Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year Golf Resolutions

I've always enjoyed the process of re-evaluating life and making New Years resolutions to help get back on the right track.  Here's a great article by Donald Crawley that gives some suggestions for improving your golf game in 2012...

I know that we don't all make resolutions at year's end (even though we plan to) or, if we do, we rarely stick to them past January 10th of each year. It is simply human nature to return to the customary routine after the ball drops and the confetti has been cleaned up. But, I am going to give you seven simple, yet practical, resolutions that will help your golf game for the coming year and make 2012 better than 2010 has been for you on the fairways and greens.

1. Keep it simple - Whatever method, system, theory that you employ with your game, keep it simple. The brain can only handle a couple of swing thoughts at a time. The average swing only takes 1.2 seconds, so you have to keep those thoughts as modest and uncomplicated as possible, getting right to the point of what must be accomplished.

My teaching philosophy and system is called ?golf simplified,' and with good reason. It is a way to remind myself, as I dive in to perform surgery on someone's golf swing, to keep it simple. I also have always believed that it is better to 'under-teach' rather than ?over-teach.'

I don't want to overhear any student saying, "Boy, that Donald gives a good golf lesson, but it is a little complicated!"

Ed note: my personal resolution is to follow the resolutions I am writing in this column!

2. Set a golf goal - If you are a bottom line guy or gal, one that is results oriented, set a numbers goal. That might mean a low score mentality. I aim to break a 100, 90, 80 this year. Set a realistic one, not a distant dream such as I'd like to play the PGA or Champions Tour. unless, of course, you are breaking 70 every time you tee it up. For most amateur weekend golfers aiming at improving five strokes per round would be an attainable goal. When you think about it, pretty incredible but it can be done.

Other goals may come in the form of consistency, so let's move to number three.

3. Be more consistent - Let's understand what 'consistency' is. Hitting every shot perfect is perfection, not consistency. To be a more consistent golfer you have to practice and play on a consistent basis. How about one practice session during the week and one round every weekend? Improving your mechanics will produce more good shots and fewer poor ones, as you build a more consistent, repetitive swing action. End result: more consistency. Now, has the repetitive use of ?consistent' brought the point home? I certainly hope so.

4. Build a routine - If you build a repetitive, unswerving, recurring routine to hitting a golf ball, you will help yourself achieve resolution #3 above. Building a routine simply means you are following a set of pre-shot steps. Note how we are backing up resolution #1.

Visualizing the shot can mean no more than seeing, in your mind's eye, a shot airborne and going forward. Only at the top level are we seeing a high fade falling 2 yards softly to the right at the end of a 220 yard high screaming 5-iron. Where you are concerned, aim the club face before you take your stance. Keep your posture tall and athletic. Plug in your one simple swing thought. Double check your personalized mantra.

Pull the trigger, let the club swing. Piece of cake!

5. Evaluate your game - Break the game into four areas and then assess each one while determining where you need the most help, starting with getting the bag out of the trunk of the car. A lot of my students say that they need help with everything. Accepted and that is true for all of us as everyone, no matter who, can improve in all areas. Why else do the best in the world hit the practice range for hours with thousands of balls struck on a near daily basis?

But, getting back to you, it is necessary to take an honest look at your game. The four disciplines are: driving, fairway play, short approach shots around the green, and putting. Which needs the most help? Often, people complain of their score yet never work on their putting, that facet of play which contributes to 30-40% of the game.

Rate each area by your own standards (being objectively fair), and find time to work on your weaknesses this year, striving to try and establish a more balanced game. If your game suffers because you can't get the ball in play off the tee, then get some help with your tee shot. How fundamental do we have to get? Sometimes it can be an equipment misfit and, quite possibly, you may need a driver with more loft, a softer shaft. Check with your club pro, the golf shop maven, someone that likely knows and can advise.

If you can hit the ball off the tee and advance it down the fairway, but take five shots to then move the ball another 50-100 yards, change your practice habits and work on your short irons. Don't rush to the range and bash a bucket of balls with your driver before you play. Hit some chips and pitches from within 50 yards. Work on the weak link. Usually, it is your swing technique that needs to be tweaked to help your ball striking in all areas. Now see # 6.

6. Get some help - Take a lesson. Very few good golfers are self-taught. To improve, you need another pair of eyes to help you see what is real, not just what you feel. My favorite, and only "cliche",' is what you FEEL is not REAL! To change your set-up or swing, you will need to see and feel a different move or perspective. Even Tiger has his coach watching, helping, tweaking the feel on a regular basis.

Make sure this help is from a qualified professional and not the buddy who shoots 100+ and with whom you play every Saturday morning, the friend that tries to explain what he saw the pros doing the other day watching them compete on TV. Not going to happen!!! Isn't insanity often defined as repeating the same stupid thing over and over? Get some help, make a positive change.

7. Be committed - Not into the looney bin, but be committed to every shot. Remember, you have a 50/50 chance over every shot. You could either hit it or miss it. It could be good or bad. Take a chance and infuse a positive committed attitude over every shot. Don't labor over it, just be more confident than you have been in the past. Practice will help that along.

Don't be wishy-washy. Make your mind up and go for it. You do not require 20 practice swings. Trust me on that one.

This is particularly good advice when putting. Pick the line, commit to it and don't second guess yourself when you stand over the ball. Put a good stroke on it and roll it on your line. No wishing the ball in. Positive thought, committed and crisp stroke with authority.

Same on your drive. Pick a target, make a practice swing ,just one, go through your set-up routine, keep the thought simple, let it go. Be committed and pull the trigger.

Select one of these seven resolutions, or all of them, and put it, or them, into practice as the year unfolds. You may be looking forward to your most successful golf season ever in 2012. Most of all, enjoy the beauty of this game, and I wish all of you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.