Golf is inherently an asymmetrical pattern. It also exposes the golfer to peak compressive forces of up to 8 times bodyweight through the lumbar spine. It’s no wonder then that the golf swing, when repeated over and over, can lead to the build up of physical asymmetries, overuse issues and injury.
Indeed, the literature relating to injuries in golf reports the most common injuries are due to overuse. Studies suggest time spent practicing and playing are significant factors that influence injury risk. Those who played at least four rounds per week or hit more than 200 balls per week were also shown to have significantly higher instances of injury. It has also been proposed in several studies that poor swing mechanics can accelerate this process. With this in mind, almost all keen golfers — not just the ones on tour — could benefit taking a proactive approach to managing their injury risk. It will likely prevent them from missing time on the course and keep them on the course for longer into old age.
It is fairly clear that managing the volume of golf swings and correcting faulty swing mechanics is likely a big part of the puzzle of preventing injury to golfers. There is also a large body of evidence to suggest appropriate strength training could also be used to reduce the injury risk to golfers. A huge, 2014 meta-study found that strength training reduced sports injuries by roughly 33 percent and overuse injuries by 50 percent. Interestingly, this study also found that stretching alone had no relationship to injury prevention.
“Implementing a training program that includes flexibility, strength and power training with correction of faulty swing mechanics will help the golfer reduce the likelihood of injury and improve overall performance,” another study concluded. The only problem is that golfers often make one of two mistakes in their training that prevent them from realizing these injury prevention benefits:
- They train with little regard to improved movement quality, jumping right to sexy-looking exercises without mastering the basic firsts. More on this later.
- They train too “sport-specific,” seeking to mimic the golf swing using bands and cables, for example. By training in a highly specific manner, they end up neglecting antagonist/ stabilizer muscles and reinforcing those asymmetries inherent in the golf swing.
As such, we do not want to spend a huge amount of gym time stressing the joints in the same specific way we do on the course already. MLB strength coach Eric Cressey probably said it best: “Specificity works great until you’re so specific that you wind up injured and have forgotten how to do everything else.”
Balanced strength development through foundational movement pattern training and compensation strength exercises should, instead, form the vast majority (at least 80 percent) of your training activities, both from a sports performance and injury prevention perspective. The foundational movement patterns in question are:
- Hip Hinge
- Upper Body Push
- Upper Body Pull
- Single-Leg Work
- Core Intensive Work (such as dead-bugs, planks, pallof presses and weighted carries)
The real key to unlocking the benefits of the foundational movement patterns and long-term success in your training lies in emphasising movement quality and picking variations/ progressions of each movement to suit you, rather than sticking to dogmatically programmed exercises that may not fit your body, your current training experience or goals. In really broad terms, this probably equates to selecting the most difficult exercise progression you can do technically perfect for the desired number of reps.
With this in mind, the rest of this article will be focused on providing some specifics for the six foundational patterns. It will also outline a progression framework you can use to gauge the best variation for you currently and where you should aim to progress in the future. That said, I would be remiss not to mention that getting the exercise selection and progression right is where a good coach becomes really valuable. He or she is able to take a full injury history and complete various assessments of joint range of motion and dynamic mobility to make sure you’re starting in the right place and advancing at the proper pace.
The squat does a lot of great things. It teaches us to create and maintain appropriate position of the pelvis and core. It also helps us learn to create and absorb force while developing mobility in the hips, ankles and thoracic spine. I bet the image you have in your mind right now is that of a barbell back squat taken to the floor. That is one squat pattern variation, but it’s by no means the only way to squat. Everyone is different, therefore, everyone must squat differently and squat using the squat variation most appropriate for their current skill level and trainability.
The goblet squat is my favorite variation for most golfers, as the anterior loading helps to shift weight back while maintaining core/pelvic stability. It should also be noted that the barbell back squat might not be something the athlete ever uses, because their physical makeup might always be better suited to front-loaded squatting. That’s perfectly fine. Once again, the key is to find the “hardest” variation that you can do perfectly. From there, you’ll be able to train the squat pattern without internal restriction, get a great training effect and minimize joint stress. The goal is to move up the list over time and progress strategically.
The hinge is one of the most important patterns when it comes to protecting your lower back from injury, but many people have lost the ability do it. The hip hinge is often confused with the deadlift, which is a specific exercise that falls under the hip hinge umbrella (i.e. while not every hip hinge is a deadlift, every deadlift is a hip-hinge pattern).
Many people don’t deadlift because they think it’s too risky. And since the deadlift is the only hip hinge exercise they know, they skip training the entire movement pattern. This is a mistake. Master the hip hinge, and you’ll avoid chronic flare-ups, lower back tightness, and generalized “neural-lock” of your mobility and flexibility. The pattern should be slowly implemented at lower levels, however, which allows motor relearning to take place. Watch the video above to see the main progressions I use to reactivate the hip hinge from the ground up.
Not everyone will have the ability to pull a barbell off the floor with good neutral spine mechanics due to different body types. Again, totally fine. If that’s you, don’t feel the need to force it. Just stick with having the bar or kettlebell elevated off the floor as I have in the video. In fact, this is what I have the vast majority of my golfers do.
Single-leg exercises unlock strength and movement quality potential. They tap into your “primitive patterning.” You learned to walk in a sequence. You rolled over, crawled, pulled yourself up and finally learned to stand and walk. Not all of that was unilateral, but the movement between the steps was. That primitive patterning is what single-leg movements are targeting for re-education.
There are few movements more powerful than single-leg variations for identifying weak links, sticking points and pain patterns. Again, we need to work from the ground up to build optimal patterns and movement efficiency to keep us strong and healthy.
The single-leg lunge pattern does include more dynamic lunges. Under its umbrella are single-leg squats involving standing only on one leg, lateral squat variations and hinge-based movements such as the single-leg RDL’s. For the sake of brevity I haven’t covered these, but this doesn’t devalue their importance in a good plan built around the non-negotiable foundational patterns. Be sure to include both the knee-dominant variations shown above, as well as the hip-dominant patterns such as single-leg RDLs to cover all your bases.
Upper Body Push
Movement patterns are classified as either open- or closed-chain depending on the contact points with the ground. If the hands and feet are in contact with a stable surface like the ground, the movement is a closed kinematic chain. If the hands or feet are freely moving through space, that’s an open kinematic chain.
With the push-up, the hands are anchored to the ground (or stable surface) that alter the way the spine, gleno-humeral joint, scapula and acute muscular stabilizers of the region move. In this closed chain, the shoulder blades are able to move freely against the thoracic cage placing more of a dynamic stability emphasis on the musculature controlling this position. This skill of creating stability and tension in the shoulders and upper back is something that must be mastered in order to translate into a more static, stability-based position such as the bench press.
Starting with the mastery of the plank and push-up allows the biggest bang for your buck in full-body motor learning through the push pattern. From integrated core and hip stability to upper back and shoulder tensional recruitment, the push-up is a key player in learning how to generate stability in order to display power and strength. Once this skill is honed in at the horizontal plane of motion, vertical pushing will be the next challenge.
Upper Body Pull
Strong and stable shoulders depend on pulling more than pushing. Our sitting- and bench press-dominated world (guys I’m looking at you) leads to tonic anterior shoulder and chest muscles, lengthened/weak posterior shoulder muscles and internally rotated shoulders. To combat this, I will often program pulling to pushing in a 2:1 or even 3:1 ratio. We must also bear in mind, however, that the vertical pull also places the shoulder into internal rotation during the movement pattern itself. This means we should bias the horizontal pull more than vertical pulling in our programming.
In order to create full-body stability at the shoulders through the pull, the horizontal pull must first be mastered before introducing the more complex vertical pull variations off the pull-up bar and beyond. Moreover, mastering the pull from a stable core and hips will help develop a strong posterior that can support athletic endeavors such as the golf swing. That’s exactly why this pattern must be a priority.
The pattern must first be introduced and perfected from a full-body, stability-based position. From this position, the pillar is challenged to generate tension and create stability through the legs, hips, pelvis and spine, while the upper body works to generate dynamic force.
Core Intensive Movements
The core muscles help safeguard the lumbar spine during sports, gym and everyday activities, and they are therefore crucial in preventing back pain. If the core is weak, then other muscles will have to compensate in order to stabilize the pelvis and spine, leading to faulty movement patterns, asymmetries and injury.
Golfers, for example, are more susceptible to lower back pain due to rotating at the lumbar spine. The rotation should occur through the pelvis and thoracic spine, with the lumbar spine remaining in a relatively fixed position. A strong core, in addition to the glutes and stretching out the anterior hip muscles, will help stabilize the pelvis back in more a neutral position. It helps prevent the lumbar spine from over extending and rotating into ranges of motion for which it is not designed.
Additionally, the core muscles link the upper and lower body. If a link in the body chain is broken, performance will suffer. Much of the power in the golf swing actually comes from the ground. In order to effectively transfer this ground reaction force through the body and to the club, the pelvis and spine need to be stable. This stability is achieved when the core muscles and glutes are strong and highly functioning.
Many train the core poorly, however. In short, you should train the function of the core — not it\s anatomy. This generally means training four patterns:
- Rotational Core Strength
- Anterior Core Strength
- Lateral Core Strength
- Hip Extension Strength/Bridging
For the sake of brevity, I offer an example of anterior or anti-extension core strength progressions in the video above.
Over To You
All you have to do now is give the variations a try. Pick the ones that work best for you. I suggest videoing yourself while doing them to ensure proper form.
Follow a sensible progression strategy, add in some mobility work for the weakness you’ll have identified by trying different variations and you have the nuts and bolts of a really useful injury prevention program. I willing to wager you’ll feel better and, as many of the physical qualities developed in these exercises are also needed in properly executing the golf swing, you’ll be playing better, too.
The 21 best golf podcasts you should be listening to in 2018
What’s the best golf podcast? Debating that may be as fruitless as the Jack vs. Tiger debate, because there are a bunch of darn good ones out there right now. You don’t have to be an astute observer of the media space to know podcasting has exploded in popularity in recent years. Indeed, it seems like everyone has a podcast these days, including your grandmother’s Scrabble enthusiast pod.
Returning to the original question: this is a subjective list that isn’t meant to be exhaustive. If there’s a podcast you enjoy that finds itself outside the ropes, feel free to mention it in the comments.
So grab your earbuds, Beats by Dre, or wireless headphones if you’re really cool, and take a look at some notable podcasts by category.
Obviously, I’m strongly biased towards the GolfWRX’s podular offerings, and since this is, you know, GolfWRX, we’ll start with our pods.
19th Hole: Michael Williams talks to luminaries of the game and interesting folks alike in his pod. Heck, Michael’s first guest was Bob Vokey! Williams is well-wired and well-traveled, and oh, he has by far the best radio voice of anyone on this list, so he’s got that going for him. Other guests include Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Greg Norman, Scott Van Pelt, Rees Jones and many other legends.
Gear Dive: I’ll avoid any play on his last name, but Johnny Wunder’s Gear Dive is an inquisitive look into, well, golf gear. Wunder has spoken with everyone from Charles Howell III, to Fred Couples, to the boys at Artisan Golf. If you love golf equipment, or consider yourself a gearhead, this is the podcast is a must.
Two Guys Talking Golf: Editor Andrew Tursky and resident equipment expert Brian Knudson are the golf buddies you wish you had. The pair discuss equipment, club building, happenings on the PGA Tour, and an abundance of random golf-related and tangentially golf-related topics. Most recently, TG2 answered 30+ AMA-style questions from the @tg2wrx Instagram page, and they’ve had guests on such as Billy Horschel, Ping’s Marty Jertson, Scotty Cameron, Bob Vokey, Aaron Dill, GolfWRX Forum members and many others.
Unlocking Your Golfing Potential: This instructional podcast series hosted by coach Will Robins teaches golfers how to improve their games without improving their technique. If you want to lower your scores, and change your outlook on the game of golf in general, I highly recommend this podcast.
DFS golf podcasts
Golf is one of the fastest growing and most popular DFS sports. Accordingly, every DFS site in the world and most major outlets have a fantasy-related podcast. These three are among the longest running and finest in the space, although Matthew Wiley of Golflandia deserves a special nod for his spectacular rambling ridiculousness and high entertainment value.
Pat Mayo: Mayo is an OG of the fantasy sports podcasting game in general and fantasy golf pods in particular. And honesty, he must have cloned himself sometime in the past because his output absolutely mind-boggling. Plus, he’s one of the few podcasts on this list that records video, so if you’re looking for a pod with a visual component, Mayo is your man. Listen here.
Fantasy Golf Degenerates: Brad and Kenny go together like, well, Brad and Kenny. These two have been grinding out a weekly fantasy golf podcast since PGA DFS was in diapers a few years back. Brad is the ownership god and Kenny’s course previews are second to none. Well worth a pre-tournament listen every week. Best enjoyed with Crown Royal. Listen here.
Tour Junkies: PGA DFS podcasting’s other dynamic duo, David and Pat, have similarly been ‘casting since the early days of the…hobby? Come for the weekly entertainment, but stay for their inside knowledge of Augusta National (where David was a caddie). The pair have branched out into interviews–Kevin Kisner, Bob Parsons, John Peterson–which are well worth checking out too. Listen here.
Now, let’s take a look at some of what the the PGA Tours and Golf Channels of the world have under their umbrellas, as well as the rest of the colorful bouquet of golf golf-related podcasts that focus on everything from the intersection of golf and science to the intersection of Barstool Sports and golf.
From longstanding outlets
Talk of the Tour: While Mark Immelman’s “On the Mark” is good, on “Talk of the Tour” John Swantek “visits with a variety of players, writers, broadcasters, industry leaders and insiders from throughout the world of golf,” as the official description indicates. Given the Tour’s access and reach, the results don’t disappoint. Listen here.
Golf Channel Podcast: Is the title creative? No it is not. Is the podcast good? Yes it is. Not only does the whole range of on-air GC talent appear on occasion–Brandel Chamblee’s recent appearance was excellent, as was Tiger Tracker’s. Listen here.
Golf Digest Podcast: The folks at GD get top-notch (to quote Judge Smails) guests and turn out quality takes from a strong team of writers. Listen here.
European Tour’s Race to Dubai: Yes, turning the season-long points race into the title of a podcast is odd, but Robert Lee’s (not the Civil War general) podcast “features exclusive interviews with star names, incisive analysis of the latest action, all the key news and a light-hearted look at life on tour,” per the description. Listen here.
Matty & The Caddie: ESPN’s Matt Barrie and former comedian/current ESPN golf analyst Michael Collins join forces to interview both athletes and celebrities, inside and outside the ropes. Lately, the list of big name guests includes Golden Tate, Nick Faldo, Chris Webber, Joe Theismann, Alfonso Ribiero, Brian Urlacher, Joe Carter, George Lopez, Jack Nicklaus and more. Listen here.
No Laying Up: From Twitterers with day jobs to an upstart media outlet, NLU’s podcast was the tool that led to the merch, the features, and Soly, Tron and company’s other efforts. If you’re unfamiliar, start with the most recent episode (Justin Thomas) and work your way backward. You won’t regret it.
The Fried Egg Golf: Andy Johnson has become a force and a voice in the world of golf media in a very short period of time. While he and his guests do good work in discussing the pro game, Andy’s forte is golf course architecture, and he cooks up architecture discussions better than anyone in the podcast universe right now. Listen here.
Fore Play: Honestly, the iTunes description for Barstool’s golf pod is pretty good: “Trent, Riggs and their wide variety of guests talk about everything golf like normal folks sitting at a bar watching coverage, venting about the game’s difficulties, and weighing in on pro gossip. Your classic golf addicts, the “Fore Play” crew brings a young, unique voice to the rapidly-evolving game, discussing freely and openly everything golf.” Pretty much sums it up. Listen here (warning: explicit).
The Clubhouse with Shane Bacon: Mr. Salt-Cured Pork has had something of a come up, hasn’t he? The Fox hosting duties and more are well earned, as Bacon is a strong voice, and his network affiliation ensures a quality roster of guests. Listen here.
ShackHouse: Geoff Shackelford joins forces with “podcast personality” per the iTunes description, Joe House to “break down the biggest golf stories, interview some of the biggest personalities in the game.” Really, this show is all about Shack’s singular perspective. Listen here.
Feherty: I mean, what can you say? If you like David Feherty and his show, you’ll love his podcast (I do), because it is essentially his show. And if you don’t, you won’t. Listen here.
The Erik Lang Show: Ah, the singular Mr. Lang, who, doing things his own way, wrote his show description in the first person: “Hi! I’m Erik Anders Lang. I’ve worn a bunch of hats in this life from waiting tables, photography, doc filmmaking, hosting Adventures In Golf (PGA TOUR / Skratch TV) and now – a PODCAST! The Erik Lang Show is me pontificating on life, golf and travel.” Listen here.
Callaway ShipShow: Far from a content marketing gimmick, Callaway’s content marketing is, well, really good content. Harry Arnett’s “ShipShow” is kind of like the younger, goofier brother of “Callaway Live.” Billed as discussion about “compelling people, culture, narratives, and current events in golf,” the ShipShow is always a swashbuckling good time. Listen here.
Golf Science Lab: Cordie Walker pulls back the curtain and cuts through the hooey of the “mythology” of golf instruction and the game in general. He says he’s “making a difference in the way golf is taught, learned, and practiced,” and honestly, he’s not wrong. If you’re an instruction and improvement enthusiast, this is your ‘cast. Listen here.
Do you know how to drop in 2019? Are you sure?
Starting January 1, 2019, golfers will have to get used to the new Rules of Golf. Many changes were made to create the new rules, but one of the most important changes without any doubt are the dropping rules. You might say: “Come on, it’s easy! We just have to drop from knee height, right?” Well, it’s not that simple. There are quite a few other things you need to know, which I will clarify below.
Q1. What is “knee height” exactly?
“Knee height” means the height from the ground to your knee when in a standing position.
Q2. So I cannot just kneel and thereby place the ball instead of dropping?
Good thinking… but no 🙂
Q3. What part of the knee do I have to drop from?
It’s not (at the moment) clarified which part of the knee is “the knee,” but there cannot be any doubt that you can drop from the whole knee.
FACTS: “CORRECT WAY TO DROP”
The 2019 Rules of Golf state that you are dropping the ball correctly if all these requirements are fulfilled:
- The player himself must drop the ball
- It must be dropped from knee height
- The player must not give it any spin, etc.
- Before the ball hits the ground, it must not touch any part of the player or the player’s equipment (e.g. his bag)
- It must be dropped in the relief area (the relief area is defined in the rule you are taking relief under), i.e. it must first touch the ground inside the relief area when dropped.
If just one of these requirements is not fulfilled, you are not considered to have dropped in a correct way. You must re-drop until you have dropped in a correct way (without any limit as to the number of re-drops).
If you play a ball not dropped in a correct way, you incur a one-stroke penalty — unless you played from outside the relief area, in which case you incur a two-stroke penalty in stroke play or lost hole in match play (see FACTS 2).
Q4. What is the penalty for not dropping from knee height?
You can and should correct your error before playing the ball. If you re-drop in a correct way, correcting your error, there is no penalty. If you don’t and make a stroke at the ball, you incur a one-stroke penalty (since you did not drop in a correct way). See “FACTS 1”.
Q5. What if I drop almost from knee height.
Well, as a starting point you have to drop from knee height. If you dont’t, you will have to correct your error by re-dropping correctly (see “FACTS 1″).
There is a “I-did-my-best-so-please-don’t-penalize-me-rule” saying that when finding a “location,” you are not penalized for finding a wrong location if you made a reasonable judgment. It is for now not certain if this rule also encompasses a situation in which you don’t drop exactly from knee height simply because you cannot see that spot with certainty when looking down.
On one hand, you could argue that this interpretation would be in accordance with the spirit of this rule (don’t penalize a player doing his best). On the other hand, it seems that the knee cannot be that hard to find (!) and that a “location” probably must be interpreted as “a location on the golf course.” My conclusion would be that there is no excuse for not to being able to drop exactly from knee height, and thus this rule did not apply in this situation.
There is also a “naked-eye rule” saying that if the fact (here: the ball was not dropped from knee height) could not reasonable have been seen with the naked eye, the player is not penalized even though video evidence shows something different (i.e. that it in fact was not dropped exactly from knee height). In my opinion, this naked-eye rules is not applicable here, since a player will be said to be able to find the knee with a reasonable effort.
So… in my opinion there is no excuse not to drop from knee height!
FACTS 2: RELIEF AREA.
A relief area is the area in which you have to drop (see “FACTS 1”) and in which your ball must end after a drop.
Example: If you deem your ball in the rough unplayable, you can for example choose with a one-stroke penalty to drop a ball within two club lengths from — and not nearer the hole than — the spot where the ball lay. This area is called the “relief area.”
If your ball ends outside the relief area in your drop, your required action depends on whether or not you dropped in a correct way (see “FACTS 1”).
- If you did not drop in a correct way: You must re-drop again (without penalty) without any limitations as to the number of re-drops until you have dropped in a correct way.
- If you did drop in a correct way: The player must re-drop (in a correct way!) a ball one time (without penalty). If the ball still ends outside the relief area, the player must then (without penalty) place a ball on the spot where the dropped ball first touched the ground in the re-drop. If he player does that, no penalty is incurred. If he does not but plays a ball from outside the relief area, he plays from a wrong place thereby incurring a two-stroke penalty in stroke play or a loss of hole in match play.
Q7. Who should drop the ball?
Only the player can drop the ball. Not the caddie, not other players, not anyone else! See “FACTS 1”.
Q8. What is the penalty if your ball strikes your bag or yourself in the drop?
The answer depends on when it happens (i.e. when it strikes you or your equipment):
- If it happens before the ball strikes the ground: There is no penalty presupposing that you re-drop before you play the ball. You have to re-drop no matter how many drops it takes for you not to strike your bag or yourself. If you don’t re-drop and play the ball, you incur a one-stroke penalty.
- If it happens after the ball has struck the ground: There is no penalty, and you shall not re-drop.
Q9. Where must I drop?
You must drop in the “relief area,” which is defined in the rule you are dropping under. If you declare your ball unplayable, for example, then one of the options is to drop within two club length – not nearer the hole – than where the ball lay. This area is the “relief area” in which:
- Your ball must land in the drop (see “FACTS 1”) and
- Must end (See “FACTS 2”)
Q10. What if I drop from shoulder height?
That probably will happen quite a few times in the beginning of 2019. In this case, you are not dropping in a correct way, and you must re-drop without penalty before you make the stroke. See “FACTS 1.”
Q11. When do I have to re-drop?
The re-dropping rules are simplified. Under the current rules, there are a lot of situations where you are required to re-drop, e.g. when the ball rolls closer to the hole than the nearest point of relief, when the ball rolls into a bunker (and stays there), when the ball rolls more than two club lengths from where it first struck the course, etc. These rules are quite difficult.
In 2019, it gets easier. You have to drop in a “relief area,” and the balls needs to end it that area. If you drop outside this area or if the ball rolls and stays outside this area, you are required to re-drop. See “FACTS 1” and “FACTS 2.”
Q12. Do I have to re-drop (as it is today) if the ball rolls more than two club lengths away from the spot that the ball first struck the course in the drop?
First of all, in 2019 there is not such a “two-club-length rule.” The re-dropping rules are explained in “FACTS 1” and in “FACTS 2” above.
- If you take relief (e.g. from a path) and must drop within one club length (of the nearest point of point of complete relief), you will always have to re-drop if it rolls more than 2 club lengths (since the relief area is exactly two club-lengths long measured from the two points farthest from each other).
- If you drop after a rule requiring you to drop within two club lengths, sometimes you must re-drop if the ball rolls more than two club lenths and sometimes not. The only thing that matters is that the ball must be dropped in the relief area (see “FACTS 1”) and must end in the relief area (see “FACTS 2”). Otherwise, it must be re-dropped.
Q13. I have a bad back and therefore I cannot take my arm down far enough to be able to drop from knee height. What do I do?
I don’t know. My guess would be this: A player who cannot drop from knee-height due to back-problems most likely cannot play golf at all. In other words, a player able to play golf will almost always be able to drop the ball from knee height.
In the extremely rare situations where a player cannot drop from knee height but can play a round of golf, there is a “do-what-is-fair-rule” stating that in situations not covered by the Rules of Golf, you should do what is fair. Maybe that would lead to the conclusion that it was OK for a player to drop from a place higher than knee height (e.g. just from the position the arm is when it is stretched and relaxed alongside the leg).
Q14. Is a taller player going to drop the ball from a higher place than a lower player?
Q15. Isn’t that unreasonable?!
Well, that’s for you to decide 🙂 Who said that the 2019-Rules of Golf where easy to understand?
Rules Mentioned in Article
- 14-3: Dropping the ball
- 20-2c: “Naked-eye-rule”
- 1.3b(2): “Reasonable-judgment-rule”
- 20.3: “Do-what-is-fair-rule (when the situation is not covered by the rules).
How to qualify for the U.S. Amateur (in-depth statistical analysis and tutorial)
This is a follow-up of sorts to an article that I published on GolfWRX in May 2017: A Modern Blueprint to Breaking 80.
With the U.S. Amateur concluding at iconic Pebble Beach last weekend, I thought of the many amateurs out there who would love to one day qualify for this prestigious event. Personally, I made it to the State Amateur level, but work and life got in the way and I never made it to the next step. For those who aspire or wonder, here’s an outline of what your game should look like if you want to qualify for the U.S. Amateur.
To start with, your USGA Index needs to be 2.4 or lower to even attempt to qualify. If your course is rated 71.5/130*, the best 10 of your most recent 20 scores should average 74.3. This score will adjust slightly up if your course is rated more difficult, and slightly down if it’s rated less difficult. For the purposes of this article, I’m assuming the average course and slope rating above.
*Note: 71.5/130 is the average rating of courses played by single digit handicap golfers in the ShotByShot.com database of 340,000 rounds.
Your average scores by par type will be:
- Par 3: 3.21
- Par 4: 4.20
- Par 5: 4.86
The Fastest and Easiest Way to Lower Your Scores
Every round is a mix of good shots, average shots and bad shots/errors. The challenge is to determine which piece of your game’s unique puzzle is your greatest weakness in order to target your improvement efforts on the highest impact area. If you track the simple good and bad outcomes listed below for a few rounds, your strengths and weaknesses will become apparent.
Tee Game or Driving
Goals: Hit EIGHT fairways and limit your driving errors to ONE, with the majority being the less costly “No Shot errors” (more on this later).
Distance: I will ignore this and assume you’re maximizing distance as best you can without sacrificing accuracy.
Fairways: Hitting fairways is crucial, as we are all statistically significantly more accurate from the short grass.
Errors: Far more important than Fairways Hit, however, is the FREQUENCY and SEVERITY of misses. To help golfers understand the weaknesses in their game, my golf analysis program allows users to record and categorize the THREE types of Driving Errors:
- No Shot: You have missed in a place from which you do not have a normal next shot and require some sort of advancement to get the ball back to normal play.
- Penalty: A 1-stroke penalty due to hazard or unplayable lie.
- Lost/OB: Stroke and distance penalty.
Goals: ELEVEN GIRs and ONE penalty/2nd
Penalty/2nd: This means either a penalty or a shot hit so poorly that you are left with yet another full approach shot from greater than 50 yards of the hole.
The chart below displays the typical array of Approach Shot opportunities from the fairway (75 percent fall in the 100 to 200-yard range). The 150 to 175-yard range tends to be the most frequent distance for golfers playing the appropriate distance golf course for their game.
Short Game (defined as shots from within 50 yards of the hole)
Chip/Pitch: If you miss 7 greens, you will have 6 green-side save opportunities. Your goals should be:
- Percentage of shots to within 5 feet: 40 percent
- Percentage of Saves: 47 percent (3)
- Percentage of Errors (shots that miss the green): 6 percent, or approximately 1 in 17 attempts.
Sand: You should have 1 of these green-side save opportunities. Your goals:
- Percentage of shots to within 8 feet: 35 percent
- Percentage Saves: 32 percent
- Percentage of Errors (shots that miss the green): 13 percent, or approximately 1 in 8 attempts.
Putting: You need just over 31 putts. Aim for:
- 1-Putts: 6
- 3-Putts: 1
The chart below displays the percentage of 1-Putts you will need to make by distance, as well as the typical array of first-putt opportunities by distance. Note that 62 percent of your first-putt opportunities will fall in the 4 to 20-foot range. Adjust your practice efforts accordingly!
Good luck, and please let me know if and when you are successful.
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