An automatic champion

Geoff Ogilvy’s performance in the SBS Championship really impressed me. It was obvious that he was playing his game and determined to stick to what he was comfortable with.

His after match press conference gave more insight that any automatic golfer should take on board. I will include his quotes and my thoughts underneath.

Here’s his explanation to what he learned from last year. Note: he started the season well and then performed badly for the second half of the year.

Well, obviously, I started really well. I played so well here last year, and I played really well in the Match Play, played great at Houston, played all right at the Masters. After that I think it goes awry.

CS: Then what does he do?

I hit a few more balls and practice harder. All of a sudden you push harder. I had one good round at Memorial, but the rest was rubbish. Crazy rain on Saturday. It was freakish, before you know it, it’s the middle of the year and I am still struggling for two months, and I hit more balls and I chased it too hard as opposed to getting it to come back

CS: This is a classic mindset – the worse you play the harder you should practise. But it isn’t always the right thing to do. Sometimes improvement (the solution) is counter intuitive.

I take a week off and ride my bike for 10 days. Do something completely different. Then let it comeback. I think I forced it too much because it started coming back.

CS: By leaving his golf swing alone and not thinking about it his golf game returned. This is a classic sign that he let his subconscious mind take over. Golfers don’t lose their skill level – sometimes it goes hiding and almost always the best way to get it back is to stop trying so damn hard.

This quote sums up playing golf perfectly.

I had a moment of clarity, if you like, about what are you trying so hard for? It’s a ball and there is a hole. Just hit it that way. What are you doing? That was a simplified perspective and just stopped forcing it that way. Just hit it that way. Just hit it. Just simplify it. But that’s basically what it was. Not do that again. Keep it simple the whole time.

CS: I love it. “Just hit it”. Here he is verbalising the automatic process. He is saying that he doesn’t want to think about what he is doing, just hit that silly white ball. This is exactly what subconscious playing is all about. Thinking less and playing more.

His next comments are the most profound. A lesson here for every golfer. Here he is talking about how much he practised in the second half of last year compared to previous years.

A lot. If I go back 10 or 15 years, I went through periods I hit a lot of balls. When I played Europe, I hit a lot of balls. Whether they help me or not I still wanted to do it. I was just turning pro and I thought when you missed the cut you were supposed to stay and hit balls on the weekend. That’s what you did. You are still trying to make it at that point. You hadn’t had any proof. That what you do. You read all of the books on the pros, and that’s all they did, putt and chip and do all of that. The last 10 years, this is rubbish. You got to practice. But it’s scoring practice, short game stuff, play a lot more holes, have fun, play with good players

CS: What can I say? I might bang on about this a bit but here’s proof from one of the best players in the world. Hitting lots of balls and following what everyone else is doing is “rubbish”. “Play a lot more holes, have fun” – YES YES YES!

Ogilvy continues…

Last year, I had it in my head I wanted to get something done with my golf swing. Houston I got to work on this. I hit a few balls. Augusta, I hit balls after the round. I never hit balls after a round. Augusta, I hit balls after every round. It’s addictive hitting balls. You get out and the mission becomes hitting well on the range, rather than the course. You are happy the way it’s going. This is great when it’s finally started working. And then it’s September, or October. I don’t know how many balls. Instead of just going to a tournament hitting 20 or 30 before, I was hitting balls afterwards. I was going home hitting balls for a few hours. We are not talking Vijay here. But a couple hundred a day as opposed to 30 for a period. It turned out to be not the right thing to do.

CS: Are you getting this? Here’s Geoff Ogilvy telling you that hitting lots of balls and trying to fix his swing is the wrong thing to do. He changed his routine – a few bad rounds and he changed his ideal game. Instead of hitting a few balls before a round (like he normally did) he started hitting hundreds. He started thinking about his swing. He stopped thinking about playing the game. The result? A horrible second half of the year.

And here’s another gem of an insight about why he has struggled in Majors in recent times.

I started going to all of the golf courses before the Majors. I started doing stuff that I didn’t do before. Overpreparing, if you like. And then you couldn’t be to prepared. If you add an element of pressure on yourself, that wouldn’t be there. I didn’t come here two weeks ago scouting the course. Why do you do it at Augusta? One, because it’s fun. Everyone loves playing Augusta when there is no crowd or patrons there. That’s one of my favorite days of the year. It does add an extra element of stress, when you get there, I got to play well because I prepared. Why isn’t it going well after the first round? I’m not thinking those sort of things. I think I got to treat it more like normal tournaments. Obviously play an extra practice round or two. But not go overboard with making everything right for the week. Just go and play a golf tournament.

CS: This is a golfer’s biggest problem. They can play well in practise or in social rounds, but turn up the heat and your game goes awry.

Professional golfers always give clues that they’re playing automatically and that subconscious play is the way to go. This is the first time I’ve heard a golfer come out and be so blunt.

I think Ogilvy will go on to have a great year. He seems to have learned from his mistakes of last year and really understands the difference between playing good and great golf. If he keeps out of his own way and follows his advice he might have a super year. He may even push for the world number one ranking in Tiger’s absence.

So what can you learn from Geoff Ogilvy?

The big thing is that it doesn’t matter how good you are. How talented you are. If you mess with your natural learning system you’ll almost always find golf harder than it needs to be. If Geoff Ogilvy can ruin his natural game with over thinking, too much practise and concern of his swing, what will happen to you?

And one more thing.

What Ogilvy showed the world this week is he has belief. He has belief in his golf game and his ability.

Belief can only come when we trust our system. You can’t panic and you can’t keep trying to fix your golf swing. If you want to play golf you’ve got to get to the point where playing golf is more important than your golf swing.

And automation is the only way to really play golf. To let go and trust your system to swing the golf club takes the ultimate in trust and belief. It’s not easy but it’s the only true way to find real success.

To read all of Geoff Ogilvy’s press release please click here. To read yesterday’s post click here. To learn how to play automatic golf then you need to go here.

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  • Gregor

    Reply Reply January 14, 2010

    It’s the classic situation of playing well after a break for a few weeks because you’re just enjoying playing and not thinking about your swing. Pro’s must find it hard not to hit balls when everyone else does and because your play determines your pay. Playing a few holes rather than hitting balls on a range is always good advice as long as you don’t think about your swing. As he says, you need to work on how to get the score

  • Over The Top Golf

    Reply Reply January 14, 2010

    I don’t know….once you get in that groove, being at the range becomes fun. Maybe Geoff needed a few guys he could target practice with for cash, like the old-timers used to do.

  • Steady

    Reply Reply January 14, 2010

    Think, routine and play. Geoff Ogilvy’s not to bad for a victorian. Great Mindset.
    Cheers Steady

  • DP

    Reply Reply January 14, 2010

    Peter Thompson, our most successful male major winner always
    practised by playing the course and working out how to score on
    each hole. He also says that the excercise and leg fitness was a most
    important part of such practise.
    As automatic as anyone I have seen.
    A smart fellow and well worth listening to on any golf topic.

  • Bernie

    Reply Reply January 14, 2010

    Hi all
    Agree with Cameron observations and all the comments. It was a wonderful tournament and especially good to see an Aussie win. A couple of weeks ago, I had never heard of automation. At this tournament, I was watching for it all the time. The one thing that really upsets me with the pros is their continual habit of tapping in putts one handed. Sure they are better putters than most of us, however, it doesn’t set a good example and I would love to see one of them have an air-swing or miss the hole.

  • Tony Lucas (Lukey)

    Reply Reply January 14, 2010

    Hi Cam
    I agree with your observations and the thing that struck me most with him was the smart decisions he made.That coupled with an auto approach to the rest is the reason for his success.
    Cheers Lukey

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply January 15, 2010

    Thanks very much for these last two posts. Very enlightening. The message I take out of it is to not go down the road that Ogilvy already went down and has come back to tell us its a dead end! “Having fun and just hitting it” seems almost irresponsible. How ironic that it just happens to be the best way to get better!

  • Cameron

    Reply Reply January 18, 2010

    Hi Golfers,

    The previous posts were fun to write. If you watch and listen closely most pros give hints they play automatically. This is the reason they’re so good. I don’t think anyone is good enough to play golf consciously. Simply too many thing to think about and the system gets overloaded.

    Will be interesting to see how Robert Allenby goes today.

    Talk soon,


  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply January 18, 2010

    Many good golfers probably play auto without even realizing it. I was at the dentist the other day. He’s a keen golfer to say the least (try member of the R&A and regular trips to St Andrews to play!) I knew he was also no slouch at the “great gemme” so took the opportunity to ask him a question: “What do you think about when you’re swinging the club?” He stopped what he was doing, stared into space and eventually said “Hmmm, I don’t know. NOTHING I guess”.

  • Peter Higgins

    Reply Reply January 19, 2010

    To All Golfers,

    I have been reading all the quotes about a golfers swing being automatic and natural, as with all of us at some stage have gone down the path of over thinking on the golf course and having your head full of everything apart from just playing your natural game. After reading so much about the subject it is entirely true that the times that you have your better games is when you are relaxed and just enjoying the surrounds of the golf course. So to all just relax and enjoy your games and shot the best score that you have had.

    Good golfing Peter

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