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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.

451364042

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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WATCH: How to stop swaying during your golf swing

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In this video, I share with you how to stop swaying for good. I demonstrate how to use PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) to create the correct movements in your backswing. This video is part of a series on PNF drills.

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A shockingly simple drill to hit the golf ball farther

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One of the biggest requests I get on the lesson tee is for more distance. Everyone wants to hit the golf ball farther. Obviously. That being said, there’s many things that go into producing distance, such as…

  • Swing Length — how long is the swing or how long does the club stay in the air before hitting the ball?
  • Swing Width — are you at full extension at during the swing or do you get soft arms?
  • Impact Point — the horizontal and vertical point of contact that influences gear effect, launch, and spin rate.
  • Spin Rate — how much backspin does the ball have?
  • Height — how high is the ball in the air?
  • Launch Angle — what is the angle of the ball off the face during impact?
  • Ball Speed — how fast does the ball leave the blade?

But one thing remains true: if you want more distance, then you must swing faster with all of the above being maximized for your current swing speed. So how do you create more speed? Simple — set up the drill as shown below.

Use between 6-to-10 balls and swing 100 percent all out with no regard for where the ball lands. Then repeat the drill and make your normal speed swing and you will find that your clubhead speed will slightly increase. Do this drill 5 to 10 times per practice session and you will train yourself to swing faster.

However, it’s up to you to figure out how fast you can swing yet maximize the qualities listed above so you can maintain consistent contact.

Remember, you don’t have to get complex to solve your distance problem. Try this first and see what happens!

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Your Body Is Your Most Important Piece Of Equipment; It’s Time For An Upgrade

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Clubs, balls, shoes, mental training, lessons. Golfers are always searching for the next thing that is going to transform their game. If a product has promise, golfers are like addicts; they must have it… regardless of the price. What’s usually ignored, however, is the most important piece of equipment for all golfers: their body, and how their physical conditioning pertains to golf.

Everything becomes easier by getting in better “golf shape.” You will likely hit the ball farther, have better energy and focus, fewer aches and pains, improved ability to actually implement swing changes and the durability to practice more.

When trying to improve your physical conditioning for golf, it would shortsighted not to mention the following requirements:

  1. Discipline: There will be times you don’t want to train, but should.
  2. Patience: Small, incremental progress adds up to big improvement over time.
  3. A Path: Make sure you use your time and effort efficiently by having a training plan that matches your goals.

If you can adopt these principles, I am confident you will be very happy with the return — even more so than the latest driver, putter or practice aid.

I like to compare having a well functioning body to a painter’s blank canvas. By ensuring you have adequate coordination, motor control, mobility, stability, strength and speed, you have the basic tools necessary for a high-performance golf swing. Of course, you will still need to develop a functional technique and specific skill level that matches your goals. On the flip side, if you are deficient in these areas, you are like a dirty canvas; your options are limited and you will need to make compensations to achieve anything close to the desired outcome. In simpler terms, movements that are universally desirable in the golf swing may be very difficult or impossible for you based on your current physical state.

Earlier, I mentioned the term “appropriate training,” and now I am going to discuss one of the ways to identify what this means for you as a golfer trying to use physical training to support a better golf game. The TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Movement Screen is a great start for everyone. It is a combination of 16 exercises that are used to assess your current movement capabilities, identify limitations and provide you with your “Body-Swing” connection. The “Body-Swing” connection is a term coined by TPI that illustrates the link between physical deficiencies and potential swing tendencies based on its “Big 12” model. The Big 12 swing characteristics that TPI has identified are as follows:

  1. S-Posture
  2. C-Posture
  3. Loss of Posture
  4. Flat Shoulder Plane
  5. Early Extension
  6. Over The Top
  7. Sway
  8. Slide
  9. Hanging Back
  10. Reverse Spine Angle
  11. Casting
  12. Chicken Winging

It’s important to note these as tendencies rather than flaws, as great ball strikers have demonstrated some of them. When done excessively, they make high functioning swings more difficult and may make potential injury more likely. Rather than going through all 16 screening exercises (which would be a very long read), I have selected five that I feel provide a lot of useful information. They can often broadly differentiate the playing level of golfers.

1. Static Setup Posture

There is a lot of debate in golf instruction about what is the correct way to assume posture for the golf swing. Some prefer more rounded shoulders akin to what was common in years gone by: Jack and Arnie being good examples. Others prefer a more extended thoracic spine (less curved upper back): Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott are good examples. I’m not a golf instructor and clearly both types can hit great golf shots. I am more concerned with the lumbar spine (the lower back, which doesn’t seem to get as much attention when the setup is being discussed).

Note the difference between the spinal curvatures of Jack and Rory. I’m OK with either as long as the lower back is in a biomechanically sound position (explained in video).

An overly extended or arched lower back (which I demonstrate in the video) creates too large a space between the alignment rod and my lower back. This is a common issue I see, and it can lead to a lack of pelvis rotation, a lack of power due to the inability to effectively use the glutes and abdominal muscles and lower back discomfort. Cueing a slight posterior tilt (tucking the tailbone underneath you) often makes a noticeable difference in pelvis mobility, power, and comfort.

 2. Pelvic Rotation

Pelvic rotation is essential for X-factor stretch, the ability to increase the amount of separation between the pelvis and torso during transition (moving from the backswing into the downswing). This is often referred to as starting the downswing with the lower body/hips (while the torso is still rotating away from the target or is paused at the end of the backswing). It is critical for effective sequencing and power production. Increasing the separation between your pelvis and torso on the downswing increases what is known as the “stretch-shortening cycle” of your trunk and torso muscles, which is like adding more stretch to an elastic band and then releasing it. If you cannot separate pelvic rotation and torso rotation, it will be extremely difficult to be a good golfer.

In the video below, watch how Rickie Fowler’s pelvis rotates toward the target independently of his torso. This increases the elastic energy stored in his muscles and tendons, allowing for big power production.

 3. Lower Quarter Rotation

The Lower Quarter Rotation Test shares some similarities to the Pelvic Rotation Test, but one key difference is that it doesn’t require nearly as much motor control. Many people fail the pelvic rotation test not because of a mobility limitation, but because they can’t control the different segments of the their body and perform the action they want (motor control issue). The Lower Quarter Rotation Test, on the other hand, does not require anywhere near as much control and therefore looks more directly at the internal and external rotation mobility of the lower body. People who struggle with this test are more likely to sway, slide and have reverse spine angle.

DJ Top of backswing.jpg

I’m confident Dustin Johnson would do OK on the Lower Quarter Rotation test. Look at how well he can turn into his right hip.

 4. Seated Thoracic Rotation

This one usually resonates with golfers, as “getting a full shoulder turn” is something that golf media and players like to talk to about regularly. I think most people understand the concept of a sufficient shoulder turn being important for creating power. Restricted thoracic spine rotation can stem from a few different causes. A common one is excessive thoracic flexion (rounder upper back). To test this for yourself: 1) try the test in the video hunched over and 2) with your spine as long as possible. You should notice you can rotate farther when you sit extended.

5. 90/90 External Shoulder Rotation  

Many popular golf instruction pages on social media talk about the importance of shallowing the shaft in transition and trail arm external shoulder rotation. I understand the reasoning for this in terms of swing technique, but something that needs to be taken into consideration is whether golfers actually have the ability to externally rotate their shoulders. This is often not the case. Two interesting trends I have noticed with golfers and external shoulder rotation:

  1. A larger percentage of U.S. golfers compared to Irish golfers (the two countries I have worked in) tend to have much more trail arm external rotation available. This is mainly due to throwing baseballs and footballs in their youth, which doesn’t happen in Ireland.
  2. Shoulder external rotation, shoulder flexion, and thoracic extension really seem to reduce as golfers get older compared to other movements. Please take note of this and put some exercises into your routine that promote mobility and stability in the thoracic spine and scapula, as these are the foundation for sound shoulder mechanics. Thoracic extensions on a foam roller, relaxed hanging from a pull-up bar and wall slides with external rotation are some exercises I like to use.
MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Toronto Blue Jays

I think this pitcher would have enough external shoulder rotation in his golf swing.

I hope this article gave you some more understanding of how learning about your body and then working on its limitations might be beneficial for your golf game. If you have questions about the TPI Movement Screen or are interested in an online evaluation, please feel free to e-mail me.

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