The Bill Parcels Interview

Recently I had the distinct privilege in asking some questions to NFL legend, and newly inducted NFL Hall of Fame member, Coach Bill Parcels.

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Coach Parcels is universally viewed as one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. He was a head coach for 19 years, most notably with the New York Giants where he won two Super Bowls. He also coached the Patriots, Jets and Cowboys. He is the only coach in NFL history to take four different teams to the playoffs.

This year Coach Parcels was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame and just days before I conducted this interview he was honored at halftime of the Broncos v. Giants game (Manning Bowl 9/14/13) where he received his NFL Hall of Fame ring.

Here is how the Coach of Golf would assess Coach Parcel’s game: Coach Parcels hits a nice ball. He plays to about a 12 handicap. The thing that strikes me about Coach Parcels is how dedicated he is to practicing. I see him practicing or playing just about every day. Most days when practicing he usually spends a good one and a half to two hours hitting balls. That is pretty impressive for a man of 73 years old.

Our interview took place at Saratoga National Golf Course in Saratoga Springs, New York where he is a member.

CoG: Congratulations on a great year Coach.

Parcels: Thank you very much. It has been pretty special.

CoG: What is the best part of your game?

Parcels: Probably my wedge. I feel very pretty confident with wedges in general. The rest of my game stinks.

CoG: What do you like most about playing golf?

lip3s-1-webParcels: Well, I think it is wholesome. I think it tests you every way possible. It tests you physically, mentally and emotionally. I think it’s a good barometer for where you are in life.

CoG: You practice a great deal. What are you working on?

Parcels: Well, I like practice. I’ve always enjoyed that aspect of the game and really almost all the games that I’ve played. I like practicing. I am trying to alter a few things. You know at my age now you have to make a few adjustments so most of the time I’m trying to take the club away with a little more width, that kind of thing. I would like to hit it a little farther. I keep losing distance. Also, I don’t want the ball to go left. I hate seeing the ball go left.

CoG: Do you find any parallels between golf and football?

Parcels: Well, I think there are a lot of mental comparisons you can make because in football, physical aspect of the game aside, mentally you have to be able to withstand disappointment. I think in golf you have to have that as well. If you can’t, or are not willing to move on the next play or the next shot you’re not going to do very well.

CoG: What is your favorite course?

Parcels: I’m not an expert or anything but my favorite course is a private course in Richmond, Virginia. The Kinloch Golf Club.

CoG: Who is your favorite golfer?

IMG_2161Parcels: I tend to like the older guys. I really like Ray Floyd and Lee Trevino. More recently I really liked Payne Stewart. Now I guess Tiger Woods. I don’t think there is much not to like about him.

CoG: Have you ever had a hole-in-one?

Parcels: No I haven’t. I’ve been close. I’ve had a few on the edge. I had one over the edge once but it just wouldn’t drop.
I’ve had a lot of eagles on par 4’s though.

CoG: What is your best round ever?

Parcels: I’ve shot some 73’s and 72’s. I’ve never been under par though.

CoG: If you coached golf what would you focus on teaching your golfers?

Parcels: Hmmm. I guess I would like to see my golfers focus on control- control in every aspect of the game. I would like them to hit it far but in the end I would teach them to keep the ball in play. I would also teach them to control they’re emotions. Like I said earlier, you have to be able to leave mistakes behind and move on. You always have to be looking forward to the next shot.

Thanks, Coach.

It’s Always Darkest Before the Light.

Recently a player on my team experienced a major breakthrough. It’s a great story that could help many golfers, so I thought I’d share.

I have a player on my team named Brett. When I arrived at Skidmore College last year and assessed the players’ talent, I found Brett to be good from tee to green. He was a solid putter, but in two areas rated very poor:

1. Brett’s golf self-esteem was non-existent. He always believed the worst would happen on the golf course, and it usually did. Rarely did I see him get any amount of joy out of playing golf. Golf was a chore. He reminded me of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh.

2. Brett’s short game, in a word, stunk. And that’s saying it nicely. He was dreadful when it came to pitching and chipping.

Whats wrong with this pitcher?So, we got to work. We spent a great deal of time over weeks and months working on mechanics and attitude, and we saw some progress. But even though he put in a lot of work, his confidence remained fragile. He had a deep seeded fear of chunking shots and thinning shots over the green, and if it ever actually happened, his confidence crumbled like a house of cards. We’d have to start all over again with fundamentals, drills and repairing confidence. This was the pattern all of last year and into the beginning of this fall season.

We had our first tournament a few weeks ago. Playing on the “B” team, Brett was playing well in the first round. I saw him at the turn and he told me he had hit every fairway and green; however, on the back nine, he began missing greens. His score went up quickly, and he shot a disappointing score. The next day was worse. The previous round eroded any hope of success. Needless to say, his score was really bad.

The next day at practice, Brett showed up with a “solution”: a left-handed wedge. Brett plays golf right-handed. It was clear he was a desperate man. He told me he was sick of going through this, and he was willing to try anything. I told him I respected him thinking outside the box, but I didn’t think that this was a viable solution. I suggested something that we had tried for about fifteen minutes last spring. He hadn’t been in a place mentally at that point to try something new, but now his mind was open. Here was the opportunity.

He tried it willingly. And within an hour his whole life seemingly changed. Within twenty-four hours, he was like an entirely different human being. I think that day was the first time I had ever seen Brett’s teeth at the golf course. Brett is quick with a smile off the course, but on the course you’d think his cat just died. I didn’t recognize this guy! He was having fun! There was hope! He called it, “a miracle!”

I watched him practice with amazement. Pitch shot after pitch shot floated beautifully through the air, landed softly on the green and cozied up close to the hole. Each shot was struck beautifully and effortlessly. Brett’s body language was completely different. He was relaxed and fluid–not the tense ball of doom that I had witnessed for over a year.

Over the course of the next week he challenged teammate after teammate to chipping and pitching contests (in the past he would have never done that), and won!

Before:afterOk, so what was the cure? Look at the photo closely. Did you catch it? I had Brett go left-hand low on his chips and pitches.

Why does this work? Because many times a right-handed player will carry all of his or her stress in the right hand. When that happens, the right hand squeezes the grips and stabs at the ball when under pressure and the left wrist breaks down. Reversing the hands neutralizes the right hand and allows the left hand to pull the club through the shot. Since the left side is the weak side for righties, you’ll be more prone to swing the club with the body, because you won’t be able to squeeze as much with the right hand.

I don’t recommend this for everyone. But hey, we exhausted all other options. In golf, there is no one right way to do things. The ultimate goal is be effective. I approach coaching the same way. Each player is a riddle and every riddle has a solution.

The other moral to the story is this: Desperation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Until Brett was desperate, he wasn’t brave enough to embrace something new. When someone isn’t willing to try another approach, one thing is for sure – improvement is impossible.

I really respect Brett for his bravery. It’s nice to see him happy, confident and excited to play. This could turn his entire college career around.

If You Don’t Want to Choke, EAT MORE !

I believe nutrition is the single most important factor that most golfers fail to consider when preparing for competition. The topic isn’t talked about much, and if something isn’t talked about, it’s not a priority. Well it should be, so let’s talk about it.

When I recruit a young man I spend a long time talking to him about all aspects of his game. We talk about putting, driving, iron play, etc. We also talk about how he plays, what he thinks about while playing, what usually happens when he plays well and what goes wrong when he plays poorly. When he plays poorly many times he explains the situation like this:  The round starts out very well, then about the 14th hole everything begins to unravel. The young man doesn’t really know why, he just knows that he chokes at the end of rounds—usually in tournaments.

scorecard1The first thing I ask is, “How much do you eat out there?”  The answer I usually get is either, “Nothing”, or “I had a pack of crackers during the round.” I hope to God that I don’t hear, “I had a hot dog at the turn.” That one drives me nuts.

I then ask, Do you know how many calories your body burns during a round of golf when you walk?

At this point I get either silence or a shrug. They usually have no idea.

Well, for all of you out there, the answer is right around 2000! That’s almost a days worth of calories!  I know, right? Surprised?

The reason he finished poorly is pretty obvious to me. He simply ran out of fuel.

Almost every golfer that I’ve ever coached prior to their experience with me operated at what I call a Calorie Deficit. I have discovered that teaching a player to eat may be just as important as teaching them the swing.

PrintYoung people are calorie burning machines. I know very few moms who have sons that don’t eat constantly and in great quantities. Yet these same young men go to the course to play or compete and do so with no food in their bag and by the time they have hit balls and played, they will have gone six hours without eating, maybe more. I ask them, “Aside from sleeping do you ever go 6 hours without eating?” Of course not. Yet while doing an athletic activity they starve themselves of the fuel they need to compete at a high level! This makes no sense.

Let’s say you were going on a trip in a car. One of the first things you would ask yourself is, “Do I have enough fuel to get me where I want to go?” The same question needs to be asked prior to a round of golf or even more importantly, a round of tournament golf.

One of the biggest reasons golfers “choke” stems from a lack of food in their belly. Simple as that.

When you lack fuel it not only affects your energy level (blood sugar) but it also affects your ability to make sound decisions. The brain needs fuel just as much as the body in order to operate at an effective level.

Don’t misunderstand what I am saying—don’t go and pound down 2000 calories prior to your round. That would be equally disastrous!

foodMy golfers always eat a ton of healthy snacks while on the course. This always comes as a shock to my freshman. Most aren’t used to eating at all. As I tell them, “you’re not eating because you are hungry, you are eating to maintain your optimum performance level. If you wait until you are hungry to eat, it’s too late. Chances are we’ve already lost strokes out there.”

When we compete we eat something every 2 to 3 holes, but never garbage! (hot dogs, hamburgers, candy bars, chips, sodas, etc.) Those items are loaded with fat and will cause your blood sugar to spike and then dive. Eat things that will help you perform like the athlete you are! You want to maintain a consistent blood sugar level. My team eats apples, bananas, nuts (excellent) beef jerky, any dried fruit like raisins, trail mix, and a good energy bar like a Cliff Bar or something.

A few years ago I had a golfer from England named Tom. We discovered he played his best when he ate 6 apples a round. I called him Apple Tom. He would eat an apple every 3 holes. He won a lot of college events and became an All-America.

During your round you will need to consume 2000 calories to match what your body will burn.

This is one of the most important lessons my golfers learn from me their first year. When they go home for the summer and play in their local events, state amateurs or national events I usually get a call after the tournament and hear stories about their successes not failures.

I like happy endings.

Happy 80th Dad!

The Dottie Pepper Interview

I recently had the honor of sitting down with the LPGA legend and NBC Sports golf commentator, Dottie Pepper.

UnknownThroughout her career she has been known as a intense, fiery competitor. Few athletes have a more fitting name.
Her passion has kept her at the the top of her profession(s) her entire life. Dottie had an impressive amateur career and in college Pepper was a 3 time All-America at Furman University. During her LPGA career, Dottie went on to win 17 times, including two major championships. Her nineteen under par performance at the 1999 Kraft Nabisco Championship is still a record. Dottie played on six Solheim Cup teams amassing a career record of 13-5-2, winning 70% of her matches.

Injuries ended Dottie’s playing career prematurely at age 38. In 2004 Dottie joined NBC Sports and went on to become one of the most respected on-course commentators ever to walk the fairways. In December of 2012, Dottie decided to retire from broadcasting to move on to new projects both personal and with the PGA of America. And, oh yea, she’s an assistant captain on this years Solheim Cup Team.

As we stood in her kitchen I asked her some questions about her childhood.

CoG: You were raised on a farm. What are some of the chores that you had to do?

Pepper : Our family had a turkey farm in Saratoga Springs, New York. Each year we had about 45,000 turkeys. One thing that most people don’t know is that turkeys are terrified of thunder storms. They freak out and they’ll all try and pile on top of each other. They’ll suffocate each other! So every time there was a thunder storm we would have to go out into the barns with brooms and chase around 45,000 turkeys and to try and keep them away from the corners, piling on and killing each other.

As we moved to her office we shifted the conversation to golf.

CoG: What did being an on-course commentator teach you about the playing and competing that you wish you knew while you on tour?

images-6Pepper : That it’s not rocket-science. It really isn’t.
I think as a player you over-think situations. Where when you take a half a step back, it becomes a lot clearer. Part of the reason why is that because when you are observing the game emotions aren’t so involved and so over driven. All of the sudden the light seems a lot cleared and the options seem a lot bigger and much more obvious. It’s just not as difficult as we think it is.

CoG: Name someone you have seen that we don’t yet know about who you think will be the next big thing on the PGA and the LPGA.

Pepper : On the PGA Tour, as an analyst you’re not suppose to be a fan, but I really am a fan of Bud Cauley. I really think this kid is going to be a rock star. There’s a mentality passed along from his dad who was a NAVY Seal. This kid goes out there—no excuses—and gets the job done. He’s one of only seven players to ever to earn his card through a few sponsors exemptions. That alone puts him in elevated territory. Mechanically his swing is great and he’s found a veteran caddie. Now he’s learning how difficult it is to play that many weeks. Because in college it’s a pretty scripted fall, pretty scripted spring, then in the summer you’re of on your own to figure out where you want to be to make sure you’re prepared for the next season. Well guess what? This IS the season. It’s all the time. I think that has been his biggest adjustment.

On the female side, I would look out for another Alabama product, Brooke Pancake. Terrific kid. Great story. Her dad passed away early so she’s been on her own and had to mature faster than most kids have had too. She was a top-notch student, plus a great player as well. She’s got the qualities to in her first few years to make a Solheim Cup. She’s that good.

CoG: For a high school golfer, male or female, what single piece of advice would you give them to be a successful collegiate golfer?

photoPepper : I would tell them to not just play golf. I would tell them to take advantage of the other sports, individual or team, and use them not only to keep their high-school experience complete, but for cross-training. It benefits golfers in so many ways. Golfers can get bogged down with the psychological aspects of the game, because it is slow. Where if you’re on the ski team, or football team or baseball, whatever, there is an instant reaction that ends up helping in golf. A break from golf is healthy. Myself and other professional golfers that came from up north did other things in the winter—we skied, bowled, played hockey, whatever. We played other sports in the winter and that probably helped our longevity.

CoG: Same question about college golfers wanting to go pro—what advice would you give?

Pepper : I would stay in college as long as possible. I really would. It’s not just about where your golf might be. It’s where you are as a whole person. In learning how to get around the country or how to interact with other people. Whether it’s your roommate, your teammates, whether it’s alumni, whatever it might be, I would take that time not only to enjoy the college golf experience but the college education and social experience as well. I see so many players who are in such a rush to get out on tour. I think that is a mistake.

CoG: If you could change anything about your playing career, would you?

Pepper : I’d be more sensitive about playing so many events. When I was at my best I played thirty-five weeks a year counting the LPGA and the “silly season” stuff. I developed some nagging injuries because of that, that later turned into chronic injuries that ultimately led to my playing career being cut short.

CoG: What is your craziest, favorite story you have about your playing career?

Pepper : It was in Japan at the end of the year. I made a 3 week trip over to play in a week of pro-ams and two events that we played that were on the LPGA schedule. We had what we called an “R. I. rule,” meaning “readily identifiable,” when it came to food in Japan. The last night of our trip me and two other girls went to this fabulous restaurant in Tokyo and we toasted the fact that we made it the entire three weeks without breaking the “R. I. rule.” As soon as we did, the shrimp in the basket sitting on the grill moved. They were alive! We all screamed! On cue they started jumping around in that basket. It was so gross!

CoG: Same question about your announcing career. What’s your craziest, favorite story?

Pepper : It was at the 2008 U.S Senior Open at the Broadmoor in Colorado. In the 2nd round during a couple of commercial breaks we hear rumblings that a bear is loose on the course. I ask the guys, “Where is he?” They say he is a couple of holes away, no big deal. Well don’t you know, about five minutes later we have just come back from a commercial break and I see this thing and he is going so fast coming across this hill, down underneath through a bunker and then up over a rise and then directly at me! (See photo.) He was so big and so fast and so gorgeous. The next week a guy from the USGA presented me with a bear that was made at a local shop. Roger Malbie’s comment to me was, “Kid, that was a bad day to wear white.”

dottie and the bear

Coach of golf commentary: What I like most about this image is that Bernhard Langer (yellow shirt) is just standing casually observing with hands on hips as Dottie Pepper is about to be eaten by a bear!

CoG: Are there any rules in golf you would change if you could?

Pepper : I really don’t like the anchored putter ban, to be honest with you. I really don’t. And here’s why — (the argument) is being used as a “practice round” for (the future argument about) the golf ball—the ball that many believe goes too straight and too far. I think the they (USGA and the R&A) picked their easier fight to see what the reaction was going to be.  Knowing that there was a stretch that we are currently in where three of five major champions have won with a putter using the anchor-style method, so dramatically changed what was coming out of the USGA. In May of 2011 Mike Davis is on record, on video saying, “I’m not worried about it,” when there are no demonstrable numbers coming out saying that this method makes golf so much easier. Why, less than a year later, it is now so bad that the R&A is involved and looking at a ban? Just draw back the golf ball! They let that issue with the golf ball get so far ahead of them and so far gone, that I think they had to pick this fight to see how hard that fight would be. I think that’s essentially why I’m against it. I don’t like the way (the anchored putter) looks, but if it was that easy, if it made that big a difference, everyone would be doing it. It takes a different skill set to be able to operate that thing. It has to be fit properly, it takes a lot of practice to make it even work okay. I didn’t like the smell of it (this fight when it started), and I still don’t.

CoG: What is one thing that no one knows about Dottie Pepper that they should?

Pepper : Wow, hmmm…That I have a very green thumb. I love my gardens. I volunteer at the local florist. I work in the back room. I love it. That’s my thing that nobody knows. If I had to have a business to stay home all the time, that’s what it would be. It totally captivates me.

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Dottie now lives in her home town of Saratoga Springs, New York with her husband, David and their dog J.P.

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Bogey Tees OffWith  co-author Scott Fuller, Dottie wrote Bogey Tees Off (Volume 1, A Lesson About Being Truthful) in 2012. The children’s picture book, illustrated by Kenneth Templeton, is available at amazon.com in both hardcover and paperback. If you order the book through the New York State Golf Association website NYSGA.org $5 of each sale goes to the New York State Golf Foundation.

A Golfers Biggest Hazard

It’s been a long layoff but the last half a year has been a whirlwind. After 15 years of coaching at the same college it was time to take on new challenges. I took a new coaching job 1000 miles away from my previous school. I accepted the head coaching position at a very well respected college in the Northeast with a storied golf program. But with that came a total upheaval of myself, my career and my family. Now that I am all settled in it’s time to get back at it.

Somehow I thought that the problem that I will write about in this post was unique to my previous team but now after coaching a new team which is so far removed from my previous one in terms of geography, interests and personalities, I know now that this issue is universal.

golfers biggest hazardA golfer’s biggest hazard is the willingness to mentally quit during a round of golf. For some reason, golfers go into a round of golf not expecting adversity, and when it inevitably shows up, they are shocked and saddened and too many times unable to cope. Like in the illustration, they willingly jump off into the abyss of despair, where there is no recovery and the penalty lasts for the remainder of the round.

Somehow golfers believe that every shot will be hit perfectly and that golf will be easy. That is not reality, not for any golfer at any level. Golfers fail to remember that golf is a struggle. Golf is the equivalent of salmon swimming upstream. It’s hard. It’s hard almost every day.

When you prepare for a round of golf, you should make a mental commitment — a commitment to accept whatever happens, good or bad, and in the words of Winston Churchill, “Stay calm and carry on.”

Staying calm and carrying on no matter what is the only good option you have. Some days are easy, most are hard. You must remain positive and fight with everything you have until you arrive at the clubhouse. Otherwise, you’ll be miserable, you’ll make your playing partners miserable and you will be guaranteed you will shoot a miserable score.

I know all of you have watched Tiger’s top 10 shots on the Golf Channel. Did you notice that none of those shots was from an ideal position? Only one of shot happened from the middle of the fairway, and he hit that shot in almost total darkness.

The point is, one of the reasons he’s been so successful is that he believes with every fiber of his being that something good will happen even when he is in a tough spot.

I have a great example from my own team this past fall. One of the freshman on my team is named Makenzie. He is a fine player and I believe he will be a superstar, but as with most freshman, he has a lot to learn — especially when it comes to keeping his head in the game during tough rounds.

Our last tournament of the fall season had us playing in the Golfweek Fall Preview in Florida. This is an account of his final round.

He had high expectations, too high. When I saw him on the range, Makenzie was upbeat, “minting it” as he says, and was telling me he was going to tear it up.

So, I caught up with him on the 7th hole, a par 5. I thought he has just played his 2nd, but I then learned that it was his 4th shot. His 2nd shot had gone out of bounds. He was completely despondent because after finishing his 7th hole with a double, he was now seven over after seven holes. The round was not going at all the way he had envisioned. I could tell he had mentally checked out and he had no fight in him. If I had given him the option he would have walked off the course. I told him, “Sorry dude, I don’t get to substitute like in other sports. You’re stuck out here and have to make a decision to make. Are you gonna try or cry?” It’s something I say. I told him, “We can still salvage this round!”

On the 8th tee he hit last so we had time to chat. I got his mind away from his troubles and told him how much I thought of him as a person and a golfer. I reminded him how beautiful this part of Florida was and how blessed he is to be able to play college golf.

makenzie action wedgeHe hit a nice approach, but he ended up leaving a really difficult 36 footer that was down hill and broke from right to left. We laughed a little walking up to the green. I told him stories of other golfers I coached through the years and how they made something out of nothing. We read the putt from every angle and what do you know, we made it for birdie! Big smile on his face! He was back!

On the most difficult hole on the course, the par 4 ninth, he played the hole well but ended up 3 putting from long range for bogie. Just like that, his world was coming to an end. I said, “What is so bad? You’ve just played the last 2 holes at even par after a terrible start! So I continued to make him smile, telling him funny stories about coaching and golf as we played the par 4 10th hole trying to get him to smile and what do you know, we made a really good 18 footer that broke from left to right for another birdie!

Once again, big smiles, life is good. Unfortunately, he bogeyed the par 5, 11th and was once again in the pooper. Total despair. Life sucks! Golf hates me! After more cheerleading from me, he made a routine par on the par 3, twelfth. I reminded him that he had just played the last 5 holes at even par and that he’s doing fine. But now I had to leave him to go check on other members of my team. I had him promise me that he would remain optimistic and upbeat. He assured me he would be fine.

I caught up with Makenzie again as he was walking from the 13th green to the 14th tee. His life was over! He had just triple bogeyed! All of the fight was gone. There was nothing left. He was now 10 over par.

At this point, I’ll admit, I had had enough! I “coached him up,” as we say in the biz, albeit firmly. I told him he had a decision to make — this time, it wasn’t as much about this round, but more about what kind of player he was going to be. I challenged him, “You’ve got to decide right now, is golf tougher than you, or are you tougher than golf?”

I had his attention. Once again, I told him that if he had total 100% belief that something good was going to come out of this, it would. And if he didn’t, it wouldn’t. Whatever he decided would happen, would actually happen. Now, he was completely on board. We then took a moment to map out the final stretch 5 holes. I thought we could birdie 3 of the last 5. He completely bought in, and Makenzie went on to birdie 14, 15 and 16! He had completely erased the triple. Now he completely refused to let his mind have a single negative thought. We were now on the 17th, probably the best chance for birdie but ended up making a tough par after pretty much chopping up the hole.

He played the par 4, 18th perfectly and made a 10 footer to finish out his roller coaster round. We hugged and laughed. He birdied 4 of his last 5 holes and 6 of his last 11. Makenzie played the last 11 holes at -1.  He shot +6 for the round and ended up helping our team.

Ironically, not once did we talk about swing during his round.

It wasn’t the most impressive round ever shot — a 77. But for him it will be the springboard that will propel him to be a great player. As we stood there watching the others in his group putt out, he had his arm over my shoulder thanking me for my help and telling me how much he had learned.

When his career is over I can assure you, that’s will be one of the few rounds he’ll remember. The one where he made something out of nothing.

If you never give in and jump off into the pit of despair, you too will have great stories to tell.

Pictures Can Lie, Your Hands Won’t.

As a college coach and teaching professional I receive many swing videos from young men wanting me to recruit them. Most think that just having someone standing somewhere behind them videotaping their swing is enough for a coach or a professional to determine what is right and what is wrong with their swing. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

In fact, last night one of my new golfers sent me a video. It was of very nice quality but because of the angle at which the video was shot, I couldn’t make an educated determination about what was really happening in his swing. I saw his swing but didn’t really SEE his swing, if you know what I mean.

With the introduction of video smartphone APS and the like, everyone is using video to record their golf swing. Now more and more golfers have the ability to see and learn more about their own swing. This is great! It’s a powerful and useful tool and it’s fun! I love it! I use it almost everyday.

Here’s what you’ve got to know though:

When you use video as a training tool, camera position is vital if you really want to improve your golf swing. If the camera is positioned incorrectly you will get misinformation and you could end up trying to fix something that isn’t really a problem, or you might not ever see the root cause of your real swing issues.

I’m going to show you how to set up your video so you get the most accurate information about what is really going on during your swing.

It’s really easy. It’s all in the hands.

When videotaping in the “Face On” angle, always have the camera at the height your hands are at the address position, and right in line with your hands.

When videoing your swing in the “Down the Line” angle, as shown in the photo, first make sure the camera is pointing exactly where you want the ball to go. This should be in a line parallel to where your feet are aligned. Again, make sure the camera is at hand height. Now draw a line straight back from where the hands hang. Use alignment rods if you need, and keep the camera on that line. This will ensure when you look at the video you are gathering accurate information.

If the camera is misaligned in the “Down the Line” position and the camera is outside the hands, it will appear that the person swinging is taking the club way inside during the takeaway. If the camera is positioned too far inside the hands, it will appear the opposite — that the golfer is taking to club way outside on the takeaway. If this is the case when you draw your lines for swing plane, etc. everything will be way off, guaranteed.

With the camera in the right position you will see the true path the club is taking and what you are doing during the swing. Now we can make real improvements.

The Webb Simpson Interview

This week I had the awesome experience of spending a few hours with the 9th ranked player in the world, Webb Simpson.

It was a great experience. Getting to know one of the worlds best golfers as a person, golfer and man of faith. He was very generous with his time and not in a hurry to go anywhere. Myself and the team I coach spent hours with him and we all asked dozens of questions covering all topics golf.

The interview took place in a church in Savannah, Georgia– the day after the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Here are some of the questions asked and the answers he gave.

COG: Who are your closest friends on tour?

Simpson: My closest friends on tour are Ben Crane and Johnathan Byrd. I’ve gotten to know Scott Stallings well over the last year and I’m pretty close with Bubba.

COG: Aside from travel, etc. what was the biggest adjustment you had to make when you went from college golf to the PGA tour?

Simpson: Pretty much just learning just to be myself. For a long time I was thinking I had to be doing what everyone else was doing. If I saw someone doing a certain putting drill, I thought I had to do it too. If I saw someone like Vijay working for 10 hours a day hitting balls I thought I had to do that too. I tried that and it hurt my game. After a while I realized I had to just figure out what worked for me.

COG: What is the biggest difference between the guys who get on tour and stay there and those who don’t?

Simpson: Self-belief. You can really learn a lot by looking at a players body language and demeanor on the course. You can also tell a lot by the way they speak to themselves or their caddy.

COG: Could you please discuss your workout routine?

Simpson: Mostly I do a lot of work with bands. I don’t do any free weights. A few years ago I hired a trainer. We did a lot of testing to find out where my strengths and weaknesses were. We found out that I tend to swing with my arms. I did that because my lower body couldn’t support my swing. So over the last couple of years we’ve been focusing on mostly my thighs, hamstrings and butt to get my lower body more involved in my swing. I do a lot of squats and core work. One thing that has really helped is massages and stretching. For cardio work I’ll get on the sprint bike for 6 to 8 minutes and go really hard for 30 second intervals. Everything I do is to get my body to be explosive during the swing.

COG: What about guys like Tiger and Camillo?

Simpson: I really like Camillo. He’s a really great guy. But he’s so much of a gym rat that it’s affecting his golf game. Sometimes he’ll cycle for over a hundred miles a day. That’s like 6 hours. It’s given him some lower back issues. Think about it, you can’t be in that position on a bike for that long without it putting a lot of stress on your lower back.

As far as Tiger goes, I think he’s a dummy. I don’t know why he’s doing the stuff he’s doing.

COG: What are you working on now?

Simpson: I’m doing everything pretty well now. I started out this year pretty solid but for some reason lately I’m just not scoring like I think I should. I don’t need to change anything I just need to be patient. One thing I am working on is my putting. I have a tendency when I putt to move my head up and back during the stroke. I do a drill where I have my caddie Paul hold my head still when I putt on the practice green. It might take a few months to correct it but little by little it’s getting better. It’s something I only think about when I’m practicing. When I play I just try and focus on making the putt.

COG: What mental things do you work on?

Simpson: I don’t have a mental coach. I just try to keep things simple. I think many tour players have a tendency to over complicate that stuff. That’s not to say that I won’t have a mental coach someday. I just try and remember that golf is just a game and if I get too technical I try to remember the way that Webb as a kid would play the game.

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There were many more questions and answers but one story he told has to be repeated. It’s awesome and it’s a story from this year’s Masters:

Simpson: My caddie Paul’s wife Michele has been wanting him to buy her a pretty expensive ring. It’s about $9000. Not many people know this Masters trivia but at Augusta there is one palm tree. It’s on the par 3, 4th hole. So she’s been bugging him about this ring for weeks and he told her that if she can find the lone palm tree at Augusta National he’ll buy it for her. So I’m playing a practice round with Bubba and I’m telling him this story about Paul and his wife. So we get to the 4th hole and Bubba screams,”Hey Michele! It’s over here!” Paul gets really mad and Bubba and I are laughing and Paul’s getting madder and madder. Bubba finally says, “Listen, if I win this week, I’ll buy it for her.” I texted him after the Masters and asked him if he was going to make good on his promise. He texted back, “I think I’ll find her something even better.”

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It was an awesome afternoon for myself and my golf team. An experience that none of the guys will ever forget. He was a true gentleman and a lot of fun to be around.

Wind + Machismo = High Scores

As a coach I observe a lot of golf. I observe much more than I play. As I study golfers, I notice tendencies in individuals, teams, demographics, whatever. After years of observation coaches develop a sort of sixth sense. I now have the ability to see into the future. I can see the mistakes that golfers are going make before they happen. As a result, watching golf can be a very sad and predictable affair for me. In this lesson I am going to speak of one of the most frustrating miscalculations that I see. It involves playing in windy conditions.

Here’s the scenario:

Lets say Joe Golfer shows up at the course to play, and today it’s gonna’ be windy — a constant 20 mile per hour wind. He gets to the first tee and the hole is playing straight downwind. Joe hits a much longer drive than usual, because the wind is pumping at his back. Because of the wind he then hits 2 clubs less than normal into the green on his approach shot. The next hole comes back in the opposite direction, with the wind straight into his face. He hits his drive solidly but ends up noticeably shorter than normal. He can feel the force of the wind on his face but on the approach shot he only takes 1 extra club into the wind. Of course his approach comes well short of the green and he is standing in the fairway with his hat off scratching his head wondering how in the world, because he is so manly, the shot could have come up so short. I’ve seen it a million times. This is one of the main reasons I see scores balloon on windy days.

Pop Quiz: If 20 mph tailwind = 20 more yards of distance then when does 20 mph of headwind = 10 yards less distance?

a) always

b) after 3 Red Bulls

c) never

I’ll wait while you think about it………..

The correct answer is c) never.

The force of the wind is EQUAL whether it’s in your face or at your back.

I don’t know if it’s ego or disbelief or what, but most golfers can’t find it in themselves to take enough club into the wind, and it costs them a ton of strokes. Here’s why:

Think of the course architecture of your home golf course. Green complexes are usually designed to have most of the trouble (bunkering and ponds) just short of the green or in the first third of the green.

Constantly coming up short puts tremendous pressure on your chipping, pitching and putting. The last thing you want to do on a windy day is put extra pressure on your putting. If you are always putting from 6-10 feet for par or bogie when the wind is blowing you’ll quickly find yourself losing strokes, energy and the ability to stay focused.

So, here’s the lesson: If you are hitting 2 clubs less downwind, you’ll also need to hit 2 clubs more when you are hitting into the wind.

There is no shame in pulling more club. No one has to know. Anyway, who cares? All that matters is score. Also, I’m sure you have heard that hitting less club into a headwind and swinging hard creates more spin and causes the ball to rise, or balloon in the air. Well, it’s true.

One thing I can tell you is this: rarely do I ever see anyone go over a green when hitting into the wind. And like I said, look at your home course’s architecture. Most of the time, missing long provides you a much easier chip or pitch than you’d have if you miss short.

Macho Man Tip: Missing long always appears more macho than constantly coming up short.

Creepers! Ugh!

As a coach, one thing I can’t stand is seeing shots come up short. But it is the norm for most golfers on most shots—irons, pitches, chips and putts. It drives me batty! In this lesson we’ll deal with the putts that come up short. I call them Creepers.

How many times have you played a round where hole after hole you hit putts that were right in the jaws but came up just short? I see it all the time. You had a chance to shoot your best score and you couldn’t get the ball to the hole! Frustrating, isn’t it? I know why it happens and I know how to fix it.

Next time you go to the course, watch the people warming up on the practice green. Most have either three balls or a single ball, and each person is putting to a specific hole. As each golfer putts, the ball rolls up short of the hole by about a foot or so. The golfer rolls putt after putt and the same thing happens. If a ball does drop it goes in by a dimple. If that doesn’t describe the scenario on your practice green, I’ll eat a bug.

I believe that the first 20 swings of the day with any club are the most important. Each time you warm up you are teaching your body what you want it to do each day. So, by coming up short time after time on the practice green, you are programming your eyes, brain and hands to come up short on the course. That’s why, when you come up short on putts hole after hole during a round, it seems no matter how hard you try, you keep coming up short.

Creepers! Ugh! I hate them! CREEPERS!!!

What I have my players do when they first get on the practice green is hit the first 10 putts or so well past the hole, by 3 to 5 feet. It may look silly, but it serves a great purpose. This practice drill will help you hole more putts for many reasons:

1. Your eyes see the ball getting to and going past the hole. You have to teach your eyes that this is a good thing. It’ll then tell the brain and hands that it’s o.k. It’s what you want to happen.

2. It helps ensure a nice long follow-through. If you tend to come up short, many times its because you stop your follow-through a little short. Mostly this happens because of fear of hitting a putt too hard. It’s interesting, isn’t it? A golfer can hit 9 putts out of ten short. Yet he fears the one that went long instead of the nine that came up short. Weird. Especially since the one that went by the hole was the only one that had a chance to go in!

3. You’ll make some of them! You’ll hear that awesome sound of the ball hitting the bottom of the cup. Even if your playing partners aren’t watching, they’ll hear it, too.

I believe that once your body gets used to hitting the ball past the hole, it is easy to throttle back a little. Then your pace on the green will be perfect all day. Conversely, it’s very tough once you’ve taught your self to come up short to make the adjustment to judge pace consistently. But one thing’s for sure: if you teach your ball to come up short during your warm-up, it’s gonna’ come up short all day long.

The lesson is this: “No Creepers!” My team hears me say this every day on the practice green. “Don’t teach yourself to come up short!”

Hit the first few putts of the day on the practice green well by past the hole. You’ll make more putts on the course.

Scotty Cameron is Smarter than You.

Here’s a golfing tale with which we’re all familiar. If it doesn’t describe you, it surely describes one of your golfing buddies.

So, you’ve just bought a new Scotty Cameron because you can’t make a 4 foot putt to save your life. It sure is pretty! Not only that, it’s a trophy. It’s proof that not only are you a serious golfer, but one of taste as well. You can’t wait to show the guys because they’re going to want one too. They’ll envy you. Status, baby! That’s what it’s all about.

You go to the course and one by one each of your friends sees, inspects and takes a few whacks with your new baby. Everyone is drooling over her and telling you how good she feels. The attention is intoxicating. You’re a star!

So you now go to play your round and as you approach each green, everyone in your group has their eyes squarely on you—because now you’ll make everything. Right?

As the round goes on and the short ones fail to drop, you can sense your friends’ disappointment, because it’s the same old story. You’re still one of them. You have been exposed. Your buddies know that there is no magic cure in that stick. You use your same tired excuses, “I’ve just got to get used to it,” and, “It’s a little different than my other Scotty.” Then one of your friends asks, “What are you going to do with your old putter? Can I buy it from you?” You respond, “Which one? I have a garage full of them.”

Boom. The lightbulb finally goes off. You realize that your putting is not getting any better. You’ve struggled with the same problem for as long as you can remember, and worse than that, you are not so much a golfer as you are a “collector.” You own enough putters to start a putt-putt course. You cry out in desperation, “Why don’t I ever get better?!”

~ The End ~

I hate to break it to you, but it’s you.

When I give a putting lesson the very first thing I look at is whether the putter is soled properly. Sounds basic, but rarely do I see it sitting on the green the way it was designed to sit.

Scotty Cameron and other top club designers have dedicated their working lives trying to make putting easier for all golfers, both amateur and pro. However, not one of them that I know of has ever designed a putter that wasn’t intended to be soled squarely on the ground. Yet, I see more toes in the air then you’d see at a morgue. So then the question I ask is, “Why do you do that?”

If you don’t sole the club properly you are, in essence, voiding the warranty, with any putter. Club designers like Scotty Cameron are craftsmen. If he saw you using his creation incorrectly, he’d be sad. Don’t undo his genius.

There are many reasons golfers miss putts, but if you don’t set the club up properly before it ever starts in motion, you’re fighting a losing battle—emphasis on losing.

When the toe is in the air, many things are going wrong. For one thing, you’re probably standing too far from the ball, which means the ball isn’t directly under your eyes, as almost every teacher in the world encourages.

If you are too far from the ball, and your toe is in the air, you will pull many putts. When you get tired of pulling putts, you’re hands will say, “This stinks, I don’t want to do that.” Then you will begin to push putts. After your confidence has been completely eroded away, you will find yourself standing over 3 and 4 footers wondering things like, “Who am I? Where am I?” Then, it’s off to Edwin Watts! You think, “Maybe I can buy my way out of this funk.”

Fact of the matter is, all of your putters work! The problem is that most golfers adjust the putter to their own faulty set-up.

So, here’s the lesson: Sole the putter flat on the ground, then adjust your stance so that the putter stays soled properly. It’s pretty easy. Just keep inching in a little closer to the ball until the putter head is perfectly flat. Some of you will feel too close to the ball, but you’re not! If you feel too close, it’s only because you were too far away to begin with. In the proper position (second photo), you’ll use your hands less, your big muscles more, and you’ll hole tons more putts.

All golfers need to come to terms with the fact that they can’t buy their way out of bad mechanics.

Do me a favor. Send me the next 300 beans you would have spent on a new putter. Leave a comment and I’ll give you my address.

We’ll talk a lot more about putting soon.

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