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Did Jason Day just have the best putting year of any Tour pro ever?

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Jason Day was ranked No. 1 in Strokes-Gained Putting for the 2016 season. His average Strokes Gained on the field per round was an incredible 1.13 strokes (4.52 strokes per event). For context, this is the largest advantage recorded over the 13 years for which Strokes-Gained Putting is now available. This article explains how his performance was superior, and why I believe it is the best ALL TIME.

What is Strokes-Gained Putting?

The PGA Tour added its new Strokes-Gained Putting analysis in 2011. It was a revolutionary breakthrough in analysis, and a huge departure from the myopic, one-dimensional putting stats of yesteryear (number of putts per round and number of putts per GIR’s).

Simply stated, Strokes-Gained Putting places a numeric value on each putting opportunity based on distance from the hole. The result of the shot (or putt) is: [Start Value – Number of Putts to Hole Out]. The starting distance values on the PGA Tour are based upon the average performance on Tour since 2004 when ShotLink was implemented. My company, ShotByShot.com, uses start values that are based on the average performance of all of the “Scratch” rounds recorded in our system since 2003 (Scratch = 0 differential from Slope Adjusted Course Rating).

Start = 8 ft.  Value = 1.50 (A Tour player will make this putt 50 percent of the time).

# Putts: 1; SG =  0.5 (1.5 – 1.0 = 0.5)

# Putts: 2; SG = 0-.5 (1.5 – 2.0 = -0.5)

Here’s an example of how Strokes-Gained Putting works. Let’s say a golfer has an 8-foot putt, which the stats say a player should make 50 percent of the time. The putt is given a value of 1.5. If the golfer makes it, he/she gains 0.5 strokes on the field. If the golfer misses it, he/she loses 0.5 strokes on the field.

There is a complete explanation of Strokes Gained and its history on my website: ShotByShot.com.

Back to J. Day

I have conducted a detailed study of the No. 1-ranked player each year since 2011. The results provide valuable perspective for the Tour players with whom I work. Because the Tour now produces this analysis as far back as ShotLink was collecting the data, I can now include players from 2004 forward.

Strokes-Gained-Putting-1

P.S. I found it worthy to note that Ben Crane was the best putter on Tour for two consecutive years and Luke Donald for THREE!

Jason Day vs. the No. 1s

I was immediately curious to see what Day did to overshadow all of the prior No. 1s. Could it be that he three-putted fewer times than the other 12? No! Day’s 2.4 percent rate of three-putts per holes played was actually the second highest among his No. 1 peers.

Side Note: For the benefit of the rest of us, the average 10-handicap’s three-putt avoidance is 8.5 percent, or almost three times that of the Tour’s 3.04 percent average.

3-putt-avoidance

And no, Day also did not one-putt with greater frequency than the other No. 1s. It was his unusual consistency that set him apart.

We all have our good and bad days on the greens AND, so do the best putters on Tour… except Day in 2016. In 16 events this year where Strokes Gained was measured, he never had a negative Strokes-Gained Putting result. None of the No. 1s had ever done that.

Have a look at the numbers in the graph below. Only Tiger came close in 2004 with only one negative Strokes-Gained event.

Putting-Strokes-Gained

Jason Day vs. 2016 Tour Average

Finally, I looked into exactly what separated Day by 1.13 shots every round from the rest of the Tour in 2016. Only 18 percent of the difference resulted from fewer three-putts (see three-putt avoidance above). The remaining 82 percent resulted from increased one-putts, particularly Day’s very high standard in the range of 6-to-15 feet.

My research showed me long ago that on Tour the range of 6-10 feet separates the good putters from the pack, while the range of 11-20 feet determines the winners. Day’s putting no doubt played a major role in his three wins, ten Top-10s, $8+ million earned and his No. 1 ranking.

1-putt-percent

Difference-in-1-putts

Is Jason’s 2016 putting season the best EVER?

We can easily agree that it is the best since 2004. The numbers are clear. And I don’t believe that there could have been a better putting season prior to 2004, because there have been too many important advancements in technology and agronomy in the past 14 years.

Technology: The quality and consistency of the balls and putters has dramatically improved, and so have the instruction tools. Further, with vastly improved analysis by distance ranges, players have much better information on exactly where they need to work to compete.

Agronomy: Putting surfaces are simply much better. Improved strains of grass and dramatically improved maintenance equipment and practices produce consistently smoother putting surfaces.

We will never know for sure, but I am confident that Day’s performance, at least as captured by ShotLink, is the best ever. It will be fun to see if it can be topped in the years to come.

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In 1989, Peter Sanders founded Golf Research Associates, LP, creating what is now referred to as Strokes Gained Analysis. His goal was to design and market a new standard of statistically based performance analysis programs using proprietary computer models. A departure from “traditional stats,” the program provided analysis with answers, supported by comparative data. In 2006, the company’s website, ShotByShot.com, was launched. It provides interactive, Strokes Gained analysis for individual golfers and more than 150 instructors and coaches that use the program to build and monitor their player groups. Peter has written, or contributed to, more than 60 articles in major golf publications including Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and Golf for Women. From 2007 through 2013, Peter was an exclusive contributor and Professional Advisor to Golf Digest and GolfDigest.com. Peter also works with PGA Tour players and their coaches to interpret the often confusing ShotLink data. Zach Johnson has been a client for nearly five years. More recently, Peter has teamed up with Smylie Kaufman’s swing coach, Tony Ruggiero, to help guide Smylie’s fast-rising career.

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Tony Wright

    Dec 13, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    Peter congratulations on an absolutely terrific article!

  2. adam

    Nov 14, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    I think the stat could be further enhanced by adding the difficulty of a putt, in addition to the distance. The pro average on a straight, 8-foot uphill putt is going to be substantially better than 50%. Wouldn’t be surprised to see downhill, 8-foot sliders come in at 20%.

    The good player will, of course, leave himself with easier putts. So, perhaps Day has the wedge control to dial in an 8-foot, uphill putt on a consistent basis. Does this make him a better putter, or just a better wedge player. Hmmm.

    • Tal

      Nov 15, 2016 at 12:47 am

      That’s the next stage of SG putting. Taking break angle and severity into account! That would be awesome! Although even the best wedge players in the world can’t leave themselves a straight uphill putt all the time. So Day’s good putting is unlikely to be as a result of always leaving himself straight putts. If he could do that, he may as well just drop the ball off in the hole every time. TV distorts our view of why pro golfers are better than even top amateurs. It’s little improvements in all areas that make the difference. They can’t choose exactly where to leave the ball on the green.

      For perspective, his total SG tee to green (including .375 strokes per round around the greens) was .987 strokes per round. He gained 1.310 strokes per round putting. Despite gaining strokes around the greens, this shows his putting was more valuable to him than his short game, proving his putting stats are down to his putting like the author said.

      • adam

        Nov 15, 2016 at 12:06 pm

        He’s a good putter, no doubt. However, every player with a wedge in his hand is trying to create a favorable putting situation (while minimizing risk). When you can move the ball and control trajectory and distance, you’re going to leave yourself with easier putts. Isn’t that the basis of Striker’s game? Of Furyk’s?

        However, I think the stat isn’t all that helpful at present. You’d need much more sophisticated data gathering and analysis. This has to be the next step for the stat to be truly meaningful.

        • Tal

          Nov 16, 2016 at 6:00 am

          I think it’s a very complete stat. There is room for improvement for sure, but it’s better than any other putting stat we have. Like you said, every player is looking for the best putt and again, these guys aren’t as accurate as tv makes them look froom 100 in. For this reason, SG is still able to measure pure putting skill better than any other stat we have. (It does take uphill and downhill into account too, by the way)

    • Peter

      Nov 16, 2016 at 3:30 pm

      Adam,
      I actually started with SG Putting 28 years ago and worked with quite a number of LPGA players (easier to get to know). My observations and limited testing did NOT reveal meaningful differences in relative difficulty. When MIT got into the SG game in 2010, they agreed that an 8 ft. putt is valued at 1.5 regardless of up down or sideways.
      Finally, on that point, imagine the added complexity of data entry – a major barrier to usage.

  3. mark

    Nov 14, 2016 at 10:00 am

    All I have to say is Jordan Speith’s putting in 2015 was the best Ive ever seen along with Tiger when he was on top. I don’t care what stats say.

    • Uhit

      Nov 14, 2016 at 11:04 am

      They shot some outstanding putts, several times shown in the highlights of the tour…
      …but the (unspectacular) average was not shown, nor remembered.
      If I would collect all my spectacular shots in a best of…
      …you would assume, that I have to be the best player ever…
      …just like most of us, if we only look at our highlights. 😉

      …but if we look at our stats (if we would collect them…), you see, that we are far away from the top.

    • ian

      Nov 14, 2016 at 1:23 pm

      Yup

      • Tal

        Nov 14, 2016 at 5:39 pm

        Spieth is an awesome putter for sure! His approach play and highly efficient driving were the keys to his great 2015 season though. His putting didn’t account for all of his winning advantage.

  4. Uhit

    Nov 13, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    “Strokes-Gained Putting places a numeric value on each putting opportunity based on distance from the hole”

    Is a chip from 30 ft to a hole also a putting opportunity, if the player could use a putter?
    Is a put from outside the green from 30 ft to a hole also a putting opportunity?
    Or has a putting opportunity to be on the green?

    A close chip and a additional put from 30 ft distance, is the same as two putts from 30 ft distance?
    …and independent whether both strokes happened on the green, or not?

    …and a three put from 60 ft on the green vs. a 40 ft chip plus a 18 ft put plus a additional 2 ft put?

    Maybe Jason Day just knew better than most, how to play the last approach shot (to get in a better position) for the following put?

    I think there still are many variables left, and SG is just another try to quantify something, that is barely quantifyable in a correct manner.

    • Tal

      Nov 13, 2016 at 6:45 pm

      Only putts on the green count. Everything else around the green is accounted for by the strokes gained short game stat. It can be broken down further though.

      • Uhit

        Nov 13, 2016 at 8:01 pm

        Ok, but then, it makes not that much sense, to look at the putting SG isolated…

        …because the outcome is also depending from the short game.

        If Day successfully tried to achieve uphill putts with his short game, he had an advantage for his putts – if the rest of the field did not take that opportunity in the same way.

        It is hard to tell, but anyway, Day was really good, and maybe even the best around the hole – more often than others during the season.

        • Tal

          Nov 13, 2016 at 8:17 pm

          SG accurately (enough) demonstrates skill in individual areas compared to the field average. It also somewhat nullifies variables such as rough length and course condition by building a database of millions of shots over time.

          You’re right though; having the best SG putting stats doesn’t mean you scored the best. If you’re constantly hitting the ball to 3 feet then you’d be the best iron player in the world, but we’d learn little about your ability to putt. The SG stat system only works as a whole. I think the reason people over-analyse SG putting is because they’re still clinging to the idea that putting is the most important part of the game. SG data shows this to not necessarily be the case.

          • Uhit

            Nov 14, 2016 at 4:28 am

            Yes, you are probably right, that maybe the strive to see the putting as the holy grail of golf is a part of the over-interest in putting stats…
            …and I can understand this, because if you have a 10´ birdie put on a par five, it is hard to accept, that you can make more than one put to finish the hole…
            …3 strokes for 550 yards and 3 strokes for 10´ is hard to accept…
            …especially with the same club in hands.
            A 70 year old golfer can be a better putter than a 17 year old.
            Putting is for everyone – long driving is not.

            Putting is the hope for the not that gifted player…
            …no matter what stats you are using.

            • Tal

              Nov 14, 2016 at 5:20 pm

              I totally agree. It’s hard to accept hitting an approach to 5 feet and missing the putt. People confuse the missed birdie opportunity because of a missed putt with the fact that putting is more important to scoring, simply because it’s the last thing you remember.

    • Peter

      Nov 16, 2016 at 3:35 pm

      Uhit,
      On Tour, only putts on the putting surface count as putts. In ShotByShot.com, I recommend that players count those shots from just off the green or on the fringe to be putts. If counted as Chips, their chipping results will be artificially improved. At the same time, shots that are truly chipping opportunities ARE chips even if the putter is the club of choice.

      • Uhit

        Nov 17, 2016 at 3:30 am

        Thank you Peter for the clarification.

        It is always a compromise, where to draw the line between (partly) interchangeable things.
        I remember a player, that chipped on a green, over a spike mark, into the hole (Garcia?).
        The SG stats are similar to a score card…
        …one don´t see the quality of the single shots, but you get a good idea, how well someone played –
        which is exactly the case in this article, where the SG stats help to identify a outstanding putting performance of a single player.

  5. Hans

    Nov 13, 2016 at 4:07 am

    First, thanks for doing the research into how consistency was the real difference (that’s what makes this article interesting). That said, it does at the same time beg the question of what makes for the “best” putter. If some guys stats are lower because he putted worse when he was out of contention, does that make him a worse putter or simply less focused when he mattered less and money when it did matter. And we might care about the latter more, than the former. Still, a nice result by day to stay above average every single event, it says sthg good about his method.

    Another thing tho, it makes me wonder how much the distribution of the types of putts a player has affects the SG stat. For instance in a day one player might have more 5-10 footers than other players. Etc for other distances. And there might be certain distances where players have a better chance of getting positive SG over the field. As an example, I could imagine if you give some guys a combo say 25-30 foot putts all day that they lag close, plus tap ins fro, from chips, that their strokes gained might not have a lot of room to be very high unless his name is spieth. But you give the same dude a bunch of 10 footers and his ability to turn a good putting day into extra strokes on the field becomes much stronger, simply because you can affect the make percentage more. Not saying that those are the distances where that would happen, but more that there might be some critical distances where you can push your SG ahead the most (or lose the most) and so what distances you putt from could affect your ability to move the SG needle.

    • Tal

      Nov 13, 2016 at 8:33 pm

      On your point about distribution of putts, that’s exactly what SG is for. It’s superior to simply counting putts as it takes both distance to the hole and how well you performed from that distance relative to the field. Let’s say you hit every shot from 150 in to 1 foot. Your SG putting would show nothing special but you’d be the greatest iron player in history and assuming your driving wasn’t horrible, you would win every tournament you played in.

      Day’s superior putting performance is down to just that; superiorly consistent putting because the SG stats show that ignoring all other factors (i.e taking SG putting in isolation) he outperformed the field by over 1 stroke per round. That’s a MASSIVE advantage. His driving and approach play added further strokes to his advantage.

    • Tal

      Nov 13, 2016 at 8:49 pm

      SG isn’t the same as just counting putts. If you hole an 8 footer, you gain more strokes to the field than holing a 2 footer. So, if Day was only ever putting from very close to the hole due to great chipping, his SG putting wouldn’t show anything special, but his SG short game would. This article has only taken putting in isolation though, so maybe putting and short game were strong for Day last season. SG though, measures pure putting skill in a way that no other stat can. If you’re interested, you should read ‘Every Shot Counts’ by Mark Broady. It answers all these questions.

  6. K dawg

    Nov 12, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    Sorry but Speith’s putting the year before is the best ever. If the stats don’t identify that…then they aren’t measuring correctly.

    • Tal

      Nov 13, 2016 at 8:35 pm

      You’re basing this off of television highlights.

  7. Pingback: Did Jason Day just have the best putting year of any Tour pro ever? – Swing Update

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Opinion & Analysis

Gil Hanse talks new Les Bordes project, what makes a good golf course, and much more

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professional photo

Gil Hanse is regarded as one of the finest “minimalist” golf course architects of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He’s been entrusted with restoring of the most revered and respected course designs in the game, including Oakland Hills (Donald Ross), Baltusrol (A.W. Tillinghast), and Fishers Island (Seth Raynor). And his original designs have drawn wonderful reviews, including for Streamsong Black, Rio Olympic Course in Brazil, and an 18-hole layout for the Crail Golfing Society in Fife, Scotland.

Hanse and his longtime partner and course shaper, Jim Wagner, enjoy the luxury of picking and choosing which projects they undertake, such is the demand for his services. One of them selected is the New Course at Les Bordes Golf Club in France’s Loire Valley, 90 minutes from Paris. It is scheduled to open in July 2021, and it will join the existing New Course (Robert von Hagge design). Together with the Wild Piglet, a 10-hole short course, and the Himalayas putting course, both which Hanse designed, Les Bordes is regarded at one Continental Europe’s finest golf clubs.

golf course aerial view

The Gil Hanse-designed New Course at Les Bordes Golf Club is surrounded by the Sologne Forest in France’s famed Loire Valley.

Dan Shepherd: Where do you see Les Bordes sitting on the golf world stage as a facility?

Gil Hanse: I think that, with the two 18-hole golf courses and the amenities that are already in place and the ones that are coming, I can’t see how Les Bordes won’t be considered one of the finest golfing destinations in Europe or in the world. You have all the cultural attractions around you, you’ve got the food and the wine, the quality of the amenities. It will be an idyllic place to spend time even if you weren’t playing golf, and then to have these two golf courses so different and varied in their challenges and their presentation really runs the full gamut. I don’t know where else in the world you could find that sort of variety.

DS: Can you pick out a couple of holes on the New Course that you especially like and tell us a bit about them?

GH: The 15th hole, a short-par four, would be one of them. There’s a lot of character and interest, when we were working on it we talked through the philosophy and then Jim Wagner shaped and executed it wonderfully and added some tremendous character to it. On the front nine, I’ve always liked the sixth hole, just the way it flows through the landscape and the different breaks. Trying to be reminiscent a little bit of Tom Simpson with segmented fairways and the way the green lays so simply on the ground.

DS: What makes the landscape at Les Bordes so special? And what makes this golf estate unique.

GH: The diversity of the plant materials is really something we have never encountered, with the broom and the bracken and the variety of trees throughout the property and the fescue grasses. Now they’ve also introduced heather so I think that there are all these great textures there that the golf course just seems to sit amongst. That’s what makes it unique, I can’t think of another golf landscape that looks and feels like the New Course at Les Bordes. There are so many different facets to heathland courses, which you can see in the courses just north of Paris like Morfontaine and Chantilly and the course much closer to where we live in Pine Valley, and I think there are all these different elements here that will create a unique experience at Les Bordes.

DS: How is it possible to build two completely different golf courses on the same estate?

GH: I think it was two different philosophies as to how Robert von Hagge did the Old Course and we approached the New Course. From that perspective, a significant amount of time passed between the creation of both golf courses, and I think that lent itself to, stylistically, different courses that appear differently, because one feels more manufactured and one feels more natural. Neither one is right or wrong, they are just different and one golf course extracts a very harsh penalty for poorly played shots and the other is a little bit more forgiving. I think that is what’s going to make Les Bordes one of the most wonderful golf destinations in the world, you have two distinctly different golf courses from two different eras but the quality of both of them is equivalent in how they were created and how they are presented.

golf course sand bunkers

The Old Course at Les Bordes was designed by Robert von Hagge, and it offers a diverse yet complementary counterpoint to the New Course that will debut in July 2021.

DS: When and how was this project initiated?

GH: The first time I went there was in June 2018. The owner and I had some mutual friends and the conversation came up that the owners were hoping to build a new golf course. The owner had said that he was really hoping to work with us on it, and that fact that we had mutual friends made that conversation easy to get initiated. Once I came to look at the property I was immediately sold on the potential of the ground, and then the hospitality that I was shown while I was there was amazing. Being able to stay on property and the wine and the food; I was treated very well.

DS: What course would you compare the New Course at Les Bordes with?

GH: I can’t think of a direct comparison. There are elements of a number of golf courses including a lot of the great heathland courses around London and several heathland courses around Paris. I think that Jim Wagner and I are always influenced by Pine Valley, which is very near to us here at home, and I think that some of the scale of National Golf Links is apparent out there. If you roll all of those into one, I think that’s a pretty good recipe.

DS: What was it that attracted you about the site at Les Bordes?

GH: The sand and the vegetation, and the reputation of the place. Obviously, we’ve heard of Les Bordes here, so the quality of the site itself and the commitment of the ownership as well, which is a big thing. When we’re considering the criteria of a project, Jim Wagner and I always ask ourselves “Do we have the potential to do something exceptional,” and I think that, while the topography at Les Bordes is not the most outstanding we’ve ever worked with, it still has enough character to it, and the vegetation and the soil gave us the opportunity to do something exceptional. Secondly, we ask ourselves “are we going to have fun doing it” and working with the ownership at Les Bordes, and if you can’t have fun in that part of the world and enjoy yourself then I think there’s something wrong with you. So I think the combination of all those really added up to that being a very attractive project for us. We’ve never built anything in Continental Europe and we wanted to make sure that our first project there was going to be something special, and Les Bordes gave us that opportunity.

DS: What can we expect from the New Course?

GH: You can expect fun golf in a natural, perfect setting. We were given the opportunity from the ownership to build some interesting golf holes; stylistically, it was fun for all of us to focus on Tom Simpson and some of his beautiful creations and some of his inspired designs, not that we copied him stylistically or design-wise but we were certainly influenced by him and that was a treat for us.

DS: It’s been reported you took inspiration from Tom Simpson, what elements of his work were most relevant here and how have you blended those with your own concepts?

GH: The scale of his bunkering was something that we really paid attention to, with clusters or rows of bunkers and that was interesting. From our perspective, it was just the way that they blended into the landscape that was amazing. Some of the green complexes that he built were fairly eccentric and so we felt that we could create a few on the golf course like that, but then he also built some greens that were simple in their presentation yet complex in their subtlety, and a lot of those things fed into what we did at Les Bordes. I know going forward, if the landscape is a good fit, we would certainly do more things in the style of Tom Simpson.

DS: How challenging was it for you to create a new course near the one (the Old Course) that’s considered one of the best in Continental Europe?

GH: I don’t think that we found it to be a challenge or challenging, we found it to be inspirational. It’s always nice when you come to a project and the level of quality is established through the existing golf course and the existing facilities, all of which are to a really high standard. We were excited and challenged in our creativity and what we were trying to do and hopeful that, when all is settled, Les Bordes has two golf courses that are very highly regarded, but I would be lying if I didn’t hope that ours was a little more highly regarded.

DS: Do you feel you succeeded in your goal and why?

GH: I do. I think that every golf architect when they are given a site hopes that the best that they can do is to maximize the characteristics of the site, and I feel that we have done that with the New Course. I feel that we have provided a great variety in the two different nines; we have captured the best of the topography on site; we have worked to enhance some of those areas through added elevation; and we have worked to create a very interesting and playable test of golf. I’m confident that, with all the work that we’ve done there, we have maximized the potential of the property and, as a golf architect when you walk away, that’s all that you can hope for.

DS: Tell me about the Wild Piglet.

GH: One of the things that golf is doing a better job on right now, and Les Bordes is certainly offering that with The Himalayas putting green and The Wild Piglet, is just fun. Fun and access, and providing an easy entry point to the game. You can go out and laugh at yourself, have a good time and not worry about losing golf balls or have the pressures of playing a full-size golf course. Our attempt there was to create a very fun and playable experience, but also one where a good player could go out there and be tested with shots. In order to succeed on The Wild Piglet, you’ve got to hit some really good shots, but you’ve also got the opportunity to just go out there and bang it around and have fun. One of the things that Jim Wagner and I worked with the team on was, basically, giving everybody their own golf hole or holes, and just letting everybody have a crack at it. It was fun and I think that if you go into your own little incubator, independent of everybody around you, it gives you the opportunity to be as creative as you want. Then, ultimately, Jim and I would take a look but I don’zt think that we’ve edited things very much. You have some individual expressions out there that, when put together, comprises 10 really fun, unique golf holes.

DS: What are the characteristics of a golf course that make you want to play it again and again? What makes it recognizable?

GH: I think that it’s fun and that there are interesting shots. It’s the ability to go out one time and then think, “OK, next time I play it I’m going to try this differently” or that you get put into a different circumstance each and every round, but that the design and the creativity within the design allows you to approach the problem solving differently each time. I think there’s that sense of the playability of the course and then there’s just the beauty of it and the presentation. I think that golf courses that have a sense of place and that feel like they belong where they’re sitting is also something that makes me want to continue to play it. I think that adds to the character and the quality of it so the way it looks, the way it feels as you walk through the landscape, and then, certainly, the way it plays and challenges you to be creative are courses that I want to keep playing over and over.

DS: How would you describe your style as a course architect? What are the general trends? And which architect has inspired you the most?

GH: We don’t have a style! I hope that we respond to each and every site, and that a golf course we have built at Les Bordes does not look like a golf course that we have built in southern Georgia at Ohoopee or Southern California at Rustic Canyon. I hope that every course we’ve built has a sense of place and a sense of belonging which will then, ultimately, provide unique opportunities. Through our methodology of being on-site so much, if we can capitalize on these opportunities, then each golf course should feel unique. I think our courses have some similarities in that we like wider playing corridors and interesting green complexes, and I think our bunkers are particularly attractive, but they do still blend into the native landscape and hopefully our courses change style to style depending on the site that we’re given.

DS: What does a course architect have as a weapon, apart from the overall length, to make a golf course really challenging for professionals?

GH: The greatest defense is firm conditions, and the opportunity to build a golf course in a place where the ball will bounce in the fairway and the greens. Professional golfers work so hard at their game and hone their craft so well so that they have a predictable outcome every time they hit a golf ball. They know when they hit their seven-iron what the outcome will be, but if the conditions are firm and they’re not sure if the ball’s going to bounce twice and check or not going to check at all, that’s the best defense, and that relies on the conditions on-site and obviously Mother Nature for a tournament. But I think from an architect’s perspective, the only other challenges we can provide are mental ones where golfers maybe feel a little bit uneasy about the shot that’s in front of them because they can’t quite see everything or they can’t quite determine the best way to play the hole is. Those are the type of courses that require study, and I think those are the best examples of golf architecture.

DS: What are the qualities of a good golf course?

GH: I think that a good golf course should have a sense of place, a sense of belonging, it doesn’t feel that it’s been transported from somewhere else and feels like it belongs on a property, and that it is one that has a variety of ways to play it, interest in the features that have been created or that have been found in the landscape, and it has to be fun. It’s a balance between fun and interest versus difficulty, and we want to provide ways for golfers to navigate around a golf course based on their own skill level and if a golf course gives you that opportunity to map or think your way through it, then I think that’s the best an architect can do.

DS: How much did/do you know about golf courses in France and what do you make of the architecture you have seen?

GH: I think of the countries where I have seen golf in continental Europe, France has by far the best, most superior golf-course design. You can put Morfontaine and Chantilly and some of the other courses around Paris up against some of the best courses in the world, not just in Europe, and so I think that when you have a few anchor courses that provide those opportunities, and then you have some newer courses that have been built that aspire to do really good things, and I think they do, I feel like France has a really good golfing baseline. That allowed us to build in a country that already had expectations for quality golf, and we’re hopeful that what we’ve created adds to that.

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On Spec

On Spec: Sam Bettinardi interview

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Host Ryan Barath shares his conversation with Sam Bettinardi of Bettinardi Golf that covered everything from the manufacturing process, working with tour players, and their major win on the LPGA Tour by Patty Tavatanakit at the ANA Inspiration.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fix Your Golf Back Pain – Step 3: Essential strength and golf movement patterns

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This article is co-written with Marnus Marais. Since 2011, Marnus has worked with some of the world’s best players on both the PGA Tour and European Tour, helping them to maintain optimal health and peak physical performance. His current stable of players includes Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, and Louis Oosthuizen, amongst others. 

You can find more information on Marnus and his work at marnusmarais.com

This article is No. 3 in a 4 part series:

Step 1 – The Importance of Assessment

Step 2 – Early Stage Rehab

Step 3 – Essential Strength and Golf Movement Patterns

Step 4 – Building global strength for prevention of future injury

Introduction

When it comes to recovering from back injury and working towards prevention of future issues, we believe that there are some key areas of the body that need to be strengthened.

If we do a good job of building strength in these muscle groups, then we will help protect our backs and also lay a solid foundation upon which we can develop overall strength throughout the whole body (more on that in our next article – Step 4).

Area 1 – Glute / Hip Muscles

This is a complex area that contains a combination of large muscles that generate power and small muscles that control and stabilise.

 

We often see golfers with back pain presenting with weakness in these muscles, which is a problem as they play a major role in stabilising the pelvis and providing support for the lower back.

The glute / hip muscles also control much of the movement in the hips and lower body in the golf swing, so developing strength in this area can help protect our low backs in day to day life and also generate more power and control in the golf swing.

Glute / Hip Circuit

3 rounds – no rest between exercises – repeat 3 times

1 – Lying Hip Clams – 15 reps

2 – Pulsing Glute Bridge – 30 secs

3 – Knee Band Crab Walk – 5 mtrs each side

4 – BW Reverse Lunge – 10 reps each side

Area 2 – Core Muscles

For the purpose of this article, when we refer to core muscles, we mean those located between the pelvis and rib cage, both front and back. For instance rectus abdominis, obliques, transversus abdominis, erector spinae, multifidus etc…

Now well recognised as playing a vital role in stabilising the spine, it’s as important as ever to keep these muscles strong to protect the back and transfer power from the lower to the upper body during our golf swing.

In a golf context, there is a common myth that the core muscles are our main source of power in the swing. In reality, the main role of the core is to provide stiffness and stable support for force / power transfer from our legs to our upper body.

If we can create stiffness and stability in our core, we can help protect our spine and surrounding structures from unnecessary strain whilst also improving swing efficiency—pretty sweet combo!

Due to a combination of perpetual sitting, poor posture and other detrimental lifestyle factors, our cores tend to lose this ability to provide stiffness and stability. We can combat and correct this with a solid core conditioning program. Below are examples of some of our favourite exercises.

Core Circuit

3 rounds – no rest between exercises – repeat 3 times

1 – Dead Bug with Fitball – 10 reps each side

2 – Bird Dog – 6 reps each side

3 – Side Plank Hold – 30 secs each side

4 – High Plank Shoulder Taps – 10 reps each side

Area 3 – Upper Back Muscles

This area is often not included in the golfing low back pain discussion, but we believe the muscles in upper back have a very important role to play in both the golf swing and efficient functional movement.

The muscles of the upper back and shoulder that control shoulder blade have a huge influence on the movement and function of the shoulder, which affects the elbow, the wrist and ultimately the club. We can have fantastic range of motion in the shoulder, but if we are lacking control and strength in this area then it is really difficult to get the club set in the right position and we have to make a compensation somewhere else to make decent contact – often at the cost of safe and efficient movement in the low back.

Upper Back Circuit

3 rounds – no rest between exercises – repeat 3 times

1 – Arm Press – 15 reps

2 – Rotator Cuff Turn Out – 15 reps

3 – Tubing Reverse Fly – 15 reps

4 – Face Pull – 15 reps

Golf Movement Patterns

Let’s not forget the golf swing. One of the most common reasons we see golfers struggle with low back pain is that they are unable to “get to their lead side” and “get stuck” on the downswing. This causes the aforementioned excessive side bend and rotation from the low back, which we need to avoid!

 

“Getting stuck” on the trail side

Now we aren’t golf coaches and therefore don’t deliver swing advice. However, there are some basic movement patterns that most golfers could benefit from practicing to help learn a more efficient golf swing. The aim is to develop a strong connection between arms and body, using the hips and thorax to rotate, thereby helping to avoid “getting stuck”.

It’s certainly no coincidence that the essential areas for strength (Glutes / Hips, Core, Upper Back) play a large role in being able to learn and then master these movement patterns.

– Efficient Rotation at Hips and Thoracic Spine

– Staying balanced in rotation

– Arms Moving In Front of the Body

The circuit outlined below will give you an idea of what these movement patterns look like, and how they should be performed.

Movement Pattern Circuit

3 rounds – no rest between exercises – repeat 3 times

1 – Split Stance Turn – 10 reps each side

2 – Back Swing to Follow Through – 10 reps

3 – Split Squat Rotate – 10 reps each side

4 – 1 Leg Rotation – 10 reps each side

In the next article in this series; Step 4 – Building global strength for prevention of future injury, we will show you how to transfer the mobility and essential strength improvements to whole body exercises.

If you would like to see how Marnus can help with your golfing back pain, then check out the resources below:

Marnus Marais – marnusmarais.com

If you would like to access training programs designed for elite and recreational players, then check out the following resources and services from Nick at Golf Fit Pro:

Articles
Golf Fit Pro App (iOS)
Online Training
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