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Friday, December 8, 2017

How to Manage Your Game for Improvement


Following are two guidelines I provide to all of my up and coming junior players that want to start competing.  But, the guides can be used by any golfer whether they want to compete or just be the best player they can be.  The guides are simple and will help you understand your current ability and the steps needed to get to the next level.  The first guide is "Manage your Game" and the second guide is "Tournament Golf". 

Manage Your Game to Lower Your Scores on the Course

Managing your game includes managing the physical as well as the mental.  The number one rule is to stay in the present during your round.  You cannot predict what you are going to shoot.  You are setting yourself up for disappointment if you do.  Just because you are getting ready to play a short or easy hole does not guarantee a birdie.  If you are not careful, you can walk away with a double bogey.
The best way to gain control of your game is to:

a) Evaluate the state of your game

b) Improve mechanics and physical conditioning

c) Improve your thought process (target/routine)

d) Improve course management (club selection/aim)

e) Emotions- suffer in solitude and enjoy in quietness

Before you learn to manage your game, you have to know where you are starting.  It is a journey.  Once you evaluate, you will have a better understanding of the physical and mental work needed.
I will say that playing the same course every day can make us complacent in game management.  We put our brain in auto pilot and go through the motions. You may not know yardages but you know you hit an 8 iron when you are by this tree on #1.  When you take your game on the road, you may not play as well because you have lost the ability to go through the process of hitting a shot.  Lack of attention to detail leads to inconsistency.

a) ******Review Game Evaluation*****

Evaluate Your Game     

Your answers to these questions will help you better understand which parts of your game need improvement so you can meet your goals.


# Years played ____ Current handicap or average score _____ +/- Prev. Year ________


1.  How often do you play?  _________________________________________________


2.  How often do you practice your full swing?  _________________________________


3.  How often do you go to the putting green? ___________________________________


4.  How often do you practice chipping/pitching/bunkers? _________________________


5.  What is your lowest round this year? ____________ lowest round ever? ___________


6.  How far do you hit your average tee shot in the air?   __________________________


7.  How far do you hit your average 7 iron?  ____________________________________


8.  How often do you visualize your shots?  ____________________________________


9.  Do your emotions prevent you from playing your best?  ________________________


10.  Do you have trouble staying focused for an entire round?  _____________________


11.  Which club do you hit the best? ______________ Worst? _____________________


12.  What does your typical bad shot look like?  _________________________________


13.  Have you been professionally fit for your clubs?  ____________________________


14.  Track these stats your next 5 rounds:      Fairways hit                            ____ 

                                                                        Greens hit in regulation           ____

                                                                        Total putts                               ____  

                                                                        Sand saves                              ____

                                                                        Penalty shots                           ____

                                                                        Three putts                              ____


15.  What are your 2018 goals?  ________________________________________________________________________

                                        
16.  Have you had professional instruction?  ____________________________________


__________________________________________________________________________________

b) Improve Mechanics and Physical Conditioning. 


Kevin Na at the Dell World Match Play Championship

The Russian Twist Core Workout
An example of improving mechanics would be making a set-up or swing change to improve ball striking, add length and consistency.  Try to keep swing thoughts few and simple.  Learning to hit shots left, right, high and low would be another example of improving the physical.  These are the shots that get you out of trouble.  Part of managing your game is knowing how far each club goes in the air (see Set Make Up below).  Working on short game mechanics is very important and will give you the fastest improvement to lower your scores.  Learn to be more creative around the greens ie. know when and how to hit a short shot high or low.   Also part of physical management is your actual physical conditioning.  Fitness now plays a huge role in TOUR players and should play a role in your game as well.  It should include core workouts and walking.  Stamina is very important especially toward the end of the round.  If you are getting physically tired, you will not perform as well.  You have to play all 18 holes and all are equally important.  Drink plenty of water during the round, not soft drinks or alcohol.

Set Make Up

Lofts and Yardages

Make/Model Irons:  ____________________


                                Loft       Distance

Wedge 1
Wedge 2
Wedge 3
PW 
9 iron
8 iron
7 iron
6 iron
5 iron
4 iron
3 iron
Hybrid 1
Hybrid 2
Hybrid 3
Fairway
Fairway
Fairway
Driver

Visit www.golfclubspec.com to find the specs of your set.

The list for mental improvement is much longer than physical!

c) Improve Thought Process-target/routine



One of the best pieces of advice I have heard is "make an aggressive swing to a conservative target".  Instead of hitting an easy driver, go ahead and make an aggressive swing with the club that will not reach trouble.  When we are not committed to the shot we usually make bad swings.  Always hit the shot you know you can hit.  Always pick a target for every shot.  It is OK to acknowledge the hazards, then focus on your target.  For short game shots, your target is the spot you want the ball to land.  Your pre-shot routine is important.  This should be in process while the others in your group are playing their shots. 

Matt Kuchar at Dell World Match Play Championship Preparing to Play
1.  Choose club, based on yardage, wind, uphill/downhill  (Masters Champion, Jackie Burke- "we didn't have yardage markers or yardage books, we figured out which club we could hit over the green and then hit one less").

2.  Pick target and intermediate target-this is done from behind the ball and will help you with alignment.

3.  Visualize and feel the swing

4.  Let it go!

d)  Improve Course Management- club selection/aim

You should play the course based on your current ability.  Again, you have to hit the shot you know you can hit.  To me, course management is connecting the dots on every hole.  You play from point A to point B, go through your routine and then add the score when you are finished.  As an example, if you are playing a long par 5, divide the hole into thirds.  Let's say the hole is 540 yards long.  If you divide into thirds, you only have to hit each shot 180 yards.  Now, if you hit your drive 220 right in the middle, you only have 320 yards to go.  At this point you can divide that in half and play it as a short par 4 by hitting two 160 yard shots or hit your second shot 180 leaving only 140 to the green.  You get my point.  If you hit your driver 275 yards but out of play, now you are looking at bogey or worse.  I use this same technique on par 4's.  Only I divide the yardage in half.  I usually look at the yardage and then figure "how far do I have to the 150 marker?"  The bottom line is what did you shoot, not how you did it.  That's why the box is so small on the scorecard. 



Depending on your ability and weather conditions, you may play this par 4 cautiously by laying up both the tee shot and second shot OR go ahead play it as normal.  The beauty of golf is there is only "your" way of playing the hole. 


Remember:  loft is your friend- loft keeps the ball in play.

How do you practice course management?

On the practice tee, go through your routine on each shot you hit.  It is your quality of practice and not necessarily your quantity that will help you improve.  Visualize playing a golf hole on the range.  Don't just go bang 150 seven iron shots.  Hit a drive, based on how you hit it, choose the club you need for a second shot and hit that.  This will help your visualization skills.

e) Emotions

Don't let them ruin your game.  It is just a game.  Suffer in silence and enjoy in solitude.

Each shot deserves to be hit with the same focus and attention.  Don't follow a bad shot with another bad shot.  Breathe, keep your head up.

Review: Five F's

Play with Focus, Play Fast, Play Fair and you will play Fantastic and have more Fun!



There’s Golf…then there is Tournament Golf


On the Range at the Dell World Match Play Championship
The difference in social golf and tournament golf analogy:  Social golf is like walking on a 15’ long 2x4 on the ground.  As the competition expands, raise the 2x4 two feet off the ground for each level you grow (club, city, state, national).  Raising the board increases your intensity level!   It's the same 2x4 so you have to embrace the challenge and walk that 2x4 with confidence at each level.

Remember:  Half the field does not care what you shoot and the other half wishes you would have scored worse!  Play your own game!

From 30,000’ in the air looking down you are just a speck on the course…golf is not that big of a deal in the grand scheme.  Just go PLAY golf and add up your score at the end. 

It is the little things that will make you better.  Have a good grip and set up.  Then line up properly and go from point A to point B!


Play with better players and you will improve and learn what they do well.

Prepare for Competition

1.  Love every club in your bag! 

2.  Identify areas of concern and address them.

3.  Instruction: don’t wait until the week before and decide you need to fix your swing.

4.  Get in shape: exercise to improve strength, flexibility and mental toughness.

5.  Know the basic rules of golf for your benefit and to protect the field.

6.  Foul weather gear: have a great waterproof rain suit, sunscreen, umbrella, towel, band aids, insect spray, etc.

7.  Develop practice schedule: treat like a job to get prepared, and make time for long game and short game.

8.  Putt everyday: work on 3-5’ putts and 30-50’ putts.

9.  You will score lower with a great short game.  Practice chipping, pitching and bunkers.  Learn to be creative when needed.

10.  Narrow focus when practicing: use one side of the range and work on alignment.

11.  Practice course management: easy to get lazy when you play the same course daily.

12.  Develop a pre-shot routine to improve consistency and better prepare you to hit a shot.  It never varies regardless of the situation.

13.  Practice round for event:  DO NOT KEEP SCORE!  You are there to learn the nuances of the course.

14.  Night before the event: visualize each hole in your mind and how you are going to play the hole.

15.  If a large event with a starter, gallery etc: start practicing the first tee shot a week in advance.  When on the range imagine the starter calling your name and then visualize the shot and hit it. 

16.  Prepare clothes/snacks/directions etc. the night before the event.


Tournament Day

1.  Give yourself plenty of drive time.  Don’t arrive rushed.

2.  Walking/Riding?  If riding in a cart, try to drive so you are in control.

3.  Stay hydrated/carry snacks, no soft drinks or candy.

4.  Putt first then hit balls before the round.  The putting green is usually empty at first so you can find a short putt and make 25-50 putts.  Then put some long putts to get the feel of the greens for the day.  They may be faster for tournament day.


5.  Warm up: feel tempo, not mechanics.  Hit enough balls to feel tempo then hit a few bunker shots and pitch shots.  Do not wear yourself out!

6.  Arrive to the tee early.  Read the rules sheet.  Don’t forget the hole location sheet!

7.  Attitude:  be the player you would like to play with.  Maintain even keel with emotions.

8.  Play your game, not your fellow competitors.  If you planned on laying up on a hole and he/she hits driver…who cares.

9.  BREATHE and keep your head up.  Remember animals in the jungle that keep their heads down get eaten!

10.  Course management: Remember 6 is better than 7.  Don’t follow a bad shot with an equally bad shot or bad decision.

11.  See positive, not negative on each hole.  Remember, acknowledge the trouble then play from point A to B.

12.  Stay in the present: don’t fall into the trap of looking ahead to the easy 15th hole thinking you will make birdie.

13.  Play every shot as if it's your first shot of the day...there is no history on the first shot.

14.  Be prepared to play when it is your turn.  Don’t start taking more time just because it is a tournament. 

15.  Double check your scorecard and sign it.  Thank the volunteers for their time.

16.  If it is a multi-day event, go work on any issues at the range, but do not wear yourself out. 


Keep stats, learn from them, and then go play golf…not golf swing!














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