A transformative time and things begin again

Purpose, dedication and direction have been found once again.  This past weekend was the most transformational two days of the project to date. By far.  And, at a crucial point.

I attended the Vision54 two-day course in Denver and it vastly surpassed my expectations.  Not that I necessarily had expectations, but what I learned over the weekend couldn’t have come at a better time and was an enlightening birth into the world of playing golf.  That might seem strange coming from someone who has practiced and played golf daily for the past few years, but in all honesty I walked away from the class with a deeper understanding of what it means to play this game beyond the superficial hit-and-score sense that I had been participating in to date.

To back up a hair, the two weeks leading up to the 1,243 mile drive were some of the toughest to date.  I was wanting to step away and take a serious break for the first time in the past 4 years.  I was finding myself stuck on outcomes and from my point of view the outcomes were almost all negative and getting worse.  No matter how good I hit a shot I kept warning myself that a bad shot was around the corner and I had stopped appreciating any positives throughout a round.  Playing golf had started to lose appeal and as soon as I hit a bad shot or two on the course I was mentally finished with the round.  In other words, I had hit a dreaded mental slump and didn’t know what to do.  The last full round I played before leaving was a struggle just to finish and I couldn’t foresee things getting better under my own tutelage.  All of my efforts and energy just seemed to fuel the negativity and dig the hole a tad bit deeper every day.

The road trip out there was long enough to process my current place in this universe and put things in a better perspective.  Still, when I pulled up to the CommonGrounds golf course in Denver, CO I wasn’t exactly ecstatic to grab the sticks out for the first time in four days.  That said, I was interested in what Vision54 was about and curious as to what extra information they would present above and beyond their books, which I read last year.

Speaking of books, I have read a lot of books on the mental side of golf over the years and have learned some things from each of them, but I always found it a bit difficult to truly implement what I read.  For example, Zen Golf was recently re-consumed and I noticed a number of highlighted passages that when first read I wanted to try out in my game.  I did consciously attempt to be more neutral and kind with my self-talk, but without a system to implement it was like canoeing upstream without a paddle.

What I got from the two days of Vision54 was an entire new way to look at both practice and play, as well as, and most importantly, a system to implement these playing/practicing techniques.  For some time I have felt like no matter how much I worked on my mechanics and despite the quality of my range and short game practice work, nothing was translating into better success in tournament play.  Outside of a few decent tourney rounds earlier in the year I felt like I was plateauing when it counted.

I had been spending plenty of time working on all different aspects of my game and on the range could hit good drives, solid irons, chipped well and made putts.  I couldn’t figure out how to bring that to the course under pressure in new surroundings and was drawing a blank as to what I needed to do next.

I spoke with a number of people I respect and all signs pointed towards Vision54.  I had talked with them last year and it didn’t quite work out, but when I heard there was a two-day session in Denver I hopped in the car and made sure to be there this year.

I don’t think that I would do a good job summing up what Vision54 is all about, but anyone interested in learning more can read about them on their website:  http://www.vision54.com

The interesting thing is that they never once talked about swing mechanics or how to hit the ball, instead the time was spent on how to prepare, execute and analyze each shot.  They covered how to prepare, play, practice, perform and accept and through all of their research I came away understanding so much more about myself.  It was pretty shocking how the instructors could tell what type of golfer I was (as well as type of person) after just a few hours together.

When I left the course I was wishing that I had attended it at the very beginning of the journey, but after processing everything I realized that now was the perfect time in my golfing career.  I was far enough along to understand just how important their teachings are, but still have so much golfing life in front of me in which to implement the lessons.

I’m actually a bit overwhelmed right now, in a good way.  I learned so much over the weekend that I don’t really know where to start with blogging about it.  I am planning on working with them as much as possible down the road and this weekend was just a kickoff, in my mind.

To start, I am back in Oregon now and writing this during a break at Riverside.  I just “played” all 18 holes of EastMoreland golf course on the range and putting green here.  We went over how important visualization is and since I have a two-day tournament at Eastmo this coming weekend I decided to begin my new practice sessions with a visualization exercise.  It went great and I shot a 38 on the front 9 and a 36 on the back.  I pictured every single hole and shot, went through my pre-shot routine and executed.  I also spent time between shots just as I would out there and the entire round actually took me a couple of hours despite just making 74 shots.  It was great and by the 4th “hole” I could really see and feel what it was going to be like this weekend.

After that I worked on different Play Boxes to see what was working for me right now.  A Play Box is the area where you simply hit the shot.  Once you enter the Play Box, you don’t hesitate or become distracted. All of the thinking behind the shot should be left to the Decision Box.  A Play Box can be any number of feelings from grip pressure, body tension, tempo, etc.  It’s the swing thought that you want to use to execute the shot.  By picking one thing to concentrate on it’s easy to quiet the mind and execute the shot.

The Think Box is where you should consider all the variables for the shot: wind, lie of the ball, shape you intend to hit, trajectory, distance, club selection, etc.  Once you make a concrete decision it’s time to hit the Play Box and make the swing.

This isn’t new for most experienced golfers and I have heard about and learned about these concepts for some time, but I never quite understood how important the decision and commitment piece was.  I always tended to walk up and decide what club to hit then think about the shot and my swing while addressing the ball and have a “swing thought” along the lines of “straight wrist and draw it” which sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t.  Also my “swing thoughts” tended to wander and change through a round especially after hitting a bad shot.  I never had anything consistent or steady to go to when ball striking went south.  Now I can work on figuring out exactly what those things are.  I’ll be keeping a notebook about what works from now on and when I have a consistent few feelings that I can depend on I will have a card I can carry with those written on it.  A go to list!

But there is so much more than just that.  The Play Box was a good concept that I can practice and develop over time and will start that process today.  Other learnings from the weekend were about how to control mood and adrenaline.

Strangely enough, I learned that I play better with some adrenaline.  I have always tried to calm my nerves as that is what I thought you were supposed to do before hitting a shot, but what we found was that when I try to amp up my adrenaline slightly before striking the ball I hit it with greater consistency.  My new pre shot routine is starting to look more like Keegan Bradley and especially for tee shots I am exciting myself before the swing and then taking breaths to calm down afterwords.  It works well for me.

At the end of the day you have to find something that works and that you can believe in.  Vision54 might not be for everyone, but what matters is that it clicks with me and makes me excited to get out and practice and compete again.

Much more to come, this is just a taste of what I have been experiencing over the past week.

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