Be Honest in the New Year

Doug Hammer Scottsdale, AZ (Sports Network) -- Happy New Year to each and every one of you. I hope that 2010 finds you well and ready to break down some barriers with your golf game! If you are as avid a golfer as I am, I am sure your list of new year resolutions had at least one golf aspect to it.

Let me take this opportunity to suggest another resolution, one that, hopefully, not everyone will be able to apply. Let me explain, I ask all of you to be 100% honest with your game in 2010. Perhaps most of you are already. That's right, count every single shot, whether it be a short putt that you just "didn't take seriously" or that first ball out of bounds off the 1st tee. Count them all!!

It will be a bit painful at first, especially if you are used to taking one or two liberties with the game...or more than the single mulligan the other members of your foursome have allowed. The "that's good by me" is not a true measure of your putting ability, for example, or lack of it. But I assure you that there will be a payoff down the road. That payoff is what I would like to explain and inspire each of you to reach.

The game of golf is very difficult. I know I don't have to tell you that. If you didn't realize it, you haven't been playing golf. It is easy to just ignore that "dumb" shot, or the short putt that you have made "a thousand times" before. But the fact of the matter is that ignoring those shots is cheating. Face it, the only person you are truly cheating is yourself. By letting yourself take a mulligan here and there, or just pick up that tricky 3 footer, you are letting your brain take a vacation when it should be working overtime.

Many famous golfers have repeated the popular quote "90% of the game is half mental." Well, this couldn't be more true. If you are going to improve your game, you have to be mentally tough. Knowing that you can allow yourself to dismiss an errant shot or a missed putt lets you be less mentally prepared and honest, even if that knowledge exists within, and on, a subconscious level. Maybe there is nothing malicious in your not counting of strokes, or, perish the thought, maybe there is. Either way, you are not concentrating at the level you need to be to improve your own game. And, in golf, the only person we are ever truly playing against is ourselves.

Let me relay a personal experience for you. I grew up in a small Iowa community that, fortunately, had a small 9-hole golf course squeezed in between corn fields. Because the farmer who owned the land next to the golf course made more money from his crops. He didn't want to give up any land to build a driving range. Therefore, the standing rule at my home club is everyone gets two drives off the first tee. It has been that way since it opened in 1970 right up to today. Because of this little local rule, when I play tournament golf today, I am extremely nervous on the first tee because I know that this ball is the one that counts.

My nervousness comes from the fact that, for years, I hit two balls off the first tee, then would choose which one to play! Crazy! You don't get to do that when you are playing for money!! It has been 13 years since I played at my home club on a regular basis, but I still fight the desire to hit a second ball off the first tee. So what I am saying here is try not to condition yourself to allow for a mulligan or to just write down the score you "should have had."

When you count all of your strokes, you will improve. For example, you always have trouble on the fourth tee because it is a tricky dogleg left and you always fade the ball away from the dogleg and toward a lake that continuously swallows your golf ball. So you hit your first shot and if it goes in you pull out an iron to "get one in play." Instead, count that first ball, go up to the where the ball went in, take your penalty, drop a ball and finish the hole. You won't have to do that too often before your brain starts to condition you for that tee shot. Maybe it will be on the range, you can visualize that hole and prepare for it, or maybe you will start to visualize a better initial target line for the ball, or simply hit a friendlier club off the tee, one that you know you will hit straight.

Whatever happens, you will improve in the long run.

Your game will get better, your shots more precise, your scores lower. But give it time everybody. It is kind of like going to the gym for the first 3 weeks. Boy, does it suck getting up early, but you feel so much better for the rest of the day, and will for the rest of your golfing career!

Doug Hammer * Director of Instruction * Troon North Golf Club p 480-585-5300 ext. 251 * f 480-585-5161 * 10320 E Dynamite Blvd. * Scottsdale, AZ 85262 Managed by Troon Golf? *

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