Have you topped up your tank of petrol?
As strange as this may sound, I believe that every golfers game is like a tank of petrol!
Let me explain myself.
When we play our best golf, this is the time when everything falls into place and the swing feels in balance and your short game and putting seem crisp and effortless, the petrol tank would be full.
However, when we play golf on the course our technique is influenced by many factors, such as:
Miss-alignment. This will cause the shot to be missed right or left of the target and on the next shot we adjust our swing (consciously or sun-consciously) to get the ball on target.
Trouble being on one side of the course. If you play a course with out-of-bounds down one side of each hole you will naturally adjust your technique to hit the ball away from trouble.
Slight injury. A tight back caused by sitting at a desk all day will reduce your ability to turn which can influence your swing positions.
There are many more reasons why your technique will change after a series of rounds, too many to mention here, but hopefully you get the picture.
PLAYING WITHOUT TAKING THE TIME TO WORK ON YOUR GAME WILL HAVE A DETRIMENTAL AFFECT ON YOUR TECHNIQUE
My theory is based around the "Petrol Tank Of Skill" which suggests that your skill level and ultimately performance will drop when your technique is influenced by the factors mentioned above.
If you imagine that your "Petrol Tank Of Skill" is full when you are in peak performance but as your technique is influenced and you continue to play without working on your game through practice or lessons your skill level will start to drop.
After your great round where everything felt easier you continued to play because you wanted to "continue the good form" but your skill level is now steadily starting to drop.
I call this next level the "Safety Zone" because you will still be playing well. Your scores will probably be better than your handicap in this zone but you may be noticing a few more errant shots than you saw when in "Peak Performance". This is because your technique is being influenced by the elements we come across during a round of golf.
THIS WOULD BE THE TIME TO TAKE A LESSON OR PRACTICE YOUR TECHNIQUE. BUT.... MOST CLUB GOLFERS DON'T!
After playing a few more weekend rounds you start to notice some really poor shots creeping into your game which is strange because you had the round of your life only a few weeks/months ago! So you start to read tips in magazines or look on YouTube for a tip to correct the horrendous shots that have crept into your game. This creeps you ever closer to the DANGER ZONE!
The danger zone is a terrible place to be. You've got memories of how good you can played recently during "peak performance" but now everything seems difficult. You try every magazine and YouTube tip you can see, friends email you tips' they have seen because they know how distraught you are with your game. You even resort to listening to tips from the guy who you normally beat easily!
This is generally where I come in. A golfer generally visits their PGA Pro when their game is at rock bottom. It's not uncommon for me to hear a new client say "I've tried everything but decided it's time to take a lesson!".
The bad news is that if a golfers game has gone into the "danger zone" it generally needs more than a quick fix to bring it back to life. The technique will have been tampered with so many times via YouTube etc that the golfer doesn't know his arse from his elbow!
After a few lessons the golfer will be improving their technique but still needs time to develop the art of scoring with their new technique as a result the rise back up the "Petrol Tank Of Skill" is a slow and steady one.Which can be tough for the golfer who clings to the thoughts of his time in "Peak Performance".
WHAT'S THE SOLUTION?
All of the above doesn't paint a pretty picture but there is a solution and it doesn't have to be grueling!
I think we can all agree that staying away from the "danger zone" is a top priority but I must also stress that staying in "peak performance" is an impossible task. Instead our goal should be to stay in the "safety zone" as much as possible. Ideally we would be drifting between the "safety zone" and "peak performance" throughout our golfing year.
To do this we need to regularly "top-up" our tank of petrol.
We top our tank up by taking regular lessons to make sure our technique has not been influenced by the factors we discussed earlier. I attended a David Leadbetter seminar some years ago and he said that most of his tour players visit him after the British Open because their swings have been influenced by the high winds.
Both the client and I find lessons with golfers who are in the "safety zone" far easier than when in the "danger zone". The client is far more confident and more receptive to any slight changes plus the changes don't need to be as dramatic because the player is already playing well.
Finally, I believe that we can avoid the dreaded "danger zone" by working on a practice plan that is suited to the clients game and tendencies. For example, if a player has a tendency to aim to the right and swing over-the-top to compensate, a good practice plan would be to visit the range for 30 minutes once per week and work on alignment and hitting shots with an obstacle in the way that forces them to swing on the correct path.
If you would like me to put a plan together for you please contact me here.