100% Mental Golf: Rounds 5 and 6

I was able to play on Wednesday and Thursday of this week with both rounds at Scenic Valley.  The scores were 78 on Wednesday and oops 84 on Thursday.    Not very inspiring rounds, and they were  different types of rounds even though the conditions were about the same, with it being just a bit cooler on Thursday, but there was a little more wind on Wednesday.  Scenic Valley for this time of year is in great shape and the greens had been cut and were very smooth to putt.

The Good:   Again, the ball striking was good on both days.  I could nit pick on some things but my driving was good and my iron play was very good on Wednesday.  My short game was not spectacular but was not at the root of the bad scoring.

The Problem:  Putting was an issue, especially on Wednesday with  4 putts under 5 feet missed, and although I did make two nice birdie putts,  missed another 2, between 6 and 10 feet.   I admit the short putt misses started to get to me and did affect my concentration as the round wore on.  My putting was again the problem the next day, but of a different type.   I had terrible distance control with the putts on Thursday, which led to a number of three putts.  This coupled with a slight decline in ball striking, that  easily led to the 6 shot increase the next day.  The biggest problem especially on Thursday, was my visualization process  was not working.  I just couldn’t get a good feel for shots I was trying to play.  I did not have any zone outs but I almost fell back into the trap of looking at my swing as the problem.  It was just one of those days where the picture would not happen.  It did a few times and when it did the shots were very good if not great. There were some other problems that were related to what I call cart golf syndrome.  You can’t go off the path and you think you have taken enough clubs over for the shot, but when you get there, you don’t really have the club you need and go ahead and hit it anyway.  Yes, I know, but it’s March and it is chilly and my happiness did not depend on me hitting a good shot and of course I didn’t. The solution to that problem is easy.  Hopefully, the other problems of the round will be that easy to solve.

Should be able to play about 4 to 5 times beginning this Sunday to the following Sunday, so will have many opportunities to find the solutions.

100% Mental Golf: Rounds 3 and 4

This week I was able to play golf on Thursday and Friday after about a one month break, due to something called winter.   Thursday played Scenic Valley and shot 77, and Friday went to Ponderosa and shot 80 where the weather and golf course conditions were a little tougher. At Ponderosa, we had a lot more wind and the golf course condition was very wet with the greens being very soft and slow.

The Good:  My ball striking was very good, considering the layoff.  I drove the ball well and my iron play was good.   I struck the ball solidly from all positions and was able to play the desired shot most of the time.   My short game continued to be more than adequate, as the early changes I made have helped.  For the most part my mental process worked fairly well and I made good decisions most of the time.

Problems: Putting was the biggest issue.  I did not putt horribly, but the best way to sum up my putting, was that I had no birdies for 2 days of golf.  I missed a couple of short putts at Scenic for pars, and some makeable birdie putts which kept that round from being a really good round for early in the season.  At Ponderosa the greens were really slow but I was ready for that, and my speed on greens was not bad but I could not get the ball in the hole.  I got off to another bad start at Ponderosa but only lasted 2 holes and some par saves on 3 and 4 helped get the round rolling a bit.   The other issue was that 2 to 3 times in both rounds I completely zoned out while hitting a shot.  My mind went completely off on other thoughts  that had nothing to do with the shot I was planning to play.  This happened completely out of the blue and at different parts of the round. Needless to say the results of the shot were horrible.   Considering  I am not thinking about my swing at all and just thinking of ball fight and shot planning it is surprising.  The definition of a loss of concentration.

Overall I was happy with the way I played during the two day.  Here is one principle, that forms one of the basic fundamentals of 100% Mental Golf.  Every golf shot is totally 100% unique.  I have stated that I do not have swing thoughts any more, which is true.  However,  I certainly have awareness as to how a certain swing feels in a particular situation.   When a shot really turns out well, that swing has a certain feeling to it.  This can be particular true on a tee shot.  The trap comes when you try to repeat that feeling on the next tee shot.   In fact this is often recommended in golf instruction to have a repeatable swing.  Believe me the shot will not be as good as the one on the last tee shot, because the next tee shot is unique from the previous tee shot.  The mind was not built to repeat, anyway.  Here is nice little test.  Get a piece of paper and make sure it is wide enough to sign your name about 5 times across.    Sign your name 5 times across the paper as naturally and with as little thought as possible.  Maybe your signature will even look exactly the same each time or there may be some slight differences.   Now drop below about one inch  each signature and try to copy that signature.  Take one look at signature for as long as you want and then right underneath the signature write it again and see how you do.  First it will take you longer to write the signature and you most likely will fail.  Part of the reason you fail is your trying to copy the exact signature.  This happens with the golf swing for even more reasons, but mostly because no two golf shots are ever exactly alike so why should you try to swing the same way a previous golf shot felt. More on that later in the year.   Hopefully a little more golf this week as the weather looks better in the middle to the end of the week.   See you then.

Golf is 100% Mental

If you have a single digit handicap and you want to bring that handicap down significantly, then this is the mantra that you have to live by.  If you have a handicap in the single digits, you have a basic and functional  method on how to swing a golf club.  What is keeping you from getting down to the ultimate goal of scratch is your mental process on the golf course and looking in the wrong places to improve your game.  I made a commitment, to Golf is 100% mental, around May of 2018, and did my handicap go down. It did not.  So what happened.

I feel there was two reasons my handicap remained basically unchanged during the 2018 season.  One was a minor reason.  We had a horrible year of weather.   The golf courses were saturated and muddy almost the whole year, especially from August until the end of the year.  This led to a lot of unpredictability all how the ball would react off the clubface from the rough and even the fairway.  This made the courses play a lot  longer than usual.  There was no question this was a factor, so keeping my handicap the same, may have been a victory, instead of it going up.   The main reason I did not see a drop in my index, was that even though I was “committed” to 100% mental process, I am like everybody else, and brain washed by the “normal” way to improve, by changing something, or finding something wrong with your swing.  In other words the physical side of the game.  Let’s face it, this is way it was been for well over 150 years.  Even when I started this year I was going with a new swing.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME.  I quickly forgot about it on round 2 of 2019.    Even though this sounds so simple,  100% mental, it is difficult to do.  I hadn’t planned to do this blog this soon, and even though right now it is snowing and yesterday it was -3 degrees, there is a good possibility that I will be playing golf by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.   I wanted to write about the 100% mental concept before I played my next round of golf.   Every bad shot and I mean every bad shot is caused by some kind of dysfunction of the mind.  This dysfunction then manifests itself in some kind of bad execution of the swing.  Depending on the type of shot the possibilities can be endless.   This of course results in a bad shot.  Then the chatter starts.  I swung to hard, too fast, bad aim, did not stay down, dipped, came out of it,(my favorite)and the list could go on and on.  All of this is caused by mind dysfunction.   As I wrote in my last blog, I will be writing after ever round or two of golf I play this year to see how I progress or digress, applying this concept.  The other big factor in trying to lower your index is putting, a whole different animal  all unto itself.  That will be for a later blog.  One of keys to success in playing this game is the art of visualization.  How should you visualize and what should you visualize, which will be another blog.  One clue, you should visualize things you can not see.  Tricky, huh.

So, next week may be the next blog, if I make it to the golf course.   I will incorporate some of the above subject matter into the next blog depending on how the round goes.  Its snowing right now but by Monday its going to be in the mid 50’s and Tuesday and Wednesday in the upper 40’s.  Welcome to Pittsburgh.

 

 

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

The subject of today’s blog is the swing thought.   Why does it work, and why does it stop working.  We have all been there.  The only thing more seductive than a swing thought is a beautiful women in a low cut dress that stops at mid thigh.  It causes the golfer to think, I’ve got it.  This is the magic bullet.  Swing thoughts are many.   Slow down at the top, take it back low and slow, slide the hips,  hold the finish, and I could go on and on.  They can be pre swing thoughts like stand closer to the ball,  grip to the right, weight on the heels, and again many more.  They are brought about by desperation. The round is going horribly.  You may have even tried to use various thoughts to turn around the round with no success.  But then it happens.  You come up with a thought, and you hit a gorgeous shot and the  thought continues to work during the round.    This thought may even work when you start the next round.  It won’t be too long though, around the 4th or 5th hole, that the game will break down again and the thought will disappear into the vault of about 100 other swing thoughts that you were going to do the rest of your golfing life.

Swing thoughts are nothing new. Bobby Jones wrote about swing thoughts in the mid 1930’s.   “Sometimes by remembering to start the downstroke by shifting and turning the hips, highly satisfactory results may be obtained. While this continues, we are enjoying one of the peaks of our chart. But soon, either because we begin to exaggerate this one thing, or forget entirely about something else, the whole thing goes wrong and we have to begin over again. Again we set out to find another thought that will set things right”.   This was written in the 1930’s but if this same statement was in the latest issue of Golf Digest everyone would still be shaking their heads in agreement.    Jones even has an explanation why they stop working.     The point is this has always been accepted in golf practically forever.   You find the “magic ” swing thought, it works for awhile, and then, just as suddenly it stops working.     As much a I respect Bobby Jones as a golf writer and instructor,  I have to disagree with him on why these swing thoughts stop working.  Plus he gives no explanation why they start working.   I believe that this is what ties in to why they stop working .

So why does a certain swing thought seems to work?    It is a distraction as to what is going on, on the course.  This could also explain why you don’t find THE swing thought on the first try.  It is not enough of a distraction.  Do you ever noticed that the “right” swing thought is often easier to find on the practice tee.  The success of the swing thought has nothing to do with what the swing thought is but when you are thinking of the swing thought.  Let’s move back out to the course.   You start your round out and the ball striking is lousy and the score is going up and up and  by the 4th hole, you are in desperation mode.    The 5th hole is a difficult driving hole and you come up with your first new swing thought of the day.  But pow, off the ball goes into the woods.    Your second and third shots are not much better, and another bad score results.  But now you come to the 6th hole and easy par 3 with little trouble and a big green and today the pin is in an easy spot.   Now you go to a new thought, and you hit a very nice onto the green. The shot makes you feel good and the next hole the same thought gets you a drive right down the middle and you’ve got this game solved.  The first swing thought would have been just as good, if you had decided to use it on the 6th hole for the first time.  When you used it on the more difficult driving hole,  the trouble and the type of shot still had your mind occupied.  The sixth hole being much easier, your full attention was on the new swing thought and the result was great.  Maybe the results were  good to excellent even for the rest of the round, made a few birdies and salvaged the round with a mid 70 score.   Through the week you made it to the driving range, a couple of times, and this thought continued to work great through both practice sessions. Next blog I will write about why practice is a waste of time but to proceed.   Now you are at the course and you are brimming with confidence and ready to shoot a great round.   By the middle of the front nine you are 4 over par and looking for it again.   So what the hell happened.   Well that thought became so ingrained in your brain that it stopped being a distraction and all those little nasty places that your ball could go came back to the fore front.   So forget about swing thoughts and play free, at least from swing thoughts, you will probably have to pay.   Next blog,  practice, save your money and your time.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answe

Well, its been four months since the last blog, which is one of the longest periods in awhile that I have not blog.   I really do not have any good reason that I have not written anything for a long time.  I have been playing golf like I usually do, as this past Monday I just completed my 112th round.  My play as been ok.  In Western Pennsylvania, the handicap season ended on November 14th and I finished the year with a 4.7 index.  Which is not bad but no major improvement.   I really did not prove some of the concepts that I wrote about on that blog 4 months ago.  So today I thought I would review the last year and the last 4 months in particular.

The one constant over these last 4 months was that the weather was lousy.  In 112 rounds of golf I would say I saw the ball roll any amount distance in only about 15 rounds.   This was by far the wettest most humid year of golf I have ever played and I have played for 50 years.  You rarely could play the ball down and course conditions suffered mightily.  If fact one course, Village Green closed down permanently and the weather contributed to it’s demise.  It was difficult to evaluate one’s game under those conditions. The weather just got worse as we headed into fall, which most of the time is fairly dry.  In mid September we got about 20 plus inches of rain over about a 7 day period. I have come to detest the word mud.

I could not quite grasp the concept of golf being 100% mental when you are a single digit handicap.   I still believe this, but it can be very difficult to put into practice, because I feel we are brainwashed into thinking that bad golf play can be fix with some physical correction.   This can be ranging from anywhere to “fixing” your grip, stance, transition, swing plane, weight distribution, and anything you can think of about the physical execution of the golf swing.    Part of the problem is that you hear every week on the PGA tour that a player is working on some part of his swing and it is helping him.  I think this is wrong.    Having  problems with your golf game at that level and I believe at the level of the single handicapper  is strictly mental and any physical correction is only temporary and in the long run no help at all.   However this is so much easier said then done.  I will elaborate more on this in future blogs, and yes, they are going to be more frequent than one every 4 months.

The albatross in May was the highlight of my season and was easily the shot of the year and probably in my life.  I did not have an even par round this year and had only 2 that were one over par.  I was consistent and had a pretty good putting year and have putted very well the last couple of times out. I am determine to prove the 100 % mental theory. One of the best things that I have done over the past year and half is that I have played golf with no swing thoughts.  It has freed up my game and has made golf so much more enjoyable.     Developing my own putting style has contributed to my overall good scoring and was the main reason that I came out of an 18 month slump from the beginning of 2016 to the end of June  2017, which saw my index climb to 6.9.  My index would have been even higher if there was not a limit on the strokes you could take on one hole for handicap purposes. I had some really high numbers during that stretch, where I proved the axiom, its not where your good shots go, but where your bad shots wind up.   So my game is where it’s mostly been over the last 30 years when I started to play a lot of golf again, between a 3 and 5 handicap.  Next blog will be about swing thoughts, why they work and why they stop working.  The amazing thing is golf instructors were writing about swing thoughts in the 1930’s.  See you then.

 

 

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

It’s been a while since the last blog, about 2 months, but I am still playing and still searching.   I have taken a totally different tact in trying to find the answer, and even though it has not improved my game by much, it hasn’t  made it any worse, and I am enjoying the game more than I ever have.  My index is 4.5 right now and is much better than it was about this time last year when it was about 6.5.  I feel I have learned more about the game in the last 6 months, than in any other time period of my life.  Today I will write about what I have learned in a series of statements that will express what I feel works to help improve one’s golf game, and what does not work.  Most of this will go against the grain of current golf thinking, and in this blog I am not going to defend these positions.  I will defend them in future blogs.  The following only applies to golfers with single digit handicaps that are looking to bring that handicap down to the holy grail of scratch.  This like everything else is an arbitrary number, which could be argued in either direction, that for this to be applied your handicap could be slightly higher or lower. But we have to start somewhere so single digit handicap is where this shall be. These are things that you need to do and not do in order to get that handicap down to zero.

I use to feel that golf could be divided into 50% Mental and 50% Physical and wrote a blog about it, stating that I felt too much emphasis was put on the mental aspect of the game.  Boy, was I ever wrong.   At the single handicap level the game is 100% mental.

Practicing is not going to get you down to scratch.  I have never been a big advocate of practice but I know positively that it is a complete waste of time. Sorry range owners.  Hey if you enjoy hitting balls and practicing other aspects of game go for it.  Just realize that it’s not going to lower your handicap.

Lessons are not going to bring your handicap down unless a psychologist is on hand. Instead of paying a pro for four or five lessons go see a shrink once.

I have learned why a new swing thought works and then why it stops working.  This was huge for me and now I play with no swing thoughts .

Accept the fact that putting is the most important part of the game.  Yes it is wonderful to hit that beautiful drive right down the middle, and watch that ball reach that apex against that perfect blue sky. Some may feel it’s the solid iron shot from 160 yards that ends up 4 feet from the pin that is the greatest  thrill of the game.   But the fact of the matter is, putt well and you score. Don’t putt well and you do not score.  Accept this and find a way to putt, even if this means sticking your putter up your ass.  If the ball goes in its worth it.

The swing is not the thing.  This is an old one but still is one of the most important.  IT IS NOT YOUR SWING THAT’S THE PROBLEM.

Learning what really causes bad shots and bad putts.

So there you have my holy grail for the moment.   My game has been more consistent than it has ever been and I feel I make progress almost every time I play.  More important I am having one hell of a good time.  My next blog will be about this idea about trying to limit the distance that the golf ball can go.  See you then.

 

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Winter continues in the Burgh, but a little more up and down and there would have possible been a time to play, but I am on a self imposed rest, so no play for me. Today, I am again going to lampoon golf instruction, as I googled, how does the downswing start.  The answers I will list below.  There are a dozen by the way.  What’s interesting, it only took me 14 videos to get these 12 different answers.  Now many will argue some are saying the same thing but in a different way, but I respectively disagree. I will list all twelve with my final commentary following. Here they are.

Shift your weight from the inside of the right foot to the inside of the left foot while turning the hips back to the target.

Move the lower body forward, while feeling that the left foot is driving into the ground

Feel the weight moving from the left heel to left toe while lowering the arms

Feel you are starting the downswing from the floor upwards with the left knee turning toward the target and the right knee turning toward the ball, with the hips turning toward the target

Shift the weight to the left and turn the hips toward the target at the same time, like a throwing motion of a ball

Turn the right knee towards the ball from a position where the weight is on the inside of the right foot at the top of the swing

The left leg straightening with the goal being that the right knee will touch the left knee when the swing is finished

The step drill  where you step toward the target like a baseball swing that will teach you how to start the downswing

The entire lower body shifts toward the target

Laterally move the hips toward the target and then turn the body toward the target

Push up from the ground with the waist pushing through to the target first

From the top of swing work the right shoulder down

Is there any common thread here?  One thing I did not mention, is about 9 out of 12 did mention that you must have a good backswing in order to make the first “correct” downswing move.  Much of this does indeed have to do with movement of the lower body first.  That’s about it. The two about the knees seem to be similar but they are not really.  I had to be as concise as possible here and if you saw the videos they are different, with one more complicated even though they talk about the knees. Even though all of these videos were titled how to start the downswing, many I felt talked about the entire downswing and were not all that clear what the first move really was.   All of this is from fairly well known instructors, that have large golf schools or written books on the subject.  None of this stuff is from what I call Sam Fertilizer golf instruction.  You have seen these videos, where the guy is in his back yard, the kids are running around, the dog is barking, and this guy is going to show you how to play golf.  The purpose is not to critique which of the above is correct, or a better way to do the first move of the downswing.  It is to show just how confusing this can be to someone trying to improve their 25 to 30 handicap or to someone trying to learn the game from scratch. No wonder people give up on it. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I am sure if I had gone through the torturous process  of looking at 30 videos of how to start the downswing I would have found over 20 ways to do it. I think the point has been made.  It’s a very confusing golf instructional world out there, and that is a shame. More coming soon.