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The Golf Athlete Pathway

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The Golf Athlete Pathway represented in the image below is essentially my long term approach to training golfers, boiled down to a 1 page document. It aims to give a broad overview of the journey that an aspiring elite player would take when training under my supervision or guidance.

I realize that the majority of you reading this article are not aspiring elite players, and might well be happy just doing a really good job of Phase 1, thereby reaping the rewards of a body that moves better, feels healthier, has a reduced risk of injury and a greater potential to execute quality golf shots.

Whether you are dreaming of playing on tour, or just playing without getting hurt, I hope that my explanation of the 3 training phases and examples of workouts and exercises will give you a thorough understanding of how I train golfers.

Phase 1 – Building the Base

The first phase is focused on setting up a foundation of solid lifting technique and sorting out mobility, stability, and posture issues, whilst developing good exercise and nutrition habits.

Training Focus

Stability – Training key muscle groups to stabilise and balance the body in both gym movements and golf swing. Key areas of focus are foot / ankle, hip, core, shoulders, neck / head.

Mobility – Increasing range of motion in joints that require more movement.

Posture – Developing awareness of neutral spine position, understanding individual postural traits, training the deep muscle system to automatically hold good postural positions.

Basic Lifting Technique – Mastering the fundamentals of squat, lunge, push, pull, rotate and brace.

Basic Strength and Muscular Endurance – Improving ability to move bodyweight and light resistance efficiently, conditioning muscles to tolerate and recover from training loads.

General Golf Movement Patterns – Learning how to rotate efficiently at the hips and T-Spine. Developing basic scapular control and applying it to golf swing mechanics.

Basic Nutrition – developing understanding of the importance of whole unprocessed foods, achieving a balance of macro nutrients (carbs, fats, proteins) and learning the basic skills of food preparation.

Training Variables

Intensity – Relatively light loads, less than 50% of max. Using bodyweight, resistance bands, kettlebells, dumbbells.

Rep Range – fairly high, generally in the 10-15 range.

Lifting Speed / Intent – slow and controlled, focusing on technique.

Exercise Grouping – quite simple, when exercises are paired together it’s generally different muscle groups and movements (e.g. squat and push for example)

Exercise Selection – broad, aiming to learn many variations of squat, lunge, push, pull in order to help develop physical literacy.

Phase 1 Workout Example

Phase 1 Exercise Examples

Phase 2 – Growing Potential

Now we have mastered the basics, in Phase 2 it’s time to get bigger and stronger, whilst paying more specific attention to movement patterns, nutrition and recovery.

Training Focus

Muscle Growth – increasing muscle mass throughout the body, with particular focus on legs and back.

Basic Power – learning how to move light loads fast, lots of jumping and throwing.

Recovery Strategies – understanding importance of post training and play recovery such as self massage, hot/cold contrast, cold water immersion, stretching etc.

Specific Golf Movement Patterns – collaborating with the golf coach to help ingrain body movement that coach wants to see implemented or ingrained in the golf swing.

Specific Nutrition – consulting with nutritionist / dietician to deliver individual nutrition plans and recommendations on supplements.

Training Variables

Intensity – starting to lift heavier loads, around 70% of maximum

Rep Range – 8 to 12 for most exercises

Lifting Speed / Intent – still quite slow, generally using 2-0-2 tempo (2 seconds up – no pause – 2 seconds down).

Exercise Grouping – starting to get more complex, often grouping exercises that use the same muscle group or movement.

Exercise Selection – Getting narrower, with a focus on gradually increasing volume on key exercises.

Phase 2 Workout Example

Phase 2 Exercise Examples

Phase 3 – Maximising Potential

This is the final phase of the pathway, aiming to transfer the physical gains developed in the first 2 phases to elite performance.

Training Focus

Max Strength – Training neural system and muscle contraction co-ordination to increase max force output.

Advanced Power – Focusing on vertical and rotational power production. Jumping, throwing and rotating as fast as possible with medium to heavy loads.

Specific Speed – Aiming for increases in club head speed, often working together with the coach to ensure there is no detriment to technique.

Tournament Routines – Combining training, warm up, recovery, nutrition and hydration habits into a repeatable routine for tournament weeks.

Training Variables

Intensity – getting quite high now, lifting heavy loads at close to maximum effort.

Rep Range – generally quite low, looking at 3-5 for major lifts and 8-10 for supporting exercises.

Lifting Speed / Intent – aiming to move everything as fast as possible in concentric phase (when the muscles are shortening – up phase in a squat or bench press for example).

Exercise Grouping – more complex now, often combining exercises in supersets or mini circuits.

Exercise Selection – becoming much more narrow, focusing on repeating key movements with heavier loads. Still some variety in supporting exercises.

Phase 3 Workout Example

Phase 3 Exercise Examples

If you are interested in progressing along the Golf Athlete Pathway, then check out the services on offer at Golf Fit Pro

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Nick Randall is a Strength and Conditioning Coach, Presenter and Rehab Expert contracted by PGA Tour Players, Division 1 colleges and national teams to deliver golf fitness services. Via his Golf Fit Pro website, app, articles and online training services, Nick offers the opportunity to the golfing world to access his unique knowledge and service offerings. www.golffitpro.net

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. benymo

    Dec 18, 2020 at 12:17 pm

    or I could just get some speed sticks

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Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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Walters: Try this practice hack for better bunker shots

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Your ability to hit better bunker shots is dramatically reduced if you have no facility to practice these shots. With so few facilities (especially in the UK) having a practice bunker it’s no wonder I see so many golfers struggle with this skill.

Yet the biggest issue they all seem to have is the inability to get the club to enter the sand (hit the ground) in a consistent spot. So here is a hack to use at the range to improve your bunker shots.

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Golf Blueprint: A plan for productive practice sessions

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Practice range at the Dormie Club. Photo credit: Scott Arden

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

You’ve gotten lessons.  Several of them.  You’ve been custom fitted for everything in your bag.  You even bought another half a dozen driver shafts last year looking for an extra couple of yards.  And yet, you’re still…stuck.  Either your handicap hasn’t moved at all in years or you keep bouncing back and forth between the same two numbers.  You’ve had all the swing fixes and all the technological advances you could realistically hope to achieve, yet no appreciable result has been achieved in lowering your score.  What gives?

Sample Golf Blueprint practice plan for a client.

One could argue that no one scientifically disassembled and then systematically reassembled the game of golf quite like the great Ben Hogan.  His penchant for doing so created a mystique which is still the stuff of legend even today.  A great many people have tried to decipher his secret over the years and the inevitable conclusion is always a somewhat anticlimactic, “The secret’s in the dirt.”  Mr. Hogan’s ball striking prowess was carved one divot at a time from countless hours on the practice range.  In an interview with golf journalist George Peper in 1987, Mr. Hogan once said:

“You hear stories about me beating my brains out practicing, but the truth is, I was enjoying myself. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning so I could hit balls. I’d be at the practice tee at the crack of dawn, hit balls for a few hours, then take a break and get right back to it. And I still thoroughly enjoy it. When I’m hitting the ball where I want, hard and crisply—when anyone is— it’s a joy that very few people experience.”

Let me guess.  You’ve tried that before, right?  You’ve hit buckets and buckets of range rocks trying to groove the perfect 7-iron swing and still to no avail, right?  Read that last sentence again closely and you might discover the problem.  There’s a difference between mindful practice and mindless practice.  Mindful practice, like Mr. Hogan undoubtedly employed, is structured, focused, and intentional.  It has specific targets and goals in mind and progresses in a systematic fashion until those goals are met.

This is exactly what Nico Darras and Kevin Moore had in mind when they started Golf Blueprint.  In truth, though, the journey actually started when Nico was a client of Kevin’s Squares2Circles project.  Nico is actually a former DI baseball player who suffered a career-ending injury and took up golf at 22 years old.  In a short time, he was approaching scratch and then getting into some mini tour events.  Kevin, as mentioned in the Squares2Circles piece, is a mathematics education professor and accomplished golfer who has played in several USGA events.  Their conversations quickly changed from refining course strategy to making targeted improvements in Nico’s game.  By analyzing the greatest weaknesses in Nico’s game and designing specific practice sessions (which they call “blueprints”) around them, Nico started reaching his goals.

The transition from client to partners was equal parts swift and organic, as they quickly realized they were on to something.  Nico and Kevin used their experiences to develop an algorithm which, when combined with the client’s feedback, establishes a player profile within Golf Blueprint’s system.  Clients get a plan with weekly, monthly, and long-term goals including all of the specific blueprints that target the areas of their game where they need it most.  Not to mention, clients get direct access to Nico and Kevin through Golf Blueprint.

Nico Darras, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

While this is approaching shades of Mr. Hogan’s practice method above, there is one key distinction here.  Kevin and Nico aren’t recommending practicing for hours at a time.  Far from it.  In Nico’s words:

“We recommend 3 days a week.  You can do more or less, for sure, but we’ve found that 3 days a week is within the realm of possibility for most of our clients.  Practice sessions are roughly 45-70 minutes each, but again, all of this depends on the client and what resources they have at their disposal.  Each blueprint card is roughly 10 minutes each, so you can choose which cards to do if you only have limited time to practice.  Nothing is worse than cranking 7 irons at the range for hours.  We want to make these engaging and rewarding.”

Kevin Moore, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

So far, Golf Blueprint has been working for a wide range of golfers – from tour pros to the No Laying Up crew to amateurs alike.  Kevin shares some key data in that regard:

“When we went into this, we weren’t really sure what to expect.  Were we going to be an elite player product?  Were we going to be an amateur player product?  We didn’t know, honestly.  So far, what’s exciting is that we’ve had success with a huge range of players.  Probably 20-25% of our players (roughly speaking) are in that 7-11 handicap range.  That’s probably the center of the bell curve, if you will, right around that high-single-digit handicap range.  We have a huge range though, scratch handicap and tour players all the way to 20 handicaps.  It runs the full gamut.  What’s been so rewarding is that the handicap dropping has been significantly more than we anticipated.  The average handicap drop for our clients was about 2.7 in just 3 months’ time.”

Needless to say, that’s a pretty significant drop in a short amount of time from only changing how you practice.  Maybe that Hogan guy was on to something.  I think these guys might be too.  To learn more about Golf Blueprint and get involved, visit their website. @Golf_Blueprint is their handle for both Twitter and Instagram.

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