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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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The Wedge Guy: The importance of a pre-shot routine

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I believe one of the big differences between better recreational golfers and those not so good—and also between the tour professionals and those that can’t quite “get there”—is the consistency of their pre-shot routines. It is really easy to dismiss something that happens before the ball is even struck as irrelevant, but I strongly urge you to reconsider if you think this way.

To have a set routine to follow religiously before every shot gives you the best chance to execute the shot the way you intend. To do otherwise just leaves too much to chance. Indulge me here and I’ll offer you some proof.

It’s been a while back now, but I still remember an interesting account on this subject that used the final round of the 1996 Masters—when Nick Faldo passed a collapsing Norman—as his statistical proof. This particular analyst reviewed the entire telecast of that final round and timed the routine of both players for every shot. What he discovered was that Norman got quicker and less consistent in his pre-shot routine throughout his round, while Faldo maintained his same, methodical approach to every shot, not varying by more than a second or so. I think that is pretty insightful stuff.

A lot of time has passed since then, but all competitive tour professionals pay very close attention to their pre-shot routines these days. I urge you to watch them as they go through the motions before each shot. And notice that most of them “start over” if they get distracted during that process.

While I do not think it is practical for recreational golfers to go into such laborious detail for every shot, let me offer some suggestions as to how a repeatable pre-shot routine should work.

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To begin, I think the best starting point is from behind the ball, setting up in your “mind’s eye” the film-clip of the shot you are about to hit. See the flight and path it will take. As you do this, you might waggle the club back and forth to get a feel of the club in your hands and “feel” the swing that will produce that shot path for you. Your exact routine can start when you see that shot clearly, and begin your approach the ball to execute the shot. From that “trigger point”, you should do the exact same things, at the exact same pace, each and every time.

For me (if I’m “on”), I’ll step from that behind-the-shot position, and set the club behind the ball to get my alignment. Then I step into my stance and ball position, not looking at the target, but being precise not to change the alignment of the clubhead–I’m setting my body up to that established reference. Once set, I take a look at the target to ensure that I feel aligned properly, and take my grip on the club. Then I do a mental check of grip pressure, hover the club off the ground a bit to ensure it stays light, and then start my backswing, with my only swing thought being to feel the end of the backswing.

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