Want to Score lower? Hit it Further, and maybe even into the rough. It’s that Simple.
Rich Hunt, a leading Golf Statistician (yes, they exist) recently pointed out in his new eBook, 2013 Pro Golf Synopsis, that anyone thinking of playing the PGA Tour better be able to rock the driver at least 115 MPH if they want to have any chance of competing. Driving the golf ball far, and the ability to hit short irons close, are just as, if not more important than putting on today’s Tour. Yes that’s right, you may be able to roll the rock reasonably well, but if you can’t bomb your driver, and knock your approach shots close, it’s a moot point.
According to Golf Statistician Guru, Mark Broadie (Also a Columbia Business Professor) “Driving contributes 28% of top players’ advantage, and the main factor there is raw distance, not accuracy.” Hmm. . . . Let’s think about that a bit. For us mortals, accuracy is a relevant term. Keeping it on the golf course is tantamount to good golf. However, once on the course, and out of big trouble, raw distance is king. In fact, I often encourage some amateurs when the pressure is on, to intentionally hit their tee shots in the rough, especially when feeling pressured. Why? Most amateurs have flaws in their technique that can be challenged with short shots under pressure on tight firm fairway lies. For amateurs, not professionals, it is easier to hit approach shots out of the rough with short irons and marginal technique.
Raw Distance off the tee, and on second shots to par 5’s leads to a higher correlation scoring lower over the long run. Laying up doesn’t always help. But back to this Raw Distance business, how do we get more of it? The answer is speed. Speed is Power in the Golf Swing.
Speed has to be created in the golf swing. In order to maximize speed, your swing should follow a kinematically correct sequence. It should involve more of an athletic, ground up sequence. Successful athletes create and release speed more efficiently than others. Think Favre bombing a TD pass. Think Verlander hurling a fastball over 90 mph. It’s legs, body, then arms. Most golfers incorrectly move their hands and arms first to start their downswing, as a reaction to not creating enough speed through the loading process in the backswing. It’s their only chance, and it’s not a good one.
If I gave you a lesson, or any form of coaching before the year 2009, I would give you your money back, if I had it. That was before the revolution that is sweeping golf instruction and coaching, was nascent and ill-formed. I based my approach then, on the backs of the old model of Instruction. It was short-sided, incomplete, and quite frankly irresponsible.
Ben Hogan said over 40 years ago that the average golfer should be able to break 80 consistently. Then why is it that the average handicap in the US is 18? That’s and average of 90! Why is it that golfers are leaving the game faster than a Jacksonville Jaguars football game? In 2012 there were 26 million core golfers, down from over 30 million in the Tiger crazed, pre-Escalade into the fire hydrant, days of the mid-200′s. The PGA commissioned a study not long ago (Turns out it’s a big problem for the nearly 30,000 PGA Members in the U.S. if people start throwing the towel in on golf) that cited TIME as the number one factor as to why people are leaving the game. I don’t buy that. I think that people would gladly commit time to golf, if they didn’t feel they were wasting it on bad golf.
There is a new paradigm for coaching and improvement, that is quietly revolutionizing the way golf will be coached, and practiced in the 21st Century. You have a choice: Jump off the old train, or stay on it to no-whereville. Keep shooting the same old scores, day in and day out, and keep wondering if you should really be mountain biking instead of chasing an over priced white ball around on Sundays.
If you want to jump off, here are your steps: First, find someone that has a boarding pass to the new train. The person(s) that you want to buy these passes from may, or may not have a hat that says PGA. Helpful, but not necessary. In fact, I would be skeptical of those that tout that badge as their only guiding light. Instead, look for things like Trackman Certifications, TPI Certified Instructors (Titleist Performance Institute), and those with advanced degrees in Exercise and Sport Science from Academically Accredited Universities, and in particular those with experience in biomechanics and motor learning. The real breakthroughs in knowledge are coming from science. Turns out Science and Objectivity trumps 2nd hand stories and subjective experience (See Galileo).
The conductors of the new train to lasting improvement and performance will be able to coherently integrate functional movement, swing analysis, and launch monitor feedback into a coherent plan based on progress, statistics, and measurable, quantifiable data. The Coach of the 21st century, for both the beginner and the pro, is a Golf Scientist. This is the new model of coaching and performance.
So, here’s the deal. The new train is leaving the station. What are you going to do? Schedule a lesson at the range with the same old guys? Or are you going to forge a new, Authentic plan for the new year?
Afraid of skulling it over the green and into the Sea of Cortez? You’re not alone.
Short shots around the green, that sit perched upon tightly mown Bermuda grass, have a way of instilling fear in those with even the most astute of wedge games. It is these shots, of only about 15-20 yards, where a half an inch can mean the difference between glory, or a golf ball rocketed over the back of the green that will eventually find the Sea of Cortez if you are playing here in Los Cabos, Mexico. Some folks have a little fear, then a skull or two, then a few chunks, and then come the yips. . .then the clubs go in the corner of the garage. Or worse yet, you start reaching for your putter the minute your GPS tells you you’re inside 50 yards. C’mon, What fun is it to full swing the flat blade from 50 yards?
Here’s the deal with these shots. Most think they should play this shot by taking their 56 or 58 degree wedge, playing the ball in the middle or slightly back in a narrower stance, leaning the body weight and club shaft forward, and striking down and through the ball, compressing it against the club face and ground, thus imparting spin and therefore control on the golf ball. This is in fact correct, and if you were to open a textbook about playing 15-yard pitch off a tight lie, this would be the definition. Subconsciously, when we are less than committed to technique, we try and ‘help’ or ‘cheat’ the ball with our right or trailing hand, in addition to staying too far behind the ball. This actually raises the leading edge of the club through the hitting area, and increases the chance of making contact on the Latin America area of the ball, so to speak, with the blade of the club, rather than compressing the face of the club onto the North American region of the ball. The problem is you can’t separate the technique from the mental aspects of this shot, that aspect primarily being the fear of blading it into the Sea of Cortez. Instructors teach this technique relentlessly, but fail to provide psychological bridges the student can employ on the course when this technique may not be completely augmented yet. With the presence of fear, a new motor pattern is difficult to construct in practice, and even more difficult to employ with consequence on the course.
So, here’s how you proceed. First, bridge the gap of your fear on the course. Learn to hit this shot with a 3 wood. It’s more efficient than a putter, or a hybrid, in that it requires less of a motion than the putter, and it imparts topspin more easily than the hybrid. Play the ball back, stand tall, lean the handle forward, and impart topspin on the ball. Keep it on the ground. Pretend the hole is about 10 feet shorter than actually is, this will compensate for the ‘hotness’ of the 3-wood. For the time being, rock this shot around tight lies and you’ll expend less mental energy and worry.
Next, go to the practice range and hit 25 pitches in a row without skulling it, utilizing good technique. Set up a game that rewards you for doing this. Play toward reward, and not away from fear. When you can perform a shot, under pressure on the range, and orient yourself toward reward, you are ready to take that shot to the golf course. This goes, with any shot, really.
You see the issue with modern golf instruction and coaching is that it fails to properly integrate the technical aspects with the mental nuances that directly influence our ability to execute. Most people understand technique, but are governed by and vacillate in, the shadow of the fear of failure, rather than moving with conviction toward reward and opportunity. As with success in life, successful pitch shots are all about technique, orientation toward opportunity, commitment, and belief, without it, the Sea of Cortez awaits. This is the new paradigm for performance and practice.