Golf Haiku…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: The Mental Golf Game, Uncategorized

During the weeks since my injury, the Sherpa has spent time musing about things to keep my ADD mind busy.

During this period I have discovered a fascination with Haiku. 

Haiku…a centuries old form of Japanese poetry is addictive to write and beautiful in its form.

To compose you need only remember a few simple rules:

1: Three verses.

2: First verse = five syllables

3: Second verse = seven syllables.

4: Third verse = five syllables.

That’s it…

Golf impressions that swirl around the Sherpa’s labrynth of a mind sometimes end up in posts…today they will make their debut as poetry…

Enjoy dear reader…

 

“Weekend Money Match”

Putted ball rolls in

Pandemonium ensues

Old friends exchange skins

“Peril at the PGA”

Watching from fairway

Tiger yells “fore left”!…UH, OH

Nike dents my head

“Golf’s Sweet Agony”

Golf is sweet agony

Each round like a candy bar

Each hole one less bite

“Ode to Tom Watson (’09  British Open)”

The old man contends

His brilliance transcends eras

My heart is broken

“Driving Range Wisdom”

Practice makes perfect

Only if you prepare well

Else misery reigns

“Marriage Counseling”

Try to play each week

Your spouse needs the time alone

And you need practice

“Golf and the Everlasting Soul”

My best friends play golf

Each is going to heaven

Where everyone pars

“Golf Perspective”

I see my bad lie

I know it could be much worse

I could be at work

“The Golf Cult Zealot”

Surlyn is my god

I worship it on the green

Putters are holy

“Anxious Putter”

Roll ball at the cup

Hope I catch more than the lip

Putts can make me cry

“Golf and Haiku”

Golf is like Haiku

Requires more fives than sevens

Both are poetry

 

Bottom line:  Sometimes in sharing ideas (as with swing thoughts), less is more. 

Fascinating…

Take a moment and write me your favorite Haiku thought. 

Play on…

The Sherpa

Think foreplay is only for Lovers? Golfers need to warm up Too…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: The Mental Golf Game

“Whoa Sherpa”, I can hear you gasping…”this is a family site, where on Earth are you going with this”, as you rush to cover your children’s eyes.  Unless this is the first post you have read, you know by now that the Sherpa sees golf metaphors in EVERYTHING…

Let me give you some background.

Good Golf (like all enterprises that fill your mind and senses with tactile and cognitive delight) should not be entered into abruptly…without proper “warm up”.

Good golf, rather starts out slowly…in what the Sherpa likes to call “Pre-Round FOURPLAY”…clever huh?

Why?

Like the “oldest past-time known to man”, good Golf requires your body to adjust.  Swinging and aiming at targets at the range before a round gets the blood moving and the muscles properly warmed to deliver the required performance…you know…to play golf…why are you looking at me like that? 

Moving along.

The key here is to feel the swing deeply with your body.  Stop snickering dear reader…I definitely heard snickering. 

Remember, the swing you brought with you is the one you have to play today.  This is “Fourplay”…not practice.  Your smirk is quite noticeable dear reader.

I swear I can hear laughter…lets keep it serious please…the Sherpa has to concentrate.

Now where was I?

Ahh, yes.

The more ready your body is…the better balance you will have between the proper muscle tension and the low level adrenaline you will require to physically deliver results.

Is it just the Sherpa, or is it getting hot in here?

Anyway…your body is not the only thing that needs preparation.

“Good golf”, as the Sherpa has been quoted as saying, “happens between the ears”. 

Good pre-round “fourplay” involves getting your mind focused on the objective of playing golf…namely sending balls to targets.

Good mental “fourplay” raises awareness,  gets you excited, creative and anticipatory about the look, feel and sensations you will bathe in…during your ROUND…what were YOU thinking?

I SWEAR I am STILL talking about golf…sheesh!

Bottom line:  The experience of golf…good golf…starts well before you hit a ball.  If you want to really enjoy it, sneak up on it slowly and the sensations and performance you will experience (during the actual event) will be much more focused and intensified.

The Sherpa needs a cigarette…and a cold shower.

Play on…

The Sherpa

The Quail Hollow Clinic…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: The Mental Golf Game, Uncategorized

As any golfer on the planet would agree…the Sherpa would watch Tiger play golf with a rake and a tennis ball. Normally he is exciting, intense and a wealth of knowledge for the committed observer.

Today scared me a little…

Normally, the field is pressing and when Tiger makes a run, his competitors have to be perfect…Tiger is perfect down the stretch…normally.

Today, at Quail Hollow this was not the case.  As he did on Saturday, some sloppy bogies were made Sunday with short clubs in hand.  This the Sherpa was totally understanding of…given some of the pin placements and wind conditions.

What really spooked me was his abysmal putting down the stretch….wow.  Today his game looked a lot more like mine.

“Context please Sherpa”, I can hear you asking, “before you get busy with all the mental mumbo jumbo”.

Anyone who has read a popular golf putting poll has invariably seen the one that asks, “if you had one putt to make a million dollars… win a tournament…cure cancer…save your cat, who would you want to make it?”

Simple and clear everytime….Tiger by wide margins.

Many of these same polls are given to his colleagues yet the answer never changes….Tiger is a “putting machine”.

Until today…

What did the Sherpa see? 

Doubt…damed, dirty putting doubt.

The Sherpa has long believed that Tiger has a special organ that actually secretes a hormone that inhibits doubt, or so I have read (on the interweb). 

What else could explain his otherworldy capacity to avoid it for so many seasons?  Did his special doubt killing hormone dry up or has he just temporarily lost his mojo?

More troubling is the fact that he worked on this part of his game (putting) even while he was rehabbing, and has made some humdingers just this year to win…or did you miss the Memorial?

Technically Tiger is a better, more sound golfer than ever before.  His knee is taking a full swing now..he is not nursing it at all.

Something, however, is getting in his way.

First there was the futile duel that his mind allowed him to be tricked into with Phil at the Masters (see my post about it).  He got so wrapped around the axle trying to skin Mickleson that he made some crazy decisions and bruised a tree pretty well (a la 18 handicapper).

Now during this tournament as I watched him putt, I saw him actually yip a putt.

For a moment the Sherpa felt like Neo when he discovers the Matrix.

The Sherpa believes that the fountain of doubt springs from Tiger’s realization that he has not been able to see things as mentally clearly as he would like to. 

He has got to know that his strategy at the Masters was poor and the realization that he got sucked out of his gameplan has got to make him feel vulnerable. 

In the final analysis, it appears to my curious eye that doubt and vulnerability are insidioulsy creeping into many of the shots he’s hitting and into his most sacred realm…his cold, calculating, titanium-hard “putting mind”.

The saddest fact for me personally, is that while Tiger’s swing coach selection has been strategically to suit changing needs…..

His only puttting muse was is beloved (and irreplaceable) father.

More than mechanics, practice or swing thoughts, Tiger knows he has to get his mind back…and he has to do it alone.

Or as the Sherpa would say, he needs to “Play Golf”…confidently. 

Bottom Line:  No lesson tonight just this thought…

More likely than not, Tiger has already had the putting “doubt” lesson from his dad…and will work it out.  I am fascinated by watching Tiger struggle,  not as a sadist, but as an awestruck fan who knows that world beaters obtain that title by overcoming things that normal creatures cannot.  The Sherpa learns the most by observing those moments…you can too.  Keep looking for it.

Go Tiger…

Play on…

The Sherpa

 

Golf is like a box of Chocolates…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: The Mental Golf Game

To be sure, the Sherpa will never be mistaken for the “sharpest knife in the drawer”, but Golf …my beloved game…sometimes makes me feel like “Forrest”.

Today, you see, while getting “beaten like a rented mule” by my favorite golf course, the Sherpa had to gracefully endure the round from hell.

Now, however, I can hardly contain my laughter.

Why? 

Because I was snakebit from the first tee.  I found every hazard and every bad lie on my beloved course and…well…sometimes frustration is just plain funny.

Examples:

  1. On a drivable par 4, I ended up under a tree…on the opposite side of me from the tee box.  The Sherpa figures that: Either the Earth spun backards for a moment,  I hit another tree and ricocheted it back towards me or a squirrel with a sadistic sense of humor set it there so that I would be astounded by how physics had been suspended somehow.
  2. After hitting it just off the fairway (on a par 4) I was forced to hit back out of a hazard.  As you have done a thousand times, the Sherpa also chose a low loft club and made a well committed strike and…pow…I hit the exact edge of the cart path and (miracle of miracles) was able to ricochet it 10 yards backwards, and yes EVEN DEEPER IN THE HAZARD….awesome.
  3. After hitting it just off the green left (on a par 5), it rolled into a hazard.  Again, the Sherpa lined up and committed to a shot out of the hazard.  As I struck my shot, it happily ricocheted off a tree in a beautiful arc backwards and…yes..even more deeply into the junk on my left…whoo, whoo!
  4. After hitting a beautiful bump and run (on a long par 4) my ball was chasing nicely up onto a tucked pin and…pow hit a rake and stopped cold…(insert bad word here).
  5. On a dogleg left, I hit a roping draw…nice and long and just as it reached the turn…the wind vicously shifted and slapped the ball into the water as if swatted out of the sky by the very golf god that I have so dutifully worshipped..why hast thou forsaken me?
  6. On a simple par 3, during my backswing,  my belt buckle came loose and I duck hooked it into the junk on the left…does the Sherpa need  diet?

The littany goes on…but so does my love for the game.

I can hear it now, “Sherpa, have you lost your mind?  You were just treated like a red headed step child and you still love this game?  Do you have self esteem issues or did you not get enough toys as a kid?  What gives?”

The answer is simple…selective memory.

Golf psychologists talk a lot about Golfer’s memories being different from ours.  “The trick”, they say, “is that they forget bad shots, and remember only good ones”.

Good advice, I thought, so I put it to good use. 

Upon even more reflection, lots of good stuff happened too…and not just good shots….I just had to think about it a little.

  1. I made 3 birdies…how awesome is that?
  2. I made a very long putt to save par that had a double breaker and had to hit the exact center to go in…I knew it would go in halfway there.
  3. I made, “G- money” laugh so hard once that he choked on his soda…you shoulda seen it come out his nose.
  4. I thought of an upcoming  post…hint: It will be about putting and “Supa Fly” and I will collaborate on it…he’s gonna do some cool math.
  5. I saw a herd of 14 deer that reminded me of my dad and the times he took me camping as a boy…very good memories.
  6. I learned that “G-money’s” low round in competition was 66…you should see how he hits the ball.
  7. I realized that no matter how frustrated I get, I can keep my cool and be true to all of the lessons I have shared with you…I really sucked it up.
  8. I learned that “Supa Fly”, wants to be a pilot…god help us.

Even as I wrote the list I could not believe all of the recollections of good stuff that happened.  I was certain that I would struggle to find even one redeeming thing about this round.  Even now I am ashamed that I did not recognize all of the cool stuff that was happening.

In hindsight, the list of good far outweighed the bad, and because I value the entire experience, I definitely got my money’s worth today.

Bottom line: For the Sherpa, a round of Golf is a multi layered experience with wonderful subtexts and fellowship that (like a gourmet meal) has many flavors and textures.  The trick is to appreciate all of the flavors and having the awareness and presence of mind to appreciate them as they are unfolding…wow that’s good, I should write that down. 

Maybe next time I will take my own advice more carefully.  I pray that I do.

Play on…

The Sherpa

Only seven minutes could be separating you from “Scratch Golf”…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: The Mental Golf Game

 The other day a long time friend of mine asked me, “Sherpa, how long does it normally take you to play 18 holes of golf”?  Instead of blurting out “4 to 4/12 hours” I stopped short and replied, “I will have to think about that”. 

I can hear you thinking, “Sherpa, its a no brainer.  You were asked for the time, but are building a watch instead”. 

Indulge me dear reader….you see, simple queries like this used to invoke similar mindless responses, but since humbly taking on the role of Sherpa, they now send me on journeys of the mind which never cease to challenge and amaze me.

The real answer, as you would expect from the Sherpa’s predictable “MO”, was much more complex and interesting.

How would I frame the context for my reasoning?  Let’s think  ( you and I)  about how we will define ”playing golf”.

I have already defined ‘playing golf’ in several of my previous posts so I will not wax philosophic and waste your limited time.  I merely posit that playing golf is when you are planning shots, aiming at targets and focusing on getting the ball in the hole (to the exclusion of any other motivation or distraction).

Now let’s look at what happens in your normal round (not counting warm up)….

As your group  approaches the first tee, you figure out who will tee off first, you talk about sports…economics…the latest movie…whatever floats your boat…

Then finally someone hits a tee shot and the round begins.

Next, everyone loads into their respective carts and continues discussing the newest car…micro-brew or argues the virtues of Ales vs Lagers.

Then you reach your ball, decide on a target, line up your shot and send the ball to the target.

This delightful cycle continues until you reach the 18th green, the pill goes in the hole…and its back to the real world.

Here is the essential question…How much golf did you really play?

Was it when you were discussing your sinking 401k or when you were contemplating the ultimate Scottish golf trip?

Both are fascinating topics but neither activity would be considered “playing golf”… even by the loosest standard.

You  are now no doubt asking, “Sherpa, could we get to a point…sometime today”?

Fear not dear reader…we are now at my surmise. 

I would argue that if you take 20 seconds to line up a target, commit and and make a swing, then golf  takes about 20 to 30 minutes per round (depending on your handicap).

Below is the Sherpa’s handy dandy illustration of the central point. 

——————————————————————————

92 Shots x 20 seconds of focus per shot = 31 minutes of golf time

72 Shots x 20 seconds of focus per shot = 24 minutes of golf time

Difference in golf time (92 strokes vs 72 strokes) = 7 minutes

——————————————————————————

What you will note immediately is that if you take 20 seconds to hit a golf shot and shoot 92, only seven minutes separates you from a scratch golfer. 

Why then is this valuable information?  The pro’s know why…

Think about what happens in the 20 to 30 minutes of “real golf”.   To execute at peak capability in those key moments over the ball, you have to stay razor focused on the target…to the exclusion of all other thoughts or distractions.  A difficult task to day the least…

So that you don’t think that the Sherpa has somehow morphed into “Captain Obvious”, see for yourself how tough this really is.

To illustrate, take a moment and see how long you can close your eyes and think about the word “golf” without having any other thoughts….

If you are anything like the Sherpa (when he first tried this test years ago) your brain went…”golf, golf, golf, golf, hmmmm, golf is great, my knee itches, golf, am I late for something?, golf, I’m hungry, I hope Mrs. Sherpa is cooking dinner, Oh Crap!…I am supposed to be thinking about golf, I love jelly donuts”.

The mental energy it takes to stay focused (even for a few seconds) is taxing and to make things more unfair, “scratch” players (people who shoot par) have 7 less minutes of this focus requirement per round.

The Sherpa, believes that knowledge is power…so how are we going to give you more power?

Let’s seek to optimize what happens during those 30 minutes each round, so that fewer of these 20 second moments (ie strokes) are required per round.

The template is already out there, and you can see it when you watch pros play.

With the exception of Tiger, most golfers are just like us, they focus and hit shots, then they tend to try to relax and stay loose….just like a 20 handicapper.

So how do we differ? 

The magic is in those 20 seconds over the shot.  During these moments pros and “scratch” golfers are not doing the shopping list or worried about score…they are sincerely target focused, committed and just reacting.  They may look on the outside like they are concenrating hard, but on the inside…all you would hear is crickets.

How can you train your brain to enter a focus state like this?

Brain exercises?   The Sherpa believes so..These guys do it all day every day as a natural part of playing and practicing.  If you are like the Sherpa, time is limited and the only way to “train the brain” (without hitting a bazillion shots a week) is to do focused mental exercise.

The Sherpa does this ”old school” with daily 10 minute sessions of meditation.

For hundreds of years, meditation has given everyday people improved mental focus by gradually training the mind to focus on single distinct thoughts.

What you are trying to achieve is a mental state capable of concerning itself with sending the ball at the target…no muss…no fuss.   The cool thing is that the brain, much like  a muscle, won’t care if it is hitting a golf shot or trying to focus on a single thought (as part of a meditation exercise).

The Sherpa swears by the little exercise I do each day to keep myself mentally sharp. 

Details:  Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight.  It helps if you are in a quiet, dark place.  Next set a silent timer for ten minutes.  Now concentrate only on the sound and feeling of your breath.  Feel how it moves in and out of your lungs.  Feel how is moves through your nose and down your windpipe.  Listen to how it sounds.  If it helps, think “breath, breath, breath” with each inhale and exhale.

Almost immediately your mind will wander.  Your brain is just being…well…”brainy”.  Just gently bring your thoughts back to your breath (from cheeseburgers, Cuban cigars or whatever your mind was distracted by).

This cycle will continue to recur but you will notice over time that you begin to witness these thoughts, almost as a bystander, instead of living them.

When you can separate yourself from your thoughts and witness them separately from your mind, then you achieve what Meditation gurus call “awareness”. 

Awareness is the closest we get to mind control.  In other words, you cannot totally control your mind, but once you understand how yours works, you can keep it much more quiet and focused. 

Bottom line: You will probably not become a world renowned golfer..or meditation Yogi, but if you commit to even 10 minutes a day, you can improve your mental focus and the benefits will reach well beyond your game and those cool 30 minutes of golf you play each round.

Play on…

The Sherpa

What is aggression’s proper role in Golf…?

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: The Mental Golf Game

The other day as the Sherpa was walking 9 and (as usual) waxing philosophic with my dream foursome, the article I wrote 4/12 about who won the Green Jacket became the topic of conversation.  During our banter, the ideas of aggression and ego came up as a natural offshoot.  True to form I was curious so I asked as simple yet (as it turned out) provocative question…

What is aggression’s proper role in Golf?

Allow me to contextualize my foursome (albeit briefly, because my next article will be on them specifically).

They are a multidisciplinary bunch of guys from all walks of life, who have one thing in common.  They are all whip smart.

Knowing that each would have an opinion, the Sherpa remained quiet and curious.

The first notion was the most obvious.  Namely that aggression is the mind killer and while it can make you a terrific pass rusher in football, it can kill your touch and feel if allowed to rush the swing.  Quite “Sherpalike” was my initial read and I almost stopped listening until another idea began to gain momentum.

This second notion was that you can lose focus in golf if you are so aggressive that you stop playing golf and sub-optimize your thinking.  For example, you may think “I am going to kill this ball a mile”  as opposed to “I am going to send this ball to that spot, so that I have the approach shot I need”.  This time the Sherpa really thought we were done and again my mind almost wandered..

Then G-Money (not his real name) blew my mind..

“Sherpa”, he said, “I read your site every morning with my cup of coffee, and if you will indulge me, I think I have your next article”. 

You could have heard a pin drop.  Everyone in our foursome was captivated by the sincere pronouncement of an otherwise reserved and unassuming buddy.  The Sherpa could no longer stand the suspense.

“G-Money”, I said, “what prey tell is your insight into this most vexing question”.

Without skipping a beat, he said the magic words..

“Sherpa”, he calmly replied “aggression is not the enemy, it is about how you channel your aggression that counts”.

“Tell me more”, I asked as his unfettered clarity of thought kept me hanging on his words.

“You see dear Sherpa, aggression is part of the human condition that cannot be denied.  You don’t stop it… you control it.  If a hammer hits you on the thumb while driving a nail, is that powerful force considered bad? No, it was just misused”.

By this time, I am so floored with his metaphor that I wonder if he has been brewing this for awhile just to get published.

“How then is aggression properly channeled then G-Money?”, I ask impatiently wanting the punch line.

“The answer is in the lessons you already teach Sherpa”.  The Sherpa is not used to getting “Sherpa’d” himself and I was having a ball.  Wanting to learn every day about myself and the game I love, I asked “be specific”.

He said, “I will illustrate by using one of your own articles back on April 5th about the ‘most dreaded shot in golf’.  In that article you talk about every shot counting”. 

Then came the punch line…like a ton of mental game bricks.

“I would say that on every shot you have to ‘aggressively commit’ “, he said with a look of self aware cleverness that belied his normally sincere and thoughtful demeanor.  He was all Cheshire Cat.

“Bravo”, I exclaimed, “more maestro, more”.

“The idea has such power”, he went on. ”If you are over a layup shot and need to get out of the junk, you must not think ‘tentatively’.  No indeed,  you must AGGRESSIVELY COMMIT TO A CONSERVATIVE SHOT”.

Somewhere in his speech I think I actually heard a marching band and cymbals as he dramatically closed his argument.

He was absolutely right.  If you do not aggressively commit, you will undoubtedly smash your thumb at the most inopportune time.

Bottom line:  G-Money has his moments, and I would definitely listen to his guidance.  He was the man that day…Thanks ”G”. 

 

Play on…

The Sherpa

My favorite round of Golf…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: The Mental Golf Game

The other day a dear friend (who reads my guidance religiously) asked me a simple question that sent me on a journey of the mind that I did not expect, yet filled me with joy and awareness.

“Sherpa”, he asked  as we walked off the 3rd tee box, “what was your favorite round of golf ever”?

My mind raced back to several rounds of golf that filled me with crystal clarity of memory and sincere peace.

First was the memory of when I broke 80 for the first time with my best friend Steve.  It was a great day.  The wind was up a little and I hit everything I looked at.  I recall finally learning how to hit my short irons well that day.

Next there was the memory of the first time I took my oldest daughter with me to play and ended up carrying her on my back for the final 7 holes while scoring 78.  I remember learning  how calm my mind gets when I have someone I love with me while I play.

Another time, I recalled the joy that I felt when I caddied my brother around a difficult course in Las Vegas to help him break 100 for the first time. I learned how important talking through shots was in order to totally commit on each swing.

Then there was the time that I scored my first eagle.  Again, my best buddy Steve was with me as I rolled in a 10 footer for 3 on a long par 5.  I then promptly shot an 8 on the subsequent par 3.  I learned how excessive celebration can pump you too full of adrenaline and kill your golf swing.

As the memories like this began to rapid fire at a rate that I could no longer process quickly enough, my mind finally began to sort just the themes as they raced by and POW…just like that, it occurred to me.

I know what my favorite round is…It’s the round I am playing right now.

“Sherpa”, I can hear you saying, “how is this profound?  You are just a golf nut…no big secret here”.

Nay dear reader, I am not taking a mental short cut. 

I humbly submit the reason that every round is my favorite is because I learn something every time I play.

If this were not true, the Sherpa would be a fraud…a faker of the highest order.  Truly, I would further argue that to fully enjoy a lifelong love affair with the sacred game you have to give yourself over to the notion that it is a lifelong journey. 

If you cannot enjoy expanding your knowledge and skill unless you score well every time you play, you are setting an expectation that will rob you of your ability to grow as a player and to fully manifest the wonderful trek that golf represents.

Bottom line:  Like a marriage, golf takes work and patience.  Investing in the notion that every round reveals knowledge is the hallmark of a player that never stops developing.  Scoring will come…just let it happen.

I love this game…warts and all.

Play on…

The Sherpa

Why “golf” (not golf Pros) won the Green Jacket this Year…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: The Mental Golf Game

The Sherpa loves the Masters tournament like no other. The “reasons list” would fill multiple posts so I will not cover its entire length. Suffice it to say, one main reason I watch is for the amount of information I continue to learn while observing the world’s best players struggle in such a supercharged pressure environment.

I was, therefore, not surprised to see that the “god’s of the mental game” cast more pearls of wisdom this evening.  Sadly, in doing so, they also revealed that golf doesn’t owe anybody anything. If you don’t keep playing golf, you don’t win.

Now I can hear the groans, even from the cheap seats, for writing that last line.  ”Sherpa”, I can hear your pained voices, “did you watch the tournament? They were hitting golf balls and going through their routines…you know “Sherpa stuff”.  How could you possibly say they weren’t playing golf”?

Ahh..dear readers, this is where I think tournament pressure creates the “illusion” of golf, but not the “intent of golf”.

You know the Sherpa loves context so let’s re-visit the well documented “Sherpa” description of golf.

“Golf” is played when you review shots, select them based on factors that will maximize your opportunity to score, filling your mind with a specific target and then sending the ball at the intended target.

What I saw Tiger and Phil doing sometimes fit this bill, but toward the end of the tournament, things changed. I was absolutely amazed when they started spraying it all over the place. I asked myself feverishly…”self, why are they hitting it in the junk and missing 3 footers? These guys have made more money on golf than the GDP of several small countries”.

Technically, they are unequaled. They are ranked number 1 and 2 in world rankings. They have the best coaches, the best equipment, the largest galleries, the best foods/health regimes and (except for the Sherpa) have the hottest wives. Why then are they surprising even themselves with their sudden poor play?  It was like when I found out the truth about Santa. I just couldn’t get my mind around it.

Then I applied my Sherpa frame of reference and re-viewed the recording of the last few holes. It was then that the answer hit me like a ton of bricks…

They stopped playing golf…and started trying to beat each other.

I noticed it the most when Tiger finally gets something going with his late eagle.  After clearing the green, he struts so fast to the next tee box it takes Steve Williams nearly a minute to catch up. When everyone finally gets to the tee box, Tiger is already ready to hit a shot and “put a whuppin” on Phil.  This he does after consulting for a nanosecond with Steve on the shot.  Very “un-Tigerlike”.

When Tiger hastily hits his tee ball, you can practically see his nostrils flare.   He swings so hard, I assumed he broke every lace in his shoes.  Naturally he puts his ball in a difficult lie.  So what does Phil do?  Instead of focusing on hitting the fairway, he succumbs to Tiger’s same adrenaline surge (as if it were match play, and score no longer mattered) and pulls one badly into the junk. 

Awesome TV…terrible strategy for winning a green jacket, and decidedly not “Golf” (by the Sherpa’s unwashed definition).

They both go on to make par so you are probably thinking…”so what Sherpa, they both made par”. That is true, but guess what the leaders were doing?

Making birdies…

By contrast, they (the leaders) were playing golf, shooting at targets and focusing on scoring…not trying to psych out other golfers.

As Tiger and Phil continued their ill fated Kibuki warrior dance (bogies, missed gimmie putts and several tree bruisings), the field kept pulling away and made them irrelevant toward the end of the tournament.

The eventual winner, Angel Cabrera, never quit playing golf and finally outscored two of my favorite golfers…Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell. Kenny, Chad and Angel all deserved to win, but only SCORING wins.  These guys never stopped playing golf , but alas, only one person gets a green jacket.

Bottom line: Even the best in the world sometimes forget to keep playing golf, even while they are in a tournament. If that can happen to Tiger and Phil, you should give yourself a break when it happens to you.  When it occurs, remind yourself to ”play golf” and your scorecard (as well as the trees at your local course) will thank you.

Play on…

The Sherpa

What you can learn watching the Masters…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: The Mental Golf Game

Once a year, the Sherpa goes into one track mind mode…to distraction if you will.  Yes, the Masters represents the acme of the most consuming elements of the golf game that envelope me with  a numb sense of wonder and awe. 

Why such prose?  “It’s just another tournament” some might say.  “BLASPHEMY”,  exclaims the Sherpa!

The context is clear…this is the strongest field in golf, probably the most breathtaking course on the planet, advertising is subtle, the tradition is decades old and Bobby Jones (who still owns a record that Tiger has not broken) is credited with it’s original DNA.

It is an event that is so emotionally taxing on players that it sincerely and heartbreakingly brings them to tears.  The desire to win the coveted Green Jacket serves as performance rocket fuel for the very best players on Earth…it gets no better than this…anywhere.

So what does the Sherpa do when he thinks about such grandeur and momentous happenings?  Naturally, I want to give you perspective on how you can profit from what you see, so that you can take it back and apply it to your game.  Just because you aren’t playing in the masters doesn’t mean your game is any less valuable.

So what do we look for this week?

This week I would humbly ask that you watch for the deliberateness of shots being made…specifically one that we all face at least once a round.

The layup.

Why has the Sherpa chosen such a stock shot?  We could have talked about the atomic wedge shots they’ll have to hit onto some of these greens or we could have talked about  how to focus on a part of the fairway for driver…you know “Sherpa stuff”.

The Sherpa has chosen layup, because you will see a lot of them.  If you study how they have set up the graduated rough on Augusta, you will note that in the secondary rough it is almost a crap shoot.  This lie will likely force players to go sideways back onto the fairway (unless they are among the very strong in field…I am talking “muscles strong”, like Tiger).

Even so why am I choosing this shot?  I am doing so dear reader, because the Sherpa believes:

  1. You will face this shot more than once a round.
  2. You can immediately improve performance here, without a swing tip, if you currently struggle when hitting one.
  3. It will cost no money to improve (the Sherpa’s favorite price).

What is the key?  Committment to it…as you would any other shot.

The mistake the Sherpa sees most golfers make when hitting this shot is a mental resignation to hitting a “less satisfying” shot  (when compared with something sexier like…hitting into a narrow green or a tight fairway).  The sense of forward motion tends to keep us engaged while the “low satisfaction” thought of a layup,  by contrast,  is commonly characterized as ”taking your medicine”.

Such negative connotation and mental state, rob us of focus.  Its almost as if we forget that if we screw this shot up it will,  somehow,  not count as much on the scorecard. It is ultimately this line of reasoning that turns bogies into double bogies as we rush to make the “medicine” shot too quickly.  Why?  To get it past us so we can go on to hit more satisfying shots..you know “the fun stuff”.   

The problem is that when you do this you stop playing golf and begin swinging like the nutty professor, foregoing every bit of natural and developed talent you  have so patiently and diligently cultivated.

Next time you are out of position…realize that the scorecard is still interested in you keeping your focus and doing your absolute best with the shot you have in front of you,  whether you are hitting it sideways to get out of the junk or putting for eagle. 

Your layups will have more purpose (fewer spasitc swings) and will get the credit you owe them because of  the clever and aware ”golfer mind” that you represent.

Bottom line:  All shots count…even when they are not sexy.  When you watch the Master’s this week, watch how the Pro’s handle this shot.  You’ll note that they will deliver 100% committment backwards, sideways and toward the pin…every time.  You owe your game the same engagement.

Play on…

The Sherpa

Sometimes words matter in Golf…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: The Mental Golf Game

In the tradition of artists in the past who were fond of words…George Carlin…Richard Pryor and others, the Sherpa’s commentary tonight will be on how strange and yet important words are in golf.

To lighten things up a bit, let’s start with one of my favorite golf words..Birdie.  To anyone outside of golf, this sounds like a nice word, yet more apt to describe an animal than one under par.  It is even funnier that in golf, being “below” par is something one strives for with hopeless anticipation, yet would get you fired from your day job in a heartbeat.

Yes my dear readers, golf terminology, like the physical properties that define it can seem to be counter intuitive in nearly every other dimension…including it’s time honored vocabulary.

So why do words matter you ask (I promise there is a point)?

Words matter simply because in the area of strategy, they define the difference between success and failure.  More specifically, words matter because they define how your mind creates the image of what you are trying to achieve with your particular golf strategy.

A terrific example of the power of words is when you misuse them in the ‘negative sense’ as you are setting up a shot.  How many times have you stood over a ball and said to yourself , “self, don’t hit that shot into the water on the left”, then proceeded to rope a gnarly hook right into the water…as if controlled by magic. 

The problem, sports psychologists say,  is that your brain doesn’t process the “don’t” part and just swings away at the water on the left. 

You can used this to terrific advantage if you flip the script the next time you are faced with some type of trouble avoidance strategy (like the example above).  Merely use the same situation and phrase it differently.  Just say, “self, hit it to the right side of the fairway”. 

While you are behind the ball considering what you want to do with the shot, you can think about the water trouble to the left all you want.  Just don’t make it part of your self talk when you are OVER the ball trying to place it in the target area (right fairway).

Another way to think about it would be to ask yourself….is my target  “the right fairway” or  “not going left into the water”?  This contrast is more stark but serves well to reinforce the power of target orientation and ultimately positive thoughts.

Bottom line:  Plan all shots in terms of what you want to achieve, not what you want to avoid, and the magnetic force that hazards seem to have on your ball will weaken.

Good night my dear readers, I have to go help Mrs. Sherpa with the dishes, so that I “don’t” hit a hosel- rocket into the junk on the left myself.

Play on…

The Sherpa