Tag Archives: golf instruction
During post round interviews you’ll often hear tour pros talk about “Go Pins.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
The mental game has been one of the biggest topics in golf for over 30 years.
I’ve coached golf for decades. I have read all the books, watched the videos and have even been trained and certified as an instructor to teach the mental aspects of playing golf. After years of observation and study, it seems to me that the entire golf community—instructors and golfers alike—tend to over-complicate the issue. I like keeping things simple so I’ve reduced all that information into a 12-word question that you can ask yourself before you hit a shot: “Do you feel something good is going to happen, or something bad?” If you believe something good will happen, then you’re in great shape. Most likely you’ll play good golf. But if you don’t feel confident over a shot, obviously there is work to do. While technical problems can be addressed with drills on the practice areas, negative attitudes require discussion and introspection.
You’ve got to make your brain your best friend, not your worst enemy.
To create an environment in which you feel confident and believe in yourself, you need to get to the bottom of the hows and whys of the negativity between your ears. Changing negative attitudes and the scar tissue that builds up takes time. The brain like a computer runs on data that is programmed into it. If you think negatively or believe you will ultimately fail, you will. Your good thoughts need to outweigh the bad ones if you have any hope to improve.
Here are two of examples of how I’ve successfully coached golfers to overcome the demons in their heads.
1. The Worst Putter in the World
A player who was new to my team told me he was the worst putter in the world. His dad even echoed those same words about his son. I said, “The first thing that is going to happen is neither of you are ever going to let those words come out of your mouth again.”
During the course of his first year with me we would constantly speak about attitudes and his own belief in himself while working on his technique. As his mindset changed his confidence soared. The story had a happy end: his senior year, he was named All-America.
2. Paralyzed with Fear
One of the most talented young men I’ve ever coached became terrified of chipping and pitching as he entered college. During his freshman season his fear of chipping was so bad that he would use his putter from well off the green and even from long grass, which was useless. So, we got to work. During practices over the next few months we would pitch and chip ball after ball with his wedges. I forced him to say out loud after each shot that he hit well, “I’m awesome!” It was hard for him at first. He felt silly but I would not let him off the hook, I thought it was important for him to speak positively about his chipping. I strongly believe that what you hear goes directly into your brain and will ultimately determine what you believe and/or become. Over time, he saw that he actually had become awesome. He was so good, in fact, that in his sophomore season he was named 1st team All-America.
In both instances, the golfer’s brain had to be re-wired. I’m a big believer that Thoughts Become Things. Negative thoughts breed negative results, positive thoughts breed positive results. The mind is powerful weapon – for good or for evil.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If there is one swing position that I think is the key for the rest of the swing, this is it.
Over the years I have noticed one swing position common to almost all tour pros regardless of their size or build. If you study the swing sequences from month to month in Golf Digest or Golf Magazine, you too will notice this position.
I don’t believe that there is only one way to swing a golf club; however, over the years I have studied countless tour swings on video. After seeing this common thread among the best in the world, I have made it one of the main things I focus on when teaching the golf swing. I know from experience that if I get my golfers into the pro position in the backswing that they will have the ability to play confident, consistent, top-level golf.
Here are the facts: Most pros keep the clubhead outside the hands when the shaft is parallel to the ground during the backswing (as shown in the photo, right). This not only ensures the club is on a great path, it also creates tremendous width, which maximizes distance. That’s one of the reasons the pros hit it so far. Even the smaller guys like Ricky Fowler pound it! He really exaggerates this move.
Most amateurs take the clubhead inside the hands and feet by the time the shaft is parallel to the ground during the backswing. The problem with this faulty technique is that once the clubhead comes inside the hands you are more or less on a recovery mission for the rest of the swing. This leads to bad habits and shots being hit impressively and embarrassingly off-line, going in multiple directions. End result: shattered confidence.
When I get my golfers into the pro position, they no longer fear going left. Once that fear is eliminated, they can swing freely. Confidence replaces fear. Not only does my students’ accuracy dramatically improve, so does their distance.
The great thing about adapting to this swing adjustment is that it happens so early in the swing it is easy to incorporate without feeling too technical. Once you have made it to this position, the only thing left to do is commit to a full, firm swing.
For those of you who whip the clubhead inside during the takeaway, when you first start to work on getting into the pro position, it will probably feel awkward, as if you’re taking the club on an exagerated outside path. But as Butch Harmon says, “Feel and real are two different things.” If something feels awkward, I say great! It is easy to “feel” what awkward is. So embrace that awkward feeling until it feels natural. You’ll love the results!
I’ll explain more about this move in my next lesson.
If you have a topic you would like addressed please leave a comment and I’ll get to it. Thanks for following!
This is the first of a multi-part series on how to negotiate the golf course to achieve lower scores without having to think about swing or technique.
Over the years I have had countless golfers come to me seeking to answer a great big question: I’m great on the range, so why don’t I shoot lower scores?
Many times the reason is not swing-related, its a course management issue. The lessons in this series are designed to give you quick guidelines as to what to do, and more importantly what not to do, in common situations on the golf course.
Understanding Green Complexes
Understanding what is going on around the green is essential if you want to score your best. Truth is, most golfers don’t hit the ball as far as they’d like to believe. Golfers tend to choose a club based on their absolute best strike, not their usual strike. Also, I find that most golfers have an innate fear of hitting the ball long, which rarely happens. Combine these factors with how golf course architects design most holes and you’ve got a recipe for higher scores.
Study the green complex before you hit your shot, then follow the simple tips illustrated in this graphic and you’ll see your scores drop dramatically.
Bonus Hint: Hit one more club! You’ll make more pars and birdies, guaranteed. Also, the extra length allows for you to be the imperfect golfer you are. A miss-hit won’t be so penal.
Sure there are times when it is best to end up short of the green. If that is your intent, great! But most times, coming up short is born out of poor planning or not accepting the fact that you don’t hit a 7 iron as far as Dustin Johnson. Or even Zach Johnson, for that matter.
When I was a university coach I used to always say to my team, “During a round of golf one of two things are happening. Either the course is putting pressure on you to give up a score, or you’re putting pressure on it to give up a score.”
The latter is much more fun.
This article will also appear in the September 2017 issue of New Zealand Golf Magazine.
An Introduction to a new lesson series.
There are literally countless articles and videos on the many ways you should swing a golf club. Learning how to swing a club efficiently is vital if you are going to enjoy your current golf and keep playing this great game in the future. However, when golfers are put in real-life situations on the course, many times their practice of “golf swing” doesn’t lead to lower scores. Lets face it, a lot of bad things can happen to good swings on a golf course. There is a disconnect between what was taught on the practice tee and what one can produce on the golf course. We’ve all either said or heard the phrase, I can’t take what I do on the range to the golf course. This is the universal lament of the golfer who wants to get better, but never seems to. What I have found in my lifetime of teaching and coaching is that there just isn’t enough information for golfers about how to navigate themselves around the course to help them lower their scores.
Its frustrating for you, the golfers who put so much effort to go into improving your golf via practice and lessons, only to be disappointed with results when you actually play. Its frustrating for me as an instructor for my students to suffer needlessly—and as I say, to not get paid. Most times I see scores balloon not because of technique, but because of a player’s poor planning, trying to do too much with a shot, a bad decision, panic, or just hitting a shot out of pure frustration.
Only about 4% of all golf lessons given are playing lessons. I believe that this is one of the big factors preventing golfers from improving as much or as fast as they should. Golfers aren’t given the knowledge to know what to do—or more importantly, what NOT to do—on the golf course. I see this as a recipe for failure. So, in some ways your poor score is not your fault. The fact is, you haven’t been trained on how to PLAY golf. In fact, years ago I was going to give a talk about this very topic at PGA training and they told me straight out, “You can’t give this talk.” I was stunned when I heard this. Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised to know that I gave the talk anyway.
The bottom line is this, strategy and having a set of rules for what you will do or won’t do in a given situation is biggest key for scoring. If you follow these strategies your scores will go down, regardless of how you hit the ball. My goal is to arm you with the knowledge to go on the course and lower your handicap so you can beat your mates!
So lets learn something useful and apply these principles. And by the way, if you have certain situations you’d like to see discussed mention them in the comment box and I’ll get to them either individually or in a future article.
Look for the first installment of How to Actually Play Golf in the following days.
Seems I’ve been talking putting a lot lately with my clients. This is one of my favorite and one of my most popular articles from way back in 2012. Thought I’d repost it. It’s always relevant. Thanks to my friend Pete Bilheimer back in Savannah, Georgia, for posing for the photo.
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 ~
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.