written by: Megan Younkman, LPGA Class A Teaching Professional
Photo Credit: ResidentialGolfLessons.com
The simple truth about playing a good game on the course is…it is different than on the practice range. Golf is one of the few sports that our practice area is different than our playing area. In basketball and tennis, we practice on the court. In baseball, softball and soccer, we practice on the field. In hockey, we are on the rink. In golf, we practice at the range and take it to the golf course. It may take a little different mindset and plan of action to actually play as good as you practice. If you have ever had any of these thoughts below, this article is for you:
-I capable of shooting par on one hole then carding a snowman on the next
-I shoot a 42 on the front nine and a 53 on the back nine (or the like)
-The way I start a hole depicts the outcome for that hole
-One bad shot will lead me to a plethora of terrible thoughts and I cannot move forward
-I just can’t get into the same rhythm as I achieve on the range
-My swing changes once I am on the course
-With as much as I practice, I should be shooting better scores
-I am so much better than this!
Sound familiar? I get it, we all get it. Welcome to golf, again. You may randomly feel that way every time you step up to the ball. You may sometimes wonder if you’ve ever held a club in your hands before? These thoughts are totally normal. There are simple strategies to overcome this overload of insecurity. It is called “transfer” and we all know from life, carrying past baggage to the future does nothing for any positive outcomes.
Congratulations! You are doing great! You’re spending time on your swing, you’ve found an LPGA Teaching Professional who you sync with and have never seen better results toward your goals. You are improving and motivated by all of those great shots on the range! You get into your “groove”-but still aren’t seeing results on the course. STOP: change up the way you practice.
PICK YOUR CLUBS FOR THE DAY Choose even numbers or odds - and always finish with all of your woods. Switch up the next time you practice. Your game and your comfort level with each club will thank you.
DON’T HIT A JUMBO BUCKET Get a 75 ball bucket (medium), stretch out, hit 5 balls with each club for warm-up, then spend the remaining time picking a target while going through your full pre-shot routine. You may notice you aren’t doing as well as grabbing the next ball and swinging again and again…this is because you are now practicing for play. This will get better if you stick to it.
FIND AN 'IN-SWING' THOUGHT When practicing on the range, find 1 thought you have when swinging that leads you to a great shot. You may say; "I have 15 thoughts over the ball!" THAT is a warning sign. Studies show golfers can have a maximum of 2 working swing thoughts when swinging the club. And it only works if 1 is in priority over the other. This means...pick 1 for success. It is the thought that gives you a good shot 80% of the time. You may find, it is the more simple of the 2 you choose. Go with it. Play with it.
PLAN AHEAD FOR SUCCESS Once you hit your full shots, time to move to short game practice. If you calculate how many shots on the course are short game vs. your full shots, you should see 64%+. This is how much time you should be spending pitching, chipping and putting. I always calculate that number from the course and give that much time each practice to my short game. Drive for show...putt for dough.
PLAY ON COURSE
Today is the day! All you have practiced for is going to serve you to win the money, see better shots or play like the pro you have been on the practice range! STOP: the reality is, you must change up your practice habits and dive into the following mind-sets…you will then see your score improve.
VARIABLES Acknowledge there is a difference between the golf course and on-course play. Wind, weather, time of day, what you ate pre-round, what you eat during round, are you drinking alcohol?, is your playing partner chatty?, are you driving or a passenger in the cart?, does your playing partner hit the ball further than you?, oh no, you only have one shot! Actually, you have 4 hours of shots ahead of you.
PLAY YOUR OWN GAME I recommend you do not watch your playing partners swings. Look away when they swing-watch only their ball flight and give them an ‘Atta boy/girl’. Remember the old adage “monkey see, monkey do”? Watching their swings may affect your tempo, your thoughts etc. Keep to yourself.
80-20 BUCKETS I encourage you to play with two buckets…one for 80% good shots and one allowing for 20% poor shots. The pros know a secret and don’t often share it. If I could hand you an 'in-swing' thought that makes 80% of your shots the way you want them…would you take it? YES! The key the pros do is that they never respond to the last shot they made enough to change their working swing thought. YOU change your thoughts over the ball based on your last swing. Do you notice? If you topped the ball, hit it fat or beamed it across the green...you respond: ”The next shot I should being the club more inside” or “stay down” or “I should do what I read 2 weeks ago and turn more with my shoulders”. EXHAUSTING so NO: If you have a good in-swing thought that serves you 80% of the time-allow yourself the bad shot. You just didn’t do it that time. Fix it by simply going to the next shot, with that 80% swing thought and do it better that next time. Allow for your 20% bucket of bad shots to fill before you start messing around with changing your thought that gives you 80% return. This may sound like the stock market - it is—now, let’s make some money!
4-HOUR GAME NUTRITION Golf is asking a lot of you. If you weren’t playing golf, what would you be doing in that 4-hour period? Would you be performing in a play? Would you be exhausting yourself in a workout for 4 hours? 4 hours is a long time the game asks you to be at your best. You have to keep your sugar levels even so you can perform to your best. I suggest, DRINK water for hydration, continuously SIP a watered down beverage such as orange juice or gatorade, and eat a couple bites of your favorite snack every 3 holes. Stay away from soda’s. Wanting to play your best does not mean alcohol consumption full-round and a hot dog on the turn. If so, have fun - please laugh at your OB drives and 4-putts? You want to play better? - infuse these strategies into your game.
DISTRACTIONS ON THE COURSE Focus during shots. Take it from the pros..when you get to your ball, it is time to assess your lie condition, your wind and your angle of approaching your target. The "variables" previously mentioned are still active. Do yourself a favor for FOCUS. See it as a light switch? After you pick your club for the shot and enter into your pre-shot routine = LIGHTS ON. Flick ON the light switch --no person nor any variable can take away from your focus. When your ball lands = LIGHTS OFF. Flick OFF the light switch immediately when your ball lands --this will allow you to get back to your playing partners gab or the noise of the beverage cart approaching.
Find yourself an LPGA Teaching Professional at www.lpga.com and you will see more improvement than you could ever have imagined. You are working hard…now let’s see the payoff!