Golf: The Mind

This blog is about the mind, not the brain, and there is a difference. Boy, is there a difference. If you look up information about the mind, you will get a large variety of ideas and theories.  What I found interesting is, if you start with googling the brain, you will get mostly, if not all, academic and scientific sites.  If you google the mind, you will get philosophic sites, and some of the other two sites.  The mind has much more debate, about where it is,( yes not everybody thinks it is in the brain), about what it does, and how to control it.   The mind seems to encompass all facets of life, the past, the present, and the future. Most sites seemed to be interested in what the mind can do with the future.  The mind can change the way you eat, behave, and perform various activities relating to work and recreation.  These are all related to changing thought processes and attitudes. Mind control is discussed at various sites, ranging from brainwashing, hypnosis, and marketing ploys, to affect the mind.  On the other hand, the brain sites are much more scientific and discuss the functions of the brain.  We have learned a lot about the brain, over the last 40 years because of advance neuro imaging, which shows which parts of the brains are functioning, when we are thinking, or performing simple tasks. However, all this brain imaging has at times led us down the wrong path concerning how the brain really works, and has not helped us much in answering questions about the mind.

There have been plenty of books on the “Golfing Mind,” and these books could be classified as books on the mental game of golf.  These books discuss a variety of subjects.  They range from visualization, planning of the shots, first tee preparation, positive thinking, and handling pressure, to name just a few.  But does all this have anything to do with the mind.  Before I started reading all these sites on the mind, my answer would have been a 100% positive yes.  After looking at some of these sites, I am not too sure  these golf mental processes have anything to with the mind.  The other question is, what controls the mind?  On the site wikiHow, there is a list of things you can do to control your mind.  They are various things but all of them are related to thoughts. Now where do thoughts originate from?  That can have many answers, including nowhere.  As you can see these questions can go around and around with many perspectives and answers.  But the bottom line is this, do we, as golfers, really care, or should we be concerned with this? This time the answer can be an unequivocal, no.

After pouring through numerous sites on the brain, the mind, and thoughts, here is one man’s view, on what all this means for the golfer.  I think you can forget about a lot of the so called mental preparation that would go into playing a round of golf.  If you like to do these things, plan your round, visualize shots the day before, pre game relaxation exercises, then go ahead. They are not going to hurt you game at all, but probably, they are  not going to help much, either.  Listen, it’s always good to not beat yourself up, think positively, and have an upbeat attitude on the golf course, no matter what happens. This not only can make you a better golfer, but a better person to be around. No one wants to play with a grouch, who gets upset at the first bad shot of the day.  Is there one thing that you can count on from the mind?  In my view yes.  I  believe there is one thing that you can count on from the mind.  I am 100% sure of this. I do not have proof of this, or articles I can reference, because there are just as many articles, that would refute what I am about to conclude.  I think the mind controls the body 100%.   It controls the body so well, that it can even tell us what not to do.  It’s not like our thoughts.  It’s not like the old story, about telling  a person to think about anything but a white elephant in the room.  What do they think about, the white elephant. If your mind tells your body not to do something then it will not do it.  By the same token, if the mind tells you body to do something, it will do it.  I will explore this further in future blogs, and how it applies to playing golf much better.  For now, let this sink in and believe it. The mind controls the body.  The mind controls the body. The mind controls the body. Am I trying to brainwash you? Never mind.

Golf: The Brain

This blog could be the blog about making a blog.  It started out looking at one particular area and then turned into it’s current state, a mixed bag of end of the year thoughts, and highlights. Confused, you should be on my end of this blog. Like most stories, let’s start at the beginning.  The original idea for this golf blog was to look at the right brain, and see if we use the right brain  enough, when we are playing golf. The difference, between the right brain and the left brain, is that the right brain is the more intuitive side, and the left brain is the more factual side.  The left side tells you, this is a pen, and your right side tells you how to use it.  There are lots of articles, and even books about right and left brain dominance, some of which, I have read.  It was thought, that people could be more right brain dominate, and others could be left brain dominate.   I am not going to expound any more about this subject, and  how this affects an individual, because in researching this theory, I found out this is all hogwash.  Boy, do I wish I hadn’t read those books, that proposed the left right brain theory.   More up to date data shows that there is more communication between the left and the right brain than was thought previously.  Even though the right brain may be more intuitive and creative, it is being shown that the left brain may still be driving the bus. This so called dominance of one brain over the other is simply not true. This shot a hole in the idea that maybe we are not as intuitive as we should be on the golf course, especially if we are left brain oriented . This is found in an internet course called Brain Myths Exploded, lessons from Neuroscience.  It is an 11 hour course and I am about half way through it.

Considering, that I am still thinking that this game is 100% mental, once you reach a certain level, I find all this new information on the brain very interesting. Instead of this idea, that one side of the brain is dominating the other side of the brain, maybe it is the lack of communication of the two sides, when we are playing, that causes us to play so poorly at times, or to hit a particular bad shot. This could be saying the say thing as the domination factor,  just in a different way, but I doubt it. Lack of communication is not the same thing as dominance. Meanwhile, unless we get some unusual weather here in the Burg it may be awhile before I get to test out any of these theories. The brain probably is the most important club in the bag when it comes to playing golf. We just don’t know how far we can hit it, yet.

On a more personal note I am headed to San Diego for Christmas with the grandkids and family.  Looking forward to that trip, and seeing everybody.  I was able to play a few more rounds of golf, since the end of the season golf blog.  I wound up playing 135 rounds of golf this year, which is more than last year but just a little shy of my record of 150 rounds.  It will be tough to break that record, because  a lot of 36 hole days were played that year, and I think those days are behind me.  I think I can still play 36 holes in one day but not on a regular basis like I did 3 or 4 years ago.  The weather was better this year, which helped in getting more rounds in, than last  year. My most recent round was highlighted my a near hole in one.  On the 17th hole at Ponderosa I hit a cutting 7 iron about 140 yards into a cold wind that stopped about 3 inches behind and right of the hole.  It was a close call for hole in one number 6.   It has been a good year over all and I hope that I continue to have good health and be able to play this goofy game as much as I want. There may be one more blog before the end of the year but if there is not, Happy New Year, and see you in 2020.

 

Golf: The Race to the CME Globe

This week is the final event of the LPGA tour, their tour championship, with the winner taking home 1.5 million dollars.  If you are a sports fan, and not a big golf fan, you would never know it.  I checked seven internet sports sites, ESPN, Yahoo, Fox, Sports.com. MSN, CBS, and NBC, and none of them had a lot to say about the event, and no leaderboards on Thursday or Friday.  I looked at all the sites on Thursday morning, Thursday night, and Friday night, and things were pretty sparse.  I looked at the home page of these web sites.  On Thursday morning  ESPN had a preview article, about 10 stories down, Sports.com had an article only two rows down, and there was nothing about the event on the other sites.  Thursday night ESPN had a story about one of the rookies playing and NBC sports had an article about the leader.  No leaderboards were to be found.  Friday night ESPN had an article about the Korda sisters, and Sport.com had a story about the leader. The rest of the web sites had nothing related to the event.   This was on the main pages of the web sites, and I am sure if you searched the web site, you could have found a leader board, but you did not have to do that, for the current men’s event.  The most surprising lack of coverage was the NBC site, since they are televising the event  LIVE on Sunday.  The Golf Channel showed the first two rounds and today’s round on tape delay.  Let’s hear it for the Golf Channel, real  supporter of the LPGA tour.  This is the season finale, one of the biggest events on the LPGA tour with it’s biggest winner’s check.  So why the lack of coverage?

Maybe, they are trying to keep it a secret, that the 1.5 million dollar winners check is a very nice sum, but it is still just .1 the amount that the PGA Fedex Cup champion won.  One of the problems is that all these web sites seem to have their own product to sell.  Fox sports is the worse, as they plug their shows through out the web’s home page.  Not much room for the LPGA there.  Plus the U. S. Women’s Open had one of their lowest ratings of all time on Fox this year.  ESPN is into the NBA.  If some one in the NBA doesn’t get what he ordered on his pizza, it will be on the ESPN web site.  CBS is into the NFL, and  again any little story about football is going to be on the website.  This Sports.com website is nothing but ads, although they said the most about the tournament, which is not saying much.  MSN just seems to flounder around showing things that happened 3 days ago.  But the mystery is the NBC site, that has a golf channel section.  Very little coverage of a an event that they are going to televise against the NFL on NBC and Fox, tomorrow.  Maybe they just feel that no matter what they do, nobody is going to watch, ( I am by the way), so why promote the event, and look even worse, when nobody watches.  Then there’s the Golf Channel, with tape delay coverage on the first three days.  They are showing the men’s tournament live and they should be doing the reverse, but this is what happens when men make decisions concerning women.   Speaking of men making decisions for women, the LPGA decided to extend their television contract to end at the same time as the PGA tour in 2021.  Somehow they are going to try and make some kind of all encompassing deal  with the networks.  Men helping out women. Come on ladies, when has a man ever helped a woman without expecting a lot in return.  If that deal goes through, maybe the LPGA will have to caddie at some PGA events.

Of course at times, the LPGA has been their own worse enemy.  When Michelle Wie was one of the hottest commodities in golf, they refused to let her play because she was too young.  Then their previous commissioner wanted everybody to speak English, good God.  Even though the last woman commissioner was a disaster, they should get a women to lead the organization, and go out and make their own television deal.  They need to market their product much better.   In this day and age you should not have to search the sports sites to find something about the LPGA tour.  They have great players, play exciting golf, and are much more pleasing to watch, than those old fogies on the Senior Tour.  Yeah that’s right I wrote senior not Champions.  That was a nice marketing idea by that tour, to keep people from realizing that these guys have a hard time tying their shoes.  So, Ladies take charge and get your tour on the sports map where it belongs.

Golf: Season Wrap Up

Even though there is golf yet to be played in Western Pennsylvania, the handicap season ended on November 15th and the golf will be hit and miss for the rest of the year. It is time to look back at the golf season of 2019 and see what was good, bad, and indifferent.  This was the year of 100% mental golf, and it was neither a success or a complete failure. I learned some things, but in the end, did not make much progress in improving my game.  I started the year with a 4.1 index and ended with a 4.8.  My highest was 5.2, and the lowest, other than my start, was 4.2.   Before I summarize the year, lets break down each section of my game for 2019.

Driver.  This was the best part of my game.   I would have a bad driving day once in awhile, but for the most part I drove the ball well, and kept my driving distance steady, and did not lose any distance this year.

Fairway wood.   Contrast this with the worst part of my game.  Fairway woods gave me the most problem for the year.  I bought some new 15 degree clubs, and they made things worse, and I went back to my old Orlimar fairway woods, of 16 and 20 degree, and this seemed to help some.  It was with the 15 and 16 degree clubs, that I had the most trouble getting the ball airborne.  This part of my game contributed a lot, to seeing my index go up .7 points.

Irons.  I had a fair year with the irons.   I changed to Titleist AP3 irons with regular graphite shafts.  Theses clubs had strong lofts so a 5 iron was like hitting a 4.5 iron.  These clubs gave me such increased  distance, that I had a hard time adjusting.  I did have some really good days with these irons and will continue to play them.  Even though I have been playing them, since Mid May, I still feel I am going through a learning process with them.

Short game.  This part of my game improved.  I got rid of the chip yips ( another blog) and I am getting better around the greens.  My sand game is still bad but hoping for improvement. One of the things that have helped me is, I went back to using a 60 degree wedge with zero bounce.    This club is the old Cleveland 485 60 degree wedge.  I acquired the club about 2 months ago and have been doing betting around the greens. I use to play this club all the time, and I am glad I went back to it.   Will discuss zero bounce more in another blog.

Putting.   This was the most inconsistent part of my game.  Most recently I have had a good run of putting, which has helped with some low scores, but not quite enough to offset some bad ball striking.  Again getting rid of the yips on the greens has helped immensely.

To summarize, the biggest problem I had this year was where my bad shots went.   I had a very prolonged slump in golf, that started at the end of 2015 and lasted until about June of 2017, and this was the same problem, except then it was much worse.  I had about 10 to 15 rounds in 2016 and 2017, where I did not break 80, but my handicap score was between 76 and 79 due equitable stroke control.  I had the same thing happen in 2019, but not as often. When you top a ball 80 yards, or hit it so far off line, that its in the woods, scoring goes out the window.  My fairway wood game was this bad.  I would hit some iron shots, and  trap shots, that were just as horrible.    So that will be the first goal, to hit better bad shots.  Easier said than done, but I will give it a try.  Now to 100% mental golf.  I am still undecided about how to split the game up between the mental and physical side, and I hope to come up with a solution soon.  First I thought it was a 50-50 split.  Then, I went all the way over to 100% mental, and still think that is possible.  It is difficult to remove the physical side of the game entirely.  Maybe I should go a long with Yogi Berra, when he said, baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical. The older I get, which is getting pretty old, I feel that golf will be that mystery game,  I will never solve.  Maybe in Wonderland, tornado anyone.

Golf: Wrist Cock, Part III

It’s hard to believe, but the last time I wrote about the wrists in the golf swing was December of 2015 The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer.  Since that time, I still feel the same, that the  wrists are  the most misunderstood aspect of the golf swing.  I have changed my mind on what the golfer should do, in regards to the position of the club face at the top of the swing.  Back in 2015, I said just let the wrists do what they are going to do, and don’t worry about.  But after doing some experimenting, on what the wrists do in my own golf swing,  I think I can come up with some recommendations on what to do, depending on your clubhead position at the top of the golf swing.  But first lets briefly review what the wrists can do and why this is so confusing to the golfer.

Rather than to get into such terms as supination and pronation, and other wristy terms, lets just take a look at the thumb, when you grip the club.  Just grip the club with one hand, either one is fine, and put your thumb straight down the shaft.  Now by just moving your wrists, you can make your thumb do six things.    You can move your thumb straight up and down.  You can turn your thumb to the left and to the right.  Finally you can roll your thumb to look at the right side of your thumb, and then the left side of your thumb.  These are very distinct moves.  The problem is, that the wrists can do any of these moves partially and some fully during the golf swing.  This results in the clubface being in various positions at top of swing.  None of these positions are wrong.  First let’s look at the two extreme positions.   The clubface is closed or you will hear the term shut faced at the top.  It’s easy to tell this position. At the top of the swing the club face is pointed to the sky.  The two best examples of this position are Dustin Johnson and Brooke Henderson.    Then there is the clubface that is open at the top of the swing.  This position will see the toe of the club pointed to the ground.  This position you can see in the swings of Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and in today’s game Webb Simpson.  In modern professional golf, most players will use the  shut faced or closed position. The open position is the least popular today.   You will see many positions in between, with some players  being square at the top of the swing. You would think this would be ideal, but certainly these players are not dominating the tour.  It really doesn’t matter what they are doing, as long as you know what you are doing at the top of the swing. You should also know the basic shot pattern that your position tends to create. Then you need to decide if you  should  make a conscious change.

The first modern great golfer with the closed clubface at the top was Arnold Palmer.  He did this because it helped him to keep from hooking, and most  of the shut faced players today, are faders of the golf ball.  Even though the club face is closed at the top of the swing, as the club starts down the wrists will rotate the club head in a clockwise fashion, delaying the release of the wrists, which prevents  the toe of the club head turning over resulting in a hook.  Despite being shut faced at the top, Palmer, because of his strength in the hands and wrists still hooked the ball. The shut faced position  helped him to keep from duck hooking.  Hogan had an extremely weak grip combined with being open at top, was his way of obtaining a full release of the wrists without worrying  about hooking the ball.   Sam Snead,  also had big strong hands and wrists, but a beautiful graceful swing, had no trouble drawing the ball from the open at the top club position.  So what is the recreational golfer to do?  The first thing to do, is to determine what is your natural wrist action in the golf swing.  Through video, or just stopping  and looking  at the top of your backswing, determine what is your club face position at the top.  Face pointing to the sky you are closed.  Toe of the clubhead pointing down to the ground, the face is opened.  Somewhere in between you are getting closer to square but try and determine if you are closer to open or shut faced.  It may be perfectly square.  If you are closed at the top, and hitting relatively straight shots, maybe with a little fade or draw, then you need to do nothing.   But if you are closed at the top and hitting a lot of shots to the right and slicing like crazy then maybe you better square up or go open at the top.  This is unnatural for you, so how do you do it.  At the start of your backswing, feel a distinct rolling of the wrists so that you feel that the right palm is facing the sky as your hands reach hip high.  This will easily get your club face in the open position at the top of the swing.  Now on the downswing the toe of the clubhead will begin to rotate in a counter clockwise direction which will help you draw the ball or hit it fairly straight, with a nice full release.  As you get use to this position at top of the swing, then you may not have to rotate the wrists so early in the backswing, but whatever works is fine.   If you are already an open at the top player and you are hitting everything pretty straight or with a slight draw or fade then you don’t want to change a thing.  But if you are open at top and hitting a bunch of duck hooks to the left, then you might want to try to get  closed at the top of the swing.  In order to do this you will need to rotate your wrists in the early part of the swing so you feel your right palm is pointing to the ground at the hip high junction of the swing.  Once you get the feel of your new position then you may not need to do such a distinct move at the start of the swing.   If you find you are somewhere in between but having a hooking or slicing problem then follow the above instructions accordingly. Get shut faced to help a hook and get open to help a slice.

What about doing this for the type of shot you want to play or the situation you are in.  This is what I am doing at the moment.  If trouble is on the left or I want something straight or with a little fade, then I will go shut faced which is more my natural swing. I will go shut faced if I want to take something off an iron shot.   If the trouble is on the right then I will go with an open face at the top. If I want to draw the ball and get a little more power then I will go to the open face position at the top. Since the moves of the wrists are infinite, the possibilities of what you can do with golf ball is infinite.  But in order to get all this benefit to your game you must use your wrists first, and then know what your natural position is at the top of the swing, and go from there.  Good luck, and here is to lower scores.

Golf

Golf, the game for the masses, that everyone can play and enjoy. You can play the game of golf until the day you die. People are playing golf in their nineties, and kids can start playing when they are five years old. It is the game for everyone, but is it. For what ever reason golf has always had some kind of unwritten caste system. There is really never an exclamation on why this wonderful game became this way. Even within the game, there was this elitist attitude with the general public, when it came to golf. The golf professional was looked upon as a lower class citizen, during the first third of the 20th century. During tournaments that were held at country clubs the golf professional was not allowed access to the clubhouse facilities. Speaking of the golf professional, their organization, the Professional Golfers Association of America, had in its  by laws until 1961, that in order to be a member you had to be Caucasian. Let that sink in for awhile.

Country clubs are the last bastion of I want to play with my own kind, philosophy. The unwritten rule that many clubs would not allow minorities and people of the Jewish religion is still going on, but there has been some change recently. In the last 10 years there are more  country clubs allowing in their first African American members. There are still many all male golf clubs. There are many rules at most country clubs. Women can only tee off at certain times on the weekend, usually after 11am. The clubs try to make up for this my giving women a day like on Tuesday from 8 to 11 when they have the priority. WOW. There’s the men’s grill, and other rules and regulations that do not exist in what I would call the real world. The justification for these attitudes are we paid a whole lot of money to belong to this club and we will make the rules and play with who we want to play and associate with. If this has been the policy  for years to exclude minorities in country clubs and treat women as second class citizens, why has there been this gradual change to begin to open up the doors to a more diverse group of people. We all know it has nothing to do with a change in social consciousness or attitudes. It has to with $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. Yeah, no kidding. The country club world is hurting, and now needs more members to enjoy all those restricted amenities. This is all well and good. If this leads to more minorities being able to play and enjoy some of the finer golf courses that this country has to offer, great. If this leads  to better treatment of the female golfer, wonderful.   I am sure we may see more  of these positive changes as the golf economic crunch continues.  

This has been going on in golf for years and years, and I am not going to make judgements, or go on about golf’s apparent lack of social conscience.  My question here is, how did this simple game of knocking a little ball around to put it into a hole, develop  this elitist attitude. I am not sure, but here is what I think.  As golf became more popular over the years there was one thing discovered about golf when compared with other sporting endeavors.  Golf could humiliate you like no other sport could.   It’s so simple and looks so easy.   But when you miss that first 15 inch putt, make your first whiff, or take 10 shots to try and get out of a sand trap, before just picking up your ball and walking sheepishly to the next tee, you know that there is something wrong with this game or maybe it’s you. Now it’s bad enough to do this in front of your friends, but to do this in front of strangers, or in front of people that you perceive is  below your so called social standing, is even worse, and adds to the humiliation.  The solution is to simple keep them away, and play with your own kind, to suffer the shame with your dear friends, who know what you are going through. Let’s face it, humility is not one of the traits of captains of business. Golf is simply that game that brings out the worst and the best, out of everyone.  It is too mystifying to be believed, and impossible to explain to someone who has not been through it.  It is this lack of understanding of golf, that has led this great game to develop this caste system. See you on links.  I will be the one walking with my head down while shaking it from side to side.    

100% Mental Golf Rounds 95 to 102

I played 8 rounds since September 1,with a Grand Canyon vacation in the middle from the 9th to the 16th. The rounds were the normal with a lot of ups and downs. The scores were in chronological order, 76,77, 81,75,8,74,80, and 80. The last two 80’s were really disappointing coming off a nice 74. The last round yesterday was in a tournament format, where I imploded on the last 6 holes. This will be a 100% Mental Golf wrap up, as this will be the last blog with this title. The rest of my exploits on the golf course will be under the heading of Golf.

Did I learn anything this year and do I still believe that for a low handicapper golf is 100% mental. You always learn something every time you play a round of golf, even if it you should take up bowling. The game continues to mystify me in so many ways, that I can not write about it in such a small format. I have discussed some of this in previous blogs but I am still lost at times on how to play this game most effectively. One of the things I did learn this year is that it is hard to define 100 % Mental. You would think it would be easy but the thought processes during the round can lead to confusion. You have to play physically. There are times when playing golf your body seems so dysfunctional. This happened to me yesterday. I said I imploded on the last 6 holes but in reality I imploded for almost the entire round. Amazingly I putted very well yesterday. Many times when you are playing tournament golf, that is what costs you the most is poor putting. It was a combination of good luck and some very good putting that got me to two over par after 12 holes. Then I played 6 over for the last 6 holes and many of these holes are not very difficult. I am not going through the gruesome details here but one thing I felt was good during this collapse was my thought process at the time. It was my ball striking for the day that let me down. Going in the day I did not shoot a good round on Friday but that did not bother me. This tournament was a synopsis of how my year has gone. I had 34 full swing shots. I rated them as such: Excellent shots 13, Good shots 6, Average shots 5, and Poor shots 10. On four holes where I made poor shots I was able to scramble for a par. I one putted one time for a bogey. I hit 24 shots that were average or above, it was those 10 poor shots that led to my demise. Now current thinking would have you believe that there may be a flaw in my technique which can only take me so fare. When the pressure builds then the flaw rears its ugly head and bad shots ensue. I do not buy that but I also can not give an answer either. I will see what the rest of the season brings and ” enlighten you in future blogs.

The most interesting thing to happen over this time frame is I think I have stumbled on a working solution to control the yips. I have written blogs in past on the yips. This solution is for the putting yips and the chipping yips. I may elaborate if this proves to be a successful endeavor. I can guarantee you that the yips will have another article in the coming months. But for the overall golf game it is back to the drawing board for now.