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Winter Putting Training: Part 3

What is your vision for 2020? Pun intended.

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 2019 before you dive straight in to 2020. 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 2019 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

The Lost Art of Playing Golf Podcast: Episode 5

Episode 5

The Lost Art of Playing Golf

The Lost Art of Playing Golf, by Karl Morris and Gary Nicol and featuring a foreword from Tiger Woods’ first coach, is available in hardback and for Kindle from Amazon.

The Lost Art of Playing Golf Podcast: Episode 4

Episode 4

The Lost Art of Playing Golf

The Lost Art of Playing Golf, by Karl Morris and Gary Nicol and featuring a foreword from Tiger Woods’ first coach, is available in hardback and for Kindle from Amazon.

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 2020 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.

The Lost Art of Playing Golf Podcast: Episode 3

Episode 3

The Lost Art of Playing Golf

The Lost Art of Playing Golf, by Karl Morris and Gary Nicol and featuring a foreword from Tiger Woods’ first coach, is available in hardback and for Kindle from Amazon.

The Lost Art of Playing Golf Podcast: Episode 2

Episode 2

The Lost Art of Playing Golf

The Lost Art of Playing Golf, by Karl Morris and Gary Nicol and featuring a foreword from Tiger Woods’ first coach, is available in hardback and for Kindle from Amazon.

The Lost Art of Playing Golf Podcast: Episode 1

Episode 1

The Lost Art of Playing Golf

The Lost Art of Playing Golf, by Karl Morris and Gary Nicol and featuring a foreword from Tiger Woods’ first coach, is available in hardback and for Kindle from Amazon.

Gary Nicol’s winter putting training: Part 1

While the best of the weather for 2019 may be behind us, that doesn’t mean you need to put your clubs away until the sun reappears and the mercury rises again.

Yes it may be a bit damp, cold and occasionally miserable at times but that should not deter you from your quest to improve. Hitting balls on the range in 5 layers of clothing might not be everyone or anyone’s idea of fun, me included.

However, we can all find 20 or 30 minutes every week, regardless of the weather to head for the putting green to work on our putting skills.

Admittedly the putting green at your local club might not be running as fast and true as it does during the summer months but don’t let that put you off. You can still make great progress if you train certain aspects of your putting, regardless of the weather and green conditions.

When thinking about improving their putting, most golfers would tend to get out their putting mirrors, chalk lines, putting gates and strings and focus on their techniques or strokes.

Essentially they are working on their putting strokes, not their putting skills.

Good putting is not only about having a good stroke. You can have the best stroke in the world but if you don’t hit your ball on the right line at the right pace, you will not hole many or any putts.

Spend some time ideally with the help of a good coach who understands the importance of the skill of reading greens, enabling you to predict and control what you want the ball to do. Visualise the ball falling into the hole at the appropriate pace for that putt. Train what you will inevitably face on the golf course, putts of different lengths from a variety of places on the green and with different breaks. Left to right, right to left, uphill, downhill, long and short, the whole spectrum.

Take what you are allowed to take on the course, your putter and a golf ball. Not two, not three but one ball.

Why one ball? Quite simply because you don’t get a second or third chance on the course, so why practice or train with two or three? Each and every putt you hit is unique and should be treated accordingly.

If you want to discover some fun and interesting training exercises to make you a happier and more competent putter, pick up a copy The Lost Art Of Putting, or watch the digital download, designed to be viewed whenever and wherever you want. Both are available on our website.

Is it possible, next year could be your best year ever on the greens? Absolutely!

Work smart over the winter months and you will start the 2020 season better prepared than ever before.

Gary Nicol, co-author with Karl Morris of best selling books The Lost Art Of Putting and The Lost Art Of Playing Golf.

What’s the Difference Between Practising & Training?

Understanding the science behind the art of preparing for golf can help you use your precious time more effectively

There can be no other sport where so much effort in practice goes so unrewarded in the game itself.

Many golfers spend their entire life working hard at their game with little to no actual progress.

This cannot be because we don’t have the ability to move our body in a certain way. It certainly isn’t the equipment, which is so very much superior these days. For us, it is to a large degree because golfers have no real idea of how to train effectively..

Instead of thinking you are going to go practising golf as you have always done, when you think in terms of training for the game you open up a whole new dimension. A surgeon will train to become a surgeon and then he or she will practise surgery. A lawyer will train to be a lawyer and then he or she will practise law.

We want you to shift your mindset completely so you train to play golf and then go and practise being a golfer on a golf course.

You become a golfer by creating golf shots in the only place that really matters – the golf course.

Go on YouTube and there will be hundreds if not thousands of experts telling you how you should move your body, what positions the club should be in, using all of the fancy terms for angles and planes, yet we promise you very little video space will be informing you of how to train in a way that will maximise your return on investment both in terms of time and money. 

The research is very clear: if we want to take our golf game onto the course itself we need to understand how we learn, we need to understand how to transfer skills but above all we need to learn how to train effectively. The most exciting part of this adventure is just what could be possible for you in the future. We firmly believe that no matter what your age is you could, in the next 12 months, transform your game and release the golfer in you that has been hiding away all of this time.

When you fully grasp the concept of training for golf you will get the opportunity to write a completely different story. You will become the director of your future golfing performance.

Do you feel you have spent a good part of your golfing journey hitting the ball reasonably well on the range and yet the ability you show doesn’t ever seem to transfer to the golf course when it really matters? Join the club.

So many of us have lived through the endless frustration of not being able to take our range game with us to the course.

We have a golf lesson. We get told to do something in our swing.

We go to the range and start to work on this new move. After a while we maybe start to hit the ball better and we feel like we are getting somewhere. All we have to do is then take this particular swing thought to the course and we will be fine.

We get to the 1st tee and try to think about the same swing thought that worked so well on the range. Yet the swing doesn’t seem to feel the same and the ball certainly doesn’t behave in the same way.

We start dropping shots and we get frustrated. We try harder to make the swing thought work. We get worse. We go back to the range to work on our swing a little bit more. Sound familiar?

It is perhaps the universal complaint of golfers all over the world.

We can either keep doing the same thing and hope for a different result or we can step out of the loop of insanity and do something different.

The key concept to understand is that of transferability. 

Does the work you do on the range, putting and chipping green actually stand a chance to transfer to the golf course?

Play to learn

As golfers should we be learning to play or playing to learn?

Think back to when you first started to play golf. Where did you start and perhaps more importantly why did you start?

Chances are your first ever experience of this great game was on a driving range, or if you were lucky, a golf course. Why did you start? You will all have your own reasons and one of the best things you can possibly do in order to enjoy your golf is to stay true to those reasons.

I say lucky if it was a golf course because that is where you really learn to play golf. Yes you can learn how to hit the ball and learn a few different shots on a driving range but the golf course is where you can really learn how to play the game.

Driving ranges are great and have their place but every shot you hit on a range will pretty much be from a nice flat lie with the ball sitting up ready to be hit.

However, when we play golf, we are faced with a variety of different shots of different lengths from a variety of different lies. Sometimes the shot will be into the wind, sometimes the wind will be from the left, right or directly behind you. The ball may be above or below the level of your feet. It might be sitting down in a bit in the fairway or deep in the rough, in a bunker or behind a tree.

If all your learning or practice is done on the driving range, it is highly unlikely you will ever have encountered too many of these scenarios. That being the case, you shouldn’t be too surprised if you struggle to play some of these shots on the course.

No one ever learned how to get up and down from a greenside bunker to win the hole or how to put a score together in a competition on the range.

I love on-course coaching as I honestly believe this is where golfers of all standards can make the biggest improvements. Learning how to plot your way round the golf course and how to play a variety of different shots from a variety of different lies in an ever changing environment.

I’m not saying you should avoid the driving range but if you really want to enhance your experience and enjoyment of golf, book yourself a 9 hole playing lesson with a coach who understands the importance of playing to learn.

Next time you put your clubs in the boot of your car, ask yourself if it is possible that playing to learn might just be the key to unlocking your potential as a golfer and if this concept could enhance your enjoyment and performance?