The Indian bought a new Arrow (i.e. The Sherpa bought a new golf Club)…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Equipment Advice

Yes dear readers..like other long range patterns..lunar eclipse..Olympic games…presidential elections…the Sherpa makes a momentous decision.

He buys a new driver.

While the Sherpa is happily married to his putter, all other clubs in the bag get much wear and tear.  My last driver, a Taylor Made R7, lasted seven years.  Point in fact, it still is functional and is on its second shaft, but the head size is like a pea compared with the “block o’ cheese” head sizes that they offer now.

Taking my own advice, I went and had myself fitted for the proper driver set up.  In my case the characteristics that optimized my ball flight were:

1: A neutral bias weighting system – meaning that the club would not intentionally try to close or leave the face open.  Nowadays, you can get drivers that are designed for either swing tendency to help straighten your ball flight out.  Pretty cool, but not what I needed.  The Sherpa wants total freedom to work the ball either way, given the situation.

2: Stiff shaft – meaning that with a swing speed of 95 to100 miles an hour, the shaft will not flex too much.  It feels kind of “boardy”, but keeps the clubhead out in front of me when I hit it.   This key variable keeps the Sherpa from having to pretzel himself to close the clubface at impact

3:Good MOI – meaning that the club will not twist too much if I don’t hit it perfectly on the sweetspot.  This forgiveness keeps distance more consistent even if you don’t catch it pure.  Sherpa…he like MOI.

4:  9 degree loft – meaning that I get optimal launch angle (13 to 15 degrees) with low loft (9 degree), enabling a lower penetrating flight that spins at the right rate and rolls out like a marble on a slab.

5: It has got to look and sound cool – meaning that I am not going to plunk down hard earned cash for something that is artless for the sake of function. I am “the Sherpa” after all.

I found it….drum roll please.

And the winner is the Callaway FT9.

I got onto Callaway after playing a used FT5 and loved how it performed, looked and sounded.

While I was getting fitted I started thinking about you guys and realized if I was thoughtful, I could ask the fitter a few key questions to see if I could harvest some new insights.

Wow did that turn out well…

I asked simply, “Mr. Fitter, since you see hundreds of pilgrims like me on our quest for a better game, and since you are not a coach, what do you have to fix most often so you can sell your wonderful products?”

Without hesitation, he said “easy, it’s usually one of three things. First I check left hand grip, 95% of the time it’s too weak (see only one knuckle or less).  Second, I check their hand position at address.  Usually folks have their hands behind the clubhead at addess (causing open shoulders and a wicked banana slice).  If they are ok with these two things, but still slicing badly, I’ll notice that their swing sequence from the top is out of whack”.  After a stunned moment of silence, I asked “what do you mean”? 

He grabbed a club and showed me that many players with slicing or duck hooking problems make a good backswing, but when they start to turn, they do so while still on their back foot instead of bumping forward then releasing their arms on the downswing.

It was like lightning.  This guy, had been forced to correct probably 100 swings this year so that he could effectively sell clubs.  In doing so, he had boiled the process down to about 250 words.  He was like some kind of Haiku golf poet.  So I put him to the test.  I got on the monitor and kept hitting fades.  He said, “I like your left hand grip…nice and strong.  Do you want to play that fade?   If you don’t then move your hands forward to keep them even with the clubface at address”. 

Wow…I hit a beautiful little draw that gave me awesome yardage and terrific roll out. 

Bottom line: Never stop learning…the game has valuable secrets that are told by all who come under its spell.  Secondly, learn how to technically use every club in your bag.  Really commit to understand how the club was engineered and you will get much better performance out of it.

In celebration of my wonderful new purchase, I looked for a terrific lesson for you on driver tips that I think is a beauty.

Enjoy..

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

A quick lesson on Tempo from a “Sherpa Approved” Instructor…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Key Golf Fundamentals

As I posted the other night, I trust your swing with an instructor I have come to really like.   Now that you have faithfully practiced the “feet together drill”, I want to expose you to this next video which is a great next step in your development…tempo.

Please enjoy and review the video in its entirety.  It is a very, very well done lesson on a key element.  Try it and give me your feedback.

Get your timing right..whether you have played 3 days or 30 years…Jack Nicklaus always reviewed his each year and he was pretty good.

Play on…

The Sherpa

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

My favorite Golf Instructor…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Key Golf Fundamentals

The Sherpa’s role on your golf journey is one of guidance and companionship.  This is an honor I accept with joy, curiosity and passion each day that I share my writings and insights.  When it comes to technical training of the golf swing, I am committed to getting you the best coaching available.  It is in this spirit that I reflected on the essential question…

Who would I trust with your golf swing?  The Sherpa’s honest answer is Shawn Clement.  To be clear, I have never met this instructor nor are we related in any way. 

I rated him on:

Clarity:   He has no clutter in his instruction, he only discusses the thoughts at hand and fully explains desired outcomes.

Style: His style is very comfortable and collaborative.  Lots of swing coaches I evaluated were autocratic and condescending of other swing styles.

Knowledge: His knowledge is apparent in how he describes the physical forces at work in the golf swing.

Capability: He respects his game enough to stay in shape, enabling him to do exactly what he asks of his students.

Analogies:  His use of analogies are spot on.  When he describes the importance of swing position, he doesn’t wing it.  He makes parallels that are appropriate and thoughtful.

 

Having earned the Sherpa Seal of Approval,  I am excited about this guy and I hope you watch this video in its entirety.  It explains one of the most important and time honored drills in the game..

I present to you…”The Feet Together Drill” by Shawn Clement

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