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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.

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

Why you must practice under pressure if you want to play better golf

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Practice, as most of us employ it, is borderline worthless. This is because most of the practices, if you will, typically employed during practice sessions have little chance of improving our performance under pressure.

The type of practice that improves performance is, for the most part, rarely engaged in because practicing under typical “practice” conditions does very little to simulate the thoughts, feelings, and emotions we deal with once our performance actually means something. If we want to really improve our performance when it matters, we need to put ourselves in situations, often and repeatedly, that simulate the pressure we experience during competition. And nowhere is this statement more true than on the putting green.

The art and skill of putting is a funny thing. No element of the game requires less inherent hand-eye coordination or athletic talent. Putting’s simplicity makes it golf’s great equalizer. You roll a ball along the ground with a flat-faced stick in the general direction of a hole nearly three times its size. Sure, green speeds vary wildly, and there are those diabolical breaks to deal with, but despite that, putting is truly golf’s most level playing field; it’s the one element of the game where even the highest handicappers can potentially compete straight up with the game’s most skilled. At the same time, there are few other situations (other than maybe the first tee) when we feel as much pressure as we do on the putting green.

Ben Hogan, during the latter part of his career — years that were marred by poor putting — claimed that putting shouldn’t even be a part of the game because, in his words, “There is no similarity between golf and putting; they are two different games, one played in the air, and the other on the ground.”

Now, Hogan suffered a serious case of the yips later in his career, and while this statement was likely uttered following a frustrating round of missed three-footers, it serves to highlight not only the differences between putting and the rest of the game, but how taxing on the nerves it can be for even the game’s greats.

Its inherent simplicity, the slow pace of the stroke, and how much time we are given to contemplate it, are in truth what sets us up. It’s golf’s free throw. We very often know exactly what to do, and how to do it, like when we’re faced with one of those straight three-footers, but with more time to think, it opens the door wide for the type of second-guessing that arises during those moments we feel a bit of pressure. And that’s the biggest part of the problem.

The self-sabotage that leads to missing relatively short easy putts, the reasons behind it, and practices to overcome it is something for a different article. What I really want to get into at the moment is a practice that I think can help ensure you never end up in that desperate place to begin with.

Most of us rarely practice our putting, and when we do, it’s in about the most useless way we can. We’ve all done it. You grab a sleeve of balls just prior to the round, head to the practice green, and begin rolling them from hole to hole around the typical nine-hole route. Now I could go into a whole host of reasons why this isn’t very helpful, but the No. 1 reason it’s such a pitifully poor practice is this: there is no pressure.

Early in my career, I worked at a club where there was at least one money game on the putting green every day, and many nights too. The members (and staff) putted aces, 5 for $5, rabbits, and many other games for hours on end, and when the sun went down they often switched on the clubhouse roof-mounted floodlights and continued into the wee hours. Many days (and nights) I witnessed hundreds of dollars change hands on that putting green, occasionally from my own, but in my younger days, that was fortunately an infrequent occurrence.

Those money games were a cherished part of the culture of that club and an incredibly good arena in which to learn to practice under pressure. To this day, I’ve never seen as many really good pressure putters (many of very average handicaps) as I did during that period, and when I think back, it’s no small wonder either.

The problem with practicing golf, or just about any other sport for that matter, is that it’s difficult to practice under the types of pressure we compete in. In 4 or 5 hours on the golf course we might only have a half dozen putts that really mean something, and maybe only 2 or 3 of those knee-knocking 3 footers with the match on the line or the chance to win a bet.

When I was younger and playing in those money games on the putting green, I had a meaningful putt every minute or two, for hours on end, and you either learned to handle that pressure pretty quickly or your hard-earned paycheck was being signed over to someone else. Now I’m not bringing this up to encourage gambling, as I know for some people that can become a serious issue, but rather to point out how the opportunity to practice repeatedly under pressure helped me learn to deal with those situations. And with how infrequently we even get the opportunity to face that same pressure when we actually play, it’s important to try do our best to simulate it as often as we can during practice.

So when it comes to my own students these days, I don’t necessarily encourage gambling (I don’t discourage a little bit of it either), but I do encourage putting and practicing for something. I’ll get three of my students together on the putting green and say “look, you guys putt for 30 minutes and the loser has to do 100 push-ups” or something similar. I’ll tell students to putt against a parent for who has to mow the lawn, do the dishes, or some other mundane household chore neither of them really wants to do. The point is to have something on the line, something that will make it really hurt to lose.

You can even do it by yourself. Wait to practice putting right before lunch or dinner and make a pact with yourself that you can’t eat until you make 15 three-footers in a row. Until you find a way to practice under pressure all that practice is really just that: practice. You shouldn’t be surprised if, when the chips are down, mindless practice doesn’t translate to improved performance. Hopefully, by learning to simulate pressure during practice, you’ll play better when the heat is really on.

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WATCH: How to execute the “Y-style” chipping technique

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Top-100 instructor Tom Stickney of Punta Mita Golf Academy shows an easier way of chipping around the greens to get the ball rolling faster and ensure ball-first contact. Enjoy the video below, and hope this helps!

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WATCH: Try the “battering ram” drill to achieve ball-first contact

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Yes, you heard me, one of the best drills we have is the battering ram drill. It is awesome for getting the relationship between body turn and arm swing correct, and improving your impact conditions. Enjoy the video, and hope this helps!

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