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How to Build a Golf Training Plan

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Walk the range at any course in the country, and I would be willing to bet that the majority of players hitting balls do not use a training plan. It’s like going into the gym everyday without a plan of what you want to accomplish. You’ll probably get stronger, but you won’t reach your potential.

When developing your golf training plan, you have to start with some very basic questions:

1. What is my ultimate goal for this plan? Don’t be afraid to dream here. Make your goal realistic, but if it’s not a little scary, it’s probably not big enough.

2. How much time can I realistically devote every week to my plan? You don’t want to stretch what’s possible with this answer. Be brutally honest with yourself. There is nothing worse then having a great plan, but not being able to make it work due to time constraints. 

3. How can I measure my success? I like to use software like measuredpractice.com 

4. What parts of my game need the most work? Again, stat-tracking software is invaluable for questions like this. The Shot by Shot app also does an incredible job pointing out deficiencies and strengths.

5. How will I stay accountable? It’s great to have a coach, a training partner, or a social media group to motivate you, follow your progress, and keep you accountable. Setting up a support system is key. 

Once you have the time to sit down and write out the answers to those five questions, you are ready to start making your plan. And every week of your plan needs to have a goal and a weekly focus that fits into your ultimate goals.

Gaucher_Will_Wedge_Plan

In the picture above, you can see the player told me he could dedicate 5 hours a week to serious practice. That doesn’t mean he only played 5 hours of golf that week, but he had to have 100-percent focus for at least these 5 hours. This particular week’s focus and goal was all wedge work, which we chose as an area of focus based on the stats we had gathered. It fit into our game plan of hitting more drivers off the tee. This particular player can hit his driver in excess of 320 yards, so a sharper wedge game is key to helping him shoot lower his scores.

Gaucher_Training_Plan

When I’m developing training plans with golfers, I like to create mini training plans with an even greater focus on a particular area. For instance, in setting up this player’s tournament schedule, we labeled tournaments A, B, or C. The “A” tournaments are the biggest and most important, while the “C” tournaments are less important or have weaker fields. Labeling the schedule allows us to determine in advance how much practice and training we will use, as well as what type of practice and training we will use.

In this example, the golfer was a scratch who mainly played club events. He told me that 8 hours per week was the most he could dedicate to practice time. So during the week with no tournament and the week with only a charity event, we used that full 8 hours to really focus on some technique and weaknesses in his game. As we moved into tournament weeks (A and B events), we used spent more time on mental focus and on-course practice to make sure he was prepared to shoot the lowest scores possible.

The hardest part of making a program is that you have to be willing to adapt and change. Most people can set up a very good plan, but as their game develops or as life happens, they fail to adjust their plan. This is where having a coach who can look at the big picture and the stats is invaluable. Looking at the big picture, a coach can take a step back and adjust the plan to suit both your short-term and long-term needs.

If you want to play your best golf possible, take the time to sit down and create a plan before your next round or range session. Enjoy the journey of improvement, and don’t hesitate to reach out for help as your goals need to be adjusted. We’re in this together!

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Dan Gaucher is a Teaching Professional at Lyman Orchards Golf Club in Connecticut. He also host a very successful podcast called "Rebel With Out A Par". Dan also has experience in the health and fitness industry which has allowed him to further understand the biomechanics of the body and how it correlates to the golf swing. Dan enjoys being a student of both the human body and the game of golf. Dan works with players of all abilities from beginners to aspiring professionals.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. robert

    Oct 14, 2017 at 12:40 am

    great read, a trainer makes me this plan…i’m wondering what would be if i had tjis 10 years ago…

    • Golf Doktor

      Oct 14, 2017 at 5:52 pm

      Yeah, but just reading a ‘plan’ won’t make you a better golfer. You gotta exercise so you’re physically fit and then train for golf….. a minimum 2 year plan.
      Alternatively, you can read golf magazines, books and websites for really great golf ‘tips’…. and that should be enough for instant results… but only if you can think your way through your new golf swing.

  2. M. Vegas

    Oct 12, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    Take a week or two off….
    Then quit playing

    • Golf Doktor

      Oct 14, 2017 at 5:53 pm

      I hear that Texas Holdem Poker is really popular with high handicap golfers nowadays.

    • Golf Doktor

      Oct 14, 2017 at 6:15 pm

      No no, don’t quit playing!
      The PGA defines a “golfer” as anybody who owns a set of golf clubs and plays once a year.
      According to golf industry statistics there are ~50 million golfer worldwide…. and about 90% fall into the above category.

  3. SteveK

    Oct 11, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    Any athletic training program must start with General Conditioning which means going to the gym and building up your body to control your body joints when under athletic stress. If you have weak abs or quads no amount of training for golf will help you because your weaknesses will ruin you.
    You can have a basic home gym with weights and equipment or go to a health club for more equipment. It’s a cheap investment and one year of General Conditioning will pay tremendous dividends.
    The next step is Sport-specific Training once you have reached an adequate level of General Conditioning. This may or may not include swinging a golf club. Simply skipping the General Conditioning is cheating and deluding. You can’t build a solid swing into a deficient body.
    Sorry for the bad brutal truth, because attempting to tinker and patch a golf swing in the hope of improving your swing problems is plainly wrong.

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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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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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Move Your Legs Like the Legends: The Key to the Snead Squat

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It’s important not to overdo the “Sam Snead squat.” Understanding the subtle leg movements of the game’s greats is key to making your practice purposeful and making real improvement.

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