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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What Goes On In Your Head

Bobby Heins, Old Oaks
Bobby Hiens
What’s the difference between the pros’ game and ours? I asked Bobby Heins, head pro at Old Oaks Country Club in Purchase, NY, and coach to PGA Tour standout Johnson Wagner among many others. Here’s his well-thought-out response:

“The average player always plays for their best shot. Golf pros build in a miss. They’re trying to hit a good shot, but they know they’re going to miss a lot, so they make sure they miss in the right place. The average amateur doesn’t take that into account.  On the approach shot, you’ve got a thirty foot window. When the pin is in the middle, you’ve got fifteen feet on either side of it, so fire away. But if it’s tucked on the right, maybe you should aim fifteen feet to the left. An amateur’s window may be wider.  Great players know their game and play to it. They may shoot 62 one day and 70 the next, but they make decisions accordingly. I’ve been fortunate to win tournaments when I wasn’t playing my best because I missed in the right place.”

“Real good golfers are realistic about how they’re playing today.  In preparing for competition, try to practice the shots you’re going to need depending on the course. Maybe you know you’ll be hitting a lot of wedges, or you know you’ll need to hit a lot of fades. So work on that in your warm up. Sometimes you can’t hit those shots on a given day, so you want to know that before you go out there and play accordingly.”

“When you’re faced with a tough shot, the first question to ask is if you can even hit it. Even from a good lie, is it a low percentage shot? If it is, where can you set yourself up for a good putt? Play the appropriate shot.”

“Speaking of the appropriate shot, use something other than your ego to choose the right club to hit. You know the guy. He once made a hole in one on a 195-yard hole with a five iron. But the pin was in front, the wind was at his back, and it hadn’t rained for a month so his ball rolled onto the green and into the cup. Now, every time he plays that hole, he has to hit a five iron.”

“Everybody is affected by how they’re playing, but at the higher level, they’re less affected by their last hole whether it was good or bad. The average player may get mad and decide to really smash their tee shot on the next hole, and that just steamrolls to more trouble.”

“Golf pros take more practice swings on wedge shot than any other shot. In the rough, they try to find a place where the lie is similar, where the grain of the grass is the same, so they can feel the resistance. They may take ten practice swings just to get the feel.”

“I try to use visual cues and verbal cues to reinforce what I expect to happen. I may see the putt making a big sweeping break or may tell myself it’s a firm inside line.  On pressure putts, I try to remember when I’ve holed similar putts before. It’s about knowing you can do it despite all the stuff that’s rumbling through your head.”

“What goes on in your head affects your game 100%.”

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

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