[Part 4] Golf Mastery and other thoughts…

You can read the previous posts over here

Back to the 15th hole and that long putt.

I was inspired by Baddeley’s putting performance and the fact I was the guy who had showed him the technique that is now described as “look and shoot”. My philosophy is simple…

… look at the hole, get a feel for the putt (including the speed and break) and walk in and hit (putt) the ball. There is no room for self-doubt or fear – you are letting your subconscious take over and perform the motion – there is no conscious thought about what you’re doing. It can be a little scary but it’s exhilarating at the same time – especially when the putts start to go where you want them.

The first putt was around 95 out of 100 in terms of difficulty. But I wasn’t about to change my style or attitude because of the complexity of the putt – I went through my normal routine and putted the ball.

When I struck the ball I had an awful moment where I thought I hadn’t hit it hard enough. The ball went up the hill and started slowing down considerably before it took the break to the right. It almost looked like it was going to stop. But it didn’t. The green was like glass, and the ball kept trundling down the hill and stopped only 6 feet short of the cup. For a putt of over 70 feet, it wasn’t a bad effort.

But there was work to do. Adam had scrambled his way to a bogey so I was left with this 6 footer on a stupidly quick green with a decent amount of break to win the hole.

These are the putts that separate the men from the boys. If you can learn to make most of these type of putts you’ll maximise your scoring potential. Miss them often, and you’ll always be struggling to play consistently and to your handicap (no matter how well you can hit the ball). Good players (no matter their handicap) make a lot of these putts – and it was this type of putt that had given me nightmares for many years.

As mentioned, my putting philosophy is simple. It’s also easy NOT to do. When the pressure is on golfers tend to change their approach.

– they try too hard
– they steer the ball
– they over-think
– they get away from what works
– they panic

And all this leads to the putting yips. Not a good place to be. Back to the story…

Again, I committed to doing MY thing and not to waver. This is where courage and commitment comes into play and why so much of the game is mental. It takes trust to put your faith in your subconscious and leave your conscious mind out of it.

I walked into the ball knowing this was an important putt. There was a heap of left-to-right break and it was still a tad downhill. I wanted to make it and completely let myself go. I kept out of my own way.

I was aware I was aiming to the left, but I couldn’t tell you how much. I got set, took a peek at the hole as a last second check and then putted the ball.

There is always that uncertainly when you first strike a short putt – is it in or is it missing? I knew I had hit a good putt – it felt nice, with the ball hitting the sweet spot. When I looked up I saw the ball traveling on a left-to-right arc and then find the middle of the hole.

I was elated. The putt was pure and it got me back to 2 down with three holes to play.

Adam was feeling the full brunt of my confidence.

***

Automatic Golf is the term I used to describe the way I play and coach golf. I walk my talk and think it’s unreasonable for any type of coach not to do the same. Teaching and coaching are different. A coach works with you and takes time to understand what it is you want to achieve. A coach is there every step of the way and understands the issues of trying to improve performance. A coach is passionate about what they do.

A teacher just tells you what to do. It’s almost textbook – telling each student the same thing day after day. In my mind it’s boring and scientific study has shown it to be one of the least effective ways to learn. Is it any wonder that most kids dislike school?

I’m a golf coach and Automatic Golf fits perfectly into my worldview of learning, performance and enjoyment.

It’s not a cookie-cutter approach. It’s also not an information dump where the student sits in class (or the driving range) and is expected to absorb a tonne of information. Information is only a part of the equation. Getting clients to implement and learn is important. And so is playing the game and having fun. Golf improvement, for so many golfers, is nothing short of a tedious and uninspiring activity.

AG is about exploring and moving to the edges of your comfort zone. It might feel normal to be told that your swing is off plane by two degrees, your head is moving too far away from the ball, you’re over rotated, you’re coming over the ball and your angle of attack is too steep – but is any of this helping you?

A real coach might take the time to understand your goals and why you play golf. They’ll almost certainly challenge you to hit some different shots but they won’t tell you HOW to do it. They’ll push and prod you in the right direction, encouraging you to break habits but they won’t bombard you.

It may even feel uncomfortable. You won’t be sure. But stick with it and learning will take place. And this happens at the subconscious level, away from the conscious mind. You’ll get a breakthrough, a moment of clarity, a better shot or a new sensation that gives you a jolt.

These are the moments that are truly memorable and give us the most satisfaction. Golf is more than your swing technique, and the sooner you’re able to move away from technique the better you’ll do. There are deeper and more significant experiences that are waiting for you – golf technique is first base at best.

You are so much more than your golf technique. So much.

My path to understanding AG and natural learning was a different one.

When I first started playing golf I was instinctive and automatic. This was a time when golf was most enjoyable and I was on the fastest learning curve. I could feel myself improving day by day and there was no mystery to this crazy game.

I then reverted back to playing “my” way after “teaching” had failed me. I had tried to fix my swing and play how the coaches wanted me to. But it didn’t work.

A member of my club told me to read The Inner Game of Golf. The words in the book came to life and the concept of thinking less and playing more resonated with me. It made sense and I could relate to the stories of golfers who lost their games when they attempted to get technical.

Inner game concepts had me playing better than ever and I couldn’t encourage a golfer more strongly to go get a copy. The book is a masterpiece and every golfer should read it.

The lure of golf improvement and following the status quo is a strong one and soon enough I’d be back on the wagon, trying to improve my swing. I was still young and too naive (maybe dumb) to see the errors of my way.

I stumbled around for a few years, doing a bit of this and a bit of that. One day I’d be playing well, hitting the ball, scoring and playing instinctively. The next day I’d try and mimic my previous performance, not understanding that copying a skill is all but impossible. Why do we all try and copy when we MUST create each performance?

To be continued…

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3 Comments

  • Lukey

    Reply Reply February 17, 2014

    I think back to a round I had with a good friend some time ago when I was experiencing a great round when my mate made the comment “don’t let mistakes creep into your round you are going really well”. Well the first part of the comment was negative with latter being positive but naturally enough I took more notice of the negative and a good round imploded. What I didn’t realise at that time, early on I was enjoying my golf (not thinking about anything) and was playing auto golf but a seemingly innocuous comment derailed me completely so I find it really easy to agree with every word you say here Cam. Needless to say these days I have adopted the auto principles and will continue to do so.
    Cheers Lukey

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply February 17, 2014

    You’re “mate” stitched you up big time Lukey 🙂 Oldest trick in the book: sow the seeds of doubt and watch the plant grow. Reminds me of a “mate” who used to walk past you when you were lining up a simple two footer for par: “it will be a good par when you get it”. The fact that ANY comment can derail us shows that we’re not on automatic. You can’t derail someone whose on auto because their thinking brain is not involved in the actual swing. The pre-planning yes, but not the actual swing. You’ve switched off by then. Mind you the “switch off” can happen only a fraction of a second before the takeaway. Its still a definite switch off though and anything said to you previously CAN’T have an effect. Its impossible. Once you learn to throw the switch like this golf becomes very simple and stress free.

  • Lukey

    Reply Reply February 18, 2014

    So very true Grayden
    Cheers Lukey

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