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6 Ways I Dramatically Improved My Golf Game

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At some point in the last few years, I recall sitting down for a little meditative-type reflection. I thought about where I had been, what I had done, and what was next for me. As I was reviewing my life and career, it became apparent to me that one of the things I’m good at is making dramatic transformations.

For example, I was cut from my high school JV baseball team, yet I went on to be invited to a tryout for the Minnesota Twins at the old Metrodome. I was a sixth man playing high school basketball, and I ended up playing NAIA Division II basketball. After college, I wanted to be in a fitness magazine, so I transformed my body to the point where I made that happen.

BeforeAfter-1021-580

In golf, I was lucky to break 50 for 9 holes in high school (once I shot 70-48=118 for 18 holes in a junior tournament). I recall being stoked when I drove a ball past the 225-yard marker at the driving range in college, and I was a 14-handicap golfer as late as 27. Now, I’ve made multiple cuts in various professional tour events around the world with rounds in the 60s and 70s, won the televised Pinnacle Distance Challenge with a 381-yard drive, and won multiple qualifiers for the World Long Drive Championships with a competitive best of 421 yards.

Similarly, I don’t have a runner-type body (I’m 6-feet, 2-inches and weigh 215), but I improved my running ability to be competitive and finish as high as fifth a few years ago in the Speedgolf World Championships in fields of elite and Olympic-level runners.

When I started thinking about all these things and how I accomplished everything, it became apparent that there was a general, step-by-step formula that I was putting in place most of the time. Here’s a brief overview of how it has worked.

No. 1: Know What You Want To Do

The first step is to simply decide what it is you want to do. Although it’s certainly possible to achieve things in life without the specific intention of doing so, the beauty of life is you can certainly direct your attention to something specific and go there.

Have the courage to even go for something that scares you. At some point in life, we all start from the beginning. Sure, some people are naturally better at certain things than others, but that doesn’t matter. Know and trust that if you want to achieve something in life, it’s possible. It doesn’t even matter if it’s something that no one has done before. New things are done and records are broken all the time by people who have never been there before, but they had the intention to do what they wanted to do.

No. 2: Find Ways to Quantify Your End Goal

Once you’ve decided where you want to go, figure out how to quantify and/or know when you’ll have achieved your goal.

For instance, let’s say your goal is to be the club champion. That’s easy to quantify, but you might also add some detail and look back at your club’s history to determine what score it typically takes to win. If 75 usually wins and the course rating on your course is 72 and slope rating is 108, you could reasonably have a chance to win if you were a 3-handicap golfer.

From there, you could make a profile of the 3-handicap golfer. Perhaps this golfer’s profile would include having 104-mph driver clubhead speed, hitting 7 or 8 fairways, hitting 9 greens in regulation, and taking less than 33 putts/round.

No. 3: Take an Honest Assessment of Where You Are

After you’ve decided where you want to go and what it will look like when you arrive, figure out your current location. This can sometimes be difficult, because it requires taking an honest look at yourself. That’s not always pretty.

Perhaps you hit some 250-yard drives a few times. Awesome! But they were downwind, downhill, and on firm fairways. Doh. Looking at your “real” average, you find that your drives tend to fly about 215 yards. Perhaps that’s a little depressing to your ego, but suck it up butter cup. With the right information, you’ll actually be able to start on the correct path to improvement.

No. 4: Connect the Dots with a Plan on a Timeline

Let’s say you’ve got a 15-handicap. Through your research and the above-mentioned sample profile, you now know that to win the club championship you need to pick up 35 yards off the tee, hit 3-4 more fairways, hit 4 more greens, and take 2 fewer putts.

Perhaps this feels daunting because maybe you’ve been stuck at that 15-handicap for years and have never even sniffed being a 10-handicap, much less the 3-handicap you’ll need to have a chance of winning the club championship. This is where you’ve got to have faith, trust that it’s possible, get yourself in an objective place, and stay focused on the end goal.

Start by making a timeline with some milestones that you need to hit along the way. You know where you want to go. You know where you are. You also know that next year’s club championship is 10 months away. That means you need to drop 1.3 shots off your handicap per month, every month. Again, perhaps this sounds daunting, but do as best as you can to stay out of that mental space of doubt.

Now, knowing the pace you need to go, start objectively thinking about how you are going to do it. Ask yourself, how do I get this done? What will it take? See what pops in your head.

At this point, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. There’s tons of information out there, much of which is conflicting, so stay focused on your end goal. If you want a red car and focus on specifically having the red car, you’ll start noticing all the red cars on the road among all the other hundreds and thousands of cars. The same is true here. Stay focused on being the club champion and see what you notice. Try to limit what you put in your plan to the 20 percent of the things out there that will create 80 percent of the gains. The minutia can be important, but at the same time, you also want to make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck time and energy-wise.

Related: The 80-20 of Golf Improvement

For example, in 2006 and 2007, when I knew I needed more distance to compete in long drive, I kept my focus on the end goal. I felt my swing was in a good place. I was striking the ball well, and my equipment was fit about as well as could be at the time. It seemed the only thing I could do from there would be to improve my body’s ability to generate speed.

At the time, there was virtually no information in the golf world on how to do this. Many prominent industry people even said it couldn’t be done. I stayed focused on my red car, and viola, I was drawn to my own past experiences and other sports and athletes (power lifters, dunkers, jumpers, sprinters, martial artists, body builders, etc) that helped me put together a swing-speed training program for myself. Behold, in 37 days, I added 26 mph of club head speed (and over 65 yards) to my swing, I started winning qualifiers for the World Long Drive Championships, and those programs later became the basis for the swing speed training we have at Swing Man Golf.

Don’t be afraid to go against the grain. If you are going to achieve things that you (and perhaps others) have not yet achieved, you might have to be willing to do things differently. That may also mean receiving push back both from those around you and even “experts” in the field. So it takes a bit of courage, a willingness to be different, not worrying about what others think of you, and some faith in yourself.

No. 5: Start Moving, Track Progress, and Adjust if Necessary

Once you know what you want, you’ve figured out what that looks like, you know where you are, and you’ve put together a plan to arrive at your destination within your desired timeline, it’s time to get going. Beware of paralysis by analysis. Although planning is important, at some point you’ve simply got to get in the car and start driving toward your destination, especially if there is a timeline involved.

In that sense, it’s totally like the GPS in your car or mapping apps that you use on your phone. You are in Los Angeles. You want to get to New York. You have figured out you need to go east. Start driving. If you don’t, you might miss your meeting. Your route doesn’t need to be perfect. Sometimes, there is more than one way to get to your destination.

Provided you check in along the way like your GPS device does, you can make sure you are still on pace. Checking in periodically is important, because if you do get off track, it’s important to re-route as quickly as possible. And if something you are trying is not working in a reasonable timeframe, dump it immediately. As they say, if you are going to fail, fail fast.

No. 6: Be Persistent

Depending on the goal, it may take more or less time to achieve it. Getting a college degree takes longer than driving across the country, for example. But whatever you want to do, you won’t get there if you quit. There may be challenges along the drive. You’ll need to take breaks for food and gas. Perhaps you factored in some sightseeing along the way or a family visit. You might have gotten a flat tire. Perhaps you got way off track and ended up too far north in Canada. Whatever it is, you’ve got to get back in the car and keep going. This is one of the reasons why writing down your goals and putting them in places where you will see them regularly can be handy. It can help keep you focused from day-to-day.

In 2010, you may recall that the USGA changed its groove rules. I was playing single-length irons at the time (and had shot my first tournament round in the 60s with them), and none of the then manufacturers seemed to want to update their grooves. I really believed in the concept though, so I decided to make my own brand. It didn’t matter that I had never done that before. It didn’t matter that I was told “no” multiple times from various people before Tom Wishon decided to be my partner in 2013. It didn’t matter that I was in debt, living month to month, and otherwise didn’t have the money to fund the project. It didn’t matter that the testing and development process took 2.5 years.

What mattered was I decided to do it. I took action and found ways to move forward. I learned and adjusted along the way, and I just…kept…going. Because of that, we now have Sterling Irons.

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Related: The GolfWRX Review of Sterling Irons

So there you go. I hope that sharing this general process helps you, and I wish you the best in making your own dramatic transformations, whether they be in golf or in other areas of life.

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Jaacob Bowden is a Professional Golfer, PGA of America Class A Member, Top 100 Most Popular Teacher, Swing Speed Trainer, the original founder of Swing Man Golf, the co-creator of "Sterling Irons" single length irons, and has caddied on the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS. Formerly an average-length hitting 14-handicap computer engineer, Jaacob quit his job, took his savings and moved from Kansas to California to pursue a golf career at age 27. He has since won the Pinnacle Distance Challenge with a televised 381-yard drive, won multiple qualifiers for the World Long Drive Championships including a 421-yard grid record drive, made cuts in numerous tournaments around the world with rounds in the 60s and 70s, and finished fifth at the Speed Golf World Championships at Bandon Dunes. Jaacob also holds the championship record for golf score with a 72 in 55 minutes and 42 seconds using only 6 clubs. The Swing Man Golf website has more than 8,000 members and focuses primarily on swing speed training. Typically, Jaacob’s website members and amateur and tour player clients will pick up 12-16 mph of driver swing speed in the first 30 days of basic speed training. You can learn more about Jaacob, Swing Man Golf, and Sterling Irons here: Websites – JaacobBowden.com & SwingManGolf.com & SterlingIrons.com; Twitter - @JaacobBowden & @SwingManGolf & @SterlingIrons; Facebook – Facebook.com/JaacobBowdenGolf & Facebook.com/SwingManGolf & <Facebook.com/SterlingIronsGolf; Instagram - Instagram.com/JaacobBowden YouTube – YouTube.com/SwingManGolf – More than 2.8 million video views

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. golfraven

    Oct 10, 2017 at 4:49 pm

    Looking at the picture I thought Paul Casey is telling his story. Are you guys related?

  2. MrUpandDown

    Oct 3, 2017 at 11:21 am

    I getting on Tinder as we speak! Can’t wait to apply these principles and stop being a loser!

  3. MrUpandDown

    Oct 3, 2017 at 11:20 am

    Trying to end 34 years of inactivity if you know what I mean.

  4. MrUpandDown

    Oct 3, 2017 at 11:18 am

    Can these principles be used for relationships?

  5. Jerome E.

    Oct 3, 2017 at 11:08 am

    This is a self-aggrandizing/masturbatory article cloaked as a self-help manifesto. There’s nothing earth-shattering about the advice given in this article. It’s a sophomoric regurgitation of a “Rules for Success” formula that’s been written and preached about ad nauseam. The photo of you posing and the humble brag on your golf clubs is especially cringe-worthy.

    You succeeded on 2 counts of the rhetorical triangle with credibility and logic, but failed by not understanding your audience. This is a golf forum. Not a bodybuilding/entrepreneurial forum. Your examples make sense logically, but fall flat in terms of relating to the audience. Choose better, more relatable examples next time.

    • NG

      Oct 4, 2017 at 1:29 am

      Reminds me of Tony Robbins, another one of them self-aggrandizing sociopath snake oil salesman disguised as a businessman

  6. Boss

    Oct 3, 2017 at 9:33 am

    We would all much rather listen to DJ mumble nothings and find it hilarious than have to be shoved all this personal glory story down our throats like this

  7. Matt Schulze

    Oct 3, 2017 at 6:41 am

    In fairness, the 97% of people 24th can’t/won’t improve their 28 handicap probably shouldn’t have even bothered with the article if they aren’t willing to invest time practicing and working at it.

    What did they expect – how Netflix and potato chips increased my driving distance?

  8. Paul

    Oct 2, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    The yips are holding me back. I can’t get through them. Had twelve 3-putt greens this past weekend. Somehow I’ve able to hold a 14 handicap. No problems tee to green. On the green equals disaster!

  9. Bob

    Oct 2, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    Sometimes accepting what you can do gets in the way of what you want to do….you can hit a 7 iron 120 yards on the green most any time, but you can also hit a 7 iron 150 yards any time and hope to hit the green…so 100% of the time you know which club you pull for that 150 yard 3 par…no way your pulling a 5 iron out of the bag.

  10. Triple Mocha Man

    Oct 2, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    You wound like a very positive person, but also super annoying.

  11. Mario

    Oct 2, 2017 at 5:04 am

    Dang.. Thanks for letting us know all of your accomplishments and how special you are.

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Oct 2, 2017 at 11:57 am

      You have missed the point. This is an article about how YOU might make a dramatic change to any area of YOUR life based on a formula that what has worked well for me. My accomplishments are only relevant to illustrate that point…and yes, I’m great. But you share that as well! We all do!

      • Double Mocha Man

        Oct 2, 2017 at 3:31 pm

        Stephen Paddock don’t

      • Boss

        Oct 3, 2017 at 9:31 am

        No, Jaac, you missed his sarcasm. And dang, you are annoying, Jaac. Go pat yourself on the back and enjoy the mirror some more.

  12. Radim Pavlicek

    Oct 2, 2017 at 2:56 am

    Very nice article. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Guia

    Oct 1, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    Your commitment is amazing. I am starting my change tomorrow.

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Oct 2, 2017 at 1:08 pm

      Thanks…and excellent! There’s no sense waiting until New Year’s to make resolutions, set goals, and be that which we see ourselves. And as they say, it’s only too late if you don’t start now! Go get ’em!

  14. Double Mocha Man

    Oct 1, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    Wouldn’t it be drastically and not dramatically

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Oct 2, 2017 at 12:01 pm

      Yes, drastically would work as well. Although, such changes could be dramatic too. This one was editor’s choice. :-p

  15. Tommy

    Oct 1, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    I know your story Jaacob but it was nice to hear it again. You’re a great inspiration to us hacks everywhere.

  16. Double Mocha Man 4 Pres

    Oct 1, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    Good article, thanks Jaacob. Love how you broke it down into pieces. Time to get moving towards our goals!

  17. Boss

    Oct 1, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    Man, I knew it. Now you’re just showing off. THAT’s the one thing bad players hate about you people. You just don’t get it, Jaacob. You’ve proved to people that you can’t just PLAY golf on the weekends without practice or working out, that buying new equipment won’t help.

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Oct 2, 2017 at 12:15 pm

      This is not meant as showing off. This is more, “if you want to make a big change in your golf game (or life), here’s one way to do it”.
      People can play however and to whatever level they would like…and that doesn’t necessarily mean it requires lots of practice or working out if they want to get better. It’s definitely possible to be better (even with only weekend golf) if you make that your intention, pay attention, are willing to change your approach, and keep your focus over time.
      New equipment may help in certain situations, being custom fit can definitely help if one hasn’t already done that…and of course, I’d recommend Sterling Irons single length irons. 😉

  18. Lorne

    Oct 1, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    Congratulations!!! Everything you have done in your life is commendable and inspiring. You are a winner.
    However, the average ‘golfer’ who can’t break 100 honestly cannot and will not make a commitment to improving their golf game. They will buy newer clubs but cannot make a change to their physical abilities over the longer term. Physical training is too painful and time consuming.
    Basically, most recreational golfer play golf for fun, relaxation and social contact…. and search for a ‘golf tip’ to solve their swing problems. Nothing more.
    What you are advocating may only apply to the top 1 – 3% of golfers worldwide who are obsessed with their decent golf game… and even then. I know, because I did it too.

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Gear Dive: How Tiger Woods used to adjust his clubs based on swing changes

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Ben Giunta, a former Nike Tour Rep and now owner of the TheTourVan.com, joins host Johnny Wunder and TXG’s Ian Fraser on this episode of The Gear Dive. Ben discusses working in-depth with Nike Athletes before the company stopped producing hard goods. He has some fantastic intel on TW and the setup of his sticks (around the 14-minute mark). They also discuss Ben’s new endeavor.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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The 2018 NCAA Men’s National Championship: By the Numbers

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For the 2018 NCAA Men’s Championship, 156 participants (30 teams of five, and six individuals) will collect at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma on May 25-30 to determine the 2018 NCAA Individual Champion and the NCAA Team champion.

There will be three days of stroke play on Friday through Sunday (54 holes). From there, 15 teams and nine individuals advance to a final day of stroke play on Monday. That will determine the eight teams who will advance to match play, and the individual 72-hole stroke play champion. Match play format on Tuesday and Wednesday will then determine the national team champion.

Who will win? Well, let’s look at the numbers from the NCAA Men’s Championships in the past 9 years (when they began playing match play as part of the national title).

Average winning score for individual stroke play

  • For 3 rounds of stroke play — 832 strokes (avg. 69.3 per golfer)
  • For 4 rounds of stroke play — 1137 strokes (avg. 71.06 per golfer)

Number of No. 1 seeds to win championship: 0

Average match play seed of eventual winner: 4.5

Where the winners have come from

  • 44 percent of winners (4 out of 9) are from the SEC: Texas AM (2009), Alabama (2013, 2014) and LSU (2015)
  • 22 percent of winners (2 out of 9) are from the Big 12: Texas (2012), Oklahoma (2017)
  • 22 percent of winners (2 out of 9) are from Augusta, GA: August State (2010, 2011)
  • 11 percent of winners (1 out of 9) are from the PAC 12: Oregon (2016)
  • 11 percent of the match play field has historically come from mid-major teams

Mid-Majors that have Qualified for Match Play

  • August State (2010, 2011)
  • Kent State (2012)
  • San Diego State (2012)
  • New Mexico University (2013)
  • SMU (2014)
  • UNLV (2017)

Mid Majors with 4+ Appearances in the NCAA National Championship 

  • UCF (2009, 2012, 2013, 2017, 2018)
  • Kent State (2010, 201, 2013, 2017, 2018)
  • North Florida (2010, 2012, 2013, 2018)

So with facts in hand, let’s hear your opinion GolfWRX readers… who’s going to be your team champion for 2018?

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Fantasy Preview: 2018 Fort Worth Invitational

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Under a new name, but a very familiar setting, the Fort Worth Championship gets underway this week. Colonial Country Club will host, and it’s an event that has attracted some big names to compete in the final stop of the Texas swing. The top two ranked Europeans, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose are in the field, as are Americans Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.

Colonial is a tricky course with narrow tree-lined fairways that are imperative to hit. Distance off the tee holds no real advantage this week with approach play being pivotal. Approach shots will be made more difficult this week than usual by the greens at Colonial, which are some of the smallest on the PGA Tour. Last year, Kevin Kisner held off Spieth, Rahm, and O’Hair to post 10-under par and take the title by a one-stroke margin.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Jordan Spieth 9/1
  • Jon Rahm 14/1
  • Justin Rose 18/1
  • Webb Simpson 18/1
  • Rickie Fowler 20/1
  • Jimmy Walker 28/1
  • Adam Scott 28/1

Last week, Jordan Spieth (9/1, DK Price $11,700) went off at the Byron Nelson as the prohibitive 5/1 favorite. Every man and his dog seemed to be on him, and after Spieth spoke to the media about how he felt he had a distinct advantage at a course where he is a member, it was really no surprise. Comments like this from Spieth at the Byron Nelson are not new. When the event was held at TPC Four Seasons, Spieth often made similar comments. The result? He flopped, just as he did last week at Trinity Forest. Spieth’s best finish at the Byron Nelson in his career is T-16. The reason for this, I believe, is the expectations he has put on himself at this event for years.

Switch to Colonial, and the difference is considerable. Spieth’s worst finish here is T-14. In his last three visits, he has finished second, first and second. While Spieth may believe that he should win the Byron Nelson whenever he tees it up there, the evidence suggests that his love affair is with Colonial. The statistic that truly emphasizes his prowess at Colonial, though, is his Strokes Gained-Total at the course. Since 2013, Spieth has a ridiculous Strokes Gained-Total of more than +55 on the course, almost double that of Kisner in second place.

Spieth’s long game all year has been consistently good. Over his previous 24 rounds, he ranks first in this field for Strokes Gained-Tee to Green, second for Ball Striking, and first for Strokes Gained-Total. On the other hand, his putting is awful at the moment. He had yet another dreadful performance on the greens at Trinity Forest, but he was also putting nowhere near his best coming into Colonial last year. In 2017, he had dropped strokes on the greens in his previous two events, missing the cut on both occasions, yet he finished seventh in Strokes Gained-Putting at Colonial on his way to a runner-up finish. His record is too good at this course for Spieth to be 9/1, and he can ignite his 2018 season in his home state this week.

Emiliano Grillo’s (50/1, DK Price $8,600) only missed cut in 2018 came at the team event in New Orleans, and he arrives this week at a course ideally suited to the Argentine’s game. Grillo performed well here in 2017, recording a top-25 finish. His form in 2018 leads me to believe he can improve on that this year.

As a second-shot golf course, Colonial sets up beautifully for the strengths of Grillo’s game. Over his previous 12 rounds, Grillo ranks first in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, second in Ball Striking, third in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green and eighth in Strokes Gained-Total. The Argentine also plays short golf courses excellently. Over his last 50 rounds, Grillo is ranked ninth for Strokes Gained-Total on courses measuring 7,200 yards or less. Colonial is right on that number, and Grillo looks undervalued to continue his consistent season on a course that suits him very well.

Another man enjoying a consistent 2018 is Adam Hadwin (66/1, DK Price $7,600), who has yet to miss a cut this season. The Canadian is enjoying an excellent run of form with five top-25 finishes from his last six stroke-play events. Hadwin is another man whose game is tailor made for Colonial. His accurate iron play and solid putting is a recipe for success here, and he has proven that by making the cut in all three of his starts at Colonial, finishing in the top-25 twice.

Hadwin is coming off his worst performance of 2018 at The Players Championship, but it was an anomaly you can chalk up to a rare poor week around the greens (he was seventh-to-last in Strokes Gained-Around the Green for the week). In his previous seven starts, Hadwin had a positive strokes gained total in this category each time. Over his last 24 rounds, Hadwin ranks seventh in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, 15th in Ball Striking, and ninth in Strokes Gained-Putting. He looks to have an excellent opportunity to improve on his solid record at Colonial this week.

Finally, as far as outsiders go, I like the look of Sean O’Hair (175/1, DK Price $7,100) at what is a juicy price. One of last year’s runners-up, his number is far too big this week. He has had some excellent performances so far in 2018. In fact, in his previous six starts, O’Hair has made five cuts and has notched three top-15 finishes, including his runner-up finish at the Valero Texas Open. The Texan has made three of his last four cuts at Colonial, and he looks to be an excellent pick on DraftKings at a low price.

Recommended Plays

  • Jordan Spieth 9/1, DK Price $11,700
  • Emiliano Grillo 50/1, DK Price $8.600
  • Adam Hadwin 66/1, DK Price $7,600
  • Sean O’Hair 175/1, DK Price  $7,100
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