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Golf Strategy School Podcast: Where 18+ handicaps come to learn how to break 90.
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Now displaying: April, 2016
Apr 30, 2016
This is the last week of the challenge and we're going to be covering what we can do the day of our round to best prepare ourselves for success.  
 
Our first practice session has to do with determining what our shot pattern for the day will be.  This is important because we don't want to be working on our swing while we're playing.  You have to work with the shot pattern that you have that day.
 
Practice #1: DETERMINING OUR SHOT PATTERN
 

Once arriving at the driving range we have to build our practice station.  Place an alignment rod along your intended foot line, parallel to your target line.  To make the station even more effective, place another rod, perpendicular to the first to form a T.  This rod will represent your ball position.  

 

You can do this with club if you like or you can use alignment rods.  These are the ones I have.  There are three rubber grommets on one of the rods - two for foot position one for ball position, so then you won't need the extra rod forming a T.


This station is important because it will ensure that you consistently align yourself in a similar position during every portion of the upcoming exercise.

Now that the practice station is in place, let’s get to work.

5 Ball Iron Test


Using your practice station as a guide take out your PW and hit 5 balls at the same target.

 

***I know I don't normally advocate for repeatedly using the same target, but what we're trying to do is find a pattern, and realistically most people won't continually reset their practice station every time.  So for that reason we will work in blocks of 5 shots per target.***

 

DO NOT hit these shots rapid fire, this is still a no rake and fire zone.  Stand behind the golf ball before every shot and complete your pre-shot routine.

Repeat this 5 ball exercise with your 6, 7, 8, and 9 iron only changing targets when you change clubs.  When you change targets please make the necessary adjustments to your practice station.

The Driver

Now it’s time to bring out everyone's favorite weapon, the driver.  First I need you to visualize a fairway out on the driving range.  Clearly choosing targets that represent the left and right most edges of the fairway.  Now hit 10 shots at this fairway.  Don’t forget to take your time and go through that pre-shot routine before every swing.

Keep track of your shot pattern while you're completing this exercise.  This will tell you what pattern to play throughout your round that day.  Just like Vegas, I want you to play the odds.  When push comes to shove I want you to play the shot shape that you had from this exercise and don't try to fix it today.

Practice #2:  How to shoot the score you want

One of the best pieces of advice ever to come through the podcast was from PGA instructor George Roy, and it dealt with how to stay in the moment and not get overwhelmed by your score, whether it's good or bad.

George's advice was to create smaller goals that keep you focused on the task at hand, rather than looking too far down the road ahead.

Here's what you do:

Set goals for the specific number fairways, greens you will hit from those fairways, and the number of up & downs you will make from the greens you missed.  Here's an example from George:

  • Hit 50% of your fairways = 7
  • Hit 60% of the greens (from the 50% of the fairways) = 4 (two putt pars)
  • Get up & down 70% of the time from the greens you've missed = 9

Add that all up and it equals 13 pars and 5 “others”. Assuming you can keep those “others” to bogeys you’ll be on a roll!  This does assume you two putt every hole (Yes, I realize how big of an assumption that is but this is for the sake of easy math we'll let it fly) you would shoot +5 over 18 holes.

 

You might wonder why shouldn't I pick a number?

 

There's two big reasons: pressure & limitations.

  1. Picking a specific number adds pressure as you progress through your round. Your subconscious golf mind will be aware of your position in relation to that score. If you get behind the pace needed to achieve that number, the pressure can mount quickly. Pressure leads to stress, stress often leads to tension, and everyone knows that tension leads to poor performance. (Insert your Star Wars dark side joke here) Even if you have successfully let go of all those issues you still are more likely to take overly aggressive risks that could lead to even more disastrous outcomes. (IE: going for sucker pins)
  2. Even if you’re doing great and you manage to stay ahead of the pace needed to achieve that goal, you’re more likely to rest on your laurels down the stretch. If my goal is to shoot par and I’m two under at the turn, it’s really easy for me to mentally take my foot off of the gas pedal and say “I can afford to shoot +2 on the back”. All of a sudden after the round is done I’m looking at missed opportunities that could’ve lead to a FANTASTIC round. My goal was even par or BETTER, not to just settle for even par and forgo anything surpassing that.
Practice #3: Following your A.V.E.nue to success.
 
There's three things that pros do drastically more often than the amateur golfer that leads to their mental success.  They Analyze, Visualize, and Execute every shot.  What do I mean?
  • Analyze
    • This is the step that most people do pretty well at.  Analyzing is taking in your surroundings and deciding what will affect the shot.  Wind on an approach shot, break on a green, cold temps that shorten ball flight, etc.
  • Visualize
    • Here is where people start to have difficulties.  Visualizing is a commonly skipped step that most people have trouble with or skip altogether.  If you don't know how to visualize your shot, verbally describe what your're trying to do.  Talk out exactly where you want the ball to land and how it would release.
  • Execute
    • This is where people REALLY struggle.  By execute, I mean staying committed to your shot.  This is exactly what we talked about with the Think Box/Play box drill.  Whatever decision you made in that Think Box you have to stay committed to it.  Staying committed to your shot is absolutely vital to consistently hitting the shots your want and therefore, executing your plan.
This is something that we're going to track too.  Every hole I want you to look at each shot and give yourself a point if you analyzed properly, give yourself a point if you visualized, and give yourself a point if you executed.  So if you had a 5 on a hole and you did all of your analysis correctly then you get 5 analysis points, f you properly visualized you would get 5 visualization points, and if you stayed committed to every shot then you would get 5 execution points.  Here's a spreadsheet a downloadable spreadsheet to help you track your progress.

That's all we have for this fourth and final week of our 30 day challenge.  Remember to share your results through the Facebook Group.  There will be a short survey coming out sometime soon just asking what you thought of the 30 Day Challenge.  This is the first iteration after all and I'd like to keep it rolling forward and improving.  As always, I'll see you in the short grass.
 
Cheers!
Apr 22, 2016
Week three of the 30 day challenge, coming at you!
 
This week we are looking at different practice routines that teach us how to perform in pressure situations.  Let's get right to it!
 
Practice #1: The Seven Second Drill
 
This drill comes from PGA instructor David Heinen, former coach of Vijay SIngh, and head instructor at the Kaizen Golf Academy and it's a really good one!
 
One of the biggest ways people stumble under pressure is how long they take while standing over the ball, in that pressure packed moment.  Think back to Dustin Johnson's three putt at the 2015 US Open.  Even the commentators noticed that he took a lot of extra time over those putts, essentially psyching himself out.
 
Last week we talked about the Think Box/Play Box technique.  This almost like the big brother of that drill, here's how it works:
  • Stand behind the ball (in your Think Box) and decide the plan for that shot.
  • Once you leave your Think Box (with your decision made) start counting out loud down from seven.
  • You MUST hit your shot before you get to zero.  If you don't, it's time to start over start over.
That's really all there is to it!  When working on the driving range I want you to write down how many repetitions it takes before you are feeling consistent, comfortable, and confident executing your shots within seven seconds.  Some clubs might take more reps than others, and that's okay, just make sure you keep track of it.
 
***For bonus points see if you can trim it down to five seconds!***
 
Here's how this drill really benefits the golfer.  By limiting our time to execute the shot, we simply don't have enough time to second guess ourselves.  It forces us to go with the gut feeling, regardless of whether or not it's the right one.  This always makes me think of one of my favorite quotes from Bernhard Langer.
 
Image
The second way we're going to learn how to better perform under pressure is to simulate it in our practice.  Go back to your last really pressure shot, what did it feel like?  Faster heart beat, tunnel vision, racing thoughts?  If we can simulate these feelings in our practice we will be much better prepared for those circumstances.  Here's how we do it:
 
Practice 2: Golf Suicides
 
In order to properly do this drill you have to elevate your heart rate.  You can do this through jumping jacks, burpees, or even running in place.
  • Pick 10 different targets
  • Hit to them going through your normal routine.  
  • Write down the number of times you hit your target.
  • Repeat the exercise with 10 new targets doing your exercise of choice for 10 reps (or at least 10 seconds) between each shot.
  • Record how many times you hit your target.
  • Continue to do this exercise until your success rate under pressure matches your normal success rate.
You should always try to make your practice harder than your actual play, so incorporating this style of practice can help several different parts of your game, putting included!
 
Practice 3: Handling Pressure In the Moment
 
If you haven't had a chance to work on the previous drills this one can help you on game day.  In an interview with Geoff Greig, PGA instructor and Amazon best selling author.  What Geoff has discovered is that if we hum while we swing we can interrupt the analytical side of our brain which is often responsible for over thinking.
 
By humming while you swing it lets your body just react rather than over processing the information while under then gun and succumbing to the pressure.
 
Here's what you do to get the maximum affect:
  • While swinging the club try to hum and keep a steady pitch.
  • The more steady the pitch during your swing, the smoother and more reactionary you've swung.
To measure our progress we're going to track the same things as the previous practice.
  • Pick 10 different targets
  • Hit to them going through your normal routine.  
  • Write down the number of times you hit your target.
  • Repeat the exercise with 10 new targets humming during each shot.
  • Record how many times you hit your target.
  • Continue to do this exercise until your success rate under pressure matches your normal success rate.
The great thing about this is that it is easily transfer to on course play!  It will help you get over the big moments on the course, by removing the analytical side of the brain, which is the one that amplifies the pressure.
 
That's all for this week, next up will be some game day mental strategies.
 
Cheers!
Apr 15, 2016
Alright {!firstname_fix} are you ready to ditch the tension from your swing?
 
Week 2 of the challenge starts now!
 
This time around we're focusing on the ability to make tension free swings.  A tension free swing makes for better shot making, more consistent performance, and even more distance!  Here's your Work Book to track your progress for this week.
 
Practice #1: Think Box/ Play Box
 
Tension manifests itself in many different ways.  If we think about it chronologically, the first place it shows up in your journey as a golfer is with bad decisions, which a lot of times really the product of indecision.  For most people that's the indecision about which shot, club, or target should be picked.  This results in taking more time over the ball, and the longer we spend over the ball, the more the tension builds.
 
These situations tend to occur for people more while they're actually playing, so you may consider trying this during a practice but it can certainly be done on a driving range as well.
 
The Think Box/Play Box idea comes from Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson, both multi time Golf Digest Top 50 teachers.  When practicing, and even more importantly while playing, this drill helps you commit to your shots - a major weakness of most amateurs.
 
Here's how it works.  While behind the ball picking your target you are in the Think Box.  Here you can analyze and visualize your shot, but once you've left the Think Box and transition into the Play Box (standing over the ball) you have to be 100% committed to the shot you've chosen.  No more changing your mind.
 
Think of it like occupying two actual physical boxes (hence the name!).  Check out this picture for a more clear representation.
Once you've left the Think Box no more changes can be made.

There's two ways to measure your progress here.  The first one is the more basic of the two.  Simply tracking whether or not you stayed committed to your shot.  
 
It's pretty straight forward if you're actually on the course.  Just think about the last shot and check to see if you stayed committed to your target and swing.  The easiest way to track this is just add that line on your scorecard, I like to call it EXECUTE.  Did I execute my Think Box plan?
 
If you're on the driving range I would track this 10 shots at a time.
  • Pre-select 10 different targets
  • On each shot add the Think Box & Play Box to your pre-shot routine
  • Track to see if you stayed committed and executed the plan with each shot
I think it's important to mention here that when I ask if you're staying committed, I'm not asking if you hit your target, or if the shot was even good.  I'm asking Did you stay committed to your Think Box plan?
 
  • Did you waffle on your club decision?
  • Did you change your target midway through your pre-shot routine?
If you answered yes to either of these questions (or anything similar) then you didn't execute the plan.  Work on going through your whole routine, making an achievable plan, and executing it!
 
Another way you can do some really solid self analysis is to weigh your expectation vs the outcome on these 10 shots.  If you are finding that your expectation never matches up with the outcome it's probably time to start picking more conservative targets more in line with your abilities.
 
Practice #2: The Tension Scale
 
A huge key to several different areas of golf is awareness.  Whether it's reading the breeze to see how much extra club you should take, or being aware that you are getting upset about a shot and not letting it bleed into later swings and potentially into later holes.
 
The specific spot we're talking about today is, you guessed it, TENSION!
 
Lot's of people don't realize that they may be gripping the club really hard, I mean white knuckling it.  One way to test this is the exercise from Iain Highfield, Director of Mental Training at Bishops Gate Golf Academy.
 
The Tension Scale is a 0-10 scale measuring the tension in your hands, arms, and body.  A 0 on the Tension Scale is super loose, barely able to stand up.  Almost like your body is made out of cooked spaghetti noodles.  A 10 on the Tension Scale looks, frankly, like the Hulk.  Super stiff body, white knuckles on the club, probably a clenched jaw too!  Here's how the drill  works:
  • While in your Think Box try to sense your current number on the Tension Scale.  Say it out loud.
  • Let go of your club bend slightly at the waist and shake all your tension out so you're at 0.
  • Now count up to 10 slowly increasing your tension along the way until you max out.
  • Hold that 10 on the Tension Scale for at least 5 seconds.
  • Then slowly count back from 10 relaxing and work your way back down to 0 shaking out any remaining tension.
  • Repeat that process once more.
  • Now pick up your club and notice what your tension level is (should be a 1 or 2)
  • Quickly move into your Play Box and execute your shot (should take 7 seconds or less).
Just like in Practice #1 I want you to pick out 10 targets and do this before each individual shot.  To measure your progress here I want you to note on which shot (out of 10) you feel like you are able to consistently start swinging at a 1 or a 2 on the Tension Scale.
 
Here's a video of Iain working with one of his students on the this very drill. 
 
So now you know how to practice swinging tension free, and how to approach your shots with a logical thought process to hopefully circumvent the tension in the first place, but what happens if you're stuck in the moment?
 
In past episodes Debbie O'Connell, former LPGA National Professional of the Year, has shared her strategies on how we can properly breathe to slow our heart rate and ditch some of that tension.
 
When you breathe in try to do it while you slowly count to 5 in your head.  Then when you exhale try to exhale while slowly counting to 6.  The idea is this slow paced breathing gets you calmed back down so you can perform in your normal conditions.

In my own research I came across a really great article from Dr. Robert Duff about managing anxiety.  Dr. Duff uses a really slick breathing exercise that goes a long with an animation.  It's really easy, as the shape grows breathe in, as it shrinks exhale!
Image
The practice routine I want you to do is going to help you learn this breathing pattern, because it's something really easy to take with you on the course.
 
Practice #3: Breathing
 
Again like drill #1 we are going to pick 10 predetermined targets to hit to.
 
  • While standing in your Think Box breathe along with the animation once.
  • While in the Play Box breathe along with the animation once (again)
  • After the swing write down what your tension level was during your swing.
What i want you to notice is the calm after having gone through this breathing exercise twice before your shot.  This will help you eliminate any remaining tension left before your shots.  The other nice thing about this is that you can actually download this GIF on your phone and use it while walking between shots if you're ever feeling over stressed.
 
That's all we have for this week!  next week we will be working on confidence building practices for the full swing.  Don't forget to share your progress, and thoughts with the Facebook community atFacebook.com/GolfStrategySchool
Apr 8, 2016
Glad to see that you're back for the practice routines for week 2!  Now please excuse the upcoming bold font, but this is a crucial part to any practice you're doing and it will be a theme that's applied through the rest of the 30 day challenge.
 
Your success rate MUST be between 30% - 70% to be experiencing improvement.
 
So keep that in mind when you are doing these practice routines.  If you are able to do them with better than a 70% success rate you need to make it harder and vice versa if that success rate is below 30%.
 
So on to the good stuff!
 
This week we are going to look at some short game practice routines. Let's start with the flat stick.
 
Practice #1 Putting
 
Here's the thing, just about every instructor is going to look at your alignment first so let's get that out of the way right now.
 
Step 1: Pick a putt that's straight, about 10 feet long.
 
Step 2: Set up
 
Check with your course to see if it's okay to put chalk on the practice green.  Then draw two lines, I like to use an actual builders chalk line.  Line #1 should be the intended starting line of your putt.  Line #2 should be a short line that runs perpendicular to that line and should be at the very beginning of line one forming an uppercase T.  (See the picture below)
Image
Use line number #2 to align your putter face throughout this drill. Go through your entire preshot routine and hit a few warm up putts.  Monitor if your putts roll down line #1.  If they do, then you know your path is good!
 
The real test comes from The Gate Drill.
  • Place two tees slightly wider than a golf ball about three feet away from your starting point.
  • Try to hit the putts so they go between the tees.
    • After 10 putts see if you are in that 30%-70% range.  If so, then you are still learning.  Repeat the drill two more times.
      • If you are under 30% widen the tees making it a touch easier and repeat the drill two more times.
      • If you are over 70% move the tees a little closer to the hole, (away from you) and do the drill two more times.
Our second practice routine is called the Putting Ladder Drill.  This one builds the confidence to make those knee knockers and other pressure putts.  This is going to start sounding repetitive but always make sure you go through your complete preshot routine when hitting any shot, even these practice drills.  Anyway, here's how we do the Putting Ladder:
  • Find a fairly straight putt that's about 30 feet long and set a ball down every six feet (6', 12', 18', 24', 30') all on the same line.
  • Set an extra club (or towel, or flag, anything works) about three feet behind the hole. 
  • Hit each putt making sure the ball reaches the hole but DOES NOT hit extra club laid behind it.
    • This means you don't actually have to drain it, just make sure you stop it in that zone between the cup and the club.
  • If you leave the putt short of the hole or go too far and hit the stick, then you have to start over.
Again, we do this drill 10 times to see if we are in that 30%-70% success zone.  If you make it all the way through the five putts without starting over that's a win!  If you miss one and have to start over, that's a missed attempt (it counts toward your 10 reps).  
 
This is a pretty tough drill for most people starting out so don't be surprised if you have to tone down the difficulty.  If you are under 30% success and need to make it easier just shorten the distance between each ball to about 3 feet.  (Make sure you keep track of the new distance between each putt!)
 
If you need to make it harder (over 70% success) you can add another ball at 36' or even just increase the distance between the ones you have (7' instead of 6').
 
The real beauty of this drill is that it gets us familiar with experiencing failure.  That way when we are out there on the course standing over a really tough putt, we've already experienced that emotion and taught ourselves how to handle it.  Which helps to eliminate fear in the moment.
 
Here's a quick little video from LPGA professional Katie Detlefsen that gives you the general idea for set up and execution. - Please remember to go through your entire pre shot routing before every putt though!
 
  Ladder Drill - School of Golf | Golf Channel
Video
Our second structured practice is for chipping.

Practice #2 Chipping
 
This practice routine is going to sound eerily familiar.  It's the big brother to the putting ladder, it's the chipping ladder!
 
The set up is similar pretty similar.
  • Pick a chip shot about 30 feet away
  • Draw a chalk circle (6' diameter) around the cup.
  • Set cones (or draw more chalk lines) every ten feet creating landing zones.
  • Take your golf balls just off of the fringe (no more than five feet).
From here we emulate the putting ladder.  
  • Starting with the zone closest to us we chip the ball trying to land it in that first landing zone
  • It must release and finish inside that six foot wide circle around the cup.
  • If you miss your landing zone or the circle you must start over.
If you hit your landing zone target and your stop the ball inside the circle then you get to move on to the next landing zone!

Remember your preshot routine each time, and don't be afraid to change clubs!
 
You can add or subtract landing zones as needed to maintain that 30%-70% success rate.
 
This drill helps eliminate fear, just like the putting ladder but it also adds some creativity to your game because you learn to alter you carry distance and ball flight around the greens.
 
Practice #3 Pitching
 
Here we are looking at the "fun" in between zones that a lot of people struggle with.  For this drill you will need to find a facility that has a designated pitching area or a random patch of grass where you can practice (about 80 yards).
  • Start at 20 yards away from your target and place five balls.  Continue every 10 ten yards until you are 80 yards out.
  • Hit each of the 5 balls to the target at each station tracking how many times you were withing 10 feet of the target (roughly).
  • Reset, this time with only three balls per station.
  • This time our goal is slightly different
    • 1st ball should land just beyond the target
    • 2nd ball should land just short of the target
    • 3rd ball should right on the target
  • Reset the stations again with only 3 balls and complete the exercise again (long/short/on target).
  • The fourth and final time we will reset the stations with our original 5 ball set up and try to hit the target exactly
    • Record your percentage within 10 feet again.  It should've gone up compared to the first time!
This drill is awesome because
A) It helps you practice distance control, which is crucial for scoring
B) It helps you separate the pin from your target because those two things are rarely the same!
 
Make sure to share you progress in the Golf Strategy School Facebook Group to get that added support!

I'll see you next Monday with the new set of practice routines.
Apr 1, 2016

Welcome to day #1 of the 30 Day Challenge!  We've got over 120 people participating so I want to see lots of conversation and community accountability.  

The three tasks I want you to complete are

  1. Answer these 4 questions
    1.  What are three things that worked really well last year?
    2.  What are three things that didn't work well last year?
    3.  What is one thing you learned from last year?
    4.  What is one thing you could do right away to improve?
  2. Write down your practice schedule or program it in your phone
  3. What is your goal and how will you measure it?

You can chat with the other participants at Facebook.com/GolfStrategySchool

Also you can still sign up and get most of the bonuses at: golfstrategyschool.com/30daychallenge

 

Hope to see you there!

 

Marty

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