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

Why “golf” (not golf Pros) won the Green Jacket this Year…

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

The Sherpa loves the Masters tournament like no other. The “reasons list” would fill multiple posts so I will not cover its entire length. Suffice it to say, one main reason I watch is for the amount of information I continue to learn while observing the world’s best players struggle in such a supercharged pressure environment.

I was, therefore, not surprised to see that the “god’s of the mental game” cast more pearls of wisdom this evening.  Sadly, in doing so, they also revealed that golf doesn’t owe anybody anything. If you don’t keep playing golf, you don’t win.

Now I can hear the groans, even from the cheap seats, for writing that last line.  ”Sherpa”, I can hear your pained voices, “did you watch the tournament? They were hitting golf balls and going through their routines…you know “Sherpa stuff”.  How could you possibly say they weren’t playing golf”?

Ahh..dear readers, this is where I think tournament pressure creates the “illusion” of golf, but not the “intent of golf”.

You know the Sherpa loves context so let’s re-visit the well documented “Sherpa” description of golf.

“Golf” is played when you review shots, select them based on factors that will maximize your opportunity to score, filling your mind with a specific target and then sending the ball at the intended target.

What I saw Tiger and Phil doing sometimes fit this bill, but toward the end of the tournament, things changed. I was absolutely amazed when they started spraying it all over the place. I asked myself feverishly…”self, why are they hitting it in the junk and missing 3 footers? These guys have made more money on golf than the GDP of several small countries”.

Technically, they are unequaled. They are ranked number 1 and 2 in world rankings. They have the best coaches, the best equipment, the largest galleries, the best foods/health regimes and (except for the Sherpa) have the hottest wives. Why then are they surprising even themselves with their sudden poor play?  It was like when I found out the truth about Santa. I just couldn’t get my mind around it.

Then I applied my Sherpa frame of reference and re-viewed the recording of the last few holes. It was then that the answer hit me like a ton of bricks…

They stopped playing golf…and started trying to beat each other.

I noticed it the most when Tiger finally gets something going with his late eagle.  After clearing the green, he struts so fast to the next tee box it takes Steve Williams nearly a minute to catch up. When everyone finally gets to the tee box, Tiger is already ready to hit a shot and “put a whuppin” on Phil.  This he does after consulting for a nanosecond with Steve on the shot.  Very “un-Tigerlike”.

When Tiger hastily hits his tee ball, you can practically see his nostrils flare.   He swings so hard, I assumed he broke every lace in his shoes.  Naturally he puts his ball in a difficult lie.  So what does Phil do?  Instead of focusing on hitting the fairway, he succumbs to Tiger’s same adrenaline surge (as if it were match play, and score no longer mattered) and pulls one badly into the junk. 

Awesome TV…terrible strategy for winning a green jacket, and decidedly not “Golf” (by the Sherpa’s unwashed definition).

They both go on to make par so you are probably thinking…”so what Sherpa, they both made par”. That is true, but guess what the leaders were doing?

Making birdies…

By contrast, they (the leaders) were playing golf, shooting at targets and focusing on scoring…not trying to psych out other golfers.

As Tiger and Phil continued their ill fated Kibuki warrior dance (bogies, missed gimmie putts and several tree bruisings), the field kept pulling away and made them irrelevant toward the end of the tournament.

The eventual winner, Angel Cabrera, never quit playing golf and finally outscored two of my favorite golfers…Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell. Kenny, Chad and Angel all deserved to win, but only SCORING wins.  These guys never stopped playing golf , but alas, only one person gets a green jacket.

Bottom line: Even the best in the world sometimes forget to keep playing golf, even while they are in a tournament. If that can happen to Tiger and Phil, you should give yourself a break when it happens to you.  When it occurs, remind yourself to ”play golf” and your scorecard (as well as the trees at your local course) will thank you.

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

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

How to dress for Golf Part 1…Warm Weather

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Equipment Advice

Golf has it’s own challenges without being uncomfortable in warm weather.

How then does the Sherpa want you to prepare for your next round of warm weather golf?

Follow these tips and you will be noticeably more comfortable…

Before you start buying, keep in mind that you are a relatively new golfer so be “Sherpa like” (frugal).  Keep away from the expensive stuff unless it is on 90% discount.  Lot’s of high quality, low cost options exist for the “must have” list I am about to share.  Please keep your wallet in our pants/purse and read on…

From head to toe…starting with:

1: The hat:  In this arena the Sherpa suggests only one ratio to maximize.. brim diameter.  Allow as much brim around your precious skull and facial skin as your fashion sense can muster.  Sunshine, while warm and refreshing is also to be respected.  The the less you get on your head and face, the better.  Price range is minimal ($10 to $30).

2: The glasses: There are two things to consider when looking at sunglasses (not counting comfort and durability).  First make sure they block 100%  of UV light.  This is the stuff that wreaks havoc on your eyes so you want to minimize exposure. Next, make sure that they sit slightly away from your cheeks on the lower end of the lens.  If not, you will get poor ventilation, causing them to  fog up constantly.  A good, durable pair can be had below $50.

3:Sun block:  You didn’t know sun block was part of “dressing”?  Think again!  We all know why.  I will elaborate only on the stuff you put on your face.  For folks with sensitive skin, several formulations are available that are PABA free and combine moisturizer with 30 SPF.  My favorite is “Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer”  it is SPF 30 and never aggravates my skin.  This stuff is actually a little expensive ($15 per bottle) but well worth it.

4:Golf shirt/blouse:   You need to think moisture wicking and SPF.  Yes I said SPF.  Golf shirt technology is now at the point where you can get a shirt that will keep you dry and cool while acting as SPF protection (as high as 30 SPF in some models).  I particularly love  moisture wicking technology because it can be used as an emergency air conditioner.  Next time you are in very hot weather, merely soak your high tech shirt in water and the moisture wicking technology will cause rapid evaporation (cooling  your skin as a byproduct).  The Sherpa has done this many times and it always works well.  Amazingly, this technology is very affordable now.  I spent less than $30 dollars on my last shirt.

5: Shorts/Slacks:  The Sherpa would suggest strongly that you consider shorts, but if you insist on slacks, then use the tips for buying a golf shirt (above) as your guide.  Bottom line.  Moisture wicking and light colors are coolest and especially good if you are considering slacks.  Shorts are relatively cheap (about $30) for moisture wicking.  Slacks are still very expensive.  The reasons escape the Sherpa, but moisture wicking golf slacks are still in the $50 to $100+ range.

6: Underthings: Mrs. Sherpa and the Shepettes read this blog so I will only comment by saying…moisture wicking.  Enough said. UnderArmor is good stuff.  Just buy what you need for your weekly round and you won’t go broke.

7: Socks:  This choice is more important than you might think.  I have a pair of Nike “dri-fit” socks that I wash overnight if I play twice in a row, because they are so absolutely comfortable.  Why?  They keep my feet dry.  No kidding..dry feet on a hot day is irreplaceable comfort once you have experienced it.  I actually get tired more quickly if I don’t have my moisture wicking socks on.  They are kind of expensive but my $10 pair has cradled the Sherpa’s toes on about 30 rounds and they show no sign of wear whatsoever.  Good value.

8: Finally…The Shoes:  Comfort is what you are aiming for here, above all else.  Buy them when you are not rushed.  Take at least 4 pair from the rack and see how they fit your feet.  You will be able to tell which ones fit best by taking your time and carefully comparing.  Really be picky about comfort and you will make a good decision. A good pair is about as expensive as a good running shoe.  Spend $80 to $100 on this shoe and you will not need another pair for at least a couple of years.  To make them last longer, follow my buddy Jimmy’s post round shoe routine.   A: Brush all debris from the spikes and soles.  B: Brush all loose dirt and dust from the uppers.  C: Apply a quick layer of polish and buff.  Jimmy can do his shoes in about 2 minutes and he has a pair he has been using for 4 years now (and they look brand new).

Bottom line:  Don’t go broke getting dressed for golf.  Make wise choices and for a lot less than you think, you can be comfortable on a hot day of golf.

If you have any tips, or know of some great “hot day” golf products that are easy on the wallet..share your comments.

Play on..and keep cool..

The Sherpa

A good walk Spoiled…?

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Golf Fitness

The Sherpa is a bit of a traditionalist…and is a big believer in experiencing golf the way it was intended by the “fore”fathers…walking.

Why opine so heartily on the value of walking 18?  The list is long:

  1. Walking usually gets you a discount  (the Sherpa is on record for his frugal sensibility).
  2. Walking to every shot enables you to think about what you want to do (well before you get to the ball).
  3. Walking is awesome, low intensity exercise that actually makes you a better athlete. and live longer.
  4. When you walk,  the golf course fills your senses (as opposed to whizzing past it on a cart).
  5. Walking connects you to the game in a way that spans centuries (old Tom Morris never rode a cart).
  6. On cold days, walking keeps your muscles warm and ready to hit shots.
  7. Walking enables you to have all of your clubs at your disposal to hit any shot (as opposed to having to slug back to your cart).

Bottom line:  You will play faster, get healthier and “learn” the course more effectively when you walk.

The Sherpa knows that not everyone can walk.  The barriers range from courses that don’t allow it to health problems that may keep you from it.

If you are willing to give walking a try,  the Sherpa encourages you to do a few things first.

  • Seek out a local muni that allows walkers and is relatively flat.
  • Pick a time of day when the weather is not at extreme heat or cold.
  • Rent a pull cart (if the course rents them) or just buy one for $20-$30 at your local sporting goods store.
  • Take a large bottle of water and a snack for the turn.
  • Invite a friend to walk with you to share the experience.
  • Before walking 18, walk a little each day around your neighborhood or on a treadmill  until you can walk 30 minutes without issues.

The money and time you save and the years you’ll add to your lifespan will make it all worth it.

Reconnect with golf’s roots…walk.

The Sherpa is not a doctor (he doesn’t even play one on TV).  If you have any type of condition that requires special care, make sure to consult your doctor before walking 18. 

Play on…

The Sherpa

Already a steadfast walker?  Tell me about it in a comment…

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

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