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Get better faster with a tight feedback loop

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Getting an opportunity to work on a launch monitor can be enjoyable, confusing, helpful, overwhelming and invaluable all at the same time. In my limited time and experience with my launch monitor (I have a Trackman), I’ve quickly learned if I make things very simple, it becomes a very effective tool.

Learning quickly comes from various different methods, one of these methods is a tight feedback loop: Do something, measure, analyze, correct and repeat. The more of these loops you can fit into a practice session the quicker you can develop feel and understanding of the change. Let’s use club path as a simple example.

One of the most valuable functions of Trackman and FlightScope launch monitors is that they place a numerical values on the movement of the club. Here’s a look at one of those numbers.

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The positive number means the club head is traveling to the right of the target 1.5 degrees at the moment of impact. This is not the word-for-word definition, but you get the gist.

Lets say we embark on a drill to get your club path moving to the left of the target at impact. The number on the screen you want to see would be something like this.

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A change this big will feel weird and unnatural, but that’s the point. This process of change is accelerated using a tight feedback loop. Do something, measure, analyze, correct and repeat.

Changing the number on the screen almost becomes a bit of the game. Maybe the first swing moves the number to 0.5 degrees; the next gives you -1 — you get the picture. You are actively exploring a change in your golf swing and watching the number gives you the feedback to know you are doing something different from swing to swing.

Some of you may be thinking: What should I do to get that number to move from positive to negative? With Doppler radar launch monitors like Trackman and Flightscope, I think it’s a good idea to let people experiment a little and find out for themselves. How would you change the path? I’ll always be there for a helping hand or guidance, but a little exploration is good.

Have you ever been faced with a difficult question or problem, put in the work and found the answer after some deliberate thought? When you find the answer, you own the answer because of the struggle and effort you put in to get it. It’s no different here.

If you’re more of a visual learner, Trackman and Flightscope use images to display path in different ways from different perspectives. All these forms of feedback can aid in understanding and accomplishing your goal of change.

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Each swing returns a club-path number and you’ll begin to match the number to a feel. Making the feel your own and understanding that feel makes you more aware and helps quicken the improvement process.

When practicing with a Trackman or Flightscope, you can create even more deliberate practice by creating little challenges that will help you achieve your goal. Staying with the above example, try to hit five consecutive practice balls where the club-path number is negative or to the left. If you miss on one of the shots you’ve got to start over — an example of immediate feedback and purposeful practice.

I like to find anything and everything that helps me understand the process of change and learning. The books and articles I find valuable I like to share, because if they help me maybe they can help you as well. In Daniel Coyle’s book “The Little Book of Talent,” he talks about the process of getting better.

In our busy lives, it’s sometimes tempting to regard merely practicing as a success. We complete the appointed hour and sigh victoriously — mission accomplished! But the real goal isn’t practice, it’s progress. As John Wooden put it, “Never mistake mere activity for accomplishment.”

One useful method is to set a daily SAP: smallest achievable perfection. In this technique, you pick a single chunk that you can perfect — not just improve, not just “work on,” but get it 100 percent correct consistently. For example, a tennis player might choose the service toss; a salesperson might choose the 20-second pitch he’ll make to an important client. The point is to take the time to aim at a small, defined target and then put all your effort toward hitting it.

After all, you aren’t built to be transformed in a single day. You are built to improve little by little, connection by connection, rep by rep. As Wooden also said, “Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens — and when it happens, it lasts.”

This pairs up nicely with what I’ve talked about above. Find a little chunk of your golf swing and try to perfect that one thing. As you make small improvements over time, your golf swing slowly becomes more efficient.

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Rob earned a business degree from the University of Washington. He turned professional in June of 1999 and played most mini tours, as well as the Australian Tour, Canadian Tour, Asian Tour, European Tour and the PGA Tour. He writes for GolfWRX to share what he's learned and continues to learn about a game that's given him so much. www.robrashell.com Google Plus Director of Instruction at TOURAcademy TPC Scottsdale www.touracademy.com

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. getitclose

    Feb 16, 2014 at 10:28 am

    I’ll second the above comment. Last year I decided I wanted to be better than the average joe, started buying books and watching the “how-to’s” on the internet. Which can be good, if you work on one or two things at a time. I got overwhelmed, and actually got worse because I was over analyzing everything. Bottom line; simplify.

    Great article. Bravo

    • Rob Rashell

      Feb 17, 2014 at 10:40 am

      getitclose,

      I’ve always been amazed by how making one thing really great in your golf swing also improves other pieces as well, without even trying. Thanks!

  2. Dave

    Feb 16, 2014 at 6:52 am

    Truly a great article. Learning how to learn is key to being able to learn. My teacher also has me “figure things out myself” instead of just talking at me, really helps to own it. I am going to book mark this article I thought so much of it.

    Thank you

    • Rob Rashell

      Feb 17, 2014 at 10:38 am

      Hi Dave, thanks for the thoughts, all the best with your golf!

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Instruction

Clement: This wrist position can add 30 yards to your drive

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Drop the mic on how the wrists should load and be positioned for compressive power, accuracy, and longevity! There is a better way, and this is it!

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Short Game University: How to hit wedges 301

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In golf, there is nothing harder than judging a flop shot over a bunker to a tight pin out of long grass. Why? Because there are so many variables to account for — in addition to what you can and cannot do with a wedge. In fact, up until very recently in the world of wedge design, we were limited to only increasing the landing angle to stop the ball, because relying on spin from this lie and this close to the green was next to impossible.

Now with the advent of things like raw faces, different CG locations, new groove design, and micro-ribs between the grooves, we can now spin the ball out of lies that we never could have done so before. This is not to say that you can now zip the ball back from these types of lies, but we are seeing spin rates that have skyrocketed, and this allows us to not open the face as much as we needed to do before in order to stop the ball.

Before we get into the shot around the green itself, let’s talk a bit about wedge design. For that, I called a great friend of mine, Greg Cesario, TaylorMade’s Staff Manager to help us understand a bit more about wedges. Greg was a former PGA Tour Player and had a big hand in designing the new Milled Grind 3 Wedges.

Cesario said: “Wedge technology centers on two key areas- the first is optimizing its overall launch/spin (just like drivers) on all shots and the second is optimum ground interaction through the geometry of the sole (bounce, sole width, and sole shape).”

“Two key things impact spin: Groove design and face texture. Spin is the secondary effect of friction. This friction essentially helps the ball stick to the face a little longer and reduces slippage. We define slippage as how much the ball slides up the face at impact. That happens more when it’s wet outside during those early morning tee times, out of thicker lies, or after a bit of weather hits. Our Raised Micro-Ribs increase friction and reduce slippage on short partial shots around the round – that’s particularly true in wet conditions.”

“We’ve been experimenting with ways to find optimal CG (center of gravity) placement and how new geometries can influence that. We know that CG locations can influence launch, trajectory and spin. Everyone is chasing the ability to produce lower launching and higher spinning wedge shots to help players increase precision distance control. In that space, moving CG just a few millimeters can have big results. Beyond that, we’re continuing to advance our spin and friction capabilities – aiming to reduce the decay of spin from dry to fluffy, or wet conditions.”

Basically, what Greg is saying is that without improvements in design, we would never be able to spin the ball like we would normally when it’s dry and the lie is perfect. So, with this new design in a wedge like the Milled Grind 3 (and others!), how can we make sure we have the optimal opportunity to hit these faster-stopping pitch shots?

  1. Make sure the face is clean and dry
  2. Open the blade slightly, but not too much
  3. Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the AoA
  4. Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

Make sure the face is clean and dry

If your thought is to use spin to stop the ball quicker under any situation, then you must give the club a chance to do its job. When the grooves are full of dirt and grass and the remaining exposed face is wet, then you are basically eliminating any opportunity to create spin. In fact, if you decide to hit the shot under these conditions, you might as well hit a flop shot as this would be the only opportunity to create a successful outcome. Don’t put yourself behind the eight-ball automatically, keep your club in a clean and dry condition so you have the best chance to do what you are capable of doing.

Open the blade slightly, but not too much

Without going into too much extra detail, spinloft is the difference between your angle of attack and your dynamic loft. And this difference is one of the main areas where you can maximize your spin output.

Too little or too much spinloft and you will not be able to get the maximum spin out of the shot at hand. With wedges, people equate an open clubface to spinning the ball, and this can be a problem due to excessive spinloft. Whenever you have too much dynamic loft, the ball will slide up the face (reduced friction equals reduced spin) and the ball will float out higher than expected and roll out upon landing.

My thought around the green is to open the face slightly, but not all the way, in efforts to reduce the probability of having too much spinloft during impact. Don’t forget under this scenario we are relying on additional spin to stop the ball. If you are using increased landing angle to stop the ball, then you would obviously not worry about increasing spinloft! Make sure you have these clear in your mind before you decide how much to open the blade.

Opened slightly

Opened too much

One final note: Please make sure you understand what bounce option you need for the type of conditions you normally play. Your professional can help you but I would say that more bounce is better than less bounce for the average player. You can find the bounce listed on the wedge itself. It will range between 4-14, with the mid-range bounce being around 10 degrees.

Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the angle of attack

As we know, when debris gets in between the clubface and the ball (such as dirt/grass), you will have two problems. One, you will not be able to control the ball as much. Secondly, you will not be able to spin the ball as much due to the loss of friction.

So, what is the key to counteract this problem? Increasing the angle of attack by setting the wrists quicker on the backswing. Making your downswing look more like a V rather than a U allows less junk to get between the club and the ball. We are not using the bounce on this type of shot, we are using the leading edge to slice through the rough en route to the ball. Coming in too shallow is a huge problem with this shot, because you will tend to hit it high on the face reducing control.

Use your increased AoA on all of your crappy lies, and you will have a much better chance to get up and down more often!

Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

The final piece of the puzzle through the ball is speed through the pivot. You cannot hit shots around the green out of tall grass without keeping the club moving and having speed. A reduction of speed is obvious as the club enters into the tall grass, but you don’t want to exacerbate this problem by cutting off your pivot and letting the arms do all the work.

Sure, there are times when you want to cut off the body rotation through the ball, but not on the shot I am discussing here. When we are using spin, you must have speed to generate the spin itself. So, what is the key to maintaining your speed? Keeping the rear shoulder rotating long into the forward swing. If you do this, you will find that your arms, hands, and club will be pulled through the impact zone. If your pivot stalls, then your speed will decrease and your shots will suffer.

Hopefully, by now you understand how to create better shots around the green using the new wedge technology to create more spin with lies that we had no chance to do so before. Remembering these simple tips — coupled with your clean and dry wedge — will give you the best opportunity to be Tiger-like around the greens!

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Instruction

An awesome drill for lag that works with the ball!

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Many lag drills have come and gone in this game because they have a hard time working when the ball is there! How many times do you hear about someone having a great practice swing and then having it all go away when the ball is there? This one is a keeper!

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