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Get better faster with a tight feedback loop

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Getting an opportunity to work on a launch monitor can be enjoyable, confusing, helpful, overwhelming and invaluable all at the same time. In my limited time and experience with my launch monitor (I have a Trackman), I’ve quickly learned if I make things very simple, it becomes a very effective tool.

Learning quickly comes from various different methods, one of these methods is a tight feedback loop: Do something, measure, analyze, correct and repeat. The more of these loops you can fit into a practice session the quicker you can develop feel and understanding of the change. Let’s use club path as a simple example.

One of the most valuable functions of Trackman and FlightScope launch monitors is that they place a numerical values on the movement of the club. Here’s a look at one of those numbers.

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The positive number means the club head is traveling to the right of the target 1.5 degrees at the moment of impact. This is not the word-for-word definition, but you get the gist.

Lets say we embark on a drill to get your club path moving to the left of the target at impact. The number on the screen you want to see would be something like this.

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A change this big will feel weird and unnatural, but that’s the point. This process of change is accelerated using a tight feedback loop. Do something, measure, analyze, correct and repeat.

Changing the number on the screen almost becomes a bit of the game. Maybe the first swing moves the number to 0.5 degrees; the next gives you -1 — you get the picture. You are actively exploring a change in your golf swing and watching the number gives you the feedback to know you are doing something different from swing to swing.

Some of you may be thinking: What should I do to get that number to move from positive to negative? With Doppler radar launch monitors like Trackman and Flightscope, I think it’s a good idea to let people experiment a little and find out for themselves. How would you change the path? I’ll always be there for a helping hand or guidance, but a little exploration is good.

Have you ever been faced with a difficult question or problem, put in the work and found the answer after some deliberate thought? When you find the answer, you own the answer because of the struggle and effort you put in to get it. It’s no different here.

If you’re more of a visual learner, Trackman and Flightscope use images to display path in different ways from different perspectives. All these forms of feedback can aid in understanding and accomplishing your goal of change.

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Each swing returns a club-path number and you’ll begin to match the number to a feel. Making the feel your own and understanding that feel makes you more aware and helps quicken the improvement process.

When practicing with a Trackman or Flightscope, you can create even more deliberate practice by creating little challenges that will help you achieve your goal. Staying with the above example, try to hit five consecutive practice balls where the club-path number is negative or to the left. If you miss on one of the shots you’ve got to start over — an example of immediate feedback and purposeful practice.

I like to find anything and everything that helps me understand the process of change and learning. The books and articles I find valuable I like to share, because if they help me maybe they can help you as well. In Daniel Coyle’s book “The Little Book of Talent,” he talks about the process of getting better.

In our busy lives, it’s sometimes tempting to regard merely practicing as a success. We complete the appointed hour and sigh victoriously — mission accomplished! But the real goal isn’t practice, it’s progress. As John Wooden put it, “Never mistake mere activity for accomplishment.”

One useful method is to set a daily SAP: smallest achievable perfection. In this technique, you pick a single chunk that you can perfect — not just improve, not just “work on,” but get it 100 percent correct consistently. For example, a tennis player might choose the service toss; a salesperson might choose the 20-second pitch he’ll make to an important client. The point is to take the time to aim at a small, defined target and then put all your effort toward hitting it.

After all, you aren’t built to be transformed in a single day. You are built to improve little by little, connection by connection, rep by rep. As Wooden also said, “Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens — and when it happens, it lasts.”

This pairs up nicely with what I’ve talked about above. Find a little chunk of your golf swing and try to perfect that one thing. As you make small improvements over time, your golf swing slowly becomes more efficient.

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Rob earned a business degree from the University of Washington. He turned professional in June of 1999 and played most mini tours, as well as the Australian Tour, Canadian Tour, Asian Tour, European Tour and the PGA Tour. He writes for GolfWRX to share what he's learned and continues to learn about a game that's given him so much. www.robrashell.com Google Plus Director of Instruction at TOURAcademy TPC Scottsdale www.touracademy.com

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. getitclose

    Feb 16, 2014 at 10:28 am

    I’ll second the above comment. Last year I decided I wanted to be better than the average joe, started buying books and watching the “how-to’s” on the internet. Which can be good, if you work on one or two things at a time. I got overwhelmed, and actually got worse because I was over analyzing everything. Bottom line; simplify.

    Great article. Bravo

    • Rob Rashell

      Feb 17, 2014 at 10:40 am

      getitclose,

      I’ve always been amazed by how making one thing really great in your golf swing also improves other pieces as well, without even trying. Thanks!

  2. Dave

    Feb 16, 2014 at 6:52 am

    Truly a great article. Learning how to learn is key to being able to learn. My teacher also has me “figure things out myself” instead of just talking at me, really helps to own it. I am going to book mark this article I thought so much of it.

    Thank you

    • Rob Rashell

      Feb 17, 2014 at 10:38 am

      Hi Dave, thanks for the thoughts, all the best with your golf!

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Instruction

The 3 best ways to train your golf swing

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Understanding how to effectively train and practice is critical to transferring skills to the golf course.

In golf, I view training as a thoughtful, deliberate rehearsal of a motion to develop technique. This is better rehearsed away from the golf course. Practicing golf consists of developing your skill to take to the golf course—an example being learning to hit shots in certain winds and shot shaping.

“A lawyer will train to be a lawyer, then he or she will practice law” – The Lost Art of Golf

I find the below examples the best ways to train effectively. These techniques will also help facilitate a swing change and make your training and practice more efficient.

Mirror Work

I like my student to implement what I call “mirror work”. This is done by looking into a mirror from the face-on position.

This is a great way to get external feedback (information delivered from an outside source). Learning by external feedback will help facilitate the required body movement to produce a particular shot. It’s also a cheap and effective way to train. Research suggests observation in a mirror is considered external, so the use of mirrors will elicit external feedback, enhancing the learning process.

I prefer students to only check positions from the face-on view. If a player starts checking positions in a mirror from down-the-line, moving your head to look in the mirror can cause your body to change positions, losing the proper direction of turn.

Train Slow

Learning a new motion is best trained slow. At a slower speed, it is easier to monitor and analyze a new motion. You will have increased awareness of the body and where the shaft is in space. At a faster speed, this awareness is more difficult to obtain.

I often use the analogy of learning how to drive a car. First, you took time to learn how to position your hands on the wheel and position your foot next to the break. When comfortable, you put the car in motion and began to drive slowly. Once you developed the technique, you added speed and took the car on the freeway.

In martial arts, there are three speeds taught to students: Slow-speed for learning, medium speed for practice and fast speed for fighting. Again, the movement was trained slow to start. Once comfortable, the motion was put into combat. This should be similar to golf.

Finding Impact

Use an impact bag to get the feeling of impact and an efficient set-up. If you don’t have an impact bag, a spare car tire, bean bag or something light and soft that can be pushed along the ground can be used.

I like to refer to the impact bag as a “Push bag”. Start by setting up into the bag, lightly pressing the shaft into the bag. You will notice how your trail arm slightly tucks in and as your right shoulder drops below the left with your body leaning forward, an efficient set-up.

To get the feeling of impact swing the club back and down into the bag while maintaining your body shape. Don’t move the bag by hitting it, rather pushing it. Note how you maintain your wrist angles while pushing the bag (not flipping) and the right side of your body moves through impact.

Train your swing with these three training techniques to play better golf.

@KKelley_golf

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Instruction

How posture influences your swing

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S0 what exactly is posture and how can it alter your swing? Posture is often the origin to a player’s swing pattern. I like to look at posture as the form of the body from the front view and down the line position at address.

“Shape” in posture is the angles our body creates at address. This includes the relationship between the upper and lower half of our bodies. This article will examine the importance of this shape from the face on view.

For an efficient posture that creates a simple, powerful, and repeatable swing, I like a player’s shape to be set into what I call their “hitting angles.” Hitting angles are similar to the impact position. In the picture below, note the body angles at address highlighted in green.

Once we are set into these hitting angles, the goal of the backswing is to maintain these angles, coiling around the spine. When these angles are maintained in the backswing, the club can return to impact in a more dynamic form of our set-up position. This creates minimal effort that produces speed and repeatability—essentially doing more with less.

The further we set up away from these hitting angles, our bodies will have to find impact by recovering. This is often where a player’s swing faults can occur. We want our body to react to the target in the golf swing, not recover to strike the ball.

Think of a baseball player or football player throwing a ball. When the athlete is in their throwing position, they can simply make the movement required to throw the ball at their intended target. If their body is contorted or out of position to make the throw, they must re-position their body (more movement) to get back into their throwing position, thus making them less accurate and powerful.

The good news about working on your posture is that it is the easiest part to control in the swing. Posture is a static motion, so our body will respond to 100 percent of what our mind tells it to do. It’s talentless.

Here is a simple routine to get you into these hitting angles.

To start, tuck in your trail arm making it shorter and below the lead arm, which makes your trail shoulder lower than the lead shoulder. This will give you the proper shape of the arms and wrist angles. Pictured right is Ben Hogan.

With these arm angles, bend from the hips to the ball and bump your body slightly forward towards the target getting ‘into yourself’. You may feel pressure on your lead foot, but your upper half will still remain behind the ball. Note the picture below with the blue lines.

Practice this drill using a mirror in front of you, head up looking into the mirror. Research has shown mirror work enhances motor skills and performance. Anytime you have external-focus based feedback, the learning process will escalate.

There are a lot of different postures on the PGA Tour and many ways to get the job done. There are no cookie-cutter swings, and players have different physiology. However, research and history have shown that an efficient posture gives us the best chance for solid contact and our desired ball flight. Work hard on the areas that are easiest to control: the set-up.

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Instruction

Golf 101: How to chip (AKA “bump and run”)

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Although golf for a beginner can be an intimidating endeavor, and learning how to chip is part of that intimidation, this is one part of the game that if you can nail down the fundamentals, not only can you add some confidence to your experience but also you lay down a basic foundation you can build on.

How to chip

The chip shot, for all intents and purposes, is a mini-golf swing. To the beginner, it may seem like a nothing burger but if you look closely, it’s your first real way to understand contact, launch, spin, compression, and most importantly the fundamentals of impact.

What is a chip shot? A pitch shot?

Chip: A shot that is hit typically with anything from a 3-iron to a lob wedge that launches low, gets on the ground quickly, and rolls along the surface (like a putt) to the desired location.

Pitch: A shot that is hit typically with anything from a PW to a lob wedge that launches low- to mid-trajectory that carries a good portion of the way to your desired location and relies on spin to regulate distance.

Now that we have separated the two, the question is: How do I chip?

Since we are trying to keep this as simple as possible, let’s just do this as a quick checklist and leave it at that. Dealing with different lies, grass types, etc? Not the purpose here. We’re just concerned with how to make the motion and chip a ball on your carpet or at the golf course.

Think “rock the triangle”

  1. Pick a spot you want the ball to land. This is for visualization, direction and like any game you play, billiards, Darts, pin the tail on the donkey, having a target is helpful
  2. For today, use an 8-iron. It’s got just enough loft and bounce to make this endeavor fun.
  3. Grip the club in your palms and into the lifelines of your hands. This will lift the heel of the club of the ground for better contact and will take your wrists out of the shot.
  4. Open your stance
  5. Put most of your weight into your lead leg. 80/20 is a good ratio
  6. Ball is positioned off your right heel
  7. Lean the shaft handle to your left thigh
  8. Rock the shoulders like a putt
  9. ENJOY!

Check out this vid from @jakehuttgolf to give you some visuals.

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