Article

What I Learned Caddying on the PGA Korn Ferry Tour

by Brian Cain, MPM

In April I had the opportunity to caddy for a golfer on the Korn Ferry Tour.

It was challenging and at times uncomfortable for me.

But, that’s a big reason why I LOVED it.

You see, I’ve been a mental performance coach for high school, collegiate and professional level athletes of all sports for over twenty years.

And the number one thing I have learned is that it’s easier to understand the athletes I work with when I walk in their shoes to the greatest extent that I’m able.

This means walking next to them, hearing, seeing, and feeling it all. The distracting noises, the tense silences, the sometimes debilitating self-talk.

Whether this has been in the corner for a UFC Main Event or on the bench for US Figure Skating Nationals, when I have a better understanding of how they spend their days and what the competition up close is like, I can coach them in a more personalized way.

For this particular golfer, that meant caddying for him.

Of course, I could have coached him over zoom and asked things like:

  • What is your pre-shot routine?
  • What is your post-shot routine?
  • How do you spend your morning at home preparing for the day?

And lots more questions about his nutrition, his self-talk, and his habits/routines.

But those are general success strategy questions for any athlete with elite goals. It’s a great start, but professional athletes require professional coaches. And, for that I needed to get into the weeds.

Here’s why I’m glad I did and what I learned:

 

(1) The talent gap at the professional level, especially in the PGA, is VERY small.

The golfer I was with was ranked just outside of 100 and we played with two other golfers on days 1 & 2. One was ranked 1st on the tour money list and the other was ranked 7th.

And, I could barely tell the difference between them as golfers.

What does that mean? 

In order to rank in the top 25 on the Korn Ferry and therefore earn your PGA Tour card and play on the PGA Tour, you have to maximine all levels of preparation.

This means your routine should start hours before your actual tee time and your entire time at the tournament needs to be mapped out and flow within a process and routine that’s been thought out and intentional.

I helped this golfer establish a routine that started 2 hours and 40 minutes ahead of his tee time.

It started with a healthy meal, some meditation, and some soft tissue work. Then we headed over to the practice range so he could dial in his short game, followed by his irons, driver and woods. Then he went back to the short game area for some final putting and chipping. A small snack, a bathroom break, quick meditation and visualization and then the walk over to the first tee 5 minutes before his assigned time. 

While I helped him customize this routine, I noticed some other golfers who had holes in their own routines and even some who showed up to their tee time a few minutes late, out of breath and already looking stressed.

There is absolutely no margin for error in your pre-round, pre-shot, and post-shot routine. The talent gap is small and it’s anyone’s game at any time. Don’t let something you can control, like your routine, get in the way of you getting ahead.

Seeing the holes in other golfers helped me to brainstorm ways to fill those potential holes for my own players. That final snack before we walk over to the tee? That has to be consumed down to the minute because being rushed to the tee is not at all a good start mentally.

Once you’re rushed, you start rushing your routine, and when you rush your routine and process you don’t execute at the level you must to compete at that level… You are beating yourself because … 

 

(2) Professional golf moves quickly!

I think most people who watch golf on TV think of it as a slow moving game. Some find it relaxing to watch, others find it annoying. But, regardless, many people would agree that golf is seemingly a slow moving game.

How wrong we are!

Professional golf moves rather quickly for the golfers with very little time to stand around.  I found myself running to the next hole often. Running. 

When have you seen running on TV when watching golf? 

It happens.

This was really good for me to know. 

What if in my mental performance coaching I didn’t live this and see it with my own eyes. I might have suggested some visualization techniques he could use while “standing around.”

No.

There is not a whole lot of standing around, not at this level.

In fact, there is so much movement, one of the routines I suggested was a nutrition routine for every 3 holes.

I don’t think I would have known to suggest a nutrition routine at the pace of every 3 holes had I not seen how quickly the professional game moves.

As a mental performance coach, walking the actual walk is so important. And the longer you can walk the walk, the better. 

Because the days move quickly, but so do the weeks.

 

(3) Professional Golf is a GRIND.

The players might arrive in a new city Monday and get settled. Tuesday is a practice round followed by another practice round Wednesday. Thursday – Sunday is the tournament and then Sunday night/Monday morning is the plane ride to the next city and then the weekly clock starts again. 

There are no days off when you are making cuts and they are all intense.

For this, players need a routine as well.

One of the strategies I suggest to the athletes and coaches I work with is to plan their 168. That is the habit of planning every hour of their week ahead of time.  There are 168 hours in a week and knowing where these go will help you to prepare and separation is in preparation

I was reminded of how helpful this was on the Korn Ferry Tour. With so many minutes of so many hours planned out, it’s much easier to navigate your day when there are fewer decisions to be made.

So, if golfers have a pre-planned routine for practice days vs. tournament days vs. travel days, then there are fewer decisions that have to be made. And when you don’t have to use your energy making decisions, then you’ll have more energy for competing. 

I’ve worked with some tremendous golfers and for over two decades and the best of the best call me to coach them to their next level. And I know that much of my success comes from being willing to step into their environment and live it with them.

Over the years, this has put me in some challenging and uncomfortable situations, but that is how I was able to distill the mystery of the mental game of gold down to 10 pillars of success. 

These 10 pillars each have drills that improve the skills needed to sharpen the mental game.

If you want to coach your golfers to their next level, be sure to coach them through my 10 pillars of MPM.  And, most importantly, get in there with them. Walk their walk. Then you’ll know how to apply the 10 pillars to each player you coach.

 

Want to learn how to coach and train the most mentally tough golfers you know?

Join my FREE 40Min Golf Mental Performance Masterclass and I’ll send you the details on how you can start training the mental game and develop the 15th club…. The mental toughness it takes to go one shot at a time on the course.

In this masterclass, I’ll teach you how to:

  • Compete with unshakable confidence each and every time you step to the tee
  • Perform at your best when it means the most—on a consistent basis shot to shot
  • Create the elite mindset, routines, and habits of excellence you need to reach your potential, go low and get the most our of your ability

Drop your info below and I will send you the FREE Golf MPM Masterclass today.

For Athletes

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  • Unlock your potential and make adversity your advantage by developing an elite mindset.
  • Become a machine of consistency by establishing the right performance routines and habits of excellence.
  • Get clarity on WHO you are, WHAT you want—and discover the behaviors you must start and stop to get the results you’ve been lacking.

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  • Compete at a higher level, more consistently—while managing distraction and adversity—by establishing the RIGHT routines. 
  • Create the championship culture you need in your program to develop elite athlete leaders and cultivate a clear vision that keeps your people motivated and juiced up.

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