Why the long dark winter is the time to make some genuine changes
The clocks have gone back and done that nasty trick of making the days seem really short and more miserable. The season is well and truly over will and the prospect of golf with the sun on your back seems a distant hope – unless you live outside the UK!
I recently returned from doing some work with Graeme McDowell at Lake Nona in Florida in the most perfect golfing weather imaginable and it was a short sharp return to reality when the plane door creaked open to a freezing Manchester morning on my return. That said though, we can either sit and moan about the weather or look at the coming months as a great opportunity to develop our game and put some work in which could result in a great year next year. The first thing to do though is to review the past year just gone in an honest and productive way. Look back for the patterns – I promise you they will be there.
Most golfers tell me they want to be consistent without realising they already are. It may be consistently bad, but they will be consistent. Review the year and look at how you started your rounds of golf, did you tend to start well and then fade away or have poor starts with a comeback? What about certain holes, certain shots? Did you tend to get anxious with a possible score to shoot? Did getting angry, upset or distracted cost you a lot of shots? Did you control the ball reasonably well but you just didn’t control yourself?
It would be well worth sitting down with someone who you played a lot with to get their input. Often what we think we do and what we actually do are two completely different things.
Above all the best investment you could make would be to go to a good quality PGA professional and sit down with him or her and make a plan of how you can take your game forward. Make sure that you select a coach who covers all aspects of the game not just the full swing. Get involved with a coach who will motivate you and give you a definite practice plan to act on during the winter months.
If you have to make some changes to your swing then now is the time to do it. Don’t wait until next year just before the season starts and then hope that you can suddenly improve your action. It takes time and effort but it will be worth it in the long run.
See the long, dark winter as a chance to do something with your game If you are going to set out on a programme of improvement then try to enlist someone else with you who can be your ‘range buddy’. The research on this is very strong in the sense that when we ‘share’ a goal with others and involve them we are much more likely to stay on track.
Even in the absolute worst of weather, working on your game indoors can be of great benefit. If you are trying to improve your putting stroke or your swing in the normal way you can have conflicting goals in the sense you want to hole the putt but, at the same time, change your action.
This can often be counterproductive. When indoors, you can temporarily remove the target from the equation and focus on the physical move that you want to ingrain. Do this in short but regular bursts of attention. The research on visualisation and imagery also suggests that we can enlist the power of our imagination to speed up the process of making changes in our game. It has long been established that it is useful to visualise yourself making the moves in your swing that you want to change but I have also found it very useful to get players to visualise themselves behaving differently out on the course.
If you are an angry golfer, spend some time in your imagination seeing and sensing yourself responding better to dropped shots and mistakes. If you get nervous then spend some time in your mind’s eye seeing yourself dealing with what you perceive to be pressure situations. This is creating a behaviour template that your brain can go to work on.
Above all else, see the long, dark winter as a chance to do something with your game as opposed to letting the months drift by and do nothing about it.