Mindless Exercise

Matt is a young player at my club. He is keen, talented and desperate to improve his golf game. Like a lot of young kids he works part-time, so he can devote plenty of time to the improvement process.

But Matt hasn’t learned how to practise correctly. He is wasting time by getting what I call “mindless exercise”.

Here’s the story.

Matt is laid back. He strolls out to the practice area and starts pounding balls. He is strong but erratic. One ball sails over the back fence while the next two find the car park and the adjoining sports park respectively.

Matt wants to hit the ball with power. He is letting his ego get in the way of what should be his goal – get the ball in play.

One of my favourite sayings is “between the trees”. Instead of trying to hit the fairway (they’re too small) you need to get your ball somewhere on the course where your next shot can be progressed forwards. It usually doesn’t matter if this is the rough, sand or fairway. The “fairways hit” statistic is irrelevant. Learn to get the ball in play and you’ll do just fine. This is what I had in mind for Matt.

It is too difficult to hit the ball dead straight. Especially for someone as erratic as Matt. I wanted him to find a shot that he can rely on. In his case he is suited to a fade. I asked him to aim left and then fade the ball back towards the fairway. I gave him no instruction on how to do so. I knew a mixture of his natural swing and talent would work it out. And it did.

Shot after shot started left and then moved back to the right. I told Matt if the ball did this then it is a perfect shot. Instantly he had an objective – aim left and hit the fade.

No longer was he mindlessly blasting balls as far as he could or being distracted by other meaningless thoughts. His mindset was replaced with an objective that could help his score – get the ball in play.

  • He was swinging with more confidence because the fade swing suited his natural style. I’m willing to bet he’ll pick up a few extra metres too!
  • He can get more shots in play because he has the entire fairway to work with. It is unlikely he’ll hit too many hooks and if he over cooks the fade he has the entire fairway and right rough to play with.
  • Best of all he is practising with purpose. He has a mission (to fade the ball from left to right). He can then take this objective from the practice tee and out onto the golf course.

This is no quick fix. Matt will take some time to adjust this strategy. He is also fighting is own ego and his playing mates who put a huge emphasis on distance. After his 8th perfect drive in a row he got bored and wanted to hit a more powerful draw. I told him to stop asking dumb questions and to keep going.

When Matt learns that good golf comes not from the odd 300 metre drive but from consistently hitting the ball into play he’ll make some huge strides. And I’m talking about doing this week after week, month after month and year after year. He needs to master this faded drive before he can move on to other shots.

And it all starts from a basic objective. Ball bashing might be fun but you’ll only get exercise not improvement.

Over the next few days I’ll show you more of what I taught Matt. We covered chipping, putting, bunker play and course strategy. Keep your eyes peeled for more.

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Ray C - October 20, 2009

Hello Cameron,
I find this very interesting reading. As you know I’m a recent convert to the auto golf and I believe slowly but surely I’m starting to see some small but steady results.
I still have a tendency to stop counting when I start my swing but I will continue to work on this. One part of my game which was very poor was the short game . But I have used the matt and chalk line which has made a huge improvement to my short game. I find now I’m not duffing the short chips like I used too and getting the ball alot closer to the hole than previously. The biggest problem I’m having now is I’m hitting the 5,6,7,8,9 and wedge irons okay but when I go to the 3,4 irons and woods I’m having great difficulty getting any consistancy at all?I’m hitting these both left and right?
I’m not sure why?Any tips you can give me? I’m working on the same auto approach with all clubs?

Kind regards
RayC

Reply
John Stead - October 21, 2009

Hi Cam,
humans will often look for a quick, easy short cut to success. Players need to learn to play with what they have. Not try to be something they are not.
Natural learning and skill development will take care of itself, if you the learner are aware there is no quick fix.
Steady

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Tony Lucas (Lukey) - October 21, 2009

Hi Cam
Just a thought if Matt was a natural hard hitter of the golf ball would you then say stay auto and hit what is natural ?

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Cameron Strachan - October 21, 2009

@Ray – the longer clubs are a little bit more difficult to hit. You need to keep relaxed and let the swing flow. I’ll shoot you through an email with more detail soon.

@ Steady – agree and thanks for posting

@Lukey – Yep this is true. I was not getting him to change his swing but use a shot that is inline with his natural flair and also help him get more shots in play.

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Lamataimi lolotonga - November 1, 2009

hi Cam,

Short game using 7,8,9,sw and pw i played them pretty good but when i start using the rest, like 6,5,4,3 iron and wood even the driver is a bit hard for me to be consistancy more to the left butwhen i try to corret it then the ball far to the right. can you help me mate?

Lama

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