The Lost Art of Putting Podcast – Episode 2

Episode 2

The Lost Art of Putting Podcast – Episode 1

Episode 1

The Lost Art of Putting

The Lost Art of Putting, by Karl Morris and Gary Nicol and featuring a foreword from 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie, is available in hardback and for Kindle from Amazon in the UK and US.

Struggling to get motivated in winter? You need ‘implementation intentions’

You have set the goal to improve your golf, or you have decided to get fit. You may even have decided it was time you reduced your food intake.

Great, the goal has been set so let’s see if it actually happens. You book that first lesson and come away from a great session determined to finally get down and practice your short game in the way you know you should.

You have a plan that you are going to go to the range twice a week and before you go out to play on a Saturday you will play a chipping game called Par 18 just to get you into the right frame of mind to play.

All set. Plan in place. Looks good and sounds even better.

Then you look back two months later and you have done almost none of the things you resolved to do.

Why is that? Why do we consistently not follow through on our plans? Why do we get stuck in the mire of mediocrity and this year ends up being a very close replica of last year’s performance? Sure, there were a few pleasing rounds here and there, but in the main more bad than good.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Well, it is the pattern most people tend to follow and more than likely what is at play here is the terrifying effect of unconscious triggers.

As much as we would like to believe we are completely in control of all we do with our conscious will, the scientific research would suggest we are far more in the thrall of our unconscious mind than we would ever like to believe.

We are primed by our environment. What we see is often what we do.

It is one of the reasons hotel rooms contain mini bars with tasty sweets, drinks and snacks that do us no good whatsoever and cost us a fortune into the bargain.

The smart hoteliers know in the main when we get into a hotel room we will be tired and a bit niggly after a long journey and the sight of the mini bar will trigger in us the ‘need’ for something sweet to eat or drink.

In the same way the hotel room triggers behaviour, your everyday environment and the people within it are constantly triggering you to behave in a certain way.

So you go to the range with a plan to practice in a certain way, a more efficient way. Yet you go to the same bay you always go to, the mat points at the same targets and low and behold after a couple of poor shots you find yourself doing a good impression of a machine gun firing ball after ball in the search for ‘the swing’ again.

golf practice tips

You go to the golf club with the intention of playing the chipping game but you nip into the pro shop and you have a cup of coffee, a couple of pals come in and you talk about last night’s game. Five minutes turn into 20 and the chance to practice your all-important chipping has gone again.

You got triggered once more by your environment. Great goals, great ideas and then reality and the world take over.

What you need is implementation intentions.

Pioneered by the work of Peter Gollwitzer it is a way of overcoming unconscious triggers and getting the work done you know will be valuable to you.

The principle is simple. Instead of just saying I am going to practice my chipping you employ ‘When? Where? How?’ By asking these simple questions you massively increase the likelihood of getting the job done.

So in effect when you get to the golf club at 9.30am you will walk straight to the chipping green, take out just one ball from your bag and you will play Par 18 and record your score.

You write out this commitment so the environment ‘the golf club’ actually triggers the behaviour you want as opposed to you being triggered in a direction you don’t want to go.

I have seen quite the transformation with the players I work with when employing this principle.

You are taking charge of your future and working with your unconscious mind as opposed to your unconscious just running you with automatic reactions.

Five keys to dealing with pressure on the course

Basketball star Charles Barkley was fond of saying: “Pressure? That is what I put into my car tyres.”

We can hear statements like this as well as other experts telling us that pressure doesn’t really exist and it is just a construct of our mind but try telling that to yourself when you have a putt to win the club championship.

We all feel pressure in different ways but one thing is for sure for most people; it tends to have a detrimental effect on performance.

The number one complaint I have heard over the many years of coaching is that “I can’t take my range game to the golf course”.

Over the years I have found the following ideas some of the most useful in dealing with pressure and how you personally experience it.

Have a look at the five options and see which seems to resonate with you personally.

The ideas may not make the feeling of discomfort disappear but they will give you a way of getting the job done and you will feel you are getting a lot closer to your true potential.

1. Make a pre-round commitment

Once you get out on the course and the chaos takes over, it is very difficult to steady the ship if you don’t have a firm commitment established before you play.

One of the most important questions you can ever ask is ‘What am I committed to today?’

Write out your answer to the question. If you commit, for example, to checking in with your breath before every shot you are so much more likely to do it with the pre-round commitment.

Writing it out as opposed to just saying it or thinking it is paramount.

2. Embrace the ‘feelings’

It is a myth that great players don’t feel nervous or uncomfortable out on the course. They do!

The key is to realise that you can still play well in the presence of discomfort if you know where to direct your attention.

If we label the ‘feelings’ as energy instead of nerves then we take on a totally different perspective. We then embrace the discomfort and work with it as opposed to being scared of the feeling.

3. The power of perspective

patrick reed ryder cup

It may seem to us that this round is the most important activity in all of mankind but frankly it isn’t!

If you play great and win then after it is over life will still be the same and by the same measure you will still be the same if you play awful.

We are far more resilient than we think. You will get over a bad day. You will recover and move on.

Paradoxically if you are prepared to accept the worst then you open the door to the possibility of the best.

4. Keep things very simple

One thing that is for absolute sure is when you are feeling the heat of the game your thinking needs to be very clear and simple.

To be out there on the course trying to influence your backswing or downswing in terms of positions is a fool’s errand.

To keep the mind in one place, be that on rhythm or balance, will be far more productive than getting lost in technical noise.

A quiet mind can deal with pressure whilst a busy one tends to collapse.

5. Stop thinking and come to your senses – to steal the wonderful phrase from Fritz Perls

Most of the pressure we feel is a result of the mind trying to predict a future we have absolutely no control over.

The mind is always busy trying to hold on to what it thinks should happen. An imaginary future that is not here yet.

When you tune in to your senses you are able to calm things down and get back to the here and now.

What senses can you tune into? What about the feeling of your feet as you walk down the fairway. The sounds of nature you can tune in to.

The list is endless but as you tune into what you can feel, see or hear you ground yourself in the only moment that really matters now.

In many ways the ideas above are ridiculously simple, they are what I call the ‘elusive obvious’. They are so obvious we don’t do them!

Giving the ideas a try out with the clients I have worked with over the years, they have made a significant difference to their experience of the game.

Why the course isn’t your main opponent when playing golf

Who of the current list of top players do you really like to watch playing golf?

Rory McIlroy in full flow is a sight to behold – letting the driver rip and smashing the ball prodigious distances.

Justin Rose seems to be able to plot his way around the course better than most and his level of consistency over the past few years has been extraordinary.

It was wonderful at The Open to see Tiger Woods hit the front again and his recent second place in the PGA Championship gave a strong hint he may be close again to some of his former glory.

For me though, I love to watch Bubba Watson play the game of golf. From a mental game perspective, his creativity out on the course is extraordinary.

To see him standing on a tee and bending a tee shot from right to left or from left to right in huge parabolic arcs is just a joy.

I would love to see inside the screen of Bubba’s mind and see just what he sees when he looks at a hole and decides what shot he is going to use from his vast armoury to get to the hole in the least possible strokes.

He supposedly has never had a golf lesson, which may or may not be true, but he certainly plays the game with a unique and refreshing freedom.

He is playing golf as the authentic Bubba as opposed to trying to be someone else.

Not for one minute am I saying everyone should try to emulate Watson as this would be equally as inauthentic as trying to swing exactly like Adam Scott or Tommy Fleetwood.

Bubba Watson WITB

As I have said many times before both in articles and on my podcast, this game is not about finding THE way to play but more about uncovering YOUR way to play.

When I ask young players I work with, “Who is your opponent?”, they often say, “The course”, and whilst I tell them it is close it isn’t, for me, the right answer.

When you play golf your opponent is the course designer. The person who designed your course has an objective in that he or she wants you to drop shots and not make pars or birdies.

Otherwise, all courses would have no bunkers, no rough, no trees or water. All of the hazards have been put in place by the designer to coax you into making mistakes.

However, when you see the course designer as your opponent you begin to look at the game very differently.

You begin to really look at the holes on your course and see what he or she is trying to get you to do. Once you look at it this way you can then begin to get creative.

If you approach every hole with a view to answering the question, ‘How do I beat the course designer here?’, you then can formulate your own unique plan to navigate your way around the golf course.

How do you beat the course designer? You decide the best way for you to play a certain hole and then you create golf shots.

Just like Bubba does in a very extreme way, you decide personally relative to your own game and your own ability how you are best going to navigate the ball from point A to point B.

When you think of the game this way you take back ownership of your game. You follow the beat of your own drum.

If you think that the best way to beat the course designer on this particular hole with your particular game is to hit a 5-iron off the tee then go ahead and do it.

If you have the tightest tee shot in the world where everyone plays safe but the best club in your bag is a driver and you can thread it through the eye of a needle then go with your play and not just how you ‘should’ play the hole.

Become fascinated by the course and the designer and then become absorbed in creating the best shot for you to play in this moment to execute your own plan.

Be prepared to experiment, be prepared to fail, but above all, reconnect with the lost art of creativity and stop trying to be a perfect robot that you will probably never be.