Golf can be an elusive game. Tour Players can be riding a wave of ever progressing tournament results and the game and process of improvement seems relatively easy, and then suddenly they go through troughs whereby past successes seems like an imagined fantasy.
Justin Rose finished 4th in the 1998 British Open as a 17 year old and then went on to miss EVERY cut for 23 consecutive tournaments. Ian Baker Finch went out in 29 on the last day of the 1991 British Open but during a period of 2 years from 1993 onwards missed EVERY cut culminating in retirement after shooting 92 in the 1995 Open at St Andrews. Amazingly, Ian still has a very strong game and scores regularly in the mid-60s outside competitive golf but with a scorecard in his hand this former major champion’s game capitulates.
Faldo at one time looked unbeatable from the period of 1987 to 1992 with his new machine like swing it was a guarantee that he would contend every week, and it was just about how he putted if he was to win or not. But then post 1997 he never won again and struggled in the autumn of his career and he once said that ‘you never own the game, you just rent it’. Seve Ballesteros suffered a similar fate, David Duval and more latterly US Masters champion Trevor Immelman.
The good news is there is a specific ‘medicine’ - that if taken in the right dosage at the right time almost guarantees a return from this golfing wilderness. I studied extensively ‘Performance Slumps’ both from an academic perspective, then field research at main Tour level from 2005 to 2008 and then through practical application working with European Tour and LPGA Tour Players since 2010.
In a nutshell this assisted me to develop a specific formula to assist players experiencing a slump - 5 key mistakes to avoid, and 5 key strategies to engage – and to date this system has had 100% success.
Expectations play a huge part and are a real cancer in the mental game and the challenge is they often lurk in the dark deep corners of the sub-conscious mind. The key is DAY to DAY progress and to focus on the smallest of smallest of steps forward. A big mistake player’s make is searching for a key to immediately return them back to their best. Here is a story from a multiple Ryder Cup player I worked with. This player had missed more than 70% of the cuts in the previous 12 months when we had an initial conversation in Singapore in November 2011. It was the Saturday of the Barclays Singapore Open and he had missed another cut and wanted me to ‘have a look’ on the range. Naturally I knew he really meant ‘do you have an instant magic pill to get me back to my best’! I persuaded the player to sit down and talk before going to the range - and 6 hours later – I knew the work could start. This player was always striving to be in contention and anything but a top 10 he perceived as a failure. But he had made 4 top 10s in the previous 100 tournaments so I asked him what is going to happen to your confidence if you are failing 96% of the time?
With this player one strategy we used to develop incremental progress was to categorise tournament results into 4 categories – top 45, top 25, top 10 and Win. He said it was tough to consider finishing 45th a good or progressive week but he bought into it – after all he was missing more than 70% of the cuts (which is normally top 65). Well 8 months later this player started a period of 12 months whereby he made 28 out of 30 cuts, culminating in Autumn 2013 winning his first tournament for 7 years.
This feeds the fear that perhaps you may not every recover, so (admiringly) the players reaction is to work harder – often much harder than when they made their ascension to the top of the game. But unfortunately, this rarely works – I worked with another former Ryder Cup player who at the start of our work showed me an excel spreadsheet of his practice program for the previous 12 months – it was like that of an Olympic athlete – detailing all the training hours in each area of the game together with the physical work. However, he had not made a cut anywhere in the world during the last 8 months, and his stroke average had ballooned to 77 for the previous 12 month period. We applied this strategy and after 2 months he then did not miss a cut for the next 8 months and his stroke average catapulted to 71. He learnt to work less, but achieve more from his practice and learnt to ‘get away from the game’ when he ‘drove out of the gates’. Within 18 months he had won on the European Tour for the first time for the biggest victory of his career.
It’s about working SMARTER not harder and to work smart it’s about applying the right medicine in the right quantity at the right time – essentially understanding your own SUCCESS DNA and then working to this blueprint. Working in an obsessive way drains and undermines the players confidence. It also leads to an unhealthy work/life balance and it starts to forge issues with self-esteem-performance connection which can certainly have deliberating impact on results.
So of you’re in slump I’ve outlined 2 practical strategies you can start to engage to begin the process of change. And understand that when you’re in a slump the way out is DIFFERENT than on the WAY UP. For further information about Elite Coaching Golf Academy please visit www.elitecoaching.com or contact Jon through firstname.lastname@example.org