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It takes a village: How to improve at golf

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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
factors.

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.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  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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On Spec

On Spec: Interview with gear junkie & club designer Weston Maughan

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Ryan hosts gear junkie and club designer Weston Maughan on the show, to talk about club building, designing, and what it was like to be on Wilson Golf’s Driver vs. Driver. We also get into testing clubs, tools, and what it’s like to play at altitude.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

Breaking down The Challenge: Japan Skins—pros and cons for each player

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For the first time in over a decade, the PGA Tour will have a skins game event on its calendar, with Tiger Woods, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, and Rory McIlroy participating in “The Challenge: Japan Skins.” With the abundance of star power in their foursome, here’s a quick look at why each of them may or may not walk away with the most skins at the end of their round.

Tiger Woods

PROS: The skins game system and exhibition match atmosphere will be a new experience for his competitors, but Woods has played in these types of events before. The excitement and pageantry from the event will be a familiar setting for him, and he may have an intimidation factor in his favor. The reigning Masters champion still can catch fire during a round, as well. For the 2018-19 PGA Tour season, his five-hole streak of scoring birdie or better during a single round was the longest such stretch among his fellow skins game participants. If he creates a similar streak on Monday, it may result in a profitable day on the course.

CONS: Tiger hasn’t played a competitive round in over two months, with his last start coming at the BMW Championship in mid-August. The competitive juices may take a while to get going, and coupled with his recent knee surgery, the rust on his game may be on full display.

Jason Day

PROS: With the skins game format rewarding aggressive play, Day will look to capitalize with his par-breaking ability. During the 2018-19 season, he made birdie or better on 22.9% of the holes he played. Additionally, he seems to like this time of the year; over the past couple of seasons, the Aussie has played very well in the month of October on the PGA Tour. In 2017 and 2018, his worst finish on the Asian swing of the schedule was T-11. He continued his good play in Asia with a T31 finish at The CJ Cup in South Korea this week.

CONS: While he a solid season on tour, it wasn’t to the same standard Day normally displays. He missed five cuts, the most times he missed weekend play since 2010. Prior to The CJ Cup, he missed the cut in two of his past four PGA Tour starts.

Hideki Matsuyama

PROS: Playing in his native Japan, Matsuyama looks to continue his great success in his home country. While he has enjoyed international success, he’s even better at home, with eight of his 14 professional wins coming in Japan. Additionally, Matsuyama can fill the scorecard with red numbers with the best of them. The Japanese star was third-best on the PGA Tour in total birdies during the 2018-19 campaign. His birdie barrages helped him finish tied-fifth for most sub-par rounds for the most recent season. Spurred on by his countrymen, the golfer representing the host nation will look to put on a show, and he has the firepower to do so.

CONS: The support of the crowd in Japan may be a double-edged sword, and the pressure to perform well may throw Matsuyama off his game. If the skins come to a putting contest, he will have the biggest challenge of all the competitors. His strokes-gained-putting statistic was the worst of all four competitors for the previous PGA Tour campaign.

Rory McIlroy

PROS: The reigning PGA Player of the Year may be the favorite on Monday. He played well throughout the season, with wins scattered throughout the calendar. His most recent play was hot, as he finished the campaign with a win at the Tour Championship. Among the leaders in nearly all the scoring categories, his competitors will have to be on top of their game to win skins from the Northern Irishman. McIlroy was the best on Tour in scoring average, helped by his making birdie or better on nearly 26% of all holes he played. His scoring average was even lower during later tee times, and with the finish to be set under floodlights, the bulk of the competition will occur during McIlroy’s favorite time of day.

CONS: Like Woods, this event will be McIlroy’s first since August. Not having played in nearly two months, coupled with this event being his first foray in an exhibition skins match, may be a disadvantage.

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Bogey Golf: Playing a round with pro

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Larry plays a round of golf with PGA Canada pro Evan Bowser. Evan teaches Larry a bunch of tips. We also discuss would you quit playing golf for 30 million dollars? and construct a Frankenstein’s monster to create the greatest golfer of all time.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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