Flow Golf Podcast TV Episode#9 / Golf Mental Game Practice
So excited to dive into another conversation, I’m absolutely loving every single one of these today. I want to talk about this puzzle of performance.
There’s a lot of different pieces that make up that puzzle, and I just want to kind of discuss, from your perspective, over the last 30 years of coaching that you’ve been through, the experience, the knowledge that you’ve gained.
What makes up that puzzle? What are the pieces that make up that perfect puzzle?
No. And it’s a great question, because when I started learning golf 40 years ago now, but teaching golf now for 30 years, I think most golfers go through this learning phase that golf is first about technical skills, which I agree I have to learn how to grip a club. I need to learn how to strike a ball with solid contact, get the face fairly straight to get the ball going somewhat towards my target.
And I only need to learn the mechanics of punting and bunker play. Those are the skill sets that have to be learned. The other puzzle pieces we’ll talk about later are certainly important, but let’s be honest, there’s a technical side to this game.
And so that’s why getting good swing instruction and such is a paramount for you to reach your potential. And I think part of that is in this day and age where we have so much data collection and we have so much technology, it seems like we have a clearer idea of how to perform.
It doesn’t mean we always know how to do it. And we like we’re going towards that holy grail of perfect golf swing and perfect track me and numbers and stuff. And I get that. Yet there is there’s no shortcuts when it comes to technology.
You have to put some work in. There has to be some practice, there has to be. But I think part of that is clarity of what am I working on with my technique? And I think people jump some steps.
I don’t think they master their fundamentals as well as they could for the swing and for the putting and those different things. So the first major puzzle piece, let’s not say it’s not, is we need to learn how to play the game, which is the technical side, the mechanical side of all those shots, right?
And there’s so much information out there. But I really want to emphasize that let’s keep it as simple as possible in the learning process so you can build on it. And it doesn’t always have to be about confusion, which I find a lot of golfers.
And so first puzzle piece, you got to learn how to play it through mechanics. And the technical side of that is a whole other discussion, but got to do that right? Then I think what happened as a coach is I certainly had a good understanding of what the swing should look like or what the ball flight should do or this shipping motion should do. But I found with some of my students, they physically couldn’t do it, so I could have say, Hey, I want you to swing like Collin Morikawa and good luck. I don’t think you have the same hip speed at all.
And so it was a disservice to tell somebody here. Here’s the holy grail Rory McIlroy. Call another head swing like that. It’s like, Okay, but if you physically can’t do it, then we’ve got no chance. So I think the next element is the physical structure that governs function. Is my structure able to do what I’m trying to do? And throughout the years, I have been certified through my Turn Titles Performance Institute. I’ve done work with plenty of wonderful physical therapists, work with physical trainers at a company called You GP, and I’ve gotten to understand how the body works better.
But now that that golfer needs to take ownership of, Hey, I need to do some stretching, I need to do some core building. I need it if I want to get to the level I want to get to.
OK? You certainly could do nothing on the physical end. You can get injured or you can not be able to do what you want to do. But there is again another puzzle piece when it comes to physical training.
Can the structure of my body actually do what I want it to do from the swing standpoint? So before I get into a couple of the other puzzle pieces, were there any kind of feedback from, you know, I think that there are two very important fundamentals that people need to essentially take advantage of and make sure they prioritize before they move into any of the other areas so the technical you can’t argue with. I think one piece that I want to add to the technical and this kind of will come into the later pieces as well, but actually understanding having knowledge on the game.
So making sure that when you are out on the golf course, you’re aware of what certain lies are going to do and actually having that intelligence. So not only your technical abilities as well as being able to understand what positions you need to get in and how the golf swing works and even short game passing, but actually understanding how to make good decisions and what you should do to counteract certain environments.
And I know that’s something you’re huge on, Rick, because a lot of your lessons are out on the golf course. I believe you said 90% or so of the lessons that you did with Colin were on the golf course rather than on the driving range. So yes, there’s that technical ability, but there’s also the understanding of how to deal with the environment and having that knowledge and that intelligence.
So vital as well. Yeah, I know you bring up a good point, which I know we’ll talk about here in a moment is I can have great technical skills on a range and I can get all my trackman numbers. But is it transferable? Are those skills transferring on the golf course or are they transferring when I need it most, which was kind of part of my evolution as a coach to is, I wasn’t honest.
I wasn’t happy with the results I was getting from my students. So I have to look at my own coaching and say, where there’s a disconnect now before we get more into that answer. You know, there’s another puzzle piece, which I am not an expert on, I believe.
But you and I have talked about creating teams, as is club fitting, right? Getting the club fit properly and getting the appropriate equipment is a key puzzle piece. Nowadays we’ve got these wonderful things that are tailor made. We have the kingdom down there and in Carlsbad, California, we have these wonderful ways of club fitting to get what’s the best equipment for you to help you optimize performance so we could put those big puzzle pieces together.
But it still doesn’t mean we’re going to play great golf or play up to our potential. And again, I like what you talked about there is how do I now actually perform?
Is it different from how I swing on the range? And then again, a big part of it is the other puzzle piece. Like you said, when I’m on the golf course, the decision making and understanding the different lies and the different conditions.
And do I have that shot? I have to learn that shot. Hey, what’s the cause and effect? Those things, I think, come from experience and obviously from coaches that can help really minimize that learning curve. Shorten it because I’ve been doing this a long time.
I pretty much know all these different situations already from the mistakes I’ve made from other players who have seen it. But if I can shorten that curve, I think it’s very important.
The other major puzzle piece. OK, now remember, there’s small puzzle pieces within each one of these buckets. We have technical skills that have related to every shot you’re going to ever hit. There’s a lot of technical part of that physicality.
There’s a lot of stuff with our fitness with balance and posture and strength and all these types of things. We have club fitting, which again, it’s crazy in the amount of variables that they have even with clubs right now.
So put that to the side and say we got to learn how to play the game. And I think part of playing the game is the puzzle piece that you and I are most biased towards. It is the mental side of the game.
So when you think about the mental puzzle piece, how do you kind of coach that or help people understand the importance? So the mental part of the game is, we would argue, the most important, in my opinion, is the catalyst for all the other elements.
So you have the technical, you have the physical you have, whether it’s the course management, the experience, the decision making, the club fit in and in the part that’s going to allow all of those components to work to that optimal is the mental game.
And the way that I look at that is from various different angles. And there’s so many again, it’s almost like its own puzzle to me. So yeah, that’s one piece of a bigger puzzle. But then we’ve got the entire puzzle with the mental game.
So we would look at things like emotional control. We would look at things like self-belief, we would look at things like self-awareness. We would look at all these different elements as really important skills, and they’re all skills, in my opinion, that can be trained over time, that we need to develop through regular routines, through regular habits, through regular reflection. All these different powerful, important tasks that need to be done in order to develop that part of the mental game. So there’s so many different elements and we can go into all of the emotions we can go into all of them.
But the important thing to really understand is that every single one of them is trainable through regular routines or regular habits for regular reflection. And I think that’s really, really vital. The question I have as well, and almost just before we go deeper into the mental game, Rick, I want to ask about ownership of all these different components because I think it’s really, really important and how you say it with the players, because I think where a lot of players fall down is that they don’t take ownership of every single part of this puzzle. They almost feel as though it’s the coach’s job and this is what I have a culture.
But to what extent do you think I should have ownership of the technical capabilities, their mental capabilities, their club fitting that all these different parts? Because what I see and I remember our conversations we’ve had in the past, but you like it when actually the players are able to understand some of the different technical issues they’re having and actually be able to before they even come and speak to you, they’ve already identified what they believe to be the issue, what they believe is maybe gone wrong. So across all those things, we’ll dove more into the mental aspect again.
I just want to talk about ownership. How important is that from a player’s standpoint to gain the intelligence, gain the knowledge of their own game and take ownership of it? You just said the key thing is to gain knowledge, and it’s about self-awareness.
When you start to put it on somebody else like somebody has, let’s say somebody shoots 80 and there are very, very good players and they miss a lot of drives, right? And their first roster. Do detect their coach, Hey, what did I do wrong?
To me, that’s the wrong question. To me, it’s like, Oh, I hit eight of my drives left missing the fairway, going to the left. My coach has told me before that from a physical standpoint, that means I come under playing and I rotate the club face too much.
You know what? I should go to the range right now and do some of those drills. Now I’m not saying they’re going to exactly fix it, but at least they’re like being aware and having this learning process occur.
You and I talk a lot about pattern recognition, immediate feedback, right? I want to get feedback on what happened. I want to recognize the pattern. I’ve done that before. I can do something. Now you’re taking ownership doesn’t mean you always have the solution, but I’m just going to tell you, from a swing coaches standpoint, I can’t stand when. 30 minutes after a tournament, I’m getting that text with, Hey, what does this look like? I don’t know what it’s like. Wait a second, we’ve talked about this, OK? And I think that’s the same thing with exercise.
I think it’s the same thing when you and I talk about the mental side of mindfulness and stuff like that. If you’re not going to do it, then that’s on you. We don’t have one. There’s no quick fixes.
And so I think ownership is whether we call it a maturity of the game. But I think it builds resilience. I think it builds where in the moment you can solve quicker. And ultimately, I think and I think what’s missing in life sometimes is responsibility anyway.
So let’s take some responsibility for that. Along the way, it’s on. No, I completely agree. I think they are so important for the players’ development as well because we can’t just be relying on other people to develop and to improve and to grow.
We need to be taking ownership at all times for our own growth, our own development, because the coach won’t always be that they won’t always be accessible every single hour of the day. So it’s about making sure that you can work through some of these problems yourself and solve problems continuously.
I honestly think that this is the way that I view life to some extent, and some people may say it’s more of a negative perspective or whatever. But I see life is just one big opportunity to solve problems.
It’s just problems thrown at me, and I would call them more challenges rather than problems. But they’re thrown at me and I have an opportunity to solve them. And I think if every single golfer, every single individual in life could take that forward and take that into every single circumstance, it would be incredibly powerful.
So, Rick, from your side, from your perspective on the mental game, if we talk about that final piece of the puzzle, what do you think makes up that mental game component and how can people train it? Right. So you and I posed the question to our clients when we first meet with them, it’s like, you know, what is the mental game?
And we get a lot of good answers and good. There are a lot of answers to this. If I try to boil it down to a simple phrase, I believe it’s about state management, mental, emotional, physical state as I’m executing a golf shot.
Now again, that opens up a lot of other questions, which is wonderful. Yet I want to manage my state. What am I thinking about? What am I feeling? What am I doing? And if I can manage that through reframing of thoughts, if I can do it through visualization and affirmations and breathing and anchoring, and there’s a lot of tools and techniques you and I utilize, but why are we utilizing these tools and techniques to optimize someone’s state in that moment? OK. And so that’s where I again, I don’t think people understand enough that they have control over this.
They think it’s all reactionary and it happens to them. And I’m saying, No, no, no, no, you get a choice of what you think about. You get a choice of how you react, you get a choice of those things.
And I think once people have that empowerment, they really look at mental games as a game changer. Some big time people completely agree. I think it’s simple and it’s not it’s not what happens that makes a difference. It’s your perception of what happens that makes the difference.
And I think what people have to remember is, what’s the desired result? You said it importantly and you said it repeatedly that which state, what state do I want to be and I want to be? It may be an excited state.
It may be a relaxed, focused state. You are determined and you figure out what state you perform best in and then ask yourself the question and find ways to get you into that state. The best way possible? Always remember various people, and this is more in the business world.
But talking about the desired result is the most important thing. I remember hearing a story of a guy who he asked one of his colleagues to go and find a piece of information, and that colleague came back and said, Oh, well, I tried to find the information, but I rang five people and he said, well, the desired result was to find the 20 information. She said, Yeah, I killed five people and I couldn’t get it. And he said, Well, we have to focus on the desired result. The result we wanted wasn’t to kill five people.
The result we wanted was to get the piece of information. Now, if we could do that in one call, that’s much more valuable than doing it in a fight. So I think again, when it comes down to training the mental game, an important thing to remember is not to do things for the sake of it, to tick a
box, but actually to ask yourself the question of what is going to change my state right now in this moment and into the future. Priming it for the future in order to be in the best mindset, mental capacity possible.
And if that’s one thing that you can do in order to get into that position, you’re onto a winner. Now it may be. It may mean that you need to combine the various different combinations of things, but keep it as simple as possible.
You don’t need to just do things to take boxes. You need to remember what the desired result is, and that is optimal for performance. Yeah. And I go back to, you know, I was a swing coach first and you have an optimal result.
You want you pick a target, you want the club face to be square to the target. You mean that’s basic, right? If the club face was four degrees up and that ball’s going to the right, I don’t care how your mindset was, but if my mindset in state was optimized, you might.
You relaxed enough to let the club face come through and not steer it and not protect and not be in fear mode. And so when we put these puzzle pieces together and we have an optimal state with the best equipment, our body is running well and we know mechanically what we need to do.
We are optimizing everything to that point. I think the last thing that I want to jump in on, which I know you stress a lot is. Going back to training, it is you and I who talk about flow states a lot from a recovery standpoint, and most people think they’ve got to work harder all the time and we want them to work smarter. We want them to manage your energy better and stuff. And I know we’ll talk about this on a separate podcast. But when you think about energy management, recovery and those types of things, that’s a key puzzle piece to all of this.
Huge. It’s absolutely vital. And I think that obviously slots quite nicely into the physical side and that’s where people usually slot it. But actually, as we say, it sits in the mental part as well. When you go out on that golf course, not only are you draining yourself of physical energy, you’re also draining yourself of mental energy.
And the problem is that so many players, competitors, spend so much time in the thinking part of their brain whilst they’re out there that they’re actually using up even more energy. They’re using up so much energy that it’s actually detrimental to their performance.
If we can spend a little bit more time off the golf course, on the golf course, in competition, in the subconscious part of our brain, we actually conserve a lot more energy than we realize. And I think that’s what’s really, really important, and we can tie that into sleep.
We can tie that into so many different places. But ultimately, all these things have an impact on our emotional state, on the state in which we are. So make sure that your sleep is in the right place. Make sure that you’re spending more time in the subconscious part of your brain rather than thinking part of your brain.
Use all of those things to essentially optimize your state and ensure that you’re conserving energy that can be utilized for things that are going to support or benefit you, rather than things that are going to be a detriment.
I think it’s really, really. Exactly. And so I think again, my bias is that the mental game is emotional. The state management is the glue that puts all these puzzle pieces together. So not only do they fit, but they’re able to repeat themselves.
OK. A lot of people are repeatable, and that’s why they practice on the range over and over again. The same skill. And I go, That’s great. What state were you in there and was at the same state?
You took to the first tee and most people say, Well, no, then I go, Well, that’s a different glue, then, right? So we want that glue to now really put those puzzle pieces together. And so those listeners out there, I want you to look at all the puzzle pieces, even though we’re we want you to really look at the mental emotion, do look at your technical side, do look at your physical fitness, do look at equipment.
All of those pieces will stack upon each other and then we really have that glue and the other puzzle pieces of the mental, emotional and the state we’re in to give yourself again the best opportunity to optimize your performance.
Absolutely. It’s about the sum of the parts that are bigger than the parts of the individual. So really, really key that you look at all those different elements and that you make sure that, as you say, your mental part or your emotional part, your state is the glue that holds it all together.
So really that you get all of them lined up, right? All right. Another great conversation really enjoyed that. Looking forward to the next one, and we’ll catch you also. That’s good. Thank you for listening to today’s episode. I know you’ve received some incredible information.
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Flow Golf Podcast TV Episode#9 / Golf Mental Game Practice