Over the past 15 years, I’ve had a front-row seat to elite junior golf. I have watched more than 1,500 rounds of golf and evaluated upward of 10,000 junior golfers. Over that time, I can remember only four truly great rounds of competitive golf in big-time moments. The rest were average, below average, or wildly disappointing for a group of golfers who are very, very good, but not PGA Tour-level great.
The implication is simple; most junior golfers — something like 99.99 percent of them — have no chance of earning a PGA Tour card. I don’t say this to scare you or your loved one; I say this because it’s the truth, and it might motivate Junior. To play on the PGA Tour, you have to be in the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent to have a chance, and even then making millions by playing golf professionally is unlikely. For every Rickie Fowler there’s a Ty Tryon; and then there are thousands more who had professional aspirations that Tyron and Fowler used to whoop up on. And there’s always a constant crop of new, PGA-Tour ready golfers that cycle in every year.
For the ones who are trying to “make it” and believe they have the talent and work ethic, I have compiled a list of tips that can help the best of the best increase their odds of making it to the PGA Tour.
20-Year Life Cycle: It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Every sport has a life cycle. For example, gymnastics has a life cycle of approximately seven years; students specialize at about 13 years old, and their careers end when they are about 20 (if they’re lucky). For golfers, that life cycle is closer to 20 years and hopefully longer. That means that an elite golfer who takes up the game at 6 should not expect to become a world-class golfer or touring pro until age 26. This presents a unique problem; a lot happens between the ages of 6 and 26 to a person, including puberty, college, dating, and so much more. Even the most driven person is going to have a problem staying completely focused on one thing for 20 years. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so it’s important that all aspiring golfers take breaks and time away from the game to relax and rejuvenate. Balance is extremely important.
There Is A Formula: It’s Called Hard Work and Planning
As a coach and mentor helping junior golfers and their parents, I always start at the same place; realize that what you want has a simple, straightforward process. You need to set a goal, get the proper support, work way harder than you think you should, and evaluate the results along the way. I believe strongly in this process and have seen great results, even for those who eventually focus on something other than golf. Why do they become successful? Because if a junior learns to set goals, work hard, evaluate, and repeat, it works. The problem is not the process, but sticking to it.
The Secret Sauce: Motivation
Beyond teaching the process I highlighted above, as a player or parent you must also understand that being motivated and staying motivated is a large differentiator in sports, as in life. The story of the kid who plays basketball from the moment he wakes up until the moment he goes to sleep is not an urban myth; it’s a simple fact. Some kids put in a lot more hours, and the success stories generally come from this group.
For PGA Tour players, if you aren’t motivated or built this way, then remember there is a kid out there who is. He or she is out there practicing when you’re texting or hanging at the mall with your friends. And he or she is likely to beat you… and beat you bad.
Parents can lead their kids to the foot of the mountain, but they can’t climb it for them. What motivates your child will change throughout his or her life, and it is your job to help junior find it. For example, when a player is younger, they may enjoy golf because they get an ice cream at the end of every round. Then they might enjoy the ability to beat their peers, and later the ability to earn a college scholarship. None of these motivations are right or wrong. Your job as a parent is to help your child have the motivation to keep following the process of setting goals, getting support, working hard, and evaluating.
Early Specialization May Not Be All It’s Cracked Up To Be
Science suggests that juniors who specialize early are at a greater risk of injury. Dr. Neeru Jayanthi of Loyola University found that early specialization in a single sport is one of the strongest predictors of injury. Athletes in the study who specialized were 70-to-93 percent more likely to be injured than children who played multiple sports. A 2013 American Medical Society for Sports Medicine survey found that 88 percent of college athletes surveyed participated in more than one sport as a child.
Other sports can also help junior golfers develop different skills. For example, playing baseball might help junior golfers fine tune their ambient motor system. Soccer might help golfers improve their cardiovascular system. Tennis might teach them about controlling their emotions. In the future, it is likely that junior golfers will draw on these experiences to help them in their golf careers.
The Canadian Class Of 2009: Who Made It and Who Didn’t
The year 2009 was an awesome one for Canadian amateur golf; Nick Taylor was the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world for approximately 20 weeks and Matt Hill won every competition he played in during his spring semester at NC State, including the NCAA Championships. This was also the year that a gentleman from the University of Louisville named Adam Hadwin turned pro. In 2010, a player from Boise State named Graeme DeLaet turned pro.
At the time, nobody paid much attention to Hadwin or DeLaet. It was all about Taylor and Hill. Fast forward seven years: Hadwin and DeLeat are PGA Tour players and Hadwin is a PGA Tour winner. This goes to show you that early talent is not always the strongest predictor or longevity.
The Best Advice I Ever Heard
The best advice I have heard on this subject comes from Steve Runge, Head Men’s Golf Coach at the University of Central Arkansas. I once asked Runge, a former Ohio State stand-out and a three-time winner on the Nationwide Tour, “Who makes it and who doesn’t?” Without hesitation he responded, “It’s simple. If you’re good enough, you will make it.”
Golf swing videos: What you absolutely need to know
Let’s start with a game. Below are 5 different swing videos. I want you to study them and decide which of them is the best swing. Take your time, this is important…
Please, write your answer down. Which one was it?
Now, I am going to tell you a little secret; they are all the exact same swing filmed simultaneously from 5 various positions. JM1 is on the hand line but higher, JM2 is on the hand line but lower, JM3 is on the foot line, JM4 is on the hand line and JM5 is on the target line. Same swing, very different results!
So, what did we learn? Camera angle has an enormous impact on the way the swing looks.
“If you really want to see what is going on with video, it is crucial to have the camera in the right position,” said Bishops Gate Director of Instruction and Top 100 teacher Kevin Smeltz. “As you can see, if it is off just a little it makes a significant difference.”
According to PGA Tour Coach Dan Carraher: “Proper camera angles are extremely important, but almost more important is consistent camera angles. If you’re going to compare swings they need to be shot from the same camera angles to make sure you’re not trying to fix something that isn’t really a problem. Set the camera up at the same height and distance from the target line and player every time. The more exact the better.”
For high school players who are sending golf swing videos to college coaches, the content of the swing video is also very important. You have 5-15 seconds to impress the coach, so make sure you showcase the most impressive part of your game. For example, if you bomb it, show some drivers and make sure the frame is tight to demonstrate your speed/athleticism. Likewise, if you have a great swing but not a whole lot of power, start the video with a 5 or 6 iron swing to showcase your move. Either way, show coaches your strengths, and make sure to intrigue them!
Now that you have something that represents your skills, you need to consider how to format it so coaches are most likely to open it. I would recommend uploading the swings to YouTube and including a link in the email; a link allows the coach to simply click to see the video, rather than having to mess with opening any specific program or unknown file.
When formatting the email, always lead with your best information. For example, if you want a high-end academic school and have 1550 on the SAT lead with that. Likewise, if you have a powerful swing, lead with the YouTube link.
Although these tips do not guarantee responses, they will increase your odds!
Jason Day’s shoulder: More concerning than it seems?
If you watched The Players Championship last weekend, you probably saw Jason Day tweak his shoulder on the 16th hole on Sunday. He addressed the injury in his post-round press conference and it caught my attention. Check out this video of the press conference to hear the entire clip.
A few things about what he said stuck out to me:
- “Every now and then it happens where my shoulder feels like it pops out, but it’s like more of a sting”
- Feeling a “pop” and “sting” in his lead (left) shoulder
- Pain is usually during the transition from the top of the backswing to the downswing
- He’s been doing shoulder exercises to “stay loose”
Just by watching Jason Day’s swing, it seems pretty evident that he is a hypermobile athlete. This simply means that his joints tend to be naturally looser, enabling him to achieve the tremendous positions he does in his swing. This can become problematic, however, when hypermobility becomes instability. Instability of the shoulder can lead to recurrent and frequent subluxations and/or dislocations of the glenohumeral (shoulder) joint.
Shoulder Injuries in Golfers
Shoulder injuries account for 8-18 percent of all golf-related injuries. The most common shoulder injuries to the lead shoulder are posterior instability and acromioclavicual (AC) joint injury. Both of these injuries tend to be painful at the top of the backswing when the lead arm is in near-maximal horizontal adduction (reaching across your body). This position creates a compressive force through the AC Joint, which may cause pain.
Maximal horizontal adduction also places stress on the posterior capsule of the shoulder. During the transition from the top of the backswing to the downswing, the hips and trunk begin to rotate towards the target. In elite golfers, the arms tend to lag behind, creating a tremendous amount of torque. This can lead to something termed the “adduction stretch” in the swing when the arm bone contacts the rib cage and the humeral head exerts a posterior force. Repeated over thousands of times, this can lead to posterior instability of the shoulder (especially in a naturally hypermobile person).
Golfers with posterior instability may suffer from posterior subluxations. A subluxation is when the shoulder slides out of the joint and immediately slides back in. This is different from a dislocation, where the joint remains separated until it is physically put back into place.
- A feeling of the shoulder moving out and in of the joint
- A feeling of looseness in the shoulder
- Pain, weakness, or numbness of the arm
Should Jason Day Be Concerned?
I’m not here to diagnose Jason Day with any medical condition. I have not evaluated his shoulder, and I do not have enough information to make any kind of an informed diagnosis. But, if it barks like a dog…
Is Day’s shoulder injury something that could negatively impact him in the foreseeable future? I would argue yes. If he does indeed have posterior instability of his lead shoulder with recurrent subluxations during his golf swing, this may be a problem that nags him for a while to come.
Conservative treatment for posterior instability typically features physical therapy focusing on improving rotator strength and stability. The rotator cuff can help stabilize the shoulder during the golf swing and prevent excessive motion of the humeral head within the socket when it is functioning properly. Medical research shows that conservative treatment of posterior instability is often successful, but not for every person. One study reports only 25 percent that golfers with posterior instability were able to return to golf after undergoing physical therapy. This study is old and has a few issues, but still, this is a pretty low percentage.
Surgical treatment of posterior instability is an option. The surgery includes tightening the capsule to prevent further subluxations. One of the major drawbacks of this surgery is that it may be tough to get full cross-body range of motion back after the capsule is tightened. This can make it difficult for golfers to get back to their old swing style after surgery.
Overall, shoulder injuries, particularly to the lead shoulder, can be problematic for golfers of all ability levels. I sincerely hope that Jason Day is able to overcome his shoulder pain and continue to play at his current level.
Starting from Scratch (Episode 1): GolfWRX Editor switches to lefty
As a right-handed Division I (Rutgers University) golfer, I underwent spine surgery at 20-years old, which effected the lower right portion of my back. Eight years later, I’m a trending-up-2-handicap who deals with back spasms after nearly every round of golf or practice session, and a lingering left wrist injury — neither of which are very good for a right-handed golfer. Extremely frustrated with golf and my body, I’m officially announcing my retirement as a right-handed golfer. BUT, I’m not retiring from the sport I love.
Going forward, I will be switching to playing golf as a left-hander. The left-handed swing puts significantly less pressure on the lower right side of my back and my left wrist. Therefore, I’ll be able to continue playing golf by switching sides, and get back the passion to practice and improve.
The problem? I’ve never played golf lefty and I’m not ambidextrous. I write, throw, bat, swing, play pool, play darts, everything as a righty. For 28 years, I’ve played golf righty.
As your fearless GolfWRX Editor, I’ll be documenting the entire process through written articles, photos, podcast updates, video and social media posts (@tg2wrx on Instagram). I’ll explain what it’s like to start the game as a beginning golfer, and the process I take to improve. I’ll document lessons, club fittings, performance assessments, rounds of golf, and practice sessions on my quest. Hopefully, I’ll be writing the blueprint for how to go from a terrible golfer to a nineties shooter. Hopefully.
My goal is to break 100 (on a regulation golf course from the “white” tees) before Labor Day. My co-host on Two Guys Talking Golf has bet against me for a publicly undisclosed sum, and I’ve also been taking many side bets, as well. My mission for the summer is to prove everyone wrong.
Watch Episode 1 of the series to see my first swings as a lefty.
Starting from Scratch: Episode 1
Week 1 and 2 highlights
- Whiffed once while attempting to hit a 6-iron. I’m just happy it only happened once.
- Went to a big box store to buy used golf clubs. Wow, buying equipment as a lefty is just as difficult as left-handers have been telling righties their entire lives. I bought a 64-degree SureOut wedge — I need the most forgiveness I can get
- Purchased the rest of my set online for less than $500! We will be posting a “What’s in the bag” video in the coming weeks. Spoiler alert: I got some VERY forgiving stuff.
- Watched a video from Shawn Clement — who is scratch as both a lefty and a righty — saying right-hand dominant golfers playing lefty should feel the club pulling with their right arm. It feels like a backhand stroke in tennis, and I’m thinking this will be a good swing thought moving forward
- Grinded at the short game area almost every night until the rest of my clubs came in. Short game is feeling really good. Just working on hitting down on the golf ball and making consistent contact near the center of the face.
- One night after work, I went to the short game area at my local course, and realized no one was playing. Although I didn’t feel ready to take my game to the course, I decided to play 9 holes. And I shot… 50!! (Par 35; 2,810 yards.) Very encouraging.
- Check out @tg2wrx for a ridiculous flop shot I hit over the trees during my first round as a lefty
- Shot 44 on a mini golf course putting lefty… yikes. Gotta reduce those three putts.
Thoughts from a left-hander
Overall, the most work is going to be getting mid-to-long irons in the air, and reducing slices/top/shanks off the tee. If I can simply get the ball in the air and hit it somewhere around the center of the face, I believe I can plot my way around a golf course to break 100. Bunker play is a huge concern still, so I’ll want to avoid bunkers at all costs. Other than that, I need to practice more. More range balls, more chip shots, more pitch shots and more putts. I need to continue getting comfortable hitting golf balls from the “wrong” side.
Tune in next time to see my WITB and how I’m faring as a south paw.
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