The new season is just around the corner and with it anticipation, expectations and goals. This year we all want to get the best out of our game and test our potential. That raises the question of the right strategy. How do we get from A to B, or how do we take our game to the next level? As longstanding tournament players, we have experienced time and again that it’s not that easy. Progress is almost impossible without a watertight strategy, but it’s easier to implement than we thought. Freddy had the chance to attend a seminar a few weeks ago from John Dunigan, coach of PGA Tour pro Sean O’Hair, which focused on strategy and mental attitude.
Dunigan started his presentation with the following question to us: “On the golf course, do you play the fireman running from one source of fire to another or do you trust your training process? This is a good question that we think every golfer should ask himself, because it is so easy to get away from the basics.
We play a round of golf, identify our shots with the long irons as insufficient and arrange the next coaching session. If the long irons suddenly sit down in the next round and the putter doesn’t want to do as we do, it’s easy to go back to the coach.
The golf swing involves more than 160 muscles and it goes without saying that not everything always goes according to plan. It is important that we don’t let ourselves be unsettled by snapshots, but look at the big picture. Are the shots with long irons a rarity or do they cause us regular difficulties? The latter would be a reason to visit the trainer and incorporate the long irons into your training regularly. However, if long iron shots are a rarity, we are better advised to focus on the aspects of our game that have the most impact on our play. It is up to us to find out which ones are. AGAPS round analyses or the online service of mygolf offer good possibilities to observe and analyse your own game in the long run. If you don’t believe in round analyses and their evaluation, you should still ask yourself the following question: “What’s your golf shoe pinching?
What’s on your mind?
Is there an area of your golf game that you really want to improve, that causes self-doubt and that regularly costs you shots? If you regularly move short putts, you should perhaps spend half as much time on the driving range and twice as much time on the putting green. Identifying the weakest link in the chain is half the battle, as it often becomes clear quickly whether it is due to repetition, understanding the technique or implementation under pressure conditions, for example. This makes it much easier for us to initiate the necessary corrections. If you know where you are letting the most blows lie and have identified your potential, you don’t run the risk of running from one source of fire to the next, but can work on the big picture.
What’s special about coaches like John Dunigan is their closeness to what’s happening on the tour and the compelling stories that come out of it. According to Dunigan, even pros are often frustrated and anything but perfect: “Most people estimate that they only manage 1-3 perfect laps during a season. In over 95% of the cases, professionals have to fight, but that’s where the difference between good and very good lies. Dunigan asked us to think of a boxer during the presentation and then explained why:
“A (good) fighter knows that he gets hit in the ring and he takes a hit. If he is unlucky, he leaves the arena after a fight on crutches, but he still assumes that he will win. A boxer hits back when he is hit and what do we golfers do? We get annoyed when we get hit, or our ball does not do what we want it to do.
I am a big fan of practical training, which simulates the game on the course. I was on the course the other day with a group of students. We simulated failed tees, where I placed my students’ balls.
Anyone can play from the fairway, so I chose a few nice spots under trees, in the bunker or in the rough and gave my students the task to save the par on 6 out of 9 holes despite the bad starting position.
The kids fought like hell and many of them managed the task. After the round, I asked them about the fact that the exercise basically only simulated 9 failed tees.
During the exercise you fought like hell, but when you actually hit the ball 9 times from the tee into the pampas, you let your head hang.
“I don’t want golfers to lower their expectations, but if you accept failed shots, take on the challenge and fight, you can’t avoid success in the long run.”
Dunigan has thus touched on a number of things that we so absolutely support. Practical and application training is in our opinion very valuable, especially immediately before or during the season. As soon as we know where the shoe pinches, we can start to train this aspect of our game so that it will fit under pressure – provided we are already familiar with the technical execution. This means the following:
The probability that we play 3 balls in a row on the same target on the golf course is modestly low. On the course we only have one chance, so it makes sense to train in the same way. Good training involves the mind and stimulates us to think, because that’s what we do on the course. Change your target or the club, or the type of shot, and you will find that your game on the course gradually improves.
Challenges like the ones Dunigan incorporates into his training with his students are enormously helpful – also from a psychological point of view. If you force yourself to play under trees from time to time, you learn to fight. Dunigan has a great abbreviation for the English word “win”: What’s important now? (What’s important now?). Winners are focused on the essentials. Keep in mind that pros can only make 1-3 hundred percent satisfactory rounds. If you want to reach your potential, you should concentrate on the things you can control and which are important at the moment.
That is important
- Identify where the shoe pinches and think about how to manage your training time so that the weakest club in the bag gets enough attention
- Train how golf is played on the course: One goal, one chance
- Challenge yourself in training. Good laps feel as sudden as a walk in the park
- Internalize the W.I.N. formula