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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

Stop Practicing, Start Training. Part 2: Putting

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This article is co-written with Zach Parker. Zach is the former director of golf at the Gary Gilchrist and Bishop’s Gate golf academies. Zach is a golf coach, an expert in skill acquisition, and he has years of experience setting up effective training scenarios for golfers of varying abilities. 

In Part 1 of this article, we discussed in detail how and why we should shift our focus from practicing to training. Specifically, making training more “game like” by incorporating the following three principles

  • Spacing – adding time between training or learning tasks. Not hitting ball after ball with no break!
  • Variability – mixing up the tasks, combining driving with chipping for example
  • Challenge Point – making sure that you are firstly trying to achieve or complete a task, and secondly that the task is set an appropriate difficulty for you

For more detailed insight to this topic, check out the podcast that Zach recently recorded with Game Like Training Golf

This is with the aim of avoiding the following frustrations that occur when training is performed poorly

  • Grinding on the putting green but not improving
  • Being unable to transfer performance from putting green to course
  • Finding practice boring
  • Plateaus in performance

Practice can be frustrating

In Part 1 we covered long game, and in Part 2 it’s time to address putting. Training this crucial part of the game is often overlooked and almost always performed poorly with very little intent. On course, we never hit putts from the same distance (unless you’re in the habit of missing two footers!), yet when practicing its common to repeatedly hit putts from the same place. Our length of stroke, reaction to speed and slope and time between putts are constantly changing on course, so it would make sense to replicate that in our training right?

In the practice circuit below we have incorporated spacing by leaving large gaps between putts, variability by mixing up the tasks and challenge point by introducing hurdle tasks that must be completed before moving on to the next station.

Station 1

Learning task: Three rehearsals with a specific focus, in this case, using the GravityFit TPro to bring awareness to posture and arm-body connection.

Completion task: Must make putt from 6 feet, downhill,  left to right-to-left break.

Station 2

Learning task: Three rehearsals with specific TPro focus; in this case posture for eye-line and using bands for arm-body connection.

Completion task: Must two-putt from 30-40 feet, uphill. Add drawback to five feet for more difficulty.

Station 3

Learning task: Three rehearsals with specific TPro focus again.

Completion task: Must two-putt from 20-30  ft, right to left break. Add drawback to five feet for more difficulty.

You can either have a go at this circuit or create your own. There are no set rules, just make sure to include a mixture of tasks (variability) that are appropriate to your level of ability (challenge Point) with plenty of time between repetitions (spacing).

For more information on the featured GravityFit equipment, check out the website here

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Instruction

WATCH: What to do when you’re short sided

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Top-100 instructor Tom Stickney shows you how to avoid compounding a mistake when you’ve missed the ball on the wrong side of the green.

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Instruction

Why flaring your left foot out at address could be a big mistake

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In his book “Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf,” published in 1957, Ben Hogan recommended that golfers position their right foot at a 90-degree angle to the target line, and then position their left-foot a quarter of a turn outward at a 15-degree angle (Note: He was writing for right-handed golfers). The purpose of the left-foot foot position was to assist in the “clearing of the left hip,” which Hogan believed started his downswing.

Through this Hogan instruction book and the others he wrote through the years, there four categories that defined his advice;

  1. He accurately described what was occurring in his swing.
  2. He described a phantom move that never occurred.
  3. He described something that occurred but to a lesser degree than indicated.
  4. He inaccurately described what was happening in his swing.

As evidenced by today’s modern video, Hogan did not open up his left hip immediately as he described. This piece of advice would fall into the fourth category listed above — he inaccurately described what was happening in his swing. In reality, the first move in his downswing was a 10-12 inch shift of his left hip forward toward the target before his left hip ever turned open.

SPINNING OUT

Those amateur golfers who strictly adopted his philosophy, opening the left hip immediately, ended up“spinning out” and never getting to their left foot. The spin-out was made even worse by the 15-degree angle of the left foot Hogan offered. That said, based on Hogan’s stature in the golf world, his advice regarding the positioning of the feet was treated as if it were gospel and adopted by both players and teachers. Since that time his hip action has been debated, but the positioning of the left foot has remained unquestioned — until today.

THE FLARED FOOT POSITION

The flared position of his left foot may or may not have been of assistance in helping Hogan achieve the desired outcome in his swing. That really is not the point, but rather that over a half-century there has never been a voice that argued against the flared foot position he advocated.

The rest of the golf world accepted his advice without question. In my opinion, the left foot position advocated by Hogan has harmed countless golfers who slowly saw their swings fall apart and wondered why. His well-meaning advice was a poisoned pill, and once swallowed by golfers it served to eventually erode what was left of their left side.

DEAD WRONG

The subject of this piece is not to debate Hogan’s hip action but the piece that accompanied it, the 15-degree flare of the left foot. I’m of the opinion that it is not only wrong. Because of its toxic nature, it is DEAD WRONG.  The reason has to do with the tailbone, which determines the motion of the hips in the swing. The more the left foot opens up at address, the more the tailbone angles backward. That encourages the hips to “spin out” in the downswing, which means they have turned before the player’s weight has been allowed to move forward to their left foot and left knee.

As a consequence of the hips spinning out, players move their weight backward (toward the right foot), encouraging a swing that works out-to-in across the body. You can see this swing played out on the first tee of any public golf course on a Saturday morning.

FOOT FLARE ISSUES

The problem with the 15-degree foot flare is that it promotes, if not guarantees, the following swing issues:

In the backswing, the flared left foot:

  1. Discourages a full left- hip turn;
  2. Encourages the improper motion of the left-knee outward rather than back
  3. Reduces the degree that the torso can turn because of the restrictions placed on the left hip.

In the downswing, the flared left foot: 

  1. Promotes a “spinning out” of the left hip.
  2. Does not allow for a solid post at impact.

STRAIGHT AHEAD

In working with my students, I’ve come to the conclusion that the most advantageous position for the left foot at address is straight ahead at a 90-degree angle to the target line. The reason is not only because it encourages a positive moment of the player’s weight forward in the downswing, but it also improves the player’s chances of making a sound backswing.

THE POWER OF THE LEFT HEEL

There is an inherent advantage to placing the left-foot at a 90-degree to the target-line. It is the strongest physical position against which to hit the ball, as it provides a powerful post at impact that serves to increase both power and consistency.

JACK NICKLAUS

A number of years ago, Jack Nicklaus appeared on the cover of Golf Digest. The byline suggested that in studying Jack’s footwork, they had discovered something that up to that point was unknown. The “secret” they were describing was that after lifting his left heel in the backswing, he replanted it in the downswing with his heel closer to the target line than his toe. The intimation was that this might be a secret source of power in his swing.  This was hardly a “secret,” and something that Nicklaus was probably unaware of until it was pointed out to him, but it’s a demonstration of the fact that his natural instinct was to turn his foot inward, rather than outward, on the downswing.

THE DISCUS THROWER

The discus thrower whirls around in a circle as he prepares to throw. On the final pass, he plants his left toe slightly inward, relative to his heel, because this is the most powerful position from which to cast the discus. This position allows the thrower to draw energy from the ground while at the same time providing a strong post position from which additional torque can be applied. The point is that as the discus thrower makes the final spin in preparation for the throw, he does not turn the lead foot outward. Why? Because if it were turned outward, the potential draw of energy from the ground would be compromised.

The same is true when it comes to swinging a golf club for power, and you can test the two positions for yourself. After turning the left foot into a position that is 90 degrees to the target line, you will immediately note the ease with which you can now turn away from the target in addition to the strength of your left side post at the point of impact. Conversely, when you turn your left foot out, you will feel how it restricts your backswing and does not allow for a strong post position on the downswing.

REPAIRING YOUR SWING

Do you have trouble cutting across the ball? You might look to the position of your left foot and the action of the left hip. The first step would be to place your left foot at a 90-degree angle to the target line. The second step would be to turn you left hip around in a half circle as if tracing the inside of a barrel. The third step would be to feel that you left your left hip remains in the same position as you scissor your weight towards your left toe, and then your right heel, allowing the club to travel on the same path. The combination of these changes will encourage the club to swing in-to-out, improving the path of your swing.

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