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Same Course, New Challenges
15 Oct 2011
by SKLZ Performance Training of SKLZ

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There’s a benefit to having a regular golf course. You learn the contours. You memorize the distances. You play with the usual foursome. But the downside is that you end up playing the holes in the same way, and everything becomes stuck, from your shot selection to your swing patterns to your score. Laird Small, director of the Pebble Beach Golf Academy, has some ideas to move things forward:

1. Play from different tees.

Change your starting location and you change the ensuing shots. Chances are that guys are playing from too far back. The result is playing too many long irons and rescue shots. Moving to the front tees may slap the ego, but you’re going to be forced to work on your short game. The other upside is improving your score. With your usual tees, you have a usual finishing score in your head, and any time that you approach breaking it, you often choke. Starting from further up will bring your score down and force you to find a way to maintain it. You still have to hit the shots and convert but getting over that hurdle will help when you return to the longer tees. “The barrier is less in your head,” Small says.

2. Avoid the choke.

To better handle the pressure, treat it like an e-mail—recognize that it’s there and deal with it later. Before you hit any shot, go through your regular checklist, and if you don’t have one, create one. Take a breath. Three rehearsal swings. Positive command. And make sure you’re positive. “The last thought tends to be what happens. Your intention needs to be so strong that you’ll do this,” Small says. And be vigilant with your consistency. At the threshold of greatness, don’t deviate from what got your there. It’s like with a successful football team. “Keep executing plays that work. The best players hit the same shots over and over again,” Small says.

3. Mix them up.

To transition back to your regular game, play the front 9 from the short tees and the back 9 from the long ones, or vice versa. Once again, you’re adding in some discomfort and you’ll be forced to ideally do one of two things: Shoot well starting off and have to hang onto that good score, or have to whittle away at a beginning high number and make it respectable before the clubhouse.

4. Don’t check the weather.

Just go out and play, regardless of the wind, rain or temperature. Each condition offers different feelings and requires you to hit different shots in order to do well. “It makes you more balanced. You can handle adversity,” Small says.

5. Pick a different starting club.

Play from your usual tees, but put away the driver and go with a 5-wood or 5-iron. You now have a different shot to the green, most definitely longer, and the successive shots will change as well. With this experiment, don’t stress too much about the initial final score. You’re working on a long- term plan, making your game more dynamic, flexible and answering the question, “How does your handicap travel from course to course?,” Small says.

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Steve Calechman is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com. Along with being a contributing editor for Men’s Health magazine, he’s written for Natural HealthPhiladelphia, The Old Farmer’s AlmanacThe Robb Report,  and Women’s Health magazine.

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