Timbo Letter #3 – Preparing for an Important Round

Dear Timbo,

If you want to be the best player you can be then you’ve got to play. There’s no point in hiding on the practice fairway or playing the same course over and over.

So get out there and play. Play as many different courses and events that you can. This will take you out of your comfort zone for a little while and increase anxiety levels – but there is a way to combat that.

Here’s how a Pioneer prepares for a round of golf:

In an ideal world you’ll treat every round as the same. This works in theory but it’s much harder in reality. Important rounds will always increase our desire to do well. This is a good thing because if you know how to control the nerves you can play even better.

The first step is to relax and avoid panicking. Lots of golfers (including me before I worked it out) will change their routine completely before the big game. They’ll practice more, they’ll get to the course too early and worry and stress about certain holes and upcoming shots. The short answer is don’t.

Stick to what you normally do and you’ll be in good shape.

Practice rounds: If you get the chance to see a new course then you’ve obviously got to take it. But don’t fall for the trap of trying to shoot record scores or even worrying about your score during practice. These rounds have one purpose. And that is to learn the course. Study the course, learn the bounces and how the ball rolls. Never get suckered into playing matches during practice rounds – they are for learning the course.

Another fantastic tip is to walk the course backwards. Start on the 18th green and make your way through the course back to the first tee. This gives you the best view of the course. You can learn about the best landing zones and see all potential trouble. I often think this exercise is better than playing the course.

Game plan: Your practice rounds will give you an idea how to play the course. I’d like you to stick to the shots you like best. Sometimes this means that you’ll hit irons when others are smashing the driver – don’t let this worry you – your plan is for YOU only.

Your game plan needs to be flexible. But don’t fall for the mistake of getting too aggressive. In most cases a flexible plan will mean you gear back. Taking less club and aiming away from the trouble will mean you’ll swing with more confidence.

Most of all you have to listen to your gut. The game plan is not set in stone – you’ve got to trust your instincts and learn to live with that.

Pre round: This is the time to warm up. You are not making swing changes or trying to find your swing. If you don’t panic your natural swing will present itself. It can be a good idea to avoid the practice fairway altogether – there’s too much distraction there. All the others tweaking, searching and disrupting you is not a good thing.

If the golf course has a practice net use that. Start slowly and gradually get your body moving. Remember, you are hitting balls to warm up. There is no need to tweak and alter your swing. An automatic golfer doesn’t judge and rate his practice performance – he is simply getting ready to play.

The same goes for the short game. Unless you think the greens have changed dramatically there’s probably not much need to speed time on the putting and chipping green. Automatic golfers don’t lose their skill – it’s there waiting for you. So use the short game areas if you feel the need – but don’t waste time and energy attempting every conceivable shot.

Opening tee shot: This is important Timbo. My advice here is to take the longest club you feel confident hitting. Then you’ve got to do your best to let go, relax and let the shot happen. If you can get good at this you’ll maximise your chances of hitting a great one.

Too often I see golfers get scared. They swing carefully and simply attempt to guide the ball. Don’t be shy. Learn to hit the ball with authority and without fear.

Here’s another point: Your opening tee shot is the best one to stuff up because you have the rest of the round to recover. So let rip – you don’t have anything to lose.

Random thoughts: Here’s a few more things that popped into my head.

  • Think about playing the course not about your swing.
  • You’ve got to like the golf course. Some holes won’t suit you but plenty will, so don’t let the course distract you.
  • You don’t need motivation or to be pumped. Keep your mind calm and focus on what you want to achieve and you’ll be better off than most.
  • Play your shot not the one the course designer wants you to play. This is something that took me a long time to figure out. You’ve gotta play your game.
  • Short game is still important.
  • You’ll beat most by staying in the moment, playing your shot and not worrying about the course or your swing.
  • Let go and relax. Don’t think about golf golf golf all of the time. Give yourself time to enjoy other stuff. It’s a big bad world out there and it’s good to see it. You don’t lose your skill or your game.
  • Have fun – this is a cliche’ but learn to enjoy playing. This is your chance to shine and experience the magic of playing golf.

That’s it for today Timbo. Next lesson we’ll talk about some on course strategies.


Timbo Letter #1

Timbo Letter #2

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Grayden Provis - May 12, 2010

Thanks Cameron. Lots of good stuff here. I particularly liked: “An automatic golfer doesn’t judge and rate his practice performance…..” referring to the pre-round warm up hits on the practice tee. Thats a great point. And exactly the opposite of what everyone else is doing out there. I decided a while back that after I had done my usual warm up swings without a ball I would leave the practice tee as soon as I hit the first ball out of the middle. If it happened to be the very first ball I hit then so be it. I’d hit one shot and leave – much to the bemusement of the guy next to me I’m sure. Seems to work well for me. I take that good memory with me to the first tee.

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Bernie Folkes - May 13, 2010

Hi Cam and all.
Grayden, again hope you are on the improve. Keep up the posts.
Another great Cam post. Saying “in little words and English” gems of wisdom.
YEA HA. Whilst Cam has yet to “get hold of me” via the video done last week and hopefully he has received by now. I am already showing marked improvement from my observations of my swing, haste to the ball and overall thinking. I had a BIG win yesterday. Whilst nice and a few BOB always helps. It was the way I went about it. I started off well and sure I got nervous, in the past I have been preparing my victory speech and forgetting one shot at a time. This time, I:
– Tried to stay composed and not get toooooooooo far ahead of myself (ie AUTO or my version of it with my understanding so far).
– On a number of occasions laid up with a FULL SWING WITH A LESSER CLUB and using say a 6 or 8 iron chipped up. This negated bunkers, water etc.
– Hit “between the trees”.
– Consistently hit the “middle of the strings” on my clubs.
– With the course set up fairly hard. Hit to the safe part of the green and not at the pins which I usually do.
– BECAME MORE and MORE COMPOSED as the round went on.
A small step for BERNIE, however, a huge leap. I wasn’t worried about handicap/birdies/par etc. I just decided what I wanted to do behind the ball, commenced walking/counting/singing a few times (not a nice sound) and hit the ball with a positive mind.
Sorry to bore you with the above details. However, the CAM way is starting to pay dividends. Not just score wise, my state of mind and disposition were much improved. I noticed birds, wind etc.
I am dying to learn further insights from the “great man”.
regards
Bernie

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Cameron - May 13, 2010

@ Bernie: Thanks for the post. Great to read your thoughts/experiences of your round. You’re definitely heading in the right direction. The hard part (and I keep saying this) is to keep going in the same direction. The normal (and I would say dumb thing) is to keep searching for new things and methods – especially swing tips and techniques. If you can keep trucking like you went about it yesterday you’ll make more breakthroughs.

The good news is that your video arrived yesterday. I’ve viewed them all and will put together some thought provoking and beneficial comments to them. Give me a few days – will do it as quickly as I can.

Talk soon,

Cam

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Grayden Provis - May 13, 2010

Great work Bernie. Especially the fact that you “became more and more composed as the round went on”. Thats a pretty good sign that you’re on the right track I reckon! I NEVER used to get that until I started playing the Cameron way. Quite the opposite in fact. I usually became more and more UNRAVELLED as the round went on! I experienced the feeling you’re talking about for the first time a couple of months ago and it was wonderful. It certainly gets you wanting more as I’m sure you do now too.

Heed closely Cameron’s advice to keep going in the same direction. Resist the temptation to start tweaking. I unfortunately fell for this after getting to where you are and things started to go backwards for a while. Trust the system. Work the system. Good things will happen.

As for your comment: “Sorry to bore you with the above details”….NO WAY! This is exactly what the Tribers need to share with each other….their personal experiences. Its ALWAYS encouraging and instructive to hear about others’ journey. I was pleased to receive a phone call from Steady yesterday …..a couple of little things he said greatly encouraged me even though he doesn’t know it (I guess he does now :-))

How did others go last week? Tell us about your successes however small. Tell us what you learned because you never know when a small thing you say can be the “aha” moment that someone else needs.

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Cameron - May 13, 2010

Thanks for commenting Grayden – good points. It’s funny, but it sort of sneaks up on you. All of a sudden you realise you’re playing golf and doing well.

A quick update on my golf. Actually two rounds.

1st Round: After not touching a club for two-weeks, a 28 hour flight and no sleep for two days I headed straight to the golf course. A long lunch later I made it to the 6th tee for a shot gun start. The next three-holes were nearly the best I’ve played. Birdie, Birdie, Birdie – I was only a fraction away from starting eagle, birdie, eagle. It was unbelievable! My playing partners didn’t know what to say. It was an unforgettable experience. I fell in a hole when the jet lag set in but I still had a good game. Main point? You don’t lose your game.

2nd Round: This came after the busiest week in my working life. Hadn’t touched a club for nearly 2 weeks. Back tees and the course set up tough. I remained focused on automatic golf (what else would you do anyway?) and played freely. Although I felt a little rusty and made some mistakes I kept playing and didn’t panic. I shot a 72 which was very pleasing. This is something I could never do 5 years ago. I always thought I needed to practice a lot and be in good form. I really think that your subconscious can overcome many hurdles – we need to allow it to happen, that’s the hard part.

The system works and makes golf as easy as possible.

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Tony Lucas - May 13, 2010

Cam and others
I liked this post because funnily I think it is probably the way to go all the time and therefore not placing too much emphasis on the one round,thus alleviating tension.My mate is down this weekend and I will ask him to video me and I will in turn send it to Cam for analysis and very much look forward to his comment.Hopefully Cam will use it as a case study for others to appraise and also help..I played last week but I had a putter that had a different mindset to myself (putted bad)but generally speaking I played ok without setting the world on fire.I will continue to forge on with auto golf in mind and all the baby steps I have taken over a period of time will fall together and truly enjoyable (auto) golf will follow.
Cheers Lukey

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Gregor McCulloch - May 13, 2010

Bernie,
I like your comment about becoming more and more composed. Recently even though my golf has not been great I have just tried to stick to auto and like you by the end of the round good things are happening. Last weekend I played a match and made all sorts of mistakes and it was turning into a miserable defeat being 3 down at the turn and having not won a single hole. On the 15th hole I heard my opponent say that I was 1 up and I suddenly realised that the system works. I got beat on the 18th but at least I made it there and learned loads.
Don’t panic is the advice I would give to anyone. Even with a terrible stretch of holes your game is still there and the last thing you want to do is tweak things on the course. By all means have a think about it afterwards (i have been doing a lot of that recently) and you start to realise that you have learned something from the round
Gregor

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Ray Crick - May 13, 2010

Hello Cam and Tribers,
I definitely can take some thoughts from this post. I’ve really been struggling with nerves at the start of my last few rounds.It’s taken me probably about five to six holes just to deal with the nervous tension in the body when swinging the club, I know this hasn’t helped with the execution of shots and the swings feels it has no smooth rithym what so ever. Would appreciate anybodies thoughts on this?When I got into the back nine and started to hit a few nice shots it’s amazing the difference with the feeling when walking to the ball to play the shot. I just need to create this mindset before I tee off.
I’m having a hit at the Growling frog on Sunday and look forward to continuing along the auto road.

Cheers
Ray

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Grayden Provis - May 13, 2010

Gregor said: “Have a think about it AFTERWARDS…” Exactly. Thats the time to do it. Not DURING which is what everyone else does

“……and you start to realize that you have learned something from the round” Yes. Thats exactly the experience I’ve been having too. The “lessons” permeate their way into your brain quite some time later when you’re away from the battlefield. Very interesting how this just happens by itself.

Good stuff. Thanks Gregor. its encouraging to hear that others are having exactly the same experiences. It makes me realize we must be all slowly getting this together.

Cameron: thanks for giving us a quick run down on your recent rounds too. Motivating stuff.

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Tim Hardham - May 14, 2010

Your Words are Gold Cam,

As mentioned I have a tournament coming up and after not playing in a substantial event for a while I have been thinking a lot about my performance but also my desire to get a W. Out the window with those thoughts and back focusing on the quality information you have again provided. Keep doing the same things (automatic golf) and do not worry to much about results, swing, not having played etc.
I look forward to following the fantastic advice you and my fellow tribers have offered in this section to help me perform the best I can in my upcoming event.

I would also like to congratulate all the other tribers for the positive improvements to their games through the automatic process. The most important thing is to continue with it and enjoy the ride DO NOT get sidetracked by quick tips as they never work 🙂

Not long until I am back in AUS and hopefully we can work more closely on some of the information you have given.

Keep up the good work tribers

Tim

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Grayden Provis - May 14, 2010

I’m a tad excited. Just a tad mind you. It doesn’t pay to get too excited in this game but I think a penny may have dropped……

I’ve been listening to Cam’s Remarkable Golf CD in the car at work today. He mentions the Fred Shoemaker “throw the club” exercise as the simplest way to get the feel of how we should be swinging a club. I’ve heard Cameron talk about this before but never taken it too seriously because it sounded a bit simplistic or “childish” to me. I could see the logic of it mind you, but didn’t think I actually needed to do it.

Anyway, because I”m now laid up with an achilles heel problem and can’t play I’m keen to do ANYTHING that involves actually getting my hands on a club aso when I got home after work I thought, “hey, what the heck” and went out the back yard and tried it.

Sure enough, first go and I flung the club to the left (I’m a right hander). No real surprise there seeing as I hit a fade (which can easily progress to a slice like most of us). I went and picked up the club (I was only throwing it about 10m….bit worried about the neighbour’s windows!) and thought “no probs, I’ll take it seriously now, I’ll just throw the NEXT one straight”. Threw again……..Hmmm……still going left. No worries. I’ll REALLY make sure I throw straight this time. No more mucking about. Throw…..Hmmm…..STILL going left!

By now I was curious and decided I was going to keep going with this “dumb” exercise until I could get the darn thing to go straight. Lets just say it took me quite a few “throws” (they’re really “swings” of course) to learn how to make the thing go straight. When I finally figured it out, here’s how I noticed I was swinging:

(a) with a much quieter body action
(b) with MUCH better balance
(c) with a shorter backswing
(c) with slightly more active hands
(d) with a greater sensation of “lag” (Yay! I’ve always wanted to get that feeling back!)

It was a very controlled, compact feeling. I also noticed that the club head was grazing the grass much more consistently than usual AND that the divots were much straighter than they are with my usual “body” swing.

“Only trouble is I must LOOK ridiculous” I thought. It felt “all arms” to me because I’m so used to the “body swing” feel. I moved over to a window to watch myself. I assumed I was going to see something akin to a tripod fixed to the ground with arms flapping. Thats what it FELT like. Gee whizz, guess what? It didn’t look ridiculous at all! It actually looked like a simple, compact, controlled golf swing. “Hey GP” I thought, ” maybe this is how you’re SUPPOSED to swing a golf club!!! Interestingly I also noticed it put much less pressure on my heel (!)

Anyway, as I say, this is just a tad exciting. Can’t wait to get out there and try it “live” now. So folks, my advice: DON’T do what I did and just MENTALLY do the club throwing exercise. Actually GO AND DO IT. And KEEP doing it until you actually throw straight. Then, when thats finally happening, take note of how it FEELS and start swinging that way. You might be as surprised (delighted!) as I am.

Thanks Cameron. I never doubted you for a minute (:-)) That CD might just be the best $37 I’ve spent for a while!

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