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Mitchell: The value of a team in golf instruction

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I love being around smart people, especially the experts within their own professions or passions. I feel truly blessed that I have a wonderful team around me that helps me grow, and help my students improve quickly.

A recent example of this team work took place at my practice facility, when I asked a biomechanist, Roy Khoury, who specializes in golf performance, for his input with one of my student’s golf technique. Roy is a TPI Certified Level 3 Golf Fitness Instructor, and runs the Fit Fix Studio in Newport Beach, Calif. 

I had hit a plateau with my student’s learning curve, and was not satisfied with our progress. For the purposes of this story, we’ll call her Isabel (not her real name).

Every lesson, Isabel left with better results and shot making, but always returned the following lesson with some form of relapse. I am a firm believer that there are many ways to solve a problem in the game of golf. Unfortunately, every solution I provided for Isabel behaved like a temporary fix versus a permanent solution.

This was not a question of Isabel not paying attention or not putting in the work in between practice sessions — she was very motivated. Therefore, I wanted to explore the possibility of whether Isabel had physical limitations (possibly from a recent accident, or a lack of strength and/or flexibility), or whether she simply needed to trigger different movement patterns to achieve better technique.

I am always thankful for my initial training with David Leadbetter. Fixing the cause, versus the effects, was stressed time and again to achieve the fastest, most effective changes to a student’s technique. With the help of another expert, Isabel will continue to move forward with her technique and her golf game, because a primary cause was correctly evaluated.

Let’s share the details of this specific example to highlight how Roy helped Isabel achieve better technique and results. The technical need for Isabel was a different winding and unwinding of her body motion. Her lower body led her backswing, while her upper body led her downswing (reverse pivot). This technique produced inconsistent ball contact, erratic ball flights and a loss of distance.

TimMitchell

An example of a golfer with a “reverse pivot.”

In the photo above, Roy is simulating Isabel’s technique. Note how the trail knee and hip are outside the yellow, which represent’s Roy’s Address position. Note also how Roy’s target shoulder is closer to the target compared with his target hip. These are classic reverse pivot traits.

Roy conducted a series of physical screens that tested Isabel’s strengths, limitations and movement pattern. Each “test” was administered with the intent of identifying the needs of Isabel’s body, with the goal of helping her improve her technique and ball hitting skills.

After a series of exercises were conducted, two screens provided the most glaring results. First was the overhead squat, where Isabel’s knees collapsed laterally during the squatting motion.

The second screen with detrimental results was the single leg balance test. Isabel had a challenging time staying in balance on her trail leg for a sustained period of time. Plus, when Isabel was able to maintain her balance, her motion was very unstable and wobbly.

Both tests showed a lack of ability to stabilize the trail hip, which is a necessary skill to encourage a better pivot with the lower body during the backswing. The better pivot should help change the wind and unwinding sequence of Isabel’s instinctive motion.

The driving range fix was to give Isabel an exercise to help her body create more stability by training with an opposing lateral force. We wrapped a large therapy resistance band around Isabel’s trail leg during her swinging motion. The task for Isabel was to resist against our pulling motion of her trail leg, away from the target.

This extra force encouraged Isabel’s lower body to be self-correcting, or reflex-correcting. A reflexive fix frequently produces a quicker and more efficient fix compared to verbal cues. By changing that sequence, Isabel was more capable of having her upper body lead the backswing and lower body lead the down swing.

Isabel made significant improvements with this exercise. She also recognized that she would likely regress (like she had historically) if she did not change her instinctive movement patterns.

Roy designed an exercise program to help Isabel change those movement patterns, so she will have a better chance of changing her technique permanently. Isabel understands that by changing her technique, she will have a better chance of achieving her golfing goals more quickly.

Having additional experts around me has helped me grow as a teacher and my students  have achieved faster, more permanent results. If you’ve encountered a plateau with your technique, I encourage you to ask your teaching professional to introduce you to a golf fitness specialist. Together, they may introduce the next component to help you progress with your golf game.

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Certified Teaching Professional at the Pelican Hill Golf Club, Newport Coast, CA. Ranked as one of the best teachers in California & Hawaii by Golf Digest Titleist Performance Institute Certified www.youtube.com/uranser

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Chuck

    Apr 10, 2015 at 11:16 am

    I suspect I won’t be the only person to look at the top-of-page photo of Ben Crane, and think, “That sort of ‘process’ embodies so much of what is wrong in modern golf! The slowest player on the PGA Tour!”

    Now, as for the author’s comments about the value of fitness testing and training, and the value of good instruction, I have no argument. Who could argue? It’s hard, but invaluable, on the world’s leading golf equipment website, to make the observation that “The best equipment you can buy is… lessons.”

    But let’s also not lose sight of the golden age of golf in which swings like Trevino, Snead, Hogan, Palmer, Couples and Kathy Whitworth were as self-taught as they were natural.

    • marcel

      Apr 13, 2015 at 7:00 pm

      these days no one cares if you are self-taught musician or golfer or tennis player… the difference is obvious within seconds… i got lucky to get classically trained in music / composition, golf and tennis… also hitting gym 5-6x a week… crossfit conditioning and gymnastics (very toddler level tho). what I noticed is – try if you have a passion and then get coach… what i learned in tennis on my own in 10 years were eclipsed by pro 1 lesson – whats worse is that I had the bad habits which took almost 18 months to fix. in golf i tried different approach – went to driving range – i liked it and then got a coach to eliminate bad habits.

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Instruction

Trackman Tuesday (Episode 2): Driver Loft

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Welcome to Episode 2 of Trackman Tuesday. In this weekly series, I will be using Trackman data to help you understand the game of golf in a little more detail and help you hit better shots and play better golf.

In this week’s episode, I look at driver loft. What effect does driver loft have on your shots and how important is it, really?

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How Far Away from the Ball Should You Be at Address?

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How far away from the ball should you be at address? This video is in response to a question from Tom McCord on Facebook.

In this video, I look at the setup position. I offer a simple way to check your distance from the ball at address with your driver, irons and wedges.

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Tour Pros Revealed: 3 Tests to See How You Stack Up

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You want to be better at golf, more consistent and longer off the tee. I am sure a lot of you would love to stop hurting. You would like these things with minimal work, if possible. You also want them yesterday. That about sum it up?

In the next 5 minutes, you’ll learn about the one thing that solves these problems for good. Before we dive in, though, I want to tee up three stats for you from my research.

  1. PGA Tour players can jump between 18-22 inches off the ground while LPGA Tour players can jump between 16-20 inches off the ground. Long drive competitors can often leap 30+ inches off the ground!
  2. Elite-level golfers who drive the ball 300+ yards can shot put a 6-pound ball more than 30 feet with less than a 5-percent difference in right-handed to left-handed throws.
  3. Elite golfers in the world can hurl a medicine ball with a seated chest pass just as far in feet as they can jump in inches (ie. a 20-inch vertical leap and a 20-foot seated chest pass).

What do these numbers have to do with you and your game? More importantly, what do these stats have to do with solving your problems? Let’s start by telling you what the solution is.   

Objective Assessment and Intelligent Exercise Prescription

Say that three times fast. It’s a mouth full… But seriously, read it two more times and think about what that means.

It means that before you act on anything to improve your health or your game, you need to objectively assess what the problem is and get to the root cause. You should use quality objective data to arrive at intelligent health and golf improvement decisions based on the long-term likelihood that they will be successful. We can’t just select exercises, swing changes or training aids based on what is hot in the market today or what the latest celebrity was paid big bucks to sell to us.

There is a reason why the infomercials you see today on Golf Channel will be different in 2 months. The same gimmicks run out of steam when enough people realize that is what they are… gimmicks. When looking to achieve your goals of playing better golf and/or having less pain, don’t just grab for the quick fix as so many golfers today do. 

We are in the information age. Information from quality data is power. Using this data intelligently, you can fix problems in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost. Hopefully, I am giving you the power to make a meaningful and lasting change in your game. I’m sorry to say that most amateurs will not be hitting 300+ yard drives despite what the latest marketing ploy will have you believe. But, if you know what tests you can do to measure the areas that affect your distance off the tee, you can at least gain insight into where your biggest return on your time investment will be. 

This is where working with a golf fitness expert can be so valuable to you. Not only can they help you interpret your results from the tests, but they will also be able to prescribe you the most effective means to move closer to 300 yards from where you are right now.  

If you have a problem with your car not accelerating as fast as you would like or not being able to reach top end speed on the highway, I hope you take it to the mechanic and don’t just look up quick fixes on YouTube to see what you can do on your own. The reason you pay the mechanic to fix your car is because that is what they do all day. They will get it done as quickly as possible. More importantly, they’ll get correctly so that the problem doesn’t pop up again in 2 weeks.

A golf fitness expert is no different. Use them for their expertise and knowledge. Once you have a diagnosis of what is holding you back and a plan to correct it, you are on your way and won’t have to waste any more time or money trying silly quick fixes that never stick.

The three statistics mentioned earlier represent numbers measured across the globe by industry leaders and at our facility 3-4 times per year on hundreds of golfers each time. Our facility has thousands of data points. With this much data comes the ability to draw conclusions from objective assessments. These conclusions drive the intelligent implementation of successful solutions directed at the root causes of problems for thousands of golfers around the globe.

The first three statistics have an R-value of over 0.85 in correlation to clubhead speed. Translation: if you perform well in the first three tests with high numbers, you are very likely to have a high club speed. Further, if you improve in any of those three tests relative to where you started, you are almost assured to have a higher club speed than when you began (assuming swing technique and equipment is relatively unchanged).  

Keep in mind that in statistics, correlation is not the same as cause and effect. But when the R-value is that close to 1 and anecdotally you have seen the results and changes we have, you put some weight behind these three tests. So:

  • See how high you can jump
  • See how far you can shot put a 6-pound medicine ball
  • See how far you can chest pass a 6-pound medicine ball from a seated position

Doing so will give you an idea of how much power you have in your lower body, total rotary system and upper body respectively. Train whichever one is the worst, or train them all if you want. Rest assured that if you improve one of them, you will more than likely increase your swing speed.  

By doing these assessments and addressing the one or two weak areas, you will improve with the least work possible. Sounds about what you were looking for, right? If you are able to identify where you need to improve BEFORE you buy whatever is claiming to fix your problems, you will save lots of money and time. You will actually start to improve with the least amount of work possible and in the least amount of time possible.  

What’s next? After completing the assessment tests, start working to improve them.

  • Coming Soon: Lower Body Power for Golf
  • Coming Soon: Upper Body Power for Golf
  • Coming Soon: Rotary Power for Golf
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