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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

Want more power and consistency? Master this transition move

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Lucas Wald Transition

World Long Drive competitor Eddie Fernandes has added speed and consistency by improving these transition moves. You can do it, too!

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Why you must practice under pressure if you want to play better golf

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Practice, as most of us employ it, is borderline worthless. This is because most of the practices, if you will, typically employed during practice sessions have little chance of improving our performance under pressure.

The type of practice that improves performance is, for the most part, rarely engaged in because practicing under typical “practice” conditions does very little to simulate the thoughts, feelings, and emotions we deal with once our performance actually means something. If we want to really improve our performance when it matters, we need to put ourselves in situations, often and repeatedly, that simulate the pressure we experience during competition. And nowhere is this statement more true than on the putting green.

The art and skill of putting is a funny thing. No element of the game requires less inherent hand-eye coordination or athletic talent. Putting’s simplicity makes it golf’s great equalizer. You roll a ball along the ground with a flat-faced stick in the general direction of a hole nearly three times its size. Sure, green speeds vary wildly, and there are those diabolical breaks to deal with, but despite that, putting is truly golf’s most level playing field; it’s the one element of the game where even the highest handicappers can potentially compete straight up with the game’s most skilled. At the same time, there are few other situations (other than maybe the first tee) when we feel as much pressure as we do on the putting green.

Ben Hogan, during the latter part of his career — years that were marred by poor putting — claimed that putting shouldn’t even be a part of the game because, in his words, “There is no similarity between golf and putting; they are two different games, one played in the air, and the other on the ground.”

Now, Hogan suffered a serious case of the yips later in his career, and while this statement was likely uttered following a frustrating round of missed three-footers, it serves to highlight not only the differences between putting and the rest of the game, but how taxing on the nerves it can be for even the game’s greats.

Its inherent simplicity, the slow pace of the stroke, and how much time we are given to contemplate it, are in truth what sets us up. It’s golf’s free throw. We very often know exactly what to do, and how to do it, like when we’re faced with one of those straight three-footers, but with more time to think, it opens the door wide for the type of second-guessing that arises during those moments we feel a bit of pressure. And that’s the biggest part of the problem.

The self-sabotage that leads to missing relatively short easy putts, the reasons behind it, and practices to overcome it is something for a different article. What I really want to get into at the moment is a practice that I think can help ensure you never end up in that desperate place to begin with.

Most of us rarely practice our putting, and when we do, it’s in about the most useless way we can. We’ve all done it. You grab a sleeve of balls just prior to the round, head to the practice green, and begin rolling them from hole to hole around the typical nine-hole route. Now I could go into a whole host of reasons why this isn’t very helpful, but the No. 1 reason it’s such a pitifully poor practice is this: there is no pressure.

Early in my career, I worked at a club where there was at least one money game on the putting green every day, and many nights too. The members (and staff) putted aces, 5 for $5, rabbits, and many other games for hours on end, and when the sun went down they often switched on the clubhouse roof-mounted floodlights and continued into the wee hours. Many days (and nights) I witnessed hundreds of dollars change hands on that putting green, occasionally from my own, but in my younger days, that was fortunately an infrequent occurrence.

Those money games were a cherished part of the culture of that club and an incredibly good arena in which to learn to practice under pressure. To this day, I’ve never seen as many really good pressure putters (many of very average handicaps) as I did during that period, and when I think back, it’s no small wonder either.

The problem with practicing golf, or just about any other sport for that matter, is that it’s difficult to practice under the types of pressure we compete in. In 4 or 5 hours on the golf course we might only have a half dozen putts that really mean something, and maybe only 2 or 3 of those knee-knocking 3 footers with the match on the line or the chance to win a bet.

When I was younger and playing in those money games on the putting green, I had a meaningful putt every minute or two, for hours on end, and you either learned to handle that pressure pretty quickly or your hard-earned paycheck was being signed over to someone else. Now I’m not bringing this up to encourage gambling, as I know for some people that can become a serious issue, but rather to point out how the opportunity to practice repeatedly under pressure helped me learn to deal with those situations. And with how infrequently we even get the opportunity to face that same pressure when we actually play, it’s important to try do our best to simulate it as often as we can during practice.

So when it comes to my own students these days, I don’t necessarily encourage gambling (I don’t discourage a little bit of it either), but I do encourage putting and practicing for something. I’ll get three of my students together on the putting green and say “look, you guys putt for 30 minutes and the loser has to do 100 push-ups” or something similar. I’ll tell students to putt against a parent for who has to mow the lawn, do the dishes, or some other mundane household chore neither of them really wants to do. The point is to have something on the line, something that will make it really hurt to lose.

You can even do it by yourself. Wait to practice putting right before lunch or dinner and make a pact with yourself that you can’t eat until you make 15 three-footers in a row. Until you find a way to practice under pressure all that practice is really just that: practice. You shouldn’t be surprised if, when the chips are down, mindless practice doesn’t translate to improved performance. Hopefully, by learning to simulate pressure during practice, you’ll play better when the heat is really on.

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WATCH: How to execute the “y-style” chipping technique

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Top-100 instructor Tom Stickney of Punta Mita Golf Academy shows an easier way of chipping around the greens to get the ball rolling faster and ensure ball-first contact. Enjoy the video below, and hope this helps!

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