Performance coach Paul Dewland has a way for putting this somewhat ethereal mental game stuff into concrete language.
Performance Coach Paul Dewland says change doesn’t happen overnight, but gradually it does come if you stick with it.
“Remember when you were young and you went into a bar hoping to meet a girl. You didn’t walk through and go, ‘Whoa, stay away from that one, or that one.’ You went after the one that attracted you.
“We succeed in golf when we go after those things we want. If you’re focused on fixing a slice or getting rid of the shanks, then you’ll become much better at trying to avoid hitting slices or shanks.
“To hit better golf shots, you have to focus on what you really want. If your focus is on hitting it well, you will make the improvement that you’re looking for. You can make change when there’s a shift in intent.”
He’s right, again. When I started with Paul back in June, I wanted to learn more about the mental game, but I became fixated on exorcizing the infernal shanks from my game. At times this summer, I felt like quitting golf.
Today’s blog delves into the difficulty–and strangeness–of trying to make changes to one’s golf game. Performance coach Paul Dewland says my ego is trying to protect me, swing coach Annie Mallory says hitting shanks shows progress, and friend/professional Tom Jackson says I’m in for a long and bumpy ride. Oh boy.
My expert opinion as an amateur psychologist is that the easy part of making change is deciding to make it. The action part—and sticking with it—is the hard part.
Say you buy a pop psychology book on Friday at lunch, and you devour it (the book) by Sunday night. You declare change is gonna come. Let’s say that change is not to eat junk food while watching Jay or Dave anymore.
With newfound determination, no junk food is consumed Monday to Wednesday. But Thursday is a brutal day at work and then your teenager tells you to do something anatomically impossible with yourself.
In addition to Performance Coach Paul Dewland, who is helping me with the mental side of the game, I’ve started taking lessons with Annie Mallory, an instructor with the Core Golf Academy. I’ve known Annie for years through my communications work with Core, and that she’s a great coach, a former contestant on The Big Break, and lots of fun. Now, I have mind and swing coaches. Golly, I’m building my own entourage.
I’ve been called far worse names.
“You’re Flippy McFlipperson,” Instructor Annie Mallory says with a laugh in describing how I’m flailing away at The Academy at Piper’s Heath Golf Club in Milton, Ontario.
“I know Flippy because I used to swing like that too.”
The official diagnosis is that my hands tend to get caught behind me. Coming into impact, I lose the hinge in my right wrist, which should be bent back like a waiter holding a tray, and my hands flips forward.
“That’s why you’re digging a hole for a pool,” she said, pointing to the ugly scar I’ve inflicted on the range.
Golf performance coach Paul Dewland is coaching me on the mental game. I played in my club championship last weekend at Blue Springs, and it was a disaster. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy after my last blog on playing when you don’t have confidence in your swing. The experience told me: I need to keep focused on some of the early things Paul and I discussed (like witnessing my thoughts rather than being caught up in them), develop a coaching-student relationship wtih Core Golf’s Annie Mallory, and play in more stroke play events with galleries. I’m such a Nervous Nellie.
You’ve heard it, read it in Golf in the Kingdom and in Rotella’s tomes, and maybe even seen it in Bagger Vance.
That is, the road to enlightenment, soft draws and birdie putts is to hit golf shots in a serene Zen-like state focused on meditative stuff like breathing and visualizing wondrous shots.
You’re NOT supposed to think about mechanics. That’s earthly, secular and really bad.
But, I’ve heard countless touring pros talk about how a physical adjustment or swing key carried them to victory on the PGA Tour. The best players in the world think about mechanics under tournament pressure.
Golf performance coach Paul Dewland is coaching me on the mental game. My apologies for the delay in posting, but I was camping with the family in glorious Canadian Shield country enjoying big rocks, forests and clear lakes. I intended on writing about the club championship at Blue Springs this upcoming weekend, but I felt compelled to write about trying to play when you don’t have confidence. That should tell you about my chances this weekend.
As I’ve become more educated about the mental part of golf, I’ve learned an important lesson: I may go through my pre-shot routine with the Nicklausian focus and precision, but if I lurch at the ball like a man possessed by demons and a case of ticks, well, the ball ain’t going long and straight.
Paul Dewland is coaching me on the mental game, and I’m blogging about it. How 2010! My hope is that golfers will find it a good read, fun and educational. Today’s blog is intended to be more of the latter so that you can learn to keep your head up more often. Ain’t golf weird?
A behaviour that I’ve been looking to change on the course, and elsewhere, is my tendency to over-think. I’m a ruminator. Not a bad thing for a writer, but not great for a golfer.
If I miss, say two short putts in consecutive holes. I’m apt to start beating myself up with relish: “You idiot! You suck! That’s the second one in a row. There goes the front. You’re decelerating. You don’t even know how to putt. You need a lesson. Why bother? You’ll never improve at putting.” Etc., etc.
Paul Dewland is coaching me on the mental side of the game. For a guru, he’s a pretty funny guy. No Birkenstocks! I play most of my golf at Blue Springs GC in Acton, Ontario, just so you know where most of this little experiment is being played out. And our Club Championship is coming up August 7-8. Yes, this could get ugly.
I made it through two rounds on the weekend with only one shank.
Yes, I used the word. My brother Pat said that I was not fully facing my demon if I didn’t name it directly, so there it is: Shank.
And this is the last time I’m going to deal with the shanks.
Coach Paul says the less attention that I give to the shanks, the better. In other words, if I fixate on fixing them, I just perpetuate the behaviour that leads to them.
“Fighting the struggle makes the struggle the problem. It`s like someone who is panicking about drowning. It`s the panic that can kill you,“ he said.
“Trying to give energy to a new way is more effective. If you don`t give the old way any oxygen, it dies.“
Performance Coach Paul Dewland is coaching me on the mental side of the game, and I’m sharing my little victories and agonies with you through the magic of blogging. Content Rating: Contains violence.
I had lopped off its head. Any golfer who has battled the hosel rockets has had the feeling that he could really lose it, but to have it come to this… even I was stunned.
I was playing with my parents, Margaret and Dennis, and my brother Pat at Sunningdale in London, Ontario. As for all my games at Sunningdale, I’m always a little keyed up because I have memories of the course where I grew up. And, I’m aware that with my Dad, I’m closer to a three year old in temperament than a 53 year old. Sigh.
I had kept the hosel rockets at bay. We were first off the tee, and there was foursome on our butts from the get-go. On the 6th, we let them go through, and this bugged me. (I had visions of more speedy groups playing through our family foursome.)
On the 7th, I found my drive in the thick bluegrass rough. Trying to muscle it out, I keranged an HR about 30 yards. I marched to the ball—trying not to think—and clanged another straight right into the fescue.
I can be rolling along quite nicely on the golf course, like a sweet old lady on her way to tea with a friend. Then, with the suddenness of a purse-snatcher darting out of an alleyway to grab my handbag, I am instantly a victim. The unmentionable–that which cannot be named–has invoked its wrath.
To name it might give it more power over me. The hosel rocket is the closest I’ll come.
It’s a strange thing. It’s a like a demon that has possessed my soul and comes out to play havoc with me for its pleasure. It is a strange thing for playing partners too. When an attack occurs, it’s like I’m at an office party chatting nicely when I suddenly pull my pants down to my ankles and start telling dirty jokes. Everyone is mortified. No one knows what to say.
When I’m really nervous, I don’t just feel shaky, I am shaky.
Rick Young’s scoregolf.com blog on essential tremors reminded me of one of my first golf outings as a pseudo golf “celebrity.”
Around 1990, I was writing a lot of freelance articles about golf in magazines such as SCOREGolf and Golf Canada, and I was somehow picked to play with PGA Tour star Curtis Strange at new King Valley Golf Club near Aurora, Ont. The course was tagged as a Curtis Strange-Doug Carrick co-design.
When a new course opens, especially one with a marquee name designer, the proud new owners will usually hold a launch event of some kind and invite media, local dignataries and, if it’s a private club, current and prospective members.
For this event, the organizers set up a scramble between three-person amateur teams and Strange for three holes each. My teammates were Bob Weeks of SCOREGolf and Mike Anscombe, the main sports personality for Global TV in Toronto at the time. The rest of the groups were mainly members and prospects.
So that I could keep my nerves in check on the morning of the event, I tried to invoke a little psychological trick that Ben Hogan advocated. Hogan said that when he got nervous during a tournament, he tended to speed up–he would walk, think and swing faster. To counter that tendency, Hogan said that before a big round he tried to do everything slowly that day: he’d eat slowly, drive slowly, even brush his teeth a little slower.
On the day of the King Valley exhibition, I was following Hogan’s advice. Even as I watched Strange give a clinic on the range at King Valley before about 100 people, I was thinking ‘I feel pretty good. This will be ok.’
I figured that most of those people would just go home after the clinic. Obviously, I didn’t know much about PR at the time. Most if not all of those 100 people came over and formed a horseshoe around the first tee. I had never teed off in front of a crowd like this before.Yipes!
Some big-voiced announcer rhymed off the accomplishments of Curtis Strange, including his back-to-back wins in the 1988-89 U.S. Opens. Strange striped a drive down the middle, of course, and received a nice ovation.
When my name was called, I stuck to my go-slow strategy, easing myself toward the tee markers. Everything seemed to be in working order as I put the tee in the ground. But when I went to put the ball on the tee, my hand was shaking like I had the DTs. I thought, ‘Oh s**t, my tremor!’
I have familial tremor, which is similar to essential tremor. It’s very mild but causes my right hand to shake when I am over-caffeinated, vigorously exercise or… when I’m really nervous.
My mind raced in front of the throng. ‘I hope I can put this freakin ball on the tee on my first try!’ Stooped over the tee with the ball in my fingers, my hand wavering as I lower the ball toward the tee, I think I let the ball go from my quaking fingers with a nearly audible “Please stay!”
Luckily, it did. I think I let out an enormous breath that made me sound like a whale. Compared to teeing the ball up, hitting the damn thing was now no big deal, and I hit a pretty good drive. Bob Weeks sidled up to me in the fairway with a big smile on his face, and said “I thought we were going to need a caddy to tee your ball up.”
After that shaky start, I actually played the pretty well on those three holes.
This is my start writing for the A Position. I can only hope it goes as well as my three holes with Curtis Strange.