Question: I think I need to take a lesson. How do I find
the right teacher?
Answer: First, congratulations on the decision to take
lessons. Golf is hard enough without trying to teach it to yourself
or take tips from your well-meaning, but likely misguided, significant
other. You can find a pro through word of mouth, or by calling
the PGA for a recommendation. Then, take an honest look at your
goals and communicate them to the pro you choose. To get the
most out of your lessons, you'll need to be patient and suspend
your negative judgments. The grip change or swing adjustment
your pro prescribes will feel awkward at first. Improvements
will come with time and practice. Make sure you give your pro
feedback about what's working and what isn't. JL
Questions: What's all this about a pre-shot routine?
Answer: The PSR is exactly what it sounds like-a set
routine that gets your mind and body prepared for the shot you
are about to hit. Start with a trigger informing your brain
that you are beginning-tugging on a sleeve, lifting your club,
whatever suits you. Next, pick a spot 18 inches away and line
yourself up. Then, visualize the shot you intend to hit-the
trajectory, where it will land, how it will end up. Take a deep
breath, and replace everything in your mind with a simple swing
thought. Try something not too technical, along the lines of
"Let it go" or "It's all yours". Then let your body take over
the motions it has practiced. And watch the great results! JL
Question: I'm a nervous wreck on the first
Answer: See above! Nervousness on the tee can be result
of all kinds of unhelpful thoughts, like "everyone's watching
me", "I know I'm going to yank it into the road", "I hope
I don't lose", and so on. The pre-shot routine crowds tension-producing
thoughts out of your mind and brings it back to the task of
allowing your body to do what it knows how to do. Take a deep
breath, pick out the spot you want your drive to land, and
picture the shot in great detail. No need to hit the best
shot of your career here, just get it in play! JL
Question: How is it that I hit it so well
on the range, and then mess up on the course?
Answer: Here's an answer from golf psychologist
Dr. Joseph Parent:
The rhythm you develop on the range happens while you're hitting
shot after shot with the same club from the same spot, often
to the same target. On the course it's completely different,
almost never hitting the same club twice in a row from the same
spot. It takes time to switch from the practice-range rhythm
to the playing rhythm.
Near the end of your warm-up, play a few pretend
golf holes. Picture a fairway using flags on the range to mark
the boundaries. After hitting a tee shot, picture a green a
certain distance away and use an iron for an approach. You can
include a pretend par-5 and hit driver, three-wood, wedge. You
can include a pretend par three, and tee the ball up and hit
a five iron. Hitting a few shots this way before you go to the
first tee makes you feel like you've already been playing a
few holes. You're already in the rhythm of the golf course.
(By the way, I coach a professional golfer for
whom I suggested this technique. He has reduced his scores on
the first six holes of a round by nearly two strokes per round
over last year. That's a huge difference.)
Question: I've heard the expression "you
have to give up control, to get control." That doesn't make sense
to me. What does it mean?
Answer: Have you ever hit a shot when
it felt like "you" weren’t running the swing, when it felt
almost effortless, with no thoughts about how to swing the
club or trying to make it come out a particular way? Most
golfers have, if only rarely, had that experience. The results
usually range from "great" to "spectacular." That’s a pretty
clear picture of how effective it is to give up control. It
feels like we’re giving up control because we tend to identify
with our thinking mind. However, we haven’t actually lost
control. We’ve just transferred it.
The intuitive mind is what gets control. It’s
the expert at running the body, and exerts beautiful control
over the tiniest muscle movements if it is not interfered
with by the thinking mind. Most of us have seen a waiter or
waitress in a restaurant carrying a tray full of bowls of
soup. They are looking where they are going, not at the tray
of soup. Imagine such a scene, in which their boss comes over
and says, "Watch what you’re doing. Watch those bowls of soup
and be extra careful. Make sure you don’t spill the soup."
There would be soup all over the place. We all know what it
feels like when we’re overly careful, watching what we’re
doing, trying to avoid making a mistake. It usually invites
just what we’re trying to avoid.
Tim is an assistant pro who really connected
with the metaphor of the waiter and the soup. The day after
our session, I got a call about how his round had gone. He
said he shot 43 on the front nine, then realized that the
whole time he’d been "watching the soup." He decided to give
up that kind of control, and shot 33 on the back nine.
Joseph Parent’s "ZEN GOLF: Mastering the Mental Game"
coming from Doubleday, April 2002.
Question: If I hit my ball astray and can't
find it after 5 minutes, what do I do? I've seen players drop
a ball somewhere in the vicinity of the lost ball and count
an extra stroke.
Says Barb Hanson of Corporate
, there is only one correct option when your
ball is lost, go back and replay the shot and add a penalty
stroke to your score ("stroke and distance"). See "The Rules
of Golf", Rule 27-1. What if the group behind you is impatiently
waiting to hit and you don't want to take the time to go back?
Planning ahead is the key here. If there is ANY chance that
your ball might be lost, announce to your group that you are
playing a provisional ball and hit again. That way, if your
ball is lost, you don't have to go back; you already have a
ball in play. You may continue to hit your provisional ball
until it goes past the area where you think your first ball
Question: How do I determine the "line
of flight" when my ball goes into a hazard?
Answer: Many golfers try to use the flight of their
ball as it enters a hazard to determine where to drop the
ball outside of the hazard, says Barb Hanson of Corporate
Golf Services. They may even spot the point at which the
ball plopped into the water and take relief equidistant to
There is ONLY ONE point important in determining your relief:
the point at which your ball LAST crossed the hazard line
(yellow or red) as it entered the hazard. That is the point
from which you may take 2 club-lengths; that is the point
from which you draw the straight line to the flagstick. And
that is the point from which you determine an equidistant
point on the opposite margin of the hazard.
Question: Help! When I get out on the course,
I can never remember my options when I face a hazard.
Answer: Memorize a little saying that will help you
recall the options for direct and lateral hazards, says Barb
Hanson of Corporate
Golf Services. (Thanks go to my good friend and colleague,
Barry Wallin, for this saying. Barry runs a summer golf school
for young people in Rosemount, MN. He’s a great teacher &
player as well as a real student of the game.)
When your ball is in a yellow-staked area, you are in a direct
hazard: water that is directly between you and the hole. When
your ball is in a red-staked area, you're in a lateral hazard:
water that is generally off to the side of the hole being
Here is the saying: "Water between, options are three; water
beside, options are five."
Let's list the first 3 options: 1) Play the ball as it lies
(no penalty); 2) replay the shot (1-stroke penalty); 3) drop
your ball on a line extending from the flagstick to the margin
of the hazard where your ball last crossed and back as far
as you wish to go (1-stroke penalty). For the lateral hazard,
options 4 & 5 are these: 4) Drop your ball within 2 club-lengths
of the margin of the hazard where your ball last crossed (1-stroke
penalty); or 5) drop your ball within 2 club-lengths of the
opposite margin of the hazard equidistant from the hole (1-stroke
penalty). (You may want to go back to Issue 2-4 and review
this one!) An additional option you may find at some courses
is a specified drop area (1-stroke penalty).
By listing these options for yourself, you will be able to
confidently make a choice that is within the rules of golf.
Question: What are"winter rules" and when
can I play them?
Answer: It's certainly winter here in Minnesota,
says Barb Hanson of Corporate
Golf Services, but what does that have to do with
the rules of golf? "winter rules" are often
invoked in the early part of a golf season when the course
is not yet in good playable condition. I personally don't
like to play "winter rules" sometimes referred
to as "lift, clean and cheat" - because it seems
to me that if you get in the habit of moving your ball
to a preferred lie, it's mentally very difficult to play
a ball out of poor lie when winter rules are not in effect.
The rules of golf say that we should play the course as
we find it. I think "winter rules" are far
too arbitrary in many cases.
The governing bodies of golf have made some very significant
rule changes in the latest "Rules of Golf" publication
(2004-2005) and one of the changes has to do with"winter
rules" or "preferred lies." The old rule
(in Appendix 1-A4b) said, "Adverse conditions, including
the poor condition of the course or the existence of mud,
are sometimes so general, particularly during the winter
months, that the Committee may decide to grant relief
by temporary Local Rule either to protect the course or
to promote fair and pleasant play." It goes on
to say (in 1-B3b), "The USGA does not endorse "preferred
lies" and "winter rules" and recommends
that the Rules of Golf be observed uniformly."
What is the change that's been made? There has been
clarification as to procedure in the case of preferred
lies. The rules now state that a player must mark the
position of the ball before lifting and cleaning the ball.
Then the player must place the ball on a spot within a
specified area (as set forth by the Committee) not nearer
the hole. "If a player fails to mark the position
of the ball before lifting it or moves the ball in any
other manner, such as rolling it with a club, he incurs
a penalty of one stroke." By adhering to this prescribed
method, the process should be more consistent and fairer
for all players.
Question: "When things start to go wrong, everything
seems to go wrong. What can I do?"
In most sports there are moments when your performance
starts to go in the wrong direction, or as they say, the
wheels start to come off. A pitcher in baseball walks two
players in a row, a golfer hits a sand shot and ends up
about 2 inches from where she started, a basketball player
misses two layups in a row. At this point, you can begin
to wonder what you're doing, how to stop the madness. You
might feel frustrated, scared, or even angry.
At this point, an athlete should have what I call a recovery
routine. You need a set of mental steps that you have developed
and practiced so that you can go through the steps and rebuild/regain
focus, concentration, and confidence to pitch the next pitch,
hit the next golf shot, or shoot the next basket. A recovery
routine is like having a spare tire for your car. When a
tire goes flat, you simply take out the spare, put it on
the car, and move ahead rather than sadly watch all the
wheels come off.
A mental routine is a set of steps you go through to get
the negative experience out of your head and then get a
useful positive image and set of feelings in your head and
body that help you athletically. There are three key steps
in a recovery routine:
1. Freeze or stop the thoughts about what just happened
(this can be done by mentally "freezing" the thoughts,
imagining yourself putting them into a file away from the
playing field, or even walking the "bad" situation
away from the game and locking it up in a safe place until
the game is over).
2. Bringing youself to a relaxed place (briefly) - this
can be done by vividly imagining a place you have been relaxed
in your life
3. Bring your game back mentally - This means you have a
few thoughts that allow you to imagine and feel an excellent
pitch/golf swing/basketball shot or whatever you need so
that your mind and body are now focused on what you should
be doing, rather than the negative experience you should
Being able to use these steps requires an athlete to think
them out in advance and practice them. For example, if you
are a golfer on the driving range, occasionally practice
imagining that you just hit a ball into the water, then
use your recovery routine to get yourself back into the
groove before you take the next swing. If you are a basketball
player, imagine you just missed two shots in a row, then
use your routine to imagine the next shot going in and practice
a shot. Over time, your recovery routine will be a great
way to handle disappointments, mistakes, or even bad luck.
But it takes effort to develop the three steps and then
practice them. I think one of the hardest mental aspects
of any sport is the ability to recover quickly when a tire
on "the car" starts to go flat, having a recovery
routine that works and you trust is a great way to keep
a spare tire in the trunk.
Question: What can I do when things start going
bad during a round? It seems to become a downward spiral.
Is there a way to turn things around?
Answer: Says Barb Hanson of Corporate
Golf Services: I'll be the first to admit that some
days no matter how hard I try, it just doesn't get any
better. In that case, it's best to chalk it up to bad
biorhythms and just look forward to a better day.
However, here are some things that may help you as you
Stick with your normal routine
Check that your tempo hasn't become faster
or slower than usual
Trust your swing; don't try to make changes
out on the course
Look ahead not behind; there's absolutely
nothing you can do about the last shot or hole
Look at a bad break or a poor lie as
an opportunity for a creative shot
Recall the great shots you've made with
the club that you're about to use; remember how it felt
Put the round in perspective how important
is it to your life?
Intentionally replace frustration with
thankfulness for the privilege of playing a game that
Question: What's the correct stance for a women's golf
Answer: Creating a good golf swing is no different than
building any business, relationship or home, says Debbie Steinbach
(aka Venus), CEO of Venus
Golf. You must start with a solid foundation to be successful.
Up until my book, Venus On The Fairway, the so-called fundamental
golf stance for men and women was considered to be shoulder
width with a driver. I personally felt this was odd for years
because I had noticed throughout my career on the LPGA Tour
that the best female players in the world set up with a stance
wider than their shoulders. This wider stance made sense to
me, not just because the players seemed to be having great success,
but because the women actually looked to be more comfortable
and better balanced with their wider, hip-width stances.
Women are built with wider hips than men, so we are much more
flexible in the hip area. Our hips turn easily and naturally
on the back swing. What we need is more stability to control
our bigger hip turn and create better resistance.
A wider-than-shoulder-width stance also allows for a more dramatic
weight shift back and away from the ball. A narrow stance will
easily throw a woman off balance, as it does not allow stability
for sufficient weight shift. Oftentimes, a narrow stance promotes
a reverse weight shift, which is a very common swing trait with
Men can get away with a narrower stance because they do not
turn their hips as much or as freely on the back swing. They
have a higher center of gravity and one-third more muscle mass
in their upper bodies. Men are usually built with shoulders
that are wider than their hips.
Women also have a lower center of gravity, so we naturally
use more of our lower bodies to generate the power in our swings.
To merely take a wider stance at address may seem like a very
simple, easy golf tip. Yet, I have personally seen women turn
many a golf swing totally around by making this one shift at
address position. Remember: no more shoulder width stance for
women. The new, improved "Venus" stance is hip-width.
That is my stance on this issue, and I am sticking to it!
# # #
Golf was founded by CEO Debbie Steinbach (aka Venus), author
of the popular book, Venus on the Fairway, former LPGA touring
pro and a Golf for Women Magazine "Top 50" instructor.
Steinbach competed for 12 years on the Tour and now devotes
her time to instruction and motivational speaking plus other
activities associated with her company.
Question: I have trouble judging a long-distance putt.
Can you help?
Answer:Set-up, as always, is important, says teaching
pro Jennifer Yockey. Get yourself positioned with good posture
and make sure the grip is in the palms of your hands with your
hands facing each other. Set your sternum slightly behind the
ball in order to get a better feel for the line and to allow
the putter to swing on plane.
Make a habit of pacing off your putts during practice. The
more familiar you are with how far 30, 40 and 50 feet actually
are, the more likely you are to have success.
To build your confidence in longer putts, try this drill the
next time you practice:
The Ladder Game
Start with 15 balls at the distance you want to work on away
from the fringe. The goal is to "build a ladder"
with those balls from the fringe back to you. Putt the first
ball to the fringe, the next just short of the first, etc.
As you become more proficient, the balls should end up closer
and closer together. When you "miss," begin again.
Play the game three times trying to make a tighter pattern each
By building the ladder you are not only working on a specific
distance to the fringe but you're also learning how to "die"
putts into the hole or in this case closer to the ball you hit
Jennifer Yockey is currently teaching at Sunriver Resort in
Sunriver, OR and Rancho La Quinta Country Club in La Quinta,
JUST FOR FUN, New Zealand's golf humor author Kay
Wall addresses an unusual mental/golf issue:
It's not without good reason that experts assert that golf is
90% mental and 10% physical. Which makes the problem of One Of
Our Members Suffers From Multiple Personality Disorder-Which Personality's
Handicap Does She Play Off? a very curly one. Fortunately for
confused golf committees everywhere, I have the answer.
Question: Dear Ms Kallas-Way
One of our members had a really tough childhood, which I won't
go into here, which has left her suffering from Multiple Personality
Disorder. She currently has nine different personalities, eight
of whom are very keen golfers and one that hates The Game.
She only started playing one year ago because Sybil (the dominant
personality) decided it would be a good idea to get some fresh
air and exercise. Sybil proved to be a natural and got her handicap
down to 20 in just 12 months.
During that time another of the personalities, Cyril (handicap
15), started to achieve dominance. This proved really tricky because
often she'd start as Sybil and at the tenth, Cyril would take
over. Which meant a switch to the men's tees, half way through
As if that isn't confusing enough, they'll get nearly to the
end of the round and then Cecily, the golf-hater, appears and
smashes all her clubs and scares off the rest of the four!
This is when Cecilia (handicap 24) takes over and steals the
abandoned clubs, selecting 14 to play the last holes with and
taking the rest to pawn at Cash Converters.
Sybil's taking a new medication which controls the violence,
but we still have trouble sorting out which personality's handicap
she must use. Five committees have quit because they can't solve
the problem and I fear we may be forced to murder Sybil. (We can't
force her out of the club because she threatened to take us to
court, suing for discrimination. We have few members and can't
afford to defend a suit.)
We're at our wits' end. Please help.
Answer: Dear OOOMSFMPDWPHDSPO Your problem is becoming
more common as more golfers see re-runs on TV of the film, 'Sybil'.
Presently, there's much furore over whether or not MPD is an
actual psychiatric disorder, or a load of hooey.
I've recently submitted a paper to the New Zealand Institute
of Psychos asserting the latter, because I have been able to
cure every single MPD golfer I've come across.
This is what you must do. Welcome the MPD with open arms and
tell them how delighted you are that they've chosen to join
your club. Sit them down and tell them you want to get to know
each and every one of them. Make sure you have pen and paper
and note down the name of each personality. When you send them
the subscription invoice, include an invoice for each personality,
and add on another ten, as golf always induces sides of people
never seen before.
The bill will be such that I guarantee all personalities will
then play as one.