On winning the 2012 World Long Drive Championship: Much More Than A Title
After a long and grueling day in the desert heat of Mesquite, Nevada, against a deep and talented field of long drive professionals, I succeeded in reaching a major goal: winning a second long drive World Championship title.
I’d like to share four keys to the day that helped me win the title, in the hopes that the next time you face a pressure situation on the golf course, you’ll have some strategies to be successful.
1. Practicing and training effectively
2. A solid pre-shot routine
4. Being in the moment
Preparation: A Consistent Golf Swing Starts with Effective Practice
Although my tournament only lasted a day, and the finals are over in 3 minutes, the tournament was won in the weeks and months leading up to the day.
One of the biggest keys to coming through in the clutch is being prepared, and that means practicing effectively. Effective practice is about more than working on technique. It’s about getting prepared to compete.
Working on technique is an important part of that process. Don’t get me wrong. At 6 feet tall and 195 lbs, I’m one of the smaller guys in long drive, so my swing technique HAS to be outstanding. I start out getting prepared by focusing the majority of my efforts on technique – to the tune of 90% of my practice time.
10 years ago I started breaking down the golf swing to understand which parts influenced distance. The result, of course, was my training program The 5 Keys To Distance. But my point is that 8 weeks prior to the Worlds I put myself through that very training program and the BLAST framework – Balance, Leverage, Arc of Swing, Speed, and Target focus. I started with balance to get myself as athletic as possible. I worked on my leverage to maximize the power in my swing (heaven knows I could use every ounce I can get). Once I re-mastered these two fundamentals, I worked on my swing arc width and my core speed.
That process took 6 weeks. The key to proper technique practice is to focus on one fundamental at a time, master it, and then move on to the next one.
Two weeks prior to my competition I tapered off the technique practice and switched to competition practice. At that point – less than two weeks out – there is very little I can do to change my swing. So the key is to learn how to maximize what I have, so that my best can come out in competition.
I’ll have much more to say on competition practice soon, but virtually 100% of my practice time when I am that close to competition is devoted to simulated competition and strategy development. Which brings me to my second key: my pre-shot routine.
The Magic of a Solid Pre-Shot Routine
On the day of the competition, having a solid pre-shot routine was one of the most important assets I brought to the tee, and a really important take-away for you from this newsletter.
I had made a number of minor changes during my technique work: I moved the ball back in my stance 1-1/2 inches, teed the ball a little lower because the sweet spot is a little lower on the new driver head I was using; closed my stance slightly to create a draw; rotated my chin to the right before swinging for more shoulder rotation; extended my left arm while tucking my right elbow closer to my left to help with lag, and narrowed my stance an inch for more speed.
These are all minor set-up changes, but I wanted to make these changes as automatic as possible. The LAST thing I wanted was to be on the tee running through my checklist of changes. That would have been a major distraction. I had to KNOW that when I was on the tee I was putting myself in the best possible position for success.
And that is precisely the point of the pre-shot routine, and why it is so important to deliberately practice it. It is every bit as important as practicing mechanics when it comes to competition day. Perhaps more so, because it contributed directly to my third key to success: Trusting my swing.
TRUST: The Secret to Distance and Consistency
In the finals I hit 5 of 6 balls in the grid – when the pressure was highest. The key was the trust I developed practicing my routine and taking myself through simulated competition situations. That’s virtually all I practiced the final two weeks.
Trust allows me to swing tension-free, which produces a golf swing that is not only faster, it’s more accurate. And the process for building trust is the entire process of working through the mechanics, then spending the time to focus on competition training.
By the time I worked through this whole 8-week process, I had a strategy for virtually every scenario I was likely to encounter on the tee, and I hit balls in practice simulating actual competition circumstances, so I could feel comfortable no matter what I faced. My last ball at 369 yards was my best, and the drive that won. And I practiced the scenario where I was behind and needed to hit a big ball on my last swing. When the moment of truth came, I already knew what my strategy would be. That’s what set me up for the next key to success: being in the moment.
Peak Performance Starts with Being Centered In The Moment
One of the keys to peak performance is being centered in the moment. It’s also a zone precursor – something that must be in place before you can get into the zone.
Centered means two things: being physically balanced and athletic; and being mentally “in the present.”
I relied on my pre-shot routine to get me physically centered.
To get myself mentally centered in the moment I limited myself to just two things:
1. Having total target awareness (The T of the BLAST Fundamentals)
2. Having one simple swing thought
There was a wind-sock at the far end of the range that I used for my target all day. I got to know where that wind-sock was so well that even when I was concentrating on my ball I still had total awareness of where the target was. The location was so clear in my mind that my body instinctively knew exactly how to turn toward it. It’s that clarity of image – what Flow experts call a “clear and unambiguous goal” – that frees up the swing. You don’t have to try to control or steer the shot if you already know exactly where it is supposed to go.
That freedom allowed me to have a simple swing thought: hit the ball as squarely as possible.
This was the simple combination that allowed me to hit the ball I absolutely need to hit, when I needed to hit it.
Great golf doesn’t have to be complicated.
Thank you for joining me on my journey to the 2012 World Long Drive Championship. It’s an honor for me to be the new Champion and to have had the chance to compete against so many outstanding athletes.
PGA Professional and 2012 World Long Drive Champion
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