Tag Archives: golf handicap

The New Season Begins!

Freshly mown grass abounds.  Flowers starting to bloom.  The birds are back, and so is the golf season!  I know the winter allowed more golf this year, but the spring is what I always define as the new golf season.

The goal during the winter was to maintain and maybe even improve slightly before the first round of the year.  I didn’t want to walk onto the course rusty and need to build back to where I finished.  I will admit, I didn’t follow the winter schedule perfectly and got closer to 3 days a week than 4, but I succeeded in starting strong!

My first round happened last week.  I played the optishot most weeks during the winter, but the optishot isn’t the same as the course.  The adrenaline pumps a little harder when staring down a flag at 150 yards.  I was ready for the round, but I needed to get into my game quickly to stay on track.

My first tee shot flew high and down the middle.  The ground is rock hard right now in Oklahoma, so I also received a nice roll.  I only had a wedge left into the green.  I hit a thin, terrible wedge shot that settle right next to the green.  My chip was crisp, but I 2 putted for bogey.  Not a terrible start.

Similar shots on the second hole, but I made the up and down for par.  The 3rd hole is a longer par 3.  I pulled my hybrid and hit a high, beautiful, drawing shot that bounced, hit the flag stick, and stopped 10 feet from the hole.  2 putts from 10 feet for par.

I continue with another par on 4 and 6.  My driver was high and near the target.  My irons are a little short, but mostly high and moving slightly right.  Contact is as good as I have hit a golf ball in a couple seasons.  I had 3 GIR on the front 9, which is 2 more than I averaged a whole round last season.

The back 9 wasn’t quite as good, but my stamina isn’t perfect yet.  I had 2 pars, and only 1 GIR.  However, I hit 5 straight fairways.  I ended up with 9/14 fairways and 4/18 greens.  I shot an 84, which is better than most of my scores last season.  This is a great start to the year.

My goal was to begin the year as good, if not better, than last year.  I believe the winter was a huge success.  My swing is continually getting better.  My contact is more pure.  I think this year will see huge improvements.  No regression from last year.  I can’t wait to create my new spring and summer routine to keep improving.  Keep coming back to check out my progress.

Gain Perspective to Stomp Out Apathy

Creating routines is a great start to improving, but we all experience falling off our routine.  The resolution to eat better falls apart Super Bowl weekend when we gorge ourselves on chips, salsa, cheese dip, hot dogs, burgers, and everything else at the party.  Splurging isn’t the problem.  The problem arises the next week.  If I ate everything in sight, I feel terrible and think “what is the point of continuing to eat well if I messed it up?”  That mindset causes us to fall back into bad habits.  I almost fell victim to that phenomenon last week.

Last week was terrible for my routine.  Since creating my off-season routine, I haven’t followed it perfectly, but I generally reach at least 3 days of golf work and a couple days of exercise each week.  My swing isn’t completely leaving me, and I think I will start spring in a better position than last spring.  However, I completely missed the mark last week.  Work became incredibly busy that took away time at night, and I spent no time on golf or exercise.  The bottom fell out.

Work is still busy, and this week started with apathy.  My mind thought the routine is done, so why not just relax with the little time I have.  It is easy to fall into that trap.  The key is to not let 1 bad week prevent me from continuing on the path to success.

The critical steps to not letting the apathy continue is to gain perspective and get started.  Last winter, I did nothing to prepare for the golf season.  I played a round or two when the weather was nice, but I didn’t work on anything inside.  My perspective now must be that anything I do now makes a difference.  Getting back to the full routine is not necessary to improve.  Anything more than last year is improvement.  Doubt creeps in, but the key is to catch that thought and realize an improvement perspective is what matters.

After regaining perspective, do something.  This week, I am not perfectly back on my routine.  However, I spent a little time on the full swing taking shots.  Not perfect, but I did something.  Gaining steam to combat apathy makes a difference.  We all know it is easier to continue a trend.  My trend will be to reintegrate practice on the schedule.  I get a new opportunity every day to have fun with golf.  I plan to take that opportunity.

Last week didn’t go as planned.  I will not let that keep me from improving this week.  Every day is a new day.  Keep coming back to see my progress.  Post on Facebook and Tweet out my article to help others get back on track!

Making Better New Year’s Resolutions for Golf

Have you ever made a New Year’s Resolution?  Of course, everyone has.  I try to make resolutions every year.  Have you ever failed at your resolution before February?  Don’t worry, I have too.  Depending on the researcher you choose, 80-88% of New Year’s resolutions fail each year.  Let’s choose to be in the 10-12%.

Resolutions fail for a couple reasons.  The key is to not fall victim to the same mistakes everyone else makes.  I help students every semester focus on the right goals because setting a good goal can improve success chances.  Creating mastery goals with incremental steps will improve the likelihood of success.

New Year’s resolutions fail because they are result based goals.  Result goals focus on what the end will look like.  Resolutions about weight loss, quitting smoking, or getting healthy are great examples.  They look at the end result.  Desiring those ends aren’t inherently bad, but without more, those resolutions fail the vast majority of the time.

Mastery goals are significantly better.  Mastery focuses on performing a movement or task extremely well.  For learning, I could set the goal to understand and be able to recite areas of law.  Someone who wants to lose weight could set a mastery goal to only eat 1,600 calories each day or a specific calorie goal for each meal.  In the end, weight loss will occur but the reason is the resolution is based on an action each day.

This year, make a mastery golf resolution.  Everyone wants a lower score.  I aspire to be a single-digit handicap.  For many years, I said I would practice more and get there, but I never did.  I made the same golf mistakes.  All my goals now focus on what I will do each week and movements I want to master.  I resolve to work my plan as well as possible.  My off-season focus is exercise while also making swings each week.  So far, I am working on my game much more than before.  However, I still don’t get all the days in each week.  It is difficult to get through 4-5 days of work each week.

The second key is to make small incremental changes.  Trying to change everything at once makes failure likely.  Individuals trying to run a marathon start with significantly shorter distances.  No one starts with 26 miles.  Start with running one mile and work up to 26.

Golf is the same way.  Trying to make 4 swing changes at once won’t happen.  Work on 1 change throughout your set.  Be very specific, like changing the swing plane.  I focused on nothing but weight shift during the first part of the summer.  After about a month, I worked on swing plane.  My focus is limited to ensure the changes have lasting affects.  Slow incremental changes can have the biggest impact on long-term scores.

Now is the time to set the resolutions for the upcoming year.  My resolution is to follow my weekly plan I set out for the offseason.  Small changes will hopefully setup for a great beginning to the spring season.  Enjoy the holiday!

 

Check Out New Motor Learning Research to Decrease Strokes

Improving at golf seems easy. Pick something to work on, go to the range, and spend hours repeating the new movement over and over.  Most people call it creating muscle memory or getting more reps.  Tiger talks about reps all the time.  If reps is all that matters, then most of us are doomed to mediocrity because we have jobs and families that prevent hours making changes and getting reps.  However, science is starting to change the way we think about learning, and Golf Science Lab is leading the charge to help everyone practice better.

I wrote about interleaving and variable practice in my first few posts last spring. I use similar ideas when teaching my students how to perform on certain standardized tests, and motor learning research started advocating these new approaches.  After integrating some of the concepts, I discovered Golf Science Lab at the end of the summer.  I would highly recommend checking out their site.

Their site is chalked full of excellent information from numerous sources. My first trip to the site was almost overwhelming due to the amount of information.  They have articles and podcasts on nearly every conceivable practice and mental game topic.  I had no idea where to start.  I thought the best place would be to sign up for their emails and purchase the motor learning quickstart guide.

I am always skeptical of pdf books because anyone can publish a book and sell it online. Internet marketing is full of write a 20 page pdf, put some good graphics in it, and then sell it on an email list.  Their site made me feel like the book would be worth it, and I waste more than $10 on silly purchases all the time.  I bought the motor learning guide.

The motor learning quickstart guide included a small game like training manual as well. I am not disappointed I purchased these guides.  Both products included solid information about how we learn and mistakes most golfers make on the range.  The guide included citations to research to provide the foundation for their recommendations. The information is there to completely change the way to practice.

My lone criticism of the manuals is they have more theory than hyper specific application tools. For example, the guide explains the difference between block and random practice.  The research foundation illustrates what most golfers do wrong and why random practice is better.  The end of the section includes a small discussion of how that translates to golf.  Most people reading the section will understand random practice would include switching clubs, changing shot type, or switching trajectories.

I think the guides could add a little specificity by suggesting a practice routine. However, the website includes a significant amount of that information.  The guides are good quick easy reads.  You come away with the idea of what not to do when practicing.  You also discover what you should do with each repetition to create lasting changes.  The website provides the more specific information.

Not only is the guide worth $10, Cordie is excellent at responding to questions. I emailed them about my project here and asked about any resources for game like training while not hitting a golf ball, like swings at the office.  He graciously responded within a couple days that they didn’t have any podcasts or articles for that yet, but he would consider the topic for the future.  He could have ended the conversation there, but he proceeded to give a few suggestions for creating game like training in my situation (drawing out holes and playing each shot in my head while swinging).  The ideas were great to integrate into my at-home practice.

Golf Science Lab provides vast amounts of information to maximize everyday golfers’ potential. I plan to listen to a couple podcasts each week while driving home.  I would highly recommend subscribing to their free podcasts and checking out their site.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

End of Season Stats Check. Did I Improve?

Fall is here, or should be here at least. We have unseasonably warm weather.  My goals were set for the end of October, so while I may squeak in a couple more rounds, I will review the conclusion to the season.

My original goal this season was to decrease my handicap to 14. I planned to spend 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week practicing.  I started around a 16 handicap, and I believed I could shave 2 strokes off my handicap.  As my mid-season report indicated, I failed to realize my handicap was artificially low due to older scores.  My most recent scores averaged between 18 and 20 index.  I revised my goal mid-season to get back to 15.8 where I started.  While I didn’t drop it to 15.8, I decreased my handicap from 17 to 16.2 since July!  I am on the right track!  I may not be at 15.8, but a declining handicap is what matters.

I set the number goal at the beginning of the year, but research indicates focusing on the number does not lead to success. Numbers are the measurement, but focusing on the process makes the most difference.  My most important goal was practicing 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. I hate to say it, but I didn’t meet that goal as often as I hoped.

30 minutes a day is harder than I anticipated. I know that sounds silly, but all my activities combined with exhaustion make adding more work in difficult.  However, I did meet the goal about half the time.  I did much better in the summer and right after my mid-season report.  I struggled more during the fall due to my teaching load.  However, I never went a week without practicing.  I completed a simulated practice or real round nearly every week.  I reached 4 days a week the vast majority of the time.  Rarely did I practice less than 3 days a week.  I know I didn’t reach the goal every week, but I practiced significantly more than before.  My stats show continuous effort with the decreasing handicap.

My stats illustrate my improvement and areas to continue to work on. Below are the stats from April:

Time Period Fairways GIRs Scrambling Putting
May 2015-April 2016 42% 17% 10% 1.9

 

The work paid off this summer in most areas. Here are my stats since I started my plan:

Time Period Fairways GIRs Scrambling Putting
April 2016-Present 59% 11% 25% 1.8

 

Fairways and scrambling dramatically increased. Playing from the short grass must inevitably lead to more GIRs.  While I missed more greens (down to 2 per round), I scrambled for par on 2.5 more holes per round.  Scrambling alone decreased my handicap to the 16.2.  My glaring weakness is still GIR, so I will continue to work on approach shots to score better.

My winter improvement and workout plan will begin shortly. As I think through the plan, I hope to set it up to include activities my family can get involved with to increase my chances of completing the daily tasks.  Come back in the next couple weeks to check out the winter plan.  Enjoy your last rounds of the year.

Can Fitness Really Affect My Golf Score?

Wow, the Ryder Cup last weekend was great. The excitement boiled over.  I enjoyed each day.  Watching golf inevitably brings the infomercials and quick commentary that sometimes highlights a weakness I need to work on, and last weekend was no different.

A couple years ago, I experienced the pleasure of playing Erin Hills, next year’s US Open site, near the end of the season. The weather started changing, and the course was beautiful.  Definitely one of my favorite courses, but I struggled mightily walking the course.  Erin Hills is walking only, which helps with the beauty, but walking it is climbing up and down non-stop hills.  It is the closest I have ever felt to the phrase, “walking up hill both ways.”  I played really well through 9.  On 10, I felt my legs completely lose strength.  I could walk and play, but my legs couldn’t stabilize my swing.  I ended up 6 shots worse on the back 9 with 1 birdie and the rest doubles or worse.

Erin Hills is a unique challenge. I never considered other courses to cause the same problems, especially since I ride a cart 95% of the time.  However, recent experiences made me question my assumption.

I started integrating the swing plane and weight shift on the course last round. The weight shift is working really well and creating better contact.  However, the back 9 saw similar problems as my experience at Erin Hills.  I didn’t shift my weight on 10, and subsequently, I pulled my approach low and left.  I did the same thing on 11.  My local course isn’t as penal as Erin Hills, so I still salvaged a decent round, but my lower body felt tired towards the end.

Every week, we hear the infomercials or announcers talk about a solid foundation. I always believed I possessed the solid foundation.  I am not in the best shape, but I am not terribly out of shape.  Last weekend it clicked though.  Hearing it after my experience helped me realize that even the slightest tiring can make a golf swing get out of sync.  Looking back, almost every round I feel like I lose my sync at some point during the round.  I sometimes get it back for a few holes, but many times, I finish without the same swing I started with.  My base may not be holding up to a full round.

My goal is a consistent golf swing, so being out of sync at the end of the round will definitely cause problems. I now realize that I need to integrate golf specific exercises into my routine.  I don’t plan on changing my routine yet, but after the end of the season, I will integrate off season training into my weekly schedule.

I purchased the Joey D workout program a few years ago and have multiple books on golf fitness. We still have nice weather here, so I have a little while longer to improve this season.  Come back to check out the plan I create for integrating both swing practice and golf fitness during the winter.  As the greats always say, great players are made during the off-season.  Enjoy the last few weekends of golf!

Is It Possible to Improve Fairways and Be Disappointed?

Golf is a wonderful game with breathtaking views and fun with friends. Spending quality time outside and being more active is outstanding.  While beautiful, the golf swing is maddening.  Have you spent time making a change that causes other parts of the swing to go wrong?  It happens to me all the time, but the continual working generally leads to improvement.

My most recent round illustrated both the glimmer of hope and disappointment. I feel like my swing changes are creeping over to the golf course.  My fairways are showing improvement.  I played 9 holes and hit 4/7 fairways.  Over the last 7 rounds, I hit less than 50% of fairways only once, and in one round, I stuck over 70% of the fairways.

I am playing the majority of my approach shots from the short stuff. One key to success is in the bag.  Unfortunately, 1 key does not make a 9.9 handicap golfer, or right now, a 15 handicap golfer.  I am struggling to hit greens.  I haven’t hit more than 20% of GIR yet this season.  My approach shots must get better.  To drop my handicap, I need better iron play.

All of the sports psychologist information I read will now be put to the test. I know I can hit greens.  I know the swing is getting better each practice session.  I know the improvement is creeping into my game.  Every round with 3 or fewer GIRs is a little more frustrating though.  Honestly, it is easy to either scrap the current swing change and try to find a quick fix and/or lose hope in the process.

I resolve now to not abandon the current focus. The definition of insanity is to continually do the same thing hoping for different results.  The same thing for me is to try a new swing change when things don’t work.  I read about a new theory or think a different move will be better for me.  I then try to implement it the next range session.  The constant changing prevents lasting change.  I originally focused on my weight shift this summer.  The weight shift is getting much better, and I resolve to continue that progress.  I am now adding in a few repetitions focusing on swing plane with the weight shift.  Focusing on the small pieces will add up to a better swing in the long term.

I also know hope is not lost. Changes are hard to integrate and take more than a few rounds.  I played mid to low 80s 5-6 years ago.  I know how those scores feel, and I will stay confident those scores are in my near future.  The good news is I do see some good swings on the course.  My scores are decreasing over the last few months.  I plan to keep up all the positive self-talk and believe success is right around the corner.

While the old saying “fairways and greens” is more like “fairways and rough” for me right now, I can see a slight glimmer of light in the distance. I will keep going forward to get to that light.

Share my struggles on social media with others to get us all on the track to improvement.

No Club, No Problem!! 2 Easy Techniques to Improve at Work

Is working getting in the way of golf? It always does for me, but paying the bills and feeding the kids makes abandoning a job impossible.  I am finding ways to be at work and still get in practice time, sometimes even the 30 minutes for the day.

Practice at work? How is that possible?  No, I don’t work at a golf course, nor do I work near a golf course.  My first inclination would be to hit a bucket during lunch, but I don’t have that option.  However, I found a couple techniques could help me improve at work without losing my job.

The first technique I like is mental reps. I know it sounds crazy, but numerous authors and researchers say mental reps, which is imagining every detail of playing, can improve a swing.  Craig Sigl in his product Break 80 Without Practice discusses mental reps.  He tells a story of a POW held overseas for a significant amount of time.  When the soldier came back, he played amazing golf.  When asked, he said he imagined himself playing rounds every day.  The intricate details of playing allowed his mind to ingrain his swing without actual practice.  His brain went to the same place and made the same swings when he put the clubs back in his hands.

We can all do mental reps. As a disclaimer, I am not saying to do these instead of working.  I do them during breaks, lunch, etc.  Spend time imagining every aspect of playing a round of golf.  Go through the pre-shot routine, the swing, watching the ball fly, and walking to the next shot.  The more detail in the mental rep, the better.  I have also done this right before going to sleep.

The second technique I use at work is swinging without a club. Dave Pelz discusses this approach in one of his books.  He tells the story of one of the instructors he knows having a group of students practice certain moves without a club, many times at work.  The instructor didn’t do it intentionally.  It was his suggestion for busy clients who couldn’t get to the range.  They could also do it during the winter.  He found students doing reps without clubs made swing changes quicker.

I try focusing on 1 move during a week. I spend 10-30 minutes during lunch doing the swing without a club.  I am deliberate and not going quickly.  Once I get to the range, I sometimes do the same move without the club during my warmup.  Feeling the movements can help transition to the club.

Most of us have to work, but we can use small breaks to make big improvements. Every little bit helps and can lower scores.  Share this on Facebook and Twitter to help others improve while working!

Mid-Season Progress Report: Doom and Gloom or Starting the Climb?

Progress and improvement is portrayed like a math equation. Add a little work here, do a few drills there, and lower scores result.  Incremental progress is the goal, and every ounce of work should get us closer to the goal.  If that is the case, results should follow the same incremental approach, even if the results are slow.  My experience is the progress is more asynchronous.

I planned to improve by spending 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week on different aspects of golf. Check out my Current Handicap Page to see where my handicap started.  I set 2 goals.  The first was to lower my handicap from the 15.8 to 14 by the end of the season.  The close to 2 strokes seemed possible with the work on each aspect of my game.  I believe extra work should lower scores.

Unfortunately, my handicap is not dropping right now. As you see, my handicap is now at 17.  17!

HCP 7-22 2

Not only is it not going down 2 strokes, it is actually up 1.2 strokes. My mind raced when I saw my trend up.  Is it possible that my effort is making me worse?  Would I be better off not practicing?  Should I change my plan?  What should I do?

After thinking all those thoughts, I remembered the important goal of completing the progress. Most research indicates focusing on the result doesn’t normally lead to success.  Focusing on the process is what matters.  My current situation is the exact reason why process is the most important.  If I succumb to the idea that practice isn’t working or my effort is in vain, I will stop practicing or drastically change my plan.  Revisiting a plan is periodically necessary, but continual refocusing diminishes results.

The real question should be whether I completed my 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. The honest answer is the majority of the time I did.  I have weeks with 3 to 4 days, but over half the time, I get to 5 days a week.  The practice time and completion isn’t the problem.  If true, then maybe I am not doomed.

The bright side begins to light up. Comparing the score lists on my Current Handicap Page, I realize why my handicap rose this year.  My oldest 7 scores were calculated in my original handicap, and all those rounds happened in 2014.  Unless I played at a similar level, then my handicap would rise.  My handicap at the beginning of my process was not an accurate reflection of my current performance level.  The handicap was artificially low due to good scores from over 2 years ago.  I breathe a little easier.

I also notice my handicap differentials for this year. Since starting the process, my differentials are decreasing.  From the beginning of the year through June, my differentials ranged from 19-22.3.  My last 2 differentials in July dropped below 18.  Looking closer at the numbers, I am improving.

I also feel like I am improving. My contact is much better.  I am focusing on shifting my weight correctly to compress the ball.  My trajectory is up.  I hit my 5 wood and hybrid better than ever the last couple rounds, and my ball flight is much straighter.  My GIRs are slightly up over the last 5 rounds, and I am still hitting a similar number of fairways.  I am showing improvement.  This is exactly what I am looking for.

My handicap is up at the mid-point, but I believe the numbers indicate improvement. My handicap started artificially lower, and my last 5 rounds are showing improvement in all areas.  14 may not be realistic by the end of the season, but I should be able to get back in the 15 range.  However, I am not focused on that number.  My goal is to practice 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.  Share my story on facebook and twitter to help others continue the journey to improvement.

4 Easy Putting Drills to Save Strokes

The old saying is “Drive for show, Putt for dough.” While a few researchers disagree that short game is the most important part of golf, putting is clearly important because that is when the ball goes in the hole.  Yes, everyone needs to get closer to the green or closer to the hole on approaches, but golfers can make up for many mistakes with a great short game.

Improving the short game is a little more of a challenge at home. Most of us don’t have putting greens in our backyards.  My next DIY project is an artificial green, but until then, my 30 minutes of putting work is at home most weeks.  I have a 4 drills/tools I enjoy that helped me improve the last couple years to where I normally average less than 2 putts a round.

Dime Drill

Putts roll in the hole if they are on the right line and are the right speed. While speed is extremely important, carpets at most homes prevent speed work.  Reading through different magazines over the years helped me develop a drill for putting line using a dime.

My goal is to start the putt on my intended line and keep it on the correct line to the hole. To focus on the line, I grab a dime.  I put the dime on the ground about 1 ft. in front of my ball.  I line the ball up to roll over the dime and stroke the putt.  If I strike the putt correctly, the ball will roll over the middle of the dime.  I practice soft and hard putts over the dime about 4-6 times.  I then move back to 2 feet and try to roll it over the dime.  I will keep moving back until I get to 8-10 feet.  The idea is to keep the ball on line as long as possible.

I vary the 1 coin drill with a 2 coin drill. I will put the dime a foot in front of my ball and a nickel about 4-5 feet in front of the dime.  I try to stroke a putt over both coins.  The 2 coin drill forces me to line up correctly over both coins and keep the ball on line.  Adds to the difficulty.

Face Tape

Distance on the carpet won’t be the same as a golf course, but you can still work on distance at home. Consistent distance comes from hitting the ball in the same spot of the club with every stroke.  I use putter face tape to check my strikes.  I put on the face tape and hit a couple putts.  I check the tape to see if the strikes were consistent.  Even if you aren’t hitting in the middle, hitting consistently will make the distance consistent.  You can always play shots that are consistent.

 

Yard Stick

The putting sword training aid that many, including Michael Breed, advocate using can be replaced with a simple yard stick. The idea is the same as the coin drill.  Try to keep the ball rolling down the yard stick as long as possible.  You can also use the yard stick as a stroke and alignment check.  Place the stick on the ground.  Place the club with the toe just inside the stick.  Putt balls trying to keep the putter moving along the stick.  It promotes the straight back and straight through stroke.  It won’t help those who have an arc stroke as much.

 

Drills on the carpet are good for practice, but I know everyone loves hearing the ball fall in the cup. I bought the accelerator putting green below to putt the ball in the hole.  It isn’t perfect, but I find it forces me to hit a putt hard enough to roll about a foot past the hole.


Putting is definitely an art form. Many ignore putting because they think a green is necessary for improvement.  I think you can significantly improve by keeping the putt on the intended line for as long as possible.  You can do that in your house.  If you have a great drill you do at home, put it in the comments.  Cheers for less putts!