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7 Ways PGA Tour Players Enhance Performance on the Road

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If you poll the vast majority of PGA Tour players, you will find that they have many different routines and habits. From lucky underwear to only drinking a certain flavor drink on the front 9 vs the back 9, there are superstitions and rituals galore.

Amid all these rituals, there are seven consistent things that the best professional golfers do better than most. How many can you say you do?

1: Take A [Legal] Performance-Enhancing Drug

There is a powerful performance-enhancing drug the PGA Tour and all other sports organizations will never be able to ban. It’s called sleep, and you should take full advantage of it like the pros. 

When you are on the road, jet lag and travel fatigue are the real deal. While travel alone does not appear to be the sole determining factor in decreased athletic performance, studies show that athletes perceive themselves to be jet lagged for up to two days after long-distance travel.

Jet lag can be characterized by GI disturbance, impaired concentration, sleep disturbance, and intermittent fatigue. Good luck going low feeling like that. Travel fatigue, comparatively, is characterized by persistent fatigue, repeated illness, changes in mood and behavior, and loss of motivation. The biggest difference is that travel fatigue is cumulative while jet lag is episodic and circadian-based.

If you travel frequently, you are more at risk for travel fatigue. If you are just going on a one-off golf trip, you are more likely to have jet lag.  

How to be like the pros

Jet lag usually requires one day per time zone traveled to resynchronize your system, so be sure to arrive early enough to allow your body to adapt. There is also some cutting-edge research being done that looks at the use of melatonin and other methods to help athletes regulate their circadian rhythms, but proper scheduling is probably more appropriate for the general public.

In a recent study of collegiate basketball players, increasing the players’ sleep by approximately 2 hours each night created a 9 percent improvement in made free throws and 3-point shots. It also improved sprint times by almost a second.

Professional golfers generally try to have a similar bed time each night and a similar wake time each morning regardless of tee time. The more consistent your sleep is, the more consistent your scoring is likely to be.

2: Shop Till You Drop… Birdies That Is!

Yes, you read correctly. I’m telling you to go shopping. 

When my touring professionals are going out on the road, one of the first things we look at is figuring out where they should stay. While these players may go shopping for clothes or souvenirs, the type of shopping we plan for is a bit less exciting but critical for consistent success: grocery shopping.

As anyone who has traveled before knows, your diet can drastically change when you are on the road. Fast food, restaurants, desserts, alcohol, energy drinks, and prepackaged snacks are often staples of a traveler’s diet. While this may be fine on a vacation, professional golfers are on the road competing for their livelihoods. This type of eating can spell the end of a career and general poor health.

By determining what sort of food preparation capabilities they will have on the road (hotel room, apartment, house, etc.), professional golfers are able to plan the meals they’ll need and they places they’ll get them.

How to be like the pros

If you are staying at a hotel and only have a microwave, look to pick up ingredients for healthy sandwiches, unsalted nuts, fruits, and vegetables that take up little space, travel easily, and can fit easily into a mini-fridge. For dinners, try to stick to salads (limit the dressing) with lean protein sources (i.e. chicken, salmon, white fish, beans, legumes etc.). There are many healthy options, of course, these are just a few suggestions.

If you have a full kitchen, then treat your trip to the grocery store as a normal weekly trip (unless your normal pickups include chips, beer, and fried foods). 

The simplest advice I can give is to shop around the outer edges of the grocery store (produce, deli, butcher, eggs, etc). Stay away from the middle aisles (packaged foods, cookies etc) and you’ll be much better off.

3: Avoid the Free Breakfast Buffet Like the Plague

OK, this one is probably one of the hardest bad habits to break. Why? Easy and cheap. Plus, most amateurs aren’t thinking ahead about their food and don’t want to wake up any earlier than they have to.

Although you’ll be saving money, it’s highly unlikely that a few stale bagels and mini-muffins are going to get you past the sixth hole. 

How to be like the pros

Professionals arrive at the hotel knowing what is served and if it fits into their nutritional needs. Some free breakfasts are the real deal, but most aren’t. The good stuff usually isn’t offered or free.

Do your homework. Call ahead and ask what is included in the free breakfast. If it fits your requirements, then fantastic… you found a needle in a haystack. More than likely, however, you will need to supplement that continental breakfast with either the paid breakfast or a store run.

4: The Pre-Round Routine No One Talks About

No matter where in the world they are, professional golfers always adhere to the same routine when getting ready for a round. They arrive at the course the same amount of time before their tee time, work through the same warm-up routine, and even have the same pre-shot routine. I hope none of this is groundbreaking for you.

What amateurs often miss is the “pre” pre-round routine that no one talks about.

How to be like the pros

Amateurs often don’t factor into their wake up time how long they take to shower, eat, get dressed, drive to the course, workout, meditate, etc. For professional golfers, each of these facets is mapped out to the minute to assure they are truly as ready as possible for the round, thereby minimizing any undue stressors.

Let’s look at this example:

  • Your pre-round routine at the course is 60 minutes.
  • You have a 15-minute drive to the course.
  • You take 45 minutes to shower, eat, and get ready to go.

60 + 15 + 45 = 120 minutes

You need to wake up two hours before your tee time… minimum. Plan ahead like this and you’ll be shocked how much a routine on the road can help you perform.

5: Don’t Let Travel Get in the Way of Workouts

One of the hardest things about being on the road is your schedule; it’s often at the mercy of airlines and the other powers that be. We’ve all been there. So how do the pros make sure they get their workouts in when delayed flights or other obligations get in the way? Well, they don’t plan long workouts on travel days.

How to be like the pros

PGA Tour players generally plan their longer workouts on days that are more consistent. On travel days, they stick to shorter workouts that target core, mobility, or recovery. They know that getting a 20-30 minute session in is better than doing nothing at all.

The research is very clear that if you skip a workout, you will likely feel guilty and beat yourself up. This snowballs and makes it much less likely that you will work out tomorrow or the next day. Instead, if you modify and get the shorter workout in, you feel accomplished and your momentum is still churning for another good workout tomorrow.

6: Use Recovery Workouts to BOOST Energy When Tired

Yes, you should workout to have more energy. When you get in late from a flight or back to the hotel from a long day of working on the road, you rarely think of working out, right?

It’s feet up, TV on, drink in hand…

One of the coolest things about fitness for golf is that there is more than one way to do it. Recovery workouts not only increase your energy, but they can improve your adaption to different timezones.

How to be like the pros

The next time you arrive at a hotel room after a long day, try to do it differently. Instead of beelining for the nearest bar, restaurant, or room-service menu, make your way to the gym or courtyard if it’s nice outside.

The next 20 minutes is going to be life changing if you can make it a habit. Hop on a bike, a treadmill, an elliptical, or just go for a walk. What you need to do is move for 10-20 minutes. You are not trying to burn as many calories as you can or get so out of breath you can’t talk in full sentences. Quite the contrary.

Pros on the road will use a light cardio workout like this to help their system flush out the stuff that is making them feel “blah.” Getting the blood flowing helps them reset their system and feel fresher. Again, “workout” is used lightly here. It is literally just a plan to move around for 10-20 minutes. You can also use this technique at the end of a very vigorous workout to help you recover.

7: The Winners Actually Do Their Homework

This final thing that pros do when they travel is a bit out of the health and fitness realm, but it is 100 percent performance-based. I am sure you have gone on a golf trip as I have, and when you show up at the course you may ask the pro how the course is playing, how fast the greens are running, etc. You know, you try to show that you’re not just any duff off the street. That’s likely the extent of your research on the course… except maybe looking at a scorecard.

Curious why rounds like that don’t usually go well?

How to be like the pros

Before you even arrive at the course, there are some simple things you can do to ensure a better performance. Try to answer these questions before the start of the trip:

  1. Does the course have a range? If not, how might your pre-round routine be affected?
  2. What kind of grass does the course have?
  3. Do you know how to play the course? What differences or similarities will there be compared to the course you normally play?
  4. Have you looked at the yardage book? Can you start mapping out what clubs you will be hitting off the tees?  
  5. If you have a chance to ride the course or play a practice round, do you know what adjustments you’ll need to make based on the predicted forecast?
  6. Do you have access to green reading or course layout books? If so, where do big numbers come into play?
  7. What sort of food and beverage services are available? Do you need to pack food/drinks for the round?
  8. Is there a locker room where you can warm up or stretch, or do you need to do that before you arrive?

The list goes on and on, but I think you get the gist. The key to success is preparation and doing your homework.

Don’t let the title be misleading. Not all pros are great at all these things, and it can be the reason they have short-lived careers or spend many grueling years on the developmental tours. I have touring professionals that I work with who struggle to do all seven of these things on a consistent basis. But, when they are successful with these 7, their results on the course are quite convincing.

If you can implement just a couple of these items, you will be pleasantly surprised at the changes you start to see on the course and the way you feel physically.

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Chris Finn is the founder of Par4Success and a Licensed Physical Therapist, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Titleist Performance Institute Certified Medical Professional and trained to perform Trigger Point Dry Needling in North Carolina. He is regarded as the premier Golf Fitness, Performance & Medical Expert in North Carolina. Since starting Par4Success in 2011, Chris has and continues to work with Touring Professionals, elite level juniors & amateurs as well as weekend warriors. He has contributed to numerous media outlets, is a published author, a consultant and presents all over the world on topics related to golf performance and the golf fitness business.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Frankie

    Nov 11, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    Having a big RV solves everything

  2. etc.

    Nov 11, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    8. Sleep Alone …. and don’t ever share your bed with a stranger… even if you are a Super Dude who needs relief daily. Stay celibate.

    • Eldrick T W

      Nov 12, 2017 at 3:37 am

      A bit late for that, for me, is why I failed

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Instruction

Functional Golf vs. Optimal Golf

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Optimize this, optimize that. We hear so much about “optimal” golf these days. It’s great that we now have the technology to seemingly optimize every aspect of the golfer, the golf swing, and the golf club, but we have to be realistic in terms of our goals. Ask yourself this question: If I can’t do this optimally, is there a way I can still do it better?

And… how do we define better? That’s easy. More solid impact.

Yes, optimal golf is what we’d all like and perhaps that is the concern of highly skilled players. But for the vast majority of golfers, functional golf might be more realistic. John Jacobs, the best teacher ever, called his approach “practical.” I’m using the term functional in a similar, albeit more specific way. And many of my regular readers know by now that I credit Jacobs for whatever success I’ve had as an instructor.

During a recent lesson, I pointed out a particular swing flaw to a student while we were reviewing his swing on video. He stopped me and said: “See that, what you’re showing me right there? I have done that my whole life. I’ve taken a number of lessons and they all mentioned that very move, and I CANNOT change it. Why is that?”

I thought, man, if I had a few bucks for every time I’ve heard that I’d be, uh,  pretty comfortable.

There are certain habits some golfers simply cannot break no matter how hard they try. For one reason or another, they’re physically incapable of changing. I have observed this for more than 30 years over thousands and thousands of lessons. Does this mean you can’t change the problems these moves may cause? No, absolutely not. There’s a long list of major champions with so called  “flaws” in their swings, from Nicklaus’ flying elbow to Furyk and his quirky move. But what these greats did is find a move that they CAN make, one that’s compatible with their core move.

If you have a move that, for whatever reason, is embedded in the fabric of your golfing DNA, it is probably best you do not beat your head against a wall trying to  change that move, however flawed it may seem. Rather, let’s see if we can find something that blends with that move that you CAN execute.

The golfer I was teaching suffered from fat shots and blocks due to an early release. He simply never learned “lag” or a later hit. So the bottom of the swing arc ended up behind the golf ball more often than not. This golfer has done this for some 20 years, so instead of trying to reinvent the wheel I took a different approach. I asked him to address the golf ball with more weight on his left side. Things got a little better. More weight on the left side, even better, and so on. In other words, we started his motion from a different place, one that was more functional for him.

To help this golfer create a more functional golf swing, I had to move his center of mass forward. It wasn’t optimal perhaps, but his real problem (fat shots) had to be addressed within his current skill set. “If I could just stop drop kicking every shot, I’d be happy,” he said. In other words, we worked out a compromise, a way he could hit the ball more cleanly and enjoy golf more.

As an instructor, that’s pretty much what I do every day. I’m always looking for a compatible motion that balances golf swing equations. “If that is a band aid, you better buy a whole box,” Jacobs would say.

I teach in a community of largely senior golfers. Senior but serious, I call them. They are looking for a way to put the club on the ball more often, which means a better impact position. There is no “in the long run” for seniors. I don’t say, “Let’s make a plan for later” because some are fearful of buying green bananas, let alone working hard on a long-term plan. There is also no “new” when your old move has been around most of your golfing life. Senior golfers, myself included, are on the back nine, much closer to the 18th green than the 1st tee. And most golfers are not going back and starting their round over… believe me. But this doesn’t mean they can’t play better. And they do. Every day.

This lesson likely applies to you even if you are younger and more physically capable. Some things just don’t change, and perhaps the learning psychologists or biomechanists can better tell you why. That’s why I encourage all serious golfers to work with an instructor to identify what moves in their swing simply will not change. Then they should learn to work around them, not try to fix them. That’s the way to better golf.

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A Jedi Mind Trick For Improved Target Awareness

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I think all golfers, at some point in their life playing the game of golf, has gotten stuck, or become frozen over the golf ball. Why?  They’re trying to remember which of the 23 different swing thoughts they used for the day performed the best.

The disheartening reality: none of us are going to perform well on a consistent basis with our thoughts being so internally driven. Swing thoughts force our awareness inward. Is the shaft in the correct position? Am I making a proper pressure shift? Was that a reverse pivot? Close that club face! Regardless of the technique you are trying to manage or modify, these kinds of questions make you acquire sensations internally.

To complicate things further, we are taught to look at the golf ball, not the target, while hitting our golf shot. And yet instinctively, in almost all other skills of making a ball or object finish towards a target (throwing a ball or frisbee, kicking a soccer ball, skipping a rock across water, shooting a basket ball) our awareness is not on the ball or the motion itself, but rather the ultimate target.

So, can we develop a skill that allows us to still keep our eye on the ball, like the game of golf encourages, but have awareness of our target, like so many other target sports demand?  Yes, the answer is (third rate Yoda Speak), and the skill can easily be yours.

Here’s where this gets fun. You already have learned this skill set, but under different conditions. Perhaps this example resonates with you. Did you ever play hide-and-seek as a child? Remember how you used to close your eyes and count to 10? During those 10 seconds of having your eyes closed, weren’t you using all of your senses externally, trying to track where your friends were going to hide? Weren’t you, just like a bloodhound, able to go directly to a few of the less skillful hiders’ hiding places and locate them?

Or how about this example. When you are driving down your own local multilane highway, aren’t you aware of all the cars around you while keeping your eyes firmly on the road in front of you? Reconnecting, recognizing and/or developing these skills that all of us already use is the first step in knowing you’re not too far away from doing this with your golf game.

Here’s what I want you to do. Grab a putter and place your golf ball 3 feet away from the hole on a straight putt. Aim your putter, and then look at the hole. As you bring your eyes back to the golf ball, maintain part of your awareness back at the hole. Each successive time your eyes leave your golf ball and head back to the hole, your eyes will be able to confirm your target. It hasn’t moved; it’s still in the same location; your confidence builds.

When you know for certain that your external awareness of the target is locked in while still looking at your golf ball, step up and execute your putt.

The wonderful beauty of this skill set is that you now have the best of both worlds. You are still looking at the golf ball, which gives you a better chance of striking the golf ball solidly… AND you are now target aware just like you are when you are throwing an object at a target.

As always, acquire this skill set from a close target with a slower, smaller motion. If you don’t execute properly, you have a better chance of making the proper corrective assessment from a slower, smaller motion and closer target. As you become more proficient with this skill, allow the target to get farther away and try to add more speed with a larger range of motion.

So give learning this skill set a go. I don’t think there is anything more valuable in playing the game of golf than keeping your “athlete” attached to the target. Become proficient at developing this awareness and you can tell all your friends that the primary reason your scores are getting lower and you’re getting deeper into their wallets is because of Jedi Mind tricks. Good luck!

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6 things to consider before aiming at the flagstick

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One of the most impactful improvements you can make for your game is to hit more greens; you’ll have more birdie opportunities and will avoid bogeys more often. In fact, hitting more greens is the key to golfing success, in my opinion… more so than anything else.

However, there is a misconception among players when it comes to hitting approach shots. When people think “greens,” they tend to only think about the flagstick, when the pin may be the last thing you should be looking at. Obviously, we’d like to stick it on every shot, but shooting at the pin at the wrong time can cost you more pain than gain.

So I’d like to give you a few rules for hitting greens and aiming at the flagstick.

1) Avoid Sucker Pins

I want you to think about Hole No. 12 at Augusta and when the pin is on the far right side of the green… you know, the Sunday pin. Where do the pros try and aim? The center of the green! That’s because the right pin is by all means a sucker pin. If they miss the shot just a touch, they’re in the water, in the bunker, or left with an impossible up-and-down.

Sucker pins are the ones at the extreme sides of the green complex, and especially the ones that go against your normal shot pattern.

So go back to No. 12 with a far right pin, and say your natural shot shape is right-to-left. Would you really aim out over the water and move it towards the pin? That would be a terrible idea! It’s a center of the green shot all day, even for those who work it left-to-right. Learn to recognize sucker pins, and you won’t short side yourself ever again.

2) Are You a Good Bunker Player?

A “sucker pin,” or just a difficult hole location, is often tucked behind a bunker. Therefore, you should ask yourself, “am I a good bunker player?” Because if you are not, then you should never aim at a pin stuck behind one. If I wanted to shoot at pins all day, I’d make sure I was the best lob wedge player around. If you are not a short-game wizard, then you will have a serious problem attacking pins all round.

For those who lack confidence in their short game, or simply are not skilled on all the shots, it’s a good idea to hit to the fat part of the green most of the time. You must find ways to work around your weaknesses, and hitting “away” from the pin isn’t a bad thing, it’s a smart thing for your game.

3) Hitting the Correct Shelf

I want you to imagine a pin placed on top of a shelf. What things would you consider in order to attack this type of pin? You should answer: shot trajectory, type of golf ball, your landing angle with the club you’re hitting, the green conditions, and the consequences of your miss. This is where people really struggle as they forget to take into account these factors.

If you don’t consider what you can and cannot do with the shot at hand, you will miss greens, especially when aiming at a pin on a shelf. Sometimes, you will simply have to aim at the wrong level of the green in order to not bring the big number into play. Remember, if you aim for a top shelf and miss, you will leave yourself with an even more difficult pitch shot back onto that same shelf you just missed.

4) Know your Carry Distances

In my opinion, there is no excuse these days to not know your carry distances down to the last yard. Back when I was growing up, I had to go to a flat hole and chart these distances as best I could by the ball marks on the green. Now, I just spend an hour on Trackman.

My question to you is if you don’t know how far you carry the ball, how could you possibly shoot at a pin with any type of confidence? If you cannot determine what specific number you carry the ball, and how the ball will react on the green, then you should hit the ball in the center of the green. However, if the conditions are soft and you know your yardages, then the green becomes a dart board. My advice: spend some time this off-season getting to know your distances, and you’ll have more “green lights” come Spring.

5) When do you have the Green Light?

Do you really know when it’s OK to aim at the pin? Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help:

  • How are you hitting the ball that day?
  • How is your yardage control?
  • What is the slope of the green doing to help or hinder your ball on the green?
  • Do you have a backstop behind the pin?

It’s thoughts such as these that will help you to determine if you should hit at the pin or not. Remember, hitting at the pin (for amateurs) does not happen too often per nine holes of golf. You must leave your ego in the car and make the best decisions based on what information you have at that time. Simple mistakes on your approach shot can easily lead to bogeys and doubles.

6) When is Any Part of the Green Considered a Success?

There are some times when you have a terrible angle, or you’re in the rough/a fairway bunker. These are times when you must accept “anywhere on the green.”

Left in these situations, some players immediatly think to try and pull off the “miracle” shot, and wonder why they compound mistakes during a round. Learn to recognize if you should be happy with anywhere on the green, or the best place to miss the ball for the easiest up and down.

Think of Ben Hogan at Augusta on No. 11; he said that if you see him on that green in regulation then you know he missed the shot. He decided that short right was better than even trying to hit the green… sometimes you must do this too. But for now analyze your situation and make the best choice possible. When in doubt, eliminate the big numbers!

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