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 Golf Grip…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Key Golf Fundamentals

Golf grip pressure is an issue that virtually every renowned golf instructor and published professional golfer has written about.  Why?  Because it has a very basic and powerful affect on how fast the end of your golf club moves.  Don’ t think so?

Imagine you have a mint 1965 Ford Mustang Fastback with a 4:11 gear ratio, traction bars, cool mags with centerline racing rims, and a 25 coat candy apple red paint job (or anything you think is supremely awesome).

Next, visualize that a scary and very jeleous person with a gun forces you to hit your supremely awesome car with a two iron.  If you wanted him to think you were taking a whack but wanted to minimize damage to your car,  you would instictively grip the club like you were trying to choke it to death.  This would enable you to use your wrists to slow the club head.

The same hand and wrist leverage you create to save your sweet ride in this nightmare scenario also robs your game of power and distance. 

So what is the proper grip pressure?

Here is where the debate takes many forks.

  • “Slammin” Sammy Snead was fond of saying he held the club as light as he would a baby bird.  He was also very fond of saying he never developed calluses because of his light pressure.
  • Tiger Woods tends to hold his clubs a bit firmer.
  • Most advocates say, depending on the shot, pressure should range between 5 and 7 on a scale of ten.
  • I have only read one article on a shot that required very firm grip pressure…hitting out of heavy rough.  This shot requires strong grip pressure to keep the club from shutting down when the hosel gets stuck in heavy grass.

“So”, you ask, “what is the anwer Sherpa?  Guide me please”!

The best drill I have ever used was one I read in an article by  Jim Flick.

  1. Take the golf club and hold it parallel to the ground at waist height.  Notice that this is where the club is heaviest in your hands and requires the firmest grip.
  2. Next pivot the end of the golf club upward until it is straight up and down.  Notice that this is when the club feels the lighest and requires the lightest grip.
  3. Finally, slowly lower the club head 45 degrees  (half way between the previous two positions).  Take note of how the club becomes slightly heavier and your grip pressure is slightly firmer.  This is the grip pressure he recommends and the one I use religiously.

An easy way to practice this feel is to try it a few times when you are practicing.  Simply take your grip when the club is at the 45 degree position (step 3 above) then set the club behind the ball, (taking special care not to change your grip pressure) and take your normal swing. 

Bottom line: “Lighter” is more powerful than “too firm”.  There is no perfect pressure, but this one has worked great for me.  Try it and tell me how it works for you.

Special shout out to GiGi’s comment for inspiring this post.

Play on..

The Golf Sherpa

Win a dozen new Pro V1s!

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Sherpa Shrine Contest

The Sherpa is a frugal golfer to say the least.  When I play, my bag is full of homemade peanut butter and jelly sandwiches…made by the lovely and talented Mrs. Sherpa.  I buy my clubs on Ebay and if my best friend doesn’t pay me on a two dollar press, I will get “medieval” on him.

It is in this context that you need to understand how valuable I consider a box of ProV1s, the “apex predator” of golf balls.

Why is the Sherpa giving up such a tremendous piece of his soul ?

Simple:  I want all of my readers to have a chance to play good cheap golf.

Here is the deal: For three weeks the Sherpa wants you to comment on the best golf course under $31.   On Wednesday April the 8th,  I will pick the winner and create a “Sherpa Shrine” to your competitive writing greatness.  The most interesting essay/comment wins (as judged by my motley panel of judges, who quite frankly aren’t qualified to pour “you know what” out of a boot).

Why is it so cool to have your own “Sherpa Shrine”? 

  • Your Shrine will show your picture and proclaim your glory as ”Leader of the World as We Know It”
  • Your Shrine will show your winning comment/essay in all of its unedited splendor.
  • Your Shrine will last until until you get kicked to the curb by the next contest winner.
  • I will email a link to your buddies so they can bask in your unadulterated enshrined awesomeness.

In your comment please include:

  • Course name and website address (if they have one)
  • Course location: Address, City, State.
  • Why the course  is not a “goat track” – remember we want good golf courses.
  • Cool memories at the course.
  • You best score on the course.
  • Why you recommend it.
  • Your name and email so I can reward your total domination when you win.

How this helps everyone:

When the contest is over the Sherpa will also post the three runner up comments along with a list of all of the courses that were recommended.  The list, thanks to your efforts,  will serve as a valuable reference for all of my frugal golfing readers and hopefully save them some of their hard earned dough.

What can I say…I’m a giver.

Blog on…

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…

“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

Good golf is not always between your ears…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Golf Fitness

A proper golf swing is the result of an athletic move..not a checklist of mental tips piled up in your psyche from too many golf magazines.  The sooner the beginner learns this, the quicker she/he is set on the path toward better golf. 

Why?   Two main reasons:

1: To make an athletic move you must first train as an athlete does.  Now before you get nervous…the Sherpa is no athlete, but I perform daily fundamental exercises to improve strength, cardiovascular stamina and flexibility. 

2: It is free, my favorite price.

In my case I have a simple motto.  Stretch and break a sweat every day.  30 minutes a day will do much more than you can imagine. 

As you limber up you will be able to make a better turn away from the ball, stay balanced more effectively and make a stronger move to your left side (for the right handed golfer).  You will also find that your focus will improve with stamina so that you can think your way around the golf course more effectively.

The more in shape you are when you take lessons from a golf pro, the quicker he/she will be able to train you into the positions required to make a sound golf swing..guaranteed.

My biggest takeaway from my pro was that I was way too stiff and inflexible, which caused me to compensate too much with my hands as opposed to making a proper turn.  Many pros I speak with all tell me that my lack of flexibility is much more common than not and that the quicker I make my body more limber, the quicker I can drive improvements.

When you talk to your  pro, make it a point to have this conversation.  A good pro will actually test your flexibility and give you tips on how to stretch your trouble areas.  Bottom line..the hands hold the golf club…your body is the motor for the swing and you need to keep it tuned up.

Never forget….stretch and sweat.

The Sherpa

Golf is not the sport of Kings…

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

When thinking about what to write today, a moment came rushing to my awareness that made this post easy.  One day not long ago, in the late afternoon I was playing a $16 municipal course and struggling with a new swing improvement my golf pro had me working on.  As I played the first hole I noticed the greenskeeping crew diligently tending to the course and reflected on the tired look they all shared in posture and gait..presumbly from working outside all day.

As the round progressed over the next couple of holes I found myself returning to thoughts to “serious golf”.  It seemed the more I concentrated on my swing and scoring, the more tense I got.  The more tense I got, the worse my swing got and the more frustrated I became.  As I was attempting to mentally regroup and get my mind in a better state of being, a noise behind the teebox commanded  my attention.  Next was revealed a deep and universal truth about golf.

The noise, you see was a walking threesome on their way to an adjacent tee box.  These golfers didn’t have fancy golf shoes, but heavy boots.  They weren’t wearing “breathable” cotton or  high tech- moisture wicking shirts and shorts…they wore sweat soaked blue jeans.  This threesome, you see, was the grounds crew that 30 minutes ago were dragging their way through a day of very tough manual labor.  Now, however, as they shared the same single set of beat up old golf clubs they walked with renewed vigor and perceptible energy.  When they swung at the ball, they did so without expectation, but for the pure joy of taking a lash at a ball to see what would happen.

It was then that the Sherpa became reconnected with one of the reasons I love this game so much. 

Golf is a game…joy in it comes to anyone who is willing to treat it as such, regardless of wealth.

At that moment I changed my swing thought from “fire your hips first” to “have fun”.

I shot 78….I love this game.

The Sherpa..play on.