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5 tips to help guarantee you’ll break 100 (or 90, or even 80!)

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In my writing and teaching, I strive to constantly break from the norm, tread the paths less trodden, and help the players I coach — or people who read my articles and books — in ways that move beyond the typical. That being said, I’ve decided to finally jump on that bandwagon of clichés and write a “5 tips” type article. Why? Because these types of articles are actually quite effective, especially when the premise behind the 5 tips are so simple and effective.

Lets leave the debate over clickbait for another time, and focus here on getting you to shoot your best score ever. I’m confident these 5 tips will help you get there.

1) Stop hitting it straight

If you’re struggling to break triple digits, you probably own a two-way miss. Most of the best players in the world take one side of the course out of play by rarely hitting a straight ball. They’re typically moving the ball off the tee in a direction that favors their most natural shot shape. Now for most of us that’s a fade, and that’s a good thing, so stop fighting that fade and just play for it. There’s a reason Lee Trevino once said, “you can talk to a fade, but a hook won’t listen.” And Trevino wasn’t alone, as many of the most consistent drivers of the ball (including Hogan) played the fade, but what’s most important is to play for your most natural shot shape off the tee and stop trying to hit it straight!

2) Stop short-siding yourself

Huh? Listen to network golf coverage and you’ll hear the commentators mention how a player short-sided him or herself, but like many viewers, you likely have no idea what they’re talking about. Short-siding yourself is missing the green to the side where you have the least amount of green to work with in relation to the flag. It’s the kiss of death in golf, and something good players seldom do. Chipping (read bump-and-run type shot) is much easier, and you pay a far less severe penalty for a mishit chip than a pitch (lob shot). Aim for the long side of the flag on pins closer than 20 feet from the edge and your misses won’t keep ending up in a places where the unfortunate results of your next shot are “chunks”, “skulls”, and “chili-dips.”

3) Sleep with your sand wedge

Lots of players pitch with a pitching wedge, lob with a lob wedge, and relegate their sand wedge to only those shots they’re forced to endure from the beach. Now most of us don’t practice our short games enough to begin with, and if we’re splitting what little time we spend out there on the practice green between three (or four) different greenside wedges then we’re not likely to be very good with any of them. The sand wedge is the most versatile club in the bag, and you should learn to hit every shot inside 50 yards with it, and hit them proficiently, before you branch out to different clubs.

I grew up with nothing but an old Cobra Trusty Rusty 56-degree sand wedge that I learned to hit from every conceivable lie and situation and I knew exactly what I could do with it and what I couldn’t. Find that one club and practice with it until you know and trust your short game with it implicitly, and you’ll be surprised at how much pressure that ends up taking off your long game.

4) Quit “hitting” your putts

If you can’t break 100, chances are you don’t putt very well, and if you don’t, you likely have poor distance control. Most people who struggle to control their distances with the putter, “hit” their putts, they don’t “stroke it” or “roll it”. “Hitting” a putt is the inevitable result of a putting stroke that is too small for a given distance. One thing I consistently preach with my Academy students is the bigger the putt the bigger the putting stroke. If you’re hitting it progressively harder as you get farther and farther from the hole, try instead to let that stroke get progressively longer, and watch how much more often that first putt rolls up to within tap-in range.

5) Start closer to the hole

There’s only one reason the average men’s handicap in this country hovers around 18 while the average woman’s around 33, but it’s a very big one. Distance! The average woman hits the ball 140 yards off the tee while the average man hits it 210. Over the course of 18 holes, that’s about 1300 yards, and it doesn’t even account for the approaches. Research has been done which suggests that, in order for players to be able to hit most greens in regulation, they should play from tees that are about 30 times their average drive. That would put most women at tees that measure 4,200 yards, and most men at 6,300 yards.

Sadly, most clubs aren’t offering tees at 4,200 yards, but we should be, and until then we should all be realistic about how far we hit the ball off the tee, multiply that number by 30, and find the closest set of tees we can to that number and play from there. And if we do that, we not only might finally break 100, and speed up the pace of play at the same time, but we just might have a bit more fun in the process!

So there’s your five tips! And now that I’ve guaranteed you’ll all be breaking that milestone number in your game, I expect the editors of big-time golf magazine publications to come knocking on my inbox for that 101st cliché cover story. Hope it helps!

image credit: sacrededge on reddit

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Mike Dowd is the author of the new novel COMING HOME and the Lessons from the Golf Guru: Wit, Wisdom, Mind-Tricks & Mysticism for Golf and Life series. 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.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Larry Covey

    Sep 12, 2018 at 2:08 am

    The PGA pros play to a factor of 25 or lower! Most pros drive the ball 300+ and using a 25 factor equals 7500 yds! For me, being 77 years of age and hitting my driver 225 yds, my factor would be 5625 yds! Pretty hard to find courses offering men’s tees less than 6000 yards, raising my factor close to 27! I normally play 6100 to 6350 yds and carry a high single digit hdcp. I hit my #4 hybrid 200 yds, pros hit their 7 irons the far!
    So using that as the average men’s factor, (27), the pros SHOULD be playing courses at 8100 yds or more!

  2. joro

    Sep 11, 2018 at 10:54 am

    Another great article, Truth is most people that play Golf have no ability to do any of that and play for fun until they get an overload of articles telling them how to swing, hook it, hit it solid, and a million other things to think about, get frustrated and quit. And the great gurus keep on writing and confusing more people.

  3. Bob Jones

    Sep 10, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    (5) The PGA Tour presents courses that average 25 times the average drive, the LPGA 26 times. 30 times is too long for recreational golfers.

    Instead, I use this rule: add together the distance of my average drive and the carry distance of my average 7-iron. Half the par 4s should be this distance or less.

    • Aztec

      Sep 10, 2018 at 2:54 pm

      Excellent idea, makes a lot more sense than suggesting 30 times average driving distance. Too bad it’s not backed by ‘research’ like Mike Dowd’s statement.

  4. Michael

    Sep 10, 2018 at 7:36 am

    Mike – Do you have a video explaining 2) Stop short-siding yourself?

  5. DaveyD

    Sep 9, 2018 at 11:56 pm

    Good article- I try to focus on a few other things- get as many greens in regulation as I can; avoid the penalty stroke situation by staying in the fairway; no three-putts. Not as successful as I would like, but I’m down to a 14 handicap.

  6. Richard Douglas

    Sep 9, 2018 at 11:00 pm

    6. Stop lying to yourself about your carry distances. Seriously. You don’t hit it nearly as far as you think. Also, on most holes, it’s better to miss long than short. Short is where they put most bunkers and water hazards. Sure, you sometimes see these in the back, or drop-offs back there that are horrible. So change your approach there. Better yet, aim to the center of almost all greens, unless there is a specific reason to aim long or short. Besides, it feels awful and weak to come up short, but missing long is almost a “good” miss. Slammed it!

    • BigHitter

      Sep 9, 2018 at 11:37 pm

      I increase my carry distance by 20 yards annually with each new driver model. I’m projecting 300 yard carry in 5 years at this rate of improvement.

  7. Aztec

    Sep 9, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    So, if someone drives 250 yds on average they should play tees at around 7,500 yds? And the big hitters at 300 yds should play tees at 9,000 yds?
    Really, this is what ‘research’ is suggesting? Your credibility is very tenuous.

    • Jason

      Sep 10, 2018 at 9:55 am

      I agree, I think a factor of 25 is much more reasonable. For people hitting the ball 250 yards that would be 6250, which is about what I do. For people hitting it 210 yards that would be 5300 yards.

      Since you are talking average handicaps and giving them a factor to use for what tee boxes to use 25 makes a lot more sense than 30.

      Now you could say “I’m a scratch golfer who hits it 250 yards. Playing from 6250 is too easy.” Well congrats and this general reference wasn’t made for you. It was made for the group of 15-20 handicaps in the group in front of you that are playing from the tips while you complain about the round already taking 5 hours while you are standing on the 15th tee.

    • GMR

      Sep 10, 2018 at 11:52 am

      Haha I was wondering the exact same thing! I’m a long hitter averaging about 290 off the tee, and thought it might be fun to play the back 9 at Kiawah Ocean Course off the tips at around 4k yards (for 9 holes)… Let’s just say that while that was an interesting experience I won’t be doing that again anytime soon (or ever). And yet by Mr. Dowd’s math that course was actually TOO SHORT for me!!!

    • Josh Leyes

      Sep 10, 2018 at 1:34 pm

      Agreed! Not sure where he got that “research” from, but for golfers to hit the most greens in regulation possible, they should play from the most forward tees possible. Duh. I know a lot of guys who hit it 250+ (myself included) who struggle to hit greens on some days playing courses 6300-6500 yards. Not a well thought out point at all by Mike Dowd.

  8. Jim

    Sep 9, 2018 at 3:03 pm

    They arnt whats wrong here… you are. Go back to bedding your sister and collecting confederate flags and dip cups.

  9. Tom

    Sep 9, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Mike…. you are talking to the 1% of golfers who are committed to the game of golf. These people will make an effort to improve, while the remainder only play golf for yuks and fun. I suspect you already know that.

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Instruction

Tip of the week: Let the left heel lift for a bigger turn to the top

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In this week’s tip, Tom Stickney gives a suggestion that would make Brandel Chamblee proud: lift the left heel on the backswing for a bigger turn.

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How I train tour players

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There is a lot of speculation about how tour pros train, and with tantalizing snippets of gym sessions being shared on social media, it’s tempting to draw large conclusions from small amounts of insight. One thing I can tell you from my time on tour is that there isn’t just one way that golfers should train, far from it. I’ve seen many different approaches work for many different pros, a strong indicator is the wide variety of body shapes we see at the top level of the game. Take for example Brooks Koepka, Mark Leishman, Ricker Fowler, and Patrick Reed. Put these four players through a physical testing protocol and the results would be extremely varied, and yet, over 18 holes of golf there is just 0.79 shots difference between first and last.

This example serves to highlight the importance of a customized approach to training. Sometimes common sense training programs backed by scientific evidence simply don’t work for an individual. One of the athletes I work with, Cameron Smith, over the course of a season recorded his slowest club-head speed when he was strongest and heaviest (muscle mass) and fastest club-head speed when he was lightest and weakest. That lead me to seriously question the widely accepted concept of stronger = more powerful and instead search for a smarter and more customized methodology. I’ll continue to use Cam and his training as an example throughout this article.

Cam working on his rotational speed (push band on his arm)

What I’m going to outline below is my current method of training tour pros, it’s a fluid process that has changed a lot over the years and will hopefully continue to morph into something more efficient and customized as time goes on.

Assessment

I have poached and adapted aspects from various different testing methods including TPI, GravityFit, Ramsay McMaster, Scott Williams and Train With Push. The result is a 5-stage process that aims to identify areas for improvement that can be easily compared to measure progress.

Subjective – This is a simple set of questions that sets the parameters for the upcoming training program. Information on training and injury history, time available for training, access to facilities and goal setting all help to inform the structure of the training program design that will fit in with the individual’s life.

Postural – I take photos in standing and golf set up from in-front, behind and both sides. I’m simply trying to establish postural tendencies that can be identified by alignment of major joints. For example a straight line between the ear, shoulder, hip and ankle is considered ideal.

Muskulo Skeletal – This is a series of very simple range of motion and localized stability tests for the major joints and spinal segments. These tests help explain movement patterns demonstrated in the gym and the golf swing. For example ankle restrictions make it very difficult to squat effectively, whilst scapula (shoulder blade) instability can help explain poor shoulder and arm control in the golf swing.

Stability and Balance – I use a protocol developed by GravityFit called the Core Body Benchmark. It measures the player’s ability to hold good posture, balance and stability through a series of increasingly complex movements.

Basic Strength and Power – I measure strength relative to bodyweight in a squat, push, pull and core brace/hold. I also measure power in a vertical leap and rotation movement.

At the age of 16, Cam Smith initially tested poorly in many of these areas; he was a skinny weak kid with posture and mobility issues that needed addressing to help him to continue playing amateur golf around the world without increasing his risk of injury.

An example scoring profile

Report

From these 5 areas of assessment I write a report detailing the areas for improvement and set specific and measurable short terms goals. I generally share this report with the player’s other team members (coach, manager, caddie etc).

Training Program

Next step is putting together the training program. For this I actually designed and built (with the help of a developer) my own app. I use ‘Golf Fit Pro’ to write programs that are generally split into 3 or 4 strength sessions per week with additional mobility and posture work. The actual distribution of exercises, sets, reps and load (weights) can vary a lot, but generally follows this structure:

Warm Up – foam roll / spiky ball, short cardio, 5 or 6 movements that help warm up the major joints and muscles

Stability / Function – 2 or 3 exercises that activate key stability/postural muscles around the hips and shoulders.

Strength / Power – 4 or 5 exercises designed to elicit a strength or power adaptation whilst challenging the ability to hold posture and balance.

Core – 1 or 2 exercises that specifically strengthen the core

Mobility – 5-10 stretches, often a mixture of static and dynamic

An example of the Golf Fit Pro app

Cam Smith has followed this structure for the entire time we have been working together. His choice would be to skip the warm-up and stability sections, instead jumping straight into the power and strength work, which he considers to be “the fun part.” However, Cam also recognizes the importance of warming up properly and doing to his stability drills to reduce the risk of injury and make sure his spine, hips and shoulders are in good posture and moving well under the load-bearing strength work.

Training Sessions

My approach to supervising training sessions is to stick to the prescribed program and focus attention firstly on perfecting technique and secondly driving intent. What I mean by this is making sure that every rep is done with great focus and determination. I often use an accelerometer that tracks velocity (speed) to measure the quality and intent of a rep and provide immediate feedback and accountability to the individual.

Cam especially enjoys using the accelerometer to get real-time feedback on how high he is jumping or fast he is squatting. He thrives on competing with both himself and others in his gym work, pretty typical of an elite athlete!

Maintenance

The physical, mental and emotional demands of a tournament week make it tricky to continue to train with the same volume and intensity as usual. I will often prescribe a watered down version of the usual program, reducing reps and sets whilst still focusing on great technique. Soreness and fatigue are the last thing players want to deal with whilst trying to perform at their best. It’s quite the balancing act to try and maintain fitness levels whilst not getting in the way of performance. My experience is that each player is quite different and the process has to be fluid and adaptable in order to get the balance right from week to week.

Equipment

Aside from the usual gym equipment, resistance bands, and self massage tools, the following are my favourite bits of kit:

GravityFit – Absolutely the best equipment available for training posture, stability and movement quality. The immediate feedback system means I can say less, watch more and see players improve their technique and posture faster.

Push Band – This wearable accelerometer has really transformed the way I write programs, set loads and measure progression. It’s allowed the whole process to become more fluid and reactive, improved quality of training sessions and made it more fun for the players. It also allows me to remotely view what has happened in a training session, down to the exact speed of each rep, as demonstrated in the image below.

Details from one of Cam’s recent training sessions

Examples

Below are some of the PGA Tour players that I have worked with and the key areas identified for each individual, based of the process outlined above:

Cam Smith – Improving posture in head/neck/shoulders, maintenance of mobility throughout the body, increasing power output into the floor (vertical force) and rotational speed.

Jonas Blixt – Core stability, hip mobility and postural endurance in order to keep lower back healthy (site of previous injury). Overall strength and muscle growth.

Harris English – Improving posture in spine, including head/neck. Scapula control and stability, improving hip and ankle mobility. Overall strength and muscle growth.

Recommendations

My advice if you want to get your fitness regime right, is to see a professional for an assessment and personalized program, then work hard at it whilst listening to your body and measuring results. I’m sure this advice won’t rock your world, but from all that I’ve seen and done on tour, it’s by far the best recommendation I can give you.

If you are a golfer interested in using a structured approach to your golf fitness, then you can check out my online services here.

If you are a fitness professional working with golfers, and would like to ask questions about my methods, please send an email to nick@golffitpro.net

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Me and My Golf: Top 5 putting grips

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In this week’s Impact Show, we take a look at our top 5 putting grips. We discuss which grips we prefer, and which putting grips can suit you and why.

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