I stopped and thought about the problem and realized for the first time that my short game pre-shot routine was different from my full swing pre-shot routine.  I can’t believe that it had not occurred to me in all this time, but I started to use my full swing routine around the green and the simplicity and clarity provided immediate positive feedback.  Then I made a minor mechanical change and stood a little closer to the ball for all shots (picture Raymond Floyd) and voila!  Contact and confidence were back.

I was excited to battle test these changes the next day and went out for my final round of the year in a great mental state.  As is sometimes the case, the confidence yielded a very good ball striking day and a round of 3-over par.  I drove the ball better than I had all year and hit 12 greens.  Five of the six misses were on the fringe and every one was close enough to putt, so I never got to try out my new technique, but the change has left me with a positive mindset going into the off season.  I will set up my driving mat on the patio in the winter and will work on some light chipping technique as well as the pre-shot routine to get ready for 2016.

How did you evaluate your performance this year?  Here’s my final metrics from this year vs. last.

 Year Score To Par GIR Putts
 2015 78.83 7.40 8.54 31.26
 2014 79.97 8.47 8.47 32.25

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015 Mid-Season Golf Report Card

July 4th weekend is almost upon us and it is the traditional half-way point for my golf season and is an excellent opportunity for some game analysis.  Actually, it’s a little past half-way; I lose a bit of steam right about the time Tom Brady’s deflated footballs start to fly, but will play through mid-November.

To date, I have carded 21 rounds.  I enjoy tracking a couple key metrics and always measure my performance against the previous year’s stats.  The KPIs for 2014 full season vs 2015 halfway point:

2014 Avg Score:   79.97 To Par:   +8.47 GIR:   8.47 Putts:   32.25
2015 Avg Score: 79.41 To Par: +7.91 GIR: 7.68 Putts: 30.73

Analysis:

The one number that immediately jumps out is putts.  A reduction of 1.5 putts per round is huge.  To put it in perspective, 1.5 putts per round separates the 1st and 140th ranked putters on tour.  The improvement is due to a change in pre-shot routine I implemented late last year.  Not everything is going in, but I can usually count on having a good day on the greens even when I’m striking it poorly, and that makes the game more enjoyable.  In 2014 I played 31 times and had five rounds with less than 30 putts.  This year I already have seven.  Man, would I love to sniff a sub 30 average.  Anyway, a separate post is coming on how the putting change was implemented.

Second issue and equally important, is that I did not overhaul some part of my game in the off-season or early spring.  How many of you do this?  I always used to, and last year I fell in love with the Tour Tempo book, and later was taking hundreds of swings per day in the back yard in an attempt to make my swing better.  The reality of this was a jumble of swing thoughts and a sore body from over-analysis and overwork.  I’ve only practiced 14 times to-date this year and at the same point in 2014 was at 33.  I was advised that when you’ve played golf for over 40 years, it’s very difficult to change your fundamental golf swing, as Brant Kasbohm from FixYourGame.com so indicated during a video lesson in 2011.  I appreciate his candor and now, just attempt minor tweaks and adjustments between rounds and during play.  So there is nothing to overhaul and I’m enjoying the game more.  My handicap index continues to hover in the 4.5 to 4.9 range, and I don’t expect it to change much.

The third difference is I am finally feeling like myself again after struggling with health issues from October through May.  I am filled with gratitude every time I tee it up after confronting the prospect of not being able to play the game I love.

So, I’m very much looking forward to summer and fall because the hard courses (Myrtle Beach) on my schedule are behind me.  Who knows, maybe I can slice a shot off the old index?  While the total metrics grade out in the B to C range, it’s feeling like straight A’s!

How’s the mid-point state of your season coming?  Ready for the big July 4th weekend on the golf course?  I am!

 

2014 Lessons Learned

LessonsIt’s been repeated many times on this blog and no doubt on several others that the old Albert Einstein adage about the definition of insanity definitely holds true in golf .  If you repeat the same behavior, you’re going to get a similar outcome.  Well, I was not guilty of repeating the same behavior in 2014 but still received essentially the same results as in 2013.

A quick review of  KPIs shows my stroke average dropped from 80.25 to 79.97.  Average GIR improved from 8.15 to 8.47, and putts per round dropped one tenth of a stroke from 32.35 to 32.25.  Amazingly consistent performance considering all the attempts I made at game improvements.  The logical conclusion is that my “game improvements” amounted to mostly WOOD band-aids.  I’m sure others have tried the many improvement route only to bathe in mediocrity.  It’s happened to me before and will probably happen again, so the overall body of work can be summed up as an average year with no surprises.

Three notable lessons were learned which is always a good thing.

Lesson One:  I fell in love with the 9-shot drill early in the season after reading Hank Haney’s The Big Miss.  Only problem was that it was hard to implement and when I finally figured it out, didn’t know what to do with it trying to take it from the range to the course.  Takeaway:  It’s best to not to make significant changes to your ball striking over the winter and focus more on conditioning.  This is the second year in a row I’ve made the same mistake (the previous year it was my pitching technique – aarrrggg!!!)

Lesson Two:  I fell in love with Tour Tempo by John Novosel in the summer and leveraged it to only one really good ball striking round and found it impacted my short game in a very negative way.  Truly a WOOD band-aid that took some skin off on the peel back.  Takeaway:  (and I’m going to partially steal this from Vet’s last couple of excellent posts): Don’t fall in love with a swing thought and think you can repeat it from day to day.

Lesson Three:  In mid summer, because of a job change and new daily routine, I started stopping off at the course for 10-15 minutes of chipping and putting on the way home.  Takeaway:  This worked extremely well in terms of getting a daily fix and feeling current and fresh with all short clubs. . .until the fruit was over-ripened.  Worked great for about a month until I lost interest and had to take a break from the game.  Lesson:  don’t get into too much of a routine.  Mix it up or your concentration will suffer and at worse, you risk burnout.

So there’s your tidbits for 2014.  I’m spending December and January focusing on conditioning and getting healthy.  Hopefully, by mid-February I’ll be ready to rock and roll.  How was your 2014?  Bullish on next year as well?

2013 Golf Season Wrap-Up – 2014 Goals

Looking at the advanced weather forecast for the D.C. area in December, I see nothing but cold and wet.  There is no more golf to be played in 2013, so it’s time to call it a season and review the yearly KPIs.  The data:

Year

Number of Rounds

Scoring Average

GIR

Putts per round

2013

40

80.25

8.15

32.35

2012

34

78.85

8.74

31.88

2011

35

79.60

8.74

32.86

2010

28

79.54

8.32

32.14

2009

27

78.22

8.70

31.81

On thing that immediately jumps out is the consistency of results from year to year, especially with ball striking (8 GIRs) and putting (32 ppr).  While average score nosed up a bit in 2013, the most positive takeaway is the steady increase in number of rounds.  I am playing more golf!  Despite the slight bump in scoring average, my handicap  remained at 5 and what’s painfully evident is that at mid-single digits, the effort to shave a couple strokes off requires a level of play and practice that is difficult to devote to.  This is probably true of most weekend players, or at least those with a handicap below 20.  Have you experienced this?

2013 was also a transition year.  Early in the spring, I was in a prolonged slump, primarily due to the lack of play during the preceding fall and the change to new irons and wedges.  I did not get comfortable with the equipment until early July and then I sustained a hip injury that set me back another three weeks.  But upon returning, the quality of my ball striking improved which was largely due to the fitness work I had done while recovering and the concentrated drilling to correct my spine angle problem.  Thankfully, the improvements continued through the end of the year and I continue to work the hip and back exercises as well as the spine angle drill.  I’ve also fallen in love with the Mizuno JPX 825 irons and Cleveland G16 wedges, but it took some time.

2014 is going to play out differently.  I am transitioning into a new job which will require my undivided attention in the early part of the season.  I doubt that the new gig will afford the opportunity to take two week-long golf trips that I managed in ’13, but I will attempt to make it to the 12-round slug-fest over six days in early June in Myrtle Beach.  I learned this year that play was more important than practice for me, and will continue to leverage that as much as possible, but may not be able to squeeze in the late day emergency nines with the new job.

So for 2014 I’ve set some modest but achievable goals.

  1. Get stroke average back under 79
  2. Get GIR average to 9
  3. Get PPR in the 31.5 – 32.0 range
  4. Keep working out three times per week

What are your goals for 2014?