How should you approach your next short game shot?

How to be task-orientated – and ensure that every time you step into a bunker you are ready to embrace the task at hand 

For as long as we can remember, we have been told that the 40-yard bunker shot is the hardest shot in golf – and because we have all been told it is incredibly tough to execute, we all buy into and believe that particular story. Just like any other story, including your own, if you hear and tell it often enough, it becomes the truth. Living in today’s world, we are all too aware of ‘fake news’, which used to be either lies or myths. Could it be that the 40-yard bunker shot falls into that category?  

We have allowed this shot, or a pitch over a bunker for example, to become such a massive obstacle because everyone tells us that it is, that when we have to play it, all we can think about is the perceived difficulty of the task. However, if we flip that on its head and start to view this shot as an incredible opportunity to show off our skills and get up and down for a par or birdie, suddenly there is a massive shift in our thinking and our attitude – and consequently our ability to execute the shot proficiently. 

What we perceive to be real, influences to an extraordinary degree, our capabilities. Think about it this way, if you choose to place more attention on the obstacle rather than the opportunity the situation provides, which do you think will ultimately prevail? 

While you may not be able to control the situation itself, you can control your perception of it, which will in turn influence how you deal with any given shot or situation. It is only when you include yourself in the situation and your ability to perform any given task – and this applies to life in general as much as it does a golf shot – that clutter overcomes clarity. 

How you perceive, or choose to perceive, any given predicament, will essentially lead one of the following outcomes: 

a) Perceive a shot to be difficult to the point of near impossibility and your mind will become busy with all sorts of negative, unhelpful thoughts about the potentially disastrous outcomes. Your attention will be focused on how on earth you are going to get out of this dreadful situation you have found yourself in. Consequently, your subconscious mind will try to find evidence to support these thoughts, inevitably leading to an inability to perform the task efficiently or effectively. 

b) Accept it for what it is, as just another golf shot, and it becomes an opportunity. We have all successfully dealt with much more challenging situations in our lives than a pitch shot over a bunker. What did we do then? We got on with the task at hand, completed it and moved on. 

Perception is everything. How you choose to perceive any shot or situation is entirely down to you. Is it a chore or a challenge? Is it an obstacle or an opportunity? 

Taken from The Lost Art of the Short Game by Gary Nicol and Karl Morris – with a foreword from Bob Vokey, the godfather of wedges.

Available now in hardback (£19.95) and Kindle (£9.99) formats.

Click here to buy now

How can you stop your short game ruining your score?

You have the power to control the destiny of your short game. By doing so, the outcomes might just change for the better   

Think about when you play golf and you are very score focused. You want to make lots of pars and some birdies and above all, avoid bogeys and doubles. That is your focus. To get back into the clubhouse with a ‘good score’. The problem is we are focused on the score but can we control it? If we hit a perfect putt on the perfect line at the perfect pace, does it always go in the hole? If we hit a perfect drive and the ball bounces left instead of to the right, we have missed the fairway and the ball sits nestled in some thick rough.  

We can, of course, heavily influence the score by our actions but can we control it? 

When you look at the concept of perceived control, you can see all the dangers from a mental game perspective of focusing heavily on something we have very little control over. No wonder we have such high levels of anxiety throughout the game of golf. The key question going forward is, do you want to remain an anxious flyer or become a much calmer driver? 

We remember hearing a story about the great marathon runner and former world record holder, Paula Radcliffe, which gives us a hint at what we could potentially pursue as a point to focus our attention on in a more productive way than being hamstrung by a score focus. 

Clearly the ‘score’ in marathon running is your time and one of the biggest factors in such a long race is your ability to deal with discomfort. The phrase we have all heard is ‘hitting the wall’. The moment in the race when you seem to have more miles left than energy. So often it is as much a mental battle as it is a physical challenge. 

At those crucial points in the race when it would be all too easy to focus on time and how many miles were still left, Radcliffe had a mental trick up her sleeve.  

When the wall approached her, she would simply ask herself: ‘Can I count the next 20 breaths?’ The answer of course being yes.  

She had a point of focus she could control. A place to rest her mind as she got on with the job of running the race. Yes, I can focus on my breath. Yes, I can count the next 20 breaths. Suddenly a place where she did have control now became her immediate sanctuary to go to. Of course, the beauty of this profoundly simple, but immensely clever, trick was at the completion of each set of ‘breaths’ she would be significantly nearer to the finish line. 

She occupied her mind in a place giving her perceived control over a very challenging situation. She chose to place her mind and her attention somewhere useful. You can be liberated from the tyranny of score thinking by a similar process. 

Taken from The Lost Art of the Short Game by Gary Nicol and Karl Morris – with a foreword from Bob Vokey, the godfather of wedges.

Available now in hardback (£19.95) and Kindle (£9.99) formats.

Click here to buy now

The Golf Improvement Podcast

Gary Nicol and Karl Morris joined The Golf Improvement Podcast to talk about why they decided to write this third book in what has been a very successful “Lost Art” book series.

Click here to listen

How can you transform your bunker play?

Let’s begin the journey of transforming the way you approach shots from the sand 

Without getting overly technical, we believe there are a few basic fundamentals that should be applied to achieve bunker brilliance. There are no absolutes as everyone is different but having studied and spoken to some of the best bunker players ever, there are definitely certain things they all do. 

We have spent a lot of time observing, working with and learning from some of the best bunker players in world golf. Anyone who has ever seen Seve play bunker shots would think that his sand wedge was actually an extension of his hands and an integral part of his physical make up. 

Over the years there have been a lot of good and even great bunker players. There have also been some who fall into the exceptional category. Gary Player is a name that has long been associated with exceptional bunker play. 

There have been numerous others including England’s Paul Broadhurst, who used a Wilson Gene Sarazen R-20 sand wedge for decades. Zimbabwean Tony Johnstone was a true magician in the bunkers.  

Brett Rumford from Australia could have charged his fellow tour pros a fortune for sharing his knowledge and expertise.  

We know Ernie Els spent a lot of time honing his skills with his countryman Player. Phil Mickelson clearly deserves a mention here. 

What makes them stand out? Essentially their ability to not only read the situation and see the right shot.  

Ultimately, they have been able to execute or bring that shot to life time after time. 

They are all built differently and range from 5’ 6” to 6’ 3” in height, so clearly one size does not or cannot fit all. That said, there are commonalities in what they do. One thing they ALL have in common, while difficult to measure or quantify, is soft hands.  

You will never see any visible tension in their hands or arms, yet we constantly see club golfers strangling the living daylights out of their club the minute they get anywhere near a bunker. 

Soft hands create feel. Soft hands can be educated and are a prerequisite for good bunker play. Strangle the club and you will always struggle. Think of grip tension on a sliding scale of one to 10.  

If the veins in your neck are trying to burst through your skin when you grip the club, you are probably close to or beyond a 10. Aim for four or five on that scale. 

Hands with little or no tension allow for great rhythm and tempo. Watch any top bunker player and pay attention to the tempo of their bunker swings. It is a thing of beauty. A rhythm you could almost dance to. 

Taken from The Lost Art of the Short Game by Gary Nicol and Karl Morris – with a foreword from Bob Vokey, the godfather of wedges.

Available now in hardback (£19.95) and Kindle (£9.99) formats.

Click here to buy now

Read it, Roll it, Hole it with Gary Nicol

Learning Your Game, Life Lessons and the Perfect Putter

Gary Nicol joins Oli on the Read it, Roll it, Hole it podcast to speak about the mental side of golf, and how the perfect putter does not exist!

Click here to listen

Thoughtful Thursday: The Power Of Three – Intention, Attention and Attitude

It can be enormously satisfying to set a goal, work towards it and ultimately see it through to completion. If you take the appropriate action.

Goals or ambitions come in all shapes and sizes in our personal and professional lives and from my experience, achievement of any goal is down to three keywords or concepts.

INTENTION, ATTENTION and ATTITUDE. For me, these are the three key Performance Principles, whatever your endeavour.

Without a crystal clear INTENTION, you have no start or finish line. Intention is an aim or a plan and will act not only as the thing that clarifies what it is you want to achieve, it will provide you with the motivation to take the first step. 

Once you have clarity of intention, you now have somewhere to place your ATTENTION. We have all been told at certain times in our lives to pay attention to what we are doing but what does that actually mean? Attention is basically the action of dealing with or taking special care of someone or something.

ATTITUDE is a way of feeling or acting towards a person, thing or situation. A bad attitude is like a flat tyre. You can’t go anywhere until you change it.
These three keywords have been at the forefront of the thinking of Karl Morris and I since we set out to write our first book, The Lost Art Of Putting in early 2018. 

Armed initially with good old-fashioned notebooks and pens, Karl and I started writing down our collective thoughts and ideas. After a while, these started to make sense and form the chapter titles and content.

Almost four years down the line, Karl and I have now completed three books in The Lost Art series, something we are very proud of. We are not just proud of the fact the books have been extremely well received by the golf community around the world but perhaps more importantly that we achieved what we set out to do.

It wasn’t always plain sailing. We both experienced days when we would sit in front of our respective laptops, staring at blank screens and the words quite simply failed to appear. On the flip side, there were days when the aim was to write 1000 words and four hours later we had written 2 or 3000 words.

While our intention remained the same, to create books that would help golfers of all standards to play better golf and have more fun in the process, our attention was on what we needed to do and our attitude was one where we always believed it was possible, not every writing session turned out the same. We stuck to our process, knowing that if we did so, we would ultimately achieve what we set out to do.

A bit like a round of golf, a day or week at work or at home.

We had a goal and thankfully were disciplined enough to see it through, largely down to our INTENTION, ATTENTION AND ATTITUDE, something we strongly believe that can and should be applied to whatever you set out to achieve in your life.

To see your hard work actually turn into something tangible like a book or in our case three books, The Lost Art Of Putting, The Lost Art Of Playing Golf and The Lost Art Of The Short Game, is extremely satisfying and gratifying.

To top it all off, we now have a special edition box set of The Lost Art Of Golf Collection which is now available on our website and will be available on Amazon very soon.

Until next time, be grateful for and enjoy every opportunity to do what makes you happy and be very clear on your INTENTION, where you place your ATTENTION and approach them with the ATTITUDE that whatever it is you want to achieve, it is possible.

Is technical mastery of the short game a pre-requisite?

A task is a piece of work to be done or undertaken, while technique is a specific way of carrying out a task 

When you are faced with a shot around the green, whether that be a shot that requires less than a full swing, a pitch over a bunker or water, a chip and run or a bunker shot from a plugged lie, do you start thinking about what the ball needs to do or what you need to do? In other words, are you thinking about the task or the technique? The shot or the swing? 

We would imagine that, initially, like most golfers, you are probably thinking about what your ball needs to do to get close to the flag. Great: you are focused on the task. However, once you are over the ball, there is a strong possibility your thoughts will quickly turn to what you need to do. Those thoughts might be about how you need to move your arms, hands, hips and/or shoulders. 

You have probably figured out how you would like your ball to fly, where you would like it to land and how it will react when it lands on the green. Visualisation is extremely powerful and something we strongly recommend you work on. 

You have created a nice clear image of the shot in your mind’s eye. You’re almost ready to go but then – out of nowhere – you suddenly think about the last time you played a similar shot that resulted in a double bogey because you duffed it three feet in front of you. You remember that one of your playing partners told you that you had bent your left arm in your backswing and lifted your head at impact. Now your thoughts are entirely on your technique. You have completely forgotten about the shot you face right here, right now and suddenly you feel fear and tension engulf your entire body. You can feel your hands tighten around the grip in a desperate attempt not to make a mess of yet another pitch. 

Only seconds ago, you were totally engaged and absorbed in the shot and now you are entirely detached from what, in reality, is a pretty straightforward shot and a fairly simple task. All thoughts and visions of playing a great shot have been replaced with numerous internal technical instructions, all vying for your attention. Your initial clarity has now been replaced with a maelstrom of mental clutter. 

All you have ever learned about staying in the present moment has gone out the window as your mind goes on a journey of time travel. Firstly, re-visiting previous bad shots and then, just as quickly, jumping ahead into the future, predicting and worrying about the result or outcome of the shot. 

You are not alone. This happens all the time to players at all levels. This is what can and does happen when thoughts and focus jump from task to technique. That being the case, what can you do to prevent this from happening time and time again? It is pretty simple. In a world where we are led to believe that complexity is the key, quite the opposite is true. 

Taken from The Lost Art of the Short Game by Gary Nicol and Karl Morris – with a foreword from Bob Vokey, the godfather of wedges.

Available now in hardback (£19.95) and Kindle (£9.99) formats.

Click here to buy now

What is the lost art of the short game?

How we have gradually lost sight of what really matters most when we play golf 

There is a school of thought that suggests hitting the ball further off the tee automatically makes the game easier by resulting in shorter clubs for approach shots into greens. Unfortunately, the quest for greater distance can and often does result in a loss of accuracy and having to play your next shot from a bunker or in the rough or from behind a tree. None of which are always straightforward or as easy to control as a shot hit from the fairway. 

There is so much more to playing good, engaging and enjoyable golf than making pretty swings and hitting bombs. We have all experienced days when we felt like we were swinging nicely and hitting the ball solidly, yet we walk off the 18th green scratching our heads, wondering how on earth it all added up to a disappointingly poor score. Sound familiar? 

The four three-putts, the drive out of bounds, the pair of knifed bunker shots and too many duffed chips to mention. If it hadn’t been for them, you could have got your handicap cut, won the monthly medal, lifted the trophy, made the winner’s speech, accepted all the praise and pats on the back… 

Was it down to the fact your backswing felt too much on the inside on that drive up the last? Was it because you didn’t quite manage to hit every drive at least 350 yards? (like you normally do – yeah right, if only!)  

Was it because you lifted your head on that 7-iron into the 12th green (as your playing partner was so quick to suggest)? Or was the reality of your disappointing score a direct result of an embarrassingly poor short game? Take a minute or two to think about that. Be honest with yourself. In fact, be brutally honest with yourself. Chances are, when you reflect on pretty much every round of golf you play, the majority of the shots you have given away, or left out there are from within 100 yards of the hole. 

Yes, we all want to swing it like Tiger Woods, Adam Scott or Rory McIlroy, but the likelihood of ever achieving such greatness is perhaps just slightly beyond the reach of most mere mortals. Remember this: golf swings don’t win tournaments, golfers do. 

We are not for one minute suggesting you don’t work on your golf swing – far from it. Good fundamentals combined with functional technique is helpful when used wisely and would always be preferable to poor fundamentals allied to a dysfunctional technique.  

However, we would encourage you to work on improving your golf shots rather than your golf swing. There is a massive difference between the two. 

By all means strive to improve your technique and shot-making skills – but be mindful of the fact that a large percentage of the shots you play during any and every round of golf will be on and around the greens.  

Basically, do not neglect your short game. We’re sure we don’t need to tell you that a player with a razor-sharp short game is a fearsome opponent. Always. 

Is it possible that YOU could develop the short game skills to rival the very best players in the world? Absolutely. 

Taken from The Lost Art of the Short Game by Gary Nicol and Karl Morris – with a foreword from Bob Vokey, the godfather of wedges.

Available now in hardback (£19.95) and Kindle (£9.99) formats.

Click here to buy now

Out now: The Lost Art of the Short Game

New book release: The Lost Art of the Short Game by Gary Nicol and Karl Morris – with a foreword from Bob Vokeythe godfather of wedges 
 
Long-awaited new title from the authors of the double Amazon bestsellers, The Lost Art of Putting and The Lost Art of Playing Golfcompletes the Lost Art trilogy 

The Lost Art of the Short Game by Gary Nicol and Karl Morris explores the way golfers interact with chipping, pitching and bunker play.  

It will help readers to embrace the challenge and relish the opportunity to show their skills and touch around the greens. 

 
This book has the power to make golfers feel differently about the game as a whole by freeing them from the shackles they have self-imposed on their short games. 

 
The Lost Art of the Short Game follows on from the Amazon best-sellers The Lost Art of Putting and The Lost Art of Playing Golf and becomes the third title in the ‘Lost Art’ series. The trio of books is also available as The Lost Art of Golf Collection box set, with a limitied edition case. 

It is the belief of leading tour coach Gary Nicol and performance coach Karl Morris, who have 60 years’ combined coaching experience, that we have somehow lost connection with the artistry of playing shots around the greens. 

It will appeal to all those golfers who struggle to remember the last time they were truly enthusiastic about their short game – and can barely remember a time when they approached pitching, chipping and playing bunker shots with relish. 

Born in Scotland, Gary Nicol turned professional in 1988. Since then, he has travelled the world coaching golfers of all standards from weekend players to tour pros including Ryder Cup players, Olympians and winners of major championships. Gary is a certified TrackMan Master and Mind Factor coach and is based at the stunning Archerfield Links on Scotland’s Golf Coast. 
 
Karl Morris has been involved in performance coaching for 30 years. In that time, he has worked with multiple major winners in golf – including Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell – Ashes-winning captains in cricket as well as Premier League and international footballers. His passion has always been to make mental game coaching both practical and applicable. 
 
The Lost Art of the Short Game was edited by experienced golf writer Dan Murphy. 

It has a foreword from by the godfather of wedges, Bob Vokey, and also features a host of expert contributors, including Andrew Coltart, Mike Clayton and Dean Robertson.  

The book is available to buy now at thelostartofgolf.com and costs £19.95. It is also possible to buy all three books together in a special presentation pack. 
  
 
Notes to editors 
 
• Learn more about the Lost Art series at thelostartofgolf.com 

 
• The Lost Art of the Short Game is available in hardback and Kindle formats at thelostartofgolf.com, priced at £19.95 and £9.99 respectively 
 

• The Lost Art of the Short Game completes the Lost Art trilogy of books – together with The Lost Art of Putting and The Lost Art of Playing Golf 

• The Lost Art of Putting and The Lost Art of Playing Golf are also available in hardback and Kindle formats at thelostartofgolf.com, priced at £19.95 and £9.99 respectively 
 

• Buy all three books together at thelostartofgolf.com for £59.99 
 
• For more information about the book, contact Mike Robertson, account manager at 18Players, on 0113 289 3979 or [email protected]  
 
• Follow The Lost Art on Twitter (@LostArtofGolf) and Facebook (The Lost Art of Golf). 
 
• Serialisation opportunities are available – please contact Mike (details above) to receive a suite of bite-sized excerpts along with illustrations. 
 
• Gary Nicol and Karl Morris are available for interview about the book and/or expert comment on any matters relating to The Lost Art of the Short Game  

The Brain Booster: The Lost Art of the Short Game

In his latest Brain Booster podcast, Karl Morris and Gary Nicol sit down to discuss the release of the latest book in The Lost Art of Golf Trilogy, The Lost Art of the Short Game.

Click here to listen.