The Mental Game Paradox
How important is the mental game to your success as a golfer? If I asked you to rate your answer on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being “very important”, what number would you pick? Over the years, I have asked many golfers that very question, and thanks to a recent survey of Junior Golf Hub members, I was able to increase the sample size even more. Here’s what Hub members reported:
Of the Hub members that responded (n=149), 58% rated the mental game as a 10, or “very important” to their success. Overall, the average rating was 9.14. These results are very consistent with what I have found in the past; golfers truly value the mental game and greatly attribute it to their success. Now here’s the paradox.
It’s clear that when you ask golfers how important the mental game is, they say it’s important. One would then assume that since they value the mental game so highly that golfers would regularly practice the mental game. However, you might be surprised by what they say when you ask them. And that’s what we did!
As you can see in the above chart, when we ask the same Hub members how often they practiced the mental game, only 5.5% of those surveyed reported they “always” practice the mental game while 17.5% reported that they “never” practice it. Playing with the data a bit more, if you combine the “never”, “rarely” and “sometimes” groups, you get 78% of respondents who don’t seem to prioritize something they deem highly important to their success as players.
Why is it we see tremendous value in the mental game yet rarely ever practice the very thing that we know will make a significant difference both in our performance on the golf course and in our overall enjoyment of the game? Are we all golfers closet masochists who found a wonderfully unique and effective way to suffer? Although there are many golfers who might agree with that statement, myself being one of them, I think there are a few more rational reasons why the mental game is neglected. However, before I share them with you, I’d love to hear why you think this paradox exists. If you’re interested in contributing your thoughts as to why this paradox exists in golf, please take this Mental Game Paradox survey and let me know what you think. We are sharing the same survey with Hub members so stay tuned for the results!
If you watched Hideki earn his first Green Jacket last week at Augusta National you couldn’t help but notice the flowing green fairways throughout the property. Rarely will an athlete competing in the Masters find a level lie on that golf course! Golf is unique in that your ball will never find itself in the same lie twice. Ever. Whether in the middle of the fairway, in the rough, in the bunker, or around the green a golfer has to adapt to the lie in front of them and make the most of that opportunity. Each lie requires a certain adjustment to be made to the club face and the club path to execute the appropriate shot for each situation. With that said, Hideki demonstrated mastery in maintaining dynamic posture when faced with challenging lies all throughout the tournament. The ability to do this on the biggest stage, with the most pressure he’s faced in his career was most certainly set up by the work he put in prior to arriving on the grounds.
Two muscle groups that we focus on here at GPC that are critical to maintaining posture once the club is taken away are the lats and hamstrings. These two large muscle groups will dictate how efficient you will be with your golf mechanics. If your lats are tight you will have difficulty maintaining proper width in your takeaway and may be predisposed to “standing up” in your backswing resulting in a flat shoulder plane as you try to rotate. This leads to compensations with the club path and club face as a result. When a golfer’s hamstrings are tight the hips will have a tendency to go into extension too early, negatively affecting the athlete’s ability to transition and rotate their hips properly through impact. In addition to proper lat and hamstring flexibility, building and maintaining a strong core (glutes, abdominals, obliques, erector muscles on the back of the body, etc.) is critical to being able to control your motion without losing your balance if the ball is above or below your feet. Being able to “feel the ground” and engage this musculature will ensure your dynamic posture remain consistent, giving you the best opportunity for your ball striking to do the same.
A great exercise to build dynamic stability are FMT Backswing Pulls. Maintaining posture as you pull the band into your backswing will go a long way to helping you rely on the “big” muscles of your trunk when it is time to rotate and take on those uneven lies with confidence. Don’t let these shots cost you higher scores, start working on improving physically to support your efforts on the course! If you’re looking for a few more exercises to work on other areas of your game, check out this recent article I was able to contribute to in the Wall Street Journal!
FMT Backswing Pull – Begin in golf posture with one end of the FMT placed under your lead foot. The other end should be held in your hands as a golf club would be. Begin to rotate into a half-backswing. Keep pressure on the instep of your lead foot (the one with the band under it). As you rotate back, be sure your arms stay in front of your chest. If the band hits your trail knee as you rotate, your arms are getting too far behind you.Read More
The entire country of Japan is celebrating 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama this year. A country with the second most golf courses in the world behind the United States has a long standing passion for the game and has been awaiting a major champion for decades. Hideki delivered last week with a stellar performance on Saturday that propelled him to a four shot lead going into the last round. So, how did Hideki do it?
First of all, Hideki is considered by many to be the best iron player in the world. His strokes gained approach to the green stats for the last five years have him ranked no lower than 6th place in any of those years. That means he is consistently proficient in his iron play year after year. With the slope of the green complexes at Augusta National GC iron play can really separate someone from the rest of the field and Hideki did just that.
What many of you may know about Hideki is that he has that notable pause at the top his swing. This is very uncommon as most tour players have a smoother, gradual, transition. I am sure you also realize that many golfers struggle with being quick in the transition. The ability to consistently pause at the top under pressure and then accelerate at those speeds requires tremendous patience and discipline. Hideki has demonstrated this patience and discipline since playing in the Masters as an amateur in 2011.
One drill that can be very helpful when working on swing improvements is the stop at the top drill. Hideki’s swing is a modified version of this and he has shown how well that can work even on the golf course.
Hideki Matsuyama WITB
Some people got a chance to see Srixon for the first time this past weekend while Hideki Matsuyama wore his pastel bright colors and marched around Augusta with his Hideki strut. Srixon is not new to golf but may be to you. Srixon Tour Staff have won hundreds of times around the world, and before Hideki won the Masters on Sunday, you may know the reigning Open Champion Shane Lowry. He is also A Srixon Staffer. A few other names of note are J.B Holmes, Keegan Bradley and Graeme McDowell that trust the equipment. Besides the irons and the driver, Hideki also gamed a SIM 2 3 wood from TaylorMade and a SIM hybrid. He used Cleveland wedges and has a lot of lead tape throughout the bag. Lead tape will change the swingweight for his clubs, and something he experiments with quite often. Hideki can also be seen on a weekly basis with a collection of sometimes six or more Tour Only Circle T Scotty Cameron Putters. He has been known to test a lot in practice, but games the Newport 2 GSS.
If you are interested, The Golf Performance Center has a full line of Srixon clubs to test, including the driver Hideki won the Masters with!Read More
A New Masters Champion
If you were lucky enough to spend last weekend watching the 2021 Masters Tournament, an event like no other, you would have been treated to an exciting back nine on Sunday. Schauffele making a run until an ill-fated 8 iron came up short on the 16th, derailing him, the fresh faced Will Zalatoris, unknown rookie at the Masters playing lights out and surprising everyone but himself finishing runner-up to the eventual champion, Hideki Matsuyama. Matsuyama played solid throughout the event, but I would say the final round was a clutch performance. Green jacket at stake and an entire country holding it’s breathe until the end, what a way to keep focused on the moment and making it happen. No doubt there were nerves, as Hideki said in post round interview, “I wasn’t nervous until Saturday night with a big lead going into Sunday’s final round.” Can you imagine trying to sleep!
So, what can we learn from Hideki about desire? Firstly, his desire to win was clear. Despite the enormous pressure he felt throughout Sunday, he was able to stick with his routine. He never seemed to be bothered by an errant shot or two and hit most of his shots with clarity. He truly embraced the moment as he had seen himself winning major championships since he was a young boy. The journey to this victory had challenges, such as blistering his shot on 15 into the water and making bogey on 16. With the help of Hideki’s caddie, he remained calm in those moments.
With Hideki’s win, the world of golf just got bigger. As a Japanese player, this will no doubt bring golf to a new level of interest around the globe. Golf has been played in Japan for centuries but now having a Major Champion, this may give more hope that more player’s will be willing to put in the work to accomplish this feat. Congratulations to Hideki Matsuyama, enjoy your hard work!
Enjoy and embrace your golf journey, work industriously, believe in yourself and you too may find yourself sleepless on a Saturday night into Sunday morning before your Major championship!
Enjoy Your Journey!Read More
Does Being a Better Athlete Help My
Does being a better athlete help my golf swing?
This is a question that up until recently would have never been asked. There is a common misconception that golf is not an athletic endeavor and does not take much to play golf well.
The answer to the question is YES. If you want to be a better golfer, you need to be a better athlete. It is also true that at one point, being a golfer meant you were solely a golfer. Now, if you are a golfer, you are considered an athlete. Thanks to Jack, Gary, Hale, Craig, Greg, Tiger, Rory, Jordan, Dustin, Annika, Lexi, and so many of the best players in the world that are phenomenal examples of good athletes who also play golf.
Playing golf has been researched deeper and has resulted in a much better understanding of what takes place throughout the body and mind during each swing and each round played. One of the biggest things we have learned is that the golf swing is an explosive movement, every part of your body is being asked to work at roughly 80% of its maximal capacity! If you expand that to practice, “practice swings” in pre-shot routine and rounds played, golfers are exposing themselves to a lot of coordinated stress.
So what does this have to do with being a good athlete?
Hitting the golf ball well is dependent on how well an athlete can in move in multiple planes during the milli-seconds it takes to swing a club. A non-athlete with little physical literacy will have a difficult time producing coordinated movements at a higher rate of speed consistent enough to produce superior results. An athlete that has been exposed to multiple sports will have a much better chance to use his/her physical literacy to help produce coordinated movements with the best speeds by being more efficient. So the next time you question yourself on why you are struggling to get back to impact better or producing higher clubhead speed to hit the ball further, the better question would be, when was the last time I spent time working on improving my throwing, kicking or basketball shots?
In conclusion, it is important to be an athlete first. This is why we stress the importance of physical literacy and efficiency (neural network, how the brain connects to the muscles to move) before the golf swing mechanics, function dictates form! We encourage young players to play multiple sports, not early specialization, which enhances their ability to develop good multi-segmental functionality. We encourage mature golfers to work hard to improve physical literacy that has been effected by years of wear and tear, old injuries, and their current work environment. An embedded benefit of having better movement literacy is having a better mental capacity. The benefits to moving better enhances your ability to make better decisions, on the course and in the classroom or office!
Enjoy Your Journey!
The Most Used Club in the Bag
Why does the practice putting green on the PGA Tour look like a putter demo day?
The players are certainly not thinking of changing their equipment leading up to a big tournament, right? Wrong! The reason those equipment companies set up at PGA Tour events is because a lot of times players will try out new equipment, just days before big tournaments, putters especially. Putters are one of the few clubs that can vary drastically in design. From different shapes, weights, sight lines, configurations, grips and face inserts; putters are most certainly an outlier in the golf club world. The reason putters come in so many different shapes and sizes is because the way the putter looks can drastically change the way you aim it and the different weights and where the weight is located on the putter can have a large impact on your ability to control your distance. In addition, putter technology has been pushing the envelope in regards to the rules of golf with things like variable groove depth, adjustable lengths and multi material custom shafts.
Everybody loves a good demo day on the range and it is fun going down the line seeing which driver goes the furthest, but you really should be trying some of the latest and greatest putters to see if any of them improve your ability to aim the putter and give you better touch on the greens. After all, the putter is the most used club in the bag!Read More