Posts

the links swing

The links swing

The links swing

For many golfers and golf fans around the world who consider themselves traditionalists and I include myself here, the next month is going to be pretty special.

Why? Essentially because the next set of tournaments are being played on links courses. For me, links golf is true golf, the very heart and soul of the game.

By their very nature, links courses and their proximity to the coast tend to provide a different test to the courses the European Tour visit week in, week out. Winds blowing in off the sea, fast firm fairways, “unfair” bounces, pot bunkers and undulating greens should all make for great viewing.

More importantly, it will be great for the players. The skills they hone on ranges and courses around the world will be challenged on an entirely different level. Links golf is often described as the thinking man or thinking woman’s game.

Standing on the tee and lashing driver before taking dead aim at the flag from the fairway will hopefully not be in evidence on every hole at The Renaissance Club on Scotland’s Golf Coast, host venue for the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open and Royal St George’s, for the jewel in the links series crown, The Open Championship.

The need to create all sorts of shots appropriate to the weather and course conditions will undoubtedly ensure that every aspect of the players’ games will be put to the test.

Forgetting about the golf for a minute, one thing that all these events will have in common will be the festival atmosphere as crowds in England and Scotland will finally be able to see the best players in the game tee it up.

Closer to home for me, quite literally across the street from my base at Archerfield Links, the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club also promises to be an outstanding week.

East Lothian, or Scotland’s Golf Coast as it is known is one one the finest stretches of golfing land to be found anywhere on the planet. With 23 courses in what is a small county, the only other place that comes close is Melbourne’s sandbelt.

With so many courses, including the likes of Muirfield, North Berwick, Gullane and Dunbar (the list is literally too long to include every one of them) East Lothian is full of golfers and golf fans.

The fact that it is only a short drive from Scotland’s magnificent capital city of Edinburgh along with an incredibly strong field will ensure golf fans will come out in their droves.

Rory McIlroy, recently crowned US Open champion Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Colin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele’s participation will surely be a massive attraction.

If you have the opportunity to attend any or all of these events, please do so. You will not be disappointed.

Going back to the golf itself, creativity and shot-making, essentially the art of playing golf, will be at a premium. Selecting the correct club from the tee to avoid running into fairway bunkers, landing the ball 10 or 15 yards short of greens and the use of imagination on and around the greens will all be required if these great professional golfers are to succeed over the coming weeks.

To play great golf, it is essential to control two things, your golf ball and yourself. Links golf will test both skill sets to the extreme.

Yes the ball might bounce left, right, high or low when you are expecting it to do something entirely different but ultimately, the players are going to have to deal with that and everything else that is thrown at them.

Dealing with adversity may well be what separates the men from the boys in the end.

Every golf shot you hit has three component parts – Preparation, Action and Reaction or PAR – what you do before you hit the shot, what you do during the shot and how you react to it. Think about that for a minute. Now think about which parts you can control and which part you spend most of your time working on and paying attention to.

The likelihood is that when you go to the range to work on your game, you will spend the majority of your time working on the part you CANNOT control, the Action, or the shot itself.

Over the coming weeks, pay particular attention to what these great players do before and after every shot. Preparation and Reaction are largely overlooked by most golfers but not by those at the top of the tree.

This run of links golf provides an unmissable opportunity to watch and learn from the very best. Time is finite, so make sure you use that time wisely. You never know, it might just help you to become more creative in the visualisation and execution of your shots and putts.

Once you release that inner creativity, your inner artist, there is every chance you will discover or rediscover your love for links golf, which in my humble opinion, golf on it’s purest and finest form.

Let’s play golf….soon

40 years ago, Chevy Chase uttered the immortal words “Let’s play golf” in the classic golf movie Caddyshack.

Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before these words are echoed on golf courses when we are finally allowed back out to play the game we have all missed so much during this period of lockdown.

There are parts of the world where playing golf hasn’t stopped and if you are lucky enough to be in that minority, I do hope you truly appreciate your good fortune. There are probably hundreds of thousands who would do almost anything to be in your spikes right now. I know we don’t wear spikes anymore (how I miss the sound of spikes on tarmac walking from car park to first tee) but you know what I mean.

Everywhere you look on social media, golfers the world over are continually expressing their frustration at currently not being allowed or able to play at the moment. From weekend hackers to seasoned Tour Pros, their shared desire is to play golf.

Not work on their swings, not hit hundreds of balls with the same club from the same spot to the same target but to actually play golf. Admittedly, ranges and practice areas are unlikely to open at the same time as golf courses but my point here is that everyone I speak to actually wants to play golf, on the course.

What this tells me is that we play golf because we love playing golf. We miss “playing the game” and all the challenges that come with it.

What is it that we miss? That is the million dollar question. We all play the game for different reasons. Some like the camaraderie. For others it is the opportunity to be out in nature, breathing fresh air. Competition is the motivation for some, while others appreciate the architecture and design features. There are those who love the challenge of trying to improve and shoot lower scores.

We all long for the feeling of that well struck drive and watching our ball split the fairway. The sensation we experience when we hit an iron shot flush dead centre in the middle of the face is one we all love and crave in equal measure.

Whatever your personal “why”, your personal “thing about golf”, make sure you place ENJOYMENT high on, if not at the top of your list when we do get back out there.

As someone a lot wiser than me once said, “Ask yourself why you play golf, when you play golf.” Think about that for a minute. There is much wisdom in what might appear a simple question.

When we are shown the green light to play, don’t stress when one of your playing companions tells you that you lifted your head, bent your left arm in your backswing or that your swing was too fast. Forget the regurgitated cliches, which are probably well wide of the mark anyway, simply appreciate the opportunity to play golf. After all that is what we have all been asking for as golfers.

If you see a member of the Greenkeeping staff, please thank them for all their hard work. They play a massive role in your enjoyment of the game but are often under-valued and overlooked.

Until the time comes, don’t wish your life away dreaming about that opening tee shot or winning putt, take action and head over to our store by clicking here.

Let’s play golf…..soon.

Until next time, stay safe, take care and appreciate all we have today.

Gary Nicol

Thoughtful Thursday: Golf courses are ready for play, are you?

While we have all been desperate to get back out on to the golf course due to the pandemic or the recent bad whether, please think about the above question.

As it stands, golf courses in Scotland are still open, with two balls being used. However, golfers in England aren’t as fortunate and haven’t had the chance to play since the turn of the New Year.

Most of us have been doing as advised and staying at home. That is not necessarily the case for green keepers, some of whom have been working tirelessly in our absence. I know that is the case at Archerfield Links, (where I am based) with Steve Cram’s team who have been doing some outstanding work.
By and large, green keepers are the unsung heroes of the golf industry and as far as I am concerned, they deserve all the plaudits they receive.
Rarely have I seen any course look better prepared for the lucky members. Not a pitch mark in sight. Long may that continue.
When I was growing up learning to play the game, my late father, who was a stickler for the rules and etiquette, always reminded me to fix my own pitch mark plus one more. Something I still do to this day. Some might say I have pitch mark OCD!! Fixing ball marks on greens is the responsibility of golfers, not green keepers. Pitch mark rant over.
When any golf course looks and plays well, those playing it tend to think “Well so it should, that’s what we pay our subs for.” However, if there happens to be a minor blemish or the slightest imperfection, there are always one or two who can’t wait to complain. I have seen this all over the world for the last 30 plus years.
Have you ever stopped to thank the greens staff? Have you ever written a letter to say thanks for all their hard work? If so, good on you.
If not, maybe it’s time you did. I know for sure that they would definitely appreciate it.
Trust me, the green keeping fairies do not visit your local golf course to sprinkle their magic dust over the tees, fairways and greens when we are all tucked up in bed at night.
Most of the best green keepers I have had the good fortune to spend time with over the years take enormous pride in their work. They work longer hours than they are paid to and rarely complain about it. They are a rare breed indeed.
Next time you play golf, wherever and whenever that may be, take a minute or two to look around and appreciate the hard work that goes into preparing a golf course. We all know how difficult it is to even keep a garden looking half decent, so can you even begin to imagine what it takes to present a golf course in magnificent condition?
Golf course prepared and ready – ✔️
While the golf course may be ready for play, are you?
Have you managed to stay active and keep moving through this crazy and worrying time? Whether you have or not, please be careful when you do get back out playing again. Yes, you want to smash your first tee shot down the fairway but if you haven’t or even if you have been exercising the muscles required to play golf, just be careful you don’t do yourself an injury in the process.
Take a bit of time to warm up. If the range is open hit twenty or thirty shots with different clubs, once you have warmed up your muscles and loosened off any stiffness in your joints. If not, please take time to warm up sufficiently. I am no health professional, so I won’t be prescribing a warm up routine, I’ll leave that to the experts. You might want to check out www.18Strong.com for some advice in that department.
Have you used this time away from golf wisely to learn more about the game and what it means to you? I don’t mean watching hundreds of confusing and conflicting YouTube videos about how to fix your slice or hit it ten yards further. In my experience, jumping from one quick fix to the next is the fastest way to make sure you never get any better at this game. Why? Quite simply because these videos do not know your golf game or you as a golfer. Some online advice is great if it’s specifically designed for you but some of it is, well I’d rather not say as my language may become somewhat colourful.
Prepare yourself mentally as well as physically and be prepared to deal all this wonderful game throws at you. Embrace the chaos that is almost certain to ensue sooner or later.
Ask good, simple questions. What is the shot here? Is it possible this shot could be the best shot I have ever played? What does a good shot look like? What is the golf course designer asking of me here? Ask good questions and you will come up with good answers.
Ask bad questions and I think you know what will happen there…
If you are as well prepared as the golf course you are about to play, you might just play the best golf of your life.
To find out more about asking good questions, visit – www.thelostartofgolf.com where there are a couple of books and digital download videos that may well help your on your journey to enhanced performance and perhaps more importantly, enjoyment.
Until next time.
Take care, stay safe, play safe and appreciate the opportunity.
Gary Nicol

Thoughtful Thursday: What does golf mean to you?

Sitting here in the Home of Golf, watching on as golfers in England are putting their point across to try and open their golf courses again,  I ask myself this question. What does golf mean to me?

The more I think about my own answers, the more I believe it would be a great question for all golfers to ask themselves.
There are no right and wrong answers here, just like the golf swing. We are all unique, we see, feel and experience things differently.
Golf means many different things to me. I have been around the game pretty much all my life. Playing, caddying and coaching have been part of my daily like for over 40 years. If I haven’t been actively doing one of these, I have been reading about, listening to and talking about golf. Sometimes I even watch it on TV.
Golf has allowed me to travel the world. I have seen parts of the world that I wouldn’t ordinarily have seen. I have eaten in fantastic restaurants and stayed in some amazing hotels. For the record, I have also eaten some crap and stayed in some pretty sub standard accommodation but that has all been part of the fun.
I have played some of the best courses on the planet and walked round many more, watching some of the tournament professionals I have worked with plying their trade.
Golf means being outdoors. Golf means or certainly meant travel to me for a long time. It means constantly learning and adapting to this ever changing world. Learning about new technology. Learning about the very latest research on how we learn, not just what we “should” learn.
Golf means being creative. Whether that is creating shots and putts on the course or being creative when thinking of how best to help the golfers I work with to become happier more satisfied players and perhaps more importantly, happier and more satisfied people. Being creative, writing books and blogs. Golf makes me think. It keeps my mind active even if we can’t actually play at the moment.
Having said all that, what golf really means to me is people. I have met hundreds of amazing people all around the world over the last 30 plus years.
Golfers of all standards from absolute beginners to Major Champions. Tournament officials, fellow coaches, physios, mind coaches and caddies from every corner of the globe.
Golf has been good to me. Golf has taken me around the world and allowed me to experience many things but above all, golf to me means fun and laughter with all the people I have met, many of whom I still stay in contact with.
Whatever golf means to you, don’t forget the people you meet along the way that put a smile on your face. We could all do with something good to happen in our lives at the moment and while hitting golf shots might give us some pleasure, in a time of physical distancing, please don’t distance yourself socially.
Pick up the phone, send a text, arrange a Skype call or set up a Zoom session with the people you care about. Share stories about the good times you have enjoyed. Golf has always been in my life but people and the happiness they have brought me, are my life. Ultimately, the sense of community is what golf means to me.
What does golf mean to you?
Gary Nicol

Triple Track Tuesdays: Are you using the correct putter?

Gary Nicol has teamed up with National Club Golfer, Callaway and Odyssey’s Triple Track ball and putter technology to create a special series of putting videos.

Using techniques from The Lost Art books, co-author Gary Nicol will help you look at putting in a new way. These videos are guaranteed to give all variety of golfers a whole new perspective on the greens.

All of our videos were filmed at Archerfield Links in Gullane.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Lost-Art-Masterclass-2048x689-1-1030x347.jpg

Triple Track Tuesdays: How to take the guesswork out of putting

Gary Nicol has teamed up with National Club Golfer, Callaway and Odyssey’s Triple Track ball and putter technology to create a special series of putting videos.

Using techniques from The Lost Art books, co-author Gary Nicol will help you look at putting in a new way. These videos are guaranteed to give all variety of golfers a whole new perspective on the greens.

All of our videos were filmed at Archerfield Links in Gullane.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Lost-Art-Masterclass-2048x689-1-1030x347.jpg

Gary Nicol’s Winter Putting Training: Part 4

When you think of practice or training for the forthcoming season, chances are your thoughts will turn to honing your technique.

You may well think about working on your swing, getting that club “in the slot” at the top of the backswing or ensuring your putting stroke is silky smooth.

For decades we have been led to believe that if we make good swings and strokes, we will hit good shots and putts. Essentially, the culture of coaching has told us that good technique will protect us from bad golf.

Sadly that just isn’t true. In over thirty years of coaching, I have seen sufficient evidence to back that up. Not for a second am I saying that technique isn’t important, far from it. However, in our pursuit of perfection, we tend to overlook the “human skills” required to play good golf. Skills like attention and visualisation.

If the practice putting green isn’t quite as smooth and fast as it would be in peak season, perhaps it isn’t the best environment to work on your putting stroke. That said, you can still venture out there to work on the aforementioned human skills. In the previous parts of this series, I talked about green reading and paying particular attention to the pace of your putts.

Attention is a wonderful word and concept. I would go as far as to say that golf is a game of attention. When faced with a putt, your attention will, in all likelihood, be in one of three places: what you need to do, what the putter needs to do, or what the ball needs to do. Which category do you fall into? 

Standing over a putt, the vast majority of golfers tend to place a disproportionate amount of attention on themselves and the putter, with little or no regard for what the ball needs to do.

Ultimately we want to get the ball in the hole, not you or your putter, so it would make sense to pay more attention to what the ball needs to do.

When faced with any or indeed every putt, ask yourself these three questions:

  • Is it possible I could hole this putt? Answer – yes.
  • What does the ball need to do to go in the hole? Answer – travel on the right line at the appropriate pace for that line.
  • What does a good putt look like? Answer – one that goes in the hole.

The last question and answer may sound ridiculously obvious but the reality is that golfers often miss them out because they are paying too much attention to how they are going to move their body and/or their putter.

We create what we see, so unless you have a very clear intention or picture of what you want the ball to do, you may well struggle to complete the task successfully.

The introduction of the “putt predictor” graphic, we occasionally see during TV broadcasts, is a fantastic visual aid as it essentially creates a road map for our golf ball. Just imagine how helpful it would be if you could project that image onto the green before every putt you hit!

While technology isn’t quite at the stage where we can do this at your local club on a Sunday morning, you can use your imagination to create a similar image.

Visualisation is a human skill we can all learn, develop and apply in our golf games and one that players at the very highest level use to great effect. It is so important that we dedicated an entire chapter to it in our best-selling book “The Lost Art of Putting”.

To find out more, visit thelostartofgolf.com to order a copy of the book, or download the accompanying video. 

Winter Putting Training: Part 3

What is your vision for 2021?

Do you have targets and goals? Are they realistic and achievable?

All too often, I hear golfers of all levels setting targets and goals for the coming season. They generally relate to a reduction in handicap, winning the club championship, representing their county or country, or winning professional tournaments.

While I am a great believer in setting targets and achieving goals, there is always the danger that they can turn into expectations. Yes, we feel great when we reach these long term goals but be careful not to confuse goals with expectations.

Motivation and expectation are very different animals. Motivation gives you a reason to work towards something, a sense of purpose. Expectation can lead to a sense of entitlement. 

In golf, don’t think that because you put some hard work in, you are entitled to some kind of reward. Working hard will help to a degree but working smart is where you can really make a difference.

Rather than hoping or dreaming about reducing your handicap by however many shots, or winning a Major Championship, why not make your goal to simply become a better golfer today than you were last year, last month or even last week?

As my good friend and co-author of our best-selling books – ‘The Lost Art of Putting’ and ‘The Lost Art of Playing Golf’ – frequently says, the road to improvement consists of an accumulation of good days.

If you can keep putting in good days, at some point, the accumulation of these good days will start to bear fruit, sometimes when you least expect it.

Before you can even start to embark on your journey of improvement and hopefully enjoyment as a by-product, you need to have a very clear picture of where you are right now.

Take time to reflect on 2020 before you dive straight in to 2021. Which aspects of your game have room for improvement? I can almost hear some answers from here – “I need to hit my driver further” will probably be pretty high up the list. “I just want to be more consistent” is more than likely to be number one. Oh dear, the “C” word – golf’s holy grail apparently. Let me save you a lot of grief. Don’t go searching for consistency. It does not exist in the long term.

Even the very best players in the world do not and cannot achieve long term consistency, so do yourself a favour and stop chasing it.

Your goal should be to improve your play and your enjoyment and the fastest route to both is to hole more putts.

Think about the last few rounds you played in 2020 and look at your putting statistics. If you don’t know how many putts you are taking in any given round of golf, how can you measure improvement?

You need a baseline, a starting point. Only when you know where you are can you realistically set out a plan of where you would like to be and how you are going to get there.

Would taking one or two less putts every time you play make a difference to your scores and your enjoyment? Is it possible you could realistically achieve that? Absolutely! Over and above that, it will be a whole lot easier to achieve than adding the 15 – 20 yards onto your drives on a regular basis.

How you go about reducing the number of putts you take is entirely up to you. You might want to invest in visiting a putting coach to set out a plan going forwards or you may feel that a new putter is required.

I may be somewhat biased here but based on the feedback we receive from students and golfers around the world who have read ‘The Lost Art Of Putting’, learning, understanding and applying the Putting Performance Principles within the book and the digital video download would be a great place to start.

All the best for the coming season and I look forward to hearing about YOUR success stories. Expect nothing, deal with everything and who knows, you might just reach your targets and achieve your goals.

Gary Nicol

Triple Track Tuesdays: Distance Control

Gary Nicol has teamed up with National Club Golfer, Callaway and Odyssey’s Triple Track ball and putter technology to create a special series of putting videos.

Using techniques from The Lost Art books, co-author Gary Nicol will help you look at putting in a new way. These videos are guaranteed to give all variety of golfers a whole new perspective on the greens.

All of our videos were filmed at Archerfield Links in Gullane.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Lost-Art-Masterclass-2048x689-1-1030x347.jpg

Gary Nicol’s Winter Putting Training: Part 2

As the season, year and indeed the decade draws to a close, now is the perfect time to sit down and reflect on your golf game.

Grab a notepad and pen and write down a few questions.

The first and perhaps most important question could or perhaps should be: “Why do I play golf?”

Take a few minutes to contemplate that and avoid the impulse to write down the first thing that springs to mind. You may have one or two reasons, you may have five or six. Whatever they are, write them down and stay true to them in the future.

Other questions might include some of the following:

“Do I enjoy playing golf?”

“Does golf satisfy me?”

“Can I hit the shots I want or need to on the golf course?”

“Do I understand the questions the golf course architect or designer is asking me on any given hole?”

“Is it possible I could hole more putts?”

That last question is one of my favourites and one I strongly recommend everyone who plays golf should ask themselves.

Is it possible? Unless you average 18 putts a round every time you play, the answer absolutely has to be a resounding yes!

That being the case, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to buy a new putter because your existing one “doesn’t work”? That may or may not be the answer but regardless how much you spend on a new putter, there are no guarantees. It will not get the ball in the hole on its own.

Ultimately you need to learn how to use it. You need to learn how to get the ball in the hole from a variety of distances and a variety of positions, not only on the practice putting green but also on the golf course.

Like many golfers I know, you may have a garage or cupboard full of training aids and gadgets, which may or may not be helpful but you have to ask yourself if they work. Think about all the times you may have used them on the putting green. You might have holed five or six nasty little four foot putts on the putting green using your training aid but did that translate to similar results in competitions or even in bounce games? Only you will know the answer to that particular question.

With more than thirty years of experience coaching golfers of all standards from beginners to Tour Pros, I would suggest that the majority of these training aids spend most of their time gathering dust in the garage or cupboard for a reason. I’ll let you figure that one out on your own.

If you really want to experience more success and enjoyment on the greens every time you practice or play, I suggest you do all or at least some of the following:

Speak to a golf coach you can believe in and trust. Someone you know has helped others. Someone you can embark on a journey of discovery and improvement with.

Spend some time on the putting green with exactly what you are allowed to take on the course – a putter and a ball. Not two, three or four balls, just one. There are no second serves when it comes to putting.

Learn the art of getting the ball into the hole when it matters. The only way you can do this is by playing golf on the course. Nothing will ever come close to replicating this skill on the practice putting green. Context is everything.

Standing over each and every putt, ask yourself two questions:

1) Is it possible I could hole this putt? 

2) What does the ball need to do to go in the hole? 

I’m not going to spoil it for you but what I will say is that these two questions could transform your future putting experiences.

As one year runs out of days, another exciting one awaits.

Is it possible that 2021 could provide you with opportunities to hole more putts, shoot lower scores and have more fun on the course? Absolutely!

To kick-start your journey of discovery, improvement and enjoyment, treat yourself to a copy of The Lost Art Of Putting. Judging by the feedback we continue to receive from golfers of all standards all around the world, it might just be the smartest investment you could make.

Happy New Year and best wishes for the future.

Did you miss part 1 of Gary’s Winter Putting Training? Click here to read.