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The Search For Hogan’s Secret

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I love a good mystery. I love reading them, watching them and even writing them in my spare time. Many of the most wildly popular literary works involve the quest to solve history’s mysteries or the search for lost treasure, and cinematic forays depicting these adventures are often blockbusters. When it comes to history’s biggest mysteries, certain ones have been sought after more fervently, by more men, than almost all others. The Ark of the Covenant comes to mind, and The Holy Grail is an obvious contender. But amongst my ilk, the search for Ben Hogan’s Secret is undoubtedly foremost among the game’s modern mysteries. Enough passion, intrigue and pursuit surround all of these things that I’m not really sure what is most shocking: that none of them has actually been found, or that, unlike The Ark and The Grail, a movie hasn’t (yet) been made about The Search for Hogan’s Secret.

Now before I begin in earnest, I should concede that I’m treading dangerous waters here. A cottage industry has evolved around Hogan’s Secret, with no less than a gazillion swing zealots claiming to have uncovered it everywhere from in an abandoned locker at Riviera to in the last will and testament of a guy who used to pick the range at Fort Worth Country Club back in the 1950’s. Among those teaching, pondering, and pontificating on the mysteries of the golf swing, there are hordes of “Hoganophiles” invested in ways that span from emotionally to professionally to financially in their claims to Hogan’s treasure. And anyone else coming along making claims even slightly at odds with their own conclusions can invite swift and vehement reactions: calls of blasphemy, incompetence or worse. But I forge on, because if I can shed even a little light upon this on-going investigation, I’ll risk the abuse. All in the name of the greater good of the game.

So back to Hogan. For starters, his playing record inspires understandable awe. And when you consider the fact that he won more than half his majors after a near fatal and crippling car accident that prohibited him from playing in more than a half-dozen events a year for the remainder of his career, you begin to understand why he is so revered. In 1953, having won the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship, Hogan very possibly could have been the only person to have completed the modern Grand Slam if the Open and PGA championships hadn’t had conflicting schedules that year. And while he only won nine majors (compared to Nicklaus’ 18 and Woods’ 14), he won those nine majors in only sixteen starts between 1946 and 1953. He also only finished out of the top-10 once. Had the PGA not still been match play during his competitive career, requiring winners to play 36 holes in a day (something Hogan couldn’t do after his accident) it’s very likely he would have added a few more majors to his total.

In truth, it’s unsurprising that a stoic man like Hogan, with a nickname like The Hawk and a record such as his would leave behind a legend that went beyond his mere exploits on the links. It was in Life Magazine back in the 1950’s that Hogan first claimed to have discovered his elusive Secret. The change that allowed the struggling journeyman pro to harness his wayward hook, a shot that almost drove him from the tour, and go on an almost unprecedented streak of tournament wins that would ultimately see him hailed as one of the best players in history a decade later. And in the process that success, combined with his explanations for it in the years to come, would inspire decades of debate.

Now, like most golf professionals, I have my opinions about what I like to see in a good golf swing and the elements that are crucial to obtain a modicum of success. But I’m self-aware enough to understand that, as I said, these are to a degree just my opinions. One of the most beautiful things about the golf swing is that it’s short on absolutes. The number of different looking golf swings that have tasted major success in the history of sport is near uncountable. Tiger Woods alone won major championships with three very different swings and PGA Tour events with four, and still an armada of us who claim to know a thing or two about the motion debate incessantly about which one was best. If swings the likes of Jim Furyk, John Daly, Ray Floyd, Jim Thorpe, Lee Trevino, Arnold Palmer and Miller Barber can win at the highest level, it should truly give hope to the most unorthodox among us — while giving pause to the rest of us who say you have to do it a certain way if you want to be any good.

That being said (and understood), I’m as guilty as the next guy who coaches competitive golfers for a living of getting sucked into searching for Hogan’s buried treasure. I suppose it’s understandable seeing as how he cryptically mentioned at one point that it could be found in the dirt somewhere, but I digress. You see, whether it was in that Life article, various interviews, his book Power Golf, or the Immortal Five Lessons, Hogan actually left us some very detailed clues as to what he felt was most important when it came to swinging a golf club. But it’s what Hogan supposedly didn’t say that left the treasure hunters among us still looking under the couch cushions for that missing remote. Like a master chef who holds back one key ingredient when offering up the recipe of a famous dish, one that will keep it from ever being truly replicated by scores of imitators, we believe Hogan withheld something from the golfing masses. Something he would ultimately take with him to his grave.

Now, from my point of view, I think Hogan was actually a bit of a shy man, and one who didn’t mind remaining a bit of a mystery. It only added to his intimidation factor when it came to competition, and ultimately elevated the Hogan mystique. And a bit of intrigue as it related to his historic success wasn’t an all bad thing when it came to marketing the golf clubs and balls that Hogan occupied most of his post tournament golf years doing. I also believe that Old Ben wasn’t immune to possibly having a quiet laugh at all of our expense. Could it be that all that talk of the pronation of the wrists, the short left thumb, or hitting balls left-handed as a youngster was nothing more than a red herring? Something planted in the public consciousness by a man who wanted to throw us all off the scent? Hogan wouldn’t have been the first mystical golf guru to have done so, nor would he be the last, but there is one other thing to consider.

Is it possible that Hogan’s real secret was something he wasn’t himself quite aware he was actually doing? It is quite possible that the changes in grip, wrist position, or any of the other things Hogan claimed were his Secret might possibly have served as a distraction in and of themselves. Something that may have in fact aided, or complemented, what he was doing in this swing, but something that in a technical sense would have been actually quite inconsequential if he wasn’t already doing something else, something pretty much every other legendary striker of the ball has done as well.

In the 1960’s Hogan recorded a video for Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf in which he explained what he did in his golf swing. In it he described how he initiated the first move down with his lower body. This is what Hogan felt that he did, and if you look at slow-motion video of his swing you can certainly see that he does start moving his hips first, almost before he completes his backswing on some clubs. In fact, if you look at Hogan swinging a driver you can actually see the clubhead still moving backward as he initiates his hip turn in the forward swing.

The thing that Hogan didn’t articulate in the video, though, a thing he might possibly have not even been consciously aware of, was the reason he could initiate the forward swing with his lower body as much as he did was how low and connected his right elbow was to his right hip, and how it remained underneath the left arm not just to, but through impact. This is what nearly every great ball-striker does, including Woods, Nicklaus, Byron Nelson, Bobby Jones and even that legendary savant so revered by golf swing geeks, the quirky Canadian Moe Norman.

All those great golfers arrived in that position by various methods, but they ended up there just the same — like London cabbies who might not take the GPS recommended route to get you to Heathrow, but they get you there on time just the same. And whether it was Hogan, Nelson, Nicklaus, or Norman, when you combined that position with a little lateral hip slide just prior to impact, it allowed them to deliver the face of the club to the back of the ball with very little release of the hands into the hitting area. In this way, the club is squared not so much through hand or forearm rotation, but by the turn of the body, a reality illustrated by the fact that every great ball-striker’s hips and shoulders are about half-way turned to the target at impact.

Now I know the technocrats out there will decry this as an over-simplification of what Hogan and others have done, and I get that, but I do so for a few reasons. One, to point out that there are common similarities amongst great players. Two, to give an idea about which area of the swing is possibly most important to focus on if you feel you need to make a change. And three, to highlight the fact that despite those similarities, there is no one way to get there, as long as you ultimately do.

Hogan, whether it was intentional or not, wasn’t the first professional to articulate something about his golf swing that was a bit misleading. And the real problem with most golfers (and instructors) taking Hogan’s advice at whole cloth is that most players who attempt to initiate the forward swing with the lower body have arms so disconnected from their lower bodies that it causes them to come over the top and hit the ball form the outside, exactly the opposite of what Hogan claims it will do. You see, there’s this pesky little thing called your spine that connects your arms and shoulders to your hips. Most golfers, especially those of advancing age, aren’t nearly as flexible as the modern athlete. When they run out of available body turn in the backswing, they lift the club into position the rest of the way. This disconnects the upper and lower body, setting them up to have the upper body stuck behind the lower because the arms hands and shoulders can only resist so much of that hip turn before they cry uncle and follow along.

Having your arms connected to the lower body through the impact area not only allows you to strike the ball more directly from the inside, but allows you to square the club through body rotation. When the hips are too far in front of the upper body, the lower body often begins to move up and out of the hitting area before the club is in position to strike the ball. And as you get farther and farther from the ball and/or the club gets stuck open due to the arms and hands getting left behind, it forces you to cast or flip the club at the ball through impact in order to square it. This move sacrifices both power and consistency.

So what do we do? First and foremost, acquiring the necessary flexibility to complete a backswing by turning isn’t a bad place to start regardless of your age. Second, if you don’t have that flexibility at the moment, you may want to point your toes outward as Hogan did, allowing a bigger hip turn, and maybe even allow your front heel to come off the ground in the backswing like Nicklaus. The important thing is to try to get the club to the top more by turning than by lifting. And finally, if you’re in a position right now where your flexibility not only isn’t quite where you want it, and these adjustments still won’t allow you to turn the club back fully to the top without lifting it, then you just might need to start that downswing with the upper body.

What you say??? That’s not what Bantam Ben said! I know, I know, but one of the things I’m fond of telling people is, “The higher your right elbow, the higher your handicap,” especially on the way down, so kick-starting your forward swing by making sure your elbow tucks low and in front of the right hip prior to the initiating that hip turn can be the missing link that allows you to get it back underneath the left arm so you can strike the ball from an inside path again. It’s not what the immortal Mr. Hogan might have told you to do, but if you’ve been searching in vain for Golf’s Holy Grail of moves for a while now, and neither Mr. Hogan’s description, nor the multitudes of instructors claims of what his actual Secret was have turned out to be the genuine article, it just might be because Ben didn’t honestly know what his real secret was. And even though it was hiding in plain sight, his own description of what he was doing made it easy to be confused about where to look.

At least that’s my opinion, but just remember, it’s only an opinion. So… what’s yours?

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Mike Dowd is the author of Lessons from the Golf Guru: Wit, Wisdom, Mind-Tricks & Mysticism for Golf and Life. He has been Head PGA Professional at Oakdale Golf & CC in Oakdale, California since 2001, and is serving his third term on the NCPGA Board of Directors and Chairs the Growth of the Game Committee. Mike has introduced thousands of people to the game and has coached players that have played golf collegiately at the University of Hawaii, San Francisco, U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Davis, University of the Pacific, C.S.U. Sacramento, C.S.U. Stanislaus, C.S.U. Chico, and Missouri Valley State, as men and women on the professional tours. Mike currently lives in Turlock, California with his wife and their two aspiring LPGA stars, where he serves on the Turlock Community Theatre Board, is the past Chairman of the Parks & Recreation Commission and is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Turlock. In his spare time (what's that?) he enjoys playing golf with his girls, writing, music, fishing and following the foibles of the Sacramento Kings, the San Francisco 49ers, the San Francisco Giants, and, of course, the PGA Tour. You can find Mike at mikedowdgolf.com.

34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. Bob

    Dec 28, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    I believe in Jim McLean’s 8 step swing, he describes that at impact the right elbow, right hip and right knee will be in alignment with the right elbow right in front of the hip. See the photo sequence above. Whether that was Hogan’s “secret” is another matter.

  2. Caddy

    Dec 27, 2017 at 10:49 am

    I think he certainly knew what he was doing and feeling – likely more than anyone ever. You said,

    “when you combined that position with a little lateral hip slide just prior to impact, it allowed them to deliver the face of the club to the back of the ball with very little release of the hands into the hitting area. In this way, the club is squared not so much through hand or forearm rotation, but by the turn of the body…”

    That certainly kept the face from closing until after impact. The hip rotation being the 1st move from the top and mentioned over 40 times in Five Lessons, was huge in keeping the club from coming TOO much from the inside. His path was better by feeling that he rotated the hips 1st. Even if there was a little lateral slide it was a result of dynamic motion and not intentional. His intent was to rotate and that “fixed” his extreme in to out path. Keeping his right arm under kept his face from closing early. Once the path and the face were coordinated… he was MONEY!

  3. Guia

    Dec 26, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    No, secret. He practiced his butt off. I love the way he keeps his arms close to his body.

    • Sid

      Dec 27, 2017 at 12:47 pm

      That’s the “secret”!!!!!! Practice, and more practice!!!!
      Everybody wants that secret tip to avoid practice and physical failure.
      Their solution?: Buy the latest greatest new equipment. Losers all!!!

  4. RBImGuy

    Dec 26, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    “it just might be because Ben didn’t honestly know what his real secret was.”

    If you ask me that was it.
    If hee really knew then his explanation would make someone else able to repeat, he wasnt able to.

    I am however able to do that, repeat and teach the same “the real secret” to the golf swing

  5. Kelvin

    Dec 25, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    I believe Hogan’s secret was that he worked out the Trackman secret that no one knew…that the face controls the start direction and the path to face creates the curve. He used to practice behind a tree at Shady Oaks curving the ball. Armed with that knowledge he built himself a cut swing that he knew he could trust.

  6. Ray Bennett

    Dec 24, 2017 at 8:02 am

    Not sure why people are so obsessed with Ben Hogan’s secret. To me he was a journeyman pro who gave his all to work out a golf swing that would earn him and his a comfortable living. He wasn’t a gifted athlete the likes of Sam Snead and Coy who used their athleticism to swing the club the easy way. Hogan swing the club differently which he described in the introduction to “Five Lessons….”. He pronated the left arm fully in the backswing and supinated it early during the downswing resulting in a hold off release with a stable clubface through the impact zone (referred to as a shut to open release where the clubface has minimal rotation coming into impact and beyond). He needed to practice many hours every day where Snead and Coy did it the easy athletic way. I guess we pay homage to those who give their guts and all to succeed in their endeavours.

    • Mj

      Dec 24, 2017 at 12:07 pm

      Pronating and supinating means rotating the forearms.
      There is no hold off move.
      move.
      .

      Saved Photo
      ?
      ?

    • Benseattle

      Dec 25, 2017 at 7:58 pm

      Sorry… does anyone have a clue as to who this “Coy” is?

      • Ray Bennett

        Dec 26, 2017 at 3:14 pm

        The hard way to swing a golf club is to consciously rotate the clubface open to it’s maximum during the backswing and square it up during the downswing with minimal rotation through impact and finish with the clubface open – which is what Hogan did. His swing was powered by tremendous body rotation.

  7. LarryG

    Dec 23, 2017 at 2:51 am

    If the truth be known, Hogan’s “Secret” is unique to his body anatomy and nobody else. Trying to imitate Hogan’s swing and hoping something magical will happen is foolish, and rather futile too.

    • SK

      Dec 23, 2017 at 3:00 am

      Hogan’s real secret was his flat ‘duffer’ cap that he always wore and the cap centered his swing down through his body into the ground. Soooo obvious.

      • roger

        Dec 23, 2017 at 2:44 pm

        LOL

      • Sid

        Dec 27, 2017 at 12:49 pm

        No… the secret is the belt that holds up his pants!!!
        If your belt isn’t exactly right your pants will mess up yer swing!!!

    • Mj

      Dec 23, 2017 at 5:38 pm

      What part of his anatomy was different than anyone else’s. The only successful instructors have systems. He told his secret in the article and repeated it through the years including on video.

      • LarryG

        Dec 24, 2017 at 1:51 am

        Hogan had exceptionally big and meaty hands and popeye forearms… and he was rather short, like 5’7″…. and he was not obese with a belly hanging over his belt like most men I see on the golf courses.

    • Caddy

      Dec 27, 2017 at 10:53 am

      The principles are the same. The more you stay connected and turn the more efficient your swing and ball-striking will be. If you use a lot of hands and arms, you had better have good hand eye coordination, timing and sheer talent.

  8. Rich Douglas

    Dec 22, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    Hogan was–and is–the greatest perpetrator of advice leading to slicing there ever was. He battled a hook for most of his early career. The methods he later proffered were a result of his overcoming the hook. He hit a slice to negate the hook.

    Do not follow that.

    If you want basic instruction on the swing, I recommend “Getting Back to Basics” by Tom Watson, “Five Fundamentals” by Steve Elkington, and/or “Swing Like a Pro” by Ralph Mann. Stay away from Hogan at all costs.

    • LarryG

      Dec 23, 2017 at 2:41 am

      HERESY!!!! Hogan and even Homer are sacred names in the world of golf swing understanding and to desecrate their names will get you a forum fatwah …!!!

  9. Mj

    Dec 22, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    Read the top right of the life magazine cover it says Hogan tells his secrets. Tell the secret means this a secret which is in the article
    Not this might be his secret.

    • LarryG

      Dec 23, 2017 at 2:43 am

      No no… it’s buried in The Amazing World of Insects article…!!!

  10. CB

    Dec 22, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    The only secret is that he had to hit thousands of balls just to maintain his swing.

    • LarryG

      Dec 23, 2017 at 2:46 am

      … and that’s what weird Moe “Pipeline” Norman did while proclaiming he he was the G.O.A.T. swinger of the golf club, at his demos and on his youtube videos too!!!

  11. FG

    Dec 22, 2017 at 4:46 pm

    Jim Furyk’s right elbow isn’t connected to his right hip at all so that must means he’s a terrible ball-striker, right? Shooting 58 and 59 with a bogey, how bad is that?

    • roger

      Dec 23, 2017 at 2:46 pm

      It’s painful watching Furyk’s loopy swing.

      • Wizardofflatstickmountain

        Dec 23, 2017 at 6:21 pm

        Yeah, totally gross and an offense to my eyes.

        That swing has produced over $67MM in earnings.

        I’m sure your swing looks like a poem wrapped in a rainbow.

        • roger

          Dec 24, 2017 at 1:57 am

          You are correct when you say you are sure my swing looks like a poem wrapped in a rainbow… 99.9 mph too ….!

  12. HennyBogan67

    Dec 22, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    Nice article which reveals absolutely nothing! The secret is not in the downswing but how Hogan got to the top with his left wrist cupped. I think I found it and won’t reveal it here but ask yourself how did he go from a flat wrist at the 9 o’clock position to a cupped one at the top. The secret is always in the hands. Ben’s was miles ahead of everyone’s. If you figure it out, it will take you 3 swings to improve your ballstriking exponentially. The secret allows me to play Mizuno MP-4’s at 62 years old and to rip every iron in the bag with a tiny draw. Good luck, it’s worth the effort.

    • Ur_A_Bogan

      Dec 22, 2017 at 5:12 pm

      Wow dude seriously, do you not realize the absolute hypocrisy in your comment. “This Bogan goes on and claims he knows about Hogan’s secret but actually reveals nothing!” As you directly follow that with a sentence about how you’ve found Hogan’s TRUE secret, and yet you just can’t tell us plebs about it here. Get over yourself.

    • roger

      Dec 23, 2017 at 2:51 pm

      A cupped wrist at the top suggests that the ligaments on the palm side of wrist are weak compared to the ligaments on the top of the wrist. These are the finger ligaments that go through the carpal tunnel and then into the elbow.
      The unequal ligament strength causes the wrist to cup when the club lever at the top goes into reversal.
      A flat wrist is anatomically neutral while a cupped wrist is in palmar extension.

  13. Marnix

    Dec 22, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    Thanks for this carefully written insight. Whether your observation of the low right elbow happens to be ‘the secret’ or not is somewhat irrelevant, but your explanation on why it is important will certainly be helpful to many. Coincidentally or not, this is exactly what I have been working on for the past 6 months and my ball striking has improved and my scores are inching lower.

  14. Frank

    Dec 22, 2017 at 11:53 am

    When I stated in golf 50 years ago I struggled until
    I read the first Hogan book. I was hooked on Hogan and fought a slice forever. I even practiced the Hogan grip for hours in my spare time. I took lessons, lots of lessons, and read every other theory (and tried them out) always coming back to Hogan. Finally after retirement and all of my flexibility and strength gone with my youth I looked at the Hogan swing sequence then Nicklaus then Trevino then all of my past heroes swings and picked up a pen flashlight put my Hogan grip on it with the light on mimicking the butt of the grip and traced my swing slowly on the rug. I transitioned to a strong grip, a 10 finger grip , a weak grip and found that if I traced the in to out swing I would come to impact in a square position. What was really surprising was my right arm position looked like Hogan’s Eureka. I’m now breaking 40 constantly and with less effort. At age 78 I think I got it.

    • roger

      Dec 23, 2017 at 2:43 pm

      So you only play 9 holes?
      Do you walk and push a trolley or carry a bag… or do you ride a cart?

  15. toyzrx

    Dec 22, 2017 at 11:52 am

    Probably wasn’t anything ground breaking but was a personal swing key he held which he did not want to share with anyone. Maybe he wanted to covey to us in silence that there was not such things as secrets in golf swing or golf period.

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Opinion & Analysis

“I Love You, Tiger!” At Big Cedar lodge, an outpouring of affection for Tiger Woods

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What a difference a year makes.

About one year ago, Tiger Woods was in Branson, Missouri at Big Cedar Lodge to announce that he was designing a golf course there; Payne’s Valley, his first public course. That day was attended by hundreds of national and local media, the Lieutenant Governor of Missouri and Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops owner and the visionary behind the amazing golf complex that has been established at Big Cedar Lodge.

That day, Woods had not played competitive golf for awhile, and he was recovering from multiple surgeries. Woods took a couple of ceremonial swings, the last of which clearly left him in physical distress. Days later, he was in surgery again and his playing career looked to be all but over. The situation became worse when Woods was arrested for driving under the influence, found with multiple substances in his system. It seemed as though the sad mug shots from that arrest might be as prominent in his legacy as the smiles and fist-pumps that accompanied his 79 wins and 14 major championships.

Fast forward to yesterday, where Woods was back in Missouri to do a Junior Clinic at Big Cedar. An estimated crowd of over 7,000 kids and parents showed up on a school day to catch a glimpse of Woods. The atmosphere was carnival-like, with sky divers, stunt planes making flyovers and rock music blaring from giant speakers. When Woods finally arrived, the reaction was electric. Mothers and their kids were chanting. “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” at the top of their lungs. Photographers battled soccer moms for position to get a picture of his swing. Some of the kids were as young as 6-years-old, which means that they had probably not seen Woods hit a meaningful shot in their life. At one point, when Woods was hitting shots and explaining how to execute them, a woman shouted, “I love you, Tiger!” Not to be out done, a woman on the other side of the crowd, who was their with her husband and kids, shouted “I love you more, Tiger!” Maybe the only people with more affection for Woods would be the people in the golf business. A senior marketing official in the golf industry leaned over at one point in the event and said, “God, we could use just one more from him.”

Woods swing looks completely rehabilitated. He was hitting shots of every shape and trajectory on-demand, and the driver was sending balls well past the end of the makeshift driving range set up for the event. But even more remarkable was the evidence of the recovery of his reputation. Surely there are still women out there that revile Woods for the revelations of infidelity, and no doubt there are those that still reject Woods for his legal and personal struggles. But none of them were in Missouri yesterday. Mothers and children shrieking his name confirmed what we already knew: Tiger Woods is the single most compelling person in American sports, and he belongs to golf.

Unlike a year ago, Woods is swinging well, and seems as healthy and happy as he as ever been as a pro. Add to that the unprecedented outpouring of love from crowds that once produced a combination of awe and respect, but never love. Fowler, McIlroy, Spieth and the rest may get their share of wins and Tweets, but if the game is to really grow it will be on the broad, fragile back of Tiger Woods. It’s amazing to think what can happen in one short year.

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Opinion & Analysis

12 reasons serious golfers don’t realize their potential

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What stops serious golfers from realizing their potential? If you are an amateur who wants to get better, a young player trying to achieve more, or a young professional with big dreams, this article is for you.

I’ve made a career out of helping athletes maximize their abilities, golfers in particular. And the things I see young playing professionals doing prior to our work together is often what is holding them back. The reality is that most young players, no matter what their level, have three key problems:

  1. They’re distracted by what’s not important
  2. They have no detailed structure and plan to reach the targets they determine are important to them
  3. They have no formal process to develop mindset and attitude

In the list below, I share what I see working with these young players and some common blind spots.

1. No real plan and steps to achieve targets

Most players do not know how to create a long-term and short-term plan that outlines all steps needed to reach targets. Players should have yearly plans with targets, steps and actions and weekly plans to organize/schedule their time and prioritize key needs.

2. Not focused enough on the object of the game

This goes hand in hand with No. 1. Surprisingly, players seem to forget that the object of the game is get the ball in the hole in the least amount of strokes. Trophies and checks are not issued for the best swing, the best putting stroke or most balls hit.

3. Not enough pressure in practice

Most young players have loose practice. The intensity of feelings between the practice tee and the course are too different. Focus and intensity must be a part of all practice. Add competition and outcomes to sessions so some urgency is created.

4. Too much practice time on full swing

The data is clear — most shots in golf happen from 100 yards and in from the green. If the majority of practice time is not spent on these shorter shots, practice time is wasted.

5. An obsession with the look of the swing

Players are not generally prepared to own their own swings and embrace the differences that make them unique. Obsessing over swing mechanics is a major distraction for many players. Many players convince themselves that if it doesn’t look “good” on their iPhone, their swing won’t get results.

6. No structure with the driver

Since scoring is the main goal, a consistent, reliable shape to each shot is important. My experience has been that if players are trying to go both ways with the driver, that is a sure-fire way to elevate numbers on the card. Pick a shape and eliminate one side of the course. Predictability from the tee increases a player’s confidence to put the ball in the fairway more often, creating more opportunities to score.

7. Expectation that they will hit the ball well everyday

Many players have the unreasonable expectation that they will hit lots of fairways and greens every time they play. This expectation leads to constant disappointment in their game. Knowing that the leading professionals in the game average about 60.6 percent driving accuracy and 11.8 greens in regulation per round should be a good benchmark for the expectations of all players.

8. Trying to be too robotic and precise in putting

Some players get so caught up in the mechanics of putting that their approach becomes too robotic. They become obsessed with precision and being perfect. Feel, flow and instinct have to be a central part of putting. This can get lost in an overly robotic mindset trying to be too precise and perfect.

9. No process for assessment and reflection

Players do not have a formal process for assessing practice or rounds and reflecting on the experience. The right lessons are not consistently taken away to ensure step-by-step improvement. Knowing how to assess practice, play and ask the right questions is key to development.

10. Getting in their own way

The voice inside of most young players’ heads is not helpful for their performance. It’s often a negative, demanding voice that insists on perfection. This voice leads to hesitation, frustration and anger. The voice must be shaped (with practice) into the right “emotional caddie” to support efforts and promote excellence over perfection.

11. A focus on the negative before the positive

A default to the mistakes/flaws in the round before looking at the highlights and what worked. When asked about their round, most players highlight three-putts, penalty shots and any errors before anything else. Emphasis should always be on what went well first. Refection on what needs improvement is second.

12. The blame game

Young players love excuses. Course conditions, weather, coaching and equipment are a few of the areas that are often targets, deflecting responsibility away from the player. Many players do not take full responsibility for their own game and/or careers.

I hope this provides some insights on roadblocks that could get in your way on the path to reaching your targets in the game. Whether it’s lowering your handicap, winning a junior tournament, working toward the PGA Tour — or just general improvement — considering these observations might help you shorten the road to get there.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Valero Texas Open

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With one of the weakest fields of the year, TPC San Antonio hosts the Valero Texas Open this week. Only one player from the top-20 in the Official World Golf Rankings will tee it up here. That man is Sergio Garcia, who co-designed this course with Greg Norman.

Just like last week at the RBC Heritage, the wind can wreak havoc at TPC San Antonio. The course features an exposed layout, making the level of wind is often unpredictable. Expect it to be a factor yet again this year. Unlike last week, the longer hitters do have an advantage on this course, which measuring more than 7,400 yards with little rough off the tee.

Last year, Kevin Chappell held off a charging Brooks Koepka to post 12-under par and win his first title on the PGA Tour.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Sergio Garcia 14/1
  • Matt Kuchar 18/1
  • Charley Hoffman 18/1
  • Luke List 25/1
  • Ryan Moore 28/1
  • Kevin Chappell 28/1
  • Adam Scott 30/1

From the top of the market, it’s hard not to love Luke List (25/1, DK Price $10,000) this week. The big-hitting American is still looking for his first win on the PGA Tour, but he is knocking on the door relentlessly. In his last eight events, List has finished no worse than T-26.

He was so close once again last week, and he should take plenty of confidence from that performance onto a course that theoretically should suit him much better. On this long track, List will have a significant advantage as one of the longest hitters on Tour. Over his last 24 rounds, he ranks 5th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee and 1st in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green. List is also flushing his irons. He was second in the field last week for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, and over his previous 24 rounds he sits 3rd in the same category.

It’s not only his long game that is highly proficient right now, either. List’s short game has been stellar over this impressive stretch, too. He ranks 8th for Strokes Gained-Around the Green and 28th for Strokes Gained-Short Game over his last 24 rounds.

The one department holding the big man back is his putting, where he ranks 145th for the season. The rest of his game is so sharp at the moment that he’s in the enviable position of not needing that hot a week with the flat-stick to win. He only needs an average week on the greens to finally break through and claim his first PGA Tour event. There’s nothing to suggest List isn’t going to play well once more this week, and at 25/1 he seems undervalued.

Returning to a track that he adores, Brendan Steele (33/1, DK Price $8,900) is always a danger at this event. As well as winning the title here in 2011, Steele has finished in the top-20 three times since then. Whatever it is about TPC San Antonio, it’s a course that brings out the best in Steele’s game.

It’s been an excellent season for the West Coast native, too. He won his opening event of the season at the Safeway Open and has since finished in the top-30 six times. One of the main reasons for his strong run of form has been his work with the driver. Steele is ranked 1st in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee over his last 24 rounds, and he has only failed to post a positive Strokes Gained statistic in this category once since this event last year.

Recently, Steele’s game is showing trends that he may once more be close to hitting the form that saw him win at the back end of last year. In his previous 24 rounds, the Californian is ranked 10th in Ball Striking and 7th in Strokes Gained-Total. Always a threat at this event, Steele is coming into this week with all parts of his game in sync. He should be a live threat once more in San Antonio.

Another man who has played well all year is Xander Schauffele (35/1, DK Price $8,800). The Californian has made seven of eight cuts this year, and he has finished in the top-25 in four of those occasions. Excellent off the tee, TPC San Antonio should suit the 24-year-old this week, too. Schaufelle ranks 7th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee and 17th in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green over his last 24 rounds.

With wind likely to play a factor this week, pure ball striking will be necessary. That shouldn’t be an issue for Xander, who sits 7th in Strokes Gained-Ball Striking over his last 24 rounds. There is nothing off about Schauffele’s game right now. He ranks 21st in Strokes Gained-Putting over his previous 12 rounds and 5th in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green over the same period. It’s only a matter of time before the two-time PGA Tour winner puts himself in the thick of contention again, and there’s no reason why it can’t be this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Luke List 25/1, DK Price $10,000
  • Brendan Steele 33/1, DK Price $8,900
  • Xander Schauffele 35/1, DK Price $8,800
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