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5 things I learned traveling with a Tour player

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This story was selected as one of the 15 best GolfWRX stories of 2015!

As golf fans, we all dream of one day getting a taste of life on tour.

I got my taste in 2014 as part of a PGA Tour “entourage,” traveling to three consecutive PGA Tour events in Malaysia, Mississippi and Mexico. My role was that of trainer, massage therapist and nutritionist to Cameron Smith, and I had exclusive, inside-the-ropes access at each of the events.

The young Aussie is aiming to become only the seventh player in PGA Tour history to bypass tour qualifying school and the Web.com tour, and play his way on to the Tour through exemptions via top-10 finishes and sponsor invites. A T5 finish in Malaysia got him off on the right track.

As a fitness professional and a rusty six-marker, I learned a lot from this experience and wanted to share my insights about fitness, golf and life on tour. Below are the top five things I learned from my time spent with Cameron Smith, from which I hope you will benefit as well.

Insight No. 1

These guys are good, but they’re not perfect!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78_1TSJARCc

Tour Example

I watched a lot of golf during those three weeks, following Cameron during each competitive and practice round. He was paired with a variety of different players, from major champions and Ryder Cup heroes to journey-man pros. They all missed fairways, they all hit it in bunkers and they all lipped out short putts. Although there were many, many great golf shots from each and every player, not one of them played flawless golf for 18, 9 or even 5 holes in a row.

What to learn

If the best players in the world aren’t perfect, then neither are you or I. Accept that you’ll make mistakes — even count on it. Lower your expectations a little and have some fun. You might even shoot a better score!

Insight No. 2

Travel destroys posture.

IMG_4457

Tour Example

Every time we got off a plane, I saw Cameron’s shoulder’s and head come forward and his hips tighten up — his movement quality declined as a result. We had to do lots of “anti-travel” exercises to compensate for this and get him back on track.

What to learn

You might not do a huge amount of plane travel, but I’m willing to bet you sit for extended periods of the day. The commute to work, using the computer and watching TV are the equivalent of those long plane journeys on tour. Sitting and slouching extensively reeks havoc with your posture, which leads to poor set-up, alignment, missed shots and even injury.

Sit less, move more, stretch often and do some postural training: Check out the GolfFit App here

Insight No. 3

PGA Tour pros don’t always aim at the flag. 

IMG_4475

Tour Example

Walking inside the ropes on practice rounds allowed me to eavesdrop on lots of strategic conversions between players and caddies. Often PGA Tour players are aiming 20-to-30 feet away from the hole. Why? Because they know they’re not perfect and don’t want to miss the green in a dangerous spot.

What to learn

These guys don’t miss by much, we miss by lots — so why on earth are we firing at flags? If we just aim at the middle of the green, we’ll probably end up closer to the hole!

A course-charting expert who works with Golf Australia is a firm believer that if we removed the flag stick from every hole, forcing us to simply aim for the middle of the green, then club golfers would score much better on average.

Insight No. 4

Nutrition and hydration are crucial.

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Tour Example

At the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, it was really hot and incredibly humid. Regular small snacks and a water intake of around 6 liters (1.5 gallons) during the round were key to Cameron finishing strong each day. By contrast, many of his playing partners faded badly in the last few holes and were noticeably fatigued.

What to learn

I’m big on food and water consumption before, during and after golf. Being well hydrated and nourished could be the difference between finishing our rounds strong and riding the bogey train express all the way to the clubhouse.

Have a solid meal two hours before tee off. Then eat a mix of fruit, nuts and natural protein bars on hole Nos. 3, 9 and 15. Quantity is dependent on the individual — try not to stuff yourself, but don’t go hungry either!

Water intake should be higher than usual before, during and after the round. Aim for 1.5 pints before the round, three pints during the round and another one pint after. Double that if you are playing in hot and humid conditions.

Insight No. 5

You’ll see and hear more as a spectator during a practice round. 

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Tour Example

Being able to walk inside the ropes with no one else around gave me a great insight into strategy and on-course preparation. The experience taught me that these guys are good (but not perfect), and allowed me to take up-close video footage and even chat to some of the other players.

What to learn

Instead of going to an event to watch the weekend play and fighting the crowds to get a glimpse of the leaders, try turning up on Tuesday and watching the practice round. Take your camera and make some notes on what you see — you might just learn something!

For more information on all things golf fitness, including blog articles, programs and more, check out Golf Fit Pro.

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Nick Randall is a Strength and Conditioning Coach, Presenter, Rehab Expert and Massage Therapist contracted by PGA Tour Players. Nick is also a GravityFit Brand Ambassador. He is working with them to help spread their innovative message throughout the golf world and into other sports.

23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Pingback: Revive Your Golf Resolutions before 2016 Ends – GoodLife

  2. nick

    Jan 15, 2015 at 12:10 am

    yeah thought at the start could be an interesting read .was quickly let down .. anyone who has had a lesson or talked to a good pro or a good travelling Am is told this constantly . even the commentators give this simple knowledge and more.

  3. Milton

    Jan 13, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    Nice article. Thanks!

  4. Pingback: Do you need a hug? | The FutureNow

  5. JohnK

    Jan 12, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    Yea I was hoping for more than that also. 3 weeks and that is all you learned!? What about how players play their practice rounds (multiple balls off tees, etc…), how they strategize, what other stuff besides practice rounds and the pro-am do players do before the Thursday tee off? You know, more stuff that you don’t see on tv.

  6. Birdeez

    Jan 12, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    stay hydrated and the guys aren’t perfect….

    i was hoping for a little more. Everything listed really isn’t anything new. Was hoping for a little more behind the scenes stuff. players and caddies hang out after rounds. go out to dinner or stay get take out. who hangs with who. how certain players travel between events. etc etc.

    Give me 3 weeks with inside access to tournaments and following players and we’d get a better article than ‘drink water and guys don’t aim at flags’

  7. other paul

    Jan 12, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    I dont think I ever want to live on tour. Playing an event or two would be pretty cool. I have been chatting it up some guys playing in local Ams and they love playing, but hate paying.

    • leo

      Jan 12, 2015 at 4:34 pm

      if you ever got the opportunity to play on tour i think your opinion would change.what’s not to like about the chance to play golf everyday on the finest courses with the chance to make millions of dollars ,travel to the best destinations where the weather is usually beautiful and be treated like a king from arrival to departure,to have a personal valet aka caddie to attend to your every need ‘to have access to the best equipment,training,instruction and technology on the planet.even the tour caddies i know love being on tour.even being on the fringe of the tour,playing mini-tours going to monday qualifiers and q-school when they still had it,were the best years i ever had.

  8. other paul

    Jan 12, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    I love the look of that range!

  9. Steve

    Jan 11, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    Drink water, got it thanks

  10. Marshall Brown

    Jan 11, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    Great article! Would love to read more articles about insight on tour. Thanks!

  11. Matt Johnson

    Jan 11, 2015 at 8:10 pm

    May I ask what is a “rusty six-marker”? I’ve never heard this saying and a quick internet search reveals very little. Thanks.

    • Mark

      Jan 11, 2015 at 8:42 pm

      A 6 handicap who doesn’t play much, or is probably not as good as they were when they were playing to 6 regularly.

      Handicaps don’t usually blow out as quickly as your form can.

  12. Philip

    Jan 11, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    Very good info. I’ve pretty much incorporated all of the points (other than I don’t have many chances to watch golf on location) and I still have to resist flag hunting when I’m on a roll. I remember a couple of years ago, drinking 5-6 litres during rounds, plus additional water before and after, and not having to need the bathroom for hours after. It is incredible how much water our bodies can loss without us realizing it on hot and humid days.

  13. Ross

    Jan 11, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    What range is pictured in the very first image?

    • iknoweverything

      Jan 11, 2015 at 4:39 pm

      Big Cedar Lodge in Missouri

      • Ross

        Jan 11, 2015 at 5:46 pm

        Wow that is unreal. I think I saw this on one of the Tiger Woods video games years ago and I thought it was just made up!

        • iknoweverything

          Jan 11, 2015 at 6:08 pm

          I probably need a life since I was able to instantly recognize the range on a Champions tour event.

          • Jeff

            Jan 11, 2015 at 10:22 pm

            Don’t feel too bad, I did the same thing, blew up the pic and saw Faldo and then realized it champions tour and then recognized the course. But it is way cool huh

    • Double Mocha Man

      Jan 12, 2015 at 10:50 am

      Does the range cart drive through the sand traps to pick up balls?

  14. Nick G

    Jan 11, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    Saw this right as I posted. Good minds think alike.

  15. Nick G

    Jan 11, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    Great article and insight! Would love to see more like this out there. Thanks Nick.

  16. Preston

    Jan 11, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    Great article. We need more of this kind of insight.

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WATCH: Two drills to help you stop hitting it fat

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Here’s a response to a question on my Instagram page from Neil Riley. He asked if he should steepen the angle of attack in the downswing in order to stop hitting fat shots. In this video, I share two of the reasons why golfers might be hitting fat shots, as well as two drills to practice that will help them stop hitting it fat.

 

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Changing your golf swing? Consider this before you do

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Golfers I have taught over the years have an almost uncanny ability to put the golf club on the ball (to varying degrees, of course). I have seen well-hit shots from an incredibly wide variety of positions. I’ve seen closed faces, open faces, steep swings, flat swings, outside-in paths, inside-out paths, slow and fast swings, strong grips and weak grips ALL hit the golf ball solidly at times. How? Well, thinking about this may very well help your swing, especially before you decide to change something in it. Let’s take a look at a few examples to explain.

Strong Grips/Closed Clubfaces

We’ll start with the example of a strong grip that tends to get the clubface quite closed to the arc in the swing and at the top of the swing. If that is left alone in the downswing, the shots are very predictable: low and left (for a right-hander), sometimes barely getting off the ground. But many golfers hit the ball in the air and straight with a strong grip; in fact, many hit high blocks to the right. How? Well, they open the face on the way down and usually “hold on” through impact. They adapt to the closed clubface to make it work, and that’s the point here.

Now, if they reach good impact consistently like a Dustin Johnson, Graham McDowell and several others do with a closed clubface, we have no problem. But often club golfers do not; in fact, many slice and top the ball from a shut face at the top.  They do so because opening a closed face is a very shallowing move and prevents one from releasing the club properly (it’s a power outage as well).  Functionally, however, opening a shut is far better than releasing it from there, for obvious reasons. If the trail hand pronates, the face goes from closed to really closed. So golfers simply learn to open it.

So along comes some well-meaning friend who says your clubface is really closed at the top. You look at many great players, and sure enough, your face is clearly shut. So you correct it. What happens next is also very predictable: high and very right, and very thin with many topped shots. Why? Because you only corrected part of the problem. You fixed the shut face, but now you’ve taken a square clubface and massively opened it as a force of habit. You have ingrained that move into your swing because you had to open your old, shut clubface in the downswing. Correcting only ONE thing made your swing worse. Your swing is now dysfunctional.

That’s why if you commit to one change for the sake of improvement or consistency, you have to commit to both changes. If you don’t, you’ll get worse… not better.

Steep Swings

Here’s another: many amateur players start the downswing with the golf club far too steep. Maybe it’s over the top, maybe not (you can be just as steep from inside the ball). But when the golf club is too vertical in transition, it can result in any one of a number of impact mistakes: namely fat, slices and toe hits. So the idea of “flattening the transition” (good idea) becomes your priority, but there’s always a catch. Most experienced golfers correct steep through one of a few different ways listed below:

  • Raising the hands (standing the club up) to avoid fat shots
  • Tilting the torso back or away from the target to avoid opening the face
  • Sending the hands away from the body to avoid toes hits
  • Raising the swing center

You get the picture here. You learn to get the club on a better plane (flatter with the butt of the grip pointed more at the golf ball), but you’ll likely still have one of the “fit-in” moves left into impact. So a flatter club, which is by far a better way to square the face, might result in a shank if you’re used to sending your hands away from your body to avoid a toe hit. Raising the hands might top. Tilting the torso back away might hit shallow fats or tops. So you fixed the steep transition, but your impact is worse! Again, you’re dysfunctional.

Remember, if you commit to one change, you MUST commit to both.

Weak Grips/Over-The-Top

One more: Golfers who start out with a weak grip (as most do) slice. So as a reaction, they come over the top and swing outside-in. So they fix the grip, and of course, the result is predictable. They pull the ball, generally low and left (for right-handers). You get the pattern here. They need to learn a new swing direction, and on and on.

The lesson is clear; a single correction of a swing issue can be sufficient, but in my experience, two corrections must be tackled for long-term improvement. What to correct first? Well, you’d have to consult with your teacher or coach. As a rule, I try to get better impact first if I can get someone there from where their swing is now. Some other teachers may prefer a different sequence, but I think they’d all agree that a two-part correction is ultimately in the works.

I’ve always believed that teachers can disagree widely on the prescription, but they should be pretty much in unison regarding the diagnosis. Learn the swing flaw AND your reaction to it before you decide to make a swing change.

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How to use your handicap to lower your scores

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The fastest way to improve the game of an amateur, or a handicap golfer, is to use the established handicap as a guide to direct and then to measure that improvement. The measurement component is simple; as the game improves, the handicap goes down. Using the handicap as a guide is a bit more complex because the player must be dedicated, determined and disciplined enough to stay within the improvement process. And before I share with you the process, I want to share the foundation, or the rationale, that makes it work.

“Placing the ball in the right position for the next shot is 80 percent of winning golf.”

— Ben Hogan

Not all that long ago, I was present when a friend of a client of mine was complaining that no matter what he did with practice or lessons he just wasn’t getting better. He said that if he could just break 90 once he could “die a happy man.” It sounded like an opportunity to be of service to me, so I agreed to a playing lesson. The short version of that lesson was I told him what to hit and where to hit it — and he shot 87.

Was he happy? Not on your life! Angry, not quite… but really upset. Why? The poor guy said he didn’t have any fun!

The day of the playing lesson, I met the player on the range while he was warming up. I observed that he should never hit a driver, so I didn’t let him. I observed he couldn’t hit a long iron, so I didn’t let him. I had him tee off with a six iron on the par 4’s and 5’s, which he hated. And if he could have controlled his putting distance a bit better he wouldn’t have three-putted three times. No penalty shots, no water balls and no OB’s. All we did for 18 holes was try to put the ball in play and to keep it in play. He hated it. So much for dying a happy man.

During this playing lesson, I used the player’s handicap as a guide to maximize his playing ability, and I used his ability to help him make the best score he could at that time. So how did I use his handicap? I could see this player was no better than an 18, so I added one stroke to the posted par for each hole. Par 3’s became Par 4’s. Par 4’s became Par 5’s, and Par 5’s became Par 6’s. Once his par was established, he played each hole to get on the green according to that par adjustment. For example, the 210-yard par-3 became a 210-yard par-4. So instead of trying to get on the green from the tee, we used a strategy to get on the green in two and then two-putt for a 4, or “his par.”

I advocate every player use this handicap game-improvement system. A 15-handicap adjusts 15 holes so his par changes from 72 to 87; an 8-handicap adjusts eight holes so that his par changes from 72 to 80. I use this process for plus handicaps and professionals as well. A plus-4 adjusts four holes so his/her par changes from 72 to 68. Using this mindset, my playing lesson shot 3-under his par of 90.

I’ve had clients cut their handicaps in half in just a few months by adherence to this process. It works in lowering scores because it eliminates most “unforced errors,” and about half of all dropped shots at all levels are a direct result of unforced errors. Unforced errors occur when something is attempted that the player can’t do or shouldn’t do. The fewer unforced errors per round, the lower the score. It’s as simple as that.

I strongly urge golfers to chart each round of golf in order to identify every unforced error. Just email me at edmyersgolf@gmail.com and I will send the game-improvement scorecard that I have my clients use to evaluate their performance.

Posting lower scores is how handicaps go down, and all handicaps plateau when the player is faced with the realities of what he/she can and can’t do. For example, an improving handicap golfer may require the need to use clubs or hit shots not previously necessary. The playing experience reveals what needs practice, and practice is where the player should learn what can and can’t be done. Rule of Thumb: if you can do it 7/10 times in practice, you can consider doing it in play.

In the opening paragraph, I stated that dedication, determination, and discipline are required to stay within this improvement process should the player decide to implement it. But I should have said it takes a whole lot of all three. Experience tells me that players say what they feel, but do what they want. Neither is a plan for progress.

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