A Great Story, A Great Experience, and a Great Lesson
I was recently invited to play golf with a friend of mine and it is a story that I have to share.
The mind when given good visual images is capable of performing tremendous athletic performances. When you see real world examples of it in action, especially for higher handicap players, and how the creative side of golf if allowed to surface can overcome significant swing flaws, it is a story I feel compelled to share.
It is a beautiful Saturday afternoon in south Texas. The fall season is here and it is a great time to play golf in Texas. The temperature is around 85 degrees and while there are thunderstorms in the area, none of them will bother us this day.
My friend is an 18 handicap golfer, give or take a few strokes. On easier courses he can break 90 but today we are playing a private layout that is blanketed by tree lined fairways, heavy rough, very deep green side bunkers, and small undulating green complexes that are fast.
I do not get to play this course a lot but when I do, it is a real treat. Nick Price and other tour players compare it to the Valderrama Golf Club in Spain where they hold Ryder Cup matches and European PGA Tour events. Exacting tee shots, lots of doglegs, elevation changes, and small greens are the setting for the day. Needless to say, this is not a pushover golf course.
The Power Of Pictures and Strategy
My friend gets off to a slower than hoped for opening hole. The opening hole is not long but requires a very exacting tee shot because of very large oak trees outlining the fairway. The approach shot is not long but the green is small, undulated, and framed by very deep green side bunkers. He hits an approach shot over the green into one of the bunkers and makes double bogie.
While standing on the second tee box of the demanding par 3 second hole, he starts to describe his strategy for the hole in what I presumed to be idle conversation. He wants to intentionally hit a shot that ends up short of the green and then chip and putt for par. He has the fire power to hit the green but lacks the consistent accuracy to avoid the very penal bunkers that frame the entire green. He has identified his limitations and is outlining a strategy that plays into his 18 handicapper strengths. He hits his tee shot as planned, chips to within 15 feet, lips out his putt and makes bogie. The strategy almost pays off.
It is extremely important to identify your strengths and weaknesses and then develop strategies for every hole that play into your strengths. In many cases, especially for higher handicap players, that means ignoring your ego and playing with strategies that produce the lowest score not the longest drives and most daring approach shots.
As we walk along on our golf journey that day he continues to offer hints of what is strategies are for many of the more challenging shots he faces.
The Golf Mind Thrives On Pictures
Our golf instruction emphasizes the importance of playing with pictures. Pictures give the brain a much clearer sense of what the intended action is than words. Pictures give the brain a better sense of feeling and golf is all about feeling, tempo, and touch.
When golfers try to execute based upon specific verbal queues the outcome will be suspect. What do you think would happen if golfers tried to play the game with this mind set? “I intend to keep my left arm straight until it reaches the 9:00 position on the back swing at which point I will rotate my left forearm 45 degrees to the right and back which will set the club in a parallel position. From this position I will pause for 1.5 seconds and then fire my hips”…Sounds ridiculous and it is. Unfortunately there are many golfers trying to play golf this way instead of with pictures.
Verbalizing Helps Picture Formation
I do not know why my friend was in such a verbalizing mood but I did not interfere. I let him continue to tell me as much about his strategies as he wanted to.
On the toughest hole of the golf course, a 440 yard dogleg right par 4, playing uphill and into the wind, he pictured a strategy that would play down the right side of the hole to minimize the length. On his second shot he planned to advance the ball as far up the fairway as possible into a position where he would try to hit the green. In his mind he was trying to figure our how to make a great bogie.
He pushed his drive into the right rough and then hit a good three wood that ended up about 80 yards from the green. At this point he started to talk about his inability to play wedge shots consistently. I interrupted and asked him to think about what a great pitch shot would look like. He hit his wedge shot to within 10 feet and then made the putt…4 net 2…hmm.
As the day progressed, the more he verbalized his strategies, the better his pictures were and the better he played.
Later in the round we were standing on a dog leg right par 4 that is reachable in two for my friend. The driving area is tight. The problem is that when he tries to hit his driver, more times than not, he gets into trouble. Today he decides to alter his strategy to include a three wood off the tee which he knows will lead to a longer approach shot. All he wants to do is get the tee ball in play, hit the ball short of the green and try to chip and putt for par.
He hits the three wood into the middle of the fairway. Takes a hybrid club and hits a great shot that takes a hard bounce and ends up on the green. He mentioned 2 putts for par and I stopped him again. We altered his pictures to include 1 putt for birdie. He made the putt for a 3 net 2…hmm.
Great Golf Is Played By Pictures
The more my friend verbalized his strategies the better his pictures were. He played great and I think it was his personal best score on that course. The picture development process is one of the most important aspects to playing great golf.
Most golfers chase the perfect swing. They spend hours chasing and trying to develop something that does not exist. Try spending more of your time working on the mental side of the game. The picture development process described in this article is called visualization.
All great players have tremendous visualization skills. Work on making your visualization skills one of your strengths and watch your scores go down.
By: → Stephen Simmons
Tags: double bogie
, european pga tour
, pga tour events
, ryder cup matches
, valderrama golf club