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Opinion & Analysis

Squares2Circles: Course strategy refined by a Ph.D.

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What do you get when you combine Division I-level golf talent, a Ph.D. in Mathematics, a passion for understanding how people process analytical information, and a knowledge of the psychology behind it? In short, you get Kevin Moore, but the long version of the story is much more interesting.

Kevin Moore attended the University of Akron on a golf scholarship from 2001-2005. Upon completing his tenure with the team, he found himself burned out on the game and promptly hung up his sticks. For a decade.

After completing his BS and MS degrees at the University of Akron, Kevin then went to Arizona State to pursue his Ph.D. Ultimately what drew him to the desert was the opportunity to research the psychology behind how people process analytical information. In his own words:

“My research in mathematics education is actually in the realm of student cognition (how students think and learn). From that, I’ve gained a deep understanding of developmental psychology in the mathematical world and also a general understanding of psychology as a whole; how our brains work, how we make decisions, and how we respond to results.”

In 2015, Kevin started to miss the game he loved. Now a professor of mathematics education at the University of Georgia, he dusted off his clubs and set a goal to play in USGA events. That’s when it all started to come together.

“I wanted to play some interesting courses for my satellite qualifiers and I wasn’t able to play practice rounds to be able to check them out in advance. So I modified a math program to let me do all the strategic planning ahead of time. I worked my way around the golf course, plotting out exactly how I wanted to hit  shot, and minimizing my expected score for each hole. I bundled that up into a report that I could study to prepare for the rounds.

“I’m not long enough to overpower a golf course, so I needed to find a way to make sure I was putting myself in the best positions possible to minimize my score. There might be a pin position on a certain green where purposely hitting an 8-iron to 25 feet is the best strategy for me. I’ll let the rest of the field take on that pin and make a mistake even if they’re only hitting wedge. I know that playing intelligently aggressive to the right spot is going to allow me to pick up fractions of strokes here and there.”

His plan worked, too. Kevin made it to the USGA Mid-Amateur at Charlotte Country Club in September of 2018 using this preparation method for his events just three years after taking a decade off of golf. In case you missed the implied sentiment, that’s extremely impressive. When Kevin showed his reports to some friends that played on the Web.com Tour and the Mackenzie Tour, they were so impressed they asked him to think about generating them for other people. The first group he approached was the coaching staff at the University of Georgia, who promptly enlisted his services to assist their team with course strategy in the spring of 2019. That’s when Squares2Circles really started to get some traction.

At that point, UGA hadn’t had a team win in over two seasons. They also hadn’t had an individual winner in over one season and had missed out on Nationals the previous two seasons. In the spring of 2019, they had three team wins (including winning Regionals to advance to Nationals) and two individual wins (including Davis Thompson’s win at Regionals). Obviously, the credit ultimately belongs to the players on the team, but suffice it to say it appears as though Kevin’s involvement with the team was decidedly useful.

“One of the things we really focused in on was par 3 scoring. They finished 3rd, 2nd, 4th, and 3rd in the field as a team in their spring tournaments. Then at the SEC’s they struggled a bit and finished 6th in the field. At Regionals, they turned it around and finished 1st in the field with a score of +6 across 60 scores (186 total on 60 par 3’s, an average of 3.10).”

Sample Squares2Circles layout for the 18th hole at Muirfield Village. Advanced data redacted.

Kevin is available outside of his work with UGA and has been employed by other D-I teams (including his alma mater of Akron), Mackenzie Tour players, Web.com Tour players, and competitive juniors as well. Using his modified math program, he can generate generic course guides based on assumed shot dispersions, but having more specific Trackman data for the individual allows him to take things to a new level. This allows him to show the player exactly what their options are with their exact carry numbers and shot dispersions.

“Everything I do is ultimately based off of strokes gained data. I don’t reinvent the wheel there and I don’t use any real new statistics (at least not yet), but I see my role as interpreting that data. Let’s say a certain player is an average of -2.1 on strokes gained approach over the last 10 rounds. That says something about his game, but it doesn’t say if it’s strategy or execution. And it doesn’t help you come up with a practice plan either. I love to help players go deeper than just the raw data to help them understand why they’re seeing what they’re seeing. That’s where the good stuff is. Not just the data, but the story the data tells and the psychology behind it. How do we get ourselves in the right mindset to play golf and think through a round and commit to what we’re doing?”

“Even if you’re able to play practice rounds, this level of preparation turns those practice rounds into more of an experiment than a game plan session. You go into your practice round already knowing the golf course and already having a plan of attack. This allows you to use that practice round to test that game plan before the competition starts. You may decide to tweak a few things during your practice round based on course conditions or an elevation change here and there, but for the most part it’s like you’ve gained a free practice round. It allows you to be more comfortable and just let it fly a lot earlier.”

Kevin is in the process of building his website, but follow @squares2circles on Twitter for more information and insight.

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Peter Schmitt is an avid golfer trying to get better every day, the definition of which changes relatively frequently. He believes that first and foremost, golf should be an enjoyable experience. Always. Peter is a former Marine and a full-time mechanical engineer (outside of the golf industry). He lives in Lexington, KY with his wife and two young kids. "What other people may find in poetry or art museums, I find in the flight of a good drive." -Arnold Palmer

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Golf Blueprint: A plan for productive practice sessions – GolfWRX

  2. Desi Arnez

    Jun 20, 2019 at 4:27 am

    Stop publishing this RIGHT now. I’m going to have to work MUCH MUCH harder to beat people.

  3. F

    Jun 20, 2019 at 1:19 am

    I would much rather do it the Ben Hogan way.

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Opinion & Analysis

“Golfers pay way too much attention to iron lofts” – On Spec podcast

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On this week’s episode of the “On Spec” podcast on the GolfWRX radio network hosted by Ryan Barath, the main focus of the show was on the misconception around fitting irons based on handicap and the focus on iron lofts – AKA “loft jacking”

The goal of the episode was to explain how irons are designed to help optimize the target golfer using a number of factors including lofts, and why it’s more important to focus on final results rather than stock specs.

“The goal should be for your clubs to go the right distance with the right trajectory… golfers focus too much on loft and not dynamics”

You can listen to the full show below, the above quote starts at 22:42

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Opinion & Analysis

Keep your golf body moving at home

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Over the past few months, I’m willing to bet that a lack of golf, limited access to gyms and spending more time at home in sitting positions will likely be having a negative effect on our posture.

This means certain muscles (pecs, abs, hip flexors) getting tight and short, thereby hunching us over, rounding our shoulders forward and tightening our hips. This combination can wreak havoc on our golf swings, particularly our ability to rotate efficiently.

This simple sequence of exercises, performed daily, will help maintain posture and mobility in the key areas that facilitate rotation in our golf swings. You can find these exercises and much more on the Golf Fit Pro app for iOS.

 

1 – Mid Back Massage – 1 x 90 seconds

Using a foam roller or tightly rolled up towel, aim to apply firm pressure through the mid and upper back whilst gently pushing out the rib cage and arching back. Move up and down the roller or towel to target different areas of your spine.

 

2 – Upper Back Extension – 1 x 30 seconds

Using a bench, box or chair, push the chest down toward the floor whilst keeping your abs / core engaged. You should feel this in your mid and upper back.

 

3 – Straight Arm Chest Stretch – 1 x 30 seconds each side

 

Find a wall, post or doorway, place your hand flat with elbow pointing to the floor and arm straight. Gently turn away from your hand until your feel a stretch in your chest and front of your shoulder.

 

4 – Step Up and Turn – 1 x 5 reps each side 

 

In a push up position, move your foot to the outside of your hand (or as close as possible) then rotate your upper torso with arm straight, aiming to point your hand straight up to the ceiling.

 

5 – Back Swing and Follow Through – 1 x 10 reps

Using a piece of rubber tubing or as pictured, the GravityFit TPro, get into your golf set up position pushing out against the tubing. From there turn into your backswing and then into your follow through. Aim to do the majority of the rotation with your torso, keeping your hands in front of your body.

 

You can check out more of Nick’s articles and services here:

Articles
Golf Fit Pro App
Online Training

 

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Talking new Callaway Gear with Dave Neville

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On this episode of TGD, Johnny chats all things new Callaway gear with Sr. Director Brand and Product Management Dave Neville. They go deep into Epic Speed, the new Cally irons, and basically everything else.

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