November 2013

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The Process

Now that we are in holiday season, it is a good time to reflect on the prior year. Many of you set goals which you may or may not have achieved. The way I look at it, it is not as important to achieve the goal as it is the process of striving towards it. After all, the process is what it is all about. If you are not enjoying the process, then you may want to try something else. 

This reminds me of the time I met Jessica Hardy, an Olympic gold medalist and record holder in breast stroke and freestyle. I was watching my niece play in a water polo tournament and Jessica was showing her gold medal and taking pictures with her fans. I took my son over to take a picture. She handed me the gold medal and as I held it, I thought about all the hours she must have practiced to accomplish this goal. The medal was not really for winning the race, it was for the effort and perseverance to achieve the goal. Whether the goal is achieved or not, the process is the true gold. 

I believe in goal setting as it focuses your attention. Golf is a game that requires many different skills. Not only do you have different shots you need to master, but you also have fitness and the mental side. My advice is to look back at your year, assess your weaknesses and set some goals in each area but most importantly, enjoy the process!



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zander Tip zone

mental game   strategy tip   short game

Most people think that the mental game means that you don't think about mechanics. I completely disagree with that. In fact, I had the opportunity to ask Tom Watson about that. His answer was that he used both mechanics and mental toughness to win tournaments. Rick Jensen, a renowned sports psychologist, was working with a tour player that had lost his card. He did a skills assessment and realized that the reason he was no longer on tour was that his skills had declined. Working on the mental side was not the key to regaining his card. His suggestion was to go work with his teacher to improve his skills. Mental toughness is obviously important but make sure you can perform the task. The metal guru can then help your skills come out under pressure. 


This past few years, you have seen a statistic called "strokes gained" on the PGA tour. Mark Broadie, a professor at Columbia, wrote a book called "Every Shot Counts". His concept of strokes gained or lost is the best I have seen as far as understanding the effect of each shot on your score. He dispels the myth that you drive for show and putt for dough. Looking through his lens, the long game has a lot more to do with your score than your short game. Obviously they are both important but he has scientifically analyzed what makes up your score. Once you read his book, you will make better decisions on the course and understand how to make your practice count. 


Weaken your grip when you hit short game shots. A weaker grip means you need to point the v's more towards your nose. A weak grip enables you to keep loft and bounce on the clubface which are both essential to hit successful short game shots. Most wedges now come with two numbers on them, the loft and the bounce. These are essential elements to getting the ball up and down. Unfortunately, the strong or neutral grip that helps your full swing is a liability in your short game. I like to tell my students that when they get around the greens, they need to switch from power mode to finesses mode. Weakening your grip is a great way to switch that gear both mentally and physically. 



The Present


Do you know how you stand relative to par? If so, you are probably not in the present much less in the zone. In his book "Golf Flow", Gio Valiente examines an interview with Tiger about his 2004 Masters victory:

"I was in such a zone today, working so hard on every shot. Then I walked over to the side and I just started thinking, you know, I don't have any more shots to play. I'm done- I won the Masters. "

Tiger was so involved in his game that he did not realize how he stood to Par or the rest of the field until there was no more golf to play. I know personally that when I have played my best rounds, I don't know what I have scored until the end. Tiger mentioned that he was working hard on each shot, others describe the zone as effortless. Irregardless, when a player is in the zone of peak performance, they are immersed in the shot at hand and nothing else matters. If you fall in love with the shot in front of you, I can't guarantee that you will enter the zone, but you have a chance!



See the Line


Can you see the line when you putt? Sometimes, you get over a putt and the line is obvious and you know that you are going to make the putt. Obviously, it would be nice to be in that position all the time. Here's how to practice it:

Put an alignment stick down in line with the hole. Set up as if you are going to putt the stick into the hole. Now look down the line of the stick. Does that look straight to you? If not, experiment tilting your head until you find a position of your eyes that makes the line look straight. 

Bunker magic
health tips

As a competitive golfer, I do everything I can to limit mental errors. I accept that golf is not a game of perfect and that poor shots are a part of the game. But it’s the mental errors that really gets my blood boiling. Choosing the wrong club, losing concentration, or making a bad course management decision are all avoidable mistakes. Here’s another - not preparing my golf bag before I go play.

I was rushed before my last round of golf and I forgot to pack these “must have” items in my golf bag: water bottle, trail mix, and sunscreen. Each of these items are almost as important as my golf clubs. The water bottle reminds me to hydrate early and often during the round. Although it is very unlikely that I would experience a medical emergency due to dehydration during a round of golf, it is still not good to play thirsty golf. I try to drink at least 24 ounces of water or a sports beverage during a round of golf. The trail mix is necessary for me to keep my energy up during the round. Relying on the cart girl or the snack bar to have healthy options for me is a bad bet. I try to munch on a full sandwich baggie full of trail mix throughout the round for sustainable energy. And the sunblock is a must-have for all golfers. Skin cancer is the long-term danger, while a nasty burn and skin irritation can lead to lack of concentration and being distracted as the round progresses. I go with 50+SPF in a sport formula that is more resistant to sweat.

So take a few extra minutes before each round of golf and get your bag in order. It will eliminate one of those annoying mental errors.

Till next month, I’ll see you on the fairways and greens!

Dr. Chris

Dr. Christian Thompson is the owner of Thompson Fitness Solutions ( and has taught golf-specific fitness classes and clinics for the past 12 years. He has been on faculty in the Kinesiology Department at the University of San Francisco since 2002.