Recently I got the following email from one of our Swing Man Golf members named Ken.
Hi Jaacob, Since you’ve been able to do what I’m trying to do, I’m hoping to get some insight from you. I have one question for you, so it should be brief. I’m a big proponent of the 80-20 principle; what do you think gave you the most bang for your buck in terms of improving your score?
According to Wiki, the 80-20 principle, also known as the Pareto principle, states that 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. Business-management consultant Joseph Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed in 1906 that 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the population. Pareto developed the principle by observing that 20 percent of the pea pods in his garden contained 80 percent of the peas. Wiki also states that it is a common rule of thumb in business that 80 percent of a business’ sales come from 20 percent of its clients”.
I replied to Ken’s message with a few things off the top of my head, but his question got me thinking that a more thorough answer would make for a great article. Personally, I have a very busy life, as I’m sure is the case with many of you. So to get the most bang for your buck, here’s what I’d recommend for you to drop the most amount of shots with the least amount of work.
1. Watch the Clubface Rotation
First, cut down on the amount of clubface rotation in your full swing, pitches and chips. I’ve written about this in previous articles, but I’ll briefly go over it again because it made such a big difference in helping me shoot lower scores.
It used to be that I would start my swing by opening up the clubface relative to my swing path, such that when the shaft was parallel to the ground in the beginning of the back swing, the toe of the club pointed up to the sky in to a position that strangely is sometimes called square. On the way back down, I would roll the club over to impact and pass through to an opposite position on the other side in which toe was pointed back up to the sky when the shaft was again parallel to the ground.
I instinctively wanted to keep the club face more square to my swing path down through the hitting zone, but I figured since so many top players and teachers played with and advocated this rolling-type of hand action that it must be the best way. As soon as my first golf coach, Dan Shauger, took out this excessive rolling action in my swing and gave me the confirmation that it was okay to do so, I immediately started getting more control of my ball and my shot dispersion tightened up tremendously. Over the years, this change also saved me a lot of time on the range. I have been able to maintain an elite level of play with much less practice because my swing became less dependent on timing.
So that’s the first thing I’d say. If you’re having trouble controlling your ball, watch your club face rotation. It’s made a difference to the scores of many of the students I’ve had implement it, and it could do the same for you.
2. Swing Under Control
Second, discipline yourself to always swing under control. I’m talking about full swings here, but this actually applies to all shots. For example, on the pitches, chips, and putts, be smooth and watch being too jerky.
Especially for us guys with our egos, swinging under control is easier said than done. It certainly was one of the more difficult things I had to overcome. However, it is an important lesson because swinging under control can mean better balance, more consistent contact, faster club head speeds, etc.
Further more, shooting lower scores isn’t necessarily about hitting perfect shots. Rather, it’s about cutting down your average dispersion and making your overall misses better in order to eliminate disasters. There are things that point to swinging under control all over the golf world. Count Yogi talked about being boneless. Mike Austin talked about supple quickness and not impeding the pendulum. George Knudson said never to swing beyond a point that takes you out of balance. I like to think of it as watching the amount of tension in your swing. They’re all more-or-less different signposts that point in the direction of the same important lesson.
If you like numbers, earlier this summer PGA Tour winner David Gossett and I were hitting balls and talking about his swing speed using a Sports Sensors Swing Speed Radar. I had him make driver swings at a speed at which he felt like he could hit straight and keep under control. Then I had him swing as fast as he could. The difference was about 8 percent, meaning that he can control his ball at up to 92 percent of his maximum speed. Similarly, I’ve done this test on myself and I am also about 92 percent.
You may be a little more or less than David or myself, but you can do a similar test on yourself to learn your maximum threshold. If you don’t have a radar handy, you can test yourself on the range to learn the feeling at which point your precision starts taking a big dive. Then it’s just a matter of paying attention on the course and training yourself to never go above your personal threshold.
Be prepared for a back and forth tennis match with yourself to create this habit, but your scores will thank you for learning the lesson.
3. Get Custom Fit
Third, you certainly can play good golf with poorly fit golf clubs, but it is much easier to do so if you’ve been custom fit.
I’ll liken this to going out and running a 100-meter race on the track. If you throw on some big red floppy clown shoes, you probably won’t run as fast as if you had a nice pair of correctly-sized track shoes. Likewise, you can perform much better when you get custom fit for your golf equipment. It may cost a little bit more money in the short term, but it saves you in the long run. I won’t get into details in this article, but a knowledgeable teaching pro or club fitter can help you put together a set of clubs that works for you and your style of play on the types of courses you most regularly encounter.
For example, they can help you find a driver that optimizes your launch conditions for maximum carry and roll (although this isn’t always desirable), determine what and how many clubs you’d need to achieve sufficient distance gapping (sometimes you may not need a full set of 14 clubs), figure out how much bounce you need on wedges to be more effective around the greens and determine the amount of loft you need on your putter to get the ball rolling immediately, etc. All of these things can make scoring lower much easier. If possible, get fit at a facility that uses Doppler radar launch monitors like FlightScope or Trackman.
For more information about getting custom fit, you might also read some of the GolfWRX articles by my friend Tom Wishon.
4. Be Consistent
Fourth, to play good golf, it’s important to be consistent. As the saying goes, it’s difficult to master something you are constantly changing. Ironically, to go somewhere you’ve never been, you may need to do things differently than you’ve done before.
This is where a good coach can come in handy. Depending on your goals and how much time you have available, it may or may not be a good idea for you to make certain changes to your technique, equipment, swing thoughts, etc. Something may be more optimal from a scientific standpoint, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be more functional for you.
There’s a Tour player I know whose name I won’t mention. He took up the game rather late compared to most pros, but he pretty quickly self-taught himself to shoot in the mid-60s and he even set a number of course records. Then in order to become more competitive, he decided he need to get a swing coach so he could swing more properly. The coach was well meaning, but they made some changes that completely wrecked my buddy’s natural move to the point where he now struggles to make cuts. I fear he may not survive as a Tour pro.
Interestingly, the guy who has the best chipping game I’ve ever seen in person out of both amateurs and pros is a former scratch-level college player who has been using the same exact wedge and unconventional technique for over 30 years. Therefore, make changes as you and, if you have them, your coach or team feels necessary. However, do so with a great deal of caution because you may be better off perfecting existing parts of your game through some goal setting, well-balanced practice, consistent repetition and mental game work versus changing to something different in regards to your technique, equipment, swing thoughts, etc.
5. Increase Your Club Head Speed
Finally, make sure you have enough club head speed to play your desired tee boxes. An average Tour-level course rates around 74.7 and is roughly 7,224 yards long. To play these type of courses, golfers could probably get away with a driver swing speed of about 100 mph at shorter venues with more generous openings to the greens. But they would also need to be crazy good with their hybrids and long irons, as well as have a superhuman short game. A more realistic swing speed goal is 104-to-105 mph. If you want to play like the average Tour player, you would need to have a swing speed of about 113 mph.
I’ve experimented playing in various professional events as both a power player and a shorter, more accurate hitter, shooting tournament rounds in the 60s both ways. On the shorter courses with soft greens or not as much forced carry, I was fine either way. However, I really struggled with the shorter more accurate style of play as soon as I got to a long sea-level course with hard greens. I couldn’t reach as many par 5’s in two, and coming in with so many hybrids and long irons to par-4’s made it difficult to get the ball landing steeply enough and with sufficient spin to stop the ball anywhere close to the hole.
Having enough club head speed really makes scoring a lot easier. To give you some guidance, take a look at the chart I’ve made below and find how fast you swing your driver (or how far you hit your driver if you don’t know your club head speed). From there, you’ll see the approximate course distance you should play to similarly experience what the average Tour player experiences when playing a Tour level course at 113 mph.
If you find that you are biting off more than you can chew, then to boost your scores I’d either recommend moving up to a more appropriate tee box for your existing level of power (even if that means going up to the forward tee box), or doing 10-to-15 minutes of swing speed training twice per week like what is outlined at Swing Man Golf in order to get your club head speed up to a level where you can manage better scores at the course distances you want to play. The idea with swing speed training is to train to increase your maximum club head speed so that when you back off to 92 percent of your max (or whatever your personal precision threshold happens to be), your “playing speed” also goes up proportionally. You could have the greatest technique in the world, but if your body isn’t conditioned to execute your technique with sufficient speed for the tee boxes you want to play, you’ll just be trying to scale a scoring mountain that is more-or-less insurmountable.
So there’s the 80-20 answer for me as far as it went with lowering my golf scores in big chunks. Give these things a try and hopefully you’ll find similar benefit for your own games. Have fun and good luck!
Stickney: A dangerous trend is developing for top players
As a teacher, I obviously have my own particular biases as it pertains to the different stroke patterns I teach to the random levels of golfers I see, however, one thing remains the same they ALL want a predictable ball flight in the end.
To me, it doesn’t matter if you swing it upright like Wolff or flatter like Kucher because they both work, as do all the swings in the middle IF they produce a consistent result under pressure. What we now understand with the advent of GEARS and Trackman is that everyone has their own individual motion and sure there are certain fundamentals that everyone great possesses but end the end we are all left to “find what works best” for us. And over time, the great players have gravitated towards the best and most desirable way that they swing the club without worrying what it looks like only what it produces.
However, I have been noticing a trend amongst the highest level of players that is disturbing…and this trend that we’ll be discussing in a second is beginning to filter down to the kids whom have ready access to launch monitors in high school and just entering into. This trend is the culprit of a two-way miss, albeit a very small one, but a two-way miss nonetheless all in efforts to try and hit the ball too straight.
First, let’s show you examples of some of the best players I have seen personally at the top amateur levels. Every one of these players shown below are proven winners and are ranked very highly nationally on the amateur and Division I college circuits.
I asked each player above what their normal ball flight was day-to-day and each replied, “mostly straight, but if I miss it then it tends to go X, but very, very slightly.” (For those Trackman users, these swings are “normalized,” which takes out the wind etc. for a touch more reality regardless of the conditions outside at the time.)
Now look in the left frame of each player’s swing, and you will see a blue line, and if you look closer, you will see that it is laying directly on top of a white line. The white line is the player’s target line—where they were trying to hit the ball. And the blue line is the PATH of the club for the particular swing shown.
What you will see is that the path of the club is basically “zeroed” out where the path and the target line are moving directly in the same direction. While this might seem like a great idea, in fact no one can play from this position because it’s impossible to zero out the path and clubface at the same time. No teacher in history has seen this consistently. We have seen very small face to path relationships but never 0 for the path, 0 for the face, 0 for the face to path, and 0 for the spin axis. We’re talking trying to manage a degree which is basically 1/6 to of a click of your second hand on your watch dial!
If you could play from a zero path and zero face, then this is what it would look like on Trackman. I have only seen 0 path and a 0 face just once in ALL the shots I have seen with Trackman, and the shot I am talking about curved way offline due to the fact that it was a longer club coupled with a faulty impact position (gear effect).
Now here is the key for people who desire a ball flight that curves as little as possible and zeroing out the path is not the answer! The key is to play with a face to path ratio that is very, very low which helps to lower the ball’s spin axis and thus the ball would curve slightly. If you have the path sitting a couple of degrees left or right of the path then you will be able to have some predictability of your curvature which will give you freedom when you don’t have our “A” swing working that day.
NOTE: Think about pro bowlers, how many do you see that roll the ball directly at the head pin?! Zero. They curve the ball to some degree for more predictability.
As we know, in order to hit the ball where we want, we need to have some consistent curvature and when the path is on top of the target-line a slight twist of the face right or left causes baby pulls or baby pushes.
The goal of ballstriking efficiency is to eliminate ONE side of the course.
Secondly, we know that the ball begins mostly in the direction of the face at impact and will curve away from the path with a centered hit. Therefore, regardless of the curvature left to right or right to left you must work in this order- PATH then the FACE then the Target (as shown below) if not then you will hit pushes and pulls, slices and hooks!
Let’s examine this player above, who moves the ball left to right. We see a path that is leftward at basically -3.0 degrees and the face is almost -2.0 degrees left of the target but only 1.0 degree RIGHT of the path thus the ball curved gently left to right. For players desiring a mostly “straight” ball without the danger of missing it both ways, then the path has to be just far enough left or right of the target line so that the face can fit between the path and the target so you can begin the ball in the correct direction before it begins to curve. This reduction in the face-to-path relationship is the forgotten fundamental of the straight ball hitters!
As you can see, this player has a path that is slightly leftward and the face is only 1 degree rightward of this causing a very low face-to-path, and from this point, he has a spin axis of 0.3 meaning the ball barely moved rightward. This is the key to hitting the ball straighter…not zeroing out the path but reducing the FACE-to-PATH relationship! This cannot be mastered with a zeroed-out path because the face won’t consistently have room to fit between your path and target line as discussed. Thus you will hit micro-pulls or micro-pushes giving you the dreaded two-way miss…all because you have the path working too much down the line!
Path, face, and target…in that order will help you reduce your face to path difference and this will help you to lower your ball’s spin axis and straighter but MORE PREDICTABLE ball flights will ensue. Anything else spells disaster for the people who desire a “straight” ball flight!
Clement: Stop hanging back
Whether you are a beginner hanging back or an advanced player hanging back, there are very specific reasons for this as well as a very specific task to focus on to OBLITERATE this issue. You will CLEARLY see how this simple task will engage your machine’s hard drive And get you the action you need to hit quality golf shots; TODAY!
Clark: On learning golf
“A true teacher will teach how to think, not what to think”
There are several versions of the above adage, but when you teach every day, you get to see this up close and personal. In my opinion, all a teacher can do is to guide you as to what happens when you hit a golf ball. The student has to discover what works for them to achieve better results. It is that simple. The internet is loaded with “how-to” info, and some of it might actually apply to your individual issue, but do yourself a big favor: Go beat some balls and see how it goes; try this, try that, repeat steps one and two!
Let’s take turning as a classic example. If someone were to ask a teacher HOW to turn, there could be a dozen answers. What the teacher, the data, video show is simply this: You are NOT turning. Let’s try this, let’s try that, no, how about this? There are an unlimited number of ways, but the student needs to: FIRST, realize the lack or incorrectness of turn, and SECOND, find a way to do it. Any way, YOUR way. This is called participating in your learning and discovering process. When Ben Hogan said: “the secret is in the dirt,” this is precisely what he was referring to.
I have a short section each day in my golf school dedicated to the ballistics of impact. A student needs to know exactly what happens at impact. And when you know what produces good flight, then find what you personally are doing to violate those laws. How to correct an open and/or closed clubface means nothing to a student who doesn’t know what open or closed actually is, or does. Swing path and its relationship to clubface resulting in ball flight curvature is knowledge every teacher has, but is like rocket science to the student who knows none of this. I once had a student who thought his shanks were coming off the toe! When I told him that just the opposite was happening, he immediately moved away from the ball a little and stopped shanking (there were other reasons he shanked but just that much knowledge got him off the hosel!)
In order to correct anything, anything at all, it is first necessary to discover the problem and find a way, any way to correct it. No teacher, book, TV tip, or article can do what you can do for yourself. All the teacher might do is make you aware of the problem. But in the end, just go play and try this, that and the other thing. The answer is there, believe me, the answer is in you. You have to find it!
The problem, very often, is that golfers are looking for someone to offer them a light bulb moment, a flash of “aha,” the “I’ve-got-it-now” solution. The aha moment is the only way to get sustained improvement, but it must come from you, the individual. There is no universal “light-bulb moment,” it is uniquely-yours alone to discover. As I’ve said before, “it’s not what I cover, it’s what you discover.” Discover what? That “thing” you can grasp and go hit ball after ball until you have, at least to a functional degree, internalized it!
Good luck on your personal journey!
On a personal note, this will be my final article for GolfWRX. I have written 100-plus articles over the last 10 years or so and I have thoroughly enjoyed helping all of you who read my articles.
If you read through them on some rainy day, you’ll notice a theme: “If this, then that.” Meaning: If your golf ball is consistently doing that, try this. The articles are all archived on this site, and I am writing a book about my life on the lesson tee. It has been a labor of love as my whole career has been. There is no greater joy in my professional life than seeing the look on a golfers face and feel the joy within them when they improve. The minute that slice straightens, or that ground ball goes up in the air, is a special bond and a shared joy in the student-teacher relationship.
But I’ve said most of what I think is pertinent and anything after this would be redundant. There is now a plethora of how-to info out there, and I personally feel the reader may begin to think he/she should do this or that as opposed to thinking “I should try to discover this or that through my own personal exploration.”
If any of you wish to contact me directly regarding help with your game, you know how to do so. But do remember this: You cannot learn golf from words or pictures. My advice is to get a good teacher to look at you a few times, then go out and find the answer in the dirt. Golf is a game to played. And in that playing, in that trial-and-error process, you will find things that will help you achieve better outcomes. No one owns this game: We only to get to borrow it from time to time!
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