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

 

Lag putts or run them past the Hole…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Key Golf Fundamentals

Last week as I was reveling in the company of my foursome, the Sherpa shared with them that I wanted to solve the riddle of “the great putt debate”. 

One one hand, there exists a legion of golfers who would sever an appendage to guarantee a two putt … for purposes of this debate we will call them “lag putters”.

In the opposite corner is a large group of putters who love the quote “98% of the putts I leave short never go in”…this group will be called the “long putters”.

I was delighted when “Supa Fly” (a gifted engineer and insanely good golfer) took up the task…

Warning…he is an engineer, albeit passionate about the game.  In his detailed treatise below, he makes a compelling case.

I won’t ruin the surpise, but if you intend to putt to a hole, it helps if you reach it…

Ladies and Gentlemen I give you “Supa Fly’s” argument…

 

Hey Sherpa,

I did some analysis after our last conversation about one of the great debates in golf…

Should you putt short (lag put) to insure a two putt, or is scoring improved if you make a concerted effort to run every putt past the hole?

I did a lot of statistical analysis, including:

Population Variance: α²= N, i= (xi-u)² • p(xi) =n i=1 x²i • p(xi) – µ²

Binomial Probabilities –In a binomial experiment with n trials (number of putts) and probability of success p (number of one putts)…

P (x successes) = n!/x!(n-x)! Px (1-p) n-x, x=0,1,•••,n

And a “Sample Correlation Coefficient” I won’t bore you with the formula, it would take most of the page to express!

Through all this research and a mountain of statistical numbers I came to a realization….everybody is different!! 

What I mean is to say is that analysis based purely on total number of putts is futile. 

This is an essential truth, because we all have different skill levels when it comes to golf and more importantly putting.

It was at this point that I realized I was solving the wrong problem.  Instead I changed the question from “what makes you a better putter” to “what is the best way to putt”…statistically speaking.

To do that we need to simply express a Statistical Mean, with a few Variances.

                Xbar=∑n i=1 xi/n

So here we go!!!! 

To make the math work we need to pretend we are playing 27 holes.  In statistics 27 is the smallest family, thus the need  for 27 holes of golf.

 To express this we will use 4 golfers Golfer α, Golfer ×, Golfer β, and Golfer £

Golfer α (a.k.a. the lag putter) plays 27 holes of golf and two putts every green, therefore,  never three or one putts.  His putts always total 54.  This simulates the lag theory.

Golfer × (a.k.a. the long putter) plays 27 holes of golf and, he sends all putts with enough pace to get past the hole. ( we used the rule of 3 for golfer ×) 9 attempts result in a one put,  9 attempts result in a 2 putt, and 9 attempts result in a 3 putt.  Total putts for golfer ×… 54 putts.  This simulation breaks even with number of putts the “lag putter” (Golfer α) makes…sadly no gain..

Golfer β (a.k.a. normal variance long putter) plays 27 holes of golf and he sends all his putts with enough pace to get past the hole.   Using a simple variance he has 5 one putts, 19 two putts and two 3 putts…Total putts for Golfer β 49 putts WOW…5 strokes back baby!

Golfer £ (a.k.a. better than normal variance long putter) plays 27 holes of golf, and he sends all his putts with enough pace to get past the hole.  Using a simple variance he has 6 one putts, 18 two putts and two 3 putts… Golfer £ has 48 total putts.  Double WOW… he has improved on golfer α by 6 putts.  That is a four stroke improvement on a 18 hole round.  Who wouldn’t want to take four strokes off their game!!!! 

Bottom line these numbers tell us a lot:

·         First , without variances, lagging or putting past the hole are breakeven propositions.

·         Assuming variances exist…(and they do in nature) trust me, when you run past the hole you will sink more one and two putts as you get more comfortable with aiming your putts past the hole. 

·         With just a little success you can shave 4 strokes off your game. 

 

In the end, if adopt the lag strategy (i.e. don’t try to get the ball past the hole every time), sadly you will never improve your putting average..and PUTTING Past the hole should improve you score with little or no risk to your current game.

Nice Job “Supa Fly”!

Play on…
The Sherpa

Practice doesn’t always make perfect in Golf…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Uncategorized

Sometimes the Sherpa needs no inspiration to write about things I think plague the beginning golfer. Sadly, one need only visit the driving range to see one of the major impediments to golf development for beginners…practice.

“Sherpa”, I can hear you saying, “now you are just be provocative”.

Let me lay some context on you.

Perhaps the Sherpa should have said “poor practice”. Feel better?..I do.

Think back at the characters you have seen at the range almost every time you’ve been on the holy practice ground…

Each have the same thing in common..see if you can guess what it is.

  • Quick shot McGraw – This person typically is more concerned with getting practice over with. You have seen this character…tees up and hits a ball and before the first one has even hit the ground, rakes over another one and hits it “lickety split”. Doesn’t look at ball flight, direction or even where it came down. Rake, hit, rake,hit….
  • The Mechanic – This person is looking at their hands, their feet, the clubhead… Obsession with swing positions clouds their mind to the exclusion of what is happening to the ball. Grip, waggle, look at hands, swing…repeat.
  • The Beater – This person is obsessed with the amount of balls they hit, as if a quota were in place that will improve swing capability if only 300 balls get hit in one practice. If a little is good…then a lot is great. Not true in medicine or golf.

Have you seen the connection yet? Sure you have…none of them are practicing….they are just hitting balls, hoping that things will get better.

None of them are measuring success as it is measured in golf.

Broken record alert…for those of you who dutifully read my blog…the Sherpa is at it again…you’ll see.

Said a different way, the only thing that matters is whether they are getting better at sending the ball to a targetnothing else is “golf”.

It saddens the Sherpa to see this happening day after day at golf ranges around the country.

It honestly breaks the Sherpa’s heart to see good people with good intentions taking the time to get better at this wonderful game, only to be rewarded with worse swings and less accuracy,

How do you keep from falling into this trap?

  • The most basic and simple rule is from the “Godfather”..Harvey Penick.  Be quick, mechanical or beat a million balls…if you must, just don’t do so without picking out a target EVERY TIME YOU SWING. How will you know if you are getting better? Never break this rule.
  • On EVERY swing evaluate the flight of the ball and do not come out of your stance until the ball has hit the ground. Volumes have been written on how vital it is for your brain’s learning capacity to stay in your stance until you SEE THE BALL HIT THE GROUND. To connect your mind to your swing, the absolutely most effective way is to keep the feel of your swing fresh as you see the ball react. When you step out of your stance, you lose the connection..instead you witness the ball fly, as opposed to connecting it to your swing feel.
  • If you get tired, quit. You are not going to hit the perfect 6 iron every time and chasing it will only make things worse. Jack Nicklaus was very careful with this rule. He was certain that you could turn good feel into bad feel if you practiced tired. Better to finish when you are still relatively fresh and haven’t allowed fatigue to put you in poor posture (or some other swing killing move)  that could masquerade as something you need to “fix” (when in reality you are just tired..and nothing is really broken).
  • Have a plan…work on one maybe two drills “tops”. This is marathon, not a sprint Tiger. Learning one thing well is much more valuable than working at 5 things poorly.

Bottom line: This issue causes the Sherpa to lose more sleep than any other in amateur golf. The driving range, if used wisely, can derive real improvement, but left to chance can create havoc and misery. I want you to be wildly successful..or at least steadily improve. Practice with good habits and you improve your odds impressively.

Play on…

The Sherpa

Golf is like a box of Chocolates…

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

To be sure, the Sherpa will never be mistaken for the “sharpest knife in the drawer”, but Golf …my beloved game…sometimes makes me feel like “Forrest”.

Today, you see, while getting “beaten like a rented mule” by my favorite golf course, the Sherpa had to gracefully endure the round from hell.

Now, however, I can hardly contain my laughter.

Why? 

Because I was snakebit from the first tee.  I found every hazard and every bad lie on my beloved course and…well…sometimes frustration is just plain funny.

Examples:

  1. On a drivable par 4, I ended up under a tree…on the opposite side of me from the tee box.  The Sherpa figures that: Either the Earth spun backards for a moment,  I hit another tree and ricocheted it back towards me or a squirrel with a sadistic sense of humor set it there so that I would be astounded by how physics had been suspended somehow.
  2. After hitting it just off the fairway (on a par 4) I was forced to hit back out of a hazard.  As you have done a thousand times, the Sherpa also chose a low loft club and made a well committed strike and…pow…I hit the exact edge of the cart path and (miracle of miracles) was able to ricochet it 10 yards backwards, and yes EVEN DEEPER IN THE HAZARD….awesome.
  3. After hitting it just off the green left (on a par 5), it rolled into a hazard.  Again, the Sherpa lined up and committed to a shot out of the hazard.  As I struck my shot, it happily ricocheted off a tree in a beautiful arc backwards and…yes..even more deeply into the junk on my left…whoo, whoo!
  4. After hitting a beautiful bump and run (on a long par 4) my ball was chasing nicely up onto a tucked pin and…pow hit a rake and stopped cold…(insert bad word here).
  5. On a dogleg left, I hit a roping draw…nice and long and just as it reached the turn…the wind vicously shifted and slapped the ball into the water as if swatted out of the sky by the very golf god that I have so dutifully worshipped..why hast thou forsaken me?
  6. On a simple par 3, during my backswing,  my belt buckle came loose and I duck hooked it into the junk on the left…does the Sherpa need  diet?

The littany goes on…but so does my love for the game.

I can hear it now, “Sherpa, have you lost your mind?  You were just treated like a red headed step child and you still love this game?  Do you have self esteem issues or did you not get enough toys as a kid?  What gives?”

The answer is simple…selective memory.

Golf psychologists talk a lot about Golfer’s memories being different from ours.  “The trick”, they say, “is that they forget bad shots, and remember only good ones”.

Good advice, I thought, so I put it to good use. 

Upon even more reflection, lots of good stuff happened too…and not just good shots….I just had to think about it a little.

  1. I made 3 birdies…how awesome is that?
  2. I made a very long putt to save par that had a double breaker and had to hit the exact center to go in…I knew it would go in halfway there.
  3. I made, “G- money” laugh so hard once that he choked on his soda…you shoulda seen it come out his nose.
  4. I thought of an upcoming  post…hint: It will be about putting and “Supa Fly” and I will collaborate on it…he’s gonna do some cool math.
  5. I saw a herd of 14 deer that reminded me of my dad and the times he took me camping as a boy…very good memories.
  6. I learned that “G-money’s” low round in competition was 66…you should see how he hits the ball.
  7. I realized that no matter how frustrated I get, I can keep my cool and be true to all of the lessons I have shared with you…I really sucked it up.
  8. I learned that “Supa Fly”, wants to be a pilot…god help us.

Even as I wrote the list I could not believe all of the recollections of good stuff that happened.  I was certain that I would struggle to find even one redeeming thing about this round.  Even now I am ashamed that I did not recognize all of the cool stuff that was happening.

In hindsight, the list of good far outweighed the bad, and because I value the entire experience, I definitely got my money’s worth today.

Bottom line: For the Sherpa, a round of Golf is a multi layered experience with wonderful subtexts and fellowship that (like a gourmet meal) has many flavors and textures.  The trick is to appreciate all of the flavors and having the awareness and presence of mind to appreciate them as they are unfolding…wow that’s good, I should write that down. 

Maybe next time I will take my own advice more carefully.  I pray that I do.

Play on…

The Sherpa

Only seven minutes could be separating you from “Scratch Golf”…

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

 The other day a long time friend of mine asked me, “Sherpa, how long does it normally take you to play 18 holes of golf”?  Instead of blurting out “4 to 4/12 hours” I stopped short and replied, “I will have to think about that”. 

I can hear you thinking, “Sherpa, its a no brainer.  You were asked for the time, but are building a watch instead”. 

Indulge me dear reader….you see, simple queries like this used to invoke similar mindless responses, but since humbly taking on the role of Sherpa, they now send me on journeys of the mind which never cease to challenge and amaze me.

The real answer, as you would expect from the Sherpa’s predictable “MO”, was much more complex and interesting.

How would I frame the context for my reasoning?  Let’s think  ( you and I)  about how we will define ”playing golf”.

I have already defined ‘playing golf’ in several of my previous posts so I will not wax philosophic and waste your limited time.  I merely posit that playing golf is when you are planning shots, aiming at targets and focusing on getting the ball in the hole (to the exclusion of any other motivation or distraction).

Now let’s look at what happens in your normal round (not counting warm up)….

As your group  approaches the first tee, you figure out who will tee off first, you talk about sports…economics…the latest movie…whatever floats your boat…

Then finally someone hits a tee shot and the round begins.

Next, everyone loads into their respective carts and continues discussing the newest car…micro-brew or argues the virtues of Ales vs Lagers.

Then you reach your ball, decide on a target, line up your shot and send the ball to the target.

This delightful cycle continues until you reach the 18th green, the pill goes in the hole…and its back to the real world.

Here is the essential question…How much golf did you really play?

Was it when you were discussing your sinking 401k or when you were contemplating the ultimate Scottish golf trip?

Both are fascinating topics but neither activity would be considered “playing golf”… even by the loosest standard.

You  are now no doubt asking, “Sherpa, could we get to a point…sometime today”?

Fear not dear reader…we are now at my surmise. 

I would argue that if you take 20 seconds to line up a target, commit and and make a swing, then golf  takes about 20 to 30 minutes per round (depending on your handicap).

Below is the Sherpa’s handy dandy illustration of the central point. 

——————————————————————————

92 Shots x 20 seconds of focus per shot = 31 minutes of golf time

72 Shots x 20 seconds of focus per shot = 24 minutes of golf time

Difference in golf time (92 strokes vs 72 strokes) = 7 minutes

——————————————————————————

What you will note immediately is that if you take 20 seconds to hit a golf shot and shoot 92, only seven minutes separates you from a scratch golfer. 

Why then is this valuable information?  The pro’s know why…

Think about what happens in the 20 to 30 minutes of “real golf”.   To execute at peak capability in those key moments over the ball, you have to stay razor focused on the target…to the exclusion of all other thoughts or distractions.  A difficult task to day the least…

So that you don’t think that the Sherpa has somehow morphed into “Captain Obvious”, see for yourself how tough this really is.

To illustrate, take a moment and see how long you can close your eyes and think about the word “golf” without having any other thoughts….

If you are anything like the Sherpa (when he first tried this test years ago) your brain went…”golf, golf, golf, golf, hmmmm, golf is great, my knee itches, golf, am I late for something?, golf, I’m hungry, I hope Mrs. Sherpa is cooking dinner, Oh Crap!…I am supposed to be thinking about golf, I love jelly donuts”.

The mental energy it takes to stay focused (even for a few seconds) is taxing and to make things more unfair, “scratch” players (people who shoot par) have 7 less minutes of this focus requirement per round.

The Sherpa, believes that knowledge is power…so how are we going to give you more power?

Let’s seek to optimize what happens during those 30 minutes each round, so that fewer of these 20 second moments (ie strokes) are required per round.

The template is already out there, and you can see it when you watch pros play.

With the exception of Tiger, most golfers are just like us, they focus and hit shots, then they tend to try to relax and stay loose….just like a 20 handicapper.

So how do we differ? 

The magic is in those 20 seconds over the shot.  During these moments pros and “scratch” golfers are not doing the shopping list or worried about score…they are sincerely target focused, committed and just reacting.  They may look on the outside like they are concenrating hard, but on the inside…all you would hear is crickets.

How can you train your brain to enter a focus state like this?

Brain exercises?   The Sherpa believes so..These guys do it all day every day as a natural part of playing and practicing.  If you are like the Sherpa, time is limited and the only way to “train the brain” (without hitting a bazillion shots a week) is to do focused mental exercise.

The Sherpa does this ”old school” with daily 10 minute sessions of meditation.

For hundreds of years, meditation has given everyday people improved mental focus by gradually training the mind to focus on single distinct thoughts.

What you are trying to achieve is a mental state capable of concerning itself with sending the ball at the target…no muss…no fuss.   The cool thing is that the brain, much like  a muscle, won’t care if it is hitting a golf shot or trying to focus on a single thought (as part of a meditation exercise).

The Sherpa swears by the little exercise I do each day to keep myself mentally sharp. 

Details:  Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight.  It helps if you are in a quiet, dark place.  Next set a silent timer for ten minutes.  Now concentrate only on the sound and feeling of your breath.  Feel how it moves in and out of your lungs.  Feel how is moves through your nose and down your windpipe.  Listen to how it sounds.  If it helps, think “breath, breath, breath” with each inhale and exhale.

Almost immediately your mind will wander.  Your brain is just being…well…”brainy”.  Just gently bring your thoughts back to your breath (from cheeseburgers, Cuban cigars or whatever your mind was distracted by).

This cycle will continue to recur but you will notice over time that you begin to witness these thoughts, almost as a bystander, instead of living them.

When you can separate yourself from your thoughts and witness them separately from your mind, then you achieve what Meditation gurus call “awareness”. 

Awareness is the closest we get to mind control.  In other words, you cannot totally control your mind, but once you understand how yours works, you can keep it much more quiet and focused. 

Bottom line: You will probably not become a world renowned golfer..or meditation Yogi, but if you commit to even 10 minutes a day, you can improve your mental focus and the benefits will reach well beyond your game and those cool 30 minutes of golf you play each round.

Play on…

The Sherpa

How feet alignment can affect more than just your golf Swing…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Golf Fitness

The Sherpa has been fighting a case of the “rights” for a couple of rounds now. For those of you who are new to golf, a shot shape called a “slice” goes to the right (and depressingly short of the target). To resolve this vexing problem I ended up starting from the bottom up…namely my feet.

Like the great Jack Nicklaus, I went back to basics at my local driving range and went through the Sherpa’s trusty “Ranger Rick” fundamentals checklist.

  1. Strong grip:  At least two knuckles showing on the left hand…check.
  2. Grip Pressure: 7 on a scale of 10…check.
  3. Balance: Weight over the balls of my feet…check
  4. Posture: Back straight, with a slight bend from the waist…check.
  5. Stance: Knees bent slightly, kneecaps just on top of shoelaces…check.
  6. Aim: Shoulders and feet in line with target line…check.

Next the Sherpa swings smoothly and…”banana split”…”slice-aroni”. 

Since I am not playing golf, I happily allow all kinds of swing thoughts to enter my head and soon have to focus my attention on a strategy to deal with my notions.

Staying curious I decide to start at my feet.  It is then that my mind is drawn to the holiest of golf books…”the Little Red Book”, by Harvey Penick.

I remember disctinctly that the swing can be affected by how we open or close our toes.

Do this: 

  1. Stand up straight and look at your feet with your toes pointed straight in front of you.
  2. Now notice how your shoulders naturally align with your toes.

In this position, you would be aimed right down the target line (perpendicular to where your toes are aimed) and set up to hit the ball arrow straight…like a “knuckler”…no side spin.

Here is the exciting part….

Turn you left toe out halfway to your left (if you are a right handed golfer and vice versa if you are a lefty).

Did you notice what happened to your shoulders?  THEY OPENED UP…aimed left as if following your big toe.

In this position you have just pre-aligned yourself to hit a rather predictable slice!

Conversely if you turn your back foot halfway away from the target, like my buddy Supa-Fly does, you pre-align that beautiful inside to out swing we call a draw (or hook when exaggerated).

I laughed so hard at my insight that I’m sure the Sherpa unsettled the other golfers on the range. 

You see dear reader, what was not in my checklist was my last move before hitting the ball…turning it (my left toe) to the target! 

My pro had asked me to do so in order to ensure my hips cleared and my beltbuckle ended up pointing at the target.  Good guidance…absolutely necessary moves in a good golf swing.

At this point, you were probably expecting the Sherpa to transition into the now legendary ”bottom line” finish…alas dear reader, there is more.

You see, the Sherpa had a choice:

1: Leave the left toe pointed toward the target and make sure that I resquare my shoulders to the target line or,

2: Leave the toe pointed forward and make a fuller turn with my hips even though this would feel a bit more restricted. This would also get my belt buckle pointed at the target at the finish.

Not trusting that I would always remember to resquare my shoulders, I opted for #2 and roped a few nice little draws.  Little did I know what this would cost.

Read on…

The next day (yesterday) I took this new setup to the course and did two things…beat my buddy out of 14 skins while causing some serious soreness in my left hip.

On the drive home, I began to feel like my left hip had been hit with a hammer and sciatic nerve pain began to shoot up my leg.  Not my normal post round “glow” to say the least.

To counteract the sciatica, I immediately got on the treadmill and walked four miles as fast as I could go.  Once I was feeling better I put myself to the task of figuring out what was going on.

I learned that I most likely impinged a muscle in my hip called the piriformis.  The muscle is part of group known as external rotators.

This would explain the immediate pain and the related sciatic nerve pain.

To remedy my problem I am going to rest, learn how to increase flexibility in the piriformis and toe out my left foot until I can make my turn without impinging this muscle.

Bottom Line: In golf, like any other sport, body positions matter.  What matters more, however, is how well conditioned your body is to deliver those positions.  Most especially in golf, if you intend to swing like a pro…prepare your body like a pro.  Create hip flexibility with a good program.  Even with my regime, I was still too inflexible and could have really hurt myself.

Learn from my mistake and be healthy…above all.

Play on…

The Sherpa

What is aggression’s proper role in Golf…?

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

The other day as the Sherpa was walking 9 and (as usual) waxing philosophic with my dream foursome, the article I wrote 4/12 about who won the Green Jacket became the topic of conversation.  During our banter, the ideas of aggression and ego came up as a natural offshoot.  True to form I was curious so I asked as simple yet (as it turned out) provocative question…

What is aggression’s proper role in Golf?

Allow me to contextualize my foursome (albeit briefly, because my next article will be on them specifically).

They are a multidisciplinary bunch of guys from all walks of life, who have one thing in common.  They are all whip smart.

Knowing that each would have an opinion, the Sherpa remained quiet and curious.

The first notion was the most obvious.  Namely that aggression is the mind killer and while it can make you a terrific pass rusher in football, it can kill your touch and feel if allowed to rush the swing.  Quite “Sherpalike” was my initial read and I almost stopped listening until another idea began to gain momentum.

This second notion was that you can lose focus in golf if you are so aggressive that you stop playing golf and sub-optimize your thinking.  For example, you may think “I am going to kill this ball a mile”  as opposed to “I am going to send this ball to that spot, so that I have the approach shot I need”.  This time the Sherpa really thought we were done and again my mind almost wandered..

Then G-Money (not his real name) blew my mind..

“Sherpa”, he said, “I read your site every morning with my cup of coffee, and if you will indulge me, I think I have your next article”. 

You could have heard a pin drop.  Everyone in our foursome was captivated by the sincere pronouncement of an otherwise reserved and unassuming buddy.  The Sherpa could no longer stand the suspense.

“G-Money”, I said, “what prey tell is your insight into this most vexing question”.

Without skipping a beat, he said the magic words..

“Sherpa”, he calmly replied “aggression is not the enemy, it is about how you channel your aggression that counts”.

“Tell me more”, I asked as his unfettered clarity of thought kept me hanging on his words.

“You see dear Sherpa, aggression is part of the human condition that cannot be denied.  You don’t stop it… you control it.  If a hammer hits you on the thumb while driving a nail, is that powerful force considered bad? No, it was just misused”.

By this time, I am so floored with his metaphor that I wonder if he has been brewing this for awhile just to get published.

“How then is aggression properly channeled then G-Money?”, I ask impatiently wanting the punch line.

“The answer is in the lessons you already teach Sherpa”.  The Sherpa is not used to getting “Sherpa’d” himself and I was having a ball.  Wanting to learn every day about myself and the game I love, I asked “be specific”.

He said, “I will illustrate by using one of your own articles back on April 5th about the ‘most dreaded shot in golf’.  In that article you talk about every shot counting”. 

Then came the punch line…like a ton of mental game bricks.

“I would say that on every shot you have to ‘aggressively commit’ “, he said with a look of self aware cleverness that belied his normally sincere and thoughtful demeanor.  He was all Cheshire Cat.

“Bravo”, I exclaimed, “more maestro, more”.

“The idea has such power”, he went on. ”If you are over a layup shot and need to get out of the junk, you must not think ‘tentatively’.  No indeed,  you must AGGRESSIVELY COMMIT TO A CONSERVATIVE SHOT”.

Somewhere in his speech I think I actually heard a marching band and cymbals as he dramatically closed his argument.

He was absolutely right.  If you do not aggressively commit, you will undoubtedly smash your thumb at the most inopportune time.

Bottom line:  G-Money has his moments, and I would definitely listen to his guidance.  He was the man that day…Thanks ”G”. 

 

Play on…

The Sherpa

How scoring an “eagle” can wreck your golf Round…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Uncategorized

The Sherpa was not always aware of the affect that adrenaline has on sports performance.  Most assume that a little adrenaline would improve physical abilities.  This was certainly true of our ancestors who were avoiding becoming a meal for the neighborhood Saber Toothed Tiger.  The same dear reader is definitely not true in golf.

Alas my adrenaline lesson came several years ago, on the same day that I achieved a golf milestone.

Yes dear reader…on the same day I made my first eagle…it taught me a very difficult insight about myself.

The day was beautiful, by any standard.  The Sherpa was playing golf with his best friend in Vegas.  For years we made the annual trip to play golf, bet on the superbowl and ate way too much red meat. 

By this point, I had never beaten my buddy in a heads up round, and with too much pride on the line, the Sherpa had never asked for strokes.  Instead, I just gave my buddy about 18 bucks every time we played.

Today was gonna be different…

Let me give you some world-famous Sherpa context. 

This is my best friend I am playing with.  If he needs a place to stay or money to pay a bill, I am the “go to Sherpa”.  But I want to crush his skull after he has beaten me out of so much cash.  Odd isn’t it? How you can feel so much kindness for someone, but want to rip their heart out for a $2 carryover skin?  Anyway…I digress.

What my buddy doesn’t know is that the Sherpa has been practicing quite a bit and is looking for some payback.

Terrible golf mind…indeed.  But you get it don’t you?

We agree to play our standard bet:  1$ skins, ties carryover and ties on the 18th hole are settled on the nearby putting green.

I start off strong and am playing “lights out” (for my handicap at the time) and my buddy is having to really lean on his short game to keep up.  He is not long off the tee but can really make the ball “go in the hole”  from anywhere..even from the junk.  He is kind of like Chi Chi Rodriguez without the accent or cool hat.

We are now even for the day and currently on a three hole carrover going into number 14…a long par 5.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with the bet, this means simply that we are tied on money so far and have tied the last three holes.  The competitor who wins this hole (#14)  could win 4 holes total. 

The Sherpa with better length off the tee is licking his chops.  “Oh baby”, I think to myself, ” if I can just make my normal swing, I could really have an advantage here.”

In a very proud moment, I was able to pick out a target, swing smoothly and (just as I made impact) a swirl of warm desert air, as if sent by the beating of a thousand angel wings, carries my ball into the next county….crazy long.

My buddy who was unfazed, because my length had provided little advantage over his uncanny short game, stepped up and hit his stock lazy banana slice into the middle of the fairway.

Special note:  Walking the mile past his ball to get to mine, I admit dear readers…was still pretty darned satisfying.

His next shot is a pretty good layup to his magic number of 100 yards.  To add insult to injury he is deadly from the “hundo” because of the 54 degree wedge that… I GAVE HIM (clearly in a moment of pure insanity).

Again, I gathered my nerves, looked at exactly where I wanted the shot to go and put it 14 feet below the hole. 

Now my nerves are jangling like tin cans in the back of my grandfather’s beat up old Chevy pickup truck.  I cannot believe that I am grabbing my putter after two shots…this is the most amazing feeling.  Even my buddy is now looking at me and obviously wondering to himself…”does he have the stones to hit this putt?”

Every tip…every article I have ever read about putting starts to fill my head like a chorus of violins being played with rusty saw blades.  It is a mess between the Sherpa’s ears and I can’t turn it off. 

My buddy stripes one about 8 feet and..it..is..on.

Now he thinks his birdie putt is going to rattle me and…well..of course it does.

No matter.  The Sherpa uses the time wisely as we approach the green.  Feverishly I try to get myself under control and manage to remember, thankfully, that a two putt is a push and the easy par three is coming up.

With that thought, I get into my routine, set up my ball and prepare to make the stroke.

Some things you never forget…your first bike…your first kiss…your first grade teacher.  I will never forget how that ball looked as it left the putter.

I hit it dead solid in the middle of the putter and it tracked like a frozen rope right at the hole.  Time is now standing still and after what seemed like an hour…

It goes in!

Some celebrations are as memorable as the achievements themselves… I would probably classify this one as the “mother of all celebrations”.  Obnoxious, loud, overly proud and downright comical is how I would detail it.  Adrenaline was running out of every pore and I felt like I could eat steel and spit out nails.

Then I had to play again…Uh Oh!

The Sherpa’s buddy was much more clever than I had given him credit for.  He had already learned the adrenaline lesson and in retrospect, I believe his knowledge drove him to fuel my frenzied celebration, knowing that I would be too hopped up to hit shots for the rest of the round.

He was right…the Sherpa couldn’t steer the cart much less control his swing.

Unaware of the trap that had been set, I strutted up to the tee on number 15 (a cute little par 3 with a water carry about 150 yards out).

Now he is calling the Sherpa, “the Lone Eagle, Eagle Man, Mr. Eagle”, anything to keep my blood coursing.  The Sherpa is eating this up and loving it…

Now comes the shot. 

Warning for those of you with weak constitutions, please skip this next part.

I am over the ball, have no idea where the flag is, thinking about how cool that last putt was and how this must be killing my buddy. I crushed him and I am so much more clever than he is. 

In short…I stopped playing golf.

The adrenaline soaked swing I made that day would blind onlookers, make children cry and force some people to avoid direct eye contact with forever, had they witnessed it.

The outcome was so bad that I still have no idea where that poor ball went, but I am sure it was hiding to avoid being seen with the Sherpa…ever again.

When one is in this state of mind, the badness tends to take on a life of its own.  When the carnage was over and I began to come out of the fog, I became aware that it had taken 8 strokes to finish that par 3.

The subsequent shell shock made it easy for my buddy to win the remaining holes and break even after the Sherpa’s glorious eagle and subsequet spastic rain dance.

I still care deeply about my buddy and admit that I am very glad that he was with me when I traversed this critical crucible of golf awareness.

Bottom line:  In golf, adrenaline kills.  If you hit a great shot, celebrate.  Just don’t  lead a Mardi Gras parade..unless it is the last shot of the day.  If you stop playing golf…you lose.

 

Play on…

The Sherpa