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3 keys that took me from a 14-handicap to a pro

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Back in January 2003, I was a 27-year old 14-handicapper who had only broken 80 once on a normal length golf course, a 78 at the Walker Course at Clemson University. At the time, breaking 90 was sort of my barometer for playing well.

As luck would have it, right after I moved out to California to embark on my golf journey I was taken under the wing of a local Pro named Dan Shauger. By the end of March, Dan helped me add 63 yards to my longest drive and shoot my first 18-hole round of golf under par.

Since then, I’ve posted multiple tournament rounds in the 60s and made numerous cuts in professional golf events. My lowest score in a casual 18-hole round of golf is now a 64 (8-under) at GolfPark Otelfingen in Switzerland, where I now reside.

Obviously, a lot of people were curious about what I did to make such a dramatic improvement. As I look back in hindsight, here are what I consider to be the three things that had the greatest influence on improving my game and lowering my scores.

1.  Less Clubface Rotation

As I talked about in my article, “The 6 Actions of the Wrists & Forearms”, it’s very commonly taught to pronate and supinate your wrists and forearms in the swing.

In the beginning of my golf journey I was self-coaching and was doing exactly that — rolling my wrists and forearms open in the back swing and then rolling them back to square and then over to closed as I swung through the ball. I remember thinking one day on the range at Lost Canyons in California that it would probably be easier to hit straighter if I didn’t roll like what I was seeing in photos of the golf books I was reading, but I figured if some of the best players in the world were doing it, then maybe I should try it too.

Interestingly, once I met Dan, he took a lot of that clubface rotation out of my swing and, wouldn’t you know it, I started hitting much straighter.  All those disastrous doubles and triples that I used to have that ruined my scores started turning in to pars and bogeys and my handicap started to really drop.

If you are struggling with hitting the ball with any kind of predictable shot shape and don’t want as high maintenance of a swing, I would definitely look in to minimizing the amount of wrist rolling you are doing through the hitting zone.

It was by far the biggest thing that helped improve my precision and accuracy.

2.  A More Steady Head

Back when I was a player who shot in the 80s and 90s, I had quite a bit of lateral head movement during my swing. I suppose that was born out of some tip I had heard about getting my front shoulder turned back over my rear foot in the back swing. My head drifted away from the target and then laterally back towards it.

Although there is the added benefit of the club path deviating less from the target line as you are coming through the ball with this top-half type of lateral move through the ball, it does create a complication in that the bottom of your swing arc is constantly changing.

This isn’t so bad if you’re sweeping the ball, but it can be more of a problem if you take a divot — in particular for me on uphill shots when I didn’t get my body weight back up the hill. Invariably, I would have a number of score-killing fat shots during my rounds.

Once Dan had me minimize the amount of head movement I was making during my swing, my ball striking consistency really improved because the low point in my swing wasn’t moving around so much.

I should clarify that I’m not advocating for your head to be perfectly still or saying that you still can’t hit good shots with some head movement, however, I would consider looking in to minimizing dramatic vertical and horizontal head movement until after the ball is struck if you are struggling with your ball striking.

For me, it helped cut down on my fat shots and translated into hitting closer to the center of the club face much more often, which of course had numerous subsequent benefits like more average distance, better distance control, etc.

3.  Less Tension

Aside from minimizing my club face rotation and cutting down on my head movement, the thing that really rounded out my improvements was getting rid of excessive tension.

The difference between a well-struck shot on target and one that gives up distance and goes off line isn’t much. Introducing tension in to your swing can really complicate getting the club consistently and solidly back on the ball.

You might also equate tension to a rusty door hinge. It takes a lot more energy to close a door with rusty hinges than it does one that’s well lubricated. Plus, the one that’s oily will move faster and with less effort.

I think this is a little easier said than done, especially for us guys, because it requires a bit of ego management to not want to be manly and hit every club as far as humanly possible.  However, the self control was an important discipline for me to get better at managing.

The great Canadian player George Knudson was a strong advocate of never swinging beyond a point of sacrificing balance. Harry Hilary Von Frankenberg, who has shot in the 50s three times in competition, stressed that a golfer should be relaxed and graceful and cannot ever be too boneless or too loose nor too muscleless. Mike Austin, the man that hit the 515-yard drive in the U.S. National Senior Open, spoke of supple quickness, which I think is a good way of describing it because swinging without tension doesn’t necessarily mean swinging slow. You can still swing fast…just be soft and supple.

One of my favorite tension-relieving drills is to hit a bucket of balls while blowing a subtle amount of air through my nose or mouth while hitting each ball. If there’s a big disruption to the flow of air during the swing, I’ll know I had some tension in my swing. Sometimes while I’m doing this I’ll also focus on keeping my face relaxed and not gritting my teeth while I swing…or I’ll imagine myself swinging with the grace and balance of Ernie Els or Fred Couples. By the end of the bucket, my shots are usually much better.

Obviously, individual keys will differ from person to person. However, as a generalization, if you are looking to lower your handicap I would definitely tell you to consider rotating the club less through impact, keeping a relatively relaxed steadiness to your head until the ball is gone, and taking care not to clench up too tight during all of your shots from full swings, to pitches, and chips.

Those are the things that made the most difference to my scores and perhaps you’ll find that they can help you drop some shots from tee to green as well.

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Jaacob Bowden is a Professional Golfer, PGA of America Class A Member, Top 100 Most Popular Teacher, Swing Speed Trainer, the original founder of Swing Man Golf, the co-creator of "Sterling Irons" single length irons, and has caddied on the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS. Formerly an average-length hitting 14-handicap computer engineer, Jaacob quit his job, took his savings and moved from Kansas to California to pursue a golf career at age 27. He has since won the Pinnacle Distance Challenge with a televised 381-yard drive, won multiple qualifiers for the World Long Drive Championships including a 421-yard grid record drive, made cuts in numerous tournaments around the world with rounds in the 60s and 70s, and finished fifth at the Speed Golf World Championships at Bandon Dunes. Jaacob also holds the championship record for golf score with a 72 in 55 minutes and 42 seconds using only 6 clubs. The Swing Man Golf website has more than 8,000 members and focuses primarily on swing speed training. Typically, Jaacob’s website members and amateur and tour player clients will pick up 12-16 mph of driver swing speed in the first 30 days of basic speed training. You can learn more about Jaacob, Swing Man Golf, and Sterling Irons here: Websites – JaacobBowden.com & SwingManGolf.com & SterlingIrons.com; Twitter - @JaacobBowden & @SwingManGolf & @SterlingIrons; Facebook – Facebook.com/JaacobBowdenGolf & Facebook.com/SwingManGolf & <Facebook.com/SterlingIronsGolf; Instagram - Instagram.com/JaacobBowden YouTube – YouTube.com/SwingManGolf – More than 2.8 million video views

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37 Comments

37 Comments

  1. Vernon

    Sep 23, 2015 at 12:57 am

    Hi…really enjoyed the article…will make use of all 3 tips…but can u offer advice re chipping..when I practice it’s really good but once in the course it’s like I’ve never held a club…my hands go numb and I literally can make a swing…hit it fat or thin…can’t even use a 7 iron or a hybrid to chip with its that bad…paralyses in my hands at the impact point

  2. Kirk

    Jul 23, 2015 at 12:35 am

    Hey Jaacob. Really liked the breathing thing on your article. I find myself breathing like a sniper, and holding my breath for the swing. You’re saying to breath in on the take away, and out on the swinging through?

    Also, I started golf recently when I was just 21 years old, and am about a 15 handicapper. I too would like to make golf a lifestyle and be great at it like you. I have confidence that I can do it, but I’m worried about how I can afford that lifestyle. Do you have to work a side job to pay for all the tournaments you enter? And do you win any prize money that helps a little bit (or the whole way) to support your lifestyle? I really admire it and want to have that lifestyle, which is why I ask.

  3. Kevin

    Oct 15, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    Hi Jacob, took up golf this year and I’m down to a 12.9 handicap which in delighted with but I would like to get better. I have a mental block where I think of my score continuously throughout a round and it affects my game
    Especially at the end of a round, do you have any advice for me would be muchly appreciated.
    Thanks

  4. Kevin

    Oct 15, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Hi Jacob, took up golf this year and I’m down to a 12.9 handicap which in delighted with but I would like to get better. I have a mental block where I think of my score continuously throughout a round and it affects my game
    Especially at the end of a round

  5. 121w.at

    Jun 28, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Hey there. Today employing yahoo. That is an exceptionally well crafted post. I most certainly will ensure that you save them plus come back to discover more of one’s helpful tips. Basically posting. I’ll definitely recovery.

  6. Pingback: Will I ever get a lower golf score? | Hacker to Single Figures

  7. nik dallos

    Nov 6, 2013 at 12:33 am

    Jaacob, ive been very frustrated with trying to gain a couple extra yards. From short/long, heavy/light, stiff,x,xx,xxx shafts, different methods of swinging the club, hours of pouring over different swing speed tips etc. Im still stuck around 107-114 mph clubhead speed. I feel I have maxed out my given speed. I feel like tossing in the towel and ending my search for more speed. How much faster can a guy get? Sure 90 to 104 mph is a great improvement, but where can you go from there? Its especially frustrating being a former 5’9″ 230 lb (and no im not fat!) college runningback . You tall wirey guys are so flexible and lanky! Its not fair !

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Jun 29, 2014 at 7:20 am

      Hi Nik,

      Average amateur swing speed is around 93 mph. Typical Tour player is about 113 mph (average range of about 104 to 124). Top long drive guys have averaged in the mid 140s in the final rounds of the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championships.

      So if you’re willing to work at it, the sky is the limit.

      Have a look at the swing speed training programs at http://www.swingmangolf.com.

      Typically, people pick up 12-16 mph in the first month of training. There’s no reason why that couldn’t be you too!

  8. Liam M

    Jun 7, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    Congrats Jaacob! I’m in the exact same boat as you! I regular shoot 80’s and am off a 14 handicap, with these tips hopefully i’ll have the same success you did! Congratulations on your achievment!

  9. Scott G

    Apr 1, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    Great article. I think I’ve gotten #1 and #2 nailed in the past year. To accomplish #1 I strengthened my grip and opened my stance a little bit. Misses are playable instead of being off the planet. #2 I focus on during my practice swings because I know I have a tendency to sway too much, leading to inconsistency.

    I don’t give much thought to #3. Hopefully it will be the final key that takes me from being a 14 handicap to something much better.

  10. Pluto66

    Mar 16, 2013 at 5:04 am

    Great advise. But I find tension to be the hardest. A another tip I’ve tried is to hold a piece of Pringles chips or similar between your teeth while hitting balls. Try not to crush it! Any tension and you will fail not to do so.

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Mar 17, 2013 at 8:25 am

      Thanks, Pluto66.

      You’ve also got a great suggestion for helping with tension…especially for those of us that like Pringles!

  11. Socorr4

    Mar 12, 2013 at 9:31 am

    My problem seems to be tension since I have a quiet head and resonably consistent hand position. I tried hitting balls yesterday while consciously expiring air through my mouth. It requires some discipline. We’re conditioned to hit between breaths after exhaling, and I’m not sure I did the exercise correctly.

    It did help my control by allowing me to hit the ball more consistently on the sweet spot. The range balls at my club have limited flight due to lack of space, which make it difficult to assess distance.

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Mar 12, 2013 at 12:08 pm

      Glad to hear it helped you hit more consistently. You’re right, it can take a little bit of discipline.

      I find that sometimes when first trying it, my shots aren’t quite as good…but after a few shots (anywhere from 5-20 balls for me) my body adjusts and I start hitting better. Once I have the feeling of swinging with less tension, then I don’t worry about the breathing any more.

      • Dre

        Jul 16, 2014 at 12:20 pm

        For this drill, are you exhaling through back swing and down swing? Or only on the down swing?

        Thanks,

  12. Jeff G

    Mar 11, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Jaacob, Great advice. I subscribed to your website and had some great success improving swing speed until back issues derailed my game. What would you consider to be the maximum allowable head movement for those of us battling flexibility issues? If I try and minimize head motion, I cannot achieve a full turn. If I allow a few inches lateral motion (driver) and a couple on full irons I seem to get normal distance, but there are consistency issues.

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Mar 12, 2013 at 5:48 am

      Hi Jeff, thanks.

      Hmmm, I think maximum allowable head movement will differ from person to person. There are a number of factors at play.

      As one example, some people rely quite a bit on their vision as well as their inner ear for balance. You can test this by timing how long you can balance on one foot with your eyes open versus eyes closed.

      If you’re someone like me who uses vision quite a bit for balance, having so much head movement that at the top of your back swing the ball goes out of site of one of your eyes, it can make it more difficult to swing back down in balance and strike the ball cleanly.

      Conversely, all else being equal, someone that doesn’t use their eyes as much to balance could get away with more head movement.

      Ideally it would be nice to work on your flexibility. But if you don’t plan on doing that, then I would just say to try to find the middle point between allowing enough head movement that lets you turn for more power but not so much that it has a major disruption on your ball striking consistency. There will likely be a tip-off point where you really start losing control, so it will just take a little bit of trial and error at the range to find your personal threshold.

  13. Rey Omar

    Mar 11, 2013 at 5:07 am

    Hey mate, how did you minimize the head movement in your swing? It’s something that I’m really struggling with at the moment.

    Great article.

    Cheers.

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Mar 11, 2013 at 6:53 am

      Hi Rey, there’s quite a few ways to do it. Here are a few.

      Originally, I would just use a video camera. I’d record a couple of swings and identify where in the swing I was moving it, take a few more swings without the camera to work on eliminating or mitigating it, and then check again on camera.

      I’ve also closed one eye and used the bridge of my nose as a reference point to something on the ground and made swings while paying attention to not letting my nose move from that reference point.

      If you’ve got a buddy around, you can have them stand in front of you and hold the butt end of a club up next to your ear. Then just try to swing without bumping your head on the grip.

      I’ve never used it and it would cost some money…but similarly I think the Benderstik training aid would accomplish the same thing as having someone hold a club up next to your head.

  14. John Boisvenue

    Mar 4, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Great advice. I tend to over swing with the driver, and the three keys should benefit my swing. Enjoyed your blog.

  15. Roch

    Mar 4, 2013 at 8:23 am

    Bonjour Jaacob,
    The first time I saw your swing was In Mike Austin DVD. Then I went to your web site and you refer to Count Yogi(Harry Frankenberg) about the width of the stance. Then I bought the simple set system from Count Yogi.
    I’m still impress from that man and wonder why is not know better. However I think most teacher are to complicate and Count Yogi a little to simple. This is one reason why I love you post and web site.
    Also I like the fact that you have an open mind and generous to gave credit to others. For years I wonder about club rotation. Count Yogi and you are on the same page with this and my game is better since I use this method. If you have study Harry Frankenberg method can you tell us the simmilarity between you and him.
    Thank you for you excelent work.
    Merci
    Roch

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Mar 5, 2013 at 8:29 am

      Bonjour Roch, merci pour le commentaire.

      I’m glad my work has been helpful for you. Yes, I do try to keep an open mind…as well as to come from a place of integrity and humility. You can see a little bit of that reflected in my word choice. For example, I try to stay away from words like “correct” and “proper” in any of my teaching.

      I also agree with you that some teachers unnecessarily over complicate the game, although I do believe there is value and a place for analysis and in-depth study. It just depends on the situation and the person involved. Good teachers can do both when needed.

      As I understand, Count Yogi was banned by the US PGA from tournaments for racial reasons…and because his teachings went against what the US PGA was teaching at the time. Were he allowed to compete, I think it’s feasible he could have won many US PGA sanctioned tournaments and been much more mainstream.

      Similarly I think Moe Norman would have won many US PGA tournaments as well had he not been ostracized for being so eccentric.

      And although I don’t think he would’ve won lots of tournaments due to his poor putting, it’s also feasible that Mike Austin would be more popular too. His swing method is a bit difficult to learn, but it is also the most powerful one I’ve ever experimented with.

      Yes, the Yogi system is simple. But similar to how a great zen master would teach in short phrases, parables, etc…I find there’s also a wonderful underlying wisdom to it. For example, a phrase that you might not give much thought to like “easy game, nothing to it” could indicate his mind set and the law of attraction at work in his game.

      Sometimes when I listen to him or read his material I’ll pause for a moment on seemingly trivial things to ponder deeper meaning (same with Moe Norman, Mike Austin, and others).

      Personally, I’m sure there’s a lot more I can and will learn about the Yogi system, but I do have some experience. I’ve read George Peper’s chapter about him in “The Secret of Golf” many times, I have his 3 books, I’ve watched numerous videos of him, found things around the internet, and I’ve met with Timothy Nicholls (whose chipping was excellent…I’ve only seen one other pro or amateur chip that well, a Paul Runyan advocate) at the range once.

      With Yogi, there’s no focus on manipulating the club face, shifting your weight, or technical stuff like that. You just follow the same routine every time with all shots…and focus on nothing more than being smooth and graceful.

      Over time you can become super consistent because you aren’t making changes to your swing, thought process, routine, etc. The swing can be handled more by the subconscious and thus make it easier to put your mind’s eye on the target. Your myelin can become more insulated from the repeated use of the same neuromuscular pathways and signal transmissions get faster. You can be more in balance and not over swing from the focus on being boneless.

      I could go on…but the short of it is that I think overall it’s a good system for playing golf and Count Yogi is one of numerous people (Dan Shauger – my first teacher and who introduced me to Mike Austin, Geoff Mangum – most knowledgeable putting person I’ve ever come across, Moe Norman – overall game, Dave Pelz – overall research and short game, George Knudson – overall game, Paul Runyan – short game, Tom Wishon – equipment, Cynthia Shapiro – mental coach, Roberto Moretti – practice and skill acquisition, and Fredrik Tuxen – Trackman, to name a few) who have very significantly and positively influenced my game.

      In fact the 3 keys that I mentioned above in the article would fit right in with the Yogi method (as well as the Austin swing).

      Anyway, hope that helps a bit…

      • Roch

        Mar 5, 2013 at 12:30 pm

        Thanks Jaacob,
        It is clear for me now that not turning the clubface will work better for me.
        I’d like to ask you a question about motion. In the mid 80’s I bought the book swing the club head from Ernest Jones. The day that I finished read that book I shoot 77. I often pratice swinging a weight attach to a rope.
        Bobby Jones,Jim flick and some others refer to him. Mike Austin said swing the clubhead but showed us how to throught the clubhead from the top. Count Yogi in his book said don’t through the clubhead and tell us how to control the clubhead mentaly at 100%.
        Can you tell us what’s your thought on clubhead motion.
        Thanks again.
        Roch

        • Roch

          Mar 6, 2013 at 7:09 am

          Count Yogi wrote don’t swing the clubhead not throw the clubhead.
          My mistake.
          Roch

          • Jaacob Bowden

            Mar 7, 2013 at 7:38 am

            Hmmm, that could be a long answer to go in to all the possibilities! :-p

            But briefly with Austin and Yogi in particular, I find the Austin motion more powerful but more difficult to learn and control. To me it’s a bit tricky to throw from the top and then allow the club to release freely through the hitting area in a tension-free manner. “Throw and let it go” as one could say.

            For regular golf I also find it hard to keep my concentration on my target while also focusing on the throw from the top…plus, my club face awareness isn’t as good.

            However, for long drive I think it’s a great option because it’s more powerful and you have 6 penalty-free chances to get a ball in play versus only 1 in normal golf. That being said, I have still played great golf with the pure Austin motion.

            With Yogi there’s not as much power since you aren’t leveraging your hands as much, but I think it’s easier to learn, to repeat, to be consistent, and to use for regular golf. The simplicity of it can allow one to more easily control the club mentally and remain target-oriented.

            Personally, I use a bit of a hybrid. I wanted to be have the ease, club awareness, and mental control of the Yogi swing but also have the option to throw with my hands and leverage them more when necessary like in the Austin swing. Since I compete in speed golf as well (finished 5th in 2012 World Championships…gonna be aired on CBS next month on the Saturday of the Masters!), I also needed something that I could just step up and hit the ball roughly where I wanted without practice swings.

            It took awhile to get that sorted out but I think I have it now.

            So at setup I turn my lead shoulder clockwise. The shoulder rotation gives me a bit of a strong looking grip from a face-on viewpoint, despite it actually being more neutral. But this allows me to just turn in the back swing, keep soft wrists, and have the club cock naturally (further than it would in the Yogi swing) through inertia without rotating the club face open. I’m also conceptually very aware of where the club is the entire time.

            On the down swing, when I pivot my lower spine towards the target similar to Austin it brings the club back through the ball with very little club face rotation…but with more natural lag than Yogi.

            With the lack of club face rotation in the back swing and down swing, I can also throw from the top like Austin in a case where I need extra power.

            My swing ends up being a bit low and laid-off in the back swing…and more homegrown and less pretty looking in general, but the effectiveness is much better for me.

            Hopefully that makes a bit of sense. It’s a bit tough to explain without pictures and video…or being in person to demonstrate.

  16. Anthony

    Mar 3, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    Nice post Jaccob and congratulations on your progression as a golfer, very good.
    Excellent points, not only does keeping the clubface more square in the takeaway reduce the clubface opening and closing so much, combined with a left arm close to the body (not outside the line) you get the shaft going back on or just above the plane (wrists can hingle vertically when left arm is in the correct position) makes golf so much easier. Points 2 & 3 are important aswell.
    I never really got this stuff right, but I’m getting there now.
    I Had the correct backswinig going for a round backin December and the result was a -7 65… & like you said, you have to hit the irons close to do this.
    With an average swing you can shoot a few under par – with good putting, but to shoot in the mid 60’s you need good putting and a good swing to hit those irons close.
    Cheers,
    Anthony

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Mar 4, 2013 at 6:16 am

      Thanks Anthony…and congratulations on your remarkable 65 (-7).

      Indeed shooting mid-60s and even lower is a whole new level than just a couple under par. Rich Hunt has some interesting observations that I would agree with as a player about what needs to happen to do this -> http://www.golfwrx.com/63409/what-does-it-take-for-the-best-to-go-low/.

      Basically, you have to drive it well enough to give yourself chances to get at the flag as often as possible. Ideally it’s best to be in the fairway but you’ve got to avoid getting behind trees, going in to hazards or OB, etc. You need a lot of birdies so you need a lot of chances. First priority is just getting the ball in play.

      Then once you’re in position off the tee you need to be striking it well enough to get close enough to the hole to have a putt that you can reasonably make. It’s nice when a long putt goes in but it’s not realistic to rely on making a lot of long ones.

      My 64 was from 8 birdies and 0 bogeys. I drove it as well as I ever have that day. My tee shots were long and I got in to no trouble at all. I was at least green high in two shots on all four par-5s and basically had tap-ins or easy putts for those 4 birdies. The other 4 birdies I manages to pick up from hitting those iron shots pretty close as well. The rest of the round wasn’t perfect but basically I didn’t do anything dumb enough to give away any shots on the other holes. I forget exactly but I don’t recall missing any putts inside 10 feet.

      It was a great day!

      • Rex Dietrick

        Jul 15, 2014 at 3:30 pm

        You said “With Yogi there’s not as much power since you aren’t leveraging your hands as much”

        If that’s true, how do you explain Count Yogi’s records:
        Fifty-five holes-in-one; nine of them on par-4 holes, two in succession (187 and 347 yards); one 416-yard hole-in-one

        Played a 550-yard hole in two strokes in Corpus Christi, Texas, driving 453 yards and sinking the next shot with a wedge.

        Great site!

        Thanks!

  17. Dave Pierce

    Mar 3, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Jaacob I have played with you before in our days at Crystal Highlands in Missouri and at Lost Cayons in California, believe me you are 100% improved and if people that want to learn or are already pretty good golfers should come to you for lessons!

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Mar 4, 2013 at 5:13 am

      Hey Dave, thanks for the kind words. We should play together with my Dad again the next time I’m back in St. Louis. I had already improved a ton by the time you and I played Lost Canyons…but I’ve come even further since then!

      I haven’t gotten to play Crystal Highlands since the railroad bought it all those years ago. That course brings back nice memories from high school. I’m not sure if I ever shot lower than 87 or 88 there. I’d be curious to have a go at it again now that I became a good player and turned pro.

  18. Thomy

    Mar 3, 2013 at 9:43 am

    @ Chris… We are speaking about 18 Holes!
    Send me a text once u r back at Otelfingen, would be glad to see that.

  19. Jaacob Bowden

    Mar 3, 2013 at 8:16 am

    G & Todd, thank you.

  20. Chris

    Feb 27, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    I shot 64 at Otelfingen with a set of rentals. Your swing is piss poor in the take away but not too bad at impact. Good luck to you but play some decent courses…Otelfingen is a joke.

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Mar 3, 2013 at 8:51 am

      Hi Chris, thanks for your comment.

      Why in your opinion is the take-a-way piss poor? And are you referring to a particular swing? I’m always open to updating my view point, but I need a solid argument to do it. 😉

      Also, for your information, I’ve played some very good courses…Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, Bayonet, Bandon Dunes, Emirates Golf Club, Jumeirah Golf Estates, and St. Andrews to name a few.

      If you shot 64 with a set of rentals at the same Otelfingen that I played, then I take my hat off to you.

      First of all, shooting under par with clubs that you aren’t used to would be extremely difficult for anyone. Most birdies come from hitting the ball close to the flag, so it would be very hard to do until you know how far the clubs go and have some experience with them.

      Secondly, Otelfingen isn’t that long at 6865 yards (6277 meters) from the back tees. But the course rating is 73.3 and slope is 133…with fairways as narrow as a US Open setup. When the rough is up and the wind blows, it is more challenging than numerous Tour level courses that I’ve played. I don’t like the crowds, but facility-wise I find it a nice place to practice.

      • Rufiolegacy

        Mar 16, 2013 at 10:22 pm

        This, is the response of a gentleman. Good on you Jaacob, fantastic read. Thanks for the tips!

  21. Todd

    Feb 27, 2013 at 8:59 am

    Solid stuff! Nice work.

  22. G

    Feb 27, 2013 at 2:38 am

    Those are all amazing advices. And well done to you!

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Instruction

Build A More Consistent Short Game Through Better Body Movement

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So far in my collection of articles on GolfWRX, I’ve talked at length about the importance of posture, stability and movement patterns in the full swing, particularly utilizing the GravityFit equipment for feedback and training load. Many coaches use the same equipment to teach better movement in the putting, chipping, and pitching actions.

To help give some more insight into exactly how they do this, I have recruited Matt Ballard to co-author this article. Matt is an Australian-based coach and short game specialist who has been working with Adam Scott for the past year.

Matt Ballard (right) with Adam Scott.

According to Matt, the short game issue that the club players he coaches struggle with is contact and delivering consistent loft with their wedges.

“Most people tend to get steep, the handle comes in first and not enough loft is delivered,” he says. “This means that the bounce of the wedge isn’t being used properly, which makes control of contact, trajectory, and distance very difficult. ”

As Matt explains in the video below, this problem tends to manifest itself in chips and pitches that are either fat or thin, fly to short or not far enough, and either check up too soon or go rolling on past the pin.

The really frustrating part is the inconsistency. Not knowing how the ball is going to react makes committing to a shot extremely difficult. This has the unnerving effect of turning a simple task into something difficult… and pars into bogeys or worse. For the past few months, Matt has been using the GravityFit TPro to teach correct set up posture and body movement for chipping and pitching.

“I use the TPro to first of all establish spine and shoulder position,” Matt says. “I like my students to have the feel of their shoulders and forearms being externally rotated (turned out). From this position, it’s much easier to control the clubface (i.e. not getting it too shut or too open). The second benefit of using the TPro is controlling the golf club radius during the swing, with the radius being the distance the club head is from the center of the body. Controlling the radius is paramount to becoming an excellent wedge player. The third reason I use it is to help teach that pure rotation from the thoracic spine (mid/upper back), minimizing the excessive right side bend (for a right handed player) that gets so many people into trouble.”

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Nick demonstrating how TPro drills can be performed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Essentially, Matt uses the GravityFit TPro to train a simple movement pattern that, once mastered, all but eliminate the typical problems normally associated with chipping and pitching.

“When (golfers) learn to turn using their thoracic spine and keep their arms in front of their body, it has a dramatic effect on how they deliver the club to the ball,” Matt says. “They are now able to maintain width or radius on either side of the ball, shallow out the club, and engage the bounce (sole) of the wedge to interact with the turf effectively, which is a key trait of all excellent wedge players. Doing this greatly increases their margin for error from a strike perspective and produces a far more consistent outcome in terms of loft, trajectory and distance control.”

Here is Matt’s 5-step process that you can follow with the TPro:

  1. Push handles out in front of your body, keeping slight bend in elbow.
  2. Stretch tall. Feel the green spikes in your middle/upper back and your shoulder blades on the paddles.
  3. Hinge forward into posture for pitching or chipping (the shorter the shot, narrower the stance.).
  4. Slowly turn chest into backswing, keep arms out in front of body, and maintain pressure on the spikes and paddles.
  5. Turn through to finish position using normal tempo, maintaining same pressure on the TPro and keeping arms in front of your body.

In summary, using the TPro and Matt’s drill can help you train a simple movement pattern that can give you far more control over the strike, trajectory and distance of your chips and pitches.

Click here to learn more about the TPro. To discover more pearls of wisdom from Matt, take a look at his website here and his social media activity here.

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Instruction

Expand the Radius for Pure Ball-Striking

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There is a specific element of the swing that all good ball-strikers possess. It can be summed-up many different ways, lending to the often confusing terminology of golf instruction, but perhaps the best description is the following: good ball strikers, except for with the driver and putter, create a bottom or low-point of the clubhead swing/arc that is a few inches ahead of the ball.

In his book “The Impact Zone,” former PGA Tour player Bobby Clampett clearly made his feelings known on the matter by stating that for all types of player concerns, his best response was to “get the bottom of the swing 4 inches ahead of the ball.” Four inches may be the high end of the effective range, but still, I’m in agreement with Bobby on the paramount importance of this element of the swing.

Why is this so important?

Achieving a “forward” low point allows the golfer to deliver the clubhead to the ball with a slightly descending attack angle. Due to the design of the small golf ball and lofted face of golf clubs, “hitting down on the ball” slightly is a must for clean contact on the “sweet spot” of the clubface. Also, the bio-mechanics involved in creating a forward low-point will naturally return the club face squarely back to its starting alignment relative to the path/plane of the swing. The “dub,” as Bobby Jones rather bluntly referred to him (or her) who struggles to achieve both of these clubhead delivery conditions satisfactorily, is thus both a “flipper” and a “slicer.”

OK, so how do we do it?

Intentions, feels, and swing thoughts – different terms for the same thing — that can help the golfer achieve a forward low-point are limitless. But the following is one of the very best that I know of: expand the radius of the hand-path through impact. In terms of space, we’re talking “past the ball.” But I prefer this intention in relation to time or impact, which is more feel-based.

The hands swing around a point located near the golfer’s upper core area. At the start of the swing, both arms are essentially straight. The radius of the swing of the hands is widest and the distance from the hands to the center is greatest when both arms are straight. In the backswing, the left arm remains straight while the right arm bends up to a 90-degree angle, at which time the radius is at its most narrow, the hands closest to the center. At the strike point, good ball-strikers are expanding the radius of the swing of the hands, in turn widening the arc of the clubhead past impact. Without this bio-mechanical feature to the swing, achieving a swing bottom several inches ahead of the ball is virtually impossible, as the clubhead will release prematurely to its bottom.

How do you know if you’re doing it?

Besides creating proper clubhead delivery and an unmistakably “pure” strike, the trail arm should be observed with high-speed video to be straightening at impact. In a proper full swing, full-radius and the classic both-arms-straight position is reached just after impact.

A natural practice drill to acquire this skill

Ben Hogan, in his landmark instruction book, “Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf,” described the forward swing motion into impact like throwing a small-sized medicine ball. For a number of years now, I have been using a six-pound medicine ball with handles, for myself as well as my students, as an essential training aid to loosen-up and acquire the correct bio-mechanical movements of the swing. Whether you actually let go of the ball or not, the correct motion is the same:

  • Start with both arms straight.
  • Swing the medicine ball, which represents the hands in the golf swing, around a fixed point in the upper core, near the sternum.
  • At the end of the backswing, the lead arm should still be straight while the trail arm has bent to an approximately 90-degree angle.
  • The primary intention is for the forward swing and is to push the medicine ball outward from your center, reaching full-radius/both-arms-straight again ideally at a point in-line with your lead shoulder/foot. This movement will allow you to achieve a clubhead low point ahead of any golf ball positioned behind your lead shoulder.

A word of warning

It is possible to extend the radius of the hands too far past the ball. This is largely a problem limited to better players. The buzz term I hear for this nowadays is “handle-dragging.” An effective fix, as you might now imagine, is to intend to expand to full-radius sooner. But in over 20 years of teaching predominately the golfing population at large, I would say that for every one player that I see who expands the radius too far past the ball, I see many more times that who do not expand the radius sufficiently past impact.

It works like this; if you usually strike the ball first, but then take deep, gouging divots, and struggle to achieve a satisfactory height to your approach shots, then more than likely you actually are the rare “handle-dragger.” But if you are like the majority of recreational players who do not typically strike the ball first and then take a proper, shallow divot with your irons and feel that you hit them too high but without sufficient distance, then you are the opposite of a “handle-dragger,” a bit of a “flipper.”

If this description fits you, then please give the intention detailed here a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

In a proper golf swing, both arms become straight again, the hand-path reaching full-radius AFTER impact. As the golf swing moves much too fast to make this critical analysis in real time, high-speed video, seen here viewing down-the-line of flight, is a must.  

A hand-path training drill using a six-pound medicine ball with handles.

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Instruction

7 Ways PGA Tour Players Enhance Performance on the Road

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If you poll the vast majority of PGA Tour players, you will find that they have many different routines and habits. From lucky underwear to only drinking a certain flavor drink on the front 9 vs the back 9, there are superstitions and rituals galore.

Amid all these rituals, there are seven consistent things that the best professional golfers do better than most. How many can you say you do?

1: Take A [Legal] Performance-Enhancing Drug

There is a powerful performance-enhancing drug the PGA Tour and all other sports organizations will never be able to ban. It’s called sleep, and you should take full advantage of it like the pros. 

When you are on the road, jet lag and travel fatigue are the real deal. While travel alone does not appear to be the sole determining factor in decreased athletic performance, studies show that athletes perceive themselves to be jet lagged for up to two days after long-distance travel.

Jet lag can be characterized by GI disturbance, impaired concentration, sleep disturbance, and intermittent fatigue. Good luck going low feeling like that. Travel fatigue, comparatively, is characterized by persistent fatigue, repeated illness, changes in mood and behavior, and loss of motivation. The biggest difference is that travel fatigue is cumulative while jet lag is episodic and circadian-based.

If you travel frequently, you are more at risk for travel fatigue. If you are just going on a one-off golf trip, you are more likely to have jet lag.  

How to be like the pros

Jet lag usually requires one day per time zone traveled to resynchronize your system, so be sure to arrive early enough to allow your body to adapt. There is also some cutting-edge research being done that looks at the use of melatonin and other methods to help athletes regulate their circadian rhythms, but proper scheduling is probably more appropriate for the general public.

In a recent study of collegiate basketball players, increasing the players’ sleep by approximately 2 hours each night created a 9 percent improvement in made free throws and 3-point shots. It also improved sprint times by almost a second.

Professional golfers generally try to have a similar bed time each night and a similar wake time each morning regardless of tee time. The more consistent your sleep is, the more consistent your scoring is likely to be.

2: Shop Till You Drop… Birdies That Is!

Yes, you read correctly. I’m telling you to go shopping. 

When my touring professionals are going out on the road, one of the first things we look at is figuring out where they should stay. While these players may go shopping for clothes or souvenirs, the type of shopping we plan for is a bit less exciting but critical for consistent success: grocery shopping.

As anyone who has traveled before knows, your diet can drastically change when you are on the road. Fast food, restaurants, desserts, alcohol, energy drinks, and prepackaged snacks are often staples of a traveler’s diet. While this may be fine on a vacation, professional golfers are on the road competing for their livelihoods. This type of eating can spell the end of a career and general poor health.

By determining what sort of food preparation capabilities they will have on the road (hotel room, apartment, house, etc.), professional golfers are able to plan the meals they’ll need and they places they’ll get them.

How to be like the pros

If you are staying at a hotel and only have a microwave, look to pick up ingredients for healthy sandwiches, unsalted nuts, fruits, and vegetables that take up little space, travel easily, and can fit easily into a mini-fridge. For dinners, try to stick to salads (limit the dressing) with lean protein sources (i.e. chicken, salmon, white fish, beans, legumes etc.). There are many healthy options, of course, these are just a few suggestions.

If you have a full kitchen, then treat your trip to the grocery store as a normal weekly trip (unless your normal pickups include chips, beer, and fried foods). 

The simplest advice I can give is to shop around the outer edges of the grocery store (produce, deli, butcher, eggs, etc). Stay away from the middle aisles (packaged foods, cookies etc) and you’ll be much better off.

3: Avoid the Free Breakfast Buffet Like the Plague

OK, this one is probably one of the hardest bad habits to break. Why? Easy and cheap. Plus, most amateurs aren’t thinking ahead about their food and don’t want to wake up any earlier than they have to.

Although you’ll be saving money, it’s highly unlikely that a few stale bagels and mini-muffins are going to get you past the sixth hole. 

How to be like the pros

Professionals arrive at the hotel knowing what is served and if it fits into their nutritional needs. Some free breakfasts are the real deal, but most aren’t. The good stuff usually isn’t offered or free.

Do your homework. Call ahead and ask what is included in the free breakfast. If it fits your requirements, then fantastic… you found a needle in a haystack. More than likely, however, you will need to supplement that continental breakfast with either the paid breakfast or a store run.

4: The Pre-Round Routine No One Talks About

No matter where in the world they are, professional golfers always adhere to the same routine when getting ready for a round. They arrive at the course the same amount of time before their tee time, work through the same warm-up routine, and even have the same pre-shot routine. I hope none of this is groundbreaking for you.

What amateurs often miss is the “pre” pre-round routine that no one talks about.

How to be like the pros

Amateurs often don’t factor into their wake up time how long they take to shower, eat, get dressed, drive to the course, workout, meditate, etc. For professional golfers, each of these facets is mapped out to the minute to assure they are truly as ready as possible for the round, thereby minimizing any undue stressors.

Let’s look at this example:

  • Your pre-round routine at the course is 60 minutes.
  • You have a 15-minute drive to the course.
  • You take 45 minutes to shower, eat, and get ready to go.

60 + 15 + 45 = 120 minutes

You need to wake up two hours before your tee time… minimum. Plan ahead like this and you’ll be shocked how much a routine on the road can help you perform.

5: Don’t Let Travel Get in the Way of Workouts

One of the hardest things about being on the road is your schedule; it’s often at the mercy of airlines and the other powers that be. We’ve all been there. So how do the pros make sure they get their workouts in when delayed flights or other obligations get in the way? Well, they don’t plan long workouts on travel days.

How to be like the pros

PGA Tour players generally plan their longer workouts on days that are more consistent. On travel days, they stick to shorter workouts that target core, mobility, or recovery. They know that getting a 20-30 minute session in is better than doing nothing at all.

The research is very clear that if you skip a workout, you will likely feel guilty and beat yourself up. This snowballs and makes it much less likely that you will work out tomorrow or the next day. Instead, if you modify and get the shorter workout in, you feel accomplished and your momentum is still churning for another good workout tomorrow.

6: Use Recovery Workouts to BOOST Energy When Tired

Yes, you should workout to have more energy. When you get in late from a flight or back to the hotel from a long day of working on the road, you rarely think of working out, right?

It’s feet up, TV on, drink in hand…

One of the coolest things about fitness for golf is that there is more than one way to do it. Recovery workouts not only increase your energy, but they can improve your adaption to different timezones.

How to be like the pros

The next time you arrive at a hotel room after a long day, try to do it differently. Instead of beelining for the nearest bar, restaurant, or room-service menu, make your way to the gym or courtyard if it’s nice outside.

The next 20 minutes is going to be life changing if you can make it a habit. Hop on a bike, a treadmill, an elliptical, or just go for a walk. What you need to do is move for 10-20 minutes. You are not trying to burn as many calories as you can or get so out of breath you can’t talk in full sentences. Quite the contrary.

Pros on the road will use a light cardio workout like this to help their system flush out the stuff that is making them feel “blah.” Getting the blood flowing helps them reset their system and feel fresher. Again, “workout” is used lightly here. It is literally just a plan to move around for 10-20 minutes. You can also use this technique at the end of a very vigorous workout to help you recover.

7: The Winners Actually Do Their Homework

This final thing that pros do when they travel is a bit out of the health and fitness realm, but it is 100 percent performance-based. I am sure you have gone on a golf trip as I have, and when you show up at the course you may ask the pro how the course is playing, how fast the greens are running, etc. You know, you try to show that you’re not just any duff off the street. That’s likely the extent of your research on the course… except maybe looking at a scorecard.

Curious why rounds like that don’t usually go well?

How to be like the pros

Before you even arrive at the course, there are some simple things you can do to ensure a better performance. Try to answer these questions before the start of the trip:

  1. Does the course have a range? If not, how might your pre-round routine be affected?
  2. What kind of grass does the course have?
  3. Do you know how to play the course? What differences or similarities will there be compared to the course you normally play?
  4. Have you looked at the yardage book? Can you start mapping out what clubs you will be hitting off the tees?  
  5. If you have a chance to ride the course or play a practice round, do you know what adjustments you’ll need to make based on the predicted forecast?
  6. Do you have access to green reading or course layout books? If so, where do big numbers come into play?
  7. What sort of food and beverage services are available? Do you need to pack food/drinks for the round?
  8. Is there a locker room where you can warm up or stretch, or do you need to do that before you arrive?

The list goes on and on, but I think you get the gist. The key to success is preparation and doing your homework.

Don’t let the title be misleading. Not all pros are great at all these things, and it can be the reason they have short-lived careers or spend many grueling years on the developmental tours. I have touring professionals that I work with who struggle to do all seven of these things on a consistent basis. But, when they are successful with these 7, their results on the course are quite convincing.

If you can implement just a couple of these items, you will be pleasantly surprised at the changes you start to see on the course and the way you feel physically.

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