Tag Archives: Course Management

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.

2nd putt

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.
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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.

cog what should i be practicing

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.

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.

Are you a Chump or a Champ ?

Here’s a situation that I have seen a million times over the years that can save or ruin a round.

A player has short–sided himself as shown by the yellow X in the lower left. The pin is tucked on the left side of the green with just a few paces from the left edge of the green. In this situation a golfer needs to decide, am I going to be a Chump or a Champ?

I have found most amateur golfers fall into the trap that they need to fit the ball in the very small area between the edge of the green and the hole. He wants to like the Pros. The player then of course tries to get too cute or doesn’t commit to the shot or swing hard enough or the club gets caught up in the rough. He more or less duffs it and ends up hitting again from the same situation or even worse. He’s what I call a CHUMP and his day is about to take an ugly turn.


The second attempt ends up where the first should have, and instead of making a bogie at worst, he ends up with a double or higher. Which most times leads to another mistake being made on one of the very next holes. The round is beginning to unravel.

When you are short sided, there is almost always a mile of green on the other side of the pin! Hence the term, “short-sided.” The only way you can look or feel stupid is by coming up short of the green. Yet most do. I don’t get it! You’d have about a 400% better chance of success if you go past the pin. And you’ll take the big mistake, and number, out of the equation.

The more experienced players on my team always make the smart play. They make sure that the shot gets past the pin. They understand that this is not a time to play aggressively and to take their medicine and if they do lose a shot they’ll have a chance later in the round to make up for it. Over the long run they know it will save them a ton of strokes.

One of the benefits of getting the ball past the pin is that if you miss-hit the shot or decelerate through it, that the shot will still end up on the green.

I always like to think that Johnny Miller is doing play-by-play on me when I’m in those situations. If I hit it past the pin he’d say on air, “that’s really all he had.” If I left it short, Johnny would lay into me saying something like, “Wow, that was really dumb. What was he thinking? Now he’s left with nothing and probably lost the tournament.”

I never want Johnny Miller laying into me.