"Act Without Expectation"
I am excited to share with my current and future students that I have been certified as a GolfPsych Certified Instructor. I have worked with GolfPysch for a number of years as a player and have always blended in their principles to my coaching. Now that I have been certified to be an official GolfPsych coach, I am able to help you even more and use their tools to give tangible Tour tested methods to improve. I will be posting some more information about ways you can improve your mind that will only help you play the game better. Anyone interested in learning more, please send me an email and I am happy to discuss the mental mastery tools with you and the mental game builder package and how I can help you get the most out of the program.
It's been a while since I've blogged here. I've missed writing down my thoughts. I felt it appropriate to make a post as a continuation to an earlier article I wrote titled "Acceptance is the key to unlocking your true potential." The key is being able to accept the unknown. The truth is if we can accept bogeys we will be able to play this game at an extremely high level. We will make birdies, we will make pars and we will make bogeys. I want you to think about the last time you played 18 holes without a bogey? I bet you can count on one hand how many times you have done just that. So instead of trying to be perfect and not make mistakes let's accept mistakes. Let's just not compound the mistakes. When we hit a bad shot accept a bogey. But grind your tail off to make a par. Hit the smart shot. Give yourself a putt. I promise if you approach your next round of golf with this mindset you will score much better and enjoy the round a whole lot more. Acceptance is the key, so accept imperfect. Enjoy the walk and play the game!
When you work on your game, all of your practice shouldn't be just on your mechanics. Make sure to make time to recreate scenarios you face on the golf course. Change your targets on the range and change your clubs. Walk into each shot and develop your routine. Play games on the putting green with one ball. Take a wedge and putter to the chipping green and see how many you can get up and down. The more you practice what you do on the golf course, the more comfortable you will be and the better you will be able to trust what you practice! Enjoy the walk...Play the game
Have you ever performed a headstand or shoulderstand? Better yet, have you been on an inversion table? If you have done either activity I'm sure you had a pretty similar experience. Your brain went kind of blank. Your mental chatter slowed down and you were able to really feel your body. I encourage everyone reading this post to practice doing a headstand or shoulderstand every morning after you wake up and every evening before bed.
I just finished reading the book A Calm Brain, by Gayatri Devi. She describes what happens when getting calm from the bottom up. "Your heart rate and breathing slow down. Deep, slow breaths and a slowed heartbeat send a strong message to the core brain, signaling there is no threat in the environment, and the world is a safe place."
So give it a try tonight and see how it makes you feel. The more you practice being in this position for say 10-20 breaths will have you on the path to a more calm state and a more relaxed mind and body, which will improve your scores immediately! Enjoy the walk...Play the game.
I've written in the past the value of meditation and how it can help athletic performance. I have come across an excellent resource for your daily practice. Visit this link and follow the instructions on how to really deepen your meditation.
Listen to this sound byte from NPR on how MBA programs across the country are teaching the art of meditation. No matter your faith you will benefit from this valuable skill! http://www.npr.org/2012/09/13/161050141/buddhist-meditation-a-management-skill
I hate the phrase. I hate the word – Choke. Nothing bothers me more than hearing an announcer mention choking in sports as he attempts to explain what is happening to a player or team that appeared to have the game, match or tournament in hand. As I watched the British Open this summer it was painful to see Adam Scott finish with 4 straight bogeys. He obviously didn’t handle the situation as best as he could. But it isn’t as simple as it appears. Being a golfer and having competed at a high level, I have had my fair share of letting the magnitude of the situation get to me. I’ve allowed myself to get out of the moment and allowed my emotions to dictate my performance. It is usually a snowball effect. When I think back to Adam Scott at Royal Lytham, if he had made the 4 footer on 16 I feel he would have won the tournament. He had just bogeyed 15 and now bogeyed 16.
For a golfer with a large lead when faced with small adversity if they can make a key 4 footer, hit a good chip or hit a ball on the green after a poor drive they feel as if “I am going to get this done, it is my destiny and my day.” When the short putt lips out, the second shot sails over the green into a tough spot, they start to unravel and feel out of control. It then affects their decision making. When Adam walked onto 18 tee, Ernie Els had just birdied to tie him. He made a tactical error in hitting a 3 wood. He either should have ripped a driver as he had been doing so well all week or hit an iron that couldn’t get to the bunkers. He hit into the only area he couldn’t hit it. He then played a great shot and gave him a chance for par but missed the putt.
Everyone will say he choked and unfortunately it will be hard to refute, but as I mentioned earlier it is a series of events that lead to it. If he could have made one par on those last 3 holes before 18, he pars 18 in my opinion and wins the championship. Choking is just a situation where our focus gets more on the outcome than the process. We realize where we are and what we are about to accomplish. If we could always the play the game with the process in mind and be a kid we would choke less. We must learn to program our minds to go back to that place where we went out and played for the love of the game. It is a difficult thing to do but the best lose themselves in the moment and just do what they can control. Next time you are playing for your Y league or on the course with your buddies and have a chance to win the match remember why you are there that day. It is what you enjoy doing. Have fun, be a kid and let it go.
Remember the joy you had as a kid
I am really enjoying coaching junior golfers and helping them to understand the nuances of the game. When you are a young golfer there is a thought in your head (at least there was in mine) that one day when you get on the PGA TOUR your game will just be good and good all of the time. You think you will find some formula the best players have and poof you’ll be on tour and winning tournaments until you want to stop playing. Yes, the best players have a formula but it isn’t something you wake up with one day.
The formula is developed by practicing smart and learning how to trust your golf swing and game. The formula is keeping it simple and working extremely hard on those simple things and applying the coaching philosophy of Tony Dungy that in order to be great work on what you do well and perfect those things. We don’t want to neglect what we don’t do well, especially if we can improve our short game, wedge game and putting. But if you have a bad tournament or stretch it doesn’t mean to start over and change your philosophy, look for a new swing coach and think a new swing is the answer. Your focus should be on how can I make what I do and my strengths even stronger and put myself in position to maximize those skills.
As our golf games develop we invariably deal with expectations. Expectations to play well because of how we have been playing, what others think we should finish, or a great round the day before the tournament starts. Every golfer must keep their expectations in check. I have found the best way to accomplish that feat is for your goal to be anything but your score. Create simple goals within your round that are measurable but do not involve the outcome. Let them involve the process; your ability to pick out good targets, to walk and talk with confidence and to keep an even keel throughout the round regardless of where your shots end up.
The more attention you can pay to working on parts of your game that will impact your score the more confidence you will take with you into competition and the better you will be able to deal with adversity. Golf is a game of misses. We don’t hit many shots exactly how we pictured. Byron Nelson, one of the best ball strikers of all time used to say he would only hit about 5 shots just like he wanted in a round of golf. The great players manage their misses the best. They putt with great confidence and speed control. They have excellent distance control with their wedges and know how to flight the ball. Above all, they swing with abandonment and let it go. They trust themselves and know the more they can swing freely the better results they will get even if that means the occasional loose shot.
I urge all parents to be mindful of potential expectations you put on your golfers. Children want to please their parents and it is natural that they would want to shoot good scores to make mom and dad happy. What is important is that your expectations for them involve things other than score. I encourage you to watch your golfer and see how they handle themself throughout the round. Is he or she up-beat, smiling and walking with confidence? Are they staying focused and patient during the course of the round regardless of the outcome? These are a few things to start measuring or judging them on. If you can start to make these your goals for them, both golfer and parent will enjoy the journey more.
Remember, golf is a game, a game that mirrors life. In our professional endeavors we don’t have parents and loved ones looking over our shoulder at the office critiquing every presentation we give or judging us based on every phone call we make. Even in school, every project or test isn’t analyzed with a fine tooth comb. The teachers give us a grade and if we didn’t do well we are told to study harder for the next test. If we apply this type of behavior on the golf course the game will remain fun and the scores will be the best they could be for that day. Golf is great because it always starts over every day. We have another 18 holes to go play. We have a 1st tee shot to hit and a last putt to hole. If we can get a little better each time we go out, our games will be where we hope when it’s time to pick a college or make a decision about playing professionally. Remember to play the game and enjoy the walk!
What is all the commotion about the long putter? We had our first Major Champion with the long putter in Keegan Bradley. Adam Scott won the WGC event with a long putter. You hear whispers of people saying the USGA should ban them.
My thoughts come from a player who has used a long putter for 9 years and the psychological roller coaster that begets to switch or not to switch and will your ego let you do it? This commentary comes from my heart and these thoughts and opinions come from deep within my soul. A golfers soul who is continuing to search for the best method to play the game, physically and mentally.
I went to a long putter Ala Adam Scott at a mini tour event in Florida after I was struggling with my putting. It instantly made me more consistent and fresh mentally. I can tell you from experience though that there isn't a week that goes by that I don't think about going back to a short putter. I actually went back to the short putter for a small stint on the Nationwide Tour in 2008.
As golfers, we are always looking for ways to be better to gain a little more confidence. A big key in putting is letting the putts go, being free. The allure of the short putter for me is it was how I hit putts growing up. How you putt as a kid is what we all strive for; being creative, seeing the putt, hitting it without a care in the world.
The long putters put a great roll on the ball. It is more sound mechanically as proven by Dave Pelz. The challenge is to be as free as you can with a more mechanically sound method. The short putter allows a lot of play so you can manipulate the path and face for good and bad. I challenge you to find your method and if it is a long putter feel as if you're using a short putter and the freedom you had when you learned the game!
To sum up my commentary on all this talk about the long putters, pick a method you trust, be confident and free and remember it's just a game. Let it go be a kid and watch yourself make more putts and shoot lower scores.
Until next week, find your putting method and enjoy the walk!
Golf is a game meant to be played. We go to driving ranges and practice facilities and we see people hitting ball after ball. We get into a little rhythm and rake another ball and hit it right at our target then another and another and you are saying to yourself yeah that’s me. I hate to break it to you but that method of practice and that alone is not playing the game it is playing golf swing. There is a time to work on mechanics and your swing but way too many people play the game in that mindset. How many people do you see actually going through their routine on the range? Actually standing behind the ball, picking out a target and hitting the shot as they would on the course? If you want to be able to take your game from the practice tee and from your lesson with your teaching professional, to the golf course then you owe it to yourself to spend at least half your practice time like you are on the golf course.
Towards the end of your warm up or practice session play the first few holes on the range. Pick out the club you would hit off the first tee and go through your entire routine. Wherever the shot goes and how you hit it imagine your second shot and the club you now would hit. Do the same for every shot and so-on. Maybe you missed the green, I challenge you to pull out your wedge and hit a little pitch shot maybe over a bunker! You get the picture; do this little exercise for a few holes. The more you can use your imagination the more realistic and it will translate to better play when you get over to the first tee.
We spend a lot of time on the practice tee working on our swings. We read books that tell us to focus on the target when we are on the course and to not think about our swings. If we don’t practice on the practice tee hitting shots without mechanical thoughts, or just focusing on our target how can we expect to do that on the golf course?
I challenge you to a little experiment. For the next 30 days implement what I am suggesting into your practice regimen and see if it improves your play. Then the next 30 days go back to your old way of practicing and see which one improves your handicap and most importantly your enjoyment of the game.
Until next week, Play the game and enjoy the walk!
Josh McCumber, professional golfer, coach and consultant has been playing golf almost all of his life. He has been around the game at the highest level, and has learned from the best players and instructors in the game. His uncle, Mark McCumber won 10 times on the PGA TOUR and his cousin Tyler McCumber is currently playing on the PGA TOUR. Josh will share his wisdom, knowledge and proprietary techniques from being out on the PGA TOUR with his uncle, his cousin and from his experience playing the Korn Ferry Tour (formerly Nationwide Tour) and 2 U.S. Opens.