How to Improve Your Golf When on Holiday
Could you improve your game during a week off on holiday without playing golf? Golfshake Ambassador Richard Moore believes so and he explains why.
I have returned from a family holiday in Devon. A lovely, well-earned break after the lockdown and to get away from work - and from golf! Before my holiday my golf had taken a big downturn. Although I’m currently taking lessons from the head pro at my local course and improvements are being made, I was starting to struggle lately. I was making too many errors off the tee resulting in too many penalties. I was commonly finding myself walking off the course doubting myself and concluding ‘that was a waste of 3.5 hours!’….’what am I doing?......’ do I need a new hobby?'
Toying with the idea of secretly smuggling a sand wedge and a few balls on holiday to practice chipping outside of the caravan, I ultimately decided not to, instead taking the week off completely. But I did pack some reading material, which included unfinished issues of Golf World (sadly now deceased) and Bob Rotella’s fabled ‘Golf is Not a Game of Perfect.’
After a few days, I found myself picking up the book and magazines and in the calm environment I started to ‘really’ read. Not just flicking through the pages, but closely reading and taking some notes on my iPhone. A few ‘light bulb’ or ‘ah-ha’ moments made me take careful notes and I deployed some of the key ones on my first round back.
Unlike before, I was a calm golfer on my return, looking to enjoy a round with no expectations, enjoying good shots, shrugging off the bad ones, taking in the enjoyable sunny morning with good positive thoughts. Thoughts of only ‘to put the best swing’ on each shot and accept whatever happened. And the result? A +10 round where ten days ago I was achieving +26, battling not to shoot a dreaded 100. (I’m 12 handicap!)
(Change Your Mindset on the Golf Course)
So, I’m detailing the 20 key points I wrote down (but we all know no one can remember all of them, so I embolden the most important that I reminded myself of during my round which I feel are crucial to a happier future).
A few swing tips I picked up from Golf World;
1. Don’t position the ball too far forward on driver, outside the left heel is enough (Claude Harmon).
2. Position the ball in middle of your stance for pitches. We all tend to put it too far back which makes the swing get too steep and increases chances of a fat shot!
3. Mark the line on the ball and take the time to align for putting (you may think it takes longer but is a one or two putt quicker than a three putt?)
4. We’re not all the size and flexibility of Dustin Johnson. So I took special note of one of the pros on tour who can really put it out there at 5 ft 10, Xander Schauffele. For his takeaway with the driver he has one thing on his mind; “Width, width and more width.” His arms are straight and fully extended. At the top his hands are above his head. So, go stand in front of a mirror and see your own position! My hands were nearer my right ear!
5. Remember to grip down shaft in the bunker once you’ve sunk your feet in (Graeme McDowell).
Now the big lessons about what’s in your head, thanks to Bob Rotella!
1. Before you play do plan your round. Take time to choose your strategy. Never adopt a more aggressive strategy mid-round. Even go to bed the night before and ‘dream’ how you will shoot that perfect round.
2. Pre-round, practice green. Take some practice putts for sure. But only aim short putts at the holes, ideally drill 25 in from 2-4 feet to get in the groove. For your longer-range putts only putt to the fringe of the green to get a feel for your distance control. Aim to shoot the ball just to the edge, not into the fringe. Why?! Keep missing longer range attempts at the hole subconsciously does nothing for your confidence before your round.
3. Have no expectations or demands on yourself. No: ‘I need to shoot X today!’
4. Remember to have fun and see what’s the lowest score you can shoot.
5. Only play golf with a quiet mind. You need to be lost in your own world. With no distractions. So absolutely no mobile phones! Leave it off. There needs to be no distractions on the course!
6. Believe in yourself. You’ve hit many good shots and you can do it. Don’t be put off by nerves on the first tee – nerves are good! They focus the mind.
7. Pick a small target and focus all thoughts on that. So, when you are swinging don’t be thinking mechanics or ‘swing thoughts’ focus purely on the target. Burn it into your mind.
8. Accept your mistakes and don’t dwell on bad shots, after all golf is a ‘game of mistakes’ played by humans who are prone to mistakes! Never hit a shot angry.
9. Be honest with yourself. You can play that shot, so don’t talk yourself out of a shot you can pull off! Equally don’t try that 1/20 shot. Be positive but realistic.
10. If you like to take practice swings. Have a couple but make the first thinking about the ‘mechanics’ (the plane, your positions etc) and make the second (before you take your shot) about just feeling the target.
11. Be decisive and trusting on your putts. Being decisive is most important. There is no room for negativity.
12. Think about the process of playing good enjoyable golf, not the results!
13. Don’t look at your score or projected scores mid-round. Stay in the present. Focus on ‘one shot at a time’.
14. Have you ever hit a cracking front nine just for it to implode on the back? Lesson: don’t play defensive. Keep courageous. After all, a hot streak of holes is simply a glimpse of your full potential.
15. You can’t always hit perfect shots. We are human, it is impossible, so accept it. Learn to win ugly.
(Believe in Yourself)
In summary, go out to enjoy the round. Remember you are in a place that you enjoy, somewhere that is better than being at work! Accept the rough with the smooth, we are only human. Don’t get distracted, think one shot at a time and ignore those irritating emails from work. It’s all about the golf. It’s only about the golf. Why else are you there?
Now go shoot a round of golf that you’ll dream about the night after!
Finally – how did it work for me? Well, the round was great – but it could have been even better (it always can be right?), being just one shot off my personal best. Although I hit only three fairways all day, Seve-esque, I was still able to score well with solid irons, making two birdies and five pars. Crucially there were no penalties on the scorecard!
And, a different mindset. I walked the course looking up (keeping your chin up is proven in psychology to improve your mood – it is really difficult to think negatively when you look upwards. Just try it now). So, I took in all the sky, clouds, trees and birds between shots. I rarely had a negative thought. When one tried to creep in to my mind I was quick to think something else positive.
It worked for me. I bet this mindset change will work for you.
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