Those of us who are dealing with a world where it’s temporarily impossible to play golf or even hit balls at the range have two paths ahead: shrug your shoulders and forget about golf for weeks or months, or make lemonade from these lemons.
I’m reminded of a story that I swear I heard Jerry Rice once tell, but I can’t find proof of it anywhere. I KNOW I’m not imagining it. Anyway, it was back in the 1990s when Cris Carter had set his sights on knocking Jerry from his Best NFL Receiver throne. As the story goes, Jerry heard about how in the offseason, Cris would get up at 6 am to work out every day. Jerry had his own routine that started at 7 am, but it started to bother him when he realized that with Cris being in the Central time zone and Jerry in the West, Cris would have already been working out for three hours before Jerry even started his. It bothered Jerry so much that he started getting up at 3:30 am so he could start his workouts before 4 am (6 am Central time), and be confident that he wasn’t losing ground to Cris while sleeping. He turned the situation into a mental advantage for himself.
My point is not that we all should be as insane as Jerry Rice was, but these strange times don’t have to be an excuse for you to let your game wither away. When you get back on the course, are you going to join your golf buddies in trying to one-up each other with stories about how long it’s been since you picked up a club, or are you going to turn this situation into an opportunity to improve while your buddies sit on the couch?
Get Your Head Right
We all know that golf is an ongoing mental battle within each of us, but how much effort do you put in to improve that aspect of your game? Here are a couple of books that I can recommend (full disclosure: I’m still a headcase, but I’d like to think it would have been worse without these):
- The Inner Game of Golf: an oldie, but a goodie. The author (Timothy Gallwey) has written several books about different sports with the same general theme: there are two internal voices or “selves” we deal with – a self that is trying to accomplish an action and a self that is constantly criticizing the performance of the first self. He shows you how to quiet the critical self so the body can execute the action that it already knows how to perform.
- Golf is Not a Game of Perfect: also a classic. Bob Rotella has written several books about golf psychology, but this is what got him started. It teaches you to manage expectations and stay in the present.
Fix Your Putting
Way back when professional golf tournaments were being held, broadcasts would show stats about how well the winner had putted that week. Average golfers like me look at performances like 26 putts per round and can’t fathom putting that well. According to an article by Jorge Parada, golfers with handicaps from 10 to 19 average 1.9 putts per hole reached in regulation. That equates to 34 putts per round, which feels a little low to me (I would think 3-putts would outweigh 1-putts). On average, putting makes up 41% of an amateur’s scores, so you can really impact your scores by spending your time practicing.
Getting an indoor putting mat is the first step, and there are lots of them out there. There are two putting aids that I’ve used and would strongly recommend:
- Eyeline Putting Mirror: as the name suggests, this is a mirror that you place on the ground and it allows you to make sure your eyes are directly over the ball and don’t move during the stroke. It also has holes to place tees so you can create a “gate” to make sure you’re striking the ball in the center of the putterface.
- Laser Putt: there are several laser putter attachments out there, and I haven’t tried them all, but this one is great. It really helps you understand where you’re aiming, but it also allows you to see the path of your stroke throughout the motion. It’s not easy to see outdoors on sunny days, but you can’t go outdoors now anyway, remember?
Get More Flexible
A few weeks ago, I instantly picked up 5 mph of swing speed on my driver when I realized that I had fallen into the habit of restricting my hip and shoulder turn at the top of my swing. Making a conscious effort to coil more at the top has made my swing longer and gives me more time to generate clubhead speed before impact. Here are a couple of great videos that focus on developing a more full turn (and release).
- Athletic Motion Golf: These guys have a bunch of great videos, some of which use data from Gears, which is a motion capture system with tons of data. Work on the drills they recommend and you’ll definitely be hitting it further.
- Top Speed Golf: This video takes a little while to get going, but eventually does a good job of talking about the difference between hip turn and weight shift. You can practice these moves in a mirror without a golf club to get the feeling of proper rotation.
At the age of 40, Jerry Rice started all 16 games, was 9th in the NFL in receptions, and 13th in receiving yards. What’s your excuse?