Golf equipment has not made “GOLF” Easier…

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

As you have no doubt figured out, the Sherpa prides himself on being positive and generally a “silver cloud” kind of guy. That is the case until I am engaged in a specific argument about the so called easing of Golf’s difficulties because of equipment innovation.

Don’t worry, dear readers the Sherpa is not making up for all his positivity with a tsunami of negative, “golf is hard” sentiment. I am merely saying that even though high MOI drivers make the middle of the fairway more familiar, golf balls go farther and a multitude of other innovations are taking place, handicaps have not appreciably changed.

Why? A key element of golf did not innovate..On Course Advice (AKA the Caddie).

It is no secret that the Sherpa’s definition of golf happens primarily between one’s ears. If it were not so, then getting advice from a “non caddie” during a round would not constitute a penalty. Even the rules of golf address the unfair advantage that on course advice provides.

Think of all of Tiger’s most famous moments. Right before he commits to superhuman execution, he talks it out with Stevie Williams (his caddie), because the more information he can gather, the better shot selection he can make.  Stevie knows all of Tiger’s yardages, all of his common misses (yes even Tiger has these) and can judge Tiger’s energy during a round to guess how it will affect certain shots.

Now superimpose this situation on the typical amatuer game. In our situation, we have no-one helping us out. We are typically unsure of our yardages (in certain cases). We have to keep our own energy up and have to rely on our own knowledge to score. Worst of all, we have a tendency to let our “internal caddie” call us all kinds of bad words when we miss a shot (I will expand on this idea in future blogs).

All of the technology in the world can’t make up for a calm soothing voice, that knows your game, telling you what you need to focus on to hit the right shot.

The dream of having a caddie is only realized for Professionals and insanely wealthy/lucky amateurs who arrange for them in certain circumstances.

Case in point:  A very dear friend in my current foursome called “G-Money” (not his real name nor his persona), who is not insanely wealthy, was given a gift of a caddie once on Bethpage Black. His experience, as you can imagine, was awesome.

G-Money recounts his experience…”I showed up an hour before my tee time and they called my name”. “George, who has caddied for 52 years, greets me and asks, ‘how many bags you want to hit’?”. Not knowing how to respond, G-Money says “do I have time”? George says, “you have time for at least one bag, cause I need to see your game, so I can properly caddie you around this track”.

All the Sherpa could hear at this point was a chorus of angels singing…for I knew that heaven did truly exist somewhere on this earth.

To make things even more idyllic, George next says, “I need to see you hit shots because you pay for a guide, not just a guy to carry your bag”.

You could have knocked the Sherpa over with a two inch putt.

G-Money went on to regale me with the calm and and joy he felt over every shot because, he had such a terrific “Caddie advantage” over his own mind and a very formidable course. In his words “George was better than any club (G-Money) had ever swung”.

Back in the real world we need to overcome this lack of innovation (live Caddying with over 50 years’ experience) with good solid on course strategy and mental game.  The challenge is to develop it in tandem with proper technique and physical conditioning.

Bottom line:  Golf is a wonderful game that you can get good at if you develop your mind as you would your golf swing.  Study it (you mind) like you would a cool new driver.  I will commit to keep writing about it if you will commit to keep reading and working on it as hard as you do your full swing.

Think on…

Your Faithful Sherpa

How to avoid the most dreaded shot in Golf…

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

The Sherpa can hit most shots in golf, based on practice and years of study of this wonderful game.  There is one shot, however, that I learned late that ironically, required no practice and saved me strokes immediately.

To set the context before I share this golfing insight, I want to give the Sherpa a break for not realizing it (this secret) earlier on in my golf journey.  To complicate matters, several times when I faced this shot, I did not even realize I was facing it. 

Confusing? Good, now we are getting somewhere.

Think back now to the last time you played golf.  When you were over the ball and thought, “self, I wonder if I am aimed properly”, then you hit the shot “anyway” (even as you were unsure about the setup for your shot).  Hopefully you were lucky, but you probably had a terrible outcome.

My friend…you have just hit the most dreaded shot in Golf..”The Anyway Shot”.

When you get over this shot..any shot… and are not fully committed you are hitting an “anyway”.  Counting on “anyway” shots are a guarantee to kill your scoring, deteriorate your confidence, and drain the life out of a round. 

This shot is to be avoided at all costs.

Common causes:

1: Poor shot preparation: Getting to the ball and not having the right club, but hitting “anyway” because you don’t want to go back to the cart.

2: Poor focus: Standing over the ball but being distracted and hitting “anyway” because you are embarrassed to restart.

3: Poor strategy: Trying to figure out over the ball what shot you want to hit, and without a target, hitting “anyway” because you have no idea what shot to play.

The bad news:  All of these reasons for an “anyway” can severely restrict the amount of pleasure and success you will have in golf.

The good news: You can avoid this shot immediately without any practice and take strokes off your score.

How?  The next time you play:

1: Don’t take a step toward your ball without making a good estimate of the club you will need to hit your next shot.  Then take two more clubs (one longer and one shorter).  This will enable you to have the right club if you  miscalculate slightly and allow you the confidence that having the right club brings when hitting shots.

2: If you hear noise or see movement while you are standing over the ball, STOP!  Don’t hit that shot. You are not rewarded for being cool enough to hit this “anyway” shot…no one is.  Step away from the shot, politely explain to your playing partner that you need to refocus and go through your routine again.  If you do this you will save more time overall, because you won’t need the extra time to fish it out of the “junk” when you hit the ”anyway” shot.

3: If you are over the ball and you realize, you have not picked a specific shot or even a specific target…DO NOT HIT THE BALL!  WARNING YOU HAVE STOPPED PLAYING GOLF!  Step away from the ball, pick a conservative shot that you are confident you can hit.  Pick a specific target.  Restart your pre shot routine and fill your head with this new shot thought.

Bottom line: If you have the wrong club, a wandering mind and no plan, you aren’t playing golf, nor are you prepared to hit a golf shot.

The Sherpa wants you to be happy and joyous when playing golf.  To do so you have to plan each shot and commit, just as you would for any meaningful enterprise in life.

Play on…

The Sherpa

The day Dr. Jimmy scored his hole in one he gave me a Gift…

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

The Sherpa has made many friends through the game of golf.  Some have taken more than they have given, some balance out and sometimes, even without knowing it, they give you a gift eternal.

Dr. Jimmy is one of those special people.

The story begins with Dr. Jimmy.  A patriot, who has served our country for over 20 years as a doctor, soldier and dispenser of laughter (ad nauseum).  He is a crazy cajun who will just as easily regale you with a quick joke as go into “Doctor mode” and advise you when he thinks you are being unwise about your health.  Both actions emanate from the same geniune heart and decency.

The Sherpa, as a rule, likes to surround himself with people like this because you never know…if I get hurt on the golf course, I will want to make it to the hospital with a pulse intact, but I want to hear a good joke in the ambulance.  Aside from these obvious benefits, Dr. Jimmy has learned to have fun no matter what happens on the golf course.

As reformed angry golfers, we typically theme our golf around how much fun we can possibly squeeze into 18 holes and score well if we happen to be playing well.  If he is on a roll, I will try to fuel his confidence and vice versa.

We have used this concept to win about 60% of the scrambles we enter and we don’t intend to change strategy ever. 

So what was this great gift that Dr. Jimmy gave me?  I will give you a hint…he did it while making the coolest eagle I have ever witnessed.

It was a chilly morning and we were the first group off on a very long and challenging course.  Known for its formidable difficulty, the day’s test would also include very undulating and speedy greens.

We both started off well enough, but Dr. Jimmy started to struggle a bit.  He is too tough to admit it, but his back was giving him trouble.  It was affecting his swing and so we talked about everything but his swing (as good golf buddies do).

Soldiering on, Dr. Jimmy announced he was going to have a great day anyway to which I replied, “if it’s not fun, it’s work that just cost us 60 bucks a piece”.  We both laughed, and he told me a funny joke about getting old that went something like..”you know you are getting old when you get a compliment on your alligator shoes…and you are barefoot at the time”.

When the laughter died down, Dr. Jimmy said. “You know, this is a great morning, we are playing golf, nothing else to do except hit shots”.  To which I replied, “you couldn’t be more right”.  As we neared the next hole (a long and difficult Par 3) I said, “get up there and hit a good one Jimmy”.

In typical fashion, Dr. Jimmy, with a sore back and ailing scorecard, bounds out of the cart, and with a fresh perspective, trots right up to the tee box.  Now I’m thinking, “how cool is that?  He is hurting, his score sucks and he is like a 2 year old at Christmas”.  “Go man!  This is why I want to play golf with you!”, I yell inside my head.

Little did I know what was going to happen next…except that my buddy was going to give it his level best.

As I got out of the cart, I could no longer see Jimmy because he was on an elevated tee box above my eyeline.  The Sherpa knows his swing and the sound his swing makes when he hits it flush.  The sound I heard next was like a rocket followed by the familiar sweet song of a ball making a turbulent whoosh as it breaks though uniform air on its way to the flag.

“Sounded really solid Jimmy”, I said as I looked up to track the ball in flight.  As it gently moved toward the flag I remember saying “man that is a good shot”.  Then, “man Jimmy, that is really good”. Finally yelling, “GET IN THERE” a millisecond before it disappeard from site into the holiest of golf grails.  “HOLE IN ONE”, I yelled and nearly fainted from joy and surprise.

Even now, in the telling of this story, I can relive the goosebumps and joy I felt for my dear friend on such a momentus achievement.

Later as I reflected on the day (literally hundreds of times) I began to realize that the event turned out to signify more than just a cool shot that my buddy made that morning.

Dr. Jimmy had indeed given the Sherpa a gift…..

He reminded me that no matter what has happened in the past, no matter your current condition, you always have another swing.  If you approach each shot with energy, curiosity and a belief that anything is possible…you MAKE anything possible.

Thanks Jimmy…

Play on…

The Sherpa

Why I like to watch Tiger play Golf…

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

Golf Search Tool – For Your Convenience

———————————————–

Every time I watch this amazing talent, I learn something.

The Sherpa is well aware of the fact that more words have been written about Tiger Woods than possibly any other athlete in the history of sports.

Why then would you suppose that  I wish to add to that overwhelming litany of articles? 

Every time.  I mean EVERY TIME, I watch him play, I learn something. 

Now that I am driven to write passionately about this sport in the spirit of advice, I want to share what I learned yesterday…but first (as the Sherpa loves to do) let me set the context for my insight.

Everyone who is a golfer, and several non golfers are painfully aware of Tiger’s conspicuous absence from the sport.

First there was that amazing US Open last year, then the devastating news about his knee.  I can’t imagine the pain and discomfort he experienced in the bid to win the trophy.  What I do know is that his legend only grew.

So what comes from winning so much?  How about stellar, atmospheric and bone crushing expectations from sponsors, fans and media.  He is the best golfer on the planet and that fact is globally known in every language on the planet. 

Quite simply, his scoreboard is universal and transparent.  Imagine getting out of bed knowing that that if you screw up, you will be the center of attention across the globe.  Pressure?  I think so.

Now the Sherpa is no apologist for Tiger.  He has yaghts, presidential access and more money than than he will ever be able to spend.  The only place the Sherpa is keeping up is in the “hot wife” category.

So last week, Tiger tees it up after several months off and starts to get his game going (after only a couple of warm up tournaments).

On Sunday he is in contention.  Literally MILLIONS of eyes are on his every move.  The gallery following Tiger is larger than my home town.  Everyone is wondering if he will ever be “Tiger” again.

Tiger catches O’Hair and they are headed into 16… tied at five under.

O’Hair puts it in the fairway and Tiger puts it in the right rough (and draws a horrible lie) .  Now Tiger will have to lay up or try to hit a risky water carry.  O’Hair has a HUGE advantage.

Now with scull numbing pressure and Johnny Miller setting the scene. Johnny tries to articulate what every other human in that condition would think  (given the surreal pressure and circumstance).  As Tiger walks to his ball Johnny says, “It will be interesting to see his reaction (to what a bad lie he has) when he sees it.  He will not be pleased”.

At this point, I am riveted …I want to see how the greatest golfer on the planet reacts to a lie he cannot possibly get up and down from when his competitor is in the middle of the fairway.

Tiger walks up to the ball, notes it, instantly knows what is up (mandatory layup) and with an expression I would use to note the time of day on my watch…..starts to make his shot plan.

No emotion, only committment to the next shot.

I rewound that moment over a dozen times.  You don’t fake that.  You only react.  I will remember that one moment as one of his greatest because of the context.  With so much on the line….Tiger never stopped playing golf.

Bottom line:  If Tiger cannot rewind the clock, neither can you.  You can’t be him, but you can remember, that no matter what, you always have another shot to play..so make the most of it.

By the way he drained a 900 foot putt for birdie on 18 and won..but you probably already guessed that…he is Tiger after all.

Play on…

The Sherpa

Why golf is hard and how you can take Advantage…

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

Golf’s proper mental state (the zone when you are instintive and reacting.. instead of having a gazillion swing thoughts) is tougher to achieve than in any other sport. It is the Sherpa’s sincere opinion that once you know why, the knowledge will give you a distinct advantage.

Trust for now and read on…

Argument #1:  We have lost our childlike approach to new things:

From the time you were a kid and threw a ball you were able to do so without much thought.  As you grew older and learned to shoot at a basket or throw a football, you did so with the same ease and instinctive approach. Then somehow one day the world got complicated when someone handed you a golf club and said “hit that ball”.

You thought (as the Sherpa did) “no problem”.  You took a swing and thought…”hmm, crap this is kind of hard”.  What is interesting to note, is that when you first tried to throw something, you sucked then too (you were just too young to notice or care..you just liked to throw).  The Sherpa doesn’t like to speak so plainly to his devoted readers, but in making my point I want to lay the issue out in the open (feelings aside for a moment).

The difference now is that your ego has had years to develop and learning something now can be very frustrating, whereas when we were kids without this baggage,  everything was possible and learning curve was irrelevant because the payoff was fun. 

2: Golf is different from most traditional sports (in a very distinct way):

A strong, yet subtle connection exists in most traditional sports that puts golf in a totally different category of difficulty.  When this distinction hit me, it was like a lightning bolt through my cranium.  “Sherpa” I thought, “this would be a great thing to write about someday”!  That day has arrived.

My premise..When you play golf, unlike most sports, you don’t see your “target” as you are reacting to it.  

When you shoot a basket or throw a ball..where are your eyes..ON THE TARGET.  When you look at a target, as you have already surmised, your body and mind are already agree on the objective.  Without any noise in your head, you just throw.  Then what happens?  The ball goes right where you are looking.  All this without a “throwing coach” or hours of practice on the “throwing range”.

In golf, by strong contrast, you can’t see the flag pin so you look at the ball  (which is not the target) and “Ranger Rick” (your noisy conscious mind) starts worrying about your 30 point swing checklist.  Why? Because “Ranger Rick” is not being overwhelmed with your visual perception of the target.  In all other sports the visual target connection aligns your mind effortlessly with your body.

How to take advantage of your knowledge:

By now you are probably thinking, “Sherpa, I have been reading patiently for a couple of minutes.  In that time you have called me egotistical and a distracted worrier.  This better have a heck of a good point”.

The good news is that you can take immediate advantage of this knowledge to put your game on a course for improvement.  Also it is free (the Sherpa’s favorite price) and requires no swing practice. 

1: Approach every shot with the idea of having fun no matter what the outcome.  The Sherpa has helped more golf buddies score well after poor starts by reminding them of the truth about good golf.  “Buddy” I am famous for saying,  ”if you will just remember for a moment how much fun golf is, and how lucky you are to play this wonderful game, I guarantee you will start hitting good shots”.  Works like a charm.

The most memorable turnaround I can recall, was when my friend Dr. Jimmy and I were in a tournament together, and we were stinking the place up.  Halfway through our first match it was obvious we were going to lose.  “Dr. Jimmy”, I said “I did not pay the entry fee to win, I entered to have fun, and fun is what I intend to get”.  With that pronouncement we both immediately stopped trying to play “serious golf” and almost won the first match (which was very fun).  Long story short.. we took second place after going on a winning streak, beating even the team that went on to win the whole enchilada.  If we had just decided to have fun on the first tee of the first match, Dr. Jimmy and the Sherpa would have been snacking on that same enchilada.

2: Connect the ball to the target, then connect your eyes to the ball.  Now you may say, “Sherpa, I already look at the ball you lunatic”.  I would humbly suggest that you may be looking at the ball, but if you do not mentally connect that ball to the target, Ranger Rick will have lots to talk about in your backswing (because that ball is not connected to any information about the target).

Reconcile this mind-body disconnection by picking a spot or “pretend target”  just in front of the ball that is perfectly aligned with your real target.  This will put the “pretend” target squarely in your mind visually and that visualization will help crowd your mind (shutting Range Rick up).  When you swing,  think simply about sending the ball to your “pretend target”.  Intellectually, you will know the real target, but your mind/body connection will be stronger,  allowing you to swing more freely and with a purposeful target orientation…just like throwing a ball.

Bottom line:  On each and every shot, commit to have fun and sending the ball to a target.

Have a safe weekend!

Play on..

The Sherpa.

Getting your Brain out of your Golf Swing…

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

The Sherpa, though sometimes slow on the uptake, is a world class multi-tasker.   While this ability works well at keeping the Sherpa gainfully employed, it is something that I constantly work on in my golf game.

Said a different way….

When you are waiting for a meeting at work, you are rewarded if you fill that downtime with problem solving, task delivery and execution.  Try that as you are performing a golf swing and you make it significantly more difficult to hit the ball at the target and much less likely to enjoy such a terrific game.

How did I make this leap?  How did I learn I was getting in my own way?  A wonderful book entitled Zen golf.

As a beginner I was unaware of the distractions that my swing thoughts were having on my ability to perform.  As I began to listen and be aware of my thoughts I began to notice that I could distance myself from those distractions.  The benefit, of course, was that I was able keep my mind more quiet and focused on  the target and just let my swing happen.  No micro-managing…no unnecessary thought.

If you are struggling at all with what I am saying,  ponder the opposite of my desired mental golf state. 

To illustrate, imagine standing over the ball and thinking ” take the club back half way, I wonder if I will get that promotion, don’t forget to turn the hips, did I call my boss back?, now turn your shoulders, don’t swing hard, don’t hit that bunker on the left, don’t hook it “Shanksalot”, hope I hit it flush, crap”.  Believe it or not this is a short list compared with what can actually happen between your ears in 3 seconds.

A calm, focused mind thinks “smooth, at the target, let it go”. 

How to you achieve the zone of calm focus? 

Two things work for the Sherpa: One happens before the round and the other during.

  1. Before the round: Every day as part of my fitness routine, the Sherpa meditates for 10 minutes.  No, the Sherpa is not into sitar music and incense, but it is more than cool if you are.  Don’t know how?  Simply do the following:  Sit in a quite place in a comfortable position with your back straight.  Now turn 100% of your focus and attention on your breath.  Notice how it sounds and feels.  Try to think of nothing else.  As your mind wanders, just keep noticing that it is wandering, and gently bring it back to your breath.  Do this each day and you will be amazed how much you can extend your focus and mindfullness on a single thought.
  2. During the round: Your pre-shot routine is KEY!  Having and consistently using a pre-shot routine prepares your mind before each shot.  Much like meditation, it puts your mind into a state of focus and preparedness to hit the shot.  (For specifics, read my earlier post on 3/16/09  for guidance on a solid pre-shot routine).

Bottom line:  If you unclutter your mind, you’ll stay more focused on the target and your micromanaging conscious mind will be less liable to try to “steer” you.

This part of the game fascinates the Sherpa and is a key area I am always trying to sharpen.

What are your thoughts/tricks to keep your golf mind well oiled?

Comment and share with others…

Play on…The Sherpa

The flying Seven Iron…

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

It is funny how frustrating golf can be.  It is even more fascinating to witness how varied golfer’s reactions are to the stress and frustration that a round of golf can sometimes generate.

  • Woody Austin famously bent a putter over his noggin.
  • Tommy Bolt had a tremendous history of throwing golf clubs.
  • Charley Hoffman threw a putter into a creek last year.
  • Ben Crenshaw broke his storied “Little Ben” putter shaft.
  • Tiger laughs when his rounds really go south.
  • Everyone cusses a bit (even clergy..they just do it quietly).
  • My buddy Jimmy drinks Bourbon.

The incidence of golf club casualties is so much a part of some golfers games that the rules of golf address it directly.

Did you know…..If you damage or alter your club in any way during a round out of frusration or anger you cannot continue to use that club on penalty of disqualification? 

Good rule.

As a matter of course the Sherpa plays with golfers of character or at least golfers who are characters.  Either way, I avoid club throwers at all cost for two main reasons.

  1. I only have fun playing golf with people who manage their mental games well enough to keep themselves “in the round” without losing their cool.
  2. Flying, heavy golf clubs are very, very dangerous.

One of the funniest things I ever experienced on a golf course was at a Jack Nicklaus signature course.

As my buddies and I played on a spring morning, we followed a couple of really low handicap players who were crushing the ball all day.

As we neared the end of the round we finally caught them at a par 3 surrounded by beautiful, towering Oak trees.  We patiently waited at a respectful distance, until 5 minutes passed.  When finally we had the nerve to round the corner and approach the blind tee box, we noticed only a single golfer in the cart.

I walked up and asked where his partner was.  “Getting his seven iron” he snapped.  I told him, we hadn’t seen it on any of the fairways.  “Where do you think he left it?”, I asked.

As his face flushed with renewed anger he tersely replied, “about twenty feet up” then pointed up at the nearest Oak.  I looked up just in time to watch his club throwing buddy lose his grip bounce off a big branch, catch and rip his golf shorts nearly completely from his body. The filth that spewed from his mouth would ruin a sewer.

The golfer in the cart, lowered his head, as if to signal his complete disgust.  Next he said, “you probably want to play through”.

Each of us hit and got the heck out of there.  Once we were beyond 3 wood range on the next hole, we howled with laughter and talked at length about how funny the experience was.  As we finally got past the comedy, we all agreed how stupid it was to get angry while spending money to have fun.

As a rule I very rarely let myself fall into the anger trap.  The Sherpa mantra…work hard at having fun and spend no energy on anger.

Bottom line:  Avoid club throwers at all costs…no kidding.

Please comment on your most intersting club throwing event.

Play on…and be safe.

The Sherpa

The pre shot routine’s value in golf is not self evident…

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

If a martian happened upon a satellite feed of a PGA tournament, he would have to note that every time a golfer was going to hit a ball, he/she went through a fascinating and repeating ritual before each shot.  I would venture a wager that the extraterrestrial viewer with advanced technology and intelligence still would not figure out why this was occurring, thinking instead that Earthlings were just peculiar

I think this lack of immediate universal recognition of the value of a pre-shot routine, is why it is so overlooked by many golfers. 

Why, however, is the oft overlooked pre-shot routine so valuable?

Read more…

Teaching kids golf is not only about swing lessons…

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

Today the Sherpa took two of his kids (Sherpette 1 and Sherpette 2) to walk nine holes at a local little par 3 course.  As a father I have read several articles about how to teach golf to kids.  All of the articles I have read work mostly with the areas of technique and equipment.  For example..”make sure to get your child fitted for clubs that are the appropriate size”, and “make sure to teach the proper grip”. 

Good advice.. but not comprehensive.

I think a broader view is required before any of these ancillary swing and mechanical issues are addressed with children.  Specifically, the Sherpa believes that it is never too early to teach the Mental Game ..so naturally, I put my hypothesis to the test today.

Read more…

Sometimes an “old dog” doesn’t need new tricks…

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

The best lesson in Golf strategy the Sherpa ever got was on a muni in Boulder City Nevada . 

It was right before the super bowl and the weather was awesome.  As the starter paired up our threesome with a single, I noticed briefly that the ”single” was a congenial  old fellow in his early 70’s and small of stature (weighing maybe 145 pounds with a pocket full of rocks).

On the first tee, my best buddy lines up his drive and plays his well ingrained banana slice into the adjacent fairway.  I step up next and immediately hook it into the trap on the left and the third guy in our group (a non golfer buddy from Michigan) tops it just past the ladies tee.  Next comes the little old man. Read more…