The Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National is truly one of the greatest sporting events in all of sports and is the overwhelming favorite of not only professional golfers, but also spectators. Not only is the course ‘On Earth as it is in Heaven’, it’s one where the player has to have a strong mindset to challenge the incredible number of circumstances the course demands. Virtually every shot down there requires precision thinking and planning, and the slightest miscue can result in disaster.
I’ve had the privilege of playing Augusta and was struck by how the course had to be approached with a precise game plan, and not just stand up there and flail away. The first time I walked on the hallowed grounds, I was struck by a) How tall the trees are, and b) How undulating the hills and slopes are, not to mention the greens. TV just doesn’t pick up how tall those trees are – probably due to the TV cameras being so high in the air. Not only are the greens super fast and tricky, often times you have to putt up to 30 feet off line in order to accommodate the severe slopes. This also holds true for hitting your approaches into the greens – where you have to calculate where you want to aim the ball on the green (which isn’t usually going at the pin) to give yourself a chance of having a makeable putt (or not 3 putting).
To say that you have to have a disciplined mindset there is an understatement and there have been countless Masters Championships lost due to one losing their patience and cool.
One way to find out what your mental Profile is, is to take Bobby Foster’s Mental Golf Profile Quiz – which will determine what your Mindset is and possibly what you can do to understand yourself and your relationship with golf.
(But did he really play that way?)
Picture from Hogan’s Book on the left, Hogan himself on the right.
What We Learned From Ben Hogan
Ben Hogan is considered by many to be THE greatest ball striker of all time, and he’s probably the only Great player that I never had a chance to see in person from the early 60’s on. I’ve also asked many of the Senior Tour Players I’ve worked with and who’ve played with Mr. Hogan, ‘If he really was ‘THAT’ good? So far, EVERY player I’ve asked has answered, ‘Yes, he was ‘THAT’ good!”
His Book ‘Ben Hogan’s FIVE LESSONS, is no less considered The Bible of Golf Instruction, and is one of – if not THE best selling golf instruction book of all time. This book was revolutionary and is truly one of the great golf instruction books ever written. However, I’ve noticed that there were a couple of the FIVE LESSONS that in reality, he didn’t do?
1) In describing the Address Position, he stated that the elbows should be very close together with the ‘pits’ facing upward; and he actually used an illustration of an elastic band to show this (above).
However, in reality, Hogan’s Right elbow in particular actually flared out somewhat (see the photo above).
2) Regarding the Sequence of the Golf Swing, he felt that the movements of the body parts were a chain reaction of: The Club head Moving First on the Backswing – then the Hands (this requires an early wrist set), then the Arms, Shoulders; THEN the reverse sequence happened on the downswing with the Hips leading – then the shoulders, then the Arms, Hands and club. That is Correct (called kinematic sequencing).
However, this is not what he actually did and as you can see, he actually started his swing by almost ‘dragging’ the hands and club back together – then cocking the wrists near the top of his swing; so much so that the club actually looked like it’s almost touching his neck! The point is that it certainly seems that he didn’t set his wrist early in his swing as implied – and rather cocked them very late near the top and creating the incredible lag that he had.
I can assure you that the point I’m trying to make is not whatsoever trying to diminish or demean Mr. Hogan’s book – and like I mentioned, the book is a classic, but rather to spread light on this discussion. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with a LOT of great players (predominantly the senior Tour Players), and I’ve always been surprised at how many of them Thought (?) they were doing things in their swings, that in reality weren’t doing.
Or as Butch Harmon says, “The F-e-e-l isn’t always R-e-a-l”.
When taking instruction, I highly recommend that you seek a teacher who uses video and understands the innuendos of it.
Because it’s the Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Classic this week, I thought I’d share a couple of the things that he worked on in his swing.
#1 HE TRIED TO GET AS ‘DEEP’ THROUGH THE BALL AS HE COULD
Although during the years that I worked with him we were primarily focused on his flexibility and anatomical function, we still would look at his golf swing from time to time, where we’d monitor how his flexibility was helping him turn back and through better.
The first time I explained the Physiological Fundamentals of the Golf Swing to him on my monitor, I was showing how the most crucial fundamental was Clearing the Hips and Shoulders through the shot, and where all great players got into the ‘Two Cheek Position.’ Right when I said this, he jumped out of the chair and exclaimed, “Rog, that’s what I can’t do anymore!” He then told me that “The Main Thing” he tried to do in his golf swing was ‘Get as Deep’ through the ball as he could. i.e. he tried to Turn his Hips and Shoulders as much as he could through the ball. Within a few minutes, I had him go through my Flexibility Tests at which point I explained how it was ‘his lack of flexibility’ that was inhibiting him from turning through the ball.
#2 HE TRIED TO ‘TOUCH’ THE TARGET WITH HIS RIGHT ARM AND HAND
A few months later, and after he’d been working on his flexibility A LOT, we went out to the range at Bay Hill to hit some balls. There, he told me another thing. He said, “Rog, by getting my hips more flexible, I’ve noticed that it’s easier for me to extend my Right Arm longer through to the target.” I then said, “Have you always tried to do that?” He replied, “Yes, I always tried to ‘Touch the Target’ with my right arm and hand.” (Although the right arm and hand are actually extending around to the left, it feels that it’s going down the target line.) Again, it’s the centrifugal force created by the turning of the left hip and shoulder that’s ‘bringing’ the arms and club around.
The reality is that when you try to ‘Touch the Target’ with your Right Arm and Hand, you’ll automatically Clear your Hips and Shoulders through the ball easier.
The more I look back on the years I spent with Mr. Palmer, the more cherished these memories have become. But THE #1 THING that I’ll always remember about him, was how Great he treated people. Trust me, he was always besieged by people – yet he always took the time to make them feel important. And, he certainly did that for me!
(If you think too much like this………You may end up feeling like this)
In my opinion, I think golf (like many other things in life), has gotten way too technical. In fact, when I hear some of the lingo that‘s been going on for the last several years, I sometimes think that some instructors sound like they’re programming Robots and Computers, and not Human Beings.
There is No Doubt in my mind that golf has more instruction and theories than any sport on the planet, but the statistics show that handicaps really haven’t changed in 45 years – according to Dean Knuth (Founder of the Slope Method for the USGA), and the National Golf Foundation! Yet, it seems like in other sports, the amateur and pro athletes are better across the board from amateurs and pros. (Notice that other sports – even kids – focus more on improving their bodies than they do on mechanics). Although it can be argued that today’s pros are better players and definitely longer now, I think the major reason for this is due to the technology, where we’re seeing the ball go infinitely farther and doesn’t’ curve as much – the clubs are infinitely better with giant club heads, balanced shafts, and the courses are infinitely manicured better. Having grown up in the era of Palmer, Player, Nicklaus, Trevino, Miller, et al, nobody can tell me that today’s players are better than them – not to mention Hogan, Nelson, Snead in the previous generation! It would be very interesting to see what would happen if we suddenly put the old clubs and balls in the hands of today’s players and put them on the old courses before verticutting machines, high bred technology in grasses, etc. Also remember, that the very few pros that were workout fanatics in the 60’s, which included Gary Player, Jerry Barber, Frank Stranahan and maybe a ‘few’ others, none of them hit it extraordinarily far.
However, as mentioned, I don’t see the relative improvement in the average golfers – and ESPECIALLY the senior golfers, who are generally getting worse as they play on the ‘Back Nine of Life’.
And, on that note, I’ve been blessed to have played with and coached scores of great players (mainly the senior tour players), and I can assure you that they didn’t – and don’t – know anywhere near as much about swing mechanics as today’s young players do. However, both generations REALLY understood their F-E-E-L-S and ALL of them used their imaginations and focused completely differently than high handicappers. Ie, Great Players play ‘Shots’ and too many high handicappers play ‘Swing’. Another thing both generations have is superb flexibility in their upper bodies – specifically the Obliques and Quadratus Lumborum (their sides). This comes from them having swung golf clubs millions of times since they were young. Not all of them have super flexible hamstrings – BUT, they all have ‘Super Strong Legs’ – which are crucial in Driving the Pelvis through the swing.
Therefore, I deduct that THE most important factors in playing good golf for a lifetime, are having a Flexible Upper Body and Strong Legs – AND, without question…a Focused Mind – that focuses on The Shot and Target and not on your swing mechanics.
So, to recap; My recommendation is to KEEP STRETCHING!!
After having spent a lifetime playing with Great Players, Observing Great Players, and Coaching Great Players (not to mention Great Athletes in other sports), there is NO DOUBT that they ALL have one thing in common, and that one thing is IMAGINATION AND FOCUS. Without exception, they ALL ‘SEE’ things and visualize their shots in a far different realm than the majority of amateurs and high handicappers. (Which I’ve played with, observed, and coached as well.)
In fact, I’d say the overwhelming majority of amateurs and high handicappers, play ‘Swing’ and don’t actually play ‘Golf’; whereby their minds tend to focus on their golf swing mechanics, and not on imagining the shot they’re about to hit. Yes, pros tinker with their swing mechanics and have coaches too, but when it comes time to hit shots, they’re actually playing (just like a game of chess) where they’re thinking of the moves that lie ahead. A lot of this is simply due to the millions of repetitive swings and shots they’ve hit, but I’m convinced that much of it is especially due to the way their minds are wired.
All good players will stand behind the ball, and visualize the shot they want to hit and SEE the shot going at the target – then they’ll take a few practice swings rehearsing the swing that their visualization has wired into their minds and bodies. Then, they step up and ‘Let it Go!’ EMG studies have shown that when professionals have been wired up to measure how much activity is going on in the brains, the graphs show that their brains remain pretty still and quiet, where the high handicappers usually show A LOT of activity going on in there. Again, when one is thinking, “Where are my hands?” “Where are my Arms?” etc., and not F‐E‐E‐L‐I‐N‐G the motion and shot, they’re actually blocking the energy that we want to be flowing to the target.
WHERE IS YOUR GOLF GAME GOING IN 2019?
Take a good stock of your golf game in the coming year.
This famous exchange from Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland‘ still very much holds true today regarding your golf game (and life for that matter!). I’ve been playing golf since I was a little kid and have been blessed to have played with and coached, scores of Great, Great Players and even a lot more ‘Not so Great’ players. One of the main differences between the two groups is that Great Players know where they want to go. They know their strengths and weaknesses and then work hard on their ‘Weaknesses.’
I remember once, when a friend of mine was caddying for the Great Tommy Bolt – one of the greatest ball strikers of all time (but not one of the Great Putters). Immediately after the round in the So. Cal Open, Tommy and my buddy headed straight for the driving range. While he was hitting pure shot after pure shot, he turned around and saw Jerry Barber – who was one of the Great Putters of all time – (but not considered to be one of the great ball strikers). After his round, Barber headed straight over to the practice putting green to practice his putting. Tommy looked over at us and said, “Isn’t this typical, I never made a putt in my life but can hit it solid every time, yet here I am practicing my long game, and Jerry never missed a putt in his life and can’t hit it solid, yet he’s going over to the putting green to practice his putting. Isn’t it crazy that everybody practices what they do the best!
It’s so true that we all want to practice what we do best, and not what we Should be working on.
My suggestion is: for 2019, take a look at what your strengths and weaknesses are, and then go spend MORE TIME working on your weaknesses.
Along these lines, set GOALS FOR YOURSELF! I.e. if you’re a 12 handicap and want to get down into single figures, make that a goal. For example, you might want to take a Card and write down a ‘9’ on it (indicating your goal is to become a 9 handicap for 2019, etc). Then put the card on a wall, on your bathroom mirror, in your wallet, wherever, and let your subconscious mind Absorb it. When Tiger Woods was a child, he put an 18, signifying the 18 Major Championships of Jack Nicklaus on his wall and pursued that as his long-range goal. If you count Tiger’s 3 U.S. Amateur Championships, he’s won 17; but actually, surpassed Jack in another area – total PGA wins.
The bottom line is – if you PROGRAM YOUR MIND, YOU’LL BE PROGRAMMING YOUR BODY. After all, Thoughts ARE Things! And speaking of which, don’t forget to Stretch and improve your body, not only to retard the aging process and keep your swing young and energetic, but also to help keep you on the Right Road!! (If you don’t, you just may run into some ‘Weird Stray Cats’ along the way 😉)
We at Fredericks Golf TRULY appreciate your patronage in our products and philosophy and wish you all a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS AND PROSPEROUS 2019… On and Off the course!
“You don’t have to get old the way our society has brainwashed us into believing”, is what my late father Elmer Fredericks (shown below at around 90 years of age) used to always say.
With today’s modern lifestyle of sitting, whether behind the desk or on the couch watching TV, many golfers don’t possess enough strength or flexibility to perform a fundamental golf swing, and consequently end up with poor posture. In my opinion, it’s very hard to play good golf with poor posture, and I believe that the most neglected aspect of physical training and golf instruction is…