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#HelpMeGolfDigest: Dr. Michael Lardon changes how you think about your game

When Phil Mickelson was looking for a way to get over his crushing loss at the 2013 U.S. Open, he went to mental performance coach Dr. Michael Lardon for help. A month later, Mickelson went to Muirfield and won the Claret Jug for the first time.

Lardon has been helping PGA Tour stars, NFL players, mixed martial artists and Olympic gold medalists for more than 20 years. His new book, Mastering Golf's Mental Game -- excerpted in the August issue -- reveals the strategies he uses on tour and shows average players how to use a mental scorecard to evaluate and improve the way they think about the game.   

This week, Dr. Lardon helps you tackle some of your most nagging mental game issues as a part of our regular #HelpMeGolfDigest series. You're not alone -- and your golf neuroses are probably easier to fix than you think. 

Reader Stephen Elwes was one of dozens who asked about the same problem -- getting the pre-round jitters before an important event. 

 "Let's talk try to understand this fear a little bit more first," says Lardon, who is a practicing psychiatrist and mood disorder specialist in San Diego. "Is there anything actually physically dangerous out on the golf course? It's probably more accurate to describe it as some anxiety about playing badly. Anxiety can actually amp you up and help you hit the ball a little farther. The key is to reframe how you feel as natural, and something you can use. If it really is fear, you want to channel that fear into a productive use. Come up with a specific mental and physical routine you use for every shot, and reframe your fear as being afraid of what will happen if you don't go through that routine. 

Another popular subject was the feeling of being overwhelmed by technical swing thoughts. 

"If your mind is getting scattered or focusing on the wrong thing, you need what I call a 'thought script,'" says Lardon. "If you're thinking about a bunch of technical things, change it up and follow the script for the shot you're hitting -- something like 'I want to take my driver and cut this shot off the left tree line. I'm going to finish the shot open and high.' Pick the shot, recite the thought script to yourself and hit it" 

By far the most questions came from people with problems similar to Jim O'Shea's and Jacob Thompson's -- getting past a bad (or good) hole. 


"These are the kind of issues where the Mental Scorecard is perfect," says Lardon. "In simple terms, you want to be grading yourself on how you go through your process of playing a shot, not on what the results are -- good or bad. You do that by establishing a mental and physical routine, and measuring yourself on how well you pick your shot, go through that routine and go into action. The best tour players do these things right 97 or 98 percent of the time. You can get a free scorecard at DrLardon.com and see how you're doing."

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Instruction

#HelpMeGolfDigest: Shaun Webb fixes your weight shift and head movement

When PGA Tour player David Toms decided to open a golf academy in his hometown of Shreveport, La., he entrusted the chief teaching job to Shaun Webb -- a Maine native with extensive experience using cutting-edge training tools, such as the K-Vest and TrackMan, and who had certification with the Titleist Performance Institute. Webb has also worked with tour players such as Yani Tseng, Peter Hanson and Morgan Hoffman through his affiliation with the academy run by Top 50 teacher Gary Gilchrist in Florida.

This week, Webb reviewed a handful of swings submitted by GolfDigest.com readers through Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #HelpMeGolfDigest. The first comes from @jmsurma, who has a strong swing but needs to clean up some extraneous motion. 



"Nice overall motion, and it would improve with some work on your head movement in the downswing," Webb says. "In the transition and moving into the downswing, make sure your head and the buttons on your shirt move to a point more on top of the ball at impact, and at impact let your head continue to release and move toward the target -- staying even with your belt buckle instead of behind it. You'll really improve your rotation through the shot."


Reader @drizzyhoon could improve his weight shift to produce more power and eliminate an out-to-in swing path.


"As the club reaches the top of the swing and before you change direction into the downswing, feel your weight shifting into your left side," Webb says. "By the time the left arm reaches parallel in the downswing, you should feel at least 70 percent of your weight on your left foot, and continue to move it more left as you finish the swing."


The third swing comes from @ryan_cast, who produces plenty of speed but has to make some in-swing compensations. 


"The swing is a very dynamic motion with a lot of great elements," Webb says. "At address, you have your right forearm higher than your left, which puts you in an open position and hurts the consistency of your takeaway. Even them out, and and at the top of your backswing, make sure you let your hips and right thigh rotate to the right more, which will put you in better position to push off and generate power. It will also prevent your lower body from out-racing your upper body as you move toward impact."

Keep hashtagging those videos #HelpMeGolfDigest and watch for the next round of swing analysis next week.

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#HelpMeGolfDigest

#HelpMeGolfDigest: Chris Smeal fixes your body movement and improves your feel

Chris Smeal runs one of the busiest and most successful junior programs on the West Coast -- Future Champions Golf at Stadium Golf in San Diego. A Golf Digest top teacher in California, Smeal has worked with players who have gone on to Division I scholarships and AJGA victories. This week, he takes a look at the hashtagged swings you submitted for our regular #HelpMeGolfDigest project. 

The first one comes from @robbiesharkey, who struggles with a slice. Smeal offers some setup changes that will turn that slice into a draw.  


"To draw it, you need to get the path of your club swinging more to the right on the downswing," says Smeal, who played college golf at San Diego State. "Widen your stance so your feet are outside your shoulders. With the driver, it should feel like your back foot comes up much later. Flare both of your toes outward slightly and adjust your right-hand grip so the thumb is more up and on top. The V created by your thumb and forefinger should be pointing at your right ear. Lastly, try to relax your hands, shoulders and forearms to produce more speed."

Reader @m_scavuzzo needs to incorporate more body movement into his swing to get the most clubhead speed he can. That movement starts before the swing.


"Pretty good swing here, but I want to see you get your legs and feet more involved," Smeal says. "A pre-shot routine is going to help you. Waggle your wrists and the clubhead, and shuffle your feet in small movements to stay fluid. As you swing back, the left knee should rotate behind the ball while your right knee stays inside your shoe. Groove these moves and swing to a balanced finish."

The last swing comes from @jttsai81, who is a veteran of one of Golf Digest's instruction schools in California. Smeal says his swing just needs a bit of fine-tuning. 



"You're on your way to a great swing. I like a lot of the things you're doing," Smeal says. "A great drill for you is to pick a small target 50 yards away and visualize hitting draws and fades to the right and left of it. To hit the draw, align your body slightly right and feel your club path following slightly right as well. Finish with your right shoulder much higher than the swing you show here."

Keep submitting your hashtagged swings for the next edition of #HelpMeGolfDigest. We'll be picking a collection of chipping and putting videos soon. 

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Instruction

#HelpMeGolfDigest: Bob Kramer tackles fundamentals and the mental game

By Matthew Rudy

Pennsylvania instructor Bob Kramer has spent 25 years teaching a raft of top LPGA, amateur and AJGA players in metro Philadelphia. He's a two-time Philadelphia PGA section teacher of the year and has been on Golf Digest's list of top Pennsylvania instructors since 2000. This week he reviewed three hashtagged swings submitted by readers through our #HelpMeGolfDigest campaign.  

The first comes from @KinleyLee, who bills himself as a "normal hack" on Instagram. Kramer likes his action, which would improve with some adjustments to the first move back. 

"At address, your wrists are cocked upwards and arched out of line with your forearms, which causes your hands to hinge downward at the beginning of your swing," says Kramer, who is based at Bent Creek Country Club in Lancaster County, Pa. "That increases the width of your swing too much and will lead to heavy iron shots. You have to match that move with a late hinge at the top of your swing or at the beginning of the downswing, which is hard to time consistently. You obviously hit the ball well with that idiosyncrasy, but you'd be more consistent with a more easily repetitve move."


The second swing comes all the way from Finland, from 16-year-old Mikael Reijonen. A weightlifting fanatic, Mikael has a strong, technically sound swing and should focus his attention on his mental game.
 

"Mikael might not have sent in the right video, because he looks great in this one," Kramer says. "You have a rock-solid swing that should stand up in competition, if your mind will let it. I just love it. I do have a strong feeling that maybe I should be looking at your ability to go low when you play. Maybe we should be addressing your green reading, speed control or aim, or improving the control of the trajectory of your chip shots."


The last swing, from reader @kyrazzy77, shows influences from several different flavors of golf instruction.  

"I love watching swings developed with some of the more modern ideas of how a pivot or backswing should work," Kramer says. "Your swing looks like a hybrid between a centered turn and the Stack and Tilt idea. Either way, you have a good foundation, but you need to develop a setup that matches your swing style. A more forward ball position would let you be less in front of the ball at impact, and you wouldn't have to stop your body motion and release the club early. I bet you fight the occasional block or pull hook. Either move your ball forward or coil more over your rear hip so you can be more centered at impact."

Keep submitting your #HelpMeGolfDigest hashtagged videos and watch for your swing in this space in the coming weeks.

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Instruction

#HelpMeGolfDigest: Trillium Sellers fixes your transition and solves your posture problems

By Matthew Rudy

When Golf Digest Best Young Teacher Trillium Sellers gives a piece of swing advice, there are extra reasons to pay attention. The Maryland instructor earned her master's degree in motor learning and control from Columbia in February, and she put that rare (in the golf business) credential to use this week selecting a few swings to analyze for our regular #HelpMeGolfDigest series. 

Reader Tim Egan (@thetimmer_ on Instagram) submitted his video shot from an unconventional quartering angle. It made judging his setup position harder but revealed some room for improvement in his backswing-to-downswing transition.     


"Tim doesn't have a bad swing, but he's putting too much weight into his back foot on the backswing," says Sellers, who is based at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md. "He needs to keep that weight on the inside part of his back foot and not let it flow over to the outside edge. An easy way to think about it is to imagine a golf tee sticking straight out of your right kneecap. During the backswing, you always want that tee pointing straight out in front of you, not back away from the target."


The second swing belongs to @emma2908, who submitted a dark, moody driver swing with some transition problems of its own. 

"Emma definitely has something to work with, but at the top of the backswing her lead arm just collapses," Sellers says. "The club goes way past parallel, and makes John Daly's backswing look short. She needs to feel that lead arm extend so that her hands are away from her neck, which will also straighten out her downswing." 


The last swing comes from @Garrett_njd30, whose posture looks a lot like Paula Creamer's. Sellers is worried he's headed for back pain.  

"Garrett makes a strong move at it, but he drops his head so much that his shoulders are almost vertical at impact," Sellers says. "He has to set up with the ball off the toe because that head move will make the club go out much more than it was at address. To get that spine more vertical, hold a club against your chest and make some swings keeping it -- and the shoulders -- as horizontal as possible. That's also going to change the setup position a lot, with the ball farther away and the arms extended more."

Submit your swings via Instagram or Twitter with the #HelpMeGolfDigest hashtag and you could see yourself analyzed in this space this summer.

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#HelpMeGolfDigest

#HelpMeGolfDigest: Chris Como helps you strike it clean, hit from the inside and thrive in junior golf

By Matthew Rudy

Teaching tour players has its glamorous moments, but this week Chris Como is seeing the other side of being out on the road with Aaron Baddeley, Jamie Lovemark and Richard Lee for most of June. Back at home, at Gleaneagles Country Club in Plano, TX, he has a full day of lessons scheduled for the Fourth of July to catch up on his local student backlog. The 2013 Golf Digest Best Young Teacher took a breath on his way back from the Quicken Loans National to choose a handful of reader-submitted swings to review for our #HelpMeGolfDigest project. 

The first comes from a powerful player, @aminces, via Instagram. Andrea has a terrific swing and compresses the ball, but could produce more consistent contact with a few adjustments. 

"This is a really good swing, but it has one of the misconceptions I see a lot—that you have to consciously hit down on the ball to produce solid contact," says Como. "With the best players, the clubhead is definitely moving down at impact, but the left shoulder, left hip and hands are actually moving up. The way to incorporate that is to focus on lower body motion. As you clear through the shot, feel like you're pushing out of the ground with your feet. Players like Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed are actually almost jumping as they hit the ball. Twist your lower body and really push up with that right leg."

Reader @woodfordneat submitted his swing video shot from an unconventional angle Como likes to see because it reveals backswing problems that can be hidden in face-on or down-the-line views. Vin can start hitting powerful draws with a simple arm drill. 

"Vin's upper right arm is working behind his body, and it's causing him to throw the club out early in the downswing," says Como. "You need to feel lie your upper arm stays in front of your torso, which will left the club come down from a shallower, more inside path. An easy drill to get that feel is to make some right-hand-only swings while holding onto your right tricep with your left hand. Don't let the right arm move backward."

The last swing comes from reader @1130Jason, who posted a video of 8-year-old Megan—a self-described Lexi Thompson fan. A grip adjustment will make her development go much more smoothly.  

"It's really important for junior players to start out with a grip that lets them hit the ball successfully," says Como, who is finishing up his master's degree in biomechanics. "The wrong grip can set you back from the start. Megan's looks like it's across the palm of her left hand, and her right hand is really around and underneath. That could be because the club doesn't fit her properly and she's trying to control it. In a good grip, the handle runs more horizontal across the left hand on the knuckle line. It can run more diagonally in the right hand, but that hand needs to be more to the side of the handle."

Keep sending in hashtagged #HelpMeGolfDigest videos via Instagram or Twitter and you could see your swing here soon. 

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Instruction

#HelpMeGolfDigest: Mike McGetrick fixes your posture and plane

By Matthew Rudy

Mike McGetrick has spent more than 25 years helping tour players such as Brandt Jobe, Juli Inkster and Meg Mallon win multiple tournaments and major championships, but his reputation was built working with average players at his academy outside Denver. The five-time Colorado PGA Teacher of the Year and 1999 PGA Teacher of the Year has relocated to Delray Beach, Fla., and he spent some time this week getting back to his roots, analyzing some of the swings you submitted via Instagram and Twitter for our #HelpMeGolfDigest project.


Reader @iamjesseurbaetis earns Rickie Fowler style points for the backward hat, but needs to make some posture improvements to replicate some of Fowler's ball-striking skills.



"Jesse is too close to the ball at address, and his hands are too high," McGetrick says. "Because of that, the club goes too much around his body, and he's coming over the top of it. If he bends over more and lowers his hands so that he has an angle between his hands and arms, his shoulders will turn on a different plane. That better posture will also give him a more level hip turn, and he'll be able to keep his upper body behind the ball on the forward swing."


Reader @hawkfu does some good things with his swing, but will get more power and consistency with better shoulder action. He also needs a new cameraperson.


"This is a pretty good swing, but I'd tell Joey to try for a different feel with his shoulders," McGetrick says. "He needs to feel his left shoulder going more down and low in the backswing and the right shoulder going up. Right now, the club works too much to the inside and he's swaying off the ball. With that adjustment, the club will move more straight back and less around, and feel like it's staying more in front of his body. The forward swing would then be the opposite -- with the left shoulder working up and the right shoulder down."

Keep submitting swings via Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #HelpMeGolfDigest. We're especially interested in reviewing short game and putting shots for a future edition.

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