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Opinion & Analysis

It takes a village: How to improve at golf



Roy: I’m catching it on the hosel, right?
Romeo: Yeah right, right, right.
Roy: Moving my head?
Romeo: Yeah
Roy: I’m laying it off?
Romeo: Well that too.
Roy: I’m pronating.
Romeo: Well you’re not supinating.
Roy: I’m clearin too early, I’m clearin too late. My God, my swing feels like an unfoldin lawn chair!
Romeo: All right…take all your change and put it in your left-hand pocket. Go on, do it Roy.
Roy: All right
Romeo: Alright now, tie your…left shoe in a double knot.
Roy: Tie my left shoe?
Romeo: Right now Roy, do it! Turn the hat around backwards. Turn your hat around. Do it, Roy! Now take this tee and stick it …[pause] …behind your left ear.
Roy: Stick it…I look like a fool!
Romeo: Well what the hell you think you look like shootin them chili peppers up Lee Janzen’s ass? And you do it right now or I swear to God I’m gonna quit. I swear to God I’ll quit.
Roy: All right
Romeo: All Right, good. Now, Take this little ball, and hit it the hell up the fairway. You’re ready…[sigh]
[Roy hits the ball straight]
Roy: How’d I do that?
Romeo: Because you’re not thinking about shankin, you’re not thinkin about the Doctor Lady. You’re not thinking period. You’re just looking like a FOOL!, and you’re hitting the ball pure and simple…
Roy: That’s it?
Romeo: Yeah, That’s it. Your BRAIN was getting in the way.

We are all on this golfing journey together and sometimes, okay, a lot of times, we need a little help from our friends on GolfWRX. Even the great ball-striker Roy “Tin-Cup” McAvoy needs swing knowledge dropped on him, and he obviously needs cabeza training performed by his “Doctor Lady” head shrink.

Romeo does a masterful job of removing the technical jargon and gets Tin Cup to stop getting his “brain in the way”. But there’s more to golf than some on range swing band-aides. Roy didn’t almost win the U.S. Open on his own; he had help, a lot of help. We too need help to fully understand the swing like Roy does, understand psychology, train our moves, and even more importantly, take all this knowledge, simplify it, and “get the ball up the fairway”.

Where do WE, #AverageJoeGolfers and #AverageJaneGolfers, go if we don’t have Romeo as a caddy, a Doctor Lady psychologist, or a “Team” like Jordan? It Takes a Village, so we build one. Reading about golf on GolfWRX is just one very small aspect of building your Village and improving your game. We need knowledge AND we need to arm ourselves with a host of skillsets and build our own Village on the cheap, particularly since we don’t have Tour Player bankrolls?

Each part of your Village can be thought of as a cog in a machine, and if you remove a cog, or it gets rusty or doesn’t fit right…you get the picture, your Village won’t help you hit the ball straight or score well. While adding additional villagers is important, to improve, you need to have exposure to every one of the following

1. Find a Coach – My Golf Coach, Tim Overman, is my friend and has a diversified set of golf knowledge from various sources, aka a high #Golf-IQ. He’s also someone with good communication skills and has a ‘Village Philosophy’ as opposed to a “My Way” of doing things. He is a voracious researcher of the golf swing, is agnostic to one “swing theory”, and isn’t afraid of the process of creative destruction, which means he’s constantly searching for ways to get better and utilize input from a multitude of sources. [Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t wavering and doesn’t change my move each week, he is simply a knowledge sponge.] He listens more than he speaks, has a training plan that is focused on making students “do the reps”, and participates in playing lessons and situational practice routines with each of his students. Tim also explains the “why?” of what he’s teaching, and arms me with the knowledge to be my own coach when he isn’t around. Be selective because unfortunately, Tim is part of a small subset of quality instructors, so do your homework! Tim is also a huge contributor to this, and future, articles by the way.

2. Read & Listen – A good place to start your Village is in the absorption category. Tim and I both try to read any books we can get our hands on relating to psychology, course management, swing theory, teaching, and the game of golf. You may want to throw in some entertaining books in the mix as well; start with Dead Solid Perfect, Golf in the Kingdom, and A Course Called Ireland. We like to listen to podcasts of world-class instructors to get their perspective on instruction. Start with Earn Your Edge by Cameron McCormick and Corey Lundberg of Altus Performance. Caution: Don’t head out to the range or worse your local muni with all your newfound knowledge looking for the secret; the Read & Listen suggestion is primarily to arm yourself with knowledge. We’ll get to the ‘How to get better?’ in a bit.

3. Prepare Psychologically – The easiest way for #AverageJoeGolfers to prepare mentally is to work on the head game. For starters there are some online affordable games you can sign up for that will help you concentrate, check out THINQ. Another option is to work with your buddies. Play rounds where you mess with each other by coughing, jingling keys, or allow other sensible distractions while playing. The key here is to have fun with distractions as opposed to being annoyed by them. It’s hard, a lot of people struggle here, but the effort will pay off hugely as you improve as a golfer. See #2 (Read & Listen).

4. Train your Move – It doesn’t take a country club membership to get better at golf, all you need is a little space in your garage, living room, or backyard. You need to put in the work, start slow, and do reps without that little white devil staring you in the face. The ball tends to make us make funky moves that don’t resemble what we need to do to have success striking a golf ball. So we want to train your body to move properly before we introduce a club or ball. We strongly believe you can make massive improvements in the comfort of your own home in front of a mirror or camera.

5. Ingrain your Move – When you transition from moving your body to moving your body with a club in your hand and then moving your body with a club in your hand and a ball in front of you, you need to add complexity slowly. You also need to do a lot of chunky practice to make sure you are moving properly. Think about learning to drive…You didn’t jump into the seat and enter the Indy 500 a week after you first got your permit; you learned in a classroom, got in a simulator before live action in a parking lot, then put around backcountry roads, and finally you took your mom’s Thunderbird to the dragstrip to see what it could do.

6. Situational Practice (with a Purpose) – Once you feel your move is properly ingrained into your muscle memory, you’ll want to practice under stress (golf isn’t played on a driving range). This is the opposite of heading to the range and raking ball after ball in front of you, mindlessly hitting at air targets. Go to a muni at night, find a tree, put a few balls behind it and try to work the ball around it, and then switch to different situations that are progressively more difficult. If you can’t find a muni or course where you can hop on to practice shots, use your imagination at the range.

7. Get Fit for your Clubs using real data (Launch Monitor) – For regular GolfWRXers this isn’t new, but for anyone stumbling on this article, make sure your clubs fit you, Full STOP!

8. Get a Routine and Warm Up before rounds – You can time PGA Tour players with a stopwatch, and they’d all have similar times it takes them to pull a club and then hit their shot. This is a simple adjustment that you need to train into your game, and it takes zero skills and pays huge dividends. You should also warm-up prior to rounds if your muni has a range, and even if it doesn’t, hit some chips and get your green speed nailed down before your round. Scoring will greatly improve.

9. Join a Community – I play in the Harding Park Men’s club for less and $200 a year and train virtually with Tim, my partner, coach, and good buddy. Tim and I also challenge each other on how to train, what to do to improve, how to dissect new swing theories and what we can do to help others like you in a simple and effective way.

We train, we read, we research, we listen and absorb the teachings and coaching of some well-known, and some less well known, instructors. This makes us feel like we have built a pretty good VILLAGE. To “Make the Big Dog Eat”, and ensure that that “Tuning Fork Rings in Your Loins” more often than not, make sure you Build Your Village.

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Matt Strube is a certified golf geek who started playing golf later in life. He quickly developed a passion for the game, and in 1997, Matt and his partner wrote atheir honors thesis, ‘The Golf University’, that focused on bringing golf to the masses through specialized golf training programs. In 2012, Matt began working with Tim Overman at Golf in Motion Chicago to train his move and lower his handicap from 24 to 7 in just two-years. Matt has now partnered with Tim to bring simple and effective golf instruction to #AverageGolfers through an online workout style home training program. Matt currently works a day job in the corporate world. Tim Overman is the technical contributor to instruction articles, Co-Founder, and Director of Golf Instruction for True Motion Sports. Tim coaches golfers of all abilities out of his Chicago studio.



  1. DS

    Jul 6, 2019 at 1:57 am

    Thoughtful column. Other than 1-2 minor differences (like, it’s hard to keep someone new to the game interested enough to groove a repeatable swing without actually hitting a ball), I agree completely with the Village concept. The typical approach of lessons on the range simply doesn’t work. Add in that getting most pros to take the time to do playing lessons is typically pretty difficult, and throw in the cost-prohibitive nature of them, and is it any wonder most good players were either top high school or college players? Access to consistent coaching tailored to your individual needs and ingrained with playing lessons and competitive reinforcement. Perfect, right? But not doable for the vast majority of recreational players.

    So how do you improve? I’ve done it via a combination of short bursts of intense instruction from different teachers (golf schools; part of my own Village), absorbing what works for me and quickly discarding what doesn’t, and Hogan’s dirt approach by making time to practice at least 5 hours a week. I was a 17 index 15 months ago, am a 10.1 currently, and this week was able to shoot 84, 83, and 76. My trend is 9.1 and I’ll get 2-3 more rounds in before the next revision. My goal is to be a 7.x by November and my stretch goal is to get to 5.x. Part of my practice involves simulated play and I’m also incorporating a Par 3 course to get more granular with my wedge game. I love the practice element and using an objective analytical approach for where to focus my practice time helps and fits my personality. I’m also reading golf books like Every Shot Must Have A Purpose, Every Shot Counts, and How To Make Every Putt. Lastly, I spend 2-3 hours a week reviewing YouTube instructional videos on the things I’m focusing on that week(s). It gets as granular as ‘what should the left shoulder be doing during the downswing’ and the focus + the amount of time spent understanding these details has been immensely beneficial. It has changed me from a swayer to a turner, and from a guy who lost 15 balls in 18 holes 3 summers ago to a guy who went 2 rounds in a row without losing one (practically a miracle to a former sprayer like me).

    Thanks for the column. Looking forward to subsequent ones.

    • Matt Strube

      Aug 20, 2019 at 11:37 am

      DS, thank you so much for your comments; we really appreciate the kind words. Keep at it, and let me know if you have any questions. M

  2. Radim Pavlicek

    Jul 3, 2019 at 7:52 am

    Take notes during practice. Write performance notebook.

  3. MattStrube

    Jul 2, 2019 at 5:05 pm

    Frank, Thank you for the comment. It sounds like you’re a ‘get on the bike and ride it’ kinda guy, which is great. 🙂 The point of the article was to illustrate that to shoot lower scores and improve your game, golfers need help from a number of different sources.

    To be clear, we aren’t preaching “perfect” swing mechanics, and the article does not mention that at all, however, I want to answer your comment. While your suggestion of working on hitting the sweet spot is a great one, I wish it was as easy as just focusing there.
    In our experience, we know golfers can improve much faster if they learn to properly move their body first, then train those moves without a ball, over-and-over before they even think about hitting a ball. We’ve had much more success with all levels of golfers when we take this approach and then slowly transition to hitting the little devil of a golf ball. I hope this helps.

  4. Frank

    Jul 2, 2019 at 3:16 pm

    The PGA Tour TrackMan averages chart show that their launch direction and spin axis are positive, meaning they hit a push-fade. How about instead of focusing on your “perfect” swing mechanics, you just focus on hitting the sweet spot and creating a push-fade (not with a leftward club path, the path needs to be just right of target with the club face angle just a bit more right than the path) and making sure the body movement doesn’t cause injury? If it doesn’t hurt then keep doing it, no matter how strange it may look. It is a lot more simple to focus on one ball than multiple different body movements.

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Opinion & Analysis

From the GolfWRX Vault: How far should you hit your golf clubs?



Editor’s note: Jaacob Bowden‘s 2013 piece on how far a club “ought” to carry based on clubhead speed—i.e. how far you should hit your golf clubs–remains one of our most widely read pieces (thanks, Google search). And while seven years have passed since its publication, the data remains the same, and thus the piece remains just as relevant today. 

We’re happy to crack open the GolfWRX Vault for this excellent bit of writing. 

One of the nice things about having all this new fancy technological equipment like Trackman, Flightscope, ShotLink, etc., at various PGA Tour events is that distance data can be gathered for each of the players.

In case you haven’t come across it already, here are the approximate Trackman carry distance averages for men at the professional level.

Average PGA Tour Carry Distances (yards)

Club Carry
Driver (Total) 289
Driver (Carry) 269
3-Wood 243
5-Wood 230
Hybrid 225
3-Iron 212
4-Iron 203
5-Iron 194
6-Iron 183
7-Iron 172
8-Iron 160
9-Iron 148
PW 136

Pretty cool info. Perhaps they hit it farther than you might have thought…or maybe they hit less than you may have been lead to believe based on what you’ve seen on TV, read on the internet, etc.

Since I deal a lot with swing speed training and helping people in general hit the ball farther, a relatively common question I get is, “How far should I hit my clubs for my swing speed?”

Well, since we also know that the average driver swing speed on Tour typically runs around 112 to 113 mph, using a bit of algebra and the above distances we can approximate a guide for how far you could expect to hit the ball (assuming fairly consistent and solid contact) given your personal driver swing speed.

Here are those carry distances.

Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

 Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

I took the ranges down to 60 and 70 mph because those are swing speeds I’ll encounter when working with some amateur women and seniors. I also went up to 140 mph because numerous long drivers I’ve trained can get their drivers up that high (RE/MAX World Long Drive champions like Joe Miller, Jamie Sadlowski and Ryan Winther can actually reach over 150 mph).

Aside from using the chart as a general reference point, here are a few other things that I think are worth pointing out:

First, these numbers are based off how the average Tour player strikes the ball. Although Tour players are overall good ball strikers with all their clubs, most of them are actually not as efficient (the Tour average is about 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed) as they can be when it comes to distance with their drivers because on average they hit drives that launch too low and with too much spin.

LGPA Tour players (2.65 yards/mph of swing speed) and Professional Long Drivers are actually more distance efficient with their drivers…but that’s a topic for another article. The good news for you is that greater carry and total-driving distances can be achieved at all the range of swing speeds shown above if you are a more efficient driver than the average male tour player at 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed.

With a 2-degree change in driver loft and some minor adjustments made to his swing path, angle of attack, etc, one of my amateur students went from being an already above-average efficient driver at 2.61 yards/mph to an extremely efficient one at 2.75 yards/mph. So with no change to his 102 mph swing speed, he increased his driving distance average from 266 to 280. Then after some swing speed training, he got up to 112 mph and can now hit drives around 307 yards with that same efficiency of 2.75 yards/mph. That’s 41 more yards!

Second, the club distances are based on the driver swing speeds that you would get from a system like FlightScope and Trackman. So if at all possible, get yourself checked on one of those. Otherwise, if you measure with something like a Speed Stik (which measure higher in my experience), you could get a false sense of how far you might expect to hit the ball.

As another example, Sports Sensors Swing Speed Radars (SSR) also read faster. It should be pointed out that SSRs are still a great personal training aid, and because of their accuracy and relative affordability and portability, they are actually the radar I recommend in my swing speed training programs.

However, the Doppler radar in an SSR measures the fastest moving part of the club head (typically the toe) versus a Trackman or FlightScope, which each have proprietary algorithms to calculate the speed at the center of the club face. For this reason, SSRs will read about 5 to 12 percent faster, depending on how you as an individual move the driver through impact. If you have an SSR, just hit 5 to 10 balls with it and a Trackman or FlightScope at the same time and you’ll find out your personal difference for sake of comparison.

Third, the above numbers can be useful for a good general reference, but like I mentioned in my article about understand distance variance, recognize that carry distances can vary a lot depending on conditions. Slopes, wind, temperature, altitude, etc., are all things that can affect how far the ball flies, so remember to factor that in.

Fourth, keep in mind potential loft differences between your clubs and the ones here. As a general rule of thumb, club manufacturers have made their club lofts (especially in the irons) continually stronger over the years as a way of marketing and selling consumers the new clubs.

Many top Tour players are being paid to play the latest clubs, which could mean they might also be playing irons with stronger lofts than the set you are playing. This isn’t always the case, however, but it’s another thing to be aware of.

Last, once you start approaching less than 80 mph with the driver, notice how the distances start bunching up between clubs.  At this point, you start getting to an area where you really don’t need a full set of 14 clubs. If this is you, perhaps you might also find that you hit a 3-wood or 5-wood further than a normal driver.

My wife is very strong and athletic, however, as a beginner who doesn’t play or practice very much, she hasn’t developed much swing speed. For that reason, we got her fitted for a 9-club set of Wishon 730CLs, a set that is designed specifically for men and women with less than 80 mph of club head speed.

The shafts are very light, the driver is 16 degrees and only 42 inches, the fairway woods are 20 and 26 degrees (versus the commonly used 15- and 19-degree fairway woods), and the remaining hybrids/irons are gapped out in 6-degree loft increments (compared to the normal 3- or 4-degree). Also, since many beginners, lesser skilled players and those with slower swing speeds can struggle with really high lofted wedges, the highest lofted wedge in the set is 54 degrees.

All of these things combine to provide a driver that can actually be hit in the air for distance, clubs that have substantial distance gapping, plus it’s just less clubs in general to lug around and choose from.

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Opinion & Analysis

Barney Adams: Why we play golf



I played golf the other day with friends. COVID-19 restrictions, but we got out. They will attest that I stunk, but that isn’t news or the basis for this piece.

Normally that kind of golfing experience has me in borderline depression searching for a swing change that I know will allow me to play at my fantasy level. What was remarkably different was the pleasure. Being outside, sunshine, fresh air, joking with friends, enduring the glares from my partner. It was four hours that were singular in their positivity made more so by the daily media barrage of doom and being essentially quarantined for all other activities.

To start, one of the great things about golf is when you play, it requires total concentration—world events, personal issues are put on hold. You see, golf isn’t fun, it’s hard and that element is what brings us joy no matter how small our victories.

I’ve played the game for some 70 years and studied it for 40, working in the industry. One of my favorite exercises over the years has been to ask someone who played recently to describe their best shot of their previous round. Immediate answers flow accompanied by a smile or whimsical expression. Whether it’s a tee shot, a chip, putt, it’s a moment of slaying the dragon. And this is golf. Not an 18 or even 9-hole score—one shot, immediate recall and the reason to play again.

We find ourselves today bordering on panic—daily feeds from the media, warning us, frightening us. For those who play the game, it is a needed respite. There have been some articles, and I’m sure more coming, about what will happen in the distant morning. Massive unemployment, lost wages, and crashing investment portfolios, a small sample. Sadly, the media is going to have bad news to emphasize for months to come and there is no question that some of the collateral damage will be human lives and financial well-being.

It’s easy to sit and critique humans making decisions. But when asked the question about affecting lives now or in the future, it’s way more complex. Political expediency focuses on the now knowing there will be a pivot down the road.

What does all this have to do with golf? The game provides an instant middle ground. People can have four hours in the sun and fresh air and the difficulty involved forces them to temporarily shelve daily tribulations. Even with reduced course services as a precaution, just the chance to go to bed at night knowing the weather looks great and you can escape to the course for a few hours…it’s something that brightens one’s outlook.

So, I’m championing the playing of golf, while accepting various related restrictions. I’m championing a few hours where we can forget the drama, the panic, and get our butts kicked by a little white ball. And when done, we’ll make arrangements to play again.

Oh yes, now that the internet is overflowing with tips from golf teaching experts, I really need to play, because I have this new move that is guaranteed, guaranteed, to produce 12 more yards off the tee. You see, it all has to do with the position of the shaft vs. the left knee and…

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Opinion & Analysis

Everyone sucks at golf sometimes



“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with tools singularly ill-designed for the purpose.”

This quote dates back over 100 years, and has been credited to a number of people through history including Winston Churchill and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Although the game and the tools have changed a lot in 100 years, this quote remains timeless because golf is inherently difficult, and is impossible to master, which is exactly what also makes it so endearing to those that play it.

No matter how hard we practice, or how much time we spend trying to improve there will inevitably be times when we will suck at golf. Just like with other aspects of the game the idea of “sucking” will vary based on your skillset, but a PGA Tour player can hit a hosel rocket shank just as well as a 25 handicap. As Tom Brady proved this past weekend, any golfer can have a bad day, but even during a poor round of golf there are glimmers of hope—like a holed-out wedge, even if it is followed by having your pants rip out on live TV.

I distinctly remember one time during a broadcast when Chris DiMarco hit a poor iron shot on a par 3 and the microphone caught hit exclaim “Come on Chris, you’re hitting it like a 4 handicap out here today” – the shot just barely caught the right side of the green and I imagine a lot of higher handicap golfers said to themselves ” I’d love to hit it like a 4 handicap!”. This is just one example of the expectations we put on ourselves even when most golfers will admit to playing their best when expectations are thrown out the window.

– Gary Larson

Dr. Bob Rotella says golf is not a game of perfect, and that’s totally ok. The game is about the constant pursuit of improvement, not perfection and with that in mind there are going to be days when no matter what we just suck.

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