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6 drills to help you pass the PGA Playing Ability Test (PAT)

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Want to talk about pressure? How about stepping on the first tee, and knowing there’s an exact number, or better, that you need to shoot. For aspiring PGA Professionals, that’s exactly the case.

The Playing Ability Test, or “PAT,” is the PGA of America’s measure of golfing ability for aspiring PGA Professionals. It’s like taking a midterm or final, but instead of needing a 70/100 (a C-minus in most cirriculum) or higher, you need to shoot a certain number or lower in order to pass.

Here’s how the target number is determined for each individual host course:

PATcalculation

The PAT is administered at over 300 golf courses in the U.S. each year, and is played, on average, from approximately 6,400 yards for men and 5,500 yards for women.

On paper, it seems any player with a single-digit handicap could pass the PAT with no problem. However, the passing rate nationally among apprentices and PGA Golf Management students is less than 30 percent, with the average participant who passes attempting the test nearly five times before passing.

Why? Well, being the psychological sport that golf is, focusing on shooting a certain number can cause chaos in a golfer’s brain, and physical mistakes ensue.

As the Assistant Director for the PGA Golf Management Program at Mississippi State University, part of my job is to help students pass the PAT, so we’ve implemented a program specifically designed to do just that. And in just two years, we’ve been able to increase the pass percentage for our students up to 50 percent!

Below, we’ll highlight the drills that are part of the program. But first, you’ll want to put yourself through our evaluation to determine what “group” you are in. I’ll explain…

Through the use of the Trackman Combine and Steven Guiliano’s “Putting Evaluation” from his eBook The Scoring Zone: Part 2 Putting, (click here for Steven’s information), we are able to determine each student’s capabilities and likelihood of passing the PAT. We take both the Trackman Combine and Putting Evaluation score and combine them to create the overall score for each student.

PATEvaluation

After completing the evaluations, we then assign students to the following groups based on those scores:

  • Group 1: Total Score of 100 and Below (Average 18 Hole Score of 85 and Above)
  • Group 2: Total Score of 101-128 (Average 18 Hole Score of 78-84)
  • Group 3: Total Score of 129 and Above (Average 18 Hole Score of 77 and Below)

Each group is then assigned four weekly challenges (drills) to complete. They will complete a putting, short game, full swing, and on-course drill that matches their current skill level. The goal of the challenge is very simple: Make each player SCORE each challenge and submit the score at the end of the week. This is designed to have the player actually focus on a certain outcome and score in practice, rather than aimlessly beating balls.

Here the drills for each group, which will help both prospective PAT participants, and any golfer who’s looking to improve:

Group 1

18 hole, 2-putt drill

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 11.06.07 AM

On the putting green, you will choose 18 total putts from a variety of distances, lengths and difficulty. Your scoring goal is simple: record how many strokes it takes you to hole out from each distance. Each hole will be a par-2 where a score of EVEN PAR is 36. You will need to hit the following putts:

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 11.07.39 AM

This drill will train your speed and distance control on a variety of putts. It is important to go through your pre-shot routine as you hit each putt.

PATdrillputting

25-shot pitch drill

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 11.09.56 AM

Place a 6-foot diameter circle around a hole on your short game area. Hit 20 pitch shots and five bunker shots to that hole. Each shot should vary in lie, length and difficulty. The same shot should not be hit twice. Record how many of each shot you hit inside of the ring and how many shots end up on the putting surface. The scoring is as follows:

Miss the Green: 0 Points
Hit the Green: 1 Point
Hit it inside of the Ring: 2 Points

Remember, pitch shots are to be hit with wedges where the ball flight and roll is determined by a higher trajectory and spin from a minimum of 15 yards from the putting surface. Bunker shots are to be played from the sand in a variety of lies (buried, downhill, etc).

PitchDrill

Group 2

20-foot speed drill

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 11.12.38 AM

Place a club 3 feet behind the hole and hit five putts from 20 feet. You will record where each putt finishes with the following scores:

  • -5 Points for putts left short of the hole,
  • +5 Points for a made putt,
  • +3 Points for a putt hit even with/past the hole to the club, and
  • -3 Points for a putt that hits or goes beyond the golf club.

Record each score. You will repeat the process three more times, moving 90 degrees clockwise around the hole. You will need to reposition the golf club each time you move around the hole.

20footspeed

3-point driver drill

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 11.15.48 AM

The 3-Point Driver Drill is an accuracy and solid-contact drill. Pick a small target in the distance (tree limb, flagstick, etc) where you would like for your ball to come to rest. Record as follows:

  • 1 point if you hit the ball at your target,
  • 1 point if you make solid contact (center contact), and
  • 1 point if it was the correct shot shape.

Do this for 25 shots with the driver. Accuracy is measured by where your ball comes to rest and is considered accurate if it comes to rest within 10 yards left or right of the intended target. You will record scores of 0, 1, 2, or 3 after each shot.

Driver3pointdrill

Group 3

Drawback drill

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 11.17.56 AM

Hit 18 putts around the putting green from varying lengths (10-40 feet). If the putt is made, record it as 1. If the putt is missed, pull the ball back one putter length away from the hole from the ball’s resting position and putt from there. This “drawback” will happen after each putt missed. Record each score.

DrawbackDrillGolf

52-card drill

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 11.21.07 AM

The 52-Card Drill requires a deck of cards (or an app). You will write different shot shapes (shape, distance, and trajectory) and clubs to use on each card in the deck (see table below). You will record the shot as acceptable or unacceptable and put the cards into two separate stacks. Acceptable shots consist of center contact, correct shot shape, proper trajectory, proper direction and distance control. There is a lot of latitude given for determining the quality of the shot. The smaller the margin of error for an acceptable shot, the better your game will be following the drill. At the end of the deck you will determine how many were in the acceptable pile and subtract how many were in the unacceptable pile. Example: 33 in the acceptable pile and 19 in the unacceptable pile (33 – 19 = 14). You score is 14 for this drill.

Your set makeup will determine what club to assign to each card. See the chart below to mark your cards properly.

52carddrillgolf

You will pull cards at random. This way, you will rarely hit the same club two times in a row. It is very important that you go through your pre-shot routine for each shot, pick a target, and execute the shot just as you would on the golf course.

Final thoughts

If you are planning a career in the golf industry and want to take the PAT soon, I encourage you to focus on playing and completing drills/challenges that require you to record a score.

You can search for a PAT in your area by visiting www.pga.org. My advice would be to find a PAT site with a target score of 156 or above to help your chances of passing. In our experience at Mississippi State, our students have performed better at facilities that are more difficult as they provide a higher target score.

For more information regarding the PGA Golf Management Program at Mississippi State University, please visit www.msupgm.com.

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Adam is a PGA Professional with advanced certifications in Teaching and Player Development. As the Assistant Director of the PGA Golf Management Program at Mississippi State University, Adam spends his time educating young men and women as they prepare for a career in the golf industry. Along with teaching classes, he is instrumental in the design and implementation of Player Development Programs to help students improve their games and prepare for the PGA of America’s Playing Ability Test.

33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. Joew2328

    Feb 8, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Passed my PAT in 2009 after failing once. Have since gotten my AM status back, but the PAT taught me a lot about competitive golf. Opened with an 81 and shot 74 to pass by 2 strokes. One of my favorite rounds was the back 18. Fun challenge, and these drills would have helped me a lot!

  2. James

    Dec 31, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    While I’ve no plan to do the test, these do look like great drills to help me w my 2016 golf targets! Hoping to drop to under a 6 hcp, and these look the goods- thanks for the article.

  3. Ron

    Dec 30, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    Too bad the PAT is even part of becoming a PGA pro. Just because someone can play is absolutely NO indication that they can teach the game. I recently did a survey of over 30 local PGA pros regarding lessons for men and women. Only 3 acknowledged that there is a difference between teaching men and women. Yes, the fundamentals are the same, but the approach is very different as the perspective of the two is different. I could go on but won’t. Useless test!

  4. Wes

    Dec 23, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    The PAT…. Good times. Passed my first try in 2007 with scores of 69, and 65. Was -11 and got 3rd place, tough competition :/ (first place went to a mini tour player and 2nd went to a PGATour player’s son). Now I’m back as an amateur and enjoying the game.

  5. Stretch

    Dec 22, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    My first PAT came to a crash on the 34th holes on an extremely difficult desert course. The hole was a par 5 and it seemed prudent to hit a one iron for accuracy. The first tee shot and provisional went right into the desert and never found. Back to the tee and another clone of the first two tee shots. Then the driver came out. Sure enough the third tee shot was lost and the fourth was in a small cactus. Pin high in eight and up and down for a 10. Finished with two tap in birdies to miss by one shot. The second PAT tried to medal and passed easily.

    The medal score does play head games. Earlier in the summer I had tied for the medal in the Local U. S. Open qualifier and missed by two in the final qualifier. Seemed odd the PGA would not accept that performance as a valid PAT equivalent.

  6. Tom Wishon

    Dec 22, 2015 at 11:20 am

    I took the PAT in 1974 in the Nor Cal section, the very first year that the PGA added this to the requirements for membership. What a hoot that first PAT turned out to be because going into it, all of us were scared to death. No one knew if we were going to lose our jobs if we failed or what. And in that first PAT, well over 3/4’s of the field choked (me included) and failed where the score to make was 158 !!

    Once we found out we could keep re-taking it until we passed, that took the pressure off, well sort of. I passed it my second try at Almaden CC in San Jose, CA with help from a good buddy who caddied the 36 for me to keep me calm ! (He was the road Mgr for the Steve Miller Band, in between tours for Steve so he had the time and insisted he could keep me calm!) As luck would have it, I got very hot on the first 9 of the first 18 (31) and cruised in from there – and tried to choke in the last 18 ! Shot 69-79 so you can see what I mean when I say I tried to choke in the end !

    I’m not sure how I feel about it as I look back on it. I had a VERY good asst pro friend at the time who was a fantastic teacher and superb manager at his club who never could pass it. Since that meant he could not be a PGA Member, he did drop out of the program and quit the golf business. I kept thinking how sad that was because he really could teach so well and could run a golf course better than 90% of the people who do that.

    He was the person who taught me never to associate teaching ability in the game with playing ability. It does happen and I wish there were a way for guys like this to not be forced out if they can’t break 80.

  7. smccanjr

    Dec 22, 2015 at 10:45 am

    I passed the PAT on my first attempt 70-74 at a joke of a course near Orlando in the early 90s…But the Real story the guy in front of my needed a birdie to pass on the number and he made birdie!!! He passed on his 17th attempt! I have since got my Am status back after a shirt folding accident as a Head Professional 😉 I have fun as a club pro but when I had children the hours were just too much.

  8. steve

    Dec 22, 2015 at 9:56 am

    I took my PAT back in the early 1990’s and it took me twice to pass it on a course I knew like the back of my hand. The first time I took it I was a complete disaster. After growing up playing competitive golf and playing in college, I thought how hard can it be? But it is mental and the pressure of thinking that your career rides on this is about as close to Tour golf as it get for most. So, the next time I took it it played a ton better and the results spoke for themselves. Now I’m out of the golf business and working as an engineer but the accomplishment lasts a lifetime. Good luck to all those who will be embarking on this adventure.

  9. Ronald Montesano

    Dec 21, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    Giuliano, not Guiliano. We Italians are quite sensitive about vowel syntax.

  10. Setter02

    Dec 21, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    Been there, done that and have since gotten my Am status back. The courses aren’t set up to be too penal, but make sure that you can hit the shots needed. It is 95% mental, and a solid 5 capper and lower can do it. Above, your going to struggle. The biggest thing is not getting down on yourself on making bogeys, because you will. And if you stick to when you know and do well, you’ll make a few birdies. I had 4 triple bogies on my cards, but had 11 birdies as well to offset it.

    I still consider the last 4 holes I played as the best golf I’ve ever played given that I had so little room for error, and the juices flowing. Nothing like 180+ yard 8is when your pumped up and shaking. its a great feeling of accomplishment to those who don’t play a lot of tournament golf (I was a 12ish capper 2 years prior to the start of my PGM course with no tournament experience at all). My main prep going in knowing where I was to be playing, irons only for the 3 months leading up. I’ve never had a season where I hit a 2i better, and it was all I needed to get around.

  11. John

    Dec 21, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    Why I am writing this is purely on my experience and hope to offer some insight on a different career path. I passed my pat after third attempt. I was definitely good enough to pass with a breeze but with out question the physicological part is the toughest. At the time I was 19 years old. Upon reaching level two I realized the long shop hours and making money was either the lessons or becoming a Gm/head pro/director of golf probably not until my 40’s? So I choose to go back to school for agronomy. I wanted to still work at the golf course and taking care of what I love. Aspiring to be a golf course superintendent some day. Within 1 year I was already making double what I did in the shop, out early to still practice and play. By the time I was 26 I got my first super gig. Bottom line, if you like teaching I completely understand, but if you like playing and want to work in the industry stick to golf course maintenance. Hard work but pays off when you play your own product.

  12. RJ

    Dec 21, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    At no point has anyone mentioned the competition aspect of passing the PAT. Nothing can simulate competition like competition. If it isn’t a few amatuer events leading up the test date or solid count all stroke money games with friends. Getting comfortable with the perform under pressure mentality is the next step of taking your game on the road. The AJGA, US Kids juniors all play so many tournaments that by college years the youthful veteran is able to not feel the nerves of the non seasoned player.
    I have taken the PAT 3 times in 2 different states in 3 separate years and never sweated or came close to not making it. My past sports back round has helped me in performing in tournament golf. I have played baseball at a professional level, basketball in many tournaments plus softball on traveling teams. Now that I play golf for sport and money, the taking your game to the course just gets easier the more it is done. I have been paired with guys that have been on the PAT Tour. Their ability to play is somewhat there but the execution and nerves are all over the map that causes the bad nerves. So I like the idea of the authors drills just add some work in playing the game under pressure also and play like you know how too.
    Just sharing my opinion… Happy Holidays to all!!!!

  13. Former assistant

    Dec 21, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    I did mine at a really short course. Around 5900. Just hit irons or hybrids off the tee trying to have 90 yards in on every hole. Just a smooth wedge to the middle of the green, lag it up there, tap it in. Next hole. Worked like a charm. Don’t think I ever hit driver. Two others in my group started the same strategy after 9 holes. We all passed.

  14. mhendon

    Dec 21, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    I had a friend years ago tell me I should take the PAT I could pass it easily. My response was why so I could get a 8 dollar an hour assistant pro’s position. NO THANKS!!!

  15. mhendon

    Dec 21, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    I had a friend tell me years ago I should go take it I could pass easily. My response was why so I could get a 8 dollar an hour assistant pro’s position, NO THANKS!

  16. Pccasstpro

    Dec 21, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    The PAT is the most basic of playing tests … I have know guys that have been on the “PAT Tour ” , it does come down to one thing , State Of Mind. It is purely psychological, a battle of the mind ! I have seen guys that are good players blow up and shoot in the 100’s . You play from a course that is no longer than 6500 yards (men) and 6000 yards (woman), but it gets into your head. The course is set up with the pins cut in the center or the flattest part of the green! You look at the comp sheet that is given to you, you read through the locals, and then you see it !! THE TARGET SCORE, at this point for some guys just stick a fork in them cause they are done ! To be honest a caddy helps out a ton, just have him look at the comp sheet and rip off or black out the target score, it works! I took it four times, should have passed my second but called a drop on myself while reviewing my card. The first time was a 3 shot miss, on my former high school home course. The guy that I am playing with, who was twice my age, is behind the first tee sign puking . Third time was pouring rain so hard they pulled us off and scrapped the day. Forth time ,I just played my game didn’t worry about score just played as if it was a medal tournament qualifier. I fired at every pin , and didn’t try to “steer” my ball around the course like many participants do ! You have to think about it as just another round! A day of attrition, you have 36 holes to play and soon forget about!

    By the way for all of you guys posting , “13 over a 157 slope rating you suck!” First off, just try it before you say that . Second, some of the greatest / highest paid instructors, swing gurus, and swing coaches have NEVER passed the PAT !!

    • Tom

      Dec 21, 2015 at 10:37 pm

      my post was meant to be in jest I attempted three times and failed.

  17. BJ

    Dec 21, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    I took three. I failed the first one, the second got rained out, but I’d have failed it, too, and the third one I past pretty easily.

    It’s completely psychological. The first two, I listened to people that told me to play conservatively off the tee and “just make pars”. I got focused on the number. When I did make a mistake, it was harder to recover on both the hole where I made the mistake and on other holes. I’d hit iron off the tee. Then if I missed it, I had a long way in. Or I’d aim at the middle of the green and hit it a little off line and suddenly have a 60′ putt. Or if I made a bogey, I wasn’t getting any real birdie looks because I was laying up everywhere and never had any birdie chances.

    Before the third, I decided I was being stupid. I was a good enough player that 13 over from that length course should be a cupcake. And I felt like, I’d already failed two, so what would it matter if I failed again.

    So I approached it like I was getting a day off of work to have fun playing 36. I stayed out a little bit late the night before, didn’t hit more balls then I needed to get loose, and approached it with the mindset that I was going to try to medal. I hit driver everywhere I could and attacked. I didn’t medal, but I did shoot 73-74 and passed with about 10 shots to spare.

    My advice to all the kids I know trying to pass the PAT is simple. Forget the number. Don’t play to try to shoot the number. Play like it’s any other event and simply try to shoot the lowest score you can. If you are good enough, you’ll pass. If not, practice more.

  18. Guy

    Dec 21, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    Na ooffa is right… If you cant shoot that, then yeah you need to do some thinking. But I do understand the difference between pitching up and playing on a Sunday at the local vs turning up and “having” to shoot a score.

  19. Alex

    Dec 21, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    I shot 148 (+4) and finished second at the PAT I attended. A lot of the guys don’t have any business even attempting the PAT, but I saw guys used to shooting in the 60’s flirt with 90’s and above. That being said, great players make it through just fine.

    It’s one of those tournaments that will challenge you to the extreme mentally if you allow it. Guys are so focused on the number to make it through instead of making shots and scoring. My preparation for the tournament was a hole by hole strategy to best attack each hole. Led to 33/36 GIR and a fairly stress free PAT. I was just happy to get out of the pro shop for two days…

    • BJ

      Dec 21, 2015 at 3:46 pm

      One of the guys in my group in one I passed shot 95-98. I asked him where he worked and why he wanted to get into the business. He told me he had no intention of getting in the business. He simply looked at the PAT schedule and signed up for the ones at nicer courses just to play them cheap. Back then, the fee, onsite fee, and practice round were like $130-140 total. This guy was like “this place costs $60 bucks a round. If I do the PAT, it’s $45 per round for 3 rounds and I get free lunch…”

  20. iPassedIt

    Dec 21, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    You state that the problem is one of psychology but then you provide physical drills to help people improve. It seems that you are not treating the problem, but instead are focusing on making people better golfers. In essence you could have left out the whole intro and just said “These drills will help you improve.” The reality is that those drills have nothing to do with playing to a target score – you should reevaluate how your “program” is improving your pass rate, if it is at all or if you just have recruited better students who have less trouble with the psychology of the PAT.

  21. Jason

    Dec 21, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    I’ve been a scratch golfer since I was in my early teens. Played college golf and two years of regional mini-tour golf. I failed my first PAT attempt. It was all psychological. Instead of playing golf like a normal tournament where you try to shoot as low as possible, PAT’s seem to make people play defensively. I remember hitting 3 woods instead of drivers and playing for par. Made a huge mental mistake on the 36th hole and teed off from the tips instead of the blue tournament tees and missed by 2 shots. Second time around, I played all out, 12 birdies, went for everything and passed by 20 shots. This is a mental game and the PAT situation is not one we often confront. Passing is all about the right mindset.

  22. ph00ny

    Dec 21, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    52 card drill sounds fun. Who decides on whether the shot was acceptable?

  23. CPGA Pat

    Dec 21, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    Ooffa, spoken like someone who’s never taken the PAT. It took me 3 attempts. Trust me, I thought of it the same way as you did before I took it. Don’t judge until you’ve been there…

  24. Philip

    Dec 21, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    At my age I am not thinking of the PAT, but still thanks! This is an awesome set of drills to work on after work when it is to late to really play 9, but the course, range and practice areas are more than quiet enough to do these evaluations. Best Christmas present I received in a long time – going to PDF it right now. Thanks again!

  25. ooffa

    Dec 21, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    If you can’t 13 over for 36 holes perhaps golf professional is a poor career choice

    • cdvilla

      Dec 21, 2015 at 1:21 pm

      I’m sure there are some people who might be excellent teachers or facility managers who might not be able to pass the PAT. That like saying your have to be great athlete to be a great coach. Granted, you shouldn’t be terrible at golf… 🙂

    • John

      Dec 21, 2015 at 2:21 pm

      If you are having that much difficulty passing the PAT then you really don’t have any business giving golf lessons. 13 over from the middle tee’s to easy pins.

      • Tom

        Dec 21, 2015 at 3:40 pm

        Ya man I agree. If you post thirteen over on a 157 slope rating you suck! No teaching status for YOU!…ROFLMAO… NOT.

        • Jam

          Dec 22, 2015 at 11:51 am

          I get that a poor player can be a great teacher, but where do you draw the line? There has to be some standards. It is the golf business after all, you should be able to play a little.

    • Jay

      Dec 21, 2015 at 3:51 pm

      “If you can’t 13 over for 36….”

      If you can’t what? Perhaps posting comments is not for you?

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Instruction

More stroke-saving advice for seniors: Love thy hybrid

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Continuing our series for seniors, this is a topic I’ve written about before but it is so important to our senior games, it is worth revisiting.

Some of you may be aware of the “24/38 rule.” It deals with the idea that most golfers lose consistency with an iron that is less than 24 degrees of loft and over 38 inches long. That USED TO BE a 3-iron. And I always thought even that was marginal—a 3-iron for a middle handicap players has always been a bit “iffy.”

Then came the “juicing era” when manufacturers started making golf clubs with much less loft and some added length. Now, that “24/38” rule applies to 5-irons! The cavity back era gave way to some great innovations, particularly forgiveness, but it also introduced stronger lofts and added some length. For example, today’s 6-iron, on average is 31 degrees and 37.5-38.o inches. The point is this: Many golfers do not have sufficient speed to hit 5-irons, maybe even 6-irons, from the fairway!

This goes for golf in general, but in senior golf, it is even more important to remember!

What to do? Voila! The invention of HYBRIDS! We have to understand one simple golf impact principle:  Getting the golf ball airborne from the turf requires speed. If we lack that speed, we need clubs with a different construction. The HYBRIDS are built to help launch the golf ball. Basically, it works like this: when the center of gravity is further from the hitting area (face), it is easier to launch the golf ball. On an iron that CG is directly behind the ball. In a hybrid, it is moved back, so the ball can be launched higher. There are other factors, but basically, that’s it.

My personal recommendation is as follows

  • If your driver clubhead speed in under 85 MPH, your iron set might go 7-PW
  • Driver speed 85-90 MPH, your iron set might be 6-PW
  • Driver speed 90-100, your iron set might be 5-PW
  • Driver speed over 100, you can choose the set make-up with which you are comfortable

As this piece is largely for seniors, I’m assuming most of you are in one of the first two categories. If so, your game may be suffering from your set make-up. The most common swing issue I see in seniors is “hang back” or the inability to get weight through at impact. This is often the result of a club shaft too stiff, OR clubs too difficult to launch—example, a 3-iron. Please DO NOT beat yourself up! Use equipment that is easier to hit and particularly easier to launch.

The question invariably arises, what about fairway woods of similar loft?  They are fine if you do not mind the added length. The great thing about hybrids is they are only slightly longer than similarly lofted irons. My advice is to seniors is to get with a pro, get on a launch monitor, find your speed and launch conditions and go from there.

Note: I am NOT a fitter, and I DO NOT sell clubs of any kind. But I do know, as a teacher, that hybrids should be in most seniors’ bags.

 

Want more help with your swing? I have an on-line swing analysis service. If you are interested in a “look” here it is.

 

 

 

 

 

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Clement: Long and short bunker shots

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It happens to all of us where: We get short-sided and need to put a shot together to save the furniture. The short bunker shot can really be a challenge if you do not have the right task to perform it and can result in you wasting a shot in the bunker or letting the shot get away from you because you don’t want to leave that delicate shot in the bunker.

And of course, so many of you are afraid to put a full swing on a longer bunker shot because of the dreaded skull over the green!

We have the easy solutions to all of the above right here and the other videos I have, which are great complements to this one including an oldie but goodieand this one with Chantal, my yoga teacher.

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The Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training

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If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”

Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.

In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.

The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.

[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]

Baseball/Softball Hitters

Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.

Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.

So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!

Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers

There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.

If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.


Dance

My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).

Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.

Hockey

Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.

If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.

Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.

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