Pre-shot routines and why they are so important

Since my last email a lot has happened … Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship with an amazing performance against all odds, Jon Rahm destroyed everyone for 3 rounds at The Memorial and tested positive for COVID and had to withdraw and even I played in my first tournament of the year.

Starting with the PGA Championship, I noticed something very interesting in Phil Mickelson’s routine during the final round. Something that I believe can help everyone, it’s called … breathing. He was very noticeable taking at least 2 deep breathes during his routine and then a further deep breath after he had hit a shot. Why did he start doing this in the final round? Because despite his career success he was nervous, stressed, probably anxious and needed a release valve to slow his thoughts down and control himself.

Deep breathing is fantastic for controlling your heart rate, allowing you to think mindfully, make better decisions and improve your focus. It also helps your body to move smoothly and not tense up. All very useful when you make some bad swings or mistakes and you can feel yourself rushing through the motions rather than stepping back and slowing yourself down. We’ve all been there!

I decided to try and take a leaf out of Mickelson’s book when I played in my first tournament of the year a couple of weeks ago. I turned up quite early for my tee off time and felt relaxed, then went out to hit 25 warm up balls and my swing felt TERRIBLE!

I felt tight, uncomfortable, out of rhythm, really struggling to focus on the right swing cues and then my mind started to rush and worry that under the pressure of having a scorecard in hand it would be a complete nightmare. My plan B then was to add in some deep breathes behind the ball and slow down to give myself a chance and lower my expectations of myself to very low levels.

I then started birdie, birdie, birdie, par, par, birdie. I still didn’t feel good about my swing to be honest but I had managed to control my mind, decisions and anxiety and put together a really nice run. Now I was feeling more comfortable and relaxed and that’s when I started making mistakes. I became complacent in my routine and actually stopped my deep breathing temporarily. Suddenly I found myself making silly errors and hitting some really poor shots. It steadied again and my score was ok in the end but definitely a lesson learnt for me.

I’m not saying that deep breathing will help everyone, but I am saying that your unique routine should be consistent and repeatable under any circumstance and it may help in pressurised situations. It could be the dreaded first tee shot or when you start to rack up some bad holes in a row. You need to have something that you can go to to steady the ship and think clearly and mindfully. You also need to make sure that you practice your routine whether you are on the range, chipping area or golf course.

Maybe give it a try on your next round and let me know how you get on!

Lee Wilson; June 2021

What is the best way to practice your golf?

This week I want to discuss the topic of practice and how to get the most out of it. Most people do practice, whether it be on the driving range one or two evenings a week or a few hours on the chipping and putting green. However, from what I see I wonder how much these golfers are actually gaining from their visit sometimes.

The most common situation I see is someone hitting 50 balls on the range, starting with a 7 iron and then grabbing the driver to smash a few and then heading home. If what you are looking for is a bit of stress relief then this probably isn’t bad but it won’t help your game much. I’d like to introduce the 2 different practice types to you and some games that you can try to make your practice more fun!

Block Practice

Block practice is when you pick the same target and the same club and hit repetitively i.e. 50 balls with a 7 iron to the same place. This is what most people do when they go to ‘practice’. Block practice works well when you are learning a new technical move in your swing and you are just looking to build the reps with it. After a lesson this is an ideal way to go about it at first as you can start to get the right feels and refine the movement with no particular target or consequence.

Variable Practice

Variable practice is a style where you start to practice like you would play. It involves adding in consequences for poor shots, multiple targets, lies and variations of shots with specific outcomes in mind. For example: same target with 3 different clubs. Then change target and do the same again.

Which style works best?

For me, if you want to lower your scores and improve your skill level overall you should use more variable practice. On the golf course, you’ll never get 2 shots the same so why not prepare for this with your practice routine?!

If you have a new swing feel after a lesson then block practice initially is a good way to start but you have to apply targets, and variety at some point to really test whether you have control over the new move.

Tips and games to try

If you are someone who heads to the range to get 50 balls then why not break the 50 into 10 x 5 shot blocks of the following:

Pitch shot, 9i, 7i, 5i, 3w, Driver, Hybrid, 6i, 8i, PW.

You can use nearly every club in your bag and change targets as you do it.

Around the chipping green try my favourite game: Par 18

Pick 9 different locations around the green. You have to finish out to the hole each time and add up your score. Simple!

18 is a perfect score of chip and putting each time. Set yourself a target and see how you get on. You can then make it more difficult or easier with different lies, hole locations etc.

The best practice games though are ones you make up yourself. You can be completely specific to the needs of your game and use the practice facilities at your club in the best way. Just make sure that you have consequences for a poor shot or miss, maybe by having to start again or try it a different way. Be creative!

Lee Wilson; May 2021

Rory Returns To The Winning Circle: How Did He Do It And What Can We Learn?

I was absolutely delighted to see Rory get his first win for a couple of years over the weekend. Rory’s golf is talked about a lot – his strengths and his weaknesses – which I guess is a product of his success when he was younger and hopefully we get to see a second ‘spurt’ of wins and majors in his career. He’s certainly good enough!

Let’s take a look at some of his stats from the week just gone:

You can see here that all parts of his game were in really good shape across the tournament. He hit some wonderful pitches and bunker shots towards the end of the event but this was actually his most ‘average’ part of his game. His driving was good as always and his approach was fantastic but his putting was the highlight.

His putting is so often criticised but this was the key. In simple terms he hit the ball well enough to compete and putted well enough to win!

So what made his putting so good…..

Isn’t this just extraordinary. Not one putt inside of 6 feet missed! That is how you keep bogies off your card.

Here are some repeated tips to help you improve your putting:

1) Practice from 25 feet+
2) Practice from inside of 6 feet

If your long putting is better you will reduce the amount of 3 putts and from inside of 6 feet you have a better than 50% (ish) chance of making it.

Try this simple tip and see how you get on.

 

Lee Wilson; May 2021

What should you expect from your short game?

Today’s blog post is focused on your expectations and abilities around the green, specifically from 50 yards and in. I have played with higher handicapped golfers who genuinely expect to hit it inside 10 feet every time from inside 100 yards which just isn’t the reality of golf.

Here is an image of a tour players practice results from 50 yards…

You’ll see that there are a number of fantastic shots close to the hole but also at least 20-30% are outside of 20-25 feet. This is completely normal.

The most eye opening thing I have seen was when I went to watch the BMW Championship at Wentworth about 10 years ago and saw at least 6 completely chunked chips around the green. They are not shots that I expected to see but we all do them!

So for amateur golfers, what should you expect?

These stats above from Shot Scope/ Golf Monthly show the up and down expectation for different handicap ranges from different yardages. Notice the huge drop off when the distance off the green increases by 10-20 yards extra.

What I draw from this is regardless of your handicap range if you miss a green by 20 yards don’t expect to get up and down. For higher handicap ranges just hitting the green is often good enough. I would also stress that your ability to hit longer shots closer to the green is so important as the drop off in percentage is quite stark.

My tips for improving your up and down percentages are:

1) Know your iron distances to get closer to the hole
2) Experiment with different clubs around the green in practice
3) Make sure you do practice!
4) Remember that sometimes just hitting the green is great

Lee Wilson, May 2021

How important is power hitting in golf?

Today’s blog post is focused on power hitting and it’s importance in golf. With respects to the worldwide tours it is definitely becoming a talking point again thanks to Bryson but it does have groundings in amateur golf too.

Here is a simple chart of driving distances compared to handicap according to Shot Scope users – courtesy of Golf Monthly.

How does your distance compare to these numbers …. Are you a relatively long hitter struggling to score, right on the average distance or just not hitting it afr enough to improve?

As the weather is now getting warmer you’ll undoubtedly see an increase in your distance and the biggest advantage you’ll get from it will be having a shorter club into the green. Regardless of whether you are on the fairway or rough you are statistically more likely to shoot better scores from there.

Knowing this, the question I suppose is how do we increase distance without completely sacrificing your accuracy.

From my experience, most distance related issues come down to swing mechanics. Where is your club face pointing during the golf swing? How does this affect your impact and club shaft position? How does that then affect the way you move your body (because it does!)? Are you then able to physically move your body the way you need to?

The result of this little sequence is that golfers who struggle tend to be compensating just to hit the ball and can’t actually impart speed the way they would like. We all know someone who hits it softly to keep it in play because they are worried about losing too many balls!

At the top end of the game where swing motions are more functional then training programs can help but at club level it is really a case of getting the club to work properly first.

If you are not sure about how your swing works, this is the first place to start getting that drive distance up.

If you have any question or thoughts on this piece feel free to get in touch.

 

Lee Wilson; April 2021

What is ‘consistency’ in golf and how important is it?

This week on the Monday Club I wanted to discuss the most used word in golf (other than Fore!), which is consistency. I must hear it 50 times a day when I’m coaching and a consistent golf game seems to be the holy grail that we are all searching for. It got me thinking – what does it really mean?

To start, check out the 4 PGA Tour players below and the still image of their top of the swing position. All completely different I’m sure you’ll agree!

My thoughts on consistency start with a few questions:

What needs to be consistent? The outcome? or the process? or both? or neither?

Does golf require me to do the same every time?

Our aim in golf is to achieve a successful completion of the task presented without cost. That task changes shot to shot. Therefore, do we actually need to be more adaptive than consistent? 

There are certainly positions and movements I like to see in a swing to make golf easier, and if you’ve had lessons with me you’ll probably know a couple of them, but no one specific movement will on its own lead to disaster (see the flat swing of Rickie Fowler or the steep cupped position of Matt Wolff). Instead it’s about how we then move and adapt the positions to get the clubhead to impact.

I suppose the debate is: Is the chase the consistency actually unattainable to a certain degree? I hear so many players who are disappointed with shots that really aren’t bad or are unhappy with their swings that happen to be quite functional. When coaching players my biggest consideration is not the look of a swing but how we can best achieve movements to make it more functional to improve your scores.

What we will see when we watch the Masters this coming week, for example, are a group of adaptive movers who know how to get from their unique swing positions to hit the ball closest to the hole with the most skill. Look no further than 2 time champion Bubba Watson for the ability to adapt movements to create results.

In summary, what I think is important is that we find the best way to score lower. There may be unique positions that you deal with but I’m certain that they can either be adapted or counteracted to help you hit the shot you need to hit. There may be better swing positions but there are no perfect positions. Will any human ever hit 14 drives or make 14 driver swings in a round of golf exactly the same with the identical curve, distance, carry and roll – NO. Be careful with what you expect yourself to do and don’t get too down if you’re not hitting the ball great – I’m certain a slight adaptation here or there will get you right back on track.

I can proudly say that no 2 clients that I teach have exactly the same swing. There may be some similarities in drills and practices but I can assure you that your swing is just for you and you only!

If you have any question or thoughts on this piece feel free to get in touch.

 

Lee Wilson; April 2021

Food for thought on your return to golf … What should you be thinking about?

And we are off!

If you managed to get a tee time today then; a) Well done, and b) I’d love to hear how you played!

Layoff’s can have both positive and negative effects on your performance. Sometimes they offer an opportunity to reset and refocus on your key swing and game pointers. On the other hand they can create a situation where you overthink. This is less ideal but happens very easily and if you have had a bit of a YouTube binge on swing tips and now are sampling 5 new swing thoughts it is highly unlikely that it will result in a positive outcome unfortunately.

In my reading over the last few months, I came across an anecdotal piece from a specialist golf biomechanist who found that only 2 out of 1000 of his clients (elite level up to Ryder Cup players) displayed ‘ideal’ movement patterns. This means that even at the pinnacle of the game they are clearly going to have to work on different things as they can’t all get into the same flexibility ranges. You may have heard Rory McIlroy say that he was dragged into following Bryson DeChambeau’s power trends recently and it has created some problems for him. Remember this when you next consider what things to listen to or ignore.

No two swings or bodies are the same and this is the most important thing to remember!

My advice: Take yourself back to a thought/ swing feel that really worked for you in the past and just focus on that for now. The way that the body moves and ‘remembers’ means that breaking old patterns is hard and I would suspect that most of us will be battling these old habits when we go and play in the next few weeks. This is where coaching helps!

 

Lee Wilson; April 2021

How did DJ win the Masters?

Monday Club: The Masters Round-Up – How did DJ win?!

 

I hope you are all well and keeping busy in lockdown.

I also hope you got to see some of the golf over the weekend at The Masters Tournament. I personally found it quite strange viewing with no ‘patrons’ watching but the aerial drone views of the entire course, which haven’t been seen before, were amazing. It was nice to see much more of the course with cameras further away from the greens at ground level too.

On the course, dare I say, the last few holes this time were fairly boring to watch because of how dominant Dustin Johnson’s performance was. He made it look so easy and just kept hitting quality shots one after the next giving no one a chance. In fact as far as excitement goes, I would say Tiger’s 10 on the 12th was the highlight (and then he followed it with a -5 in 6 hole run!). A hugely well deserved triumph for DJ!

How did he make it look that easy though? … Here are the key stats:

Greens in Regulation: 83.33% (60/72 greens)
Fairways Hit: 78.57% (44/56 fairways)
Driving Distance: 306.6 yards

I couldn’t access his putting stats but I imagine he probably wasn’t right near the top of that stat based on how unbelievably good the above stats are. To put it simply he hit it a long way, kept it in play and hit some quality iron shots. I don’t think he had a penalty shot all week and can’t remember seeing a double bogey either. A winning combination right there!

All the talk pre-tournament was about Bryson DeChambeau and his huge hitting and strategy but he just didn’t play well and therefore didn’t keep the ball in play enough or hit enough greens, unlike DJ. I do think, however, that it could have worked. He made enough birdies and eagles to compete but just made way too many bogies and higher.

Interestingly, listening to Sky Sports coverage and particularly a certain commentator you would think that Bryson’s strategy was never going to work, never has worked, will destroy the game and he’ll be injured forever. It’s all not true, and after all he won the US Open not so long ago with the same game plan. I’d love Sky Sports to get an experienced, highly qualified Golf PT or a stats based guru like Mark Broadie on their golf shows to talk through what he’s doing because it makes a lot more sense than you may think although it may not work all the time.

His biggest mistake this week in my opinion was drawing too much attention to himself by saying it’s a Par 67. Every player has there own personal target score but they just keep to themselves and no one in the media needs to know. Once you say that though they’ll never leave you alone and they didn’t for him this week.

I can’t wait to see what happens at next Masters in 5 months time. It will certainly lay a bit differently with harder, spring ground conditions!

Lee Wilson ; November 2020

What causes you to lose distance off the tee?

As we found out a few weeks ago, temperature change has a small effect but not enough to notice really. The biggest issue now is that you have just lost almost all of your roll on your drives, therefore meaning the distance the ball carries is about as far as the ball travels in total.

For shorter hitters and lower ball flight players, you’ll see huge differences as in the summer your drive with 60 yards of roll now has 10 yards of roll. You’ve just lost 50 yards. The knock on of this of course is that the rest of the shots to the green will do the same and it can become a bit of a slog!

Also, the colder conditions mean that you’ll be wearing more clothes and body will be colder so getting up to temperature takes a bit longer. Make sure you have a warm up beforehand.

The second perspective is a technical one. A lot of people don’t strike their driver in the correct place on the club face to produce launch and maintain ball speed …Fact!

Here’s a really good image I have found to show the impact of an off centre hit with a driver….

Some important points from this are:

– If you strike the ball low on the face you will lose more distance. Not only that, but you’ll also launch the ball lower and it will have more backspin. That equals low carry and in wet conditions no roll. 
– A strike off the heel is generally a bit worse that a toe strike. This is because it produces more backspin and slice.
– The sweet spot isn’t perfectly in the middle on modern drivers. Due to the new weighting systems and centre of gravity positions on driver heads the sweet spot is actually marginally off the toe and slightly higher than the middle (red dot)

My tips if you struggle with launch:

1- Tee the ball a little higher. If this doesn’t work then you may have an attack angle issue (see next week’s Monday Club)

2- Buy some white athlete’s foot spray. Spray the face when you’re next on the range and see where you are hitting it. Then refer the strike pattern to the above image!



3- Make sure you have enough loft on your driver face. Adjustable drivers only marginally change the loft (not as much as it states generally) so it could be that your 9 degree trusty driver now no longer produces the carry you need.

Lee Wilson; October 2020