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What simple things can ordinary players actually do to make the most dramatic difference to our golf game?

What simple things can ordinary players actually do to make the most dramatic difference to our golf game?

Rob Weider - What simple things can ordinary players actually do to make the most dramatic difference to our golf game?

Golf is essentially a simple game. No, bear with me – it really is, despite how complex we seem to make it in our heads as we struggle our way through a round. Think of those days when it seems to come easily – when our swing is just right, when our bodies and minds work naturally together to send the ball exactly to where we need it to be.

OK, I’ll admit, it doesn’t happen very often (for me at least!) but hopefully you take my point – golf, at its best, is pretty straightforward. I’m a firm believer that actually much of the complexity is in our own heads – we start worrying about the wind speed, our club choice, doubt starts creeping in about our swing, we adjust, and adjust and adjust – and of course, we’re setting ourselves up to fail. When we’re feeling confident and happy, our play feels natural, and we see the game of golf for the simple activity it is. So how do we get there? Are there any simple tricks for making a big difference to our game? Here are a few of my favourites.

  1. Slow it down.

This is a piece of advice that runs through everything in golf – from your swing to your mental approach to the game. Your body shape is essential in making sure your swing works effectively – but the key to maintaining this form is to go slower – it gives your hands and your body the time they need to get the club face square to the line you’re after. You’re also not rushing through the various body movements that a good swing requires – your balance will be just right and you’ll hit the ball with all the power you need.

But this idea of slowing down goes beyond just the mechanics of your swing. It’s also an important tip for your approach to any shot. Don’t rush into it – take a breath and think about what you’re trying to do. Of course, don’t over-think things either, as this can be just as damaging as not thinking at all, but do give yourself that space to forget about your last shot and concentrate fully, in the moment, on this one.

  1. Cut back on the Hollywood shots

It happens in any sport – you see the pros doing it (think Beckham in his heyday pinging a 60-yard cross-field pass to the opposite wing, or Rory McIlroy chipping onto the green with perfect backspin), and you try and do it yourself. The sad truth of the matter – and it’s something we all have to face sometime as amateur players – is that most of us are simply not good enough to pull off these kinds of controlled aerial shots on a regular basis. Sure, we might do it once (hopefully with plenty of people watching) but the chances of making these sorts of shots a standard part of our game are extremely low.

And in actual fact, the pros don’t do this either – they do the basic stuff exceptionally well – but they can also pull something special out of the bag when they really need to. So, try a crazy shot once in a while (it is supposed to be fun, after all), but concentrate on the other 99 per cent of your game that will get you round with a good score. Focus on keeping the ball on the ground whenever you can.

  1. Practice, practice, practice

There’s no getting away from it – the single most important thing you can do as an amateur to improve your golf game is to practice. It might sound boring – and it can be – but it is essential, especially in a game where repetition and muscle memory are so crucial. The aforementioned Mr Beckham spent many an hour on the training ground practicing his free kicks after everyone else had gone home, and it paid off. The same goes for golf – the simplest trick for improving your game is to practice it, again and again. One thing I would say however is always have a clear objective in your practice – focus on a particular area for a while and work on it until you see an improvement. It’s the best way to keep motivated – and it will all pay off in the end.

Rob Weider 

 

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The equipment I never play a course without

The equipment I never play a course without

Robert Weider - Golf Equipment

Most golfers are creatures of habit – I know I’m certainly no different. Whether it’s an elaborate pre-shot routine, a favourite colour cap or just a go-to club, we all rely on a variety of things to help us through our round. Some are practical, while others provide a psychological crutch or verge on the superstitious – but they do, I believe, all have their value to some extent. I play golf a lot – at least I try to – and there are a number of pieces of equipment that I just have to have with me – I’ve even been known to turn around and head home if I forget one of them. Here’s my list of the things I never play a course without.

  1. Range finder

I’ve tried a few different tools to help me to check distances – my own judgement (with limited success), the advice of others (with slightly more success) – and GPS devices, which produced mixed results. I was really pleased then to get my hands on a laser rangefinder – this fantastic gadget is small enough to throw in my golf bag and yet it is still a serious piece of kit. It’s really straightforward to use and it gives you an accurate distance reading – mine locks on to the flag and has a clever feature for giving you slope-compensated distances too. I use mine now not only for finding the distance to the pin, but also to check the distance to any hazards or when laying up when no other distance markers are available. An invaluable tool.

  1. Pitch fork

So, judging by the number of pitch marks on the greens in Hong Kong I’d guess that this is an item that not many people here have in their golf bags. But it’s something that I always carry – and love using – for a few reasons. The first is that I just think it’s the right thing to do – you’re doing your bit to help keep the greens in good nick for whoever is following you. As I see it, it’s just a responsible bit of good golf etiquette. But beyond this, I also love using it for the simple reason that it means I’ve managed to land on the green – and that’s a small victory that I’m always happy to celebrate.

  1. Spare ball markers

Just a small thing, but I have absolutely loads of these at home and I always make sure that I grab a few extra ones before heading out – it’s incredible how many times I’ve lost my ball marker or someone else has forgotten theirs. I have a few on me at all times – and it’s always nice to know that you can lend a helping hand if someone needs a spare one.

  1. 8 iron

I think most golfers probably have a favourite club, and I actually think that there isn’t really anything wrong with that. Sometimes we all need an old friend we can rely on when things start to get tricky out there on the course – a favourite club, used in moderation, can get you through the tough times.

If someone gave me only one club (besides the putter) to take out on to the course it would have to be my 8 iron. Outside of the traditional 150yd shot and laying up on a par 5, I also enjoy using it for anything out to a 100 yards pitch and run, as well as pitching around the green. I certainly get more use out of the 8 than any other club in my bag.

  1. Beer Koozie

It would be remiss of me not to mention the beer koozie (or stubby holder as my Australian mates call them). Ideally not to be used during the morning rounds before work, however an essential on a hot summer day! When making the turn there is nothing better than stopping for a cold one to take on the back nine. Now if more courses could start stocking craft beers, life would be perfect…

So, those are my essentials – I’d love to hear what yours are.

Robert Weider

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Change one thing – why the small things matter in golf

Change one thing – why the small things matter in golf

Change one thing - why the small things matter in golf - Robert Weider

What is a golf swing, if not the sum of many smaller, beautifully interlocking elements? From lengthening or shortening your back swing, to adjusting your grip or subtly changing your head position, there are hundreds of tiny adjustments that you can make that can radically transform your swing.

And I actually believe that the whole game of golf is in some ways like this – in my experience there are always some small changes you can make that will make a real difference to the way you play. Of course I’m not advocating constantly adjusting how you approach your game – rhythm and routine are also hugely important in the game of golf – but rather that is possible sometimes to break out of a poor run of form just by making a few minor adjustments. Here are just some of the small things, mental and physical, that I’ve found can make a big difference sometimes.

  1. Think again about the club you’re about to use.

Are you trying to push a particular club to do a job it shouldn’t really be doing? Every golf club is designed with a particular shot in mind, but it’s also easy to gravitate back to a favourite. So, sometimes it pays to put the club back in the bag and just take a moment to decide if it’s really the club you should use for the shot in hand, or if it’s just the one you feel most comfortable with.

  1. Switch to a positive mindset.

I’ve spoken about the importance of the mental side of the game of golf before, but it really can’t be overstated. One great habit to get into – other than to try and forget whatever has gone on before and to concentrate on the shot in front of you – is to always stay relentlessly positive. Whether you’re having a good round or a bad one, it’s all good experience – and this little mental switch in attitude can stop you from abandoning early and can take you all the way to the 18th.

  1. Stick to your pre-shot routine, whatever happens.

A good pre-shot routine is essential to preparing both body and mind for the shot you’re about to make, and it should never be skipped, regardless of how much pressure you’re under. You’ve developed it because it works for you, but it is remarkably easy to slip out of the habit of doing a pre-shot routine when the pressure is on (or even sometimes when it is off). So, once again it’s a small part of your game, but something that can have a huge impact on the preparation and execution of your shots.

  1. If you’re starting to struggle with your swing, practice a full one at half speed.

As I’ve mentioned before, your golf swing can be broken down into a number of interlocking moving parts. How these parts work together isn’t always easy to see – but one of the best ways to get an indication of where things might be going wrong is simply to slow everything down to half speed. Take a full swing, but just more slowly, and get used to feeling all the various phases of your swing once again. As you start to feel more comfortable, and the component pieces are starting flow more naturally again, then it’s time to speed up and resume normal service.

  1. Remember the basics of club face alignment

What are you trying to line up with the target? Your feet? Your shoulders? Everything? In fact, it should be the club face – but it’s incredibly easy to forget this basic in the heat of a round. The best way to make sure you don’t is to get into the habit of always looking at the target from behind the ball, and then aligning your club face accordingly. Then – and only then – should you worry about where your feet are placed, or which way your shoulders or your torso are facing. Get the club aligned first, and then build your stance around that.

I really do believe that golf is one of the few games where the small things can make a disproportional difference to the quality of your game. So, next time you’re out on the course, and you’re tempted to dig yourself out of a hole by trying a ‘big’ shot, maybe take a quick a look at the small things you can try first. It might just make a big difference.

Robert Weider 

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All in the mind – the mental side of playing golf

All in the mind – the mental side of playing golf

Rob Weider - All in the mind - The mental side of golf

Possibly more than any other game I know, golf is a mind game. Of course, it’s about technique, and practice, and raw, natural talent – but it’s also about what is going on inside your head at the crucial moments.

There can be few games where someone’s mental condition is so plainly (and sometimes painfully) obvious – who can forget poor Jean Van de Velde’s dramatic collapse as he arrived at the 18th tee needing only a double bogey to win the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie – and then proceeded to throw it all away with a series of disastrous shots.

Moments like this show vividly how overpowering negative thoughts can be once they take control in moments of pressure. Ultimately, while a golf swing is performed by muscles and sinew, it is the mind that controls every aspect of that action. If the mind isn’t clear, or is confused or distracted, this internal conflict will be played out physically.

So, I thought it would be interesting to look at a few of the ways in which you can help yourself to stay mentally strong during your next round.

Have a pre-shot routine

The pre-shot routine is absolutely crucial in golf. Just as lighting an incense stick might prepare a meditator’s mind for focus, or rolling up their football socks might calm someone just before taking a penalty, rituals are a vital part of mental and physical preparation. They essentially act as a cue for the mind to get ready to do something it has practiced many times – it is your way of saying to yourself: ‘stop thinking about that last shot, now it’s time to focus again on this one’.

So, whatever your routine is, stick to it, and make it something you practice as rigorously as every other part of your game. Use it as a process that helps you to clear your mind and prepare your body.

Focus on the ball

This might seem obvious, but there is a good point here about focus. Once you’ve chosen your club, and decided where you’re trying to land the ball, what do you actually focus on? From a mental point of view, this is hugely important – there are a lot of potential distractions as you prepare to take your swing, both externally and internally. But the object of your attention has to be the ball: trust your swing, trust your club and shot choice, and forget about everything else. Look at the ball – pick a dimple – and clear your mind.

Stay in the present

A crucial lesson, that so many golfers (including myself) often forget. The past has passed, the future is still to come – and so the only thing really to focus on is this moment. And yet this is actually incredibly hard to do properly – largely because the most powerful mental aspects of the game of golf often play out as the emotions you’re feeling as a result of the shot you’ve just played. You might be angry with yourself for a poor shot choice, or even feeling full of confidence because of a fantastic one. Either way, don’t bring it into the current shot. Being present, clear-minded and focused will relax your body and mind, and will allow you to execute your swing without any interference.

Be honest

We’re all different, as people and as golfers. Because golf is such a mental game, you can often tell a lot about a person simply by how they play. So, don’t try and be the player that you’re not. If you’re a steady, conservative kind of person, don’t try and force yourself to be reckless on the course. Or, if you’re someone who is instinctive and impetuous, don’t try and stamp this out completely when you’re playing. The mind and body work best together when everything feels natural, and not forced – so always play the way that feels right to you.

Choose your moment

So much of golf is about choice – club choice and shot choice most obviously. But it’s worth reminding ourselves that we also have a choice about the mental attitude we take into a game – even into individual holes. Some holes demand a more open, confident approach, while others demand something more cautious. Managing these differing mental attitudes, hole by hole, is absolutely crucial – especially in terms of balancing how far you take them. It’s all too easy for confidence to become over-confidence and recklessness – or for caution to descend into fear.

So, be very alert to your internal emotional weather – learn how to recognise the warning signs of when things are going wrong, and develop the mental strength to choose the right attitude for the right moment.

 

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Golfing tips for newcomers

Golfing tips for newcomers

Rob Weider - Golfing tips for newcomers

Golf is in many ways one of the simplest games there is – but that doesn’t make it any easier. In fact, its very simplicity makes it all the more exposing. What could be more straightforward than simply hitting a ball into a hole with a stick? Well, try answering that question, while standing on the green, putting for par with the pressure of the eagle your partner just sank at the last hole on your shoulders. Or try making your swing effortless and focused while you try to drive the memory of your last fluffed tee shot out of your mind. Golf is a game that is uniquely challenging, both mentally and in terms of technique.

I’m often asked, as a relatively experienced golfer, what my tips would be for anyone starting out in this wonderful game. So, I thought that it would be an idea to share some of the very best bits of advice that I’ve gathered over the years. I’ve put these together in the form of quotes from players – professional and otherwise – who I think have hit on some essential truths about our great game.

Ben Hogan: “The most important shot in golf is the next one.”

One of the earliest lessons that anyone passed on to me – and the one that I probably forget most often. The ability to make mistakes, process them quickly, learn practical lessons from them and then apply these calmly to the next challenge (with no negative baggage) is a crucial one – not just in golf, but in the business world, and in life in general. But as I say, it’s a lesson that is very easy to forget – to put the approach shot that landed you in the rough on the 17th out of your mind completely as you look up towards the 18th is a great skill, and one that I’m still working on to this day.

Gary Player: “The more I practice, the luckier I get.”

There are few sports on the planet that can’t be improved by a lot of practice. Whether it’s Sidney Crosby on the ice practicing deflections for hours after training or the thousands of hours spent in batting cages by your favourite baseball or cricket player over the years, practice really does make perfect. The point of Gary Player’s quote is that it also reduces the amount of play that is reduced to what other players might think of as ‘luck’ – good or otherwise. The more you practice, the more you familiarise yourself with every imaginable scenario that might occur while you’re playing in the real world, and the more your mind and body are equipped with the tools you need to deal with whatever is thrown at you. In a sport like golf, where every round, every hole, and every shot is different on any given day, it pays to put the time in.

John Updike: “The golf swing is like a suitcase into which we are trying to pack one too many things.”

You’ll sometimes hear observers of baseball watching particular pitchers, and hear them sucking through their teeth as they point to ‘a lot of moving parts’ in their throwing action. It’s an expression I like, as it also describes equally perfectly how complicated the golf swing can become, and points to the idea that simplicity and economy of movement is generally the most effective. We can all spend so long over-analysing, refining, tweaking and rebuilding our swings (Tiger Woods is a recent example of someone who has just agonised over this process) – and often, it has the opposite effect. Your golf swing should be a simple, joyful thing – so learn how to do it properly, practice it endlessly, but don’t over-complicate it. Fewer moving parts mean not as many things to go wrong.

Patty Berg: “The more you play it, the less you know about it.”

This is an eternal truth that I think brings together many of the other pieces of golfing wisdom I’ve heard over the years. Everything feeds into this – that the more you practice, the more instinctive your game becomes. That as you play more, it becomes less of an activity that you fret over and over-analyse, and more one that you just do – maybe not easily, but certainly with less conscious effort. And that as you begin to play this way, you find that you play more in the moment, taking the lessons and experiences you’ve accumulated over the years into each new challenge, keeping things simple – and ultimately enjoying this great game just a little bit more.

– Rob Weider

 

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