Tiger Woods and the 85..It’s Just A Bell Curve!



Everyone watched Tiger over the weekend with great anticipation. The first question was, will he make the cut. The answer was yes, he did make the cut shooting a 73 and 70 respectively. After having made the cut the next question was, where would he finish. I’m sure there were lots of projections that had him in the middle of the pack. To the shock of the masses, he went out on day three and put up an 85! There would be no middle of the pack for Tiger. He finished last in the event with a 4 day total of 302. Had he shot a repeat of his first two days he would have finished tied for 40th along with Stricker, Villegas, Van Pelt and others. Alas he did not. He did however play all four days unlike other notables such as Rickie Fowler, K.J. Choi, Jason Day, Ernie Els among others. Interestingly enough, there was not much talk about those who missed the cut..this as we all know, was caused by the Tiger Effect. So let’s get back to his numbers and how they relate to a bell curve and how even at the highest level of play, the bell curve is ever-present.

We all remember the Bell Curve from school, don’t we? Mrs. Smith would get up in front of the class and declare that the test we were about to take would be graded on a Bell Curve…so get your pencils out, sit up straight and when I say begin, you may turn your papers over…. Ahh, the memories of days gone by and the joys of test taking. In the end, there’s an average score, with the majority of test takers falling into that category. Of course there are the highs and the lows, and all the scores find their way on a graph. The bulk of us find ourselves smack dab in the middle. Not unlike the scoring average of every golfer who plays, even those on the tour.

Here is an example. You head out on a Saturday to play with your friends. Your handicap is a 13, you feel great and you’re hitting the ball like nobody’s business. You make a rough calculation that you’ll probably shoot anywhere from 80 – 85 today and off you go! The round unfolds and things are not going quite as you had anticipated. A couple of doubles and a triple and your number is climbing! That’s ok you tell yourself, you have 6 holes left to play.  “If I just par 4 of the last 6 holes and birdie the other two, I’ll be ok.” No problem! Well, the numbers you end up writing down on the card, are nowhere near the estimated calculation you’ve made to save the day. Your finishing score? 91. You are beside yourself. “What?! A 91?..how did this happen?” Actually, the 91 is right within in your range of scoring. The problem is, it’s on the higher end of your “bell curve” of scores and you only want to see the lower end. Here’s the dilemma….none of us want to believe we will have any more high scores, especially after our most recent handicap update! Now some of our scores are low (we love those), some are high (not our favorite) and the rest are about average. In statistics, the bell curve represents normal distribution. The shape of the curve indicates that the majority of scores will concentrate in the center with a decrease on either side. If we take all of our scores and plot them on a graph, we’re likely to see the beautiful bell. The 91 is in there along with the awesome 80 we shot the last week. They’re all part of the mix and the truth of the matter is, we can’t control or even predict when or which score will find its way to the score card! In fact, statistics prove that we will play average or better only 50% of the time.

This is essentially what happened to Tiger. His scoring average right now is just around 74. If you plunk a bell curve smack dab on his scoring average number, add 9  shots on either side, he shoots a 63 on a great day, 83 on a less than desirable day. Tiger happened to add two on top of that for good measure. The interesting thing here is the last day he shot right on his scoring average number, 74. Alas the bell curve is alive and well in all of us.

So what can we come to expect in this example? What we can always count on is that we WILL have a final score at the end of the round and it WILL be within our estimated scoring range. The more we understand and accept our Bell Curve and all the scores that lie within it, the more we take the pressure off our need to “post a low number”. Embrace YOUR Bell Curve and you’ll enjoy the game more than you ever thought you could. Power to the Bell!!

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Set Up For Success With The Pre-Shot Routine

LPGAIf you watched the ShopRite LPGA Classic this past weekend you watched Anna Nordqvist take home the victory but not without having to fend off Chrisel Boeljon, Morgan Pressel and Princeton grad, Kelly Shon.

The tournament had a very exciting finish and I’m sure the final group felt their nerves as the made their way toward the eighteenth green. Luckily they each had their pre-shot routines to rely on and help settle them down. You may have noticed how deliberate each player was with their pre-shot routine as they came down the stretch. They all incorporated the three most important elements of a pre-shot routine, yet each had some subtle and not so subtle differences.

Christel Boeljon had the most noticeably different routine. She of course stood behind the ball to find her target, walked to the ball to get her stance and alignment, established her posture, but once there and seemingly settled; she then raised the club up off the ground to waist high and held it a second or two. She then set it back down took one last look at her target then made her swing.

Morgan Pressel’s routine had more of a traditional pattern of getting ready for the shot. She stood behind the ball to get her target, then walked to the ball and stepped in for alignment and posture. Her final look at the target was not just one but three looks before she made her swing. Anna’s was much like Morgan’s except she took fewer steps to get to the ball, and made fewer looks to the target.

Although different in steps to the ball, looks to the target and the unusual lifting of the club to waist high, they each had unwavering consistency in their routines. And, they did it each and every time for each and every shot no matter the club.

This is something you can do as well. It helps prepare you for a good swing and best effort. It also helps you get focused and allows for the time you need to get into a good balanced posture before you pull the trigger. Here’s a simple routine that you can do before each and every shot. I call it T.A.P.S

Target, Alignment, Posture…Swing!

Target – stand behind the ball and while looking at your target, create an imaginary line that runs from your target through the ball. Select a spot on the ground within two feet of the ball that is on your target line. This becomes your intermediate target.

Alignment– walk up to the ball and place your feet in good alignment with your target line based on the type of shot you are intending to make.

Posture – Get into a good athletic and balanced posture and take one last look at your target.

Swing – Take a nice deep breath and give it a swing!

This is the basic framework for your routine. Keep in mind this routine is all yours so feel free to make it your own. If you want to waggle the club, then give it a waggle. If you want to look a couple of times to the target go right ahead. When you decide you like your routine, then incorporate it into each and every shot you make. Be sure to do it when you are hitting balls at the range. You want to do it in practice so you start to groove the feeling of the whole routine and swing as one. This will set you up for a better delivery of the club to the ball which in turn will produce more consistent shot making. And you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how it helps calm the nerves and gives you a very solid, reliable and repeatable element to your swing.

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Do You Get Nervous? Well, Lydia Ko Gets Nervous Too!

Lydia Ko is the number one ranked player in the world at just 18 yeaLPGArs of age. She’s ranked number one in the Race to the CME Globe and she has racked up 7 LPGA Tour victories so far in her fledgling career. She seems to have a very even keel way about her from tee to green and appears to just go with the flow each and every round.  Interestingly enough, she was recently quoted as saying that she does get nervous, even when playing a round with club members.

It’s obvious she has game, but it’s nice to hear that she gets nervous too! We all think that the tour players have ice in their veins and they play with nerves of steel. You never see them “sweating it out” or doing any deep breathing exercises on the tee, certainly not while watching it on a telecast.  Trust me, everyone has some amount of nerves when the pressure is on or it’s the first tee shot of the round.

There’s a common saying out there that having butterflies is not a bad thing…as long as they’re all flying in the same direction! So how do you get them to fly in the same direction? One of the things Lydia commented on was “keeping to her game plan.” This, along with a very solid pre-shot routine, will help calm the nerves.

You can start to gain better control over your nerves by incorporating a solid, repeatable pre-shot routine to your shot making. Often times what I hear from new golfers is that they feel they’re not good enough to do a routine. They’re afraid that by doing a pre-shot routine, they’ll give the impression that they are better than they really are. When I hear this, I am reminded of the time a friend and I were paired up with two men at a public course in upstate New York. I can’t remember the course, but I absolutely remember one of the gentleman we played with. He was a charming and very engaging fellow in his mid-forties playing with his good friend that day. It was a fairly busy day so we had to go as a foursome. My friend was a new golfer so we were going to play together from the same tees that day, the guys were playing from tees just a bit further back. We introduced ourselves to one another, made small talk on the tee then we were signaled to go. To paint the picture…the charming fellow we’ll call Tony was dressed to the nines! He looked like he had just walked out of a GQ Magazine that was the “stylish golf clothing” issue. He had shoes to match the outfit, a Greg Norman style hat, new bag with his name on it…the works! He looked like a former tour player for sure!

Now etiquette would warrant that the furthest from the hole play first, but the charming man from NY insisted we have the honors of the first tee.  It was about a 15 yard difference from the tee markers so we were happy to stroll up to the tee and fire away. The walk was helpful in allowing time for the butterflies to get together in formation and to take some nice deep breaths for the tee shots. My friend did her pre-shot routine and hit a decent shot off the tee. Now, just like everyone, I too get nervous on the first tee and am very happy to breathe and settle in to my pre-shot routine. A good tee shot off and we both stroll back to Tony, who because of his GQ style and confident presence, we believe is going shoot 68 today and consider going back out on tour! Of course Tony insists that his friend go first…obviously saving the best for last! His friend hits a good one down the middle. Tony gets up on the tee…puts the tee in the ground and does a “tour perfect” pre-shot routine. A final glance down the fairway eyeing his target and he’s ready to swing.

Tony pulls the club back, stops at the top and proceeded to almost swing out of his shoes! Luckily, his club just nicked the ball enough to send it rolling past tee box, over the cart path and into the rough. Tony, still holding his finish, turns his head toward us and said, “but don’t I look good?” “You thought I was going bomb it down there, didn’t you?” He went on to tell us how he was brand new at golf but he was going to look like he new what he was doing.  He was taking lessons and he loved it and he had a fantastic pre-shot routine. He did say that it was his favorite part!

I’ll never forget that round of golf and meeting Tony the GQ beginner from NY. He had a great attitude and had fun when he played.  I’m sure after all these years he’s not only a better golfer, but he is wearing the golf trends of today! Although I’m not sure I can see him wearing Ricky Fowler orange and a flat billed hat.

Click Here for a plan to create your pre-shot routine!

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What Are Your Goals For This Season

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We have survived a record-breaking winter and have finally stopped shoveling snow. Now it’s time to shovel some mulch and we are very happy to do so! Why? Because mulch equals Spring which equals golf courses are open and ready for play! In order to welcome in the long awaited golf season, I thought I would share a piece I wrote a while back on setting goals for the season. Enjoy the read!

When I get together with my students at the start of the season, one of the first questions I ask besides, “What do you think of this weather?” is “what would you like to achieve this season?” The conversation usually unfolds with a reflection of the previous year, the goals that were set, what went well, what could have gone better, if the goals were met or surpassed and how we can springboard from the success’ of the previous year and continue the trend of whole game improvement.  Once we know the game plan, we’re ready to go!

Goal setting is a key component to framing your season and getting started on the right foot. It takes some thought and it also requires honest consideration of the amount of time you have to spend on your game for both practice and play.

This leads me to a follow-up question to goal setting, “how much time do you have to spend on golf and how does golf fit into your life?”  This is an interesting question and I think at times, a tough one to answer, but it helps us set goals that are both realistic and achievable. I’m a firm believer of realistic goal setting with the caveat that we can always raise the bar during the process!

Realistic goal setting is important for success and achieving your goals is based on the time and effort you have to give. Imagine if the response to the question went something like this,  “I love the game, I love to play, and I work crazy hours and only get to play on the weekends and the occasional 9 holes after work. I don’t have time to practice because I’d rather play…I want to go from a 32 handicap to a 20 this year..oh, and I’m playing in a big company event soon..”   This is a very busy person who obviously loves the game and wants to improve but has set a very lofty goal. Considering the time they have available for golf, reframing their goal is key to helping them improve and enjoy the game even more.

What do you want golf to be for you? It’s worth taking some time to consider what you want to achieve  for the season, where you see your golf game going and how you plan to get there. Do your best to be as honest as you can with yourself regarding the time you’re willing to spend practicing golf, getting lessons and working on your goal. Golf is a fantastic game and everyone at every skill level can improve and play better. If you have a specific goal in mind, you can achieve it with a good plan. Whatever you do and however you do it, you want to have fun and enjoy the process. Isn’t that what life is all about any way? So, set some goals for the season and enjoy the journey!

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The Current Trend Talk ~ What Is Up With Tiger?

well struck driveWhen there are tournaments happening around the world and there’s great golf to watch on The Golf Channel, I always look for something in which golfers can relate. This weekend had lots to offer! My twitter feed was buzzing during and after the Waste Management Phoenix Open. If you watched any golf this past weekend and you are on any form of social media, then you know that the “Trend de La Trend” was all about Tiger.

The much-anticipated return of the former number one player in the world had everyone expecting to see the Tiger of old. The talk on the street was that all was going as planned with his swing and he was excited to get back into the ring. So of course, the expectations were of better tee shots, more greens in regulation and if not, there’s the extraordinary short game that Tiger was known for. That was the talk anyway. Then the tournament began and Tiger had trouble right from the start. He pulled it together to post a 73 on the first day, but disaster struck on the second and final day of his tournament debut. Six bogeys, 2 double bogeys and a triple bogey marred his scorecard. Where he use to get up and down with ease, he instead launched balls over greens and had low running chips screaming past the hole. His game was out of sorts and some analysts even ventured to say it was “lost.” I have to say, I don’t believe he’s lost or that he’ll never be back at the top of his game. I believe he’ll find his way back to better play, it’ll just take a little more time.

Haven’t we all been here before? I know I have. I can remember it like it was yesterday and it was a long time ago! I had started working with a new instructor about 2 months prior to a tournament. We had made a few tweaks to my swing in order to give me better ball control off the tee and to improve my overall delivery of the club head at impact. These were great changes for the long-term and would definitely help me hit more fairways and greens. At the time, my goal was to play on the LPGA Tour so long-term gains were key. I was a dedicated practicer and things were coming along rather quickly. I was seeing my teacher, George Kelnhofer, every week and we were making great strides. I had signed up for an event a few months before and although we were working on some changes, the thought of canceling was totally out of the question. I was going! Things were going so well at the range, why wouldn’t I go? It was going to be awesome! I might even win the thing!

Like Tiger prior to the WM Phoenix Open, I had hit a gazillion golf balls and had spent hours working on it at the range. I mixed in 9 and 18 hole rounds here and there but most of my time was dedicated to working on the swing. The swing felt great. I was crushing it on the range and the practice round I had played a week before the event went pretty well. I marked up my yardage book, took notes on target lines, marked up the details for the greens…I was ready to go low!  Then I stepped up on the first tee the day of the event. With my pre-shot routine in tact, I eyed my target, stepped up to the ball and proceeded to launch a bomb of a drive that after about 150 yards, curved wildly left into someplace other than the center of the fairway. I was shocked! How could this be? I punched out for the second shot, missed the green for the third, did something else for the fourth and finally walked off with a double bogey. The next few holes weren’t much better. I was spraying it everywhere. By the time I arrived on the fifth tee box, I was shaken to the core. Nothing was working. I thought, “This is insane! I had been hitting it great for the past few weeks…how is this possible?” I tried to think about the things we had worked in hopes that somehow it would right the ship. It didn’t. It felt like the ship was taking on water and on the verge of sinking! On that particular day, my putting and short game kept the whole thing from going under. When I saw George a few days later he was surprised I had gone ahead and played.

He knew I hadn’t had enough “play” time with the new changes in place. It was clear that we were headed in the right direction with my swing changes given my driving range results. I just hadn’t had enough time on the course in a “real game” environment for the changes to hold up as they weren’t fully engrained enough to do so.

In my opinion, this is where Tiger is right now. He’s had success in practice, believes in his coach and the changes they are making but hasn’t spent enough time in a competitive environment for his new skills to hold up. It’s just a matter of time before they do. If there is a takeaway here it’s the importance of incorporating pressure and stress more successfully while practicing. The practice and play environments have to sync up in order for the brain to associate good shots with the new technique. The more you practice like you play, the better you get at playing the game of golf.

I’d like to thank Tiger and the social media trend for the topic and the walk down memory lane! If there weren’t so much snow on the ground,  I’d go to the range right now, get a small bucket and picture that first hole once again…then I’d crush a drive right down the center of it! #practicelikeyouplay!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Does The Annual Pilgrimage To The PGA Show Mean?

IMG_3263IMG_3251It’s that time of year where I head down to Orlando to the PGA Show. The trade show where anything and everything golf is under one roof. It’s a place where I’ll spend a little time both as a student, attending educational seminars and as a player, when I sneak in a round or two at some of my favorite courses! I love going to “The Show.” Not only do I come back with interesting ideas and perhaps some cool new technology, but it also means we’re only 12 weeks away from a tee time here in New England!! Wahoo!

Twelve weeks certainly sounds a lot better than three months that’s for sure! I know many of you are hitting the slopes or strapping on skates and heading to rinks. A good way to keep in shape over the winter months. Some of you will be traveling to someplace sunny and warm with a plan to get in a few rounds golf. That’s a fantastic plan I must say! Well as you head down south or out west, remember that your game is in its semi-hibernation stage. It’s been resting, relaxing and enjoying a change of scenery and temperature.

 

So when you head out for the first day on the links, be sure to be very very kind to yourself. If it’s been a couple of months since you’ve picked up a club, be sure to stretch and warm up before your round. If you and your friends make a bee line for the driving range, start with some short irons and pitch shots. This will give you and your body a nice reintroduction to what you’re about to do. Focus mostly on your posture, balance and tempo. When you’ve found your golf posture and sense of swing with the pitch shots, move to a nine or eight iron and make some smooth balanced swings. Get into a great finish and hold it a few extra seconds. Feel your balance and posture there and reconnect with it. Move through a few more clubs to the driver.

The most important thing to do when you’re heading off to the first tee (after your relaxing and successful warm up session) is to reframe your expectations regarding performance. Enjoy the warm weather and the fact that you’re free to move around! You’re not wearing eight thousand layers of clothing just to keep your teeth from chattering away. You’re out in the sun! And yes, the sun is actually out!!  Remember, you’ve been doing holiday things, cold weather things and maybe taking a swing or two at an indoor range. You’re regular golf routine has been on the back burner.  So whatever happens…happens. Be your own best friend and say encouraging things to yourself when the ball doesn’t go exactly as planned. Spend some time thinking about what you’d like to get accomplished for the 2015 golf season while you’re riding down the cart path to the next tee. And without a doubt, enjoy all the good shots you make. Now for those shots that are, shall we say…”meh”…chalk it up to off-season rust…it’ll shake off for sure, especially if you have a few more tee times scheduled while you’re away!

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Fall Golf…Free It Up A Bit And Make It Fun!

10th holeFall golf in New England is beautiful. The golf course gets green again, the colors surrounding the fairways are vibrant and bursting with oranges, reds and yellows. It is my favorite time of year to play golf. Yes, it is true, the fall foliage indicates the golf season is coming to a close up here but that doesn’t mean the time we have left can’t be meaningful AND fun! You’ve played golf all season, perhaps taken some lessons and worked on your game and even lowered your handicap! Why not go out and put your seasoned skills to a different challenge, one that offers the opportunity for a little fun and creativity!

My favorite thing to do this time of year is to grab my super small carry bag, throw 4 clubs in it and head for the first tee. Ahh….the freedom of it all! Believe it or not, you take the pressure off yourself because you have a limited number of clubs to choose from therefore, you have to make different shots. So, why does it take the pressure off you ask? Here’s an example. When I ventured into my fall 4 club round, my club selection included a 3 hybrid, 7 iron, 52 degree wedge and a putter. The first hole at my club is a challenging sneaky up hill par 4 that always plays longer than the yardage on the card. There’s water on the right and a fairway bunker on the left. The green is well guarded with bunkers all around and it is almost always into the wind! Normally, I would use my driver off the tee in order to have a chance at getting to the green in two shots. Now, with my limited club selection, I had to use my 3 hybrid. With no pressure to “bomb” it off the tee and knowing that I’ll very likely arrive at the green in three shots rather than two, I hit a smooth 3 hybrid that landed in the middle of the fairway. The next club to have a turn was the seven iron. That shot landed in front of the green. I followed it up with a pitch shot using the 52 degree wedge and the ball found it’s way right up onto the green!

So go ahead, the next time you go out to play 9 holes, grab four clubs, a lightweight carry bag some balls and a few tees. It’s a nice walk on the course (the bag gets really light with only four clubs!) and shot creativity rises to the top when you play with a limited number of clubs. You’ll be surprised at how enjoyable it is to try different shots on the course, especially if it is a course you play on a regular basis. You might even be pleasantly surprised at your score!

red scorecard

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