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Creating a top junior golfer with K-VEST and K-PLAYER

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In the fall of 2014, a high school sophomore walked into my facility for a K-VEST evaluation session. He was referred by a K-VEST-certified fitness professional, Scott Prunier. Averaging in the low- to mid-70s in tournament competition, he had just won the New Hampshire State Junior title, but he was barely getting any attention from colleges around New England — never mind top Division I programs — because of his history playing in bigger regional and national events on tougher, longer courses. His ambition was to play college golf at the highest possible level, and he was willing to work hard to achieve this goal.

To give you some background, the young man (who must remain anonymous because of the rules of amateur status) was averaging 270 yards off the tee, was a slender 5-foot 10-inches tall, 160 pounds, and occasionally fought back pain. A couple of close friends had helped him reach that point in his golfing career by using videos to assist him with his swing and overall golf game, but he was stuck. He no longer knew what to do to improve his swing. To play at a higher level, he knew that he needed to gain more distance off the tee, add consistency with his irons and learn how to eliminate his back pain.

Screen-Shot-2016-11-30-at-11.20.06-AM-463x600I suited him up in K-VEST and captured his swing. When I looked at the swing summary reports and the graphs of his kinematic sequence, I identified a few red flags that indicated why he was losing distance, had issues with iron consistency and had some back pain. First, at address, he would set up in C-Posture. Second, at the top of his backswing, his pelvis bend increased too much. Third, he had too much upper body rotation and upper body bend at the top of his backswing, which put him into a reverse spine angle, creating his occasional back pain. As a talented player, he found ways to compensate for these challenges in his swing. However, to achieve the level of golf at which he wanted to play, it was important we address these aspects of his swing right away.

After assessing his swing, I developed a program using the biofeedback function that’s a part of both K-VEST and K-PLAYER. As with all players who have more than one issue — and most do — I had to pick a starting point. As a rule, I work from setup through impact unless an area is screaming out for attention. In his case, I was concerned about the injury risk from the reverse spine angle, but I decided to work on posture first, as I thought that could also help change the reverse spine angle.

Where a player starts a swing has a lot to do with where the swing goes, in my experience, so I worked on his posture first, getting him more athletic and feeling engaged through his feet and lower body with a neutral spine. To do this, while suited up in the K-VEST, I set him in the exact posture I wanted him to learn and hit the “set live” button on the K-VEST to save it as our model going forward. We then worked for some time setting him up in this position. Our work process was first without a club, then with a club, and then hitting balls.

After he was comfortable in his new athletic posture, I trained his pelvis bend by building a program that helped us train his pelvis bend at setup, impact and the top. I used a number of variations and added difficulty as we went along. We followed the same work path as with the setup: no club, club and then hitting balls.

Watch the video below to learn more about how biofeedback works.

Once he had mastered his new pelvis mechanics, we addressed the upper body side bend with biofeedback, following the same workflow. The greatest value to him was using the biofeedback program I designed. He was quite pleased at how it enabled him to consistently execute perfect reps to more quickly develop a more efficient and powerful swing. He could see and feel the improvement as we worked, and that increased his motivation.

Our work experience was like that of many of my students with K-VEST and K-PLAYER. After the first lesson, when we captured his motion, we saw the efficiency and red flags that we had identified had already improved greatly. In one lesson, he had learned to swing without creating reverse spine angle at the top of his swing (eliminating the risk of back injury), and most importantly to him he was able to swing faster with more control. However, to really make the new move permanent and enable him to perform when under pressure in tournaments, he stayed dedicated with the training throughout the off-season. Session one was the “wow.” Then came the months of hard work. In my experience, the wow is not to be under-appreciated, as it provides inspiration for the hard work to come.

In order to feel prepared to have his best competitive season yet in 2015, he came to see me about once a week through the winter. We worked mostly in the supervised form of coaching. We always used the biofeedback in K-VEST and K-PLAYER to train him and then captured swings at least two times per month to make sure he was progressing. Since he is a very competitive and talented player, I wanted to be sure I was supervising him consistently.

Once he began his competitive season and he was traveling around the country, we would only meet once or twice per month to capture his swing with K-VEST to see if there were any red flags in his technique that we needed to improve quickly. Often, we were continuing to train what we worked on from our initial sessions, making sure he was not reverting to any of his previous poor swing patterns.

Key in training these high-level players in a competitive season is to not have them feeling as if they must change their motion under the pressure of competition, which leads to poor performance. So, during competitive season, it was most important to help him manage his already-improved swing. In the offseason, we could attack the changes we wanted to make in a more intensive manner. This is a pattern we have stuck to ever since. We make changes in the offseason and maintain and build on that progress during the competitive season.

In the summer of 2015, he finished third in the Southern Junior Amateur Championship at Olde Stone Golf Club in Kansas. After this event, his phone started to ring, calls coming from schools such as Wake Forest, North Carolina, Clemson and Virginia. His game had really improved. He hit a few drives over 300 yards, showing an improvement of more than 30 yards from the year before in this event, and he did so while under the pressure of playing in front of the coaches of these programs who could evaluate his new swing.

In the fall of 2015, my student received an early scholarship offer from Wake Forest, currently the No. 12-ranked team in the country and accepted it. In the summer of 2016, he was a quarterfinalist in the U.S. Junior Amateur and is now the No. 16-ranked junior golfer in the world according to Golfweek. He is currently a senior in high school and will attend Wake Forest in the fall.

As a coach, I can say that using K-VEST and K-PLAYER with my student immensely accelerated our improvement process toward achieving his goals. We were never guessing how to improve; instead, we had designed our program to maximize his swing efficiency and he put in the effort. The ability for him to know he was making perfect practice reps every session and being able to capture swings to validate our program’s success, tracking his progress from start to finish, gave us great confidence that he was continuing to improve as a player.

I have found that the use of K-VEST and K-PLAYER in different ways during the on- and off-seasons has added great value to how he and all my players train and play. We use it to make big changes in the offseason and to maintain those changes during the competitive season. And when anything is starting to slide, we return to the setup first, using a setup we saved by “setting live” in biofeedback on a day when a player was swinging really well and confidently.

I am proud of the progress my student has made and look forward to being a part of his journey as he continues to grow as a golfer.

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Patrick Gocklin is a Junior Performance Coach in New England, running a year-round Golf Channel Academy in Manchester, NH. As the founder of KGOLF360, Patrick utilizes 3D technology, Titleist Performance Institute's golf-specific fitness programs, high-speed video, ground force and ball flight data. Patrick is recognized as one of the top Junior Golf coaches in New England for developing students who have played at the highest level of Division I Golf.

23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Pingback: Creating a top junior golfer with K-VEST | College Golf Camps™

  2. PineStreetGolf

    Dec 30, 2016 at 9:31 am

    This is a ridiculous article for a number of reasons.

    First, you didn’t isolate any variables. You have no idea if it was the “K-VEST” (TM) or the fact that he took lessons for a long time and worked intently on his game at an age where the brain is looking to form strong athletic connections.

    Seciond, he grew from 16 to 17. In a lot of healthy adult males its a pretty good chance kids grow a ton from 16 to 17. You have no idea if it was your genius teaching methods or if he just got more co-ordinated from exiting puberty.

    Third, you mentioned not a whiff of physical training. If its your claim that your going to add 30 yards to a male 16 year old golfer with zero excercising or working out, so be it, but that seems inefficient and silly.

    Good luck going forward using kids you teach to move this nonsense product. You might have something with the K Vest and you might not but a really good player improving over the course of a year of hard work while he happens to wear one “proves” nothing.

    Lets see the article where the “K-VEST” adds 30 yards to the 35 year old guy whose 50 pounds overweight and practices once a week. Anybody can help the lithe 16 year old who can work all day and is getting stronger with every day.

    Give me a break.

  3. KNT

    Dec 28, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    Careful looking for distance.

    • NFX

      Jan 4, 2017 at 12:07 pm

      Why careful looking for distance? Improve clubhead speed via speed training and then operate submax of that speed. Holy grail of improvement

  4. Mike

    Dec 27, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    Forgive me but I’m a bit confused, was it you that “created” the “elite junior”, or was it the K Vest machine?

  5. MATTHEW SIPE

    Dec 27, 2016 at 9:45 am

    I think you meant Olde Stone Golf Club in Kentucky**

  6. RoastBeefWrxx

    Dec 26, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    Wonder how many didn’t get this far. I would love to read that article. I’m sure it wouldn’t be the instructors fault.

  7. MP

    Dec 26, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    College golf is extremely overrated. Jordan Spieth, Beau Hossler, and countless others.

  8. 4Right

    Dec 26, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    If this young man is playing at the level he was as a soph in high school, in my opinion he just needs to mature, get stronger, and short game practice for life.

    • GolfMan

      Dec 26, 2016 at 10:20 pm

      Congrats to this young man, but I agree with 4Right. Some kids just need to mature. Everyone’s always looking for the holy grail. Be careful!

    • Prime21

      Dec 27, 2016 at 11:38 am

      If left unchecked, this boy would have been out of golf in 5 years. It is not normal for a 16 year old to have back pain & if he or she does, the cause needs to be identified immediately. In this case, him maturing & getting stronger would have put more stress on the back as his flexibility & range of motion would most likely diminish with time. The whole point of the article is that even though he was already a great player, the young man knew his swing was inefficient, & even worse causing unnecessary stress on his body. Through technology, the issues were identified & through hard work & persistence, his swing became more powerful, efficient & repeatable. MOST importantly, an inevitable injury was removed from the equation. The instructor did not give this young man his natural talent, nor his work ethic, he simply gave him a key to unlock his OWN desire to be the best version of himself he could be.
      Natural ability and maturity alone will not solve every issue a golfer will face along the way, NOR will technology. But, when one has a complete understanding of the issues they face and a blueprint on how to overcome them, they can remove any limitation(s) that currently exist.
      Congrats to Brendon on achieving his goals & to Patrick for helping him on his journey!

      • SoCal

        Dec 27, 2016 at 11:14 pm

        Fortune Teller! You’re amazing!

      • MotionDynamics

        Dec 27, 2016 at 11:26 pm

        Sometimes being young is the reason for an inadequate move in any sport, junior golf is no exception. Equilateral strength is key in making balanced and powerful swings. As a PT I see this regularly. This would be discovered with strength and motor development assessment.

  9. IMO

    Dec 26, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    This young lad is swinging someone else’s perceived swing. Not his own.

  10. JackN

    Dec 26, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    What a about talent, and all the ones that learned to play without all this “technology”. We do t play golf on a simulator connected to all this. Way over blown!!!

    • Jalan

      Dec 26, 2016 at 6:53 pm

      The kid already demonstrated he has talent. However, to improve on what he has often requires supervision and training or tutelage. As and example: suppose your kid is smart and does well in school. Are you suggesting he doesn’t need any help, or wouldn’t benefit from a tutor who could show him better ways to apply his intelligence?

      You should like the kind of person who just likes to piss on anything that might make someone like Brandon a better player.

      • Par3

        Dec 26, 2016 at 10:10 pm

        The comment doesn’t seem like he’s p’s on anyone. I’m thinking he’s between talent which is homegrown, and someone’s else’s. And you sir just to put you in your place, there have been many prodigies blown up by high level coaches. Remember Ty Tryon!!!

        • 4Right

          Dec 26, 2016 at 10:12 pm

          Agreed!!!

        • Jalan

          Jan 22, 2017 at 11:09 am

          Actually, I think that is exactly what the poster did! He’s essentially saying using modern technology is the wrong way to teach. Yet, this very technology showed the student the moves he was making at the were causing issues with his back issues

          “After the first lesson, when we captured his motion, we saw the efficiency and red flags that we had identified had already improved greatly. In one lesson, he had learned to swing without creating reverse spine angle at the top of his swing (eliminating the risk of back injury), and most importantly to him he was able to swing faster with more control.”

          it’s obvious the kind has talent. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t likely be able to overcome his swing flaws. But, to overcome them, he needed the technology help him understand them.

          Your issue isn’t with my argument, it’s with my choice of language. if there was a way to edit my initial post, I would, just so people aren’t distracted by it.

          As to Ty Tryon: He had talent. He apparently didn’t have the mental game, or enough skill to manage the talent he had. You blame coaches for the failure of students. Maybe the student was the problem.

      • Prime21

        Dec 27, 2016 at 10:57 am

        Well said!

  11. MotionDynamics

    Dec 26, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    The video shown along with the article show a student pushing his hands away from his body, almost lifting his arms from his chest. Is that something you would recommend?

  12. 4right

    Dec 26, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Just one question, how much was invested, not only in money but time practicing? Thank you very much…

    • Looper

      Dec 26, 2016 at 1:06 pm

      Great question, also what would be the baseline on juniors that you would even recommend this type of training?

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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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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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