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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. 

img_2896

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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Davies: The Trail Elbow In The Downswing

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In this video, I discuss the role of the trail elbow in the downswing. I also share some great drills to help golfers deliver the trail elbow correctly, which will help improve distance and contact.

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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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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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