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The difference between professionals and amateurs is in the ground

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Ok, the difference between amateur and professionals isn’t necessarily in the ground. It’s more about how you use it.

We all enjoy watching the beautiful swings of the best players in the world and often wonder, “Why can’t I swing it like that?” They swing with great tempo, sequence and power, allowing them to hit the ball a long way with a high level of accuracy. Most professionals swing differently, but they all do one thing similar. They use the ground properly throughout their swing, providing great balance and sequencing.

I can tell you this because it has been proven through recent technology in the form of force or balance plates. These plates provide between 400 and 3000 high-resolution sensors that measure a player’s Center of Pressure (COP), Center of Pressure Trace (motion of pressure during swing) and foot pressure (where weight is).

At one point or another, all golfers have been told to set-up to the golf ball at address with their weight distributed 50/50, but technology has showed us that it’s virtually impossible. Everyone will have more weight on either their left or right foot at address, even if they feel like they are evenly distributed. Here’s what has been discovered by using force plate technology.

Average Amateur Set-Up

Photo 1

PGA Tour Player Set-Up

Photo 2

Above is a visual comparing the average amateur golfer set-up compared to the touring professional. You can see the percentages under each foot and the colors represent where the pressure is located. The red would indicate the most pressure.

On average, the amateur player does two things at setup with their pressure. They have more pressure on the trail foot with the weight back in the heels. Tour players do the opposite. They have more weight on the front foot with the pressure between the ball of the foot and the toe at address.

The white dot represents where the center of pressure (COP) starts at setup. A tour players COP starts centered between the two feet, and because of their pressure the amateur is typically closer to the trail foot. This has a large effect on the efficiency of the backswing. When watching PGA Tour coverage, you will see the players don’t move much off of the golf ball in the backswing. If you go to the local range and watch players hit balls you will see the opposite.

The great thing that has been found through this technology is that it doesn’t matter what swing theory or method a player uses. The pressure from each player is very similar. To the human eye it may not look close, but that’s why this technology is so powerful.

Once the tour player reaches the top of the backswing, they will have between 70 and 80 percent of their pressure in the trail leg. This holds true for players that practice a one-post or stack-and-tilt move as well. What gives the professional a big advantage over the amateur golfer is what they do immediately into their transition or start of the downswing. Below you will see another graph comparing a professional and amateur from the start of the transition.

PGA Tour Player (left) and Average Amateur Golfer (right)

Photo 34

The tour player shows an immediate transition in pressure moving forward. This player went from close to 80 percent pressure to 52 percent pressure on the trail leg in the first move in the downswing. You can see the pressure is moving forward and towards the ball of the front foot. You can see the amateur on the right still has too much weight on the trail foot. This affects a player’s balance, sequencing and power, which transfers into inconsistent face and path alignments at impact.

What you will also notice when looking at these pictures is the COP trace line. The tour player on the left has a smooth line that started centered at set-up, then smoothly moved into the back foot. As the player is moving closer to impact, the trace is smooth running towards the ball of the front foot. The amateur player on the right has a trace line that is all over the place. This means the pressure has inconsistent movement and the pressure has moved both back and forward in their feet.

Due to what the amateur golfer has done with their pressure at this point, they are going to have a very difficult time creating the proper impact angles. We call impact the “moment of truth,” because it’s really all that matters. The only problem is if the player is doing things poorly from the start it makes it that much more difficult to put the club into the impact position they are looking for.

The best players in the world have been found to all deliver the club into the impact position very similarly no matter what their swing may look like. It has been found through these force plates that at impact these professionals have between 75 and 90 percent of their pressure on their front foot. That number goes to 98-to-100 percent into their finish position. Below is another comparison between the tour player (left) and the amateur golfer (right). These number represent where the player is at just after impact.

PGA Tour Player (left) and Amatuer Golfer (right)

Photo 5

Right after impact, the professional already has 87 percent of pressure on their front foot with the weight between the ball of the foot and toe. When looking at the average amateur golfer on the right, you can see a big discrepancy. This golfer still has more weight on the back foot and you can continue to see the issue with the player’s COP Trace moving all over the place.

Tour players will have a simple, clear pattern and amateur golfers will not. They will show unnecessary movements and abrupt changes in direction. Every player will have their own “fingerprint,” however, because no one swings exactly alike. But ball flight is hugely influenced by what your COP is doing during your golf swing.

That being said, there are a few drills I prescribe to help amateur golfers improve their COP, COP Trace and foot pressure. This can help the player improve their balance, sequencing and overall power. These three things have a large effect on a player ball flight and overall consistency.

The first drill I recommend will help the player with their COP and foot pressure at the set-up position. It will also help with the COP Trace throughout the player’s swing. You will need to find a downhill lie with the ball slightly below your feet. This drill should be done using half-swings (click on the photos to enlarge them).

photo 7photo 8photo 9

This lie will force the COP to be centered with the pressure moving between the ball of the foot and toe at set-up. It will then help the player improve their initial move in the transition to begin the downswing. It improves the kinematic sequence and provides more pressure earlier, setting up the impact position.

The second drill will help the player establish a better relationship with their feet and the ground. You want to do this drill in your bare feet. The player should feel almost as if they are in a sand bunker feeling like they grab the ground with their feet. This helps create friction with the ground, allowing the player to create ground reaction forces. This can help the player with the sequencing and acceleration and deceleration of the kinematic sequence.

photo 12photo 11photo 13

Hitting balls barefoot will give the player a great sense of balance and help them understand how their body should move in the golf swing. If done improperly, the player will lose balance and not create the right amount of pressure. The great Sam Snead practiced much of his young life in his bare feet, this provided a great action later in his life providing a very powerful golf swing.

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Bill Schmedes III is an award-winning PGA Class A member and Director of Instruction at Fiddler's Elbow Country Club in Bedminster, the largest golf facility in New Jersey. He has been named a "Top-25 Golf Instructor," and has been nominated for PGA Teacher of the Year and Golf Professional of the Year at both the PGA chapter and section levels. Bill was most recently nominated for Golf Digest's "Best Young Teachers in America" list, and has been privileged to work and study under several of the top golf coaches in the world. These coaches can all be found on the Top 100 & Top 50 lists. Bill has also worked with a handful of Top-20 Teachers under 40. He spent the last 2+ years working directly under Gary Gilchrist at his academy in Orlando, Fla. Bill was a Head Instructor/Coach and assisted Gary will his tour players on the PGA, LPGA, and European tours. Bill's eBook, The 5 Tour Fundamentals of Golf, can now be purchased on Amazon. It's unlike any golf instruction book you have ever read, and uncovers the TRUE fundamentals of golf using the tour player as the model.

58 Comments

58 Comments

  1. Grant F

    Oct 25, 2016 at 8:37 pm

    This is good advice for amateur golfers BUT when the weight transfer starts from the hips first the head MUST remain back otherwsie amateur golfers simply move their heads forward and lose all aspects of their swing!

    Pros must teach amateurs this! Look at any pro golfer and their head remains back as the hips and lower body drive forward.

  2. Mike Davis

    Sep 2, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    I know I’m reading this article 2 years after originally being published but thanks for the info. Some good stuff here. Thanks, Bill.

  3. Pingback: The Reasons Why Golfer Should Use Golf GPS Watches | NADIANEREA

  4. Gerry

    Jun 5, 2016 at 5:32 am

    Hi Bill
    Given the important role that the intrinsic muscles of the foot play in dynamic balancing tasks such as the golf swing I wondered whether professional golfers use specific exercises to strengthen these muscles ?
    Gerry

  5. Jack

    May 19, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    Weight shift is talked about often and understood little. This goes a long way in explaining it.

    I am not sure why this disturbs anyone… Every pro I have ever listened to or worked w/ acknowledges the importance of weight shift being correct. This article and the tech just puts it in a very friendly manner and easy to understand.

    Kudos!

  6. Gerry

    May 1, 2016 at 8:09 am

    Hi Bill
    Very interesting article .
    How big a role do you think the muscles of the foot ,and the intrinsic foot muscles in particular , play in producing a consistent golf swing .

    Gerry

  7. Jackson Brooke

    Jul 1, 2014 at 11:14 am

    Hi Bill and thanks for great info. Would be nice to read about those measurements when hitting woods or irons.

  8. Martini122

    May 10, 2014 at 11:52 am

    This a great article. I’m a big fan of Knudson and it seems like the technology verifies the points he wrote about in 1987. A balanced* weight transfer is essential to control and consistency. Please keep up the good work.

    • Bill Schmedes III

      May 11, 2014 at 1:36 pm

      Thank you! Technology is ever evolving helping us as coaches give our students fact and no longer just opinion. I didn’t read that George Knudson book, but some coaches are ahead of there time!

  9. Break80

    May 6, 2014 at 3:31 am

    Great article! I (and hope others) very much appreciate reading this highly important but rarely addressed component of the golf swing. Even before reading this article, footwork has come to be my main area of focus during my practice sessions, so this information and data provided in the article could not have come at a better time personally. Im sure you know how satisfying it is to be able to practice w/confidence, knowing the methods you choose has data proven that substantiates it.

    Grip, Alignment, and posture has always been the foundation for me in hitting the ball to my intended distance/target, but the timing of the motion can sometimes fall thru the cracks and forgotten in the circus of swing thoughts, that aren’t supposed to be thought of….

    So I included tempo and rhythm into my foundation, but believed that consistent tempo can only be achieved and maintained with proper footwork.

    The Golf swing is such an athletic move, and thinking every athlete in any sport they play, proper footwork is vital for success in what they try to accomplish. From boxers to offensive lineman to middle infielders, individuals who achieved the most success would all have great footwork.

    Such is the same in a highly efficient golf swing, and one I believe is the main factor in providing that “effortless” effect in many of the golf swings we see from skilled players.

    The data provided in your research has not only strengthen my belief that what I’m working on will result in improving, but also provide new areas to focus on to help achieve my goals and possibly enhance my swing overall.

    The info about the weight during setup favoring a bit left, and the smooth line during transition are two bits of information Im excited to implement during my practice soon. I really hope others will see the info in this article and value it’s worth, value it enough to make a conscious effort to work into or, like myself, improve on within their own golf swings. Sometimes too much information can be harmful, especially in this game that’s drove all who’ve played it mental at one time or another, but in this instance, it is in my opinion that this knowledge is power.

  10. Scott

    May 1, 2014 at 11:58 am

    I could not agree more with this article. I also agree that this is not particular to any type of swinging method. I cannot believe how much horrible “professional” instruction that I see taking place all over the country. This should be every professional’s first item given and reviewed with every student. Proper weight shift should happen naturally without ANY discussion about getting your weight from one side to the other. Every weight shift discussion I have ever been involved in is overly complicated and incorrect. Thank you for the article.

    • Fred

      May 2, 2014 at 3:29 pm

      Your right, Scott – great observation. Amazing how you seldom, if ever, hear an instructor bring this valuable topic up. Listen to all the guys on TV selling their videos. They never mention this. Maybe it comes up when they reveal they’re “secret” to the perfect swing. Great article, Bill. All amateurs should burn a copy of it and put it in their bag for future reference. I know I will.

    • Bill Schmedes

      May 2, 2014 at 9:12 pm

      Thank you Scott!

  11. Sully

    May 1, 2014 at 1:55 am

    Awesome article Bill! It looks like you took those pics at a club back in the Boston area. Where was that?

    • Bill Schmedes

      May 1, 2014 at 6:17 pm

      Thanks Sully. It does look a bit like a new england course but it was actually in Colubia, SC

  12. Martin Chuck

    May 1, 2014 at 12:04 am

    Nice work, Pro!

  13. Rob

    Apr 30, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    Nice article Bill. Thanks. As a Stack and Tilt student, it’s interesting to me that you found the pressure being as high as 80 percent on the trail leg for the SnT golfer. I would have expected much less than that. But the overall point about favoring left side is right on.

    • Bill Schmedes

      Apr 30, 2014 at 7:40 pm

      Thanks Rob. Yes center of pressure and center of motion are two different animals. I have seen two examples of SnT pro’s and the one I remember I believe was still 75% pressure in right foot although his body was actually centered around a fixed pivot. I think all golfers can take something away from the transition in the beginning of the downswing into impact and how the pressure should move.

      • Bill Schmedes

        Apr 30, 2014 at 7:50 pm

        *Center of Mass

        • Rob

          Apr 30, 2014 at 8:40 pm

          Sure, I can understand that difference. Thanks again for the info Bill.

  14. Richard Cheney

    Apr 30, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    That is one of the most instructive articles I have read on the golf swing. Beautifully written and easy to follow. Thanks very much Bill.

    • Bill Schmedes

      Apr 30, 2014 at 7:41 pm

      Thank you Richard for the kind words!

  15. Chuck

    Apr 30, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Very fine article.

    “Lessons are the best equipment in golf…”

  16. J Sheehan

    Apr 30, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    Great article…You’ve answered questions for me that I didn’t even know how to ask. I’d love to know if I could find access to a more detailed set of results.

    For now, though, I’m really wondering 1) if all those studied were holding the same club 2)was the ball teed up and 3)Wouldn’t 1 & 2 have a small but important impact on the results.

    • Bill Schmedes

      Apr 30, 2014 at 7:48 pm

      Great question. The two examples I used both the pro and amateur were hitting mid-irons. As the club gets longer and the swing arc increases the pressure may change a bit but wouldn’t be too far apart. We swing from the ground up so the proper kinematic sequence if done properly should always be the same with full-swing. Throw finesse wedges out the window.

  17. James Gatz

    Apr 29, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    What’s an “average amateur?” Professional golfer is a pretty narrow field while everyone below professional is extremely broad group – too vast to present anything meaningful in terms of “average.” Perhaps this would be better narrowed down to that this is indicative of your “average 18-handicapper?”

    • Bill Schmedes

      Apr 29, 2014 at 5:30 pm

      Yes it is broad when I say average golfer. All mid-high handicap golfers have sequencing issues and then even the majority of lower handicap players have sequencing issues also. A golfer can play, and play well with a sequencing issue, but the consistency will be lacking, and they will have a hard time reaching their full potential. There never is a one size fits all anything in golf instruction, but this should help the majority of golfers. Thanks

    • Daniel V

      Apr 30, 2014 at 12:27 pm

      How about (High handicap = 20+) (Low handicap = 5-10) (Average = 11-19)?

  18. Jeremy

    Apr 29, 2014 at 7:53 am

    Great article Bill. As I have taught myself into being a high single digit handicap now, I have noticed that on my good ball striking days my weight is always finishing on my front foot, and on my bad days I’m hanging on the back foot. If you watch the Pro’s you will see a variety of backswings and swing paths, but one thing is always consistent: they finish balanced with their weight forward (even Bubba who doesn’t look like he does).

    I have really been working on exaggerating transferring my weight to my front foot on the range, but have been struggling with shoving my weight forward too fast and just chunking the ball like crazy. I know this has a lot to do with the tempo of my transition. Do you have any tips or drills that could help me make my transition more consistent? Thanks.

  19. Pete

    Apr 29, 2014 at 2:42 am

    The observations on amateur vs. pro on the weight distribution must be relevant, but what do recon is the reason for such a difference?

    As a hacker I find this information little bit disturbing, as so many of us pay lots of money to our club pros to become better in swinging the club.

    • Bill Schmedes

      Apr 29, 2014 at 5:19 pm

      Thanks Pete. Hopefully these club pro’s are knowledgeable enough to understand how the body effects the club throughout the swing. The proper body mechanics control the club and the correct sequencing of events is crucial to a players success. The average golfer slices the golf ball. Someone could try and fix that slice all day but until you improve the sequencing, especially in the downswing, it will be very difficult to do. The TPI website is very good explaining a large amount of this. I would check them out!

  20. Boo

    Apr 28, 2014 at 11:40 pm

    So we should strive to swing the club on the balls of our feet, not the heels or arches?

    • Bill Schmedes

      Apr 29, 2014 at 5:14 pm

      For most players yes, especially in the transition to begin the downswing, if you can get more pressure moving forward and outward it can help improve the sequence. Most players trying to create power start with both the upper and lower halves at the same time (sequencing issue) this spin move places too much weight back at impact. If it does get forward its typically too much in the heel effecting the players impact alignment and ability to create power.

  21. Tom Stickney

    Apr 28, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    Good article. Have used a force plate for many years. Couldn’t agree more.

    • Bill Schmedes

      Apr 28, 2014 at 6:36 pm

      Thanks Tom! I always enjoy your articles

  22. Jim

    Apr 28, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Excellent article from so many perspectives. Shows me I have a lot of swing changes in my future to begin working on right now. Thank You!

  23. Philip

    Apr 28, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Awesome article – I have noticed a similar thing with myself as my setup and swing have been moving from hacker swing to golf swing. I get a crisper hit if I keep a bit more weight on my front foot and it is easier to make the weight transfer.

    Question – does the logic apply to all clubs, including hybrids, woods and drivers?

    • Bill Schmedes

      Apr 28, 2014 at 6:39 pm

      Thanks Philip! Yes Logic is the same. Ball position obviously just various. Feeling should be the same as pressure effects face-path relationship at impact.

      • Henry

        Jul 28, 2015 at 12:30 am

        Love the article. This has made a positive difference for my game. But can you further elaborate on that last sentence. Thanks

  24. Mbwa Kali Sana

    Apr 28, 2014 at 11:28 am

    I ‘m happy you showed thèse graphe ,Bill:they exemplifie why the “STACK AND TILT”swing works ,or methods closely related ,such as MARTIN CHUCK ‘s TOUR STRIKER méthod .
    Though you have to put your Weight on the right leg to BUILD up power ,you have to get as Quick as you CAN on the left leg :see how BEN HOGAN did it !Impressive !

    • Bill Schmedes

      Apr 28, 2014 at 6:42 pm

      Happy to help. I have seen graphs of stack and tilt players compared to the “traditional” players and the pressure is all very similar. It may look different to the eye but there are many things we can’t read without the help of certain technologies. Thanks!

  25. Joe S

    Apr 28, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Bill,

    This is a great and for me, timely article…so thanks for posting.

    I am struggling with this move. I fake finish with my right foot (Im a righty) because I get stuck on my back foot. When I move to the left, my head seems to get too forward and I hit the ball low. I find it exceedingly difficult to swing, get weight on left as you have described, while keeping the head back? Any suggestions? I keep watching on my V1 App how still tour players are with their heads…while their bodies are swinging low and left, which supports your article. I just don’t know how to hit the ball high and move forward…without the heading wanting to tilt down…or follow the feet when I know it should stay back. I’m a 3 handicap currently so I do some things right…but have struggled with this move for some time.

    Thanks

    Joe

    • Mbwa Kali Sana

      Apr 28, 2014 at 11:37 am

      Dear Joe ,Go on REVOLUTION GOF’s site ,and Watch how MARTIN CHUCK swings :hé does exactly what BIll demonstrated hère .I would suggest you buy a TOUR STRIKER club ,and train with it .Also buy the STACK AND TILT Golf instruction manuel by MICHAEL BENNET and ANDY PLUMMER .You’ll quicky understand why you should keep your Weight on the left,leg throughout most of the swing ,the sole momentbthe Weight gets on the right foot is at the top of the backswing ,very briefly!

      • graymulligan

        Apr 28, 2014 at 3:27 pm

        This comment needs MORE CAPS!

      • Bill Schmedes

        Apr 28, 2014 at 6:45 pm

        There are many different way to swing the golf club effectively. I’m not advocating any style or method, just trying to improve the average players pressure mostly in the downswing and into impact. The stack and tilt golfer still has plenty of pressure in their trail side at the top of the backswing, but you wouldn’t be able to see that with the naked eye.

      • Big Bill

        Apr 30, 2014 at 8:01 pm

        Forget revolution golf Don Trahan and Peak Performance golf is the best.

      • Boy George

        May 1, 2014 at 11:01 am

        I can’t believe you numpties are still advocating Stack and Tilt, it’s been around for a decade now and there isn’t a decent player on tour who uses it.

        It’s a failed theory, stop peddling it.

    • Bill Schmedes

      Apr 28, 2014 at 6:51 pm

      Joe Thanks for the comments! If your already a 3 handicap you are obviously a good player. It’s tough to make any suggestion without seeing your swing but I would advocate increasing your spine angle just a bit at set-up. Above in the downhill lie photo (address position) you can see my spine is still tilted away from the target even though there is more pressure in my lead leg due to the slope.

  26. Mike Frost

    Apr 28, 2014 at 10:51 am

    Great article Bill, Cobblestone looks great in the pics!

    • Bill Schmedes

      Apr 28, 2014 at 6:46 pm

      Thanks Mike! Hope your well. Had a lot of fun playing with you that day at Cobblestone!

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Instruction

The 3 different levels of golf practice

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“I would have practiced as hard, but I would have made my practice more meaningful. I would have worked more on my short game and putting. I would’ve done a lot more drills to make the practice more meaningful, and I would’ve added pressure to the practice as much as possible.” — Lee Westwood

Now here’s the rub. Practice is not monolithic! I approach practice as having three different, distinctive and separate curriculum and criteria.

  • Level 1: Basic
  • Level 2: Advanced
  • Level 3: Extreme

Basic Practice (Level 1) by definition is “repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.” Basically, it’s doing the same thing over and over again to get better at it. My favorite skill that requires practice is the 76-yard “flighted wedge.” I do it, and I recommend it be done at every range practice session. Additionally, I identify and then practice as many different “skills” that are required to hit different golf shots. I have found that a non-pressurized environment is the best way to practice in a basic model.

It goes without saying that golf is not played in a pressure-free environment, so basic practice doesn’t help us play golf. The prime objective of Level 2 Practice (Advanced Training) is to take what you do in Basic Practice to the golf course.

First, create on-course situations that require you to hit the shots you have practiced. There should be rewards for demonstrations of competence, and there should be consequences for demonstrations of incompetence

“When you practice, try to find a situation to fit the shot you’re trying to practice.” — Ben Hogan

For example, a major problem is the unevenness of the lies you will encounter during play as opposed to the lies you used for your drills. From marginal to extreme, lies are difficult to replicate on the practice tee. So, play a round of golf and move the ball into the most undesirable lie that is very close to where you are.

Another example would be duplicating the creativity that is sometimes required during actual play. The prime example of that would be the sensation of “being in-between clubs.” I would suggest that you play an occasional round of golf using only half of your clubs. Take two wedges instead of four. Take only the “odd” or “even” numbered irons. Look at not taking the driver, or not taking all of your fairway clubs. I have not taken my putter, which forced me putt with my sand wedge!

A third example would be to play a round of golf and deliberately miss every green in regulation. Should your ball accidentally finish on the green in regulation just move it off into the rough, a bunker or whatever else could use the extra attention. You can create games where your opponent moves your ball off the green into something that would be advantageous to him.

Level 2 Practice is conducted on the practice ground as well as on the course. What I do and recommend is to take each of the shots, skills and drills used in Level 1 and add some accountability to the range experience. I have my students and clients use a “Practice Book” to schedule activities and to keep track of improvement.

Author Note: I will send you a sample practice book page that many of my players actually use. Request it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Please be advised that Level 2 Practice can feature games, wagering or other forms of friendly competitions because they should only activate the lesser emotions of irritation, annoyance, anticipation, anxiousness, joy, pleasure and disappointment. Dealing with these feelings in practice will help you recognize and deal with the minor stresses experienced by most recreational golfers.

Stress is the major cause of “CHOKING.”

Stress, by definition “is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Stress can ruin our ability to perform when we experience the major emotions such as fear, anger, shame, humiliation, euphoria, ridicule, betrayal, doubt and/or disbelief.

Level 3 Practice (Extreme Preparation) is on-course training sessions best suited for very serious competitive golfers. The more a player is able to compete in a simulated or controlled environment that accurately replicates the actual “pressures” that produce the kind of stresses that can effect performance, the better the player will perform when stressed in actual tournaments or events. Please be advised that Extreme Practice DOES NOT feature games, gambling or “friendly” competitions. They don’t control the conditions of play sufficiently to replicate the type of pressure that would induce “stress.”

“Simulation, which  is a technique (not a technology) to replace and amplify real experiences with guided ones, often “immersive” in nature, that evoke or replicate substantial aspects of the real world in a fully interactive fashion.” For many years now, the medical profession has used simulations to train doctors, the military has used simulations to prepare troops for the realities of the battlefield and aviation has used simulators to train pilots. Simulating has the added benefits of being cost and time effective while producing verifiable results.

If it’s possible for airlines to replicate every possible scenario that a pilot could experience in the cockpit by using simulations, then why isn’t it possible to replicate situations, and subsequent emotional responses, that a competitive golfer could experience on the golf course? Let me give you an example of what I mean.

“I got nervous all the time, as nervous as the next guy. It’s just that I caught myself before it became destructive.” Jack Nicklaus

Recent events at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play gives us some evidence of the destructiveness of uncontrolled emotions. Justin Thomas said that he couldn’t get the thought out of his mind of becoming the No. 1-ranked player in the world should he defeat Bubba Watson in the semi-finals, which he failed to do.

“I haven’t had such a hard time not thinking about something so much,” Thomas said. “And that really sucked. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, to be perfectly honest.”

Then there was Ian Poulter being told that with his win over Louis Oosthuizen he had earned a spot in this years’ Masters tournament only to be told 10 minutes before his next match that he had not actually secured the coveted invitation. With elation, joy and satisfaction jerked away and replaced with disappointment, and possibly anger, the Englishman went out and got whipped by Kevin Kisner 8 & 6!

I concede that Justin Thomas’ and Ian Poulter’s situations were so unique that simulation-based practice and preparation techniques may not have been available to them, but now they both must know that their performance was effected negatively by mental stresses. And with that knowledge they may want to get tougher mentally. Level 3 Practice does that!

Not all that long ago, I was approached by a PGA Tour veteran for some on-course, one-on-one training. He was experiencing severe “choking” in pressurized short-game situations. So I took him out on the course and we replicated the exact shots he had problems with in the past. He demonstrated that he could perform each and every shot in a stress-free environment. We went into a “low-stress” training environment and his performance began to suffer. Then, at his urging to get “real,” we went into a “high-stress” practice mode and he melted down. Without going into details, he became so angry that not only couldn’t he hit golf shots, he tried to run me down with the golf cart as he retreated to the safety of his car.

Now, that’s not the end of the story. A few hours later, after some soul searching, he apologized for his lack of self-control and acknowledged that he had recognized the early signs of stress growing internally as we worked. We went back out onto the course and got back to work.

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Instruction

Winning Ways: Here’s what it takes to become a winner in Junior Girls golf

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Every competitive golfer strives to win, and I want to help them achieve their goals. Recently, I wrote a story highlighting the statistics behind winning in junior boys golf, and how they can do it more often. Now, we set out to examine the data on winning in junior girls golf, and provide ways they can improve. The data is based on an analysis of tournament results from all events during the 2017 year from the Junior Tour of Northern California. We then asked stats guru, Peter Sanders, Founder of ShotByShot.com, to provide the stats related to the winning scoring numbers that we found. Finally, we discuss ways that juniors can practice building skills and work towards becoming tournament winners.

The Winning Scores

In 2017 the Junior Tour of Northern California held 26 tournaments with 850+ members. According to our data collection based on information available on the website, the average girl’s tournament course measured 6145 yards. The average winning score for girls was 146 (36 holes), or 73 per round. Ten of the 22 tournaments where won with scores of 144 or better and the low 36 holes total was a whopping 133! In the data collection we also collected the average 10th place scores girls. The average 10th place score for girls was 159 or 79.5.

The Winning Stats

We provided the numbers to statistics expert Peter Sanders. Peter’s company has been providing Strokes Gained analysis for golfers for the last 29 years. Peter is the founder of ShotByShot.com, a website that provides golfers at all levels with Strokes Gained analysis, pinpoints specific strengths and weaknesses and highlights improvement priorities. Since the launch of ShotByShot.com in 2005, Peter has collected over 317,000 rounds. Accordingly, Peter has agreed to share the numbers, below, for a typical female player who averages 73. There are two important points to consider when reviewing these statistics:

  1. In order to have a complete picture of the puzzle that is golf, one must consider the ERRORS, or lack thereof, that play such an important role in scoring at every level. Even the 650+ PGA Tour stats ignore these important miscues. Shot By Shot has included them in their analysis from the beginning and they are highlighted in the infographics below.
  2. The data provided represents only tournament rounds. As such it will primarily represent the high school and college programs that use ShotbyShot.com

Infographics Created by Alexis Bennett

The Winning Preparation

Junior girls are encouraged to use these stats as a benchmark against their own performance to determine where they might need to improve against the “typical 73 player.” After identifying gaps in their game, they can then create practice plans to help improve. For example, a junior might notice they have more 3-putts than the model. To improve, they could work put more time into practice, as well as playing games on the golf course like draw-back and 2-putt.

  • Drawback is a game where after your first putt, you draw the second putt one putter length away from the hole. This often changes a shorter putt (> 2 feet) to a putt of between 3.5 – 5 feet. This putts significantly more pressure on your putting.
  • You may also play Two-Putt, a game where when you reach the green, you (or your playing competitor) tosses the ball away from the hole. You must 2-putt from that spot to move to the next hole (even if it takes a couple attempts!).

Others reading this article might find that they don’t hit enough greens. Improving this area will require more consistent strikes, which may require further technical development and block practice, as well as working on the golf course. To start, I would recommend that every junior implement the yardage rule. The yardage rule works like this; figure out the distance to the very back of the green. For example, this number may be 157. Then figure out what club ALWAYS flies 157, which might be 6-iron. Then choose 7-iron for the shot. This way your best shot will not fly the green, your average shot will likely be in the middle of the green and your less-than-perfect shot will hopefully end up on the front of the green.

During practice rounds, play competitive games with yourself to sharpen your ability to hit greens. For example, if you normally hit 7 greens per round, in practice your goal might be 9. You would track your results over a month and then see your progress.

Beyond building individual skills, like hitting greens or working on putting, junior golfers need times to play competitive rounds on their home golf courses. Ideally, these rounds are played against other people with similar skills and done under tournament like conditions with consequences (loser buys winner a coke or cleans their golf clubs). Playing hundreds of rounds at your home golf course under these conditions gives you a unique opportunity to sharpen your game, learn your tendencies and build skills such as endurance and mental toughness. Most importantly, it teaches you to win and shoot under par!

Please also keep in mind building these skills may take months (or even years). In my own personal experience, when I set out to improve my birdies per round, it took nearly 4 months and 75+ rounds and significant practice to begin to see a change. Depending on your schedule and access to resources like a golf course and instructor, some changes might take a year or more. Regardless, don’t ever worry; building a solid foundation in golf will always lead to rewards!

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PNF Drills: How To Turn Onto The Golf Ball

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In this video, I share a great drill to help you turn onto the ball. This will help you rotate through impact.

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