This past Fall we hosted a junior golf exposure camp in Pinehurst, North Carolina called College Golf Camps™ – BIG 5. Myself and a couple of other college coaches were watching junior golfers play during the competition portion of camp. One particular junior golfer stuck out more than the others. Why, you ask…. this group of coaches all said “he swings like he doesn’t care……” Hold on to that concept for a second.
Virtually, every college coach will agree that they want golfers to swing freely from takeaway to follow through. How can you swing freely without forcing it. The words “freely” and “force” seem like they should not be used in the same sentence.
The coaches all were keen on how this particular junior swung the club so freely. Essentially, there was no difference between his practice swing and the swing when he hit the ball. Did he not care about the result of the shot? Of course not…..as the coaches continued to talk about this junior and others, it brought up a very exciting topic in golf called “ball bound”.
The concept of “ball bound” is relatively easy to understand from this discussion. Others might have a different description but for this discussion it was simple. “Ball bound” was when the golfer limits his/her natural athleticism because he/she is so focused on hitting the ball precisely the correct way. Therefore defeating the bodies ability to swing freely and loose during the swing, specifically at the moment when the club strikes the ball.
As we watched other juniors, you could tell some had a small glitch or hesitation right at impact. The previous junior we spoke about didn’t have any glitches or hesitations…..There “real” swing did not replicate their practice swing.
Continuing the discussion with the college coaches, one coaches says “how do you get a golfer to swing freely?” One coach immediately said “tell the player to stop looking at the ball”. Another coach immediately says “WHAT?”…..The other coach began to paint this illustration below in our minds……
If you normally fix your eyes on the ball, illustrated by looking at the College Golf Camps™ logo. Move your fixed eyes to the red star, which is about 1 inch inside and 1 inch forward of the ball. The coach went on to say that the distance will vary for every golfer. His point was to get the golfer’s mind off of hitting the ball and onto swinging freely.
Later that day during the competitive practice portion of the camp. This same group of coaches implemented this drill at one station during the practice rotation. You should have seen the campers faces when the coach told them to not look at the ball……Most were shocked, some thought the coach was kidding….. Ultimately, the junior golfers followed the instructions of the college coach(which was wise). Guess what happened? Nearly every junior golfer began to swing freely which created more crisp strikes on the golf ball. No glitches, no hesitations, just precision shot, after shot, after shot.
So here is the drill: Use any club in your bag with a series of 4 balls. With the first 3 golf balls, fix your eyes somewhere inside and in-front of the golf ball throughout the swing. Then on the 4th and final ball fix your eyes on the golf ball. See what happens…….
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Incorporate this practice drill into your golf game. Remember, college golf coaches all want players who swing carefree and loose…..most of all they want players to be coachable!
What separates the wheat from the chaff? Why can some people practice so much yet not get better? By understanding deliberate practice, it will help you to not only create a more efficient practice routine, but will help you play better on the course too.
I realize that most of you will be thinking;
“Phft… why would I want to read about ‘deliberate practice’?”
But I also realize why most of you don’t improve or get much out of your practice. See a correlation?
Today, I had a typical lesson with an ok player struggling to get better. He practices a lot, but I can see his practice is very inefficient, and all the hours of work he puts in pretty much go to waste. If this sounds like you, listen up.
We were out on the chipping green, and (after some technical adjustment) I gave him a task.
Shot 1 had to be hit with a shallow divot
Shot 2 had to be hit with a deep divot
Shot 3 had to be hit with an in-between divot
The guy proceeded to beat balls one after another like a machine gun.
Even after the first round of shots, a clear and predictable pattern emerged. His shallow divot shots were landing softer and finishing well short of the hole. His deeper divot shots were landing further and lower, tending to go racing past the flag. I watched him for 5 minutes, completing probably 25 rounds (yes, 75 balls in 5 minutes). Every single one he did the same thing – deep divot long, shallow divot short.
Every….. single….. one.
Stop… Just Stop!
I interrupted and asked a question.
“What happens to the result when you hit the different divot depths?”
To which he replied
“The shallow divots finish short, and the deeper divots finish long”
To which I asked
“So, what do you need to change”
To which he replied
“I should use less energy with he deeper divots, and give the shallow divot shot a bit more”
The Big Question
With that in mind, I bit my lip and refrained from what I really wanted to say (which was something along the lines of slapping my forehead and asking “Why the hell aren’t you doing it then”), and asked this instead;
What could we do to improve your ability to do that?
To which we came up with these things
Mentally prepare for the shot before hand
Physically prepare for the shot
Pay more attention to the result
Repeat the process, adapting it each time based on the result
Visualize it This doesn’t necessarily mean going through a full on, Jason Day-esque pre shot daydream for every ball you hit. However, get a clear picture in your head of what you want to achieve with the shot. Imagine how it is going to fly, land and roll. As R Kelly once said
“If I can see it, then I can do it”
he also went on to claim he believes he can fly, but that is neither here nor there.
This is simple – just do a few practice swings (or at least one – especially for most short game shots).
While this is a physical preparation, it actually works on a psychological level. It is mentally priming yourself for the desired movement. It is taking that visual image you created from step one, and putting it into the physical realm – connecting mind and body. Also, if your practice swing didn’t feel like it would match the outcome desired, you can always re-do it.
A good exercise which you can take to the course is to not just make a practice, but hit an imaginary ball as you do it, then visualize what that imaginary ball would have done.
In 2005, Tiger Wood’s famous chip shot, he makes a practice swing and holds this position for a number of seconds as he gazes at the green. What do you think he was doing??? Visualizing his imaged shot.
In the example lesson, the player decided that it would be good to physically prepare for the shallower divot by making a bigger swing with more speed to account for the general loss of distance – and vice versa for the deeper divot shot.
After you have hit your shot, watch it. Absorb it. Experience it.
I see so many golfers who have hit another ball before their first one has even landed (in practice). Your brain is not going to be able to make the connection between the result and the movement you used to produce it if it doesn’t experience both.
Watch the flight of the ball – watch the ball land and bounce. Look how it reacted on the green. How did it spin? How did it roll?
By doing the above, you get to learn even from your poor shots. Did your ball fly a little lower than you thought, but then checked up quicker? Ok, maybe factor that in for the next shot which.
Now, repeat the above for each shot, but use the information gleaned from each cycle to adapt for the next one. E.g, if the last time you did the deeper divot shot it flew over the green, try to factor in a smaller swing with less energy next time you come to that shot.
Practice Like You Play, Play Like You Practice
I’m sure you have heard this term before. Well, don’t just hear it – LIVE IT.
Start practicing this way with almost every shot. There are certain scenarios where ball beating may be acceptable. But, generally, you should be going through this process for as many of your shots as possible. Then continue to repeat this process on the course.
Also, make sure that you set up practice scenarios which demand this style of thinking. Blocked practice encourages ball beating, and it disengages your mind to the point that learning dramatically falls off, even if your performance increases (the dichotomy of performance vs learning).
By practicing in a random fashion, or doing variability or differential practice (links to more information about these at the bottom of this article), it encourages a mindset where you have to go through the mental and physical pre-shot preparation and analysis – a pre-requisite for practice which actually transfers to the golf course.
If you are hitting more than one shot every 20 seconds, it is very likely you are exercising and not practicing.
Good Players – Listen Up
I know a lot of players trying to make it. They are ‘working hard’ and practicing all hours of every day, in the hopes that one day they will break through to the big leagues.
The problem I see often is that these players substitute quality practice for quantity. That’s right – they think it is a race to 10,000 hours (no thanks to a bunch of books on the topic), or the winner is the person who hits the most golf balls. I can tell you that this is simply not true.
“A little quality practice will beat a large quantity of poor quality practice any day of the week”
So, put down the bucket of 10,000 golf balls and your earphones, and start practicing like you mean it. Make every ball count – even on the practice range.
Prepare for the shot like it is your last golf ball.
Use forms of practice which encourage learning, and not simply performance.
Add pressure to make it even more realistic
In light of the recent release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, it seems fitting to re-publish this article on the real force that is going to help you make more putts.
How many times have we had a putt power-lip-out or crash into the back of the hole only to see it pop out and come to rest on the other side of the cup? The answer is probably more times than we care to admit, but a simple understanding of the Force can solve those problems. Don’t think you’re a Jedi? Well, good news is there Jedi experience is not required.
We don’t need to be in a galaxy far, far away to learn how the force of gravity affects our putts. We all know what gravity is, but what does it mean for your putting? When a ball is rolling towards and over the cup, gravity needs time to pull that ball down into the cup.
This is where capture speed, the pace at which a ball is rolling, comes into play. If a ball is traveling at the proper pace for gravity to pull it down into the cup, we call that effective capture speed. If a ball is traveling faster, the cup size will become smaller and the capture speed is not as effective. How much smaller does the cup become? Let’s take a closer look.
To the guy in your scramble that hammers it six feet past the cup and exclaims “I gave it a run!”: He had as good a chance of making the putt as a guy that left it short. Six feet by is too much speed for the cup to handle and the ball simply will not go in.
That said, we’ll just make sure every putt drips over the front edge of the cup, right? Wrong. The last thing we want is a minor imperfection in the surface or gust of wind to keep the putt from reaching the hole.
To measure about what proper speed is about, 6 to 12 inches past the cup is a safe reference point. You’ll be making the cup larger and have an element of predictability on your short putts. And if you were wondering…
There are so many “expert” junior golf parents roaming the fairways and pro shops miscommunicating their interpretations on NCAA rules or standards for college golf. We are certainly not the experts in NCAA and we encourage you to do the research yourself. Listening to what “they” say is not a great approach to understanding the confusing road map of college golf.
There are several rules that if you don’t know can hurt your junior golfer. There are some great websites and resources that can help you get answers. We cannot stress enough about starting early, know the rules, do the research and be careful of “expert” junior golf parents. It’s a very slippery slope if you wait to start the education process when your junior golfer is a junior or senior in high school.
Ok, so just because your junior golfer is talented at a young age does not mean scholarships are on the horizon. Many parents start dreaming of seeing their junior golfer play college golf when they are still in diapers swinging the plastic clubs. Which is great, but talent alone will not get your junior golfer into college. There are several websites you need to follow on a weekly basis to help you wade the waters of college golf. Rules change over time, for example the recent change in standardized testing.
Below is a list of 5 aspects you need to know about College Golf.
1. What is NLI stand for? National Letter of Intent – Did you know that the Ivy’s do not have NLI’s? From our understanding, the student-athlete receives a “likely” letter, which is not binding.
2. Contacting coaches – Junior golfers can contact college coaches 100 times a day if they so choose, however, it’s probably not a great tactic……college coaches may not contact junior golfers until a certain age.
3. NCAA – Division III – do Division III institutions award athletic scholarships? The answer is no they do not award athletic scholarships.
4. Camp contact – college coaches may only contact junior golfers of a certain age, again a confusing topic…..however, coaches are allowed to interact and talk with junior golfers of any age at camps.
5. SAT/ACT testing – These rules recently changed, parents of junior golfers should become an “expert” on the academic standards.
We are happy to email you a recent copy of the “Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete” which is produced by the NCAA. It helps students and parents take an active role in the NCAA eligibility process. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
It is important to understand why we’ve issued this short article. We are not a recruiting service, however these are a few of the topics we cover at all College Golf Camps™. Just like the NCAA says “As a future student-athlete, it is important that you become personally involved”. We are a junior golf camp organization on a mission to provide a higher level of understanding of college golf. The bottom line is parents need to become educated on the rules and regulations of college athletics. If your child is ineligible for some reason, no amount of love, money or talent can get him/her on a college golf team.
Every golfer has two golfers in them. Are you a growth minded golfer or a fixed mindset golfer?
Growth mindset golfers typically have confidence built over time through a building process. Fixed mindset golfers tend to have fragile confidence because they believe you’re either born to be great or you’re not.
We all know that golf is a crazy, mental game. I hope you’re making your mental game a priority in 2016.
So many college golf coaches want confident players who like new challenges and are ok with change. For example, how would you respond if you’re playing a college golf tournament with a weather delay? Would you look to complain about the weather bringing your teammates down and/or start making excuses as to why you won’t play well? Or would you be the golfer/teammate looking at the delay as an opportunity to practice putting in the pro-shop or getting to know your teammates better or whatever…..ultimately, you’re looking to turn a negative into a positive for growth.
Let’s face it, how many aspects of golf are within your control? A golfer can hit a perfect shot with the perfect club and still have a poor result! It’s a funny game, shooting 68 is so close to also shooting 80……below is a short episode with Dr. Mark Guadagnoli about “Grit”…….