Fitness and Mental Game

Hey everyone! I know it’s been a few days since I have posted and I figured I would try and update everyone on my whereabouts/activities.

As I let on in my last post, I have started my fitness routine and it is going great so far! I have mainly been doing cardio with a little bit of strength and endurance exercises mixed in. I am trying to take it lightly in the beginning as I know I like to push myself a little too far in the gym which, in the past, has led me to bulking up and losing flexibility. It’s great to get stronger, but not at the expense of losing flexibility and speed. The golf swing is a series of movements requiring some power but mainly coordination and speed and thus I am not willing to sacrifice the latter for the former.

Much of my training thus far has been low weight (30% of my 1 Rep Max) with high reps (30+ per set) and many of the exercises being done on an unstable base to promote balance and core strength.

For those that don’t know, I majored in Exercise Science at Skidmore College which was great since I learned so much about a variety of subjects under that domain. Nutrition, physical therapy, kinesiology, advanced physiology, athletic training and prescription were some of the areas of study. I am using this knowledge with my knowledge of the golf swing to craft a program to work on the weak areas of my swing. These weak areas are in-part caused by my body type and muscular imbalances. Let’s just give you a quick analysis…

My misses on the course are generalized mainly by a pull to the left of my intended target. I can’t remember during either round in the eGolf Southern Open where I missed a shot to the right other than poor alignment (which was only a time or two anyway). My take away from this is that my sequence gets off and my lower body becomes stagnant and does not fire soon enough. My upper body gets quick and I swing mainly from the top down (during my transition from backswing to downswing) which causes my shots to start left of target.

To combat this effect, I know I need to work on leg strength and core strength. This will allow my legs to begin the downswing sequence and the core to support this movement and keep me in balance which will in turn, result in posture maintenance and pure ball striking.

Squats and lunges will help build my quad and glute muscles and I particularly like to work in rotational movements during these to ensure the core is stabilizing my body throughout the exercise. ‘Mountain climbers’ are exercises that are great for this purpose and you can add rotational elements to these also to work on hip flexor and lat strength while working on deltoid endurance as well. More on this and other exercises in future posts!

I also wanted to refer to an article I read just yesterday in the latest issue of Golf Digest on page 62 titled: “Why Good Golfers are Fools”. To summarize the article, it states that there is scientific evidence that golfers who act happy no matter what their performance are more likely to shoot a better score than the golfers that tend to beat themselves up if they are not performing up to their expectations. The article suggests that the brain performs significantly better under a positive mindset than under a “negative, neutral or stressed” state of mind. So instead of criticizing and finding flaws in the golf swing, the experts recommend identifying elements of “success and enjoyment” for yourself in order to find that state of mind that is most conducive to great performances.

After reading this article, I have made the choice to try and identify some of these elements over the coming weeks not only during practice sessions and rounds, but also during tournament play. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am very proud of myself for getting out of the “negative” and “judgmental” mindset during rounds. It has taken the past few years of working on it and is sometimes a challenging endeavor, but it has definitely taken my game to a better level. If I continue to take this way of thinking and elevate it going forward, I know my performance during future tournament rounds will match what I am able to achieve in practice round environments.

That’s all for now! Come back soon for another update.

Thanks again for following me!!

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Southern Open Round 2 and Analysis

I am proud of myself today! Not because of the score I shot — which ended up being 71 (+1) — but because of the promise I made to myself to be committed on every shot. I’d be lying if I said my mental game was perfect. However, I really did much better in that department by sticking to my game plan, seeing the shot in my mind’s eye and trusting that my preparation would lead to the execution of the shot I had selected.

As a result, my ball striking was far better than in Round 1. After completing my round analysis spreadsheets on the computer (a long and somewhat exhausting task that tracks my performance on the course) I was able to see that my initial breakdown after the round was correct. Let’s do a quick snapshot of the most important stats:

Round 1 Round 2
Fairways Hit % 54% 62%
Greens Hit % 61% 72%
Putts 30 32

As you can see quite clearly, my ball striking was more solid and more accurate. I hit more fairways and more greens on day two as opposed to day one. One thing I did not do as well was putt. I had many putts during my second round that I thought I had a great chance of making only to see them wind up skirting the lip of the cup or coming to rest a foot short and staring down the center of the cup. Quite simply, I was either misreading them a tiny bit or not hitting them hard enough when I had the perfect read. My stroke felt really good and I was so comfortable, but I just couldn’t seem to adjust to the even slower pace of the greens during round two.

Over the course of both rounds, I did not have any three putts which is a great thing. This means I was really able to keep my focus very sharp while putting and I avoided the mistake I see too often in amateurs: trying to “will” the ball in the hole from short distances.

The greatest part about my round is that even though I did not make hardly any putts, I was 1-under going in to the last 4 holes of the tournament and still had a chance to continue on to the third and fourth rounds of the event if I could hit a few good shots and make a few putts. Here is what I went through on the last few holes to get you an inside glimpse:

After making an easy 2-putt birdie on the 550 yard par-5 14th hole after hitting a great 3-wood off the tee and 2 hybrid to the center of the green, I stepped up to a very difficult par three. Number fifteen is about 192 yards straight down hill with a large and deep bunker left of the putting surface and nothing but water just a few paces off the entire backside of the green. Not only that, the hole played straight in to a 15-20mph wind. To say I was uncomfortable with the tee shot at first would be an understatement! I was having trouble choosing the right club because I wanted very much to have a decent birdie putt, but also did not want to take on the pin which was tucked all the way in the back portion of the green with the water looming close behind. As a result, I decided to choose the shorter of the two clubs and hit a penetrating 6-iron to the center of the green which turned out to be a great shot under the circumstances. The putt was not easy with a large tier in front of me that pushed the 35 foot putt about 8 feet to the left. I read it perfectly, but left the putt (again) short but this time by about 4 feet. I walked away with a par after draining the second putt without too much trouble.

I walked to #16 knowing that I would have to finish with three birdies to have any chance at continuing on. I hit a great drive with a little fade perfectly down the middle and to the flat area of the sloping fairway to give myself a great shot to attack the flag. This time, the flag was tucked back left and just over a very deep pot bunker. Long was death. I chose to hit 8-iron from 180 to the right of the hole knowing that even with a little wind behind, I could not go long. I hit a good shot that drew from the center towards the flag stick and ended up about 20 feet away with a very straightforward putt that only broke about a foot. As had been the case all day, I hit a fantastic putt that was tracking to the hole but stopped a foot shy of going in. I was a little frustrated because I hit such a good putt, but I didn’t let it get to me.

The 17th hole was playing easy for the tournament because of some really bad winter kill on the majority of the fairway. The event staff chose to move the tee forward to play as a short par 4 measuring in at 339 yards which would avoid most of the dead grass and bare ground that was much of the fairway on that hole. I stepped up to the tee with a clear mind and a definitive decision to hit driver with a baby fade just as I had done on the previous hole tee box. I figured I would repeat the same swing and envision exactly the same result. Much to my surprise, seconds later I was watching the ball start left of the target with a low draw towards a hazard I didn’t even know was there. I ended up making a double bogey after I dropped from the hazard (could not find it) and had to punch through some trees towards the green that I could not see. I am told that the ball almost hit the flagstick but continued to roll just off the back. From here I was short-sided and had no chance of hitting it close. I hit a flop shot to about 12 feet and hit the best putt of the tournament only to see it lip out of the left edge of the cup. Deflated but determined to finish my tournament strong, I went to the 18th tee box with a mission. I am making birdie.

Just so you have an idea, the par three 18th hole at The Club at Irish Creek plays a mere 240 yards long and of course that day it happened to be playing in to a strong wind again like hole #15. The tee box is elevated from the fairway which is about 100 feet below and the green rises back up to about the same level as the tee box. It is not an easy hole and gives the impression from the tee box that you have a small chute of trees to hit it through to reach the green and nowhere to miss it as the green complex itself is elevated beyond the surrounding terrain. As I was going last after the previous hole’s debacle, I had the privilege to see the other players both hit it left off the tee and miss the green with little chance of getting up and down to save their pars. Not exactly an uplifting or confidence-rebuilding affair. That didn’t affect me though because earlier in the round I had hit the exact same shot from the fairway on #13 after missing my drive left and having to chip out to get back in position on the par 5. I brought my mind back to that shot on thirteen which I executed perfectly and took dead aim at the pin. I pulled off the shot and it hit pin-high and rolled maybe 7 feet beyond the pin.

The guys I played with couldn’t believe the shot, as it was probably the closest anyone had hit all day considering the overall difficulty of the shot. Although I misread the double-breaking putt, I made par and walked away with a sense of accomplishment as strange as that may sound. Yes, I missed the 36-hole cut of 4 under par by 5 strokes and still feel like I accomplished a great deal. I faced a bit of adversity throughout the day by missing countless birdie putts, dealing with wayward drives and some mind games still from the day before, but I overcame much of it.

I realize that on this journey there will be bumps in the road and that there will be disappointment. I choose not to look at it in a negative way. I feel like everything in this game is a learning process whether I succeed or I fail. I can learn something from each experience. I feel like I have definitely learned from my first event and even made improvements during the event which is spectacular. Change and development takes time and I am proud I was able to change my thinking so quickly.

I have got so many things to work on now and my motivation is through the roof! Over the next few weeks I will be dialing in my tee ball and working specifically with my driver and 3-wood to hit baby draws and fades at will. I will continue to work on my putting, especially the mid-range putts from 12 to 25 feet. I will also try and get my irons more dialed in so that I can be confident in choosing targets that are a bit closer to the hole. My fitness regimen begins now that I have a few weeks before my next event and little worry about having this adversely affect my swing.

Sorry for the abnormally long post, but I had so many things that I needed to vent about. Thanks for reading and following me and stay tuned for more updates!

Round 1 Southern Open

I had a very solid practice session yesterday afternoon following my 3.5 hour drive from Leland to The Club at Irish Creek in Kannapolis, NC. The one-two punch of heat and humidity were overwhelming — 95 degree air temps and 65% humidity — especially when walking a very hilly golf course. Who knew the Charlotte area was so undulating! Despite the brutal playing conditions, I hit the ball beautifully on a somewhat familiar golf course and putted just as well. Course conditions were less desirable than expected, but only because of the harsh winter that many of the courses in North Carolina endured. Fairways and tees experienced serious winter kill but the greens were as good as they could be for being bent grass during a scorching summer. Although slow, they rolled rather true.

Unfortunately, my solid prep work the past week and planning did not carry over earlier today for my round one performance. I felt great going in to the first tee shot but somewhere along the line, my mind got away from me. As a result, I was only able to post a score of even par 70. All things considered, I was able to scramble very well today and most of my misses (which was nearly every shot) were within reason.

Although I am displeased with my lack of commitment to each and every shot (barring any putts) I was able to learn a lot about my style of play and what I am great at. So lets break this down…

I played with 2 other guys, one that shot 76 (+6) and the other 64 (-6). The biggest difference I noticed between us was the three of our mental games and the way we handled ourselves on the golf course. Mr. 76 was Mr. Negative and I could tell he never committed to a single swing or target the entire round. Not only that, every time he missed a shot or made bogey, he let it affect him in a very negative way. He slammed a few clubs out there and in general acted very unprofessionally. I am sure that this mindset made his score much worse, as he was not able to let go of the previous shot or previous hole. On the other hand, Mr. 64 was calm, cool and collected the entire day. He never hit a shot without committing to exactly the shot shape and distance he had in his mind. This did, at times, lead to very lengthy and deliberate routines which were sometimes painful to watch. As a result though, his commitment to every swing led to a very solid start to his tournament. The thing is, I know I can play just as well if not better than him if I can learn to commit in a similar way. In any case, I learned 2 main things about myself from watching these two players:

#1) I don’t let bad shots affect my mind set or my body language. This is something I have worked very hard on in the past. I am very proud of this!!

#2) I have commitment issues…I worry too much about the result and what will happen if I make a bad swing. This is a very large issue that I need to shake myself of in order to realize my full potential.

Tomorrow I will try very hard to believe in myself on every swing, stay in the present and not let my mind worry about the future. If I can do that, I KNOW I can perform much better than I did today. I was happy with literally just one iron shot that I hit today out of all my drives and all my approach shots. That was because I saw the shot, committed to the distance and shot shape and trusted my swing to deliver the results. Every other swing out there was guided in some way.

If I can learn to TRUST, I know I have the skills I need to succeed. I am confident that after a few more events under my belt, I will start seeing some really good results. This is just Round 1 of the next few years!

I know I will commit to more shots tomorrow than today and regardless of what happens (made/missed cut) I will be happy with my performance. Come back soon for my second round update! Round 2 begins 1:30pm.

Great things are coming! Thanks for following me on this journey.