By Chris Foley, PGA Master Professional of Instruction at Cragun’s Legacy Courses
One of the great things about the winter in Minnesota is that it forces us to put the golf clubs away for the winter and creates excitement and anticipation for the start of the golf season in the spring. The new season brings dreams and hopes of playing more Brainerd golf, hitting the ball further, shooting lower scores, and having more fun!
With the spring upon us, what are your golf goals for the summer?
Most of the golfers that I encounter start the season wanting to get better and excited to play. Unfortunately, the majority of these players never really get any better. They work hard on their game, but their scores remain the same.
Why don’t golfers get better? The biggest thing I see is that they don’t have a PLAN! If you don’t have a golf practice plan, your practice is really just a form of exercise. You are not addressing the areas that you need to shot lower scores.
Creating a golf practice plan is similar to creating a recipe; a recipe for better golf. If you are baking a cake and don’t have all of the ingredients or don’t do things in the proper sequence, the cake isn’t going to turn out very well. The same is true of your golf plan or recipe.
How do we create our golf practice plan?
There are not too many games more challenging than golf. The challenge is one of the things that draws us to the game. Part of what makes it so challenging is there are so many aspect of the golf. These areas include equipment, physical fitness, driving the ball, the long game, wedge play, and putting.
To create a great golf improvement plan, we really need to assess each of these areas. As we analyze these, we can then decide what will have the biggest impact on scores and enjoyment level. Since we only have limited time to devote to practice, it is important to spend that time on what is the most important.
Ball flight and impact alignments are influenced by how a player’s clubs fit. A golfer will make compensations in their golf swing if their clubs do not fit.
Factors that need to be considered are the length of the clubs, the flex and material of the shaft, the lie angle, the loft (especially on the driver), and the size and material of the grip. The set make up; the combination of woods, hybrids, irons, wedges, and putter, are extremely important to insure that the golfer has the proper gaps between clubs and that there is not duplication of the distances in different clubs.
By far the best way to evaluate your equipment is to use launch monitor technology such at TrackMan (www.trackman.dk) TrackMan allows you to accurately and scientifically quantify the differences between clubs. Optimizing distance, learning the gaps between club and analyzing shot distribution of different clubs becomes much more efficient using this technology.
Optimizing equipment is typically the fastest and easiest way to improve your game.
Strength, flexibility, and balance have a huge influence on a golfers ability to make a golf swing. A golfer’s fitness level has a direct correlation to swing errors, club head speed and endurance.
One of the best ways for a golfer to assess their fitness level is to be screened by a Certified Titleist Performance Institute Professional (www.myTPI.com). TPI has committed a huge amount of resources to the fitness side of golf. Their research has allowed them to correlate swing errors with a lack of strength, flexibility, or balance. Through an assessment, they will design a workout program that will positively impact a golfers game.
Driving the Ball
Driving the ball is the third most important factor in scoring. The distance that a player drives the ball and the ability to hit the ball in play influence a player’s opportunity to hit greens in regulation. How far a player drives the ball is the single largest indicator of potential.
One of the easiest ways to improve driving is to make sure you have a driver that is optimized for distance and accuracy. To maximize distance, there is an ideal window of launch angle and spin based on a golfers club head speed. The biggest influence of launch angle is the loft of the driver and the combination of shaft and loft influence the spin.
The Long Game
The long game is all of the shots hit outside of 100 yards that are not hit with the driver. The long game correlates to hitting greens in regulation. The more greens a player hits in regulation the lower the score they shoot. Greens hit in regulation are the number one factor in scoring.
For mid to high handicap players, the long game is the area were deficiencies in a players swing’s show up. Swing improvements and having optimized clubs can impact the long game tremendously.
How do you hit your mid-irons, hybrids, and fairway woods? The slower a player’s club head speed, the more important these clubs become. Would you benefit from taking the 3, 4, or 5 iron out of your bag and replacing it with hybrids or higher lofted fairway woods?
Wedge play is all the shots from inside of 100 yards and would include chips, pitches, and full and partial swings with the wedges. Good wedge play can dramatically impact your scores. Good wedge play saves shots when we don’t hit in greens regulation and increases birdie opportunities on par fives and shorter par fours.
How is your wedge play? Are you getting all of your wedge shots on the green? Do you hit chip and pitch shots close enough to one putt a high percentage of the time?
Putting is the number two factor in scoring. Improved putting is probably the easiest way to positively influence your scores. Putting is also the one area of the game where we can be as proficient as the best players in the world. It doesn’t require great strength or athletic ability. It does, however, require practice! Of all the aspects of the game, I see people spend less time on putting than any other part.
On the PGA Tour the distance that players make more than 50% of their putts is just over seven feet. At what distance do you make more than half of your putts?
A great gage of how you are putting is “putt par”. To figure out your “putt par” for a round, take the number of greens that you hit in regulation and multiply by two. Add this number to the remaining number of greens. This number is your “putt par”. For instance if you hit seven green in regulation, you have 14 plus 11 (the 11 greens that you missed). Your “putt par” would be 25. If your total putts for the round were 25 or better you had an excellent putting round. If they are 29 or higher you putted poorly.
As you assess each area the plan will take shape. Emphasis should be placed on the areas with the biggest potential for improvement. Is your equipment optimized for performance? Will being stronger and more flexible make your swing more efficient or allow you to make a swing change? Do you need to minimize penalty shot from the tee? What aspect of the long game will allow you to hit more greens? Are your chips and pitches putting you in position to one putt? Are you making most of your makeable putts and minimizing three putts?
Assess your game, make your plan, and practice those areas that will have the biggest impact. Make 2014 your best season ever!
Chris Foley, PGA Master Professional of Instructions, has been a member of the Professional Golfer Association since 1992. He is currently the Director of Instruction at Cragun’s Legacy Courses and also the Midwest Region coach for the US National Junior Team. The main focus of his professional career has been increasing the enjoyment of golfers through his instruction programs. Foley annually gives 1000+ individual lessons along with many different group offerings.