I am not a Professional golfer. Neither am I a scratch amateur. Nevertheless, I do manage to maintain a low single figure handicap despite only playing 15-20 rounds a year. As such, here are my top 4 hacks to help your golf game in 2018 (without changing your swing):
Use Strokes Gained Analysis to identify your strengths and weaknesses
I have always loved stats. They form a way to measure and break-down your performance and a great basis for process related goal setting.
For as long as I can remember, I have averaged around 60% fairways hit, 55% Greens in Regulation (GIR) and 31.5 putts per round. Based on the GIR numbers, I always thought that I needed to improve my putting to under 30 putts per round if I wished to knock shots from my score. That is until I discovered the excellent My Round Pro app, which uses strokes gained analysis (basically a measurement of each shot from a field average).
After a few rounds, I knew that my greatest strength was my approach shots from 150-200 yards where I hit a lot of greens, but gave myself long putts. I also hit a lot of greens from 25-100 yards but my proximity to the hole was relatively poor. Combining those two elements meant that I had a lot of long putts. So no matter how much work I did on my putting, it would have very little influence on my score – the key for me, as SGA showed, was to improve my proximity to the hole with my wedges.
SGA is key to measure where your game stands and will be a massive aid to your coach in identifying areas to work on or to help focus your practice time.
Further reading: Every Shot Counts – Using the Revolutionary Strokes Gained Approach to improve your golf performance and Strategy (Mark Broadie)
Become a Black Box Thinker
The aviation industry uses the famous ‘black boxes’ in its planes to gather vital information about flights. When a crash, or a near miss happens, powerful independent bodies investigate. Rather than castigating or making an example of specific pilots however, there is a culture that mistakes can be precious learning opportunities for all. As such, results are shared across the industry and pilots are open about their mistakes.
‘Marginal gains, as a philosophy, absolutely depend on the ability to detect and learn from small, often latent weaknesses’
Matthew Syed, author of Black Box Thinking – The Surprising Truth about success
So, if we as golfers wish to benefit from marginal gains to our game and score, we have much to learn from the aviation industry. Become your own best friend, learn to welcome your mistakes as vital and unique opportunities to learn and at the same time learn to free yourself from the debilitating fear of failure that has messed up many competitive rounds.
Consider changing your swing thought
Most golfers tend to focus on an element of technique during the swing. It could be turning the left shoulder under the chin, or transferring weight to the left side on the follow-through. These would be internal thoughts, as defined by Adam Young, in his excellent golfing bible, The Practice Manual, where 5 types of swing focus are identified:
- External Process – for example swing-path through impact
- External Result – focusing on the target or ball flight
- Neutral – for example humming or counting down from 10
- Transcendental – finding ‘the zone’
None of these types of swing thought are incorrect and all have positive and negative elements. It is also likely that different types of thoughts will be more beneficial depending for example if you are trying to learn a new technique, or if you are in an important competition. So trial and error is required for each golfer to find their optimum thought.
On a personal level, I always felt that my constant internal thoughts led me to often play ‘golf swing’ rather than ‘golf score’ and a switch to an external thought (club/ball strike) seemed to free up my swing and mind and led to more consistent ball-striking, particularly in a competitive, pressured environment.
Find the best YOU, work on it, and stick with it
Many golfers fail to recognise that technique and human skills, such as attitude and control of adrenaline levels, are intrinsically linked.
For example, a pushed drive on the 18th hole may have been caused by the golfer’s failure to clear her left hip in the downswing. The solution to this issue, rather than working on technique may to improve the golfer’s inability to control the raise in her adrenaline levels caused by her chance to win. With the resultant increase in tension and tempo levels making it impossible for her to clear her hips prior to impact, the issue is human skill improvement rather than hours at the driving range.
Pia Nilsson & Lynn Marriott are golf coaches who have realised the link between human skills and performance. They have created the concept of VISION54 and the future ‘Supergolfer’:
‘In the Supergolfer’s round of 54, there won’t be perfect conditions, a perfect warm-up, or a perfect swing. Expecting perfection is unrealistic. In the future, golfers will begin to learn human skills on the same day they learn to grip a golf club. Human skills aren’t merely add-ons or mental skills. They are fundamental skills that will help carry every individual golfer to a new performance threshold’.
Pia Nilsson & Lynn Marriott – ‘Be A Player – A Breakthrough Approach to Playing Better ON the Golf Course
The key I believe to maximizing your human skills is to recognise when you play your best golf. Some player’s are extroverted and perform best when they are laughing and joking with their playing partners. Others play their best when they have an inner quiet – maybe by internally playing their favourite song in their head.
So once you have identified your optimum attitude, work on maintaining it, cultivating it and sticking with it – your golf will naturally benefit.