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Tour players know how to “bury the dead”

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Recently, a friend of mine went to a PGA Tour event and came back to the lesson tee to ask me about a drill a Tour player was doing. He had a front-row seat to watch one of the world’s best players practice, but he knew he missed something.

My friend was hanging around the short-game area when the tour player came up and dropped about 40 balls right in front of him. He began hitting shots to the same flag over and over again. It was not a particularly tough shot, but he kept hitting it until he hit all the balls and they were in a nice pile around the hole.

[quote_box_center]”Why would he do that?” my friend asked me. “It looked like a shot he should have no trouble playing.”[/quote_box_center]

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I told him that the tour player was doing what is called “burying the dead.”

You are now thinking the same thing he was thinking. “What?”

Somewhere in the last tournament, the tour player had a shot just like the one he was practicing and he either played it poorly, incorrectly, or both. He was going to hit as many perfect shots as he needed to erase that bad shot from his memory. During my playing career, I did the same thing many times in practice to restore my confidence level in a shot.

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What really good players have is a sense of what they need to address and work on after a round. The best-of-the-best reflect deeply on the good and bad from their rounds, assess what needs attention, and then they go about fixing that issue.

Sometimes it does not mean hitting lots of shots, but taking lots of practice swings. Or maybe it requires doing a drill numerous times to ingrain a feeling or change. Either way, it is just not hitting away at a pile of balls aimlessly. There is an attention to detail.

Golf is just too competitive at its top levels to practice without a purpose or plan. In the story above, the player’s plan was to cover the one bad shot with a bunch of good ones so that when he had that shot again, he could simply say with confidence, “I’ve got this shot,” without dwelling on the past.

The next time you’re done with a round, take a moment and reflect on what you need to work on in your game. Sometimes this means writing some notes on your scorecard or in a notebook after the round, while other times you might simply need a mental reminder. I like my players to make notes on paper so they can organize and prioritize what they need to practice. All my players get yardage book-size academy notebooks to keep in their bags just for this reason.

You can also ask your playing partners what shots they saw you struggle with on the course. You’re not looking for a lesson from them, just an clear picture of what areas of your game need some attention. Their unbiased assessment could provide a keen insight into a weakness they see regularly.

On the PGA and LPGA tours, the pros have their caddies as their neutral eyes and lean on them for honest evaluations of area that need to be addressed. A player’s coach should also be a good listener and ask questions that get lengthy game-play analysis from the player. This is a key and something I do with every player who is serious about their game from the top level through the junior level.

A coach has to listen first, then give the player the plan to “bury the dead.”

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If you are an avid Golf Channel viewer you are familiar with Rob Strano the Director of Instruction for the Strano Golf Academy at Kelly Plantation Golf Club in Destin, FL. He has appeared in popular segments on Morning Drive and School of Golf and is known in studio as the “Pop Culture” coach for his fun and entertaining Golf Channel segments using things like movie scenes*, song lyrics* and familiar catch phrases to teach players. His Golf Channel Academy series "Where in the World is Rob?" showed him giving great tips from such historic landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, on a Gondola in Venice, Tuscany Winery, the Roman Colissum and several other European locations. Rob played professionally for 15 years, competing on the PGA, Nike/Buy.com/Nationwide and NGA/Hooters Tours. Shortly after embarking on a teaching career, he became a Lead Instructor with the golf schools at Pine Needles Resort in Pinehurst, NC, opening the Strano Golf Academy in 2003. A native of St. Louis, MO, Rob is a four time honorable mention U.S. Kids Golf Top 50 Youth Golf Instructor and has enjoyed great success with junior golfers, as more than 40 of his students have gone on to compete on the collegiate level at such established programs as Florida State, Florida and Southern Mississippi. During the 2017 season Coach Strano had a player win the DII National Championship and the prestigious Nicklaus Award. He has also taught a Super Bowl and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, a two-time NCAA men’s basketball national championship coach, and several PGA Tour and LPGA Tour players. His PGA Tour players have led such statistical categories as Driving Accuracy, Total Driving and 3-Putt Avoidance, just to name a few. In 2003 Rob developed a nationwide outreach program for Deaf children teaching them how to play golf in sign language. As the Director of the United States Deaf Golf Camps, Rob travels the country conducting instruction clinics for the Deaf at various PGA and LPGA Tour events. Rob is also a Level 2 certified AimPoint Express Level 2 green reading instructor and a member of the FlightScope Advisory Board, and is the developer of the Fuzion Dyn-A-line putting training aid. * Golf Channel segments have included: Caddyshack Top Gun Final Countdown Gangnam Style The Carlton Playing Quarters Pump You Up

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. duckjr78

    Mar 6, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    This is a very underrated part of the game! So much more than “I have trouble with chip shots, I better go practice my chipping.” This encompasses practice, assessment, in-round awareness, attitude, and a host of other golf necessities. Great article Rob!

  2. talljohn777

    Mar 5, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    Wonderful. Thank you for the focus.

  3. Alex

    Mar 5, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    Great article Rob. I’ve definitely practiced shots that I screwed up during the round but not as much as you suggest. I’ll be more conscious about this in the future.

  4. Ken

    Mar 5, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    Love this article. It makes good sense to create new memories with regard to a specific shot or situation. Thanks!

  5. Chris

    Mar 5, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    Great article. I would love to see more articles on players practice routines. What are some ways they practice things, particularly short game areas to ensure their practice time is the most efficient and productive as possible?

    Would love to see an article on this.

  6. Rob Strano

    Mar 5, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Ponjo, thanks for the comment and I have to admit you got me to laugh. Never thought of that comment, that is a really good one.

  7. Ponjo

    Mar 5, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    Off to the cemetery right now Rob

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Instruction

Gabe Hjertstedt teaches Doc Rivers how to hit the lofted chip shot

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In the first episode of this instructional series with Short Game Guru Gabe Hjertstedt and NBA Coach for the Los Angeles Clippers Doc Rivers, Gabe teaches Doc how to hit the lofted chip shot to get the ball to stop quicker on the green.

Look out for more videos this week including more from Gabe and Doc’s short game session, their full lesson, and our interview with Doc.

Enjoy the first video below!

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WATCH: How to hit your driver more consistently

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In this video, I share two great drills that will help you improve your driving today.

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Instruction

3 keys for getting out of bunkers with soft sand

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One of the most infuriating things in golf is to land in a bunker that has too much sand, or sand with the consistency of a truckload of talcum power. Now, I am not picking on the Superintendents; they do have to add new sand from time-to-time, so no hate mail please! It’s my fault for hitting it in the bunker in the first place, and bunkers are supposed to be hazards; I know that.

The one thing we will assume for this article is that even though we are in soft sand, we will have a good lie, not a plugged or semi-plugged one. We are in a bunker that just has a bunch of sand, or it’s soft and fluffy sand. Everyone asks me what the secret is to handling these types of conditions and I’m here to help you get better.

1) Get a wedge with the correct bounce

Let’s consider that you play the same golf course every weekend, or that you mostly play on courses that have the same type of playing conditions mostly. When you have this luxury, you should have wedges that fit the conditions you tend to play. So, if you have a low bounce wedge with a sharp flange and you’re playing from bunkers with lots of sand, then you are putting yourself at a disadvantage.

Why alter your swing if the wedge you have can help you? Use a high bounce wedge (9-12 degrees of bounce) for soft sand, and a low bounce wedge (6-8 degrees) for firm sand.

2) Control your Angle of Attack 

As with most things in golf, there are always things that you must pay attention to in order for you to have the odds in your favor. Simple things such as paying attention to the lie you have can help you save shots in the rough. In bunkers, you cannot test the surface, however, you can use your feet to feel the density of the sand. Pay attention to what you feel in the balls of your feet. If you feel a ton of sand below you, then you know you will have to alter your angle of attack if you want any chance to get out of the bunker successfully.

So what do I mean by this?

The setting of your wrists has a very dynamic effect on how much the wedge digs in or skids through the sand (assuming you have an open face). When there is a surplus of sand, you will find that a steeper attack caused by the maximum cocking of your wrists makes it much easier for the wedge to work too vertical and dig too deep. When you dig too deep, you will lose control of the ball as there is too much sand between the blade and the ball — it will not spin as much and won’t have the distance control you normally have.

The secret to playing from softer sand is a longer and wider bunker swing with much less wrist-set than you would use on your stock bunker shot. This action stops the club from digging too deep and makes it easier for you to keep moving through the ball and achieving the distance you need.

3) Keep your pivot moving

It’s nearly impossible to keep the rotation of your shoulders going when you take too much sand at impact, and the ball comes up short in that situation every time. When you take less sand, you will have a much easier time keeping your pivot moving. This is the final key to good soft-sand bunker play.

You have made your longer and more shallow backswing and are returning to the ball not quite as steeply as you normally do which is good… now the only thing left to do is keep your rear shoulder rotating through impact and beyond. This action helps you to make a fuller finish, and one that does not lose too much speed when the club impacts the sand. If you dig too deep, you cannot keep the rear shoulder moving and your shots will consistently come up short.

So if you are in a bunker with new sand, or an abundance of sand, remember to change your bounce, adjust your angle of attack, and keep your pivot moving to have a fighting chance.

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