Happiness and the argument for guilt free Golf…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Common Golf Pitfalls

As the Sherpa gets older some of the truths about golf and life become self evident.  If only the filter by which my conscience evaluates my time on the course were more refined when I was younger, the Sherpa would have been more adept at squeezing every ounce of fun that golf has to offer.

The context for my commentary this evening is the argument which must be made for happiness as an offset to some golfer’s perceived need for guilt at spending time on the golf course (as opposed to spending it in more “pressing and serious matters”)….baloney.

Life, unlike your favorite golf course can only be played once.

So how do we capitalize on the one big “go around”?

Believe it or not, behavioral scientists have actually tried to quantify happiness and isolate its attributes.

They went about it by first isolating “happy” people in polling.   Responders who claimed to be “very happy” were grouped and asked a battery of questions.

The attributes of very happy people were aggregated into three distinct themes.

  1. They had rich and lasting relationships.
  2. They had hobbies that distracted their minds completely…called being “in flow”.
  3. Third they made and kept very deliberate plans to do things that made them happy.

 

The Sherpa has been, unknowingly, practicing quite good happiness hygene.

Mostly because of golf.

Evidence:

  1. The Sherpa very carefully and thoughtfully cultivates and nurtures high value relationships in “golf society”…read my post about my dream fouresome.
  2. Golf completely distracts the Sherpa and keeps me in flow to the exclusion of any other thoughts…pure obsessive joy.
  3. I play golf often because it makes me happy and connects the Sherpa with a source of energy only available in two other areas of my life (Mrs. Sherpa and the Sherpettes).

Unexpected consequence…

If I am selfish with my golf, my home life gets better.  Because I am happy, I am a more focused father, a better husband and a better writer.

Mrs. Sherpa in her wisdom also knows this and encourages guilt free golf, because she wants the one she loves so dearly to have a happy life….and because it makes him a better daddy.

Bottom line: What precious few learn is that every moment that passes leaves us and never returns…except in our memories.

The trick is the memories you create along the way.

Play golf… be happy.

Play on…

The Sherpa

How to re-enter the game with a Plan…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Common Golf Pitfalls

      

  Golf Specific Search for your convenience.

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The Sherpa was decided to write about the phenomenon of the golfer who has lost his way, become re-inspired, and now wants to re-engage with the game of golf.  The Sherpa has a few tips on how to make the game “stick” this time and help you maximize your enjoyment as you re-commit to one of the best games of all time.

Special thanks to Mart T’s post for inspiring this post.

Mark T, is a typical sort of golfer who, is athletic, has good eye hand coordination and a good reasoning mind  (all good qualities in golfer).  Like many of us, life has gotten in the way of golf and when compounded with the frustrations that golf can bring..some people just don’t see the point. 

The lens the Sherpa wants you to use is a bit different. 

Scoring for the beginning or returning golfer is too much pressure to put on someone.  When you return, make a deliberate plan to do a few key things to raise your confidence and skill before rushing to measure your stroke count against a population that is playing and practicing often. 

Instead make your goals more reasonable:

1: Arrange for a lesson in swing fundamentals.  Any good pro ($30 to $50) can watch you swing and get you into a setup position with drills you can practice.  Instead of going to the range and working on all of the stuff that frustrated you before, take what would have been about  the cost of a new set of Pro V1s  and get a lesson (for more details see my post: The Argument for lessons – a must read if you intend to get lessons).

2: Practice putting-every night if you can.  No big secret here.  Find a flat place on the floor.  Putt without breaking your wrists. Get very good at lagging puts from 20 feet.

3: Get in shape:  Walk 30 minutes a day at 4 miles per hour.  To keep it simple, figure out a two mile walking trail and do it in half an hour…every day. 

4: Stretch:  Flexibility is key to keep you from injuring yourself and to get into the positions your golf pro will prescribe.

5: Buy a good, cheap golf ball: The two piece ball by Titleist called the NXT is tough, durable and you can get them for about 2 bucks a ball.

6: Don’t rush out to get new clubs: Get in shape, get lessons, practice.  When your swing becomes more consistent, then you can ask your pro about club recommendations.  If you absolutely have to buy clubs, go have a fitting at a major retailer.  Once you have their recommendation, go to Ebay and buy them there.  The Sherpa would be very interested to see if you can get a better deal than on Ebay.

7: Set your own par:  When you go on the course to play, set your own par.  Take each hole and add a stroke to arrive at your “adjusted” par.  You might think this is crazy, but it actually works.  When you get on a par 5 in three and two putt you make birdie.  By the same token when you get on a par 4 in 4 strokes and two putt you make bogie.  Take the pressure off, you don’t need to test your game…you need to have fun, so that you will want to do this again.

8: Read the Sherpa’s posts every day:  They are aimed at you and beginners alike and are chock full of  tips to help you along your journey.

9: Enter the Sherpa’s contest to win a free dozen pro v1 golf balls to send you on your journey while you do a good deed for other golfer’s looking for good golf for under 31 dollars (see “win a dozen new pro v1’s” post for details).

Bottom line:

The Sherpa believes that if you practice with a purpose (drills from a pro), get in sharpe, keep it cheap (don’t spend a lot on gear initially) and keep your “adjusted” par reasonable, you will improve and enjoy the game along the way.  Don’t just fumble around.  If you do,  you lower your chances of success and ultimately limit the joy available to you otherwise.

Play on…

The Sherpa

Why being the “angry golfer” may kill more than your Handicap…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Common Golf Pitfalls

Tool bar below is for Sherpa’s Golf Specific Search (if it is not helpful, tell me and I will remove it).


———————————————————————————————————————————————–The world is a daunting place that drives its humble residents through a vast array of emotions.  Left unchecked, some of those emotions (anger), can damage much more than our ability to play golf.

It is in the spirit of this basic truth, that the Sherpa will finish a thought started in yesterday’s article about picking your “dream” foursome.  In particular, when describing the “toxic” foursome, the Sherpa called out the “Angry” Golfer.

First and foremost the Sherpa is a positive guide, and where possible, a beacon for the path to improvement (regardless of a reader’s emotional predilection).  The Sherpa, therefore, will speak to the Angry Golfer directly today in a sincere effort to help him/her understand how anger affects the game and beyond.

To qualify my opinion, I have done some research to better understand today’s thoughts.

Let me start by making a confession….

I was once an Angry Golfer (albeit on the milder side).  Yes, in his formative years, the Sherpa was once much more susceptible to converting frustration into annoyed anger..which, by the way, is the Golf Gods’ favorite pasttime.  With time, however, and a better understanding of my own mind, I am much better at modulating frustration and the myriad anger triggers we all face each day.  I, therefore, feel well qualified to speak on the subject.

Before we progress, let’s see if we can agree on the premise that incessant or toxic anger affects more than your golf.

Research shows that if you are an Angry Golfer you are more likely to:

  1. Have Higher Cholesterol
  2. Consume More Calories/Be Overweight
  3. Have High Blood Pressure
  4. Have Higher Incidence of Cancer
  5. Be Depressed
  6. Have Fewer Meaningful Social Relationships
  7. Be called out as an Angry Golfer in the Sherpa’s Golf Blog

Being an Angry “anything”, it appears can make your one shot at life a living misery frought with an entire checklist of physical, psychological and social burdens.  The Sherpa finds this tragic.

So how does the Angry Golfer develop?  This is where the research is relatively fragmented. 

  • If you look at psychological research, lack of early childhood bonding with a loving parent creates an early stress response that overdevelops and then makes the anger emotion more difficult to modulate in adulthood.
  • If you look at purely physical/biological research, experts point to an over-active sympathetic nervous system (SNS).  The SNS is the “fight or flight” part of your nervous system (i.e the part that secretes adrenalin and the stress hormone called cortisol).

My opinion, is that each of us is endowed with a certain amount of capability to manage our emotions and, to a certain extent , we can change how we react to frustration.  Research backs my opinion.  In cases,  for instance, when cancer patients were given the option of undergoing normal treatments, or treatment that included anger and stress managment, recovery was significantly better in those who chose the latter.

Since we are only trying to cure golf frustration, our bar is much lower.  Here are some steps you should take:

  1. Accept that anger (especially incessant and unchecked) is likely robbing you of more than your game.
  2. Realize that when you get angry, you secrete vast amounts of adrenaline, robbing you of feel and mental focus.
  3. Note that your behavior will limit your interactions with other golfers, making the problem worse.
  4. Make an effort to understand your anger triggers on the golf course and make a strategy to stop them from escalating. Work on it methodically, like you would putting or your swing.
  5. Learn to meditate.  This one simple skill will connect to awareness of your emotions in a way that robs them of their power over you.
  6. If you find that after focusing on anger management you still struggle with outbursts..get help, life is too short.

Bottom line:  The Sherpa is not a doctor, but honest focus on your anger and its root causes can make a big change in the quality of your game….and life.  If you still can’t get a handle on it, get help.  Life is a gift that can be easily be squandered on misery and isolation.

Play on…happily

The Sherpa

Picking your dream golf Foursome…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Common Golf Pitfalls

If your time is limited to one round a week or you just want to have the dream foursome to play with each week,  please read the Sherpa’s  thoughful advice.

First lets do some math to make sure that you agree with the premise, namely that it is appropriate to be very picky about your “regular” foursome.

How much time will you spend with these people in a year?

If you live in a temperate climate:   1 Round per week  x 5 hours per round (including warm up, etc.)  x 48 Weeks (discounting for Major Holidays, etc.) = 240 Hours a year or Ten Days

The Sherpa asks: “Do you really want to spend 240 hours a year (120 hours in cold weather areas) with folks who may or may not be good for your game or your soul”?

Without getting too philosophical or (in Man terms) mushy, I would say:  Choose wisely..these relationships are the best and most positive influence on your game and life.  Choose poorly and they have the opposite effect.  I have experienced both “toxic” and “dream”  foursomes.  When I found my current “dream” foursome (by avoiding the personalities below) I knew it immediately.

Let’s qualify a poor choice first.  So what is a “toxic foursome”?  This dreaded foursome is characterized by one or more of the following types:

  1. The Club Thrower: I have already blogged about this type of person (see the Flying 7 Iron).  Play with this person at your own physical peril.
  2. The Incessant Cusser:  As I have already written, Cussing is part of golf (even the Clergy do it). The incessant cusser, however, replaces most verbs and nouns with profanity and can become an embarrassment as people begin to associate you with the “F- Bomber”.
  3. The Constantly Angry Golfer: Frustration is a key beauty mark on golf’s vast portrait (nice prose huh?).  The Angry Golfer, doesn’t get it, loses strokes to it, has no fun and typically drags everyone else into their pit seething contempt (sorry, I am on a prose run today).  Additionally, this golfer is usually not nearly good enough to qualify his anger in the first place.  To keep this bullet brief, I will expand on this idea tomorrow.
  4. “Checklist Charlie” AKA “Ranger Rick”:  This person has not learned to golf yet.  Instead, this person thinks golf is going through a 30 point checklist on each shot without any connection to a target.  These folks may not be completely toxic. Some of these people have been known to mature into golfers with thoughtful perspective.  Unfortunately, if they have been playing for years like this, they are not likely to change. Why are they toxic?  Swing thoughts, like a virus, can spread throughout your foursome and steal “target” thinking in a flash.  I have seen it happen…not pretty.
  5. The Swing “Tipper”:  This golfer needs to keep his tipping limited to service providers (where they are actually appreciated).  On the golf course “tips” are actually the worst thing golfers can do for each other (even if with good intent).  If the tip jar is out during your round, it will distract you from your “target” game, effectively stopping you from truly “playing golf” (as the Sherpa has countless times described it).

Though this list may not be complete, it captures they key toxic elements you should run from as fast as you and your bag can move.

So “Sherpa” you ask, “how to I find a Dream Foursome”.  The answer I am afraid, is more complex.

  1. Luck:You may be invited to play in a foursome and find, magically,  that none of the aforementioned golfer types are present.  Buy each one of them something from the cart girl immediately! Do your absolute best to match their positive energy, be generous and if you are lucky you will be invited back…you have hit the mother load.  By all means don’t be any one of #1-5 above even for a second.  Why is this complex?  Think about how easy it seems to be able to pick 5 numbers, but how tough it is to win a lottery with them.
  2. Reconfiguration:If you are in charge of a foursome that features one or more toxic golfers you have a tough choice but obvious choice.  Either you can carefully and kindly pare down your foursome, ridding your group of the offending golfer/s…or start from scratch.  Unfortunately, the Sherpa didn’t get you in this complex mess so you will have to act on your own.  Stick to your guns though,  and the outcome will be well worth it.  I promise. 

My current foursome keeps their clubs from flying, cusses to make things light when someone gets too “serious”, will actually step away from the others if angry (so it doesn’t spread), leaves the checklist for groceries only and never, ever gives tips on the course unless solicited. 

Another very positive side effect of playing with the same dream foursome is that they will help you improve your game as they learn your swing.  The Sherpa recently was asked by his pro to make a subtle swing timing change.  When I told my foursome about it, I let them know that I was interested in feedback so that I had more eyes on my swing. 

In this very rare instance, I wanted careful witness..not tips.  They understood immediately and started giving me appropriate and useful feedback about the specific change…not tips.

They are generous to a fault.  I don’t deserve them, but they let me stay anyway.

Bottom Line:  Like a marriage, a good foursome choice is the gift that keeps on giving.  Choose poorly… and misery is the payoff.

Play on…

The Sherpa

Buying your first Driver…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Common Golf Pitfalls

While the Sherpa would prefer you spend much more time thinking about learning to putt well, inevitably, as a new golfer you will have to learn how to hit fairways.

Note: I did not say “hit drivers”.  Your goal is to hit fairways, which from time to time, may require the use of a driver.  In subsequent posts the Sherpa will expand upon this idea…but I digress.

Today we are talking about Drivers.

So maybe you have been hitting your dad’s old set or a set you borrowed from a sibling or best friend.  You have not doubt already noticed that hitting the golf ball with a driver can be kind of intimidating.

Don’t feel like you are in this by yourself.  The fact is that hitting driver requires skill and in years past, used to be very difficult with older equipment. 

The good news is that golf manufacturers have spent lots of money developing golf clubs that make this much easier…even for beginners.

The other great news is that several generations of drivers have now been made and sold, which has driven the cost of these wonderful clubs down significantly.  For instance, I just bought a Callaway  FT5 (driver) from Edwin Watts (on their used rack) for $119.  This club was over $300 new.  Dick’s Sporting Goods is selling it brand new for $199!  So you won’t go broke trying to buy one.

So what driver are you looking for as a beginner golfer?

With so many drivers available, let’s approach the problem by asking “what does a beginner need in a driver”?

  1. High MOI -  In short, this is the club’s ability to keep from twisting when you don’t hit the ball in the center of the club.  All manufacturers have “High MOI” drivers and make it clear which models possess this capability.
  2. Shaft vs Swing Speed – As you swing faster, you will need a shaft with stiffer flex.  Go to any golf store that has a swing monitor and they can test your swing speed and shaft needs without spending any of your dough.
  3. Loft  – Most beginners need a driver that has a loft of at least 10.5 degrees.  This is a general rule based on the fact that most new golfers have lower swing speed and struggle to get the ball in the air consistently.  Again, any golf store with a monitor can help you with this…just go in an hour before they close and they’ll typically have plenty of time for you.
  4. Other technical junk…don’t worry about it.  You aren’t at the level you need to worry about it yet.

Bottom line:  Buy a High MOI driver for under $200 with the proper shaft flex and loft (as determined by your golf store on their launch monitor).

Not hitting it great all the time is a function of your developing golf swing that will improve with a lesson and proper practice.  A well chosen driver, however, will actually help compensate for off center hits and give your developing game more tolerance for error off the tee. 

Let me know if you are thinking about buying driver or any other club and I will gladly give you advice.  The Sherpa wants to help you make the best decision you can when it comes to your game or your hard earned dough.

Play on..

The Sherpa

“Ranger Rick” is not a Golfer…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Common Golf Pitfalls, The Mental Golf Game

Many beginners confuse the idea of swinging a club with the game of golf.  The Sherpa would argue that they are only loosely related.  Sound like nonsense?  Think about this.

Was your last steak more tasty or nutritious because your cutting technique was top notch?  When you remember a terrific meal, for that matter, do you remember how well you used your fork or the delicious flavors, company and terrific dessert?  Bottom line, was the goal to serve yourself food or was it to enjoy a great dinner? 

When playing the GAME of golf, swinging a club (like using a fork)  is just a means to an end.  The golf “meal” is thinking your way around the golf course, focusing on targets, using strategy…not swinging a club.

Who then plays golf, you or “Ranger Rick”?  You know “Rick”… he is they guy/gal you become when you practice on the range with absolutely no need to hit a target. “Rick” has no art.  “Rick” has no imagination.  Why? 

 ”Rick” has nothing to lose…no scorecard.. no pressure.  Golf does not exist without pressure. 

Why then would you would possibly want to take this goober with you to the first tee?  Simple, you are still trying to make your steak taste better by worrying about your fork.

At this point you are probably begging the Sherpa to stop with the food metaphor and get on with the specifics.

I will make it simple…when you get to the first tee…kick ”Rick” to the curb.  Don’t try to bring this swing obsessed, artless, technician with you, he/she will only get in the way.

Specifically:

1: Stop swinging and start aiming and using your imagination.  Before each shot, your mind needs to be focused on “where and why” you want the ball to go next (not Rick’s 30 point swing thought checklist).  When you stand over the ball, think only of your target..the more specific the better (this really shuts Rick up).

2:  Build and commit to a pre-shot routine to prepare your mind before each shot.  Routine bores Rick and he/she will be less inclined to intervene when your mind is relaxed.

3: Be patient…this mental change made the single largest impact on the Sherpa’s game, but took the longest to trust.

The Sherpa has the distinct pleasure of playing each weekeng with some great guys who happen to have very low handicaps.  Each one of these guys “owns” their games.  They dutifully embrace their “Rickness” on the practice tee, then treat poor  “Rick”  like a red headed stepchild on the first tee.

Bottom Line:  Show Rick who’s Boss.

Play on..The Sherpa

The Argument for Lessons…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Common Golf Pitfalls

Basic golf truth…”It is the indian and not the arrow”.  Every golfer at one time or another, regardless of skill level, succumbs to the basically false logic that a game can be bought.  The truth is that with a good fundamental swing you could score with a rake and a range ball.  How do you get that good fundamental swing?  Not Ebay…lessons.  Don’t worry, there will be plenty of time to lust over cool golf gear later on.  Right now you need to learn the fundamentals before you ingrain bad habits.

If I could go back in time, I would have saved the $500 I spent on my first expensive driver and bought lessons.  Why, because I fell into the trap that lots of beginners fall into. They buy cool golf stuff then try to teach themselves a skill that they don’t fundamentally understand .  In so doing, they go diligently to the driving range to ingrain totally bad habits,  making it harder to be taught a proper swing later on.

Teaching yourself, at the beginning, is like saying that you should be able to decipher calculus because you can write all of the numbers between 1 and 100.  If you have a proper guide, the swing can be revealed to you in ways that you can digest and appropriately practice.

Sadly, it isn’t enough to accept that you should spend your money on lessons.  Now you have to be able to articulate to your golf pro what you are looking for in lessons.  Most good golf pros, you see, are looking for feedback on what you want accomplish.  I was unable because of ego to say what I really wanted to say when I took my first lesson.

The Sherpa’s guidance on this is very clear.  Clear your throat and proclaim that you “want to work on basic swing mechanics” so that you have a sound fundamental swing.  There is no shame and nothing but upside by being honest about your desire to learn the swing the right way the first time.  You will appear wise and clearly aware of the core value that a pro brings to the capability of a new golfer.   You may be a “feel player” or a “mechanical player” but either way, you gotta learn how to “swing it sweet”.

Closing thoughts…Spend your next hard earned cash on lessons, not clubs.  Jack Nicklaus was reported to go back to Jack Grout before each tournament season to revisit the most basic pieces of his golf swing so that his fundamentals would never deteriorate. If you are undecided or are struggling with selecting a pro, consider a coach who specializes in teaching junior players.  My pro is a junior talent development specialist and his patience is unmatched.

Good luck friends….