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How close are you for your first putts?

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As the college golf season has ended for my team, it allows me to get my game back into shape.

After eight months of encouraging our team members to focus on what they can control and what we have been able to determine as key performance indicators (KPI) for lower scores, I now have a chance to continue to develop as a coach with me as the test subject. Anything I ask of my players I test out on myself first during the breaks in the academic calendar.

Our goals for KPI’s are:

  • Combination of 14 birdies/pars
  • 10 GIR
  • 1 or fewer 3 putts
  • 1 or fewer doubles/worse

The concept with the KPI’s is to limit the mistakes by taking the time to make a smart decision based on the situation. Breaking it down every way I could think of led to shooting 77. Not bad, and we’d take 4 “meh” 77s because it was more likely we’d only have one or two “meh” 77s and a couple of lower 70s. We had a pretty solid spring season after putting this into play, but with the strength of where women’s golf is, we were on the outside looking in as a team for NCAA Regionals.

With all this, and recently listening to a mini-series podcast put on by Golf Science Lab, I wanted to take a look at our 10 GIR KPI and see if we can adjust it with what Will Robbins and Cordie Walker discussed about proximity.

So, off I went and played a couple of rounds this weekend, posting scores of 75 and 78. Both rounds I hit 9 GIRs (just below the target number), yet walking away from both rounds felt completely different. I was pretty satisfied with how I played when I shot 75 and was very excited to get back at it later in the weekend. Compared to shooting the 78, I was rather discouraged. Sitting down to compare the rounds, specifically looking at the proximity sheds a bit of light.

For my round of 75, I averaged 21’ away from the pin when I hit shots to the green from outside 100 yards. When I was chipping I averaged 5.5’. For my round of 78, I averaged 30’ away from the pin when I hit shots to the green from outside 100 yards. When I was chipping I averaged 6.5’.

Overall pretty good stats both days, but it goes to show that every foot counts! Here are some interesting side stats:

  • My shortest birdie putt came on the day I shot 78
  • The difference between shortest (11’) and longest (43’) birdies putts the day I shot 75 was 32’
  • …and the day I shot 78: 56’ (shortest 10’ and longest 66’)

Seeing this, I will think through the importance of proximity for our team to be able to achieve our goals next season. I still think there is an importance of getting the putter in hand as soon as possible but just hitting a green in regulation does not guarantee a low score.

While I will not advise anyone to shoot at every pin, learning to recognize our shot patterns to not only have GIRs but also shorter first putts will be an important part of our 2019-2020 season.

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Erin is the Director of Student Athlete Development and Women's Golf Coach at Wingate University. Erin holds a Masters of Arts in Sports Management from Wingate University and is Class A member of the PGA of Canada, a member of the Women’s Golf Coaches Association, and two time SAC Coach of the Year. She aims to help guide student athletes through their time at Wingate, making connections of what they learn in their sport and how they can apply it their careers after graduation.

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1 Comment

  1. Brandon

    May 29, 2019 at 11:12 am

    I have come to the same conclusion for my game and am working on getting approach shots closer to the hole. I would like to hear how you determine which pins are pins to shoot at and which are ones to play safe. I naturally play a draw and have found left pins are easier for me to go at but still trying to find a few criteria i can quickly go through to determine if a pin placement is a good one to attack for my skill set or if it makes more sense to aim for the middle.

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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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