Sometimes in golf we need to unlearn before we can learn

The Golf Brain

The last couple of weeks have been up and down in terms of my scores, but I have learned some very valuable lessons along the way.

In my last five rounds I have two of my best scores for the season, two of my worst, and an average round.  What does that tell you?  It tells me that golf is a game of patience.  You can’t control the outcome.  You can only control your process.

Golf is interesting because you can’t force a good shot, you can only let it happen, but you can definitely do a lot of things to create bad shots.  The opposite of that is what I think sports psychologists call “getting out of your own way”.

Over the last few weeks I’ve kept plugging away and practicing what I learned from my coach Eben Dennis.  What’s interesting is that little by little the pieces are coming together, but only because I’m still working on them.  Most golfers, when they take a lesson, or try to make a swing change, take a short term approach.  I don’t think they do it on purpose, but I think they get frustrated when they are not getting results.  So they start to think that what they were learning doesn’t work.  It might be because they tried to take it to the golf course and when it failed there, they assumed the idea or concept is broken.  They dump it and start working on another idea, trying a little bit of this, and a little bit of that.  But what if it wasn’t the idea or concept that was broken?  What if they just didn’t take the time they needed to really get it?

You can’t become a better player if you’re constantly trying and throwing out ideas.  Some things take a while to learn.  And sometimes, we need to unlearn before we can learn.  Drop bad habits so that you can make room for good habits.

One of these bad habits I had, which I didn’t even realize was that I was re gripping my club during the swing. I’m not sure if it was on the back swing or on the downswing, but at impact, the club was in a very different position from where it started in my hands.  Here’s the thing though, I didn’t figure this out until a few weeks after seeing Eben.  And once I figured it out, I needed to unlearn this habit, before I could pick up the habit of maintaining my grip in the same position throughout the swing.

Now that I’ve worked on it, there is one less compensation to make and this has made a world of difference.  It has taught me to use the club as it was designed to be used.  Sounds like a simple and common sense statement doesn’t it?  Use the club as it was intended to be used.  But the truth is that few very few golfers actually do that.  They use it as they think it’s supposed to be used, not as it was actually intended to be used and there’s a big difference.  If you go to the driving range you will see golfer after golfer, chopping away at the ball.  You’ll see them get into all kinds of contortions as they make compensations to get the club on the ball.

But the truth is that the club was not designed to require all these compensations and extra effort at the ball.  It was designed for ease of use to let the ball get in the way, and to use the loft and the club head to do the work as the ball simply bounces of the club face.  Think about that for a few minutes.  Marinade your mind in that thought.  The ball bounces off the face of the club, no extra effort needed and no need to chop at it.

This morning’s round is a sign that I’m working on the right things.  I shot a 76, that could easily have been a 70 if only a few more putts had gone in.  This round simply ramps up my determination to continue to work with the concepts I’ve been learning.  Control, Vision and Dynamic balance.  Get Power Feel Golf to understand what these mean in the golf swing.

Asking the right questions

The Golf BrainI was reading Fearless Golf by Dr. Gio Valiante, and in chapter 4 he talks about the questions that guide us.  I’m reminded of that scene in “The Matrix” where Trinity and Neo are at the nightclub early in the movie and she says to him, “It’s the question that drives us.”  In his case the question was “What is the Matrix?”, but in golf the question is “What is my target?”.

Often though we get caught up in things like our score, our competitors, pressure, what I did on the last hole, or 3 holes ago and we get away from asking “What is my target?”.  But Dr. Valiante is right.  The questions do drive us.  Asking the right questions can help us play better, make better decisions and keep us in the moment, while asking the wrong questions, can quickly take us out of the moment and down that road we’ve been before, and we know where that road ends.

The wrong questions introduce fear and distractions, they make us focus on the past or on the future, and they take us out of the zone if we were in it, or more likely, just take us further away from being in the zone.

So how do we get to the point where we are asking the right questions?  One of the key ways I think is to think well about the strategy, the way we want to play the hole.  Thinking about strategy puts us back squarely in the present.  Asking ourselves the question “How do I want to play this hole?” is much more constructive than something like, “I usually hit way right on this hole, what if I do that again? Or worse, what if I hit it in the water?  What if I look like a fool?”.  One question gets your mind moving in a direction that allows you to marshal your resources, the other takes you out of the present, introduces fear and doubt, and makes it hard to focus on this shot right now.

This is where something like Game Sense is very helpful.  Listening to the program will teach you those strategies.  Then when you ask yourself “How do I want to play this hole?” you can pull up strategies that work.  Instead of focusing on useless, doubt creating questions, you can strategize and step up to the ball confidently because you know that with the right strategy, even if you don’t hit the perfect shot, you can get away with it and miss it good.  That alone can result in more confident and fearless golf.

So remember, it’s the question that drives us.  Choose the right question and you move in the right direction.  Choose the wrong question and it’s like trying to play with one hand  tied behind your back.

Be your own caddy

Man putting at golf course.As I kid I learned how to play golf on a golf course with caddies.  We never took the golf cart, but we usually had a couple of caddies.

The caddies were great.  Not only were they super nice and friendly, they knew the course so well that you couldn’t help but play better.  They kept you in the game, recommended the right strategies and clubs.

I don’t get to play with a caddy anymore.  So I’ve had to learn to become my own caddy.  I’ve had to learn the right strategies.  I’ve had to learn to deal with the disappointment of making a bad swing.  The caddies were great with that.  They could always make you laugh.

I think that if everybody could play with a good caddy, that the scores of the average golfer would really drop.  Playing with a caddy really takes pressure off.  Your mind can be much more quiet, thinking about the shot, rather than trying to calculate everything.  But since most people don’t get to play with caddies then they need some help.

I think it’s great that GPS devices have come along.  They can certainly help with strategy, that is if you know the strategies then you can get the most out of your gps.  If you don’t know the strategies and you only know distances, then you won’t be able to play your best golf.

Caddies will give you the right club if there’s trouble in back.  They’ll give you the right club if there’s trouble to carry.  But range finders won’t do that.  They’ll only give you distances.  It’s up to you to use the right strategies.  I’ve been writing a lot about strategy lately because I really believe that golfers can cut their scores by simply playing better strategic golf.  The problem is that most golfes never take short game lessons, they never take playing lessons where they can learn the strategies, and so it’s almost like their playing with one hand tied behind their back.

The golf course architects use all kinds of tricks to get players to make bad decisions.  And these bad decisions, lead to double bogey or worse.  Simply knowing these tricks can help players beat the course architects.  If everyone could play with a caddy, these problems could be avoided.  However, most players are on their own, solo golfers battling the golf course, the conditions, the architects, their opponents if in a match, and themselves.  That’s why we created Game Sense: Tee to Green.  It gives you the knowledge to be your own caddy, and play your best golf.

Golf perfection is impossible and not needed to play good golf

Hawaii Golf CourseYou ever get mad when you don’t pull off a shot, that realistically you had no business trying?  Happens to me too.  Just because we hit that shot once in our life we think we should be able to do it on command.

Of course, that’s not even close to reality.  Perfect golf is impossible even for the players at the very top of their game who are the best in the world.

But you don’t need to play perfect to score well.  When I look back on my best scoring rounds, I wasn’t playing perfectly.  I was leaving myself with good opportunities to score and was able to cash in on enough of them to end up with a good score.

Aside from perfection in golf being unattainable, the main problem with trying to get it is that it puts pressure on every part of your game.  That is the quickest way to score badly.

What you want to do is find ways to take pressure off your game.  Play to your strengths.  If you’re a good wedge player, don’t go for the par 5s in two, leave yourself a good wedge that you know you can get close instead of an awkward 40 yard pitch shot over trouble.  If you’re a good putter, you don’t need to be close to the hole on every approach shot, just get on the green and two putt, and you’ll occasionally one putt for birdie.  In fact just trying to get on the green, might leave you closer to the pin then trying to get it in tight.

As I said, good scoring doesn’t require perfect ball striking.  Good scoring requires you to make smart decisions that will take the pressure off and leave the best chance for success.  To increase your golf IQ and make smarter decisions on the course, check out Game Sense.  Play smarter golf and lower your scores.  Bill S. lowered his scores using game sense on his first round with it.

How Bill lowered his score by 5 shots using Game Sense

I received this great note in my inbox this morning.

“Today, once the rain stopped, I headed out to my course to test drive “Game  Sense”.  I live on a golf course and have played it nearly every week for 8 years. Using the Game  Sense points I actually came to view the course a totally different way. Angles and highways came into view after reading the hole from the green to tee. Amazing, it all works. I played 15 holes, had a par putt on every hole and NO Doubles. Shot 39 on the first 9! My avg score on this nine is 42-43. Playing the hole from the best approach saves a lot of big numbers.

On the par 3’s I followed your instructions exactly and teed it up in new places and started to grasp where Arthur Hills, the architect, was trying to trick everyone. I had birdie putts on all 4 par 3’s and hit the ball where I had the most green to work with. 2 putt pars on all of them did not disappoint me at  all.

Amazing!!! Playing the course as you and Eben suggested works very well indeed. I could go on and on. – Bill Sferro”

Bill, I know how you feel. The first time I headed out to the course after learning the strategies in Game Sense, it was amazing. It was as if I looked at the golf course with a new set of eyes. I could see things I had never noticed before. I could see where the architect was trying to trick golfers and why most golfers fall for it.

Since then I have been playing some of my best golf in terms of scoring. What’s impressed me is how well you can score even when you don’t have your best stuff, if you just play smart, and that’s what Game Sense allows you to do. I don’t always hit the ball the way I want, but when you play smart, you can still score well. You can still have par putts on every hole, or almost every hole, and double bogeys or worse are nowhere in sight.