The real lesson of the Byron Nelson has nothing to do with Golf…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Golf Fitness, Uncategorized

First a bit of heresy…

Not all that the Sherpa learns from watching golf ends up being about golf…

GASP!!

Please dear reader…do not judge me for my apparent oversight, and (may I add) potentially self incriminating thoughts that would have you think that I have lost my mind.

Fear not…there is a point…there is always a point.

The day started quite innocently.  The Sherpa was browsing lovingly through a wonderful vintage copy of one of my favorite golf instruction tomes.

I was just getting ready to spoon a mouthful of my standard Saturday treat…a  ”Jethro Bowl” of soy ice cream with about nine different toppings.

Note: Each weekend my middle Sherpette carefully and devotedly makes this sugary delight and I am certain that heaven has swimming pools of this elixer…diving boards included…

I digress…

To round out the experience, I was laying on what has to be one of the top three most comfortable couches on the planet, being gently serenaded by the voices of Golf Channel TV commentators  as they did God’s work (narrating the Byron Nelson golf tournament ) in HD…Oh baby!

Immersed in the syrupy goodness of the “Sherpa zone”, I thought myself impenetrable to all things “non golf ” when I looked up to notice the final pairing…namely Rory Sabbattini.

Rory, you may or may not know, has a quite outspoken countenance.

He has what the Sherpa would tactfully call a chronic deficiency of ”good cheer” …most notably calling out “you know who” (initials…TW) at the players some years back, resulting in a sound whuppin from the world’s number one and further solidification of his ill temperment.

So why did Rory catch my attention?

He wore a silly pink ribbon on his cap…

My first impression was that he was “dissing” the field somehow..perhaps making a not so subtle commentary about his contemporaries.

No one else was wearing one, so what else was the Sherpa to believe?

I turned up the volume and rewound the DVR (another blessed creation) to see if I could somehow divine the purpose of said ribbon.

Over the next few moments it became apparent that Rory was wearing a ribbon of support for Phil’s wife Amy…she has breast cancer.

For all of the right reasons, my caramel layered comfort was completely disrupted.

My mind filled with my own personal experience with the disease.

My best friend, you see, lost his wife to breast cancer.

Janice (as I am sure Mrs. Mickleson is) was a terrific person.  She loved my best friend and was a top ten mother.

She was articulate, humble, brilliant, loving, kind, generous, subtle, unpretentious and now…

Terribly missed.

She left behind a litany of friends and family that cherish her memory.

In her wake of goodness she also left a stark reminder of how deadly this disease is.  In my personal life, I have since made it my mission to hound Mrs. Sherpa to be checked each year, as I will the Sherpettes when they are old enough.

It is in her wonderful memory that I dedicate today’s bottom line:

Bottom line: If you are like the Sherpa (when he turned forty) you may have already experienced the rare pleasure of submitting to a digital prostate exam…as my dear mother would exclaim here… “good lord Miss Agnes!”  If you can overcome that small indignity you can certainly cajole, shame, coerce or love all of the important women in your life into be screened for breast cancer…Janice would certainly approve.

God bless you Janice, we love and miss you.

Love on…

The Sherpa

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

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

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

Let me give you some background.

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

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

Why?

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

Moving along.

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

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

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

Now where was I?

Ahh, yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I SWEAR I am STILL talking about golf…sheesh!

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

The Sherpa needs a cigarette…and a cold shower.

Play on…

The Sherpa

Do you know how to use your sand Wedge?…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Equipment Advice

The Sherpa has commented long and fierce about the mental game…and quite frankly his foursome is ready for some posts about technique. I thought I would focus today on one of the least understood clubs in the bag. Strangely enough, it is one of the most used…

The sand wedge has an interesting history.

In 1935 Gene Sarazen was credited with developing…and winning with what has been recounted as the first sand wedge. Three years previous to Sarazen’s insight, all kinds of wedges were being developed to help out of rough and sand.

Most of the new designs failed the R&A and therefore died in development.

Sarazen’s design conformed because, unlike other outlawed “spoon” (or concave wedges), his wedge had a flat face.

He also was the first to add weight with extra lead to help drive it through sand.

Thanks Gene…the Sherpa hopes the traps in heaven are filled with dry sand that is silty and light.

Back here on earth you need to understand the characteristics of modern day sand wedges.

“Sherpa”, I can hear you ask, “What do I need to know about this wondereful tool?

Two things really.

  1. It is most likely the heaviest club in your bag. With a swing weight (the relative heaviness of the head) akin to a sledge hammer, it is designed to allow you to drive it through obstructive surfaces like sand, deep grass, etc.
  2. It has a fat sole.  Bounce, as it is commonly referred to is the relative roundness of the bottom of your sandwedge.  The bigger the bounce, the more the club will skip (bounce) and not dig into sand or other surfaces.

How do you capitalize on the properties?

First understand that they exist and imagine how you would use them.

First let’s think about club weight..

The universal truth about your  sand wedge is that, because of its weight, you do not have to swing it hard to be effective.  Its mass allows you to transfer significant energy to the ball without getting “medieval”.  The trick to using this force is to keep the club stable (as with all other clubs) by dragging the head with your hands instead of trying to push the club. 

Think about how stable  you can make a shopping cart when you drag it behind you by one finger, but it requires both hands to “steer” when you push it from behind the cart.

Your sand wedge operates exactly the same way…when considering stability.

Remember all of the leverage is in dragging…not steering.

Now let’s think about bounce..

General rule #1 about bounce…the looser the ground the more you want it.

General rule #2 about bounce…you make more of it when you open the clubface at address.

Now apply these rules to a shot you face…

Example 1:

You are in a sand trap and the sand is very loose.  The choice seems clear that you should use sand wedge and will need some bounce (since the sand is nice and loose).  To get bounce two things need to happen: 1: you set up aimed left so that you can 2: open up the clubface at address (and not land right of the target). 

No sweat…done it a million times..but what if the sand is firm?

Example 2: 

If the sand if firm, now the surface is not loose and if you open the clubface at address (to create bounce off of a tight surface) you will skip it off the hard sand and probably skull your beloved pill. Better to make the face square to the target so that it will dig and not bounce…

Starting to see it? 

Bottom line:  All lies are not created equal and the harder the surface of the lie, the more square you want the clubface at address.  Conversely, if a lie is extremely loose like rough or loose sand..aim left and open the clubface wide open.  If we practice these basic principles we follow in the footsteps of a golf tradition that would make Mr. Sarazen proud…and you less frustrated.

Play on…

The Sherpa

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

The Quail Hollow Clinic…

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

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

Today scared me a little…

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

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

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

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

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

Simple and clear everytime….Tiger by wide margins.

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

Until today…

What did the Sherpa see? 

Doubt…damed, dirty putting doubt.

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

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

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

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

Something, however, is getting in his way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom Line:  No lesson tonight just this thought…

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

Go Tiger…

Play on…

The Sherpa