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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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WATCH: Two drills to help you stop hitting it fat

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Here’s a response to a question on my Instagram page from Neil Riley. He asked if he should steepen the angle of attack in the downswing in order to stop hitting fat shots. In this video, I share two of the reasons why golfers might be hitting fat shots, as well as two drills to practice that will help them stop hitting it fat.

 

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Changing your golf swing? Consider this before you do

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Golfers I have taught over the years have an almost uncanny ability to put the golf club on the ball (to varying degrees, of course). I have seen well-hit shots from an incredibly wide variety of positions. I’ve seen closed faces, open faces, steep swings, flat swings, outside-in paths, inside-out paths, slow and fast swings, strong grips and weak grips ALL hit the golf ball solidly at times. How? Well, thinking about this may very well help your swing, especially before you decide to change something in it. Let’s take a look at a few examples to explain.

Strong Grips/Closed Clubfaces

We’ll start with the example of a strong grip that tends to get the clubface quite closed to the arc in the swing and at the top of the swing. If that is left alone in the downswing, the shots are very predictable: low and left (for a right-hander), sometimes barely getting off the ground. But many golfers hit the ball in the air and straight with a strong grip; in fact, many hit high blocks to the right. How? Well, they open the face on the way down and usually “hold on” through impact. They adapt to the closed clubface to make it work, and that’s the point here.

Now, if they reach good impact consistently like a Dustin Johnson, Graham McDowell and several others do with a closed clubface, we have no problem. But often club golfers do not; in fact, many slice and top the ball from a shut face at the top.  They do so because opening a closed face is a very shallowing move and prevents one from releasing the club properly (it’s a power outage as well).  Functionally, however, opening a shut is far better than releasing it from there, for obvious reasons. If the trail hand pronates, the face goes from closed to really closed. So golfers simply learn to open it.

So along comes some well-meaning friend who says your clubface is really closed at the top. You look at many great players, and sure enough, your face is clearly shut. So you correct it. What happens next is also very predictable: high and very right, and very thin with many topped shots. Why? Because you only corrected part of the problem. You fixed the shut face, but now you’ve taken a square clubface and massively opened it as a force of habit. You have ingrained that move into your swing because you had to open your old, shut clubface in the downswing. Correcting only ONE thing made your swing worse. Your swing is now dysfunctional.

That’s why if you commit to one change for the sake of improvement or consistency, you have to commit to both changes. If you don’t, you’ll get worse… not better.

Steep Swings

Here’s another: many amateur players start the downswing with the golf club far too steep. Maybe it’s over the top, maybe not (you can be just as steep from inside the ball). But when the golf club is too vertical in transition, it can result in any one of a number of impact mistakes: namely fat, slices and toe hits. So the idea of “flattening the transition” (good idea) becomes your priority, but there’s always a catch. Most experienced golfers correct steep through one of a few different ways listed below:

  • Raising the hands (standing the club up) to avoid fat shots
  • Tilting the torso back or away from the target to avoid opening the face
  • Sending the hands away from the body to avoid toes hits
  • Raising the swing center

You get the picture here. You learn to get the club on a better plane (flatter with the butt of the grip pointed more at the golf ball), but you’ll likely still have one of the “fit-in” moves left into impact. So a flatter club, which is by far a better way to square the face, might result in a shank if you’re used to sending your hands away from your body to avoid a toe hit. Raising the hands might top. Tilting the torso back away might hit shallow fats or tops. So you fixed the steep transition, but your impact is worse! Again, you’re dysfunctional.

Remember, if you commit to one change, you MUST commit to both.

Weak Grips/Over-The-Top

One more: Golfers who start out with a weak grip (as most do) slice. So as a reaction, they come over the top and swing outside-in. So they fix the grip, and of course, the result is predictable. They pull the ball, generally low and left (for right-handers). You get the pattern here. They need to learn a new swing direction, and on and on.

The lesson is clear; a single correction of a swing issue can be sufficient, but in my experience, two corrections must be tackled for long-term improvement. What to correct first? Well, you’d have to consult with your teacher or coach. As a rule, I try to get better impact first if I can get someone there from where their swing is now. Some other teachers may prefer a different sequence, but I think they’d all agree that a two-part correction is ultimately in the works.

I’ve always believed that teachers can disagree widely on the prescription, but they should be pretty much in unison regarding the diagnosis. Learn the swing flaw AND your reaction to it before you decide to make a swing change.

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How to use your handicap to lower your scores

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The fastest way to improve the game of an amateur, or a handicap golfer, is to use the established handicap as a guide to direct and then to measure that improvement. The measurement component is simple; as the game improves, the handicap goes down. Using the handicap as a guide is a bit more complex because the player must be dedicated, determined and disciplined enough to stay within the improvement process. And before I share with you the process, I want to share the foundation, or the rationale, that makes it work.

“Placing the ball in the right position for the next shot is 80 percent of winning golf.”

— Ben Hogan

Not all that long ago, I was present when a friend of a client of mine was complaining that no matter what he did with practice or lessons he just wasn’t getting better. He said that if he could just break 90 once he could “die a happy man.” It sounded like an opportunity to be of service to me, so I agreed to a playing lesson. The short version of that lesson was I told him what to hit and where to hit it — and he shot 87.

Was he happy? Not on your life! Angry, not quite… but really upset. Why? The poor guy said he didn’t have any fun!

The day of the playing lesson, I met the player on the range while he was warming up. I observed that he should never hit a driver, so I didn’t let him. I observed he couldn’t hit a long iron, so I didn’t let him. I had him tee off with a six iron on the par 4’s and 5’s, which he hated. And if he could have controlled his putting distance a bit better he wouldn’t have three-putted three times. No penalty shots, no water balls and no OB’s. All we did for 18 holes was try to put the ball in play and to keep it in play. He hated it. So much for dying a happy man.

During this playing lesson, I used the player’s handicap as a guide to maximize his playing ability, and I used his ability to help him make the best score he could at that time. So how did I use his handicap? I could see this player was no better than an 18, so I added one stroke to the posted par for each hole. Par 3’s became Par 4’s. Par 4’s became Par 5’s, and Par 5’s became Par 6’s. Once his par was established, he played each hole to get on the green according to that par adjustment. For example, the 210-yard par-3 became a 210-yard par-4. So instead of trying to get on the green from the tee, we used a strategy to get on the green in two and then two-putt for a 4, or “his par.”

I advocate every player use this handicap game-improvement system. A 15-handicap adjusts 15 holes so his par changes from 72 to 87; an 8-handicap adjusts eight holes so that his par changes from 72 to 80. I use this process for plus handicaps and professionals as well. A plus-4 adjusts four holes so his/her par changes from 72 to 68. Using this mindset, my playing lesson shot 3-under his par of 90.

I’ve had clients cut their handicaps in half in just a few months by adherence to this process. It works in lowering scores because it eliminates most “unforced errors,” and about half of all dropped shots at all levels are a direct result of unforced errors. Unforced errors occur when something is attempted that the player can’t do or shouldn’t do. The fewer unforced errors per round, the lower the score. It’s as simple as that.

I strongly urge golfers to chart each round of golf in order to identify every unforced error. Just email me at edmyersgolf@gmail.com and I will send the game-improvement scorecard that I have my clients use to evaluate their performance.

Posting lower scores is how handicaps go down, and all handicaps plateau when the player is faced with the realities of what he/she can and can’t do. For example, an improving handicap golfer may require the need to use clubs or hit shots not previously necessary. The playing experience reveals what needs practice, and practice is where the player should learn what can and can’t be done. Rule of Thumb: if you can do it 7/10 times in practice, you can consider doing it in play.

In the opening paragraph, I stated that dedication, determination, and discipline are required to stay within this improvement process should the player decide to implement it. But I should have said it takes a whole lot of all three. Experience tells me that players say what they feel, but do what they want. Neither is a plan for progress.

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