Monday, 17 December 2007

Short Game Golf Tip - Keith Williams

This is a short game tip from PGA Master Professional, Keith Williams. It has helped me get up and down more often and stop my old habit of flicking the ball into the air with my wrists. Try it and let me know what you think.

Henrik Stenson's Axe Drill Explained by Pete Cowen his coach. This drill is one you can do everyday at home and the background is explained on Pete's Golf Swing DVD - essentially it helps you correctly find the correct swing plane and angle of approach into the ball.

Mental Game - Swing Thoughts - This is an excellent tip and it has stopped me concentrating too much on swing mechanics (which I have been working on) and instead got me to focus correctly on the target for all my shots. Believe it or not I have found this really useful for my pitching and chipping as I have been really zeroing in on where to best land the ball to get it to release to the hole and this is helping me get up and down more often.

Switching On and Off your concentration - This is a really useful tip from Dr Karl Morris and it has helped me with my concentration during a round by allowing me to relax between shots and enjoy the round only expending vital mental energy when I really need to.

Does Singing or Humming a Tune Help Your Golf?

Songs/Tunes that I have sang or hummed during a round to help me improve my golf!

Yes I have tried it and yes it can work. Your playing partners may or may not approve, but it is worth a try and it is funny to see oter players’ reactions.
Warning - do not use Vanilla Ice’s track “Ice, Ice Baby” as my own experience tells me that it soon becomes “Slice, Slice baby” with the obvious disastrous results. I suppose for similar reasons anything by Dr.Hook should also be avoided!

The Beautiful South “Song for Whoever”

During a 4 ball better ball match on the annual boys golfing holiday in Spain one year, a playing partner happened to be humming this tune which I then picked up on. Next thing you know, I’m singing the chorus on the tee (out loud whilst swinging - much to the bemusement of my playing partners) and I start to hit the ball really nicely. My timing seemed to come together, I lost all the usual tension in my swing and I started to belt the ball long and straight. We won the match. I continued to do this for the rest of the holiday and actually played some decent golf; but unfortunately my playing partners did get a bid fed up with it after a while - perhaps if my singing had been a bit better then they wouldn’t have minded!

Give it a try! Start the backswing on “Jennifer” and hit the ball between “Philppa and Sue”

Jennifer, Alison, Philippa, Sue, Deborah, Annabel too

Jennifer, Alison, Philippa, Sue, Deborah, Annabel too

Full lyrics below:

I love you from the bottom, of my pencil case
I love you in the songs, I write and sing

Love you because, you put me in my rightful place
And I love the prs cheques, that you bring

Cheap, never cheap
I'll sing you songs till you're asleep
When you've gone upstairs I'll creep
And write it all down

Oh shirley, oh deborah, oh julie, oh jane
I wrote so many songs about you
I forget your name (I forget your name)
Jennifer, alison, phillipa, sue, deborah, annabel, too
Jennifer, alison, phillipa, sue, deborah, annabel, too
I forget your name

I love your from the bottom of my pencil case
I love the way you never ask me why
I love to write about each wrinkle on your face
And I love you till my fountain pen runs dry

Deep so deep, the number one I hope to reap
Depends upon the tears you weep, so cry, lovey cry, cry, cry, cry

Oh cathy, oh alison, oh phillipa, oh sue
You made me so much money, I wrote this song for you
Jennifer, alison, phillipa, sue, deborah, annabel, too
I wrote this song for you

So let me talk about mary, a sad story
Turned her grief into glory
Late at night, by the typewriter light,
She ripped his ribbon to shreds

The other song I still often humm (to myself!) during a round is “Ain't Got No - I Got Life” by Nina Simone vs. Groovefinder.

Whilst it’s quite a difficult tune to sing (well for me at any rate) I find it’s a great tune to humm and it really helps me mentally take my head out of my game. I stop worrying about swing mechanics and just concentrate on enjoying the game, thinking about what a good shot from my current position would be and walking the course taking in the scenery and chatting to my friends.

When I take this approach I tend to play much better golf than when I really try and concentrate for 4 hours (which is impossible, unless you happen to be the world memory champion!). Next time you are playing a competition round try it. Pick a tune and try and humm it to yourself between shots as you walk up the fairway, from green to tee and so forth. It also helps you deal with the inevitable poor shots you will hit rather than the usual swearing, ranting and raving which only serves to get you more tense and worked up for your next shot.

For me it helps put the game into proper perspective; I’d like to play like Tiger Woods, but unfortunately mostly play like Victoria Woods. Humming a tune like this helps me see the wood from the trees (sorry for the awful pun); it’s only a game of golf, there are far more important things at stake in life or going on in the world. It helps me stay good humoured and in control, the keys for me to play good golf.

I’d love to hear from any other crazed golfers out there who have tried similar things to help them? Anyone aware of any professional golfers using simialr techniques?

Full lyrics below:

Ain't got no home, ain't got no shoes
Ain't got no money, ain't got no class
Ain't got no friends, ain't got no schoolin
Ain't got no worth, ain't got no job
Ain't got no mind

What have I got?
Why am I alive anyway?
Yeah, what have I got?
Nobody can take away

I got my hair, I got my head
I got my brains, I got my ears
I got my eyes, I got my nose
I got my mouth, I got my smile

* I got my tongue, I got my chin
I got my neck, I got my boobies
I got my heart, I got my soul
I got my back, I got my sex

Ain't got no father, ain't got no mother
Ain't got no children, ain't got no faith
Ain't got no earth, ain't got no water
Ain't got no ticket, ain't got no token
Ain't got no love

What have I got?
Why am I alive anyway?
Yeah, what have I got?
Nobody can take away

I got my hair, I got my head
I got my brains, I got my ears
I got my eyes, I got my nose
I got my mouth, I got my smile

* I got my tongue, I got my chin
I got my neck, I got my boobies
I got my heart, I got my soul
I got my back, I got my sex

** I got my arms, I got my hands
I got my fingers, Got my legs
I got my feet, I got my toes
I got my liver, Got my blood

I've got life, I've got my freedom
I've got a lot

Getting A Little Bit Better At Golf

My Progress So Far
I have improved from 24 handicap to 13 handicap in 18 months. I’ve broken 80 three times this year and had a hole in one! It’s not amazing I know, but it is a massive improvement and for most golfers it is a realistic and achievable goal to set yourself. I’ve played once a week (sometimes twice) and I’ve practiced in my kitchen or garden (not hitting balls) just practising swing positions and doing golf specific exercise drills with only the odd trip to the range (usually during the long summer evenings when you can also play a few holes after work).

Here follows a list of the top 10 things that have worked for me so far:

Swing model - simple swing exercises. I have used the simple 4 stage swing model from the Knightsbridge Golf School as the model for my swing and have re-built my swing from the ground up. It’s still not the finished article by any means, but there have been more than the occasional flash of brilliance this year ( ;-) ) and the bad shots aren’t as bad as they used to be! I have also had lessons from time to time as I happen to live in London. I could not recommend them highly enough.
Never, ever, ever think about the mechanics of your swing whilst playing - it is impossible to do this and to swing freely and well. It is also hard to do this (or not do this) when you are making changes to your swing. I have persevered and am getting slowly better at not thinkning about it during a round.
Only having one swing thought - The Target - This has really worked for me in all areas of my game. Especially in chipping and pitching where I now focus on where the ball has to land for it to roll out to the target.
Developing a consistent pre-shot routine during practice and play.
Pete Cowen’s Pyramid of Learning - An Advanced Swing Lesson - writing these articles for Golf International and producing a
Golf DVD with Pete improved by knowledge of the golf swing by a factor of 500%!
Pete Cowen’s Ripple Effect DVD - I now know how to play a bunker shot properly using my arms and body not my hands. This makes life so much easier.
Singing/Humming on the golf course - helps take my mind off all thing swing mechanics! (See my post on this topic).
Practising properly - working on all aspects of the game. That means Putting, Short Game (including bunkers), swing - in that order of priority and giving more than 70% of my time to the short game and putting. I had never realised that since 40%+ of your shots are putts during a round, a 5% to 10% improvement in your putting can shave several shots off your score.
Mental game - I’ve read all of Karl Morris’s
mental game lessons and read his book. I’ve also read Raymond Floyd’s excellent book called “The Elements of Scoring” plus Timothy Gallway’s “The Inner Game of Golf”. More than anything else, I refer to them time and time again.
Making notes. Writing a little diary of what I have been working on, what has worked, how I have played and so on. If I get more time then I may make more of these notes online.

That’s all for now. I’ll post some more
golf tips and free golf video content here from time to time, in the meantime do join me in my quest to help everyone play better golf by posting the top 10 things that have helped you improve.

Golf Practice

Golf Practice
All these years, I’d fallen into the trap of practising incorrectly as it turns out have most of my golfing buddies. My typical golf ‘regime’ was: A trip to the range once or maybe twice a month; tweak a few things based on something I could just about remember the gist of from the latest golf magazine, hit a few balls. In fact typically I’d hit so many balls in an attempt to find some form that eventually my hands and timing would become good enough to compensate for the obvious inadequacies in my game and I’d eventually hit some semi reasonable strikes aimlessly down the driving range. For every 100 balls my ratio was probably 80% driver/3 wood; 10% mid irons, 0% long irons, 10% wedges….and 0% putting and 0% bunker play. Let’s face it there’s only 1 bunker on our driving range (and this probably mirrors the paucity of facilities at most UK driving ranges). The trouble with this approach was that it bred inconsistency. Somedays I’d play OK and others I’d be all over the place - and yet there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it.

Pete Cowen calls it “Find it, Lose it!”. One day you think you have it the next day you don’t. But the truth is you never did. In chatting to these top coaches I soon realised that my ‘regime’ of trial and error golf was in fact stopping me getting better. So with their help we set about devising some instruction products that helped me set a programme of improvement that would lead to a lasting and marked improvement in my standard of play and enjoyment.

We have since produced a series of golf lessons, golf gifts and golf DVDs that are designed with this in mind. They are modular and are designed so that you can work on one thing at a time and implement it correctly (which is more than half the problem for most golfers). We have had some great results - here’s some golf product reviews and golf testimonials from real golfers. And here’s mine! I have improved from 24 handicap to 13 handicap in 18 months! I’m thrilled but know I can get to single figures with the right practice and help. I have posted what has worked for me on the next post. Would love to hear your thoughts on what has worked for you.

My Journey On The Quest So Far

Well 18 months ago I started on a journey, my quest to improve my game and anyone else who’ll listen! I’m planning to post more of what has worked for me and what hasn’t - 2007 has been a great golfing year for me. I’ve broke my personal best in March shooting 80. I then finally broke 80 for the first time in April shooting 79 and then broke it again shooting 78.

But my most memorable round so far has got to be the day (8th September) when I shot 80 at my home club Hampton Court palace. Having started with a double bogey, I then went par, birdie, bogey, bogey to be 3 over par by the time I’d reached the 6th tee. I then went birdie, birdie, hole in one, par, to finish the front nine at 1 under par!

OK the hole in one was lucky, it was the 8th hole, a par 3 playing about 160 yards that day and I although I hit my Mizuno MX23 7 iron nicely, I’ve got to admit that a lovely members bounce on the edge of the green took it nicely in the right direction and it rolled 20 feet or so up the green into the cup. But, the previous holes were birdie, birdie! I had been 4 under for 3 consecutive holes (not sure that’s ever going to happen again in my lifetime!) and I’d had 3 birdies and an eagle on the front nine. If only I hadn’t started with a double bogey. If only. If only. These must be two of the most commonly used words in golf, specially in the club house after a round. I certainly used them a lot that day. For after sending an MMS of me by the flag with my playing partners to everyone in my phone on the 8th green I then somehow managed to hit a solid drive down the 9th and make par but then totally lost the plot losing balls on the 10th and 13th and shooting 45 in for an 80. The weird thing is I was still hitting the ball nicely on the way in, I just wasn’t “in the zone” anymore and I was making mental errors in my approach to the round, the hole and shot selection.

I was guilty of over celebrating, I was distracted and my game suffered. I’ve learned a lot from this experience and who knows next time (stay positive - you never know it could happen!) I have a front nine like this perhaps I’ll be able to maintain it for the back nine too.

I decided to start my quest to improve my game at the top of the game. I began with an investigation to find out who the best coaches in the UK were. Most of the instruction I had seen was from David Leadbetter or Butch Harmon or other US coaches (Dave Pelz, Harvey Penick, etc) but I could hardly persuade my long-suffering wife, although a keen golfer herself, that I needed to fly to the US once a week for a $1,000 dollar lesson. I had to start closer to home. Who and where was the current crop of great British golf coaching talent? Eventually by sniffing around I managed to link European Tour winners with their coaches and I finally got a nice list of international names covering all aspects of the game:

Pete Cowen, PGA Master Professional - Europe’s most successful golf coach - He has had more winners than any other coach and coaches over a dozen top players including Henrik Stenson (he has rebuilt his swing and got him to World No6), Colin Montgomerie, Thomas Bjorn, Simon Dyson, Charl Schwartzel, Oliver Wilson, John Bickerton. He’s also coached some of Europe’s greats including Darren Clarke, Ollie, Woosie, and Lee Westwood (got him to European No 1).

Harold Swash - Europe’s putting guru. He has worked with 8 of the 12 European Ryde Cup team in 2006 and runs putting schools in the UKand US. He is the UK’s foremost authority on putting and instructor to many of the world’s top professional and amateur golfers including Padraig Harrington, David Howell, Thomas Levet, Darren Clarke, Ian Woosnam, Constantino Rocca, Robert Jan Derksen and Nick Faldo to name just a few.

Denis Pugh, PGA Master Professional - Denis is probably best recognised these days as the golf analyst on Sky Sports Golf Night. A former tour player himself he has coached over 150 Tour Pros since 1988, his most notable success being his long time association with 8 time European Order of Merit winner and Ryder Cup start Colin Montgomerie.

Dr Karl Morris is one of Europe’s leading Sports Psychologists, delivering cutting edge methods of peak performance and goal achievement to a range of clients across sports and business. From the world of golf, he has worked with players such as Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley, Graeme McDowell, Alison Nicholas and Trish Johnson to name a few. He has written and starred in the Pocketshots™ editions on the mental side of the game.

Ramsay McMaster is a world leader in the field of Golf Physiotherapy. As director of the Melbourne Golf Injury Clinic he has given golf specific programs to over 5,000 golfers. A consultant to individual players on every Tour in the world (11 Tours) and a consultant Physiotherapist to US, British and Irish, Australian and New Zealand PGAs amongst others.

D.J.Wilkinson and Steve Gould are from London’s oldest, most famous and most successful golf school, the Knightsbridge Golf School. They have been teaching golfers of all abilities from beginners to tour superstars and celebrities for years. Yet they still offer very reasonably priced golf lessons to amateurs!

Keith Williams, PGA Master Professional - One of the most experienced coaches in Europe. Keith was National Coach and Director of Coaching for the English Golf Union for 9 years and was instrumental in writing the manual which is used for training all PGA professionals. As well as being a European Senior Tour player he has coached major winners and the PGA champion. He currently works full time on the European Tour and also teaches the Czech National golf squad.

I asked many of the
UK’s best coaches why golfers were not improving their games despite all the latest advances in technology; the answer almost to a man was, “People don’t practice, and if they do practice they don’t practice properly.” So with the help of some of the best coaches in Europe (if not the world) I set about working out how to practice properly - see Golf Practice post.

Please Join My Golf Quest

Please join me in my quest, my crusade to get everyone (well, me first then the rest of you!) playing better golf.

OK, there’s a million golf blogs out there - so why visit this one?

Well hopefully together we can piece together a common strategy for improving our golf.

Let’s try and amass the biggest collection of words of wisdom, golf lessons, tips and advice that actually will improve our games.

If you have a tip, a juicy nugget passed on by a famous coach or player; or maybe just a recommendation for a book, DVD, practice aid or piece of equipment that can save us all shots - then for heaven’s sake let us know!

There is no doubt that anyone who has ever picked up a golf club (whether they still play or not) will wish that they could be that bit better at golf. From the rank beginner, to Challenge tour, European Tour, PGA Tour and Ryder Cup players we all have one thing in common - we all have room for improvement. Even Tiger Woods the undisputed world number 1 player, and probably the best player ever (with apologies to Hogan and Nicklaus fans), still works on his game tirelessly. He still has a coach, Hank Haney; and he still gets frustrated with his game as well as enjoying the occasional frequent moments of brilliance. This blog is dedicated to anyone who has been bewitched, bemused, befuddled and bewildered by this great game.

Perhaps, together if we can harness the collective wisdom of let’s say a million or so fellow golfers then we might just be able to come up with a formula, or formulae, or at the very least a tried and trusted and well trodden road to success at this game that we can all follow.

So here we go. I’ve already posted a few articles and video tips from the coaches I have met and worked with and will be posting more as soon as I get a little more time. First here’s what I have learned so far in my quest for better golf.

18 months ago I left quite a good corporate job and decided to do something else more interesting instead. I wanted to start my own business and also spend some more time playing golf in order to improve my level from a mediocre 24 to anything lower! I decided to combine the two desires and set about creating my own golf business (see:

My qualifications for starting a golf business were at best unconventional. I was not (and am not ….yet!) a scratch player or a PGA professional. In fact most of my playing partners have decided that my golf swing resembles a giraffe drinking at a waterhole (hence my profile picture). If you have ever been on safari then you will know what I mean; if you haven’t, then what are you waiting for? After golf, going on a safari is the next best way to relax for 4 hours (with or without your husband/wife). South Africa is one of the best places on the planet to combine both activities, check-out - they organised a superb golf and safari holiday for 24 of us + partners this year. The exchange rate is so good at the moment that it was great value too.

Anyway back to my qualifications. Having never worked for a golf company, or even in the sports and leisure industry my only qualifications were a background in sales, marketing and product development. But my most relevant qualification was my experience. My personal experience of trying everything under the sun over more than a decade to improve; every new golf gadget, the latest techniques, the expensive driver, the new balls, the old balls, dvds, magazine tips, books, the odd lesson, acupuncture, hypnosis, meditation, positive thinking, thinking about nothing, singing tunes (The Beautiful South “Song for Whoever” and “Ain't Got No - I Got Life” by Nina Simone - see other posts), humming tunes (same ones as before, plus the Dambusters from time to time) and occasionally the odd lesson from a PGA professional. Some worked, some didn’t. Some lasted 5 minutes, others have lasted the test of time. All I’d ever wanted to do was to try and get better, win more than the odd game off my mates and generally not embarrass myself too often at a corporate golf event. Why was I finding it so difficult? Why did I always feel that I was taking 2 steps forward and 1 back (and often the other way around)? Why could I sometimes hit it well at the range for 30 minutes before a round and then lose the ability to hit the ball cleanly once I’d stepped onto the first tee? Where were all the answers to these questions?

If only there was a definitive list of advice on all aspects of the game. If only I could have had all this advice 20 years ago when I first picked up a club, perhaps I’d be a little bit richer and a little bit better at golf by now.

Well there isn’t, but there could be. If only we (the long suffering golf playing nuts) could create such a thing together and share the thoughts and experiences of thousands of golfers then perhaps, just perhaps, we might all get that little bit better!

Podcasts - Pocketshots video free golf lesson downloads to iPod, iTunes, mobile phones

Pocketshots - Free Golf Video Lessons from famous European Tour golf coaches