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Tour players know how to “bury the dead”

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Recently, a friend of mine went to a PGA Tour event and came back to the lesson tee to ask me about a drill a Tour player was doing. He had a front-row seat to watch one of the world’s best players practice, but he knew he missed something.

My friend was hanging around the short-game area when the tour player came up and dropped about 40 balls right in front of him. He began hitting shots to the same flag over and over again. It was not a particularly tough shot, but he kept hitting it until he hit all the balls and they were in a nice pile around the hole.

[quote_box_center]”Why would he do that?” my friend asked me. “It looked like a shot he should have no trouble playing.”[/quote_box_center]

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I told him that the tour player was doing what is called “burying the dead.”

You are now thinking the same thing he was thinking. “What?”

Somewhere in the last tournament, the tour player had a shot just like the one he was practicing and he either played it poorly, incorrectly, or both. He was going to hit as many perfect shots as he needed to erase that bad shot from his memory. During my playing career, I did the same thing many times in practice to restore my confidence level in a shot.

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What really good players have is a sense of what they need to address and work on after a round. The best-of-the-best reflect deeply on the good and bad from their rounds, assess what needs attention, and then they go about fixing that issue.

Sometimes it does not mean hitting lots of shots, but taking lots of practice swings. Or maybe it requires doing a drill numerous times to ingrain a feeling or change. Either way, it is just not hitting away at a pile of balls aimlessly. There is an attention to detail.

Golf is just too competitive at its top levels to practice without a purpose or plan. In the story above, the player’s plan was to cover the one bad shot with a bunch of good ones so that when he had that shot again, he could simply say with confidence, “I’ve got this shot,” without dwelling on the past.

The next time you’re done with a round, take a moment and reflect on what you need to work on in your game. Sometimes this means writing some notes on your scorecard or in a notebook after the round, while other times you might simply need a mental reminder. I like my players to make notes on paper so they can organize and prioritize what they need to practice. All my players get yardage book-size academy notebooks to keep in their bags just for this reason.

You can also ask your playing partners what shots they saw you struggle with on the course. You’re not looking for a lesson from them, just an clear picture of what areas of your game need some attention. Their unbiased assessment could provide a keen insight into a weakness they see regularly.

On the PGA and LPGA tours, the pros have their caddies as their neutral eyes and lean on them for honest evaluations of area that need to be addressed. A player’s coach should also be a good listener and ask questions that get lengthy game-play analysis from the player. This is a key and something I do with every player who is serious about their game from the top level through the junior level.

A coach has to listen first, then give the player the plan to “bury the dead.”

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If you are an avid Golf Channel viewer you are familiar with Rob Strano the Director of Instruction for the Strano Golf Academy at Kelly Plantation Golf Club in Destin, FL. He has appeared in popular segments on Morning Drive and School of Golf and is known in studio as the “Pop Culture” coach for his fun and entertaining Golf Channel segments using things like movie scenes*, song lyrics* and familiar catch phrases to teach players. His Golf Channel Academy series "Where in the World is Rob?" showed him giving great tips from such historic landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, on a Gondola in Venice, Tuscany Winery, the Roman Colissum and several other European locations. Rob played professionally for 15 years, competing on the PGA, Nike/Buy.com/Nationwide and NGA/Hooters Tours. Shortly after embarking on a teaching career, he became a Lead Instructor with the golf schools at Pine Needles Resort in Pinehurst, NC, opening the Strano Golf Academy in 2003. A native of St. Louis, MO, Rob is a four time honorable mention U.S. Kids Golf Top 50 Youth Golf Instructor and has enjoyed great success with junior golfers, as more than 40 of his students have gone on to compete on the collegiate level at such established programs as Florida State, Florida and Southern Mississippi. During the 2017 season Coach Strano had a player win the DII National Championship and the prestigious Nicklaus Award. He has also taught a Super Bowl and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, a two-time NCAA men’s basketball national championship coach, and several PGA Tour and LPGA Tour players. His PGA Tour players have led such statistical categories as Driving Accuracy, Total Driving and 3-Putt Avoidance, just to name a few. In 2003 Rob developed a nationwide outreach program for Deaf children teaching them how to play golf in sign language. As the Director of the United States Deaf Golf Camps, Rob travels the country conducting instruction clinics for the Deaf at various PGA and LPGA Tour events. Rob is also a Level 2 certified AimPoint Express Level 2 green reading instructor and a member of the FlightScope Advisory Board, and is the developer of the Fuzion Dyn-A-line putting training aid. * Golf Channel segments have included: Caddyshack Top Gun Final Countdown Gangnam Style The Carlton Playing Quarters Pump You Up

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. duckjr78

    Mar 6, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    This is a very underrated part of the game! So much more than “I have trouble with chip shots, I better go practice my chipping.” This encompasses practice, assessment, in-round awareness, attitude, and a host of other golf necessities. Great article Rob!

  2. talljohn777

    Mar 5, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    Wonderful. Thank you for the focus.

  3. Alex

    Mar 5, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    Great article Rob. I’ve definitely practiced shots that I screwed up during the round but not as much as you suggest. I’ll be more conscious about this in the future.

  4. Ken

    Mar 5, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    Love this article. It makes good sense to create new memories with regard to a specific shot or situation. Thanks!

  5. Chris

    Mar 5, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    Great article. I would love to see more articles on players practice routines. What are some ways they practice things, particularly short game areas to ensure their practice time is the most efficient and productive as possible?

    Would love to see an article on this.

  6. Rob Strano

    Mar 5, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Ponjo, thanks for the comment and I have to admit you got me to laugh. Never thought of that comment, that is a really good one.

  7. Ponjo

    Mar 5, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    Off to the cemetery right now Rob

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