Archive for the ‘mental game’ Category

Junior Golf: It’s Your Serve

In this Wednesday Waggle you may be wondering if I have forgotten what sport this post is about. Certainly junior golf is the target but today will will use some analogies to other sports to make our points. (Dufner photo

Volleyball and tennis are 2 sports that have serves. What is the purpose of a serve? It starts the action and gives the server an opportunity to force the opponent to make a play. Is there a similar situation in golf? Yes, there is, it’s the tee shot which occurs, hopefully, only 18 times during a round. It puts the ball in action, against the course in stroke play and against the opponent in match play.

Your son’s tee shot is the ONLY time during an event that he has complete control over everything prior to taking his club back. It begins the action on every hole. Once he sees the safe zone for the tee shot he can then plan and visualize it. He can tee the ball up anywhere on the tee box within 2 club lengths behind the tee markers and between the markers of course. He can use a tee to stabilize the lie of his ball and place it on the right side if he wants to hit a fade or on the left side if a draw is his choice. A common tactic is to tee the ball up in line with a previous divot or a blade of grass that is on the line that your son wants his ball to take off of the clubface.


So serves and tee shots start the action and servers and golfers are in 100% control until they begin their swing. This is an opportunity for your son to learn how to make a plan, shot by shot for each hole. There are really only 2 steps required to make a good golf shot: the plan and the execution. (photo

A serve out of bounds or into the net is a point for the other side and it is an unforced error. So is a tee shot that goes astray into the rough, a hazard or out-of-bounds. Unforced errors must be minimized in order to be competitive. Encourage your son that having a good plan for tee shots is a great confidence builder for executing that shot and setting himself up to make more good shots on that hole.

See you on #1 tee with a plan… Sam

Junior Golf: More Championship Thoughts

In this Wednesday Waggle let’s spend a little more time of the way champions think. These are valuable lessons from highly successful athletes.img_0102-1

The mental game or the mindset of a player, coach or team is critical to performing at a high level. In fact most elite athletes will tell you that they wish they had started working on their mental game earlier than they consciously did. The consensus is that the physical part of the game is easier to master than the mental part. We can all see this play out in every sport. (Dufner photo

Early in the UT/USC National Championship Game, UT’s Aaron Ross dropped a punt and USC recovered the ball on the Texas side of the field. To paraphrase UT head coach Mack Brown,
“Aaron was the only 1 mad on our sideline because all the rest of us knew what a great player Aaron was and that he wouldn’t do that again.” Wow, what great confidence by teammates and coaches! Having this level of confidence allows everyone involved to focus on what’s important, as in the next play and winning the game. It keeps everybody as calm as is possible in such circumstances. When your daughter hits a poor shot, how does she react? Please encourage her and help her build her confidence so that when she has an undesirable result on the golf course, she can recover and get back to playing her normal game.

As the halftime break was ending and UT was getting ready to go back out on the field, 1 of the offensive linemen gave a brief and enthusiastic rah rah speech. Then Coach Brown uttered his own final words to the team, and I’ll paraphrase his brief statement, “OK, let’s go win this game!” What a classic speech of confidence in his team! They were leading and had 30 minutes of football left and if they played as good as they were capable of they would be National Champions. The team and coaches knew they were good enough. This was the perfect time to reinforce their level of confidence with a few calm and choice words. If Mack had yelled and screamed at the team or thrown things, it would have appeared as as lack of confidence or panic to the players. (photo from

Do you remain calm or do you show signs of stress or panic with your girl? Does your daughter believe that you have confidence in her and her abilities on the golf course? If not, Dad and Mom, it’s time to change your tune! Encourage her during practice with words like, “you can hit that shot, chip it in, make that putt, you know how to do that, you’re good enough and of course, I love you.” Our youngsters are fragile creatures who do not want to disappoint their parents. A smile, a thumbs up and an I love you are what your junior golfer needs more than anything else.

Calm and confidence are 2 traits that can vanish quickly during the heat of competition. A couple of bad holes and all of a sudden your daughter doesn’t even think she can hit her golf ball. Some days she’ll recover and sometimes she may not, but that’s golf and that’s life. It’s not how you react to something, it’s how you respond. There’s a big difference.

Tons of excellent golf books and sports psychology books are for sale all over the web. Or look up some world champions and see how they prepared for competition. I suggest you only look at players who finished 1st at least once at the highest level of competition in their sport. Read some of Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus’s quotes or any of the golf legends, male or female. Their insights are spectacular and immediately useful. Help your daughter build up her confidence and the calm that, hopefully, goes along with it.

See you on #1 tee looking calm and confident… Sam

Junior Golf: A Championship Mentality

In today’s Monday Mulligan we will take a look at how champions think and act. It is different from how 2nd place and below approach competition. ( image

As an alum of UT, The University of Texas at Austin, I enjoy following UT sports, especially football. So 1 of the most exhilarating times of my life was watching the 2005 National Championship game against USC, The University of Southern California. I just finished watching a most interesting and insightful show on The Longhorn Network, called Longhorn Legends on the Couch. It featured 6 prominent participants from this game: head football coach Mack Brown, quarterback Vince Young, tight end David Thomas, offensive lineman Kasey Studdard and defensive backs Michael Huff and Aaron Ross.

Let me briefly introduce to these guys. Mack Brown-UT head coach who had a bunch of winning teams, Vince Young-IMHO the most exciting player ever in college football with 837 yards of total offense in 2 consecutive Rose Bowl wins, David Thomas-UT all-time leader in catches for tight ends and a Super Bowl Champion with New Orleans, Kasey Studdard-a great offensive lineman in college and the NFL, Michael Huff and Aaron Ross-both Thorpe Award winners as the best defensive back in college football and Ross also has 2 Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants. High achievers, no doubt!

As I thoroughly listened and enjoyed the nearly 3-hour commentary along with the broadcast of every play in the game, several recurring themes appeared. In no particular order: David Thomas 1st brought up how Mad Dog (UT strength & conditioning coach Jeff Madden) always had them running the stadium, running for the 4th quarter. The result in Thomas’ own words, “We never got tired during a game!” Later it was reinforced more than once, that Vince Young never got tired and rarely broke out in a sweat during a game. He was always faster than everybody else at the end of the game! Please note he was pretty much faster than everyone else during the whole game. FYI being in great shape is as important at the end of a golf game as it is in football! Conditioning counts!

2nd thought: everyone knew it was a National Championship game, but they refused to obsess over that, instead focusing on it’s still just a football game and let’s just play the way we know we can play. We’re good enough to win this game, so let’s go do it! Again, focusing on process rather than outcome. If the process is good, the desired outcome will follow. Same with golf!

Coach Brown mentioned about VY: “Vince, 1 of the best things about your game was your ability to keep your eyes downfield while you were moving around, looking for a receiver or where to run.” This is extremely tough folks and only the most gifted players can pull this off because to look downfield means you also must be aware of what’s coming at you that you can’t see. Scary stuff! In golf the equivalent is looking for the safe zone where you want your next shot to end up, seeing the whole picture then focusing only on the safe zone when you visualize the shot.

Last, for today at least, let’s talk about confidence. Both teams were undefeated and were accustomed to winning. Both were loaded with great athletes. Here’s where great coaching showed up. In the pre-game preparation, the Longhorn coaches knew this would be a tough game and they told the defense that they would have to make a big stop late in the game in order for UT to win. When you initiate that mindset in advance, it prepares the player for a positive result. Texas scored to make it within 5 points, trailing 38-33 with 3:58 on the clock. As UT kicked off, Vince Young was going to each defensive player telling them, “1stop, just 1 stop and we’ll win the game!” You see VY believed he could score on every play from anywhere on the field. He was always calm and unflappable, a very desirable leadership skill.

On a 4th down with 2 yards to go, USC gave the ball to the previously unstoppable LenDale White and yes UT’s defense rose to their expectation of making a big stop and tackled him short of the 1st down. UT got ball on their own 44-yard line with 2:09 to play. You could see it on the coaches, players and fans of USC, they knew they had lost the game. They had not stopped Vince Young to this point and could not stop him now. On a 4th down and 5 from the 9-yard line, VY ran the ball in, untouched, to take a 1-point lead. UT went for a 2-point conversion and made it. Final score UT 41 USC 38. Vince Young scoring the winning touchdown, photo courtesy of

So where is your junior golfer’s mind? Is he calm and unflappable? Well that’s tough at any age. Does he see the safe zone or the unsafe zones? Please help him see only the safe zones. What are his expectations? Does he expect to win? Does he expect to have a few big numbers on his scorecard? Does he have enough golf conditioning to be able to perform well the last few holes of a tournament? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, I hope you will have them soon. Your junior golfer’s expectations may be very different from yours. Getting together on the same page is important.

See you on #1 tee expecting to play well… Sam

Junior Golf: Unexpected Stress

In this Friday Flop Shot we will bring up some points about some of the mental aspects of golf that your junior golfer will be dealing with for his whole golf career.image

Stress/pressure is a part of life. It’s everywhere and that includes golf and golf tournaments. There is good stress, “I’m excited about the tournament,” and there’s bad stress, “ I hope I don’t play poorly and disappoint my parents.” Both are normal and both need to be dealt with. This is a good time for me to mention that Linda and I are not sports psychologists and are merely passing along things we have learned from our son’s junior golf and college golf careers. (photo

As parents we are all pretty much aware that our kids are subject to stress and we are able to expect and anticipate most of the times it will show up. So here’s an example of a type of stress that hit S3 that we had never thought of: we like to play golf together whenever possible, and this means including S3 on our team in scrambles. His golf skills are a big benefit, even when he was playing from the ladies tees he could sometimes drive the green! What we did not realize was that even at a young age S3 felt like he needed to hit a bunch of great shots to carry the team of us old folks and C and D players for all 18 holes. Here’s a pic of S3 and me with some of my college buddies at a scramble in Houston, what fun!image

What did this look like? Well, he was trying so hard, read over-trying, that it took him 9 holes to calm down and contribute to the team. In fairness, his chipping and putting is always good, so it was his drives and approach shots that needed a calmer persona. Finally he would take a breath and get his adrenaline under control. This wanting to carry the team pattern continued until he got to college. Even today, I know in his heart he would like to put the whole team on his back and hit all the great shots himself. The key is controlling the excitement and it’s tough.

This is relevant folks because stress and pressure are always hanging around our youngsters and the more we are aware of it, the more we can give them a thumbs up and a warm smile.

See you on #1 tee looking stress-free… Sam

Junior Golf: There’s Always One

In today’s Wednesday Waggle we will take note that every time your daughter plays in a tournament there will always be 1 player in her group that presents a unique situation that has the potential to negatively impact your daughter’s game.img_0102

Let’s talk about golf skills and how players can manifest them. For instance on #1 tee 1 of your girl’s playing partners crushes her drive. I mean the ball sounded different off the clubface and it flew past all the other drives. This has now, depending on your daughter’s level of golf maturity, become a test for her. Yes a test to see how well she stays focused on her own game and not be thinking about how far the other girl hits the ball. (Dufner photo

There is always somebody who hits the ball a mile. In S3’s college tournaments a couple of guys will hit 20-30 yards past the rest of the field. A look at their fairways hit stats at the end of the round will tell you how meaningful those bombs are.

There is sometimes a girl who hits her approaches closer than everyone else. But can she putt?
Then there’s the girl who seems to make every putt. Practicing 5-foot putts, at least 50 at a time is 1 of the best ways ever to lower a golf score. I can only remember 2 times in the last 8 years that S3 wasn’t the guy making all the putts in his group and it was because he did not practice his putting enough the week prior to the event. There are a number of putting aides for sale from about $20.00-120.00. Find 1 that fits your budget and buy it. This is 1 of the best things you can ever do to help her improve her scores.

Then we have the amazing chipper, every 1 within a foot. And the girl with the most unusual swing ever who seems to get the ball in the hole. How does she even make contact? (photo

Marathon Classic - Round Two

What does all this mean? Your daughter must stay focused on being herself, not get caught up with the other player’s games and reset herself on hitting a great next shot. This is tough but parents you can be a big help. Even the pros will tell you they get tired of seeing the other guy hit every drive in the middle of the fairway. Keeping her mind in the proper mode is 1 of the greatest challenges in all sports, not just golf. Understand and respect how tough it is. Your daughter may begin to question her ability: How can I compete with her, I can’t hit it that far, I can’t putt like that, etc. Don’t let that mindset get a hold on her. Remember your contact during most tournaments is extremely limited so this must be worked on prior to her contest.

Opportunities to be distracted during a round of golf are everywhere. From butterflies, turtles and fish for the little-bitties to somebody bombing drives and making every putt for the bigger kids, it is easy to lose focus. And that is not helpful for playing good golf.

See you on #1 tee looking focused… Sam

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