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Creating A Little Chaos Can Be Good For Your Golf Game

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Doesn’t it seem at times that golf is the ultimate game of randomness and that the way you play is total and utter chaos? One day you are in perfect control, and the next day you are so frustrated you want to go Happy Gilmore crazy and beat up Bob Barker.

In Jurassic Park, the character Dr. Ian Malcolm (played by Jeff Goldblum) uses “Chaos Theory” to explain occurrences in the world: “seemingly random and unpredictable occurrences that nevertheless follows precise rules.” I certainly see players take unpredictable, random actions on the golf course and in practice that create less than perfect outcomes.

But what if introducing a little chaos is a good thing for your golf game? What if it can make you focus better and can improve your aim? As a player’s coach, I try to limit the chaos a player deals with on a day-to-day basis on the golf course. Golf introduces chaos as an outside influence, however, and it makes what I try to control uncontrollable… unless I create awareness.

Things like the cut of the grass, the direction the tee markers point, or how the hole is designed create can create chaos for golfers. I have to help golfers find order in the chaos so they can keep their golf ball out of the water, the trees, the palmettos, the creek, and the Haverkamp’s backyard. To do this, I have to get them to focus. This is where my chaos drill comes in. It can help golfers see where they want to go instead of allowing the tee markers or the cut of grass to point them in the wrong direction.

The Chaos Drill

Chaos-Drills

Start by laying down a bunch of clubs or alignment sticks in front of your ball. The more it looks like a game of pickup sticks, the better. You want them to point in a lot of different directions. Your job as you stand behind the ball is to fight through all the random lines pointing you in the wrong direction and see the ideal line, which is where you want the ball to go. You can even hold up your club and use the shaft as a pointer if that helps you see the correct line.

Seeing through all the chaos will help you learn to visualize the right line of play, which will get you on the right track before you even address the ball. And when you take the “chaos” away, it will be that much harder for an outside influence to get you off track.

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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

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Rob Strano

    Sep 22, 2017 at 8:30 am

    Thanks for the comments and feedback.
    I have just one thing to say:

    Dont comment until you have tried it

    If you struggle with focus and seeing where to hit the ball this works wonders on making you see past the sticks and see your line only. It works 100% of the time I have to use it. I guarantee you if I had any tour players do this they wouldn’t even see the sticks. That is how focused they get over the shot. When getting someone to aim better and focus I will try anything that will get the job done. This gets the job done.
    And regarding the length of the article being shorter than my bio…I guess I have a really good bio and also can get my point across without being overly “wordy”. And that is a good thing! Plus I have editors lol…

  2. Micky Stuart

    Sep 21, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    Rob! Is that a new driver? I hope that you didn’t get that because of me!! I gotta tell ya the time spent with you back in July has helped me tremendously. I do the finger point to the sky drill every day and the improvement in my putting from just the literally 5-10 minutes we spent is amazing. You are the man and I will be back next time I am on vacation.

    • Rob Strano

      Sep 22, 2017 at 8:31 am

      Thanks for the great feedback Micky! Keep up the good work and see you next time you are at the beach!

  3. AllanA

    Sep 20, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    Interesting psycho-experiment you teach. What you are doing is messing up with the mind, the brain, by asking the student to allow chaos to reign, consciously.
    It’s conscious chaos versus unconscious orderliness. One way to eliminate conscious chaos is to practice intensively, in an obsessive-compulsive manner. If you survive massive practice and ingrain your brain and neuro-muscular system with proper golfswing mechanics, chaos is mostly eliminated or well controlled.
    The problem with recreational golfers is they don’t know how to control their mental states and invariably crash into chaos. They get frustrated and angry with their clubs, but not themselves because to do so would be to psychologically admit they are incompetent to play golf. Off to the golf store to buy ‘better’ clubs.

    • SoloGolfer

      Sep 20, 2017 at 6:14 pm

      Yup, and the first sign of mental chaos is the guy who obsessively buys new clubs annually or semi-annually to get rid of his swing problems. The same goes for searching for ‘golf tips’.

    • Allananoob

      Sep 21, 2017 at 6:39 am

      You know nothing AllanA. You are psychologically incompetent to post a cogent comment.

      • X-out

        Sep 21, 2017 at 12:54 pm

        No, it’s you who is “psychologically incompetent” because “your” comment is not cogent nor mature. You have the intellect of a snobby 12 y.o. …. so obvious.

  4. Boss

    Sep 20, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    I can ignore all those things in front me no problem like I do when I am in the trees so what’s the point of this drill? lol

    • Rob Strano

      Sep 22, 2017 at 8:34 am

      Thanks for the question and comment Boss…
      If you can do what you say above then this drill is not for you. I use this for the folks that are not able to find the line and focus on whats in front of them. You have succeeded in training yourself to do something a lot of players have not.
      Continued success on the course

  5. Double Mocha Man

    Sep 20, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    Hey Rob… good start on an interesting concept. But remember one rule of journalism: The article should always be longer than the author’s bio.

    • Rob Strano

      Sep 22, 2017 at 8:35 am

      I guess I have a really good bio, and on the positive side can say what I want to say without using a ton of words. Which is good right?!!!
      Also, I have editors that do a really good job.
      Thanks for the comment and laugh

  6. TheCityGame

    Sep 20, 2017 at 9:01 am

    If you gave me that drill, I’d find a butt end of one of those sticks to make my “aim point” and just fire right over it. If you want to mess with my head, find a pristine surface that gives me no marker or blemish or spot to aim over.

    Introducing “chaos” is an important idea, IMO. It’s particularly important if you practice off mats which give you a built in alignment aid (the square mat itself). When I’m on a mat, I like to make sure I’m hitting at targets that are at an angle to the mat, usually one left, one square, and one right. Even a rope on a grass range can provide a type of alignment aid you don’t normally get.

    The more you can screw with your head while practicing, the better you’ll deal with stuff on the course, but people want to go to a range and practice their swing, hit positions, etc. They don’t want to hit balls from bad lies, or try to hit 3 different clubs the same difference. or practice things that really translate to the course, or go play a round with 5 clubs in their bag, or whatever.

    I’ve got a million ways to mess with my practice. I’ll stand way too close to the ball, stand too far from the ball, stand with legs too close, too far, start the backswing with the clubhead hovering a foot off the ground, start the backswing with the club already in motion, rapid fire balls, stand over the ball a LONG TIME before starting the backswing, etc etc.

    None of that directly might come up on the course, but it’s like golf-athlete-cross-training — working on being athletic and reactionary.

    • John

      Sep 20, 2017 at 3:49 pm

      Well put, +1

    • Rob Strano

      Sep 22, 2017 at 8:38 am

      Thanks for the comment
      Even finding the ability to aim over the butt end of a stick and fire right over it is dialing in your focus. That little end is a small spot in the middle of lots of lines and angles that all go off in different directions. By picking an end you are creating a start point that lines up with YOUR end point. Now we have order out of chaos and you are going where you want to go.
      Continued success and keep up the good practice

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Instruction

How the Trail Arm Should Work In Backswing

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Stop getting stuck! In this video, I demonstrate a great drill to help you move your trail arm correctly in the backswing.

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Self-discovery: Why golf lessons aren’t helping you improve

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Of all the things I teach or have taught in golf, I think this is the most important: It’s not what we cover in a lesson, it’s what you discover. 

Some years ago, I had a student in golf school for a few days. She was topping every single shot. Zero were airborne. I explained that she was opening her body and moving forward before her arms and club were coming down. “Late” we call it. I had her feel like her arms were coming down first and her body was staying behind, a common correction for late tops. Bingo! Every ball went up into the air. She was ecstatic.

Some time later, she called and said she was topping every shot. She scheduled a lesson. She topped every shot. I asked her why she was topping the ball. “I think I’m picking up my head,” she said to my look of utter disbelief!

I had another student who was shanking the ball. At least 3 out of 5 came off the hosel with his wedges. I explained that his golf club was pointed seriously left at the top of his backswing. It was positioned well OUTSIDE his hands, which caused it to come down too wide and swing OUTSIDE his hands into impact. This is a really common cause of shanking. We were able to get the club more down the line at the top and come down a bit narrower and more inside the ball. No shanks… not a one!  He called me sometime later. The shanks had returned. You get the rest. When I asked what was causing him to shank, he told me “I get too quick.”

If you are hitting the golf ball better during a golf lesson, you have proven to yourself that you CAN do it. But what comes after the lesson is out of a teacher’s hands. It’s as simple as that. I cannot control what you do after you leave my lesson tee. Now, if you are NOT hitting the ball better during a lesson or don’t understand why you’re not hitting it better, I will take the blame. And…you do not have to compensate me for my time. That is the extent to which I’ll go to display my commitment and accept my responsibility. What we as teachers ask is the same level of commitment from the learners.

Improving at golf is a two-way street. My way is making the correct diagnosis and offering you a personalized correction, possibly several of them. Pick the ONE that works for you. What is your way on the street? Well, here are a few thoughts on that:

  • If you are taking a lesson at 10 a.m. with a tee time at 11 a.m. and you’re playing a $20 Nassau with your buddies, you pretty much wasted your time and money.
  • If the only time you hit balls is to warm up for your round, you have to be realistic about your results.
  • If you are expecting 250-yard drives with an 85 mph club head speed, well… let’s get real.
  • If you “fake it” during a lesson, you’re not going to realize any lasting improvement. When the teacher asks if you understand or can feel what’s being explained and you say yes when in fact you DO NOT understand, you’re giving misleading feedback and hurting only yourself. Speak up!

Here’s a piece of advise I have NEVER seen fail. If you don’t get it during the lesson, there is no chance you’ll get it later. It’s not enough to just hit it better; you have to fully understand WHY you hit it better. Or if you miss, WHY you missed.

I have a rule I follow when conducting a golf lesson. After I explain the diagnosis and offer the correction, I’ll usually get some better results. So I continue to offer that advice swing after swing. But at some point in the lesson, I say NOTHING. Typically, before long the old ball flight returns and I wait– THREE SWINGS. If the student was a slicer and slices THREE IN A ROW, then it’s time for me to step in again. I have to allow for self discovery at some point. You have to wean yourself off my guidance and internalize the corrections. You have to FEEL IT.

When you can say, “If the ball did this then I know I did that” you are likely getting it. There is always an individual cause and effect you need to understand in order to go off by yourself and continue self improvement. If you hit a better shot but do not know why, please tell your teacher. What did I do? That way you’re playing to learn, not simply learning to play.

A golf lesson is a guidance, not an hour of how to do this or that. The teacher is trying to get you to discover what YOU need to feel to get more desirable outcomes. If all you’re getting out of it is “how,” you are not likely to stay “fixed.” Remember this: It’s not what we cover in the lesson; it’s what you discover!

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Instruction

Jumping for Distance (Part 2): The One-Foot Jump

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In Part 1, I wrote about how I think this concept of jumping up with both feet for more power may have come about in part due to misinterpretation of still photography and force plate data, self-propagation, and a possible case of correlation vs causation. I also covered reasoning why these players are often airborne, and that can be from flawed setups that include overly wide stances and/or lead foot positions that are too closed at setup or a re-planted lead foot that ends up too closed during the downswing.

In Part 2, let’s look at what I feel is a better alternative, the one foot jump. To me, it’s safer, it doesn’t complicate ball striking as much, and it can still generate huge amounts of vertical ground force.

First, set up with an appropriate stance width. I like to determine how wide to stand based on the length of your lower legs. If you go to your finish position and stand on your lead leg and let your trail leg dangle down so your knees are parallel, your lower trail leg should extend only as far back as it will go while being up on the tip of your trail toe. If you roll that trail foot back down to the ground, viola, you’ll have a stance width that’s wide enough to be “athletic” and stable but not so wide you lose balance when swinging. You can go a little wider than this, but not much.

To contrast, the stance below would be too wide.

Jumping off the ground can be caused by too wide of a stance and lead foot position that is too closed at setup

Second, make sure your lead foot is open sufficiently at address. I’ve previously outlined how to do both these first two points in this article.

Third, whether you shift your weight to your trail foot or keep a more centered weight type feeling in the backswing, when you shift your weight to your lead foot, be careful of the Bubba replant, and then push up with that lead leg to push your lead shoulder up. This is the one-foot “jump” and it will take advantage of parametric acceleration (read more about that here).

But also at the same time, shift your lower spine towards the target.

From a face-on viewpoint, this can look like back bend, but in 3D space it’s side bend. It kind of feels like you are crunching the trail side of your mid-section, or maybe just bending over to the side to pick up a suitcase, for example. This move helps lower your trail shoulder, which brings down the club (whereas this is more difficult to do if you try to two-foot jump with your trail leg). It also helps you to keep from getting airborne off your lead foot. Further it doesn’t change your low point (by not changing the relative position of the C7 vertebrae in its general orb in space) and complicate ball striking like a two-foot jump does.

At this point, the club releases and you can stand up out of the shot (you don’t need to transition in to any sort of dangerous back bend) in balance on your lead foot having generates tons of vertical ground force without having jumped off the ground or putting yourself at risk for injury.

“Movember” mustache… not required!

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