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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.

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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. 

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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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A simple formula to figure out the right ball position for you

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In this video, I offer my simple formula on ball position that has seen my students produce more consistency. Watch to see how you can adapt your ball position to hit more shots on target.

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How to fix the root cause of hitting your golf shots fat

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Of all the shots golfers fear, hitting the ball FAT has to be right up at the top of the list. At least it heads the list of commonly hit poor shots (let’s leave the shank and the whiff out for now). After fat, I’d list topping, followed by slicing and then hooking. They are all round-killers, although the order of the list is an individual thing based on ability. Professionals despise a hook, but club golfers by and large fear FAT. Why?

First of all, it’s embarrassing. Secondly, it goes nowhere — at least compared to thin — and it can be physically painful! So to avoid this dreaded miss, golfers do any number of things (consciously or subconsciously) to avoid it. The pattern develops very early in one’s golf life. It does not take very many fat shots for golfers to realize that they need to do something differently. But rather than correct the problem with the correct move(s), golfers often correct a fault with a fault.

Shortening the radius (chicken-winging), raising the swing center, early lower-body extension, holding on through impact (saving it), running the upper body ahead of the golf ball and even coming over the top are all ways of avoiding fat shots. No matter how many drills I may offer for correcting any of those mistakes, none will work if the root cause of fat is not addressed.

So what causes fat? We have to start with posture. Some players simply do not have enough room to deliver the golf club on a good plane from inside to inside. Next on the list of causes is a wide, early cast of the club head. This move is invariably followed by a break down in the lead arm, holding on for dear life into impact, or any of the others…

“Swaying” (getting the swing center too far off the golf ball) is another cause of fat, as well as falling to the rear foot or “reversing the weight.” Both of these moves can cause one to bottom out well behind the ball. Finally, an excessive inside-out swing path (usually the fault of those who hook the ball) also causes an early bottom or fat shot, particularly if the release is even remotely early. 

Here are 4 things to try if you’re hitting fat shots

  1. Better Posture: Bend forward from the hips so that arms hang from the shoulders and directly over the tips of the toes, knees slightly flexed over the shoelaces, seat out for balance and chin off the chest!
  2. Maintaining the Angles: Casting, the natural urge to throw the clubhead at the golf ball, is a very difficult habit to break if one is not trained from the start. The real correction is maintaining the angle of the trail wrist (lag) a little longer so that the downswing is considerably more narrow than the backswing. But as I said, if you have been playing for some time, this is risky business. Talk to your instructor before working on this!
  3. Maintaining the Swing Center Over the Golf Ball: In your backswing, focus on keeping your sternum more directly over the golf ball (turning in a barrel, as Ernest Jones recommended). For many, this may feel like a “reverse pivot,” but if you are actually swaying off the ball it’s not likely you will suddenly get stuck with too much weight on your lead foot.
  4. Setting Up a Little More Open: If your swing direction is too much in-to-out, you may need to align your body more open (or feel that way). You could also work with a teaching aid that helps you feel the golf club is being swung more out in front of you and more left (for right-handers) coming through — something as simple as a head cover inside the golf ball. You’ll hit the headcover if you are stuck too far inside coming down.

The point is that most players do what they have to do to avoid their disastrous result. Slicers swing way left, players who fight a hook swing inside out and anybody who has ever laid sod over the golf ball will find a way to avoid doing it again. This, in my opinion, is the evolution of most swing faults, and trying to correct a fault with a fault almost never ends up well.

Get with an instructor, get some good videos (and perhaps even some radar numbers) to see what you are actually doing. Then work on the real corrections, not ones that will cause more trouble.

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Right Knee Bend: The Difference Between PGA Tour Players and Amateurs

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The knees play an especially important role in the golf swing, helping to transfer the forces golfers generate through our connection with the ground. When we look closer at the right knee bend in the golf swing, we’re able to get a better sense of how PGA Tour players generate power compared to most amateur golfers.

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