Tag Archives: Course Management

Go Pins and No Fly Zones – Everyone Has Them.

During post round interviews you’ll often hear tour pros talk about “Go Pins.”

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A “go pin” is an approach shot that compliments a player’s natural shot shape. It allows a player to begin the ball safely toward the middle of the green and let it curve toward the pin. Everyone has go pins, regardless of handicap.

Simply put, drawers of the ball don’t feel comfortable fading the ball nor do faders trust their ball to draw. Which is why some hole locations make you feel uncomfortable. If you are flag hunting a pin you shouldn’t, your brain senses this and mid swing will say, “I don’t want to do this!” That is why you make an uncommitted swing. The next thing you usually see is your ball flying toward an undesirable location. We’ve all done it.

Accepting your tendencies and being disciplined in your strategy will allow you to swing confidently, thus increasing your chance to shoot your best score. When you hear a winning pro say, “I tried to stay really patient out there today.” It means he or she wasn’t going to hit a shot that could get them in trouble or allow them to lose a shot. Meaning not going after pins they shouldn’t.

If you are a fader of the ball your “go pins” are in the center or on the right side of the green. This way you can comfortably start the ball on a safe line and have the ball curve toward the hole. The pins you should NEVER go after are on the left side of the green. That is your No Fly Zone! On those pins hit to the middle of the green and be happy with two-putting. You’ll have chances to be more aggressive later. That’s called patience!

If you curve the ball right to left, the exact opposite is true. Your “go pins” are in the middle or left side of the green. Your No Fly Zone is a pin tucked on the right side of the green.

If you can be disciplined, you’ll see without doing anything special, your score will magically come down.

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Commandment #6: Love the Fat!

After decades of coaching I have noticed that almost all golfers, regardless of skill level, make the same silly mistakes over and over again. Many of these mistakes are not swing related. Most result from a lack of awareness of course design, or a failure to play the odds.

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Long ago when I was a university coach I began listing the most common mistakes I saw golfers make on the course. I created 11 rules—known as “The Commandments”—to help my team eliminate common mental mistakes that cost them valuable strokes. Each Commandment was our do’s and don’ts list. We knew if we did not break one of these Commandments in competition that we would be successful. Following The Commandments gave our team a definite competitive advantage and had an immediate and lasting impact on our success year after year. In future articles I’ll discuss other Commandments. This month, I give you Commandment #6: Love the fat! In other words, aim for the widest part of the green. The area where the pin usually isn’t. The rationale: If most of the time you aim for the middle of the green, you will avoid short-siding yourself in bunkers, ponds and grassy areas. You will see your scores drop– dramatically and consistently. I know that aiming for the widest part of the green seems simple, but it takes discipline. Another added benefits of adopting this philosophy is that it will increase the odds of your ending up on the green by as much as 200-400%–- odds you should like! Because you’re hitting to a much bigger area! It allows you to post a good score, even when you’re less than perfect. Your rounds will have less stress and be more fun.

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Here’s a story from when I was a collegiate coach to illustrate the impact of this Commandment. One year my team was fortunate enough to qualify for a prestigious tournament called the Gordin Classic. Only the top 13 teams from the previous year’s NCAA National Championships are invited to play. That year we had an advantage: one of my golfers, Clint Colbert was the #1 golfer in NCAA Division III.

The tournament was a 54 hole event. The first day, the field played 36 holes. In the first round, Clint fired an effortless 7 under par, 65. AND he had to assess himself a stroke penalty because his ball moved on the green after he addressed it! Between rounds he revealed to me that he forgot to pick up his pin sheet. While collecting his scorecard from round one, I asked him if he wanted the pin sheet for the second round. I’ll never forget his response. In his Oklahoma twang he said, “Nah, I’ll just keep hitting the center of the green. I figure I can’t miss everything (putts)!” We both laughed.

Clint went on to shoot 69 in the 2nd round, and had a 7-shot lead on the field after the first day. Remember, this was the best field in the nation on a tough course. He went on to win the tournament easily. His 36-hole and 54-hole score are still a record for that tournament to this day.

A version of this article also appears in the February 2018 issue of New Zealand Golf Magazine.

Let’s Be Realistic About Your Chances of Making That Putt.

The PGA Tour’s Strokes Gained Putting Statistic shows how often tour players make a given putt. In this graphic I’ve flipped the numbers to show how often they actually miss, hopefully to provide a fresh perspective of what you should expect of yourself on the greens.

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Notice that the pros seldom miss a short putt of 3 to 4 feet, but the odds of them missing a 10-foot putt jump to a whopping 62%! And surprisingly they only make a 30-footer 7% of the time. I don’t want to be a downer, but if you play once a week and practice putting for 10 minutes before you tee off, your expectations should be lower than the pros who practice 8 hours a day and play golf with millions of people watching. So, don’t beat yourself up for missing most of your putts outside of 6-feet. Even the pros miss…A LOT! What they don’t do is miss the next one.

Become a Master of Your 2nd Putt.

If you want to putt your best, practice hitting your putts the correct distance. Then really hone your skills from 6 feet and in. Eliminating 3-putts is your way to shoot lower scores.

How to do this:

This is how I started practice everyday when I was a college coach. The first thing my players did when they arrived at practice was to take their driver and stick the head in one of the holes on the practice green. Then, they would place a tee in the ground at the end of the grip. They would then remove the driver. This would leave a putt of a distance somewhere between 3 and 4 feet. They would then have to make 30 of those putts in a row. Nothing else would happen at practice for them until they completed this drill.

It becomes as much a mental drill as a technical one.

As you get into the drill it become pretty easy to make the first 20 in a row. Then as you get closer to the end you start to feel your heart pump and your hands shake a little. You’ve come all this way and you know if you miss you have to start all over again. That was exactly the point of the drill…to replicate tournament pressure.

My players became so good at this drill that on the course we would almost never miss a short putt. It was the difference between winning and losing.

You don’t have to do 30 in a row. Since your playing time is limited start by making 10 or 15 in a row. Then as you get good at the short ones increase until you get up to 30 in a row. After a time my golfers would usually complete this drill in usually 5 to 10 minutes. Become good at this drill and you’ll start to see a massive difference in your score.

 

This article will also appear in the December 2017 issue of New Zealand Golf Magazine.

So, What Should You Be Practicing? Here Are Some Facts.

One of the most common questions I get as a golf coach is, “So, what should I be practicing?” That is a great question and the answer is determined by two factors. First, I always ask, “What do you struggle with?” I’ve noticed that in my 25 years of coaching golf that most golfers avoid practicing the thing they need to practice the most. This is flawed thinking because your weaknesses will always be exposed during a round of golf, and when they are, your score goes up…a lot. So, what I like to do with my students is to attack their weakness and turn that weakness into a strength.

The second factor that should be considered is simple statistics. Numbers don’t lie. So, what is most important in golf? It’s ALL important, and all parts of the game are linked but here are some undeniable facts that will help you make the most of your practice time.

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This graphic should be very useful in helping every individual make the most of their practice time. One note: The yellow wedge (Trouble Shots) shouldn’t be overlooked. I see many golfer make a mess of these shots which absolutely wrecks their score. I’ll write a post on those shots soon.

This article will also be featured in November issue of New Zealand Golf Magazine.

Adjust Your Driver, PLEASE ! ! !

Today’s drivers, fairway woods and hybrids all have more technology than ever before. In the last five years, almost every brand has gone to models that are completely adjustable. This gives everyone a chance to be better at the distance clubs than they’ve ever been! Strangely, when I give a lesson and I look in the players bag, 8 out of 10 times I see the club set on neutral.

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Failure to adjust an adjustable club is one of the most frustrating things I see as a coach.

When I watch my student hit drivers, I observe the ball flight and usually see a pattern; either most go left ,or most go right. OR, some balls go left, some go right, some go straight. That last pattern happens because the student is trying to manipulate the clubface with the hands—an attempt to compensate for natural tendencies—which of course is very difficult to do with any degree of consistency.

Generally at this point I ask, “What do you have your driver set on?”

The student answers, “Neutral” (or “A-1” or some equivalent).

I ask, “Why?”

The student answers, “That’s what it was set on when I bought it.”

I then bite my tongue before answering something like, “Most every ball you have hit sliced. Wouldn’t you like to hit it straighter?”

At this point over the years I’ve gotten some pretty insane answers. The craziest responses come from students who are my strongest players. Mere mention of the idea of changing the setting is almost always met with resistance and skepticism. Many stronger players view changing the setting as a sign of weakness.

I’ve heard this ridiculous comment more than once: “I don’t want to use that as a crutch.”

This is my cue to point out that there isn’t a guy on tour whose driver is set on neutral—and they make MILLIONS.

So the question is, why would you want the game to be harder for you than it is for the pros? Why aren’t you taking advantage of technology like they are willing to do?

Everyone having their driver set on neutral is like saying that everyone is the same shoe size, or the same pant size.

If I put you in my clothes, XL shirt, pants (38×32) or my shoe (11.5), how would it feel? How would it look? Could you run in my shoes? Would my pants look really big on you?

I have a son who is about to be 14 who wears a size 9 shoe and has a 28 in waist. He would look ridiculous in my things. I would look equally ridiculous in his.

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You get the point.

Your assignment: go to the range. Chart your drives. (Most of you already know your tendencies, but a session on the range for this purpose will prove them to you.) Then adjust your driver to to the opposite of your most common miss. If your miss is a slice, set it for draw, if your miss is left, open the face.

If you’re already awesome, adjust your driver to take one side of the golf course out of play. If your home course has a lot of trouble on the left, adjust your driver so that it’s almost impossible to hit it left. There is nothing more liberating than standing on the tee on a really important hole and having no fear. Fearless is what you achieve by adjusting the setting on your driver. Hitting the fairway is fun! Don’t be afraid. You’ll only get better.

After you do this you’ll be able to swing your natural swing and not try to manufacture a swing. Your move will get less handsy over time and your drives and scores will improve.

You’re not neutral. There is no one else like you. Use technology to your advantage. Club manufacturers spent millions and millions of R&D dollars developing this technology, so use it! You will improve, enjoy the game and feel good about yourself.

Commandment #2

I’ve seen it for years, players automatically pegging it up in the middle of the tee box on every hole without any thought. Then after the drive ends up in the woods or a hazard, the golfer usually curses and takes a few moments to rehearse his backswing, thinking his swing was the problem. Guess what? More times than not, the swing wasn’t the issue. But every time this happens during his round, the player continues to question his swing mechanics and tries to fix problems that aren’t there. Late in the round when his confidence is somewhat eroded you can almost count on a big mistake being made on an important tee shot.

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The real problem was that the golfer did not consider the angles of the golf hole. On each tee shot you need to ask yourself, “Where can I miss and still make par? Where is the big mistake?”

The solution is simple: Pick a side. Tee the ball up on one side of the tee box or another to create the best angle to play the hole. And, there is always a better side.

Tee the ball up on the side of the hole you wish to avoid. This allows you to hit away from trouble and dramatically decrease the odds of making the big mistake.

When I see someone tee up on the wrong place within the tee box, I can usually tell you where the ball is going to end up before the shot is hit. Some people think I’m a wizard or something, but it’s just years and years of seeing the same predictable mistake repeated thousands of times.

Something that many golfers don’t realize is that one of the tools that golf course architects use is illusion and deception. Course architects will create angles that make golfers feel uncomfortable. This is a golf course’s best defense against giving up a score. Bunkers, hazards, the direction of the holes (doglegs, etc.) aren’t there just to look pretty; they are there to create doubt and fear.

Stand behind some of the tee boxes at your home course. Notice that many aren’t aiming you down the middle of the fairway. Sometimes they are actually aiming you toward the trouble.

Using the tee box to your advantage is one of the easiest of The Commandments to apply. I’ve seen it change a decent college player into a very effective one. This Commandment is so important because you apply it on every hole BEFORE you have ever hit your first shot. If you commit to using this strategy you’ll be amazed how much more effective your tee shots are.

Golf is a game of misses. You are going to miss some of your targets; even the pros do. If you allow yourself room to for your imperfection, you’ll be okay. If you regularly have to reach into your bag for another ball, you won’t have much fun.

“The Commandments” – an Introduction

About six years into my career as a college golf coach, I noticed a trend: golfers tend to make the same mistakes in tournaments year after year. It got to the point that I could predict with great regularity the error a player was going to make before it happened—an error that would either wreck his hole or change the course of his round. Seeing these mistakes year after year became increasingly frustrating, especially when my own guys were making them. Most of the errors I noticed were not swing related; surprisingly, most were strategic, stemming from poor decision-making or from a lack of awareness on the course.

commandments stoneEventually, I had enough and began writing down my observations. Before long I had a list of the most common errors I saw golfers make in tournament play. Determined to teach my team to avoid making these common mistakes, I started sharing the list with them. I knew that if I could teach my team to recognize these “traps” that players from other teams were falling victim to, we would have a decided advantage when competing.

Thus, The Commandments were born. I have been teaching my team to play The Commandments for about a dozen years now. My players even carry a copy of The Commandments with them every round. We talk about them just about every day.

There are eleven Commandments on my list—eleven things I ask my players to do, or not do, every round. Again, none have to do with swing. Surprising, I know. My guys have learned that the fewer commandments they break during the round, the greater their chances of shooting a great score—even if they don’t hit the ball well. Because of these playing rules our teams have had a lot of success. Once my players buy into using them during play, The Commandments become the glue that helps our players and team achieve great things. The Commandments give my players rules and structure to guide their decision-making and to help them stay patient, which translates into fewer careless errors and a less stressful round.

Over the next few years I will introduce each of The Commandments to you. I know that if you follow them, they will make a big difference in your score. And the best part is you don’t need to get golf lessons.

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