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What golfers can learn from NCAA March Madness

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Golfers can absolutely learn from the buzzer beaters and crazy finishes that are sure to happen over the next few weeks at the March Madness basketball tournament.

In golf, like in basketball, you must learn to “score the ball” when the game or tournament is on the line.

For the players competing in March Madness, the pressure is at an all-time high, especially as time winds down in the games and their season hangs in the balance — but those moments aren’t new to them.

Hoops coaches often simulate pressure moments in practice, teaching players how to deal with scoring situations that arise during the final moments of a game. I am a huge fan of Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski and have read several of Coach K’s books. He likes to set up creative pressure conditions for his players to react to, thereby ingraining the correct response come game time.

One time in practice, he set the scoreboard timer for 2 minutes and turned his three-point shooters loose trying to beat a target score. When they beat that, Coach K increased the target total, pushing his team to make as many three’s as possible in two minutes. Similarly, a basketball coach may put 10 seconds on the clock in practice, and have the offense run suicides if they don’t score the “winning shot” in time. These tactics prepare players for the heat of competition, and instill the ability to score as the pressure increases and the game is on the line!

This type of preparation for pressure moments can be useful in your golf practice sessions as well. 

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Golfers these days do not practice the way we did when I was younger. I can remember having chipping and putting contests with the other kids at my club in St. Louis. I grew up with the Haas and Goalby kids, and I can tell you no one wanted to lose. These were battles for candy bars and sodas and there was a lot of smack talk and chirping going on in every contest.

I don’t see that going on anymore. I do not see our members out there competing during practice, nor do I see any of the kids — not even my academy kids — doing this. I have to provoke the competition by telling them, “How about you two have a contest?”

I encourage golfers to gin up practice-area games with their buddies and play for something meaningful. Not only does that build some pressure, but it makes golfers focus, and will start to “pressure proof” your putting and short game. The old saying, “The hotter the fire the harder the steel,” surely applies here.

Brenden Steele and Keegan Bradley have a standing game of H-O-R-S-E on the putting green during practice rounds at PGA Tour events. I can tell you from watching lots of their competitions, although they’re friendly with each other, they DO NOT like to lose.

I had a player several years ago, who I was working with on the PGA Tour, and we used to have heated contests during practice. One time, we were on the back of the range at the TPC Stadium course working on wedge play. It became so intense that the last competition of the day required us to precisely measure the final shot to determine the winner — that’s how serious it was! Everyone needs more of this in their practice sessions.

When you practice, make up your own mini tournaments

Just like every other kid that went on to play professional golf, I would have practice sessions that were imaginary rounds at major championships. Throughout the years, I have won the Masters at least 23 times, as well as several dozen U.S. Opens, making me the greatest imaginary major champion of all time!

The point is, you should put added pressure on yourself during practice by setting up a challenge such as, “I have four holes to go and have a one shot lead and have to get it up and down from these four spots to beat Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.”

In golf, a chip-in, pitch-in or hole-out from the bunker can play like a three pointer in basketball. It is a big shot and can give you a big boost during the round. So don’t be afraid to give it a “fist pump” when you succeed in these imaginary showdowns.

Your mind cannot tell the difference between an experience that is real and imagined if the experience is intense enough to get your full attention. So go through your full routine and make it as real as possible.

Try to practice making the final putt to win a major or your club championship or for all the skins, with some consequence for missing (doing the dishes, maybe). This simulates game-like pressure, so when you have a chance to win the game, or win the tournament, it won’t be your first time taking the shot or hitting the putt. 

When you see a buzzer beater in the Men’s Basketball Championship tournament in the coming weeks, you’ll know that they’ve made that shot countless times in practice over the years. If you practice in pressure-packed situations on the golf course, you too will feel comfortable when a golf match is on the line.

My concluding thought is that there is an art to scoring in golf. It is a knack that you learn through the stress of practice and competition against others. We are so wrapped up in golf swing these days we forget that the objective is to “score the ball.” So make it a point this spring to work on this via great head-to-head battles with players you challenge!

Share your favorite head-to-head contest stories here — when you squared off with your buddies on the practice green or short game area. It is your chance to chirp about a victory!

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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

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. allen

    Mar 19, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    M Sizzle, scoring average is better because of equipment, not practice habits now. You should know that.

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Instruction

Stickney: Sit on it (for a better backswing)

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As we know golf, is a very tough sport and one that involves many moving pieces. Whenever something overreacts or moves too much on the way back, you end up playing catch-up on the way down. One of my favorite things to watch is how the head moves or doesn’t move on the backswing. Sure, you can have some movement, but you can’t have too much or you put yourself behind the eight ball.

I have charted the head position of a tour player at address and we can see that this is a very normal set up position. It is one that looks positioned to do great things.

However, en route to the top, you can see that this player has put himself into a position where his rear knee straightened too rapidly off the start of his backswing. When this occurs the pelvis “runs out from under” the upper body on the backswing the hips will react and begin to slant downward. (You can see a -10 degree tilt versus 3 degrees the opposite way at address for you number people.)

This causes the head to move out in front of where it was at address. This is not a bad position for the irons but for a driver we have a pending issue. If you don’t make a compensation from here then the player will have an angle of attack that is too much downward through impact with their driver.

As the player moves into his transition, the hips have leveled as the rear shoulder lowers the club into delivery but the head and pelvis are still too far out in front of the ball. The only thing you can do from here is fire the lead side upwards and hope that your head falls back into the correct position. If so, you will have the correct angle of attack, if not, you will chop down on the ball causing your launch conditions to be faulty.

And as we see here that this is precisely what this player did at the very last minute…not the easiest way to swing the club but it is functional IF you make the right correction. So, now that you understand how simple things like the action of the lower body can cause your head to move and your angle of attack to become faulty, what is the secret to controlling your lower body?


Just “sit” on the rear knee flex slightly longer during the backswing as you see here. This will slow down the tilting of the pelvis on backswing and thus your head will stay more in position en route to the top.

Personally, I teach both flexion and extension of the rear knee to the top, depending on what the player is wanting to do, so it really does not matter. However, what does matter is the rate at which it begins to straighten for those of you who do allow it to lengthen. I try to make most of my students hold the most of their address flex until the club moves between belt and chest high, any sooner and you risk the faulty pivot we saw above.

Therefore, take it from me and “sit on it” slightly longer for more quiet head motions as well as a more balanced backswing—your angle of attack will thank you!

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Davies: Training the trail elbow in the golf swing

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Alistair Davies shares with you how to get the correct trail arm and elbow action in the downswing. He shares some great drills that can be done at the range or at home to help lower your scores.Get the correct training for the trail arm here today!

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The important lessons you can learn from Peter Senior’s golf swing

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He may not be a household name in the United States, but Australia’s Peter Senior has a swing for the ages. At 60 years old, Senior has 34 worldwide professional wins including the 2015 Australian Masters beating a competitive field with several top-ranked players in the world. Turning professional in 1978, his career has spanned over 40 years.

Senior’s game and swing have stood the test of time, and the longevity of his career should be recognized. Senior formerly worked with Australian instructor Gary Edwin, and the structure to this swing taught to Senior paved the way for a future of consistent, high-quality professional golf.

Having a great golf swing isn’t the only key to becoming a great golfer, one must learn to play the game. However, you can learn a lot from Senior’s swing.

The origin to Senior’s swing lies in his set-up. Senior sets up in what I call his “hitting angles” or a position that mirrors impact.

From this position, Senior is able to simply keep these angles he established at address throughout the swing. This is why the set-up is so critical. The further he deviates from these “hitting angles”, the more he will have to find that impact position with his body in the backswing and downswing. In other words, more movement. The goal of his backswing will be to maintain these original starting angles.

From the picture, Senior has maintained his original body shape that he established at address. From this position, it will be much easier and repeatable to return the club to impact.

Note how his impact position now mirrors his original address position. All his original angles were maintained with a slight bump of the body towards the target. From impact, he can simply fold up his arms as his right side of his body rotates around his left side, keeping the clubface square to the body.

This standing tall finish position with the head following the torso is much easier on the back. His body has come forward and around beautifully, covering the ball for a proper strike.

The beauty of Senior’s swing lies in its simplicity. The changes Senior made to his swing can apply to anyone. Let’s look at two simple drills to make your swing more efficient and powerful.

“To a large extent, my backswing is a product of my set-up position” – Tiger Woods, Golf Digest 2020

To get into these impact angles simply practice pushing into an impact bag with the head and shaft of the club. Make sure your trail arm is tucked, lowering the trail shoulder as you pressure the bag.

To get the feeling of the proper coil from this set-up position, grab an impact bag and hold the bag in front of you.

From here, swing the bag around you with your arms keeping the top of the bag level. You will feel the trail side of your body move back and the lead side move out, coiling around your spine angle.

The trail glute will also move back and around with this drill, a key move the great Ben Hogan used to pivot his body. To develop an efficient swing and a long, injury-free career, take note of Peter Senior’s key moves.

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