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Game of the Weekend: Go Low

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When you practice, you should always practice in the same manner in which you play. And that not only means the shots that you find on the course, but also setting up situations that bring up certain emotions, mental challenges and feelings that you experience when on the course.

In the case of this Game of the Weekend, called “Go Low,” we are setting up an ideal on-course situation: You just hit 18 greens in regulation! Certainly, the game of golf is typically not that generous; great scores are achieved by making up-and-downs and hitting an array of short-game shots, but with “Go Low” you’re in a situation that puts pressure on yourself… a good kind of pressure.

Golfers get nervous when they realize that they’re playing well. They tend to self-destruct and find a way to fall right back into the same range of scores that they tend to shoot. “Go Low” will help you get more comfortable with breaking your scoring barriers and shooting lower numbers. So imagine you’ve hit all of the greens. It’s exactly what you’ve been working toward and practicing so hard for. Now it’s time to finish off each hole with great putting and an attitude of going low!

Game of the Weekend: Go Low

  • Gear needed: Your putter and one golf ball.
  • Time needed: 10 minutes max

Rules: Pretend that you’ve hit every single green in regulation today, giving you 18 birdie opportunities. Each first putt must be between 25 and 45 feet and you’re going to add up your score in relation to par (with two putts equaling par). For example, let’s say that you one-putt five times and two-putt par all of the others giving you a total of 5-under par. Enter your score into the system based on a par-72 golf score. So at 5-under par you would enter 67 into our www.golfscrimmages.com practice website. Seeing such low scores next to your name is always good for your psyche. This game can help you break through some scoring barriers that you have.

Note: if, when you play a regular round of golf on the course, you tend to hit the greens in one more shot than regulation, then add up the score in the same fashion but enter your score based on a par of 90 instead of 72.

Benefits: Here’s what this game helps you with.

  • It will help you break through whatever your scoring barrier is.
  • You will gain confidence from seeing low scores next to your name.

Bring the elements, situations, feelings and emotions that you find on the course to practice!

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Trent Wearner is the No. 1-rated teacher in Colorado by Golf Digest Magazine, as well as a two-time Colorado PGA Teacher of the Year (2004, 2014). Along the way, he has been recognized as a Top 20 Teacher Under Age 40 by Golf Digest, a Top 50 Kids Teacher in America by U.S. Kids Golf and a Top Teacher in the Southwestern U.S. by GOLF Magazine. Trent is also the author of the book Golf Scrimmages and creator of the website GolfScrimmages.com

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Forrest

    Sep 14, 2015 at 10:15 am

    I play a very similar game like this, albeit with a slightly modified scoring setup. My emphasis has been on improving my 2 putt ability to take advantage of my improved ball striking. I’ve seen an uptick in GIR from 7.2 to 9.54 this year. The flip side of course has been more putts because my first putt (for birdie) is likely coming from 30+ feet a few more times than when my first putt (for par) would be coming from inside 12 feet.

    Since our practice greens both have 9 holes on them, I typically just play it out for 9 holes (but could easily go to 18). Every putt starts at roughly 25-45 feet. My scoring system is as follows:
    – 8 points…first putt holed
    – 4 points…first putt inside 3 feet (use my 34.5″ putter as reference) and 2nd putt holed
    – 2 points…first putt outside 3 feet and 2nd putt holed)
    – 0 points…three putt
    – (-2) points…we don’t talk about these

    The one adjustment I make to the game is that if I go 3 holes in a row scoring 4 or 8 points, then on the 4th hole I start from roughly 10-15 feet to have a good look at birdie. Likewise, if I three putt a hole then the next hole I will start from as far away as I can get going to the next hole in my route.

    So far my best score is 32 over 9 holes…and I’ve seen an improvement in my putting as I would typically score 18-22 in this game but am now running 26-32 over the past month. Likewise, my handicap was 8.5 on June 15 and will be at 6.6 on September 15.

    Thanks for sharing this with the site Trent. I’m a big believer in this drill as a great replication of “practicing how you play.”

  2. sgniwder99

    Sep 13, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    In principle I think this is a great game, but just a thought: it seems like you ought to have about 5 of those 18 putts be in the 8-15ft range. That seems more like reasonable birdie range to me, and presumably if you had one of those ideal ball-striking days you’d knock a few fairly close. To me, those are the ones you really have to capitalize on to “go low” compared to your normal scores. For the rest of those, I’d put them in the 25-45ft range, to represent the holes where you’re really trying not to squander a good round by 3-putting the approaches that are a bit more mediocre–if you make one of those, it’s really a bonus.

    Maybe to promote staying aggressive on all those putts, you could adapt the “drawback” game you showed us a couple of weeks ago as an add-on to this: if you hit your first putt past the hole, you putt out from wherever the putt ends up. If you don’t get the putt to the hole, you pull it back a putter-length and putt out from there.

    Maybe I’m just over-complicating things.

  3. Philip

    Sep 12, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    This is a great warm-up to help me trust myself and get more aggressive on my putts – thanks

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Instruction

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 2)

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Golf is very much a monkey-see-monkey-do sport. If you ever go to the local range, you are sure to see golfers trying to copy the moves of their favorite player. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not. While I understand the logic of trying to mimic the “secret move” of the most recent winner on tour, I always balk when the person trying to create their best impression fails to realize the physical differences between them and the best golfing athletes in the world.

Read part 1 here. 

In addition to most golfers not being at the same fitness levels as the best players in the world, they also do not have bodies that are identical to their favorite player. This single statement proves why there is not one golf swing; we all are different sizes and are going to swing the club differently due to these physical differences.

You have to understand your swing

The biggest reason I believe that golfers are better than they think is most golfers I meet do not understand what their swings should look like. Armed with video after video of their golf swing, I will always hear about the one thing that the golfer wishes they could change. However, that one thing is generally the “glue” or athleticism of the athlete on display and is also the thing that allows them to make decent contact with the ball.

We are just coming out of the “video age” of golf instruction, and while I think that recording your golf swing can be extremely helpful, I think that it is important to understand what you are looking for in your swing. As a young coach, I fell victim to trying to create “pretty swings”, but quickly learned that there is not a trophy for prettiest swing.

It comes down to form or function, and I choose function

The greatest gift I have ever received as an instructor was the recommendation to investigate Mike Adams and BioSwing Dynamics. Mike, E.A. Tischler, and Terry Rowles have done extensive research both with tour-level players as well as club golfers and have developed a way to test or screen each athlete to determine not only how their golf swing will look, but also how they will use the ground to create their maximum speed. This screen can be completed with a tape measure and takes about five minutes, and I have never seen results like I have since I began measuring.

For example, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a golf swing that tracks more to the outside during the backswing and intersects the body more towards the trail shoulder plane during the backswing. A golfer with a shorter wingspan than height will have a swing that tracks more to the inside and intersects the body closer to the trail hip plane. Also, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a more upright dynamic posture than a golfer with a shorter wingspan than height who will be more “bent over” at the address position.

Sport coats and golf swings

Have you ever bought a sport coat or suit for a special occasion? If so, pay attention to whether it is a short, regular, or long. If you buy a long, then it means that your arms are longer than your torso and you can now understand why you produce a “steeper” backswing. Also, if you stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your middle-finger tips touching the top of your kneecaps, you will have perfect dynamic posture that matches your anatomy. If it appears that you are in a taller posture, then you have your second clue that your wingspan is greater than your height.

Translation to improvement

Using this and five other screens, we can help the athletes understand a complete blueprint of their golf swing based off their anatomy. It is due to the work of Mike, E.A., and Terry that we can now matchup the player to their swing and help them play their best. The reason that I believe that most golfers are better than they think is that most golfers have most of the correct puzzle pieces already. By screening each athlete, we can make the one or two adjustments to get the player back to trusting their swing and feeling in control. More importantly, the athlete can revisit their screen sheet when things misfire and focus on what they need to do, instead of what not to do.

We are all different and all have different swings. There is no one way to swing a golf club because there is no one kind of golfer. I encourage every golfer to make their swing because it is the only one that fits.

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How golf should be learned

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With the COVID-19 pandemic, golf is more popular than ever. Beginners being introduced to the game often find that golf is very hard, much harder than other sports they have played. To simplify the golf swing and make the game easier, it needs to start with a concept.

Golf should first be learned from a horizontal position. If the ball was placed four feet above the ground on a large tee, players would naturally turn in an efficient direction with the proper sequence to strike the ball on the tee.

Take for example, a person throwing a ball towards a target. With their eyes out in front of them? having an awareness to the target, their body would naturally turn in a direction to go forward and around towards the target. In golf, we are bent over from the hips, and we are playing from the side of the golf ball, so players tend to tilt their body or over-rotate, causing an inefficient backswing.

This is why the golf swing should be looked at as a throwing motion. The trail arm folds up as the body coils around. To throw a ball further, the motion doesn’t require more body turn or a tilt of the body.

To get the feeling of this horizontal hitting position or throwing motion, start by taking your golf posture. Make sure your trail elbow is bent and tucked with your trail shoulder below your lead shoulder.

From here, simply lift your arms in front of you while you maintain the bend from your hips. Look over your lead shoulder looking at the target. Get the clubhead traveling first and swing your arms around you. Note how your body coils. Return the club back to its original position.

After a few repetitions, simply lower your arms back to the ball position, swing your arms around you like you did from the horizontal position. Allow your shoulders, chest and hips to be slightly pulled around. This is now your “throwing position” in the golf swing. From here, you are ready to make a downswing with less movement needed to make a proper strike.

Note: Another great drill to get the feel for this motion is practicing Hitting driver off your knees.

Twitter: @KKelley_golf

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Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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