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Ingredients for better golf? Crunch the numbers

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I got an email the other day from a golfer looking to dig into his game and really make an effort to shave a few shots off his handicap. He sent me a detailed description of his game and how he perceived it: pretty good with the driver, decent short game, need to get better with the irons, etc.

The trouble with this interpretation? He, like most golfers, was merely guessing.

To improve as fast as possible, golfers need raw statistical data from their rounds (competitive rounds, if possible) before they can get a true picture of the state of their game. This has nothing to do with golf swing fundaments; it’s simply an assessment of how golfers play the game, where they score and where they struggle.

With the help of a couple new companies and a launch monitor, golfers can get very specific about where they need to improve.

1. Measure

To get better, golfers need to know exactly what is happening on the golf course. I’m no different than anyone else; I can sit on the range and hit shot after shot, yet when I go to the course things are different. You won’t know what is different until you measure, and you need a good way to measure — more than just your score.

The guys at Birdiefire have done a great job providing a service to do just that. You’ll have to set aside 5-10 minutes after the round to input your data, but the information you’re going to get will be extremely helpful. I pay for the service because I think the company is good at what it does. If it can help me, maybe it can help you, too. And there are several other companies that offer similar products.

Below is what the round entry interface looks like, and you will see one of these for each hole.

better-user-interface

Entering a round on Birdiefire from a laptop/desktop.

Take a look at the picture below. From a report, you can analyze approach shot data over a period of time, the distance window to the hole, the amount of attempts, and the average to a par of 3 from that window.

approach

Analytics report from Birdiefire

There’s a ton of great information, but a few things stick out to me. From 201-210 yards, the average is 3.1 in 21 attempts. From 71-80 yards, the average with roughly the same amount of attempts is a touch higher at 3.15. This player is averaging the same score from 71-80 yards as he is from 201-210 yards, which we know leaves a huge opportunity for improvement.

2. Make A Plan

Once you’ve got some great information like this, the road to actually improving gets very clear. In continuing the example above, this player would not only look at his technique, but also his strategy and decision making on the golf course. It’s tough to talk about fundamentals because every golfer is different, but using Trackman and data sets from the exact yardage windows give you get a pretty clear picture of what you should be doing from a strategy standpoint.

Trackman gives golfers great information about their tendencies when they track a group of shots. The picture shows the Trackman results of a college player hitting 20 shots with an 8 iron. From a flat lie and with the same club over and over, the dispersion will be as small as it’s going to get. In other words, this will be the tightest dispersion of shots you could or would expect with the same club over time.

better4

The pink ring represents the edge of the green

What does this look like on the golf course? If this player was aware of his dispersion, more shots missing left than right, then he’d pick an 8 iron, use the aim line in the image and theoretically have a very high probability of not missing the green. I think intuitively we all are aware of aiming away from a flagstick that is next to water or a bunker. Using the dispersion of shots, be aware of your tendencies so you can use the information on the golf course to maximize your chances of hitting the green. In a one-off situation, you may need to birdie the last hole or alter your strategy, but over the course of a season, if you can save 0.25 shots per round — that’s one shot a tournament — and on the PGA Tour that could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A friend of mine, Scott Fawcett, has done some great work in this area, and his players have already won a U.S. Junior Championship and an NCAA Division I stroke play title. He also teaches golfers on the Web.com and PGA tours. If you’d like more in-depth information about what Scott does you can check him out at playinglesson.com.

3. Execute and Repeat

You’ve got great statistical information about what is happening on the golf course from Birdiefire, great information about dispersion patterns and carry distances of your clubs with Trackman… now the last part is the most difficult. It’s executing your new plan/strategy.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood over a shot in a tournament, aimed 10 yards away from a flagstick and on the downswing decided to hold off the face or rotate it over to get the ball to go toward the flag I’m aiming away from. Sometimes it worked out fine, but many times I paid the price.

Remember, playing golf is very different than working on your golf swing fundamentals. The decisions you make on the golf course, the strategy you choose to implement, and the way you spend your time practicing all will have an impact on the scores you shoot. Don’t guess at what you can measure, and use those measurements to drive improvement.

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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

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Speedy

    Jul 9, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    I just wanna beer after my 81.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 10, 2015 at 9:36 am

      Speedy,

      Maybe we can track which beer helps you play best in your next round, would it shape your beer choice? Big IPA fan personally.

      Cheers

      Rob

  2. mat69

    Jul 9, 2015 at 11:54 am

    any suggestions for a Uk version?
    Thanks

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 10, 2015 at 9:34 am

      Mat,

      Birdiefire works nicely in the UK as well, a little bit of work to get everything up and running, and from there you should get some great feedback. Good Luck!

      Rob

  3. Ken

    Jul 8, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    Even if you had to make 18 photocopies of the image with all the questions on it, and fill one out with your scoring pencil while you’re playing each hole, it’d be worth it. And if you’re half-ways coordinated, you wouldn’t be “slowing down the game,” so there’s no argument there. This also takes away the excuse of “remembering all that info after a round.” Being manly men (for those of us who are men), putting pencil to paper a little more often in order to improve our enjoyment of the game should not be a big chore. I heartily approve.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 10, 2015 at 9:32 am

      Ken,

      Thanks for the vote of confidence on this one, at the very least, tracking your game forces you to reflect, or think, about what is really happening on the golf course.

      All the best with your golf!

      Rob

  4. Dave S

    Jul 8, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    Biggest problem here is remembering all that info after a round. Unless you track your club on an app right after the shot (or hole) it’s tough. Gamegolf and Arccos both are good, but still in beta phase IMO… i’ve read about too many kinks in both systems to make me want to plop down $300 for either of them yet… but I have no doubt that’s the future of golf stat tracking.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 8, 2015 at 2:26 pm

      Dave,

      I’ve always looked at what the best teams and players are using most, two stat platforms stick out, Birdiefire, and homemade versions of Mark Broadie’s strokes gained data. No question you’ll spend a little bit of time entering rounds, I always felt going the little extra mile gave me an edge on the people I was trying to beat. Didn’t mean I’d beat them, I just felt like I was preparing better/practicing better, etc.

      All the best!

      Rob

  5. Peakation

    Jul 8, 2015 at 8:54 am

    Gamegolf will do this “automatically”. Same with other shot trackers out there like Arccos. Several apps as well. Gamegolf’s app is free. Nice web interface will give you all the stats.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 8, 2015 at 2:22 pm

      Peak,

      All depends on willingness to use the plugs on the butt end of the grip, in my playing days would have been hesitant in using them, just my preference. Would like to see Game and Arccos report and analytics side.

      Rob

  6. Gary

    Jul 7, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    Thanks Rob. You can also try GolfLogix and GetRealGolfStats. Both those you can use as you play so you don’t have to enter it in later. I’ve also just purchased a Microsoft Band which is partnering with Taylormade (https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-band/en-us/support/health-and-exercise/golf-tile) to track all your golf shots without having to enter data. I’ve been tracking my golf status since the mid 90’s when I had created a Access program to capture it.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 7, 2015 at 9:31 pm

      Gary,

      Thanks for the thoughts, the best feedback I’ve found comes from detailed work on compiling your stats. There is no easy way to get this done, it takes time and effort, and can’t imagine a better way to evaluate exactly what is happening on the golf course. Love that you used access, my first stat tracking program was a database through microsoft works. Good luck and keep tracking!

      Rob

  7. Mike

    Jul 7, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    Thanks Rob, I’ve been looking for something like Birdiefire. I’m a 7hdcp and am trying to get to a 5. I’ve been using GolfShot and the stats it provide are nice to look at but they aren’t actionable. An old timer at my club was giving me some advice the other day and he told me I needed to start keeping track of all my stats if I really wanted to improve. He showed me a little note book he used that had charts and numbers for every shot he took. He did everything by hand! Thanks but no thanks, I think I’ll try Birdiefire.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 7, 2015 at 9:34 pm

      Mike,

      The information directly shapes practice and instruction and will have the greatest impact on your improvement. You’ve got a lot of work in front of you and any gains are going to be hard earned, you’re on the right track and good luck!

      Rob

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Instruction

Me and My Golf: Top 5 driving tips (plus one of our biggest giveaways ever)

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In this week’s Impact Show, we share with you five of our best driving tips that have helped many of our students and online members knock shots off their scores!

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WATCH: When to chip with your 60-degree wedge

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In this video, Ryan Benzel, PGA Pro at Sahalee Country Club shows you when to use your 60-degree wedge around the green.

 

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Is your “dad bod” ruining your golf swing? This workout can help

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This article was co-written with Nick Buchan, owner of the excellent online resource Stronger Golf

If you are a working father, I’m willing to bet that over the years, golf and working out have slipped down the priority list a few spots. While commitments such as work, family, more work and kid’s taxi service have increased, so the time for working on your game and body has dwindled to almost nothing.

This has likely left you feeling a little disconnected from your former athletic prime, we know that sedentary lifestyles are strongly linked to decreased muscle mass, reduced strength and increased BMI. This will likely have a negative impact on club-head speed and fatigue levels during the round.

Worst still, all that time spent chained to the office desk has likely ingrained some poor postural habits and negatively affected your ability to turn in the golf swing. Fixed posture is thought to be a key contributor to neck and back pain, generally causes all manor of aches, niggles and discomfort, whilst placing a general ‘lock’ on your mobility.

Sitting at a desk all day (in fact staying in any one position for long periods of time) causes your body to adapt to make that position more efficient. For example, sitting all day may cause your hip flexors to become short and weak (due to lack of load on them), your glutes to shut off and your spine to flex forward, which in turn can result in anterior pelvic tilt, which leads to your hamstrings and low back feeling ‘tight.’

As you can see this postural pattern has pretty far reaching consequences, all of which contribute to those niggles you get from daily life and when you do get a chance to play, negatively affect your ability to execute the golf swing of old.

Further, the lack of systematic load on your musculature is causing a lack of tissue resiliency – i.e. those aches and pains you’ve been experiencing – as well as leading to reduced force output. This is an issue as force output is the vital ingredient for moving fast, the ultimate determinant of club-head speed, and even correlates to how long you will live!

If and when you do get the chance to practice or play, the postural inhibition, loss of strength and lack of golf movement pattern practice are likely to be major restrictive factors in the outcome.

The good news is (as you probably already know), a solid exercise routine can counteract the detrimental effects of your lifestyle that have manifested themselves in “Dad Bod Syndrome.”

The bad news is, you’ve tried that before and can never quite make it stick. You’ve likely been left disappointed about the falling standard of your game and frustrated at the lack of time available to fix the problems.

The Proposed Solution

Work out in way that is quick, easy, efficient, doesn’t require much equipment and targets the following priority areas for improvement:

  • Lose some body fat
  • Gain mobility in T-Spine, Shoulders and Hips
  • Improve Posture
  • Re-gain some basic strength
  • Practice a quality golf movement pattern

This quick and easy, circuit style workout ticks the outlined points above. It doesn’t take forever (less than 45 minutes) and requires minimal gym equipment. Aim to complete it 2-4 times per week, depending on other commitments.

Format: Circuit

Total Time: 45 mins

Equipment: Med-ball, Kettlebell, 41 inch Power Band, GravityFit TPro

Rounds: 3 to 5

Rest between exercises: 10 secs

Rest between rounds: 90 secs

Exercise Guide Playlist (you can shuffle between videos)

Warm-Up

1 round, 30 secs each

Half-kneeling alternate reach

Windshield wiper

PNF diagonal pull-apart

T-Spine rotation with groin stretch

Quadruped rock backs

Bar hang

Cross connect march

Strength Circuit

Exercise 1 – Med-ball slam

Priority – power

Equip – med-ball

Reps – 10

Exercise 2 – Split Stance Turns

Priority – golf movement patterns

Equip – TPro

Reps – 10 each side

Exercise 3 – Kettlebell Swing

Priority – basic strength / conditioning

Equip – kettlebell

Reps – 20

Exercise 4 – Push Up with Band

Priority – basic strength

Equip – power band

Reps – 12

Exercise 5 – 1 Arm Row

Priority – basic strength

Equip – kettlebell

Reps – 10 each side

Exercise 6 – Pallof Press

Priority – basic strength

Equip – power band

Reps – 10 each side

Exercise 7 – Suitcase Carry

Priority – strength/ conditioning

Equip – kettlebell

Reps – 30 seconds each side

To progress simply aim to do more reps in the same time and/or increase the duration of each exercise and/or increase the number of rounds in each circuit and/or reduce the rest periods and/or increase the weight/load used.

This workout isn’t special or innovative or entertaining. But it is practical, and it is useful, and it will help to reduce and reverse the effects of “Dad Bod Syndrome.”

 

 

If you would like something more tailored to your specific needs, check out the training program options at Stronger Golf or Golf Fit Pro

For more information on the featured equipment, check out the links below:

Med-ball

Kettlebell

41 Inch Power Band

GravityFit TPro

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