In 1988 as a club professional and part time playing professional I was leading the prestigious Australian Masters by two shots after sixty nine holes. The field for this event at the time included six of the world’s top ten players, headed by Norman, Langer and Faldo. Three pars would change my golfing future and give me the chance to fulfil my golfing dreams.
So there I was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime whilst standing on the tee of the 70th hole at Huntingdale Golf Club in Melbourne. But little did I know at the time that my future career would change in the next 30 minutes, but not as I had anticipated. My game fell apart. I finished double bogey, double bogey and par. Seventh place was all I could manage.
I was sitting in the locker room afterwards feeling sorry for myself when Jack Newton (2nd in 2 majors and TV commentator) came up to me and said that “There are not many people in the world with enough talent to get into a position to choke as badly as you just did. So I suggest you don’t waste the lesson and learn from it”. That comment in just about any country is called a backhanded compliment.
I was determined to learn from my disastrous finish and create a new strategy that would better prepare me and my students to play their best golf under competition pressure.
Pressure had changed the way I played, and sadly in my case for the worse. I realised that this was a general problem that most golfers face. Back in 1988 as a coach and a player, I was working with many promising players and wanted to solve the problem for all of my students, not just me.
It was clear at the time that my current practise and teaching methods were not adequately preparing me or my students for the pressure of competition. I have since dedicated my coaching to developing better training and practice methods aimed specifically at conditioning golfers to play to their ability under competition pressure.
Competition pressure can be anything from a golfer trying to score in their first ever round of golf, to breaking 100, to having a chance like me to win the Australian Masters.
Most golfers in the world would love to take their practice game on to the course, but for some reason this very rarely happens. As a result I have identified ten problems that my training methods now target to taking your practice game to the course and playing well under competition pressure.
1. No assessment: Most golfers have little idea of their true strengths and weaknesses.
2. Lack of a target: Most golfers only have a vague idea of their target, if any, when practising.
3. Favourite club and shots: Most golfers spend the bulk of their practice time with their favourite club, practising favourite shots.
4. Not exposing your weaknesses. Golfers avoid putting their ability on the line and putting their game to the test when practising.
5. Wrong shots: Most golfers practise the long game almost exclusively. They appreciate the value of the short game but don’t find it enjoyable to practise.
6. Too technically orientated: Most golfers seem nearly always to be working on their technique and rarely practise playing the game.
7. Wrong routines: The hitting routine used for practise is usually quite different to that used for playing.
8. Lack of concentration: The mind set and attention used in practise is different to that needed for play.
9. Emotion: Golfers put more emotion in to their bad shots than good shots when practising. Because it is easier to remember the bad shots, the result is that a negative self-belief develops.
10. No strategy for golf improvement: Golfers are mostly in a reactive cycle, always trying not to repeat the last bad shot or swing. Instead, try identifying an area of your game that needs improvement, set a strategy to achieve that goal, and work at that process to a satisfactory result.
My overall philosophy is one of a holistic approach, it includes the technical, physical, mental and strategic training factors that all contribute to our overall ability to play the game.