Journey to the Worlds 2012
In this video I talk about “contingency” practice. Contingency practice is “what if ..” practice, and it’s a key component of mental toughness training. I imagine all kinds of different scenarios and circumstances, then simulate those scenarios in as close to competition conditions as possible, then test different strategies and ways to handle those circumstances.
I do contingency practice because I want to have all my strategy decisions made in advance of the tournament, so that I don’t have to try to figure out what to do under battle conditions. It helps me to stay calm and focused. Check out the video for more.
A part of being mentally tough in golf is being able to bounce back from adversity. There’s a reason golfers who have been on the Tour a while perform better under pressure: they’ve experienced it already, and know what to expect and what to do.
The way to fast-track that experience is to practice it on the range, in advance. After competing in Long Drive for 10 years, I’ve seen quite a lot.
The most common circumstance we face in Mesquite is the wind. As a rule the prevailing wind in usually slightly into our faces, quartering from left to right. But I’ve had everything from dead calm to 25-mph head winds to brutal side-winds.
At least three times I’ve had a club break while on the tee, in the middle of my set. So I practice switching clubs.
I’ve had situations where one of the guys on the tee with me (we hit 3-players at a time), made lots of noise – usually in the middle of my swing (but not on purpose … that just happened to be the timing of his shots and he grunted like a tennis player).
Several times I’ve had the shadow of the player next to me flickered across my ball, and I had to either move, or time my shots so that he wasn’t hitting when I was hitting.
One year the artificial tee box we hit from became so compacted from the many golfers hitting over the course of 4 days prior, that I couldn’t get my tee into the turf. I had to literally turn my club upside down and use it like a hammer to get the tee far enough down to the height I like to hit (on my next set I snapped 6 tees in half and brought them with me to the tee).
I’ve been pulled off the tee three times during the middle of a set – twice due to rain, and once due to excessive wind.
I’ve been blown off balance in the middle of my swing due to wind. I’ve had dust blown into my eyes so badly I could barely see the ball (I now bring a bottle of water to the tee in case I need to rinse my eyes! And a towel to wipe off with after.).
One year the turf got slick and it was almost impossible to keep my footing. Had to really narrow up my stance for that one.
Then there’s dealing with injuries. The major one for me, of course, was tearing my rotator cuff a couple of years ago (my shoulder is 100% now, by the way). But I’ve had to have cortisone shots in my left elbow, my right elbow, my left thumb, and my left shoulder. All in different years. I now keep a supply of ibuprofen and cloth sports tape close by. A couple of my competitor friends are chiropractors. I know who they are and where to find them if I need them.
I bring 12 drivers with me to the competition. Last year one of my drivers failed the COR (coefficient of resistance) test and got pulled from my bag. It’s not that unusual for the face characteristics of a driver to change after hitting hundreds and hundreds of range balls. The LDA is very strict about having competitors use clubs that conform to USGA specifications (which I applaud and is good for the sport). But the year prior one of my friends had all 4 of his clubs pulled. Imagine losing all your clubs! He and I hit similar clubs (Geek club head, with Aerotech shaft), so I gave him two of my clubs for the competition (he made it to the final 8). He brought more clubs to the tournament the next year.
Then there’s the circumstance of the actual competition itself.
What am I going to do on my first shot of the tournament? (I like to make an 80% swing and get my first one in the grid)
What will I do on my last ball in the finals? Especially if I have to beat a competitor who has posted a big drive.
What will I do if my first ball goes out of bounds? First two balls? First three, four, or five balls?
What happens if I fall into the loser’s bracket and have to fight my way back into the finals?
How will I feel when I’m in the finals? What will I say during the interview afterward? What will I say when I win? Can I imagine myself in the trophy presentation ceremony? Will I allow myself to be successful and win?
There’s a lot that goes into performing at a high level, and doing it consistently. I’ve left out more unusual situations than I’ve covered.
I find this kind of contingency practice fun and intriguing. It’s a definite break from always working on swing mechanics. But it’s also the kind of practice that tells you a lot about yourself. I hope you give it a try.
See you down the fairway!
PGA Professional and World Long Drive Champion
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