There’s been a lot of hype and talk about the new rules that came in to effect from January this year and not everyone welcomed them.
Some were welcomed and some have been questioned, such as being allowed to putt with the flag stick in. I’m not so sure about the benefits of doing that, except it may save a little time on the green, which over 18 holes may shave a few minutes off the round.
Everything helps I suppose.
I know I prefer to stick with the old way of taking it out when on the green. An old habit.
But when it comes to dropping from knee height, I’ve seen videos of some of the pro events where the pro’s haven’t even been sure exactly what to do and are concerned with an infringement.
Some things are understood when written, but some need seeing to be understood and I’d recommend watching this short video released by the R & A that explains the 20 Must Know Rule Changes for 2019.
Now what’s all that got to do with improving my mental game?
We are creatures of habit. We spend most of our day on for want of a better word ‘autopilot’, doing things we always do from the moment we get up with our usual routines, to the time we go to bed and do all our usual then.
The same happens in golf and over the years we’ve become accustomed to certain habits and routines, both good and bad and much of the time we aren’t actually aware of them. This is true with the rules of golf.
Here’s a short example:
John’s out on Saturday in a club competition and he thinks he knows the rule changes but hasn’t spent much time frequenting himself with them. He’s had a busy week, so he’s pressed for time and gets to the club just in time for his tee time.
His ball hits his bag on the 5th and he penalises himself. Then on the 11th he double hits his ball and penalises himself again.
Now, he hasn’t actually any penalties with the new rules changes, but if he isn’t fully aware of the changes or indeed forgets about them, he can easily revert to his old habits, think he’s done wrong and penalise himself.
He then starts getting frustrated because of two ‘silly’ errors and his mind starts working against him, he gets anxious trying to claw back those two penalty shots.
Before long he’s dropped another 4 because he’s under pressure to get back into the game and by the time he walks off the 18th his round is ruined.
We’ve become accustomed to many of the rules and don’t have to think about them, with the exception of some of the more complex ones.
When we have changes to make to our habits and routines, the mind doesn’t always like them and it’s very easy to fall into our old habits and do what we’ve always done.
It’s easy to forget something unless we remind ourselves of the changes and it can be easier to watch the rules to get a real understanding, rather than simply reading them, to help get them fixed into our minds.
If you want to know more about how to improve your mental game take a look at my 7 Keys to Improve Your Mental Golf. It’s a short read of around 5 minutes but I think will help if you’ve not worked on that side of your game.
To your success.
Let’s face it we all want to improve our golf. There’s endless instructional video, information and books on improving and perfecting the swing. The idea of the game obviously is to get the ball in the hole in the least amount of shots.
So, the target is the hole ultimately. But before then we also have a target somewhere on the way to the hole and usually that is a spot in the distance, the fairway 200, 250 or 350 yards away depending on who you’re playing with!
You’ve heard the instructions “Pick your spot and let rip” and off you go to do as instructed.
Over the years there has been differing advice as to where we should be aiming or picking a spot. It has been suggested picking a spot just in front of your ball in a line directed to where you want your ball to go to keep your club and ball heading in that direction.
Like many things, it comes down to personal choice about what is comfortable and works for you.
Back in 2017 Golf Top 100 Teacher, Eric Alpenfels and Dr. Bob Christina, Emeritus Professor of Kinesiology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, studied 32 golfers with an average 12 handicap, to see what actually worked better.
After extensive testing using different methods, they discovered that the golfers who picked a wider target area in the distance, the width of the fairway for example, produced better results than when focusing on a smaller target on the fairway and not only that but gained an average overall of just over 6 yards.
Something most golfers would be happy with.
They concluded picking a wider target in the distance from the tee would produce the best results.
Now, new evidence has just come in that would appear to be even more interesting.
The same two guys, Eric Alpenfels and Dr. Bob Christina, did a recent study of 29 golfers of varying ability, where the golfers were asked to hit 6 shots each, aiming at three different directions.
1. Looking only at a distant target
2. Looking only at an intermediary target
3. Looking at a distant and intermediary target, which is considered to be the traditional method.
The results seem quite amazing really.
When measured, they showed that there was improvement over all the golfers when they forgot about the distant target.
Their accuracy was better, and their distance was the same when they focused on a point just in front of their golf ball!
I don’t have the all the figures available but if you are struggling to hit fairways off the tee and haven’t been able to fathom out why, try testing this out and see how you get on.
Focus is such an important part of the game, which is often undervalued by many golfers. The problem I believe in trying to focus on a spot in the distance and an intermediary spot doesn't work because the mind gets confused.
It can only focus on one thing at a time and when we 'try' to focus on the two different places, believing they are in alignment, it causes confusion and the body struggles to follow the instruction.
There’s no right or wrong way, we just have to find the way that: a) works for us and b) we are comfortable with and c) gets the best results. I believe that is to focus on one thing only and take it from there.
Otherwise it can drive you crazy with frustration, which will only have a negative effect on the rest of your game.
If you find you're not getting the results you want and would like to know more about improving your mental golf game, click here to get my 7 Keys to Improving Your Mental Golf.
I recall being at a range not so long ago where there were a few guys out preparing for their round. They had a basket of balls each and were chatting as they went through what looked like their set routine; grab the driver and smash away until the basket was empty, then get in the cart and head off to the first tee.
After about 20 shots, one of the guys would stop for a second and watch friend swishing away and then continue attacking the balls on his pitch. In turn, his mate would stop, turn and watch him smack ball after ball.
It seemed like they were wilfully hitting driver after driver in roughly the same direction, but I couldn’t really tell if it was at any ‘target’.
I don't think they could either.
Every so often one would make a comment which ranged from “I think I need a stiff shaft” or “I’m not sure why I keep slicing it” or “I haven’t warmed up enough yet” which was a cracker really as he was halfway through the bucket by now, which equated to 9 holes of golf in reality.
They eventually got into a conversation around swing thoughts and how to develop a well-honed swing like you see on tv.
Eventually they finished their respective basket of balls, got in their buggy and headed off to the first tee whilst wiping the sweat from their brows with the complementary towels that had been supplied.
No wonder they were sweating. They’d just hit a large basket of balls each which works out at around 90-100 balls depending on who fills them and it was 85f (29c). That’s a round of golf for many an average golfer, more if you think about hitting that many shots instead of the putts.
By the time they finished they’d have hit enough balls for 2 rounds of golf, it was hot and the total amount of time being out including playing would be close to 5 hours.
Fatigue is not limited to the physical side of the game. The mental side suffers too.
Can you remember how difficult it was at some point to concentrate at work, whilst studying or played well at a sport when you’ve been tired from the night before?
A whole basket of balls may not seem a lot but it's too many to be hitting just before going out to play a full round, even if you are fit. It's more difficult to swing with the same conviction and accuracy, which of course affects how we perform.
Which means it’s more difficult to focus, there is more margin for error, the mind has to work harder and there is more likelihood of frustration creeping in. Not a recipe for success.
So how many is enough?
There is no exact amount. It will vary depending on the person and of course the weather. I’m sure no one wants to stand out hitting a whole basket when it’s really cold or when it’s really hot, on top of the playing time. All I know is a basket is too many.
The idea is not to perform a full practice session nor re-train your swing on the practice ground before playing. The idea is to spend a few minutes to literally warm up, get the body moving and ‘feel’ what it’s like to swing the club again and get into the frame of mind to play golf.
Just the same way as turning up in a rush and heading straight to the first tee is not a good way to prepare, neither is spending too much time on the practice ground before playing.
I would suggest you experiment by hitting 20-25 balls next time you go out, to just get warmed up and ‘feel’ the club swinging before heading out to the first tee. Then see how you feel and how it worked. You may feel 20 is enough or you may find that you need a few more or a few less, so you don't tire too easily physically or mentally during your round.
The main thing is to find what works best for you and how many is enough.
I hope this will help you and if you haven’t already, grab a copy of my 7 Keys to improve Your mental Golf Game by clicking here 7 KEYS MENTAL GOLF GAME
To your success
Performance Coach & Trainer at Golfing minds