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Golf Strategy School Podcast: Where 18+ handicaps come to learn how to break 90.
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Now displaying: Page 1
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
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