When did golf schools become golf experiences? It’s hard to pinpoint the exact date, but not the reasons. First, advances in technology have taken instruction well beyond merely hitting buckets of balls under the watchful eye of a pro. And second, that technology has changed the way golf is taught. The process has become more experiential and less dictatorial (“Do it my way or else!”). That’s why new programs offered at the Omni La Costa Resort& Spa in Carlsbad, California should catch the attention of golfers open to news ways of learning — going beyond golf performance.
Perhaps best known to golf fans as the venue where Darren Clarke shocked the golf world in 2000 by defeating Tiger Woods, 4 and 3, in the WGC-Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship, Omni La Costa and its 36 holes are now home to a cutting-edge golf experience that incorporates traditional instruction, new technology, and a team of experts in a first-of-its-kind integrative approach.
“Golf professionals realize that you can’t be an expert at everything,” said A.J. Avoli, director of Instruction, Omni La Costa Resort & Spa. “So why try to be just mediocre at everything rather than being very good at something? That’s where an integrative approach like ours, which partners our Golf Performance Institute (GPI) with the experts in Deepak Chopra’s Beyond Performance program, comes up. People lose interest when it’s just hitting balls on a range. It becomes boring quickly. We’re trying to make it more fun, and if they’re not getting better, they’re not going to play more.”
The GPI creates programs tailored to each individual, from basic golf instruction to multi-day programs using the latest technology, such as MySwing Golf (a 3D motion capture system that analyzes your swing) and the RoboGolfPro (a computerized robotic system that lets you feel the best possible swing path for your own game), to create a plan designed to speed up the learning process.
“Technology has brought science into the game, and now we have fact-based information rather than just opinions,” sad Avoli. “Why guess when you can measure? But technology is only as good as the person running it and communicating the data.”
The data generated by the brand new Beyond Performance program goes well beyond smash factors and spin rates. In fact, the ultimate goal of the program — available in 3-day and 5-day sessions starting at $4,500 and $6,500 respectively, not including accommodations or golf at Omni La Costa — has little to do with the golf swing and much more to do with the golfer, according to Chopra.
“One of the biggest problems athletes have, or for that matter anyone trying to perform, is performance anxiety,” he said. “It’s always about the outcome and not the process. When you’re focused on the outcome, you get away from the process. Peak experiences are actually getting the mind out of the way. The mind is the problem. If you’re thinking too much, and any athlete will tell you this, the game is ruined. When they don’t think, everything seems to move in slow motion and in silence. The internal dialogue had disappeared. Flow state is a state where your sense of individual self is gone — it’s just the game. You and the game are one experience. There’s no sense of time. There’s total, effortless spontaneity. Beyond Performance means getting the mind out of way, no resistance, no regrets, no anticipation, just this moment. And that’s flow.”
The assembled team, with expertise in athletic movement, biomechanics, nutrition and the mental process, is impressive. “The key to any program is people, process and platform,” said program director Poonach Machaiah. “So we have brought together four of the best experts in the world, who have programs of their own covering various topics, for the first time ever. Beyond Performance is a structured process that uses technology metrics to provide a scalable platform, so when you go home and work with your local pro you bring it back home. We will also make additional content available online to participants.”
Baseball fans of a certain age may recognize the name Tom House, a former major league pitcher perhaps best known for catching Hank Aaron’s 715th home run (while standing in the bullpen) in 1974. These days he’s highly regarded for his work with elite athletes in multiple sports. “Human beings could be really smart if we don’t think,” said House. “If you just swing a golf club to get loose, it’s like a quarterback throwing a football to get warm. The stress you put on your body by swinging a golf club when you’re not warmed up is wearing and tearing joints. Preparing your body properly for golf is very important. We can now address human movement at 1,000 frames per second in three dimensions, and most of the important parts of a golf swing take place in .25 seconds.”
Biomechanics is a driving force behind the way any athlete performs, according to Dr. Peter Mackay. “I have to teach you to be aware of where you are in space, and where perhaps you should be, to be more functional. That goes way beyond the physical feel of muscles, tension or flexibility. I guarantee most people have enough strength to play golf – but their foundation and sequencing are critical factors.”
Most amateur golfers lack a pre-shot routine, a process that Jason Goldsmith believes can be beneficial, especially when reinforced by neurological feedback that can reveal what’s going on in the athlete’s mind while they are performing.
“To do that, we use the FocusBand, which is the world’s first in-motion EEG system,” he said. “It gives you insight as to what’s going on in the mind while you perform an action, providing direct and immediate feedback as to whether you were thinking, or were you doing? We teach athletes, including golfers like Jason Day and Justin Rose, how to get the brain into the performance state, or a mind of no-mindedness.”
What you put in your body, and when you do that, can affect on course performance according to nutritional expert Dr. James Meschino. “There’s a growing awareness that targeted nutritional strategies can enhance athletic performance,” he said. “The aging process will do what it does, but eating better can help preserve lean muscle mass and enable you to remain competitive longer.” He suggests eating lean proteins, lower fats, and carbohydrates two to three hours before teeing off. “Even with a 10 percent drop in blood sugar, your ability to focus decreases significantly and decision-making becomes much more irrational.” While golf is not a high intensity sport, your body still loses water throughout the round. “If your total body water is down even 2 percent, your performance drops and concentration drops,” he said. That means drinking water before and during the round, supplemented with a sports drink (skip the soda or alcohol) to maximize performance.”
Chopra is confident this team approach will pay dividends for golfers of all levels. “Technology provides instant feedback,” he said. “Many athletes will remember their best shots — even the memory of that will help reproduce the experience. Anchor the memory with the validation through technology. And there’s more to come.”