Golf is hard, we all know that. Over my fifty years in the game I have always tried to get better at it as a teacher and a player. To have an understanding of what makes an elite player is the holy grail of my search. In my years in the game I have played with a few tour players, many club professional’s as well as countless great amateur players. I have also had the good fortune of learning from some of the most respected teachers of the game. One would think after all that I would be better at both teaching and playing however genetics is a cruel foe.
Here then are some tidbits on my thoughts on golf improvement.
“Distance statistics are the greatest predictive statistics of success.”
The long hitters on the PGA tour include DJ, Rory, Woodland, and JT. If they have a bad week of chipping, putting, driving accuracy and other parts of the game they can still win. If a Zach Johnson has a bad week of those things he can’t. If you look at the statistics on the tour the driving distance guys (and ladies) far out earn and out rank the strokes gained putting players. Thus the importance of maintaining or improving how far one hits the ball with every club.
“More range of motion is better.”
If you are pushing someone across a room seated in a chair with wheels on it and you have only 3 yards to push as hard as you can you might achieve a speed of perhaps 15 mph. Now if we give you 50 yards to push the person in the chair you might achieve a top speed of 50 mph. That’s equates to more range of motion in golf. As players get older (over 50 years old) range of motion becomes a more prominent factor on improvement. We have all played with that guy who has a short more compact backswing and hits it very straight. I’d rather be the big backswing guy with a athletic lower body who hits it sixty yards further. Over speed training is training that makes the body and club move faster than normal.
“Good players block practice and random practice”
Block practice is hitting one hour of six irons and trying to get more wrist hinge at the top of your backswing. Random practice would be to hit in one hour, three high hook drivers, seven buried lies in a bunker, fifteen low cut five irons and twelve sixty degree lob shots. On both block and random practice the proper routine prior to each shot is vitally important.
“Separation and stabilization are key.”
Separation is the ability to make the lower body do one thing, the torso do another thing and the hands and arms to perform in the proper sequence with the lower and upper body. The player must have a basic understanding and ability to match up these three during the motion. Stabilization is the position of the body arms and hands at the moment of truth; impact. Think of separation as a video which you can do stop action and slow motion during the swing and stabilization as a snap shot of impact. The best description of stabilization can be described by a rear end car accident. If you get rear ended in a car accident and at the moment of impact if you have a collection of softballs on top of back seat, all the balls would be sent as projectiles toward the front windshield. We can equate the impact or snapshot position of the car to the lower and upper body position of your swing at impact, with the arms equating to the softballs that go flying by your stable car/body position.
“PGA / Posture, Grip and Aim”
The motion is preceded by good PGA. Think of PGA being the foundation of the house. Bad foundation will mean upcoming problems with the house. Of the three the grip is the most important. Rarely does one see a really bad player with a really good grip. A great teacher once said you work on your grip every day of your life.
“It takes courage to change”
Change in golf is hard. We revert to an inefficient learned motor skill all too often in golf. You can never get rid of a learned motor skill. We have thousands of them in our brain. We can however add a motor skill to our arsenal and then have the courage to use the new skill and make it the dominant one. Most players are unwilling to take the new motor skill on to the course and trust it, without regard to immediate result.
“You must know your swing, not the swing.”
I have read my share of golf instruction books and watched thousands of golf videos. I have also taken over one hundred golf lessons. After all that I know that I don’t know as much as I thought I did about my swing. I do know more than most about the swing. It is far more so important to know your swing than the swing, even if there is such a thing as “the” swing.
“The equipment matters.”
What clubs you have in your bag, shaft type and flex, good grips and pleasing to the eye. To me those are the big four in equipment. All of it matters. Having clubs not suited to your swing speed is a huge mistake. Equipment errors we often see: having grips that are old and worn or the wrong size, having clubs in your bag you never use and clubs that are too heavy.
“Nobody gets a lot better without help.”
The best players in the world get help from someone. Some of them get a lot of help: swing coaches, mental coaches, physical trainers and more. None of them got great on their own. People that really seek improvement ask for help.