Well this is the year – It will be my first trip to the hallowed grounds of the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, GA.
Granted, it will only be for the practice rounds but that’s fine with me. As long as I get to walk the course and see all the famous locations, holes and maybe have a pimento sandwich (or 2) I will be more than grateful.
I can’t say there is one *specific* thing that I want to see more than another (one thing I guess I won’t be seeing is the Eisenhower Tree*) but there are so many.
I can’t wait to see Magnolia Lane and Butler Cabin and Hogan’s Bridge and Amen Corner and, of course, the azaleas. There’s so much more I’m probably missing but that’s ok, I’m going to be there to soak it all up.
What I’m really looking forward to is walking the entire course. There are many holes on the front 9 that I am still very unfamiliar with so to actually walk and get a feel for the slope and distance will be very cool.
Most people I’ve known who have gone have come away with a really enjoyable experience. You would think, at this point, that the Master’s committee really has the logistics figured out by now. They plan for every little contingency I hear.
As far as predicting a winner I don’t have a clue (but that’s what makes it fun, right!) I’m going to go out on a limb and pick Tiger this year. I just have a feeling it might (finally) come all together for him at the right time for his 15th major. Runner up, Jason Day. For other tourneys you just might want to check out these golf betting tips.
I’ve been thinking of that great quote from the movie, “The Shawshank Redemption” when Red (Morgan Freeman) is hoping to get to see his long lost friend Andy (Tim Robbins) from prison who has escaped and is now living by the ocean,
I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.
I, too, am very excited, and am hoping Augusta National is as green as it’s been in my dreams.
PS: Have you been to the Master’s before or are going? Please comment. Would love to hear YOUR recommendations.
* The Eisenhower Tree was removed in February 2014 due to an ice storm.
I’m not the Ryder Cup captain, but that doesn’t keep me from giving Tom Watson a heads up on who should be on his 2014 Ryder Cup2014 ryder Cu team should be. It may be too early to say there is a wholesale changing of the guard for US pro golfers, but if not this year then it’s going to happen in the next two.
Looking at the early season here’s who makes the team:
Jimmy Walker, Jordan Spieth, Harris English, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Web Simpson, Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler.
Surprise, surprise no Tiger or Phil. I know it’s early and they haven’t played much, but so far they haven’t inspired much confidence. I’ll leave it to Tom if he wants to add them as a Captain’s Picks. As for me, I think I’d pick Boo Weekley as long as he’s healthy. He’s the much needed missing link for adding a healthy dose of enthusiasm and pure fun. The Europeans have proven time and time again it’s not just about having the golfers with the highest world rankings. That leaves just a single spot for one of the old guys on my team!
This month’s “Quick Nine” is with Andy Lesenski on becoming a professional golfer. Let’s check in with Andy and see what he’s up to.
1. Andy, tell us a little about yourself and your background?
My name is Andy Lesenski. I’m 25, grew up in Greenfield, a small town in Western Massachusetts, and currently live in Northfield, Massachusetts. I have played golf my entire life, and I want to play for a living. I have a beautiful girlfriend (of 8 years) Lindsay, a degree in Criminal Justice, I’m a Boston Bruins fan, I’m a bit of a gaming-nerd, and I’m making my debut as a professional golfer in 2014!
Note: check out Andy’s site at: andylesenski.com
2. What are your golfing goals for 2014?
I have a bunch of stat goals, and I want to get a course record this season, but my main career goals are to win a pro tournament, and play in Q-School at the end of the summer.
3. What have you been doing in the off-season to prepare yourself?
Aside from hitting as many balls as I can, I have been working-out like a madman. I have also been eating properly and reading Dr. Bob Rotella books somewhat religiously. It feels great. I feel prepared, and I have been able to easily integrate these things into my daily life.
4. What new equipment will you be playing this year?
I’m more of a tried-and-true type of guy when it comes to equipment. I replace my wedges quite a bit due to wear, so I’ll replace my Titleist Vokey SM4’s. The grooves on my irons are getting close to the end of their life, so I’m in the market for new blades. Other than that…I did get a sweet, new, non-glare, paint-job on my woods.
5. Where do you think your game is at currently?
My game feels great. Despite the harsh winter we’ve had here, I’ve been able to hit balls and practice. I’ve been able to tighten up a few positions in my swing, and get a good feel for my body as I changed it. I’m very excited to test it in competition.
6. What couple things do you think would provide the biggest improvement in your game?
I admittedly, have a slight tendency to tinker, so I think getting a coach. Not necessarily a swing coach, but someone who can help me stay focused on one thing at a time.
7. What’s holding you back, why aren’t you on tour yet?
They didn’t “hold me back”, but the injuries I have suffered over the last few seasons have allowed me to learn, and realize, truly what has been holding me back. Getting injured made me realize that I wasn’t committed enough, committed to being fit, committed to being healthy, committed to being strong and committed to the lifestyle of professional golf. But I have matured and learned, and now I am those things.
8. What are some of the biggest obstacles that a new pro faces?
One thing that every new pro will face is learning that your golf game is a business, and it needs to operate like one. An obstacle that is unique to me, is becoming more comfortable putting myself out there, and being more open and candid with everyone I meet.
9. Where can people find more about you and support you?
I’ve been spending the off-season trying to sock away money for this season’s upcoming tournaments and, of course, preparing mentally and physically but expenses do add up.
Therefore, I am accepting donations in 2 ways.
1. I’m offering a T-Shirt Fundraiser (limited time only)
2. Or feel free to donate here: andylesenski.com/donate
Any and all donations, sponsorships, purchases, etc. are extremely appreciated and will support my initial path forward as a professional golfer.
The Northern Trust Open is being played this week at one the the premier golf courses on the rotation, Riviera Country Club, located in Pacific Palisades, California (within city limits of Los Angeles)
Star PGA players like Ernie Els, Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen and Justin Rose are making their 2014 debuts at Riviera Country Club this week for the Northern Trust Open. It always a shootout at Riviera so make sure to check sportsbooks.
The field also includes perennial fan favorite, Fred Couples, who is playing the Northern Trust Open at age 54 because he just “loves Riviera.”
Freddie won twice back in the early 1990s. He has 14 finishes in the top 10. He mentioned the greens are small, much like the courses he played as a youngster in Seattle, WA. He said the course reminds him of Royal Melbourne. It’s a bit of a stretch to make the connection from Seattle to Royal Melbourne, but he added, “Basically, it’s just fun to be here.”
Riviera CC was designed by George C. Thomas (with help from famed architect Alister MacKenzie and William Bell) opened for play in 1927 as the Los Angeles Athletic Club. It’s listed as a par 71 with a length of 7,279 yards. The private club has been a playground for celebrities like Douglas Fairbanks, Bing Crosby, Walt Disney, Charlie Chaplin, W.C Fields, Humphrey Bogart* and Howard Hughes.
Current celebrity members include both star athletes and Hollywood elite like: Adam Sandler, Tom Brady, Larry David, Mark Wahlberg and Billy Crystal.
Ben Hogan, who won his first US Open at the Riviera in 1948, once remarked, “Some of my most pleasant memories and thoughts are of this wonderful club and magnificent golf course.” The course is often affectionately known as “Hogan’s Alley”
Former PGA Tour player and current NBC Golf analyst Johnny Miller also said,
“Riviera is definitely one of the greatest, no-nonsense golf courses in the world. It requires a player to play every club in his bag and every shot in his game.”
The marquee hole is the eighteenth – a world-famous par four. The tee shot is blind, and the ball must find the sloped fairway to have any chance of reaching the green, which is surrounded by a natural amphitheater with an exceptional view of the Spanish-style clubhouse.
*A tree by the 12th green is still known as Bogey’s Tree, since that’s where Humphrey Bogart would relax – flask in hand – and watch the L.A. Open – (aahhhhhhhh – sounds like a lovely afternoon for me!)
Note: Black and white photo courtesy of Associated Press
Subconscious Golf is one of the best golf books I have read in a very long time. It’s filled with eye-opening insights, instruction and thought patterns that, unequivocally, will make you a better player.
The book, written by Ed Grant in 2013 has a subtitle of “Train and use your mind like the pros.”
I was introduced to it by Grant Brown, (note: no, it also works if your name does not include the name “Grant”) an upcoming pro whom we have written about in our post, Quick 9: Interview with Grant Brown on his Journey to the PGA Tour.
Grant has made some amazing progress using a lot of these principles and when we were speaking about on the phone recently he mentioned this is applicable to ALL players not just low handicappers.
Author Ed Grant started teaching Subconscious Golf concepts at seminars and golf schools around the country way back in the 1970s (so he’s clearly not a fly-by-night operation!)
Grant’s work has helped dozens of top-level PGA Tour players from the 1970s to today, and his mental game intruction, techniques and patterns have been adapted and utilized by some of the game’s most elite instructors, including Jim Flick, Jim McLean, Bob Toski and Dave Stockton.
By combining research from truly diverse fields in performance golf psychology, Mr. Grant has created a system based on the principle that golf is equally as much a mental game as a skills game.
Researching and understanding how the mind/brain works and affects physiology, muscle tension, thought patterns and ultimately performance on the golf course is at the core of Subconscious Golf.
I was really intrigued as I have been having an issue driving the ball the last few years. It’s really nothing physical as I can get myself into those positions but just wasn’t sure why I can’t seem to get to my right side (I’m a lefty) on the tee ball.
When stuff like this happens you can go to the moon and back trying to figure out what’s going on. Is it physical? Am I getting older (and weaker)?, Am I just just not as good as I used to be? Is it that tinge of arthritis I have in my right hip? just keep your left knee a little more sturdy on the backswing, and on and on it goes in your mind.
But reading the book Ed shares this exact dilemma.
To play your best golf, you need to develop a routine that breaks a complete shot into two parts. There is a conscious part, controlled by the conscious mind, which involves observing and evaluating your circumstances, making club and shot decisions and controlling the pre-shot routine and setup; and then the subconscious part, controlled by the subconscious mind, which is the swing itself.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a tour player, an aspiring club champion, a 10 handicap, a bogey golfer or a beginner. If you can learn how to take control of your golfing mind and switch effectively between the conscious and subconscious, you can shoot better scores. A subconscious swing will always give you a better and more consistent results than a conscious golf swing!
There are so many good chapters in this book it hard to single any one out but I’ll just focus on 2 that made a difference for me.
I loved Chapter 2, “How we Learn,” it totally breaks down how we “think” we learn in terms of the golf swing. One of the most difficult things Ed mentions is that:
… the human brain is particularly vulnerable to a condition called “intermittent reinforcement.” In psychological terms this means that the hardest behavior to change is one that has been intermittently reinforced. In golf terms, this means the hardest swing (or habit) to change is the one that produces good results every now and again.
See, every now and again you hit that great drive or that bomb of a put and Wham! you’re right back into that feedback loop. The better way is to create a program that aims to get your mind and body back in sync and focusing properly.
One thing that really struck me is something I have been thinking about for a while. That of being “ball bound versus swing bound” in your learning.
That is another challenge this game presents to us in learning new swing moves; the tendency to be too ball result oriented vs. swing result oriented. Every golfer who has tried to improve knows that it is very possible to fail to execute the new desired move but still hit a good shot.
But if we become too ball result oriented and reinforced, you will give up on making the new swing move an over-learned skill because you will be “intermittently reinforced” by hitting some good shots, then subsequently trying to hit more good shots instead of just focusing on successfully executing the new swing move.
And it’s not just concepts and theories. Ed gives specific learning practices like practicing in slow motion, with eyes closed, exaggerated training and more. The chapter ends with the Habit Formation Calendar that is designed to, once and for all, transform your golf game. I won’t give away more than that. You’ll have to buy the book.
Chapter 4, “Self-Talk and the Trigger Process” was another of my favorites. It’s all about understanding how your performance and your thoughts are directly related. For example, do you know how to use self-talk to control (therefore modify) your performance on the golf course? You’ll find out how.
Other cool things in this chapter include:
- How your thoughts create pictures
- Decoupling your thoughts based on your results
- Learning to release your anger in a positive way
- Re-framing your critical self-talk
- Selectively ignoring “reality”
Also included in the book are many videos of Ed going over the content in his own words. Really nicely done and high quality. You need a reader via your mobile device to scan the QR code. You can then view them on your phone or save them (as I did) and view them later on another device such as iPad or desktop or something else.
Note: in the book it mentions getting the GetScanLife.com app to scan in the QR codes but that didn’t work for me as these are Microsoft based codes (with the little triangles) I downloaded the Microsoft tag reader app on my iPhone and they worked fine.
What I really love about the book is that it is so fresh. It’s goes pretty deep. It get’s under the surface and really exposes some (in my opinion) pretty radical stuff. It never patronizes – like a lot of golf books seem to.
Plus there doesn’t seem to be anything filler here. Just all good content that has the potential to transform your game like maybe anything you have experienced before.
You can get the book below at Amazon. It’s not cheap at just over $40 for a 160 page paperback but think of it as an investment in playing your best golf ever. Not a bad tradeoff, is it?
There’s lots of great things happening on the Pro Tour already this year, but Tiger Woods isn’t one of them. Six years ago people were wondering whether Tiger was as good as Jack, thinking that Jack had tougher competition. That may have been true. It certainly isn’t now. The fields are packed with great golfers, most of them 33 and younger. Now a days it’s going to be hard for anyone to win a major. You’ve got to be on your A game for all four rounds just to have a chance.
I used to write about Tiger’s swing changes, physical problems and life problems. The last two items are well behind him and he’s had more than enough time to make swing changes. So what’s his problem? It looks to me like he’s just plain TIRED.
Tiger started competitive golf at about age 5 and has known little else for 33 years. That’s a long time for anyone to eat and breathe only one thing. So far this year he’s been missing enthusiasm and who could blame him. I don’t think there’s any debate any more that what separates the winners from the losers in competitive golf is the mind. Is it surprising that Tiger’s well of enthusiasm and energy might finally have run dry.
Tiger had a ferocious win streak going some years back, then his dad died, his personal life imploded and his body fell apart. All anyone in the press asks him anymore is when is he going to win another major. I don’t know what Tiger would do if he stopped playing competitive golf, he hasn’t shown any interest in other parts of the game. Even his course design efforts seem stuck.
Then again, no one ever really knows what goes on in Tiger’s mind. It must take a lot of work to keep so much locked up for so long. Maybe he should come out for some tournaments and spend time connecting with the crowds and enjoying what he’s done for the game. He might forget his ‘winning is the only thing’ mantra for awhile and tap into some joy. That might bring the energy back along with his game!
Kevin “Stads” Stadler held his nerve to win his first tournament recently on the PGA Tour in the Waste Management Phoenix Open with a solid card, posting scores of 65, 68, 67 and 68.
The solid (250 lbs) 33-year old turned professional in 2002 and gained his Tour card with the PGA in 2005.
Going into the final day in Scottsdale, Arizona, Stadler trailed Bubba Watson by two shots. That deficit was soon clawed back as he birdied the first three holes in his fourth round.
The opportunity to win his first event on the PGA Tour looked to be slipping away on the back nine as his putting seemed a bit suspect from 10 feet in. A double on the 11th hole also saw him drop away from Watson once again.
Stadler reached -16 following a birdie on the 17th, which ensured he was level with the former Masters Champion. A play-off was then looking likely, however, Watson missed from five feet to bogey the last.
The victory comes five years after Stadler lost in a play-off in the Wyndham Championship to Ryan Moore.
Bubba made his first bogey Sunday on the par-four ninth. That was followed up with six consecutive pars which made him a favorite again at betfair.com.
Although he did make a birdie on the 17th, after a good drive off the tee, he made bogeys at the 16th and 18th to drop two crucial shots late in the round and that was it for Bubba.
Stadler, a resident of Scottsdale, Arizona will now receive an invitation for the Masters in April at Augusta, GA. It will be his first appearance of his career in the major championship. An event, of course, his Dad (aka “The Walrus”) won in 1982. Past champions do get a lifetime invitation to play so it would be awesome to see both father and son playing in the prestigious event.
All in all it was a terrific win for the junior Stadler and a nice way to continue the winning tradition in the Stadler family.
I have started collecting “older” golf instruction books. Really just for fun. One I am re-reading now is How to Play Golf, by Sam Snead with a copyright of 1946.
It’s really fascinating to read great players view of the golf swing. The Snead book, at times, can be a little dry. But you never know when (or where) you might get that little gem that can propel your golf game to a new level.
What is interesting (especially in the excerpt below) is the emphasis on eliminating tension in the golf swing – a true hallmark of that silky smooth swing of Sam Snead.
I am going to be highlighting excerpts from other not widely known golf books as on ongoing type of post. I hope you enjoy them. Please comment and let me know what you think.
Sam Snead on “The Head” from How to Play Golf.
The head is often refer to as the anchor of the golf swing. It keeps the clubhead on the correct path.
You may argue that you have seen expert golfers move the head during the swing, and you are partially right. Fast action pictures have shown that good shotmakers do move the head – but it is a slight movement, and it is a good idea to keep the head as close to the position as possible all during the stroke. It is one way of acquiring a grooved swing.
Think of the head as the axle of a wheel, the club as a spoke, and the clubhead as part of the rim. Any movement of the axle transferred to the rim through the spoke. If the head, or axle, is lifted, control of the clubhead, or rim, is lost. Experts keep the head in the same position for some time after the ball is struck.
The head should not be held so rigidly that tension welds it to the top of the body. This is as bad a condition as moving the head during the swing. If the head is completely isolated from the rest of the body through rigidity, turning of the shoulders cannot take place in a proper swing.
When tension appears, and the head begins to pop up before the ball is struck, attempt to execute the stroke with more ease, starting the swing more slowly. Check the grip, tension might have started there.
I think this is something we can all learn from. First, remain steady throughtout the swing as Snead recommends. This has a lot to do with having solid core strength (we have lots of articles on core strength on Golf
Dash, please check them out) but try to think in terms of visual images.
For example, think of your swing as if your as solid (not tense) and grounded as the Eiffel Tower. I always thought that was a good one to reinforce the idea of being anchored and compact.
Second, you have to be aware of tension in your body. It’s not easy if you don’t have a concept of “tense” and “relaxed.” There are many, many relaxation programs out there. Look online, YouTube, etc. And then you can begin to incorporate that practice into your game.
Sooner or later (and usually sooner) every golfer realizes the game is mostly mental. Is it mental because we think too much or, because we think about the wrong things?
We hear announcers say over and over how ‘mentally tough’ Tiger is and how his mental toughness separates him from most of the other players. You probably heard how Henrik Stenson had such a mental breakdown in his game in 2000-2001 that he almost quit golf. Six years later he’s one of the best in the world, because something happened with his mind that allowed his body to make a golf swing unencumbered. So what can we take from all of this?
What is it that we are supposed to do with our minds when we play golf? My own humble opinion after thinking about this for decades is that we must keep the mind out of the way. We can’t just turn our minds off, so the task becomes one of keeping the mind focused on something so it can’t try to take control of the swing. When pros are playing very well we hear about them being in ‘the zone’.
You’ve probably heard that about athletes in almost every sport when they’re doing well. The basketball player that hits 8 three’s in a row was ‘in the zone’. The batter who can come to the plate with two out in the ninth and got a hit to win the game was ‘in the zone’.
Being in the zone is having your mind occupied and keeping it out of the way of your body. It’s not about your mind taking control and telling the body what to do step-by-step. It’s not about the mind focusing on how much is at stake on any given shot, putt or hit. Good mental coaches get their players to learn how to keep their minds occupied and out of the way.
One approach is to learn a pre-shot routine and let your mind run the tape. That way it’s doing something but it’s not getting in the way. It doesn’t become a third person sitting on your shoulder and whispering all sorts of foul ideas in your ear.
Some players learn to occupy their minds with more esoteric thoughts that put the game in perspective. You see this with players who have suffered a recent personal loss that forces them to realign their values. What’s nerve wracking about a 3 foot putt when a loved one is facing a fight with cancer. Players that are involved in charities have many images to draw upon to keep themselves grounded in reality.
In the grand scheme of things, how important is any putt, or chip, or drive? In the moment, the pressure can be almost unbearable. Perspective changes all of that. The trick is learning to focus your mind where and when you want. This is more than an act of will, it can be practiced in the same way you practice any golf shot – through repetition. Make your practice time be both physical and mental.
Learn to focus your mind on something other than swing mechanics on every shot. Even when you’re trying to learn a particular move – like a one piece takeaway – use your mind as an observer during the actual move, don’t let it try to run the show. Use it to gather data. Or focus it on the target. And then practice, practice, practice.
If you’re like me, you get into the zone every once in a while when you putt. It can be for a few holes, a few rounds or even a few weeks. Think back to that time, was your mind guiding you how to make each putt? No way! More than likely the confidence you had allowed your mind to relinquish control and be peacefully at rest just focused on the hole or maybe even the smell of a freshly cut green.
Tiger has perfected his mind control as much, or even more, than he has perfected his swing. And I believe the average golfer has a better chance at learning Tiger’s mind control than his swing.
In my opinion there is really nothing better than watching these old Ben Hogan video clips. There is just something quite mesmerizing about watching the beauty of Hogan’s swing.
I really believe that sometimes these simple (in theory anyway) swing mechanics are the secret to a solid, repeatable and fundamentally solid golf swing. But we are so busy looking for these “magic pills” that we instantly put on blinders when it comes to fundamentals.
The fundamental of starting the swing with your lower body (or from the ground up) is essential for a solid, powerful golf swing. Keep trying to practice THAT. Nevermind about the new driver or latest golf shaft. Work diligently on them. They will pay off.
I saw a recent interview with Bruce Springsteen and someone in a newer band was asking him about the secrets of his success. He said, “It’s in the doing” that you find the magic. Not the thinking about it. More doing. More practicing.
I just recently purchased the Ben Hogan Collection DVD set band I HIGHLY recommend it. Also the Ben Hogan, “Five Lessons” is a classic. Tim Ferriss calls it one of the best books ever on organized learning. If you want to check them out the links are below: