Gary and Karl joined Jeff Pellizzaro on the 18Strong podcast to discuss their latest book The Lost Art of Playing Golf.
Gary and Karl joined Jeff Pellizzaro on the 18Strong podcast to discuss their latest book The Lost Art of Playing Golf.
Karl Morris was joined by US Senior Amateur champion Bob Royak on his Brainbooster podcast to discuss a variety of topics and how The Lost Art of Putting helped his game.
I recently had a wonderful conversation with Martin Hall when I interviewed him for my brain booster podcast. For those who don’t know Martin, he is a superb instructor who has received numerous awards for his teaching.
What struck me above anything else was how much passion he still has to improve as a coach. He told me of the thousands of books and videos he has in his library at home. It is a measure of the man that he still has this desire after all these years. He doesn’t approach it from the tiresome standpoint of “I’ve heard it all before”.
The list of people Martin has gotten to know over the years is a veritable who’s who of the greatest names in the game. On this list is a certain 15-time major champion, Tiger Woods. Martin discusses knowing Tiger reasonably well and describes attending many of his golf clinics. Always keen to learn, Martin would ask the great man as many questions as possible when the moment was right.
One particular insight was fascinating. He said Tiger always warms up with four wedge shots to no particular location but thereafter, every single shot he hits has a specific shape and trajectory. High and low, fade and draw, bullet straight.
What Tiger clearly realises when he is about to go and play is the game is about the shots you hit and not the swings you make.
At the end of every competitive round you play, you will be asked a simple and direct question. How many shots did you take? Not, how many swings did you make?
I think we have all fallen into this trap over the years in the search for perfect technique and a belief that if we can just swing the club in a specific way, the shots will automatically follow.
If there is one thing I am certain of now after more than 30 years of coaching, it is that this is a fool’s errand.
We will never have our swing exactly how we want it. There will always be something going on that doesn’t feel quite right. However, this doesn’t mean we can’t play good golf.
In the new book I have co-written with Gary Nicol, The Lost Art of Playing Golf, we explore this concept in great detail, asking the fundamental question: does the swing create the shot or does the shot create the swing?
In our opinion it has to be the shot that creates the swing. Until you decide what shot you intend to play then how can you create a swing. When you have a crystal clear intention of what you want the ball to do then your body will have a ‘map’ to follow.
Of course, we are not saying all you have to do is see a draw and it will magically happen. You still need the guidance of a coach as to how you apply club to ball to create certain shapes. But what we are saying is that unless you decide what shot you want to hit, all of the ‘swing work’ can and often does become futile.
When you ask the question, ‘what is wrong with my shots?’ as opposed to, ‘what is wrong with my swing?’ we believe you can make real progress.
Tiger clearly identifies the shots he has in his warm up that day. You can bet if he is struggling to play a draw but is hitting the fade nicely, that is what he will ‘play’ with on the course.
You may not have a perfect swing today but virtually every golfer has some shots they can execute. Yes, at times it may not be pretty but it’s about making the most of what you have on this unique day in your life. Every golfer knows what felt wonderful and silky yesterday can feel a totally different motion today.
Try Tiger’s approach to warming up. Use the shots you have instead of being tied up in knots chasing technical perfection. Who knows? You might just play better.
Why is it that we introduce putting to beginning golfers we emphasize the importance of pace vs direction, but then as we continue to play better, we then get hung up on the line? This is part two on the book “The Lost Art of Putting – Introducing the Six Putting Performance Principles”. This episode’s conversation is with Karl Morris calling from just outside Manchester, UK.
Both Gary Nicol and Karl Morris joined Adam Fonseca on the Golf Unfiltered podcast to discuss The Lost Art of Putting.
“If only I could play more consistent golf!” If I have heard that statement once in the past 30 years of coaching, I must have heard it a thousand times.
The idea of consistency is seen as the ultimate golfing nirvana. The very quality we are led to believe we should all aspire to. Yet, is this concept realistic and, perhaps more importantly, is it even necessary to get the most from your game?
Looking broadly at statistics from the very best players in the world then we run into some strange contradiction when viewed through the narrow lens of consistency.
The very best in the world hit on average around 12 to 13 greens per round. So in effect they miss every third green they attempt to hit. They miss roughly one in every three fairways they aim at. The putt conversion from outside of just 10 feet is less than 50 per cent. I have also read that many players win the bulk of their money in any given year in three to four weeks. Not always three weeks in a row but their three biggest weeks in a year make up the bulk of their money. A lot of weeks of ‘failure’ interspersed with a few highlights. Not one of these statistics seems to back up the idea of consistency as being the be all and end all.
Even the best golfers on the planet hit a lot of poor shots, they have a lot of results they are not happy with, and they have to deal with a lot setbacks. Yet, they are the ones practising and playing all of the time. This is what they do for a living. We turn up on a Saturday for our medal at the club having hit 50 balls at the range on Wednesday night and we expect to be consistent.
I have said this before but golf on TV, as good as it is, paints a totally unrealistic picture of the game. We are watching the best players having their best weeks and also what you see is a selection of the best golf that day. The holed putts, the irons gripping the green and then spinning back to three feet. We don’t get to see the players who are struggling with their game that week. We don’t watch the struggles of the players on the cut mark. We can easily be led into believing that everybody is firing bullets at every green and holing putts from all over.
The reality, as I have come to understand, is that we should strive less to be consistent and far more to be adaptable. Adaptability for me is the Holy Grail of the game. The ability to adapt to what you have today that may well feel totally different to what you had yesterday.
Paul McGinley alluded to this in a recent podcast I did with him on my Brain Booster series. He said that if he could have his time again in his playing career he would go less in the search of perfection and be far more prepared to go with what he had for this unique day. Some days that may have been a fade whilst other days it could have been a draw shape.
The fact is that every day we play golf so many things are different. The weather is different, the course is different, we are different. What felt so good in our swing yesterday now feels like such a struggle. That beautiful flowing rhythm disappears and today we feel like we are snatching it from the top.
The key is to be aware of what we have today. If the swing feels way out of sync and you are struggling off the tee then get the thing in play with a 3-wood or an iron. If you are struggling with your approach play then, just for today, the only thing that should be on your radar is the middle of the green. If you are having issues with your timing then take one more club and aim to rein in the hit impulse.
There is tremendous satisfaction to be gained from getting the ball around the course in a decent score when you are being challenged and don’t have your A-game. Be proud of those days when you have managed what you have really well because as you get better at limiting the high numbers, you lay the foundation for the low scores to sneak up on you.
I recently got back from a two-week trip to China to do Mind Factor training for more than 120 coaches.
It is a fascinating country to see. Mission Hills in Shenzhen, near to where we based the first training, has 12 courses and the number of permanent caddies is in the thousands.
The speed at which things move over in China is a true force to behold. Within golf it was wonderful to see the enthusiasm brought to the table by the mainly young coaches eager to progress their ability to coach the whole game and not just the swing.
While I was over there I had the good fortune to meet Rudy Duran, Tiger Woods‘ first coach, pictured below sitting alongside me.
Rudy was in Shenzhen to organise and oversee some junior programmes. We got chance to sit down and record a podcast for my Brain Booster show. He was a fascinating man to listen to.
He told me that the first he saw of Tiger was when his mother, Tida, brought him to see if he could be part of his junior program. He was five years old at the time and they went straight out onto the tee for a lesson.
He had with him a 2-wood which, to Tiger’s late father Earl’s great credit, had been made to fit perfectly.
Rudy remembers the scene vividly as he hit balls one after another almost perfectly. They only went about 50 yards but they were perfect mini golf shots with a hint of a draw.
He said he knew straight away this little boy was going to be something special.
They began working on his game and even at the age of five it was all about golf shots not golf swings. Rudy would work with Tiger around the greens and play chip shots with different trajectories – high ones, low ones, shots that stopped, shots that ran out. He just loved to create different golf shots.
They never really talked about the golf swing. Tiger wouldn’t have known about the position at the top of the swing or when he set his wrists. If he wanted to play a certain shot shape, Rudy indicated that he may have offered some suggestions as to how the club might feel through the ball to affect the flight of the shot but it was never technical.
The sessions were all about creating an environment of fun and learning. They spent a lot of time on the golf course. Tiger loved to play and compete.
Rudy created ‘Tiger Par’ so the par of the hole was adjusted relative to how far he hit the ball at that point in time. As he began to hit the ball further the ‘par’ was adjusted accordingly. At the age of five he went out and shot 8-under against his par, choosing all his own shots and picking all of his own clubs.
He didn’t hit the ball much further than 50 yards but around the green he was just like a mini tour pro. His short game was phenomenal, mainly due to the fact that he had such a creative imagination.
As Tiger got better and better at the game he and Earl began to look at all areas to improve. Earl had a friend from his days in the military, Jay Brunza, who was a Navy psychologist. He would caddie for Tiger and he helped him to develop an understanding of the role of the mind in becoming the best player he could possibly be.
Far from being the obsessive father he has often been portrayed, Earl just created the opportunity for Tiger to develop. (According to Rudy, Earl was just as interested in his own game and how he could play better as he was in Tiger.)
Rudy explained that his own coaching has evolved over the years and now he spends very little time telling students what to do. Instead he just gives them options to explore. Options that allow the player to develop their own game as opposed to trying to fit them into a model he might have in his mind.
It is all about the shots we play not the details of how the swing looks, Rudy said. A fade is not a bad shot. It may be inappropriate for this particular moment but if you can remember how it feels to play a fade then you have the shot for when you need it.
Building awareness of your own game is a vital skill to develop.
You need to uncover your way to play. You also need to have the freedom to explore by having a better relationship to poor outcomes.
Those in the coaching business need to provide an environment allowing exploration and a willingness to test out what happens with the ball when we apply the club in certain ways.
It was a wonderful experience to share ideas with a coach who helped one of the greatest players of all time to develop. Rudy was very humble and he made it clear that for him it was all about “drawing out the talent” of the individual as opposed to “putting in lots of information”.
A great message for us all.
Gary and Karl joined Jeff Pellizzaro on the 18Strong podcast to discuss The Lost Art of Putting
It was great to see Graeme McDowell back in the winner’s circle on the PGA Tour with his one shot victory in the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship.
Playing on invites alone his future on the PGA Tour had been in question.
I started working with G-Mac again three weeks ago and it was clear after a long barren spell he had gotten away from many of the simple tools and techniques he had employed with me in the past.
By his own admission Graeme had got too bogged down with technical thinking and away from the art of creating golf shots and more importantly creating putts.
In particular with his putting a simple pre-shot breathing technique that frees him up to create putts had been lost in the attempts at technical perfection.
It is so easy when you are struggling with your game to disappear down a technique-driven rabbit hole.
I discussed some key ideas with Graeme about getting back to where he belongs at the top of the golfing tree.
In the third round at Puntacana, en route to his first PGA Tour title since 2015, he had 20 putts. TWENTY!
A career best in his 676th PGA Tour round.
And 15 of them were consecutive single putts. FIFTEEN!
Hole after hole the ball poured into the cup with beautiful pace, and it set him up nicely for a moving-day round of 64.
It was interesting to hear a baffled TV interviewer struggling to get to grips with how a simple breathing technique could have such a big effect on his results. Here’s what Graeme had to say:
I’ve been working on some routine stuff the last couple of weeks. Something small’s kind of clicked, something I used to do really well years ago. I became not so good at it and I’ve tried, I’ve been practising.
“It’s just a breathing thing and it really clicked with me last week a little bit and it’s been working really well on the greens again this week.
“It’s helping me relax and it’s helping me just stand there and hit nice putts.
When pushed for more detail, he added:
Just before I take the putter head away, just a little bit of an out-breath to relax.
“It’s something I used to do very well way back when and it’s amazing how you instinctively get good at things and then you stop being good at things as well. That’s cleaned my routines well up on the greens.
It’s a simple breathing technique detailed in The Lost Art of Putting.
We pay so much attention to the minutae of how to move the putter and so little attention to the way the mind works and how we need to embrace visualisation and creativity to allow the body to do its work.
So much of what I discussed with Graeme is contained in The Lost Art of Putting, make sure you buy your copy today.
It was very interesting to hear the 2018 Open champion Francesco Molinari say what his thoughts had been during the final round of this year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
He swept to an improbable victory with a stunning 8-under-par final round to cruise through the field having been well back in the pack after three rounds.
When asked what his goal was for the final round, he simply said he had gone out with the intention of just to keep hitting good golf shots.
For me, what would seem an almost trite statement had an element of genius about it.
So often players are asked on the TV: “What do you think you will need to shoot tomorrow to win the tournament?”
Some players then say something along the lines of, “I probably need 5-under”, or whatever they perceive the mark to be. For me, this sets up a big problem.
If you think you need 5-under to win then how does your thinking get affected if you start with a double bogey? You have projected into an imaginary future what you think you need to do relative to everyone else. You have no control whatsoever over what they do.
You also have less control over your overall score than you think. A ball bounces to the left instead of to the right and you are in trouble, putts lip out instead of going in. You clearly have a big influence over the score but not complete control.
For most golfers, the more the score is at the forefront of their mind, the more destructive it tends to be. You can want to shoot a good score as much as you like but the wanting very rarely reflects in the having.
The score also tends to put you into unpredictable mental time zones. If you are not a certain number under par relative to your target score then it is very easy to try to force that score. If you are doing really well against your projected number then again it can be really easy to start to want to hang on to your score and protect it.
Yet there is the simple idea of wanting to just keep hitting good shots. Who is in control of that intention? From the very first hole to the very last you are totally in control of your decision to focus on this shot in this moment. You have complete autonomy on the effort you put in to this particular shot in front of you. The key for me is to understand the intention to hit good shots doesn’t mean you will achieve this on every shot, not even close. But you do have control over the commitment to stay with your plan.
As the legendary coach Fred Shoemaker once said to me: “Perhaps the bravest thing a golfer can do is to stay open to the possibility the next shot will be a good one.”
You may have missed a bunch of putts but is it possible this putt right here and now might find the bottom of the cup? Is it possible? You may have missed a raft of greens but is it possible with this 7-iron in your hand that you will find this green? It is possible. The only time you shut down the possible is when you decide to; when you create a story saying “it isn’t my day”.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, it sounds too simple and too obvious to say what Molinari said, “to just keep hitting good shots”, but, for me, it is a wonderfully effective mental game strategy because you are the person who is driving the bus.
You are in charge of this commitment and nobody can stop you honouring that commitment – only yourself.
Give this ridiculously simple idea a go the next time you play. Know beforehand that in all probability you will hit a bunch of bad shots, but deal with them. Let them go and get back to your simple good shot commitment.
At the very least you will enjoy the good shots more and be much less anxious about trying to control a score from start to finish.