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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

Kelley: Should a Tour player’s swing be the pattern we copy?

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PGA Tour players are the most gifted golfers on the planet. Their ball striking ability is remarkable to the average, even scratch, golfer. With the time to practice all day, usually perfecting their imperfections in their own swings, why are PGA Tour players’ swings always the model we seek?

Look at the progression and expectations in other sports played recreationally. If you start playing Tennis, you don’t expect to serve as fast and accurate as Rafael Nadal. When joining a gym, do we look and replicate the times and bodies of Olympians? However, in golf, players seek the worlds best trying to emulate them. Examining this idea, could this actually be detrimental?

Let’s start with the speed differential. The average PGA Tour driver club head speed is 113 mph. The average male amateur golfer driver speed is 93.4 mph. The average handicap for the male golfer sits between 14 and 15. Below is a chart from Trackman showing the distribution of clubhead speed among male golfers.

*Trackman research shows there is a direct correlation between clubhead speed and handicap.

Speed is mostly a natural talent developed at an early age. It can be enhanced with speed training, gym work and even lifestyle changes. ?With such a differential in speed?, wouldn’t players first be better served focusing on center contact with the most efficient route to do so? This can include modeling simple looking swings.

Besides the speed differential, the world’s best golfers all have unique swings that have been perfected over time. Take for example the top ten players in the world. Different swings with different match-up moves throughout the motion. They have made it work for themselves with countless practice hours. Usually time the average golfer doesn’t have.

A main example would be Rory McIlroy, often a sought out golf swing among students. Here is a quote regarding his swing swing sequence after visiting the Titleist Performance Institute Center. “At the start of McIlroy’s downswing, his left hip spins violently counterclockwise, as it does for every elite, long-hitting player. but then, and only with the driver, Mcllroy makes a funky move you could not teach. a moment before impact, his left hip suddenly changes direction and jerks back, clockwise, and then rotates again.”

With the average golfer on a time constraint?, golfers could actually look at what the greats do the older they get in their careers. The swings become more simple, using their instincts to get their body in efficient and more teachable positions. This is usually in their set-up then backswing, with less excess movement for an efficient strike. Take for example a young versus older Ben Hogan. (Picture below)

Below is another example of a young Jack Nicklaus compared to an older Nicklaus later in his career.

This is in large part due to the concept that less can be more at times. Unfortunately in golf, all to often players are told to do more with their swing, only to jeopardize center contact even seeking vanity over function.

A concept that could be beneficial is next time you want to work on your swing, focus on efficiency and minimizing the ?motion for center contact and a better face/path relationship. Then you can build. Rather then taking a bit from a Tour player’s swing, understand how your body should move to achieve your desired ball flight. Once you have a foundation, then add speed and your own DNA to the swing.

The argument could be made the opposite should be taught for aspiring junior golfers, especially the way the game as going. This article is intended to open a discussion and perhaps change the view of how the golf swing is being taught based on your skill-set and what you are trying to get out of the game. Also, what may be teachable and not teachable. You can change swings with concepts alone.

www.kelleygolf.com

Twitter: @Kkelley_golf 

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Clement: Why laying up = more power

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You have been there before — you can’t get over the hazard on a par 5 and decide to lay up and take the club you need for the distance and the ball makes it into the hazard after you took this smooth swing that smoked the ball 15 yards farther than you expected? We uncover the mystery right here!

 

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Kelley: Simplify your swing with the hammer drill

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Regardless of your handicap, a simple hammer can teach you how to efficiently address the ball, start the swing and then put your body in a dynamic position at the top. If you can hammer a nail, there is no reason you can’t simplify your swing. This drill can also change the parts in the middle of your swing you have been struggling to change.

To start, grab a hammer with your trail hand as if you are hammering a nail into a wall in front of your body. You will notice how this instinctively gives you a slight tuck of the trail elbow and drops your trail shoulder below the lead with angle in the trail wrist.

Once gripping the hammer, move the weight of the hammer as if hammering a nail. This will give you the feel of the takeaway.

From here, the golf swing is no more then a lifting of the arms as the right arm folds and the body goes around a bit.

From this position, holding your spine angle and placing the left hand on the right hand will pull your body into a coil or “turn”. This places your body in a position to efficiently swing the golf club back down to the ball.

A great way to combine the hammer drill with a golf club is to hold a hammer on the grip of the club or tape the hammer down the middle of the shaft. Start with just your right hand on the club and make slow swings.

Once you have practiced this a few times, the hammer can be removed and this feel can be integrated to a normal golf club. To continue this feel, simply turn the clubhead in as if you are hitting the ball with the toe of the club (below picture). When turning the club like this, the center of balance goes more to the clubhead, helping replicate the actual hammer feel.

What’s great about this drill is that the actual task is driving the technique. Rather than being thoughtful of several technical positions in the golf swing, replicating the instinctive motion of the hammer will put you in the proper positions. This drill will also help you place your focus of attention on the actual club, which is often overlooked.

www.kelvinkelley.com

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