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Stickney: How to avoid blowup holes

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Par, par, par, birdie, quad, par, bogey, triple, par. Nice round of 44—with four pars and a birdie! Sound familiar? Do you ever wish you could play without having a blowup hole per nine or how about only one per eighteen holes? Wouldn’t that be nice! Obviously, we are all trying to be more consistent and as we get better the blowup holes subside or reduce themselves in number, but is there anything you can do to avoid or stop them from occurring quicker?

In my almost 30 years as a full-time teacher and watching tens of thousands of players’ swing the club, I have come up with a few of keys that I think will help you eliminate the blowup holes and reduce your handicap once and for all regardless of your current level of play!

So, here are a few of my thoughts that I think will help you…

The Driver

  • As we all know the big miss is a killer, the biggest reason why this happens is usually a severe out-to-in swing path. If you can find a way to keep your swing path closer to your target line, you will see the BIG miss fade away.
  • Snap hooks occur when the face is severely left of the club’s path, and as the loft of the club is reduced, this miss becomes larger and more severe. Audit your grip and your clubface’s position at the top, most of the time I see stronger grip players, flattening their wrists at the top of the backswing placing the club in an overly shut condition that is hard to overcome on the way down.
  • Weak slices are the problem of the new golfer and intermediate player and these occur when the path is left of the intended target and the clubface points right of the target during impact. When the face-to-path relationship is in this condition, the loft of the club tends to increase (when you flip at it) and weak slices are the result. Fix the face-to-path relationship, and you’ll have a chance.

Fairway Woods

  • Don’t automatically reach for your 3-wood every time you are in the fairway on a par 5…unless the lie is perfect, you’re better off using a higher-lofted wood for added height and control.
  • Most golfers try to hit their fairway woods too hard and lose control of their balance making it hard to hit the ball in the center of the clubface. When the ball is impacted low on the face, the effective loft of the club is reduced and fairway woods will launch way too low.

Irons

  • If I had a dollar for every iron set that is misfit as it pertains to shaft flex and lie, I’d be retired by now…if you are trying to score and playing golf with clubs that don’t fit, you have no chance unless you play a flat golf course and have wonderful hand-eye coordination. But beware the radical miss will always be looming.
  • Trying to do too much in the rough—you are not as strong as Brooks, nor do you have the speed of Tiger, so stop trying to use a lower lofted club when you are in the cabbage. Take your licks and chop it out into better position.
  • When you hit it into the trees, find the most direct way out into the easiest and most open position to the green first, then try to reduce the yardage you have into the green second. All too often I see players try to always hit it to the 150 marker when they are in trouble—sometimes 160 is a super easy shot out of the trees while the 150 yardage shot is much harder. Hit the simple shot first!
  • From 100 yards and in, it would help if you focused on hitting the green first and worrying about the pin second. Trying to hit it from 100 into the wind to a tucked pin on a shelf is asking for a short-sided miss and a big number

Wedges

  • Wedges at 100 percent of your full speed are about as accurate as your driver at 100 percent when it pertains to your shot clustering around the pin. Far better to hit shots at 70 percent so you can control the launch, spin, trajectory, and distance rather than try to slamdance your lob-wedge from 120.
  • Wedge lofts are important, and it’s far better to have ones that you know the yardage of rather than a “matched” set. The pro set standard is somewhere around 48, 52, 56, 60 for the wedge lofts…if you can’t hit the numbers you need out of the clubs you have, change the lofts. The lofts don’t matter, it’s all about the numbers you want to hit them! So what if you play 45, 51, 54, 62 if you know exactly how far they go.

Around the Green

  • There are other clubs that can be used around the green besides your lob wedge or your other favorite club.
  • Understand what moving the ball around in your stance does to the ball’s trajectory and landing angle because this controls what the ball will do when it lands on the green. Far too often I see players trying to hit the ball high from a “low shot” set-up and vice versa.
  • Become your own best friend out of the sand or at least be able to get out within 20 feet in one shot!
  • Understand how radically fat, thin, chili-dips, and shanks occur fundamentally so you can get them out of your game before they creep in for too long and become mental.
  • For every single ball you hit on the range, hit five balls around the green in all types of situations to learn what you can and cannot do with each club.

Putting

  • Speed work. Speed work. Speed work. Speed work…there is no excuse for poor speed when you have a putting green at your disposal before the round. Fine-tune your speed with big breaking putts and severe up/downhill putts before you play.
  • The putterface’s direction at impact controls the ball’s starting direction so if you cannot control your lead hand you cannot control your short putts regardless of how easy the putt seems.

As you can see, these thoughts are pretty simple and straightforward, but I promise you the next time you (or I!) make an 8 on a par 4, we have violated about three of the rules I’ve mentioned above. Damn, it’s aggravating, but I promise if you read and reread this list and put it into practice you will reduce your number of funky holes.

NOTE: If you think it’s your course management that is to blame on your poor scores then I would suggest checking out DECADE Golf created by Scott Fawcett. It is the best course management system out on the market today. You will be amazed at how understanding your miss patterns from certain distances coupled with his aiming techniques could make the game so simple!

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Jack

    Oct 7, 2019 at 10:46 am

    Loads of coulda woulda shoulda in this. I appreciate the attempt. But what do you tell a plus handicap who still averages 1 or more doubles a round ? ( as in 1.4 currently ). It’s all about focus. And it’s hard to keep it for 70 shots a round.

  2. Dennis Clark

    Oct 6, 2019 at 6:15 pm

    Great advice pro!

    • Tom F. Stickney II

      Oct 7, 2019 at 12:13 am

      Thanks buddy! Can’t add but other than that it’s a good one. Ha.

  3. Ardbegger

    Oct 6, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    Blowup holes for me are usually because of a missed “hero shot”. The Keep-It-Simple, Stupid (KISS) principle helps me out when I feel the urge to go for the coffee room bragging rights shot.

  4. Scratchscorer

    Oct 6, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    7 over par is usually a 43 on most nines, rarely a 44.

  5. Kim Chee

    Oct 6, 2019 at 9:17 am

    The best way to avoid blowup holes is to not play golf in the first place.

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Instruction

Faults & Fixes: Losing height in your swing

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In this week’s Fault and Fixes Series, we are going to examine the issues that come with losing your height during the swing and its effect on your low point as well as your extension through and beyond impact.

When a professional player swings, there is usually very little downward motion through the ball. Some is OK, but if you look at this amateur player you will see too much. When the head drops downward too much something, has to give and it’s usually the shortening of the swing arc. This will cause issues with the release of the club.

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Dangers of overspeed training revealed: What to do and what not to do

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Speed: a key factor to more money on tour. The key component sought after by many amateur golfers to lower their scores. The focus of many infographics on social media this past PGA Tour season. A lot of people say speed matters more than putting when it comes to keeping your tour card and making millions.  

Overspeed Training: the focus on tons of training aids as a result of the buzz the pursuit of speed has created. The “holy grail” for the aging senior golfer to extend their years on the course. The “must do” training thousands of junior golfers think will bring them closer to playing college golf and beyond.  

Unfortunately, overspeed training is the most misunderstood and improperly implemented training tool I see used for speed in the industry. Based on the over 50 phone calls I’ve fielded from golfers around the world who have injured themselves trying it, it is leading to more overuse injuries in a sport where we certainly don’t need any help creating more than we already have. Luckily, these injuries are 100 percent preventable if you follow the few steps outlined below.

Don’t let your rush to swing faster get you hurt. Take five minutes to read on and see what the industry has not been forthcoming with until now.  

Understanding how to increase your speed safely and with as little work possible is the path to longevity without injury. If you could train 75 percent less (to the tune of about 8,000 fewer reps a year) and still see statistically comparable results, would you rather that? 

I would.

Would it make sense to you that swinging 8,000 times fewer (low volume protocols versus high volume protocols) would probably decrease your risk of overuse injuries (the most common injury for golfers)?  

I think so.

But I’ll let you draw your own conclusions after you finish reading.   

Your Challenge

Your biggest challenge is that the answer to more speed for you is not the same as it is for your friends. It differs depending on many factors, but there are four main ones that you can start with. Those four are 

  1. Your equipment
  2. Your technical prowess
  3. Your joint mobility at your rotary centers (neck, shoulders, spine, and hips) 
  4. Your ability to physically produce power  

If you are not totally clear on these, I’d recommend checking out the earlier article I wrote for GolfWRX titled Swing speed: How do you compare? Go through the testing as outlined and you’ll know the answer to these four areas in five minutes.

Basically, you have the potential to pick up speed by optimizing your equipment (ie. find the right shaft, etc), optimizing the technical element of your swing for optimal performance (ie. launch angles, etc) or by optimizing your body for the golf swing. Understanding how to best gain speed without putting your body at risk both in the short and long term is what 95 percent of golfers have no idea about. It is the single biggest opportunity golfers have to make lasting improvements to not only their golf game but their overall health.

Are You a Ticking Time Bomb?

In my earlier article (link above), I described three main categories when it came to physical factors. Step one is to determine what category you are in.

The first option is that you might be swinging faster than your body is able to control. In this case, you are a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode in injury. We all know that friend who just has a year-round membership to the local physio or chiro because they are always hurt. If this is you, DO NOT try overspeed training, it will only make your visits to the physio or chiro more frequent. There are much better areas to spend your time on.

The second situation might be the rare, sought-after balanced golfer. You might have great mobility in the four main rotary centers (hips, spine, shoulders, and neck) and your swing speed matches your physical power output abilities. It should be noted that based on our mobility research of almost 1,000 golfers, 75 percent of golfers over the age of 40 don’t have full rotary mobility in at least one of the four centers. When you age past 50, that 75 percent now applies to at least two rotary centers. Hence why “the balanced golfer” category is elusive to most golfers.

The final option is the sexy, exciting one; the “more RPMs under the hood” golfer. This is the one where overspeed training is your fountain of youth and you can pick up 10, 15, even 20 yards in a matter of weeks. You might have more RPM’s under your hood right now. Being in this category means you physically are able to produce way more power athletically than you are doing in your golf swing currently.  

The Good News

The “more RPMs under the hood” golfer describes over 50 percent of amateur golfers. Most of you sit at work and don’t train your body to move at maximal speeds outside of when you swing the golf club. The number of adults and senior golfers who train maximal speed at the gym, run sprints and train with plyometrics (correctly) is under five percent.

Why is this good news?

Because if you don’t move fast at any point in your life other than on the golf course right now, doing pretty much anything fast repetitively will make you faster. For instance, you can jump up and down three times before you hit a drive and your speed will increase by 2-3 mph (6-9 yards) just from that according to a research study.

This means that for the average amateur, adult golfer in this category, picking up 5-8 mph (12- 20-plus yards) almost immediately (it won’t stick unless you keep training in though) is incredibly simple.

The Bad News & The Fine Print

Remember earlier when I mentioned you needed to “also have full mobility in the four main rotary centers” and that “75 percent of adults over the age of 50 lack mobility in at least two rotary centers?” 

That’s the bad news.

Most golfers will get faster by simply swinging as hard as they can. Unfortunately, most golfers also will get hurt swinging maximally repeatedly because they have to compensate for the lack of rotational mobility in those rotary centers. 

This should be a big bold disclaimer, but is often not. This is the fine print no one tells you about. This is where the rubber meets the road and the sexiness of overspeed training crashes and burns into the traffic jam of joints that don’t move well for most amateur golfers.  

Your Solution

The first step to your solution is to make sure you have full rotational mobility and figure out what category of golfer your body puts you in. As a thanks for being a WRX reader, here is a special link to the entire assessment tool for free. 

After you determine if you have the mobility to do overspeed training safely and you know if you are even in the category that would make it worthwhile, the second and final step is to figure out how many swings you need to do.

How Many Swings are too Many?

Concisely, you don’t need more than 30 swings two times per week. Anything more than that is unnecessary based on the available research.  

As you digest all of the research on overspeed training, it is clear that the fastest swing speeds tend to occur with the stronger and more powerful players. This means that first, you need to become strong and be able to generate power through intelligent workout plans to maximize performance, longevity and reduce injury likelihood. From here, overspeed training can become an amazing tool to layer on top of a strong foundation and implement at different times during the year.

To be clear, based on the two randomized overspeed studies that Par4Success completed and my experience of training thousands of golfers, it is my opinion that overspeed training works in both high volume (100s of swings per session) and low volume protocol (30 swings per session) formats exactly the same. With this being the case, why would you want to swing 8,000 more times if you don’t have to? 

The research shows statistically no difference in speed gained by golfers between high-volume overspeed protocols compared to low volume ones. Because of this, in my opinion, high volume protocols are unnecessary and place golfers at unnecessary risk for overuse injury. This is especially true when they are carried out in the absence of a customized strength and conditioning program for golf.     

Rest Matters

In order to combat low-quality reps and maximize results with fewer swings, it is necessary to take rest breaks of 2-3 minutes after every 10 swings. Anything less is not enough to allow the energy systems to recover and diminishes your returns on your effort. If these rests are not adhered to, you will fatigue quickly, negatively impacting quality and increasing your risk of injury.  

Rest time is another reason why low volume protocols are preferable to high volume ones. To take the necessary rests, a high volume protocol would take more than an hour to complete. With the lower volume protocols you can still keep the work time to 10 minutes.   

The Low Volume Overspeed Protocol

You can see the full protocol in the full study reports here. It is critical you pass the first step first, however before implementing either protocol, and it is strongly recommended not to do the overspeed protocol without a solid golf performance plan in place as well in order to maximize results and reduce risk of injury.

This is just the first version of this protocol as we are currently looking at the possibility of eliminating kneeling as well as some other variables that are showing promising in our ongoing research. Be sure to check back often for updates!

Commonly asked questions about overspeed training…

Once initial adaptations have occurred, is there any merit to overspeed training long term?  

None of the studies that I was able to find discussed longitudinal improvements or causation of those improvements. This is the hardest type of research to do which speaks to the lack of evidence. No one actually knows the answer to these questions. Anyone saying they do is guessing.

Do the initial gains of overspeed training outperform those of traditional strength and conditioning?  

There appears to be a bigger jump with the addition of overspeed training than solely strength and conditioning, by almost threefold.  In 6 and 8 weeks respectively, the average gain was just around 3 mph, which is three times the average gain for adult golfers over a 12 weeks period with just traditional strength and conditioning. 

Can we use overspeed training as a substitute for traditional strength and conditioning?

No. Emphatically no. It would be irresponsible to use overspeed in isolation to train golfers for increased speed. First off, increasing how fast someone can swing without making sure they have the strength to control that speed is a means to set someone up for injury and failure. Secondly, if they are appropriate and you increase someone’s speed, you also need to increase their strength as well so that it keeps up with the demands the new speed is putting on their body.   

Are long term results (1 year+) optimized if overspeed training is combined with traditional strength and conditioning vs in isolation or not at all?  

It would appear, based off our longitudinal programs that using overspeed training periodized in conjunction with an athlete-specific strength and conditioning program and sport-specific training (ie. technical lessons, equipment, etc—not medicine ball throws or cable chops) in a periodized yearly plan maximizes results year to year.  

In order to keep decreases in club speed to no more than three-to-five percent during the competitive season (as is the normal amount in our data), it is imperative to keep golfers engaged in an in-season strength and conditioning program focused on maximal force and power outputs. By minimizing this in-season loss, it assures that we see gains year over year.  

It is unclear if overspeed training in conjunction with strength and conditioning during the season further decreases this standard loss due to nervous system fatigue, but this would be a great area for future research.  

What sort of frequency, protocols or volume should one utilize for maximal benefit and minimal risk of injury?  

Most of the studies that I was able to find specifically on swinging looked at about 100 swings three times per (baseball). The Superspeed protocols which are the most popular in the golf world, follow a similar volume recommendation after an initial ramp up period. It is a concern, especially with untrained individuals, that adding more than 11,000 maximal effort swings over the course of year might increase risk for injury due to the incredible increase in load. Especially for the amatuer golfer who only plays on the weekends and does not engage in a strength and conditioning program, this is a significant volume increase from their baseline.

The Par4Success studies in 2018-19 found no significant difference in swing speed gains between high volume protocols and a lower volume protocol which required only 30 swings, 2x/week but required a 2 minute rest between every 10 swings.

More studies beyond these two need to be done looking at this, but it would be my recommendation, specifically in golf, not to engage in the high volume protocols as it does not appear to increase speed gains while also increasing load on the athlete significantly.  

Do any potential gains of overspeed training outperform the traditional methods that are proven to transfer to sport?

It does not appear that overspeed training is superior to any one training method, but rather a tool to use in conjunction with other proven methods. The key here is to assess yourself and look to implement this type of training when mobility is not an issue and the physical ability to produce power is higher than the ability to generate club speed. In the right scenario, overspeed training can be a game-changing tool. In the wrong scenario, it can be a nail in a golfer’s coffin.

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Faults and Fixes: Arms too far behind body at the top

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In this week’s Faults and Fixes, we’ll look at the issue of the older player getting the arms too far behind the body at the top. When this happens, the clubhead speed is compromised, and the ability to create height, spin, and distance is diminished. For older players, Brandel Chamblee has the right idea by wanting the left heel to raise and the arms to work themselves into a more upright position.

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