Every Shot Counts by Mark Broadie

With Every Shot Counts Mark Broadie has written the most important golf book I have ever read. I say that because the book has done more to shape how I coach and deliver a golfer to their full potential than any technical manuscript before it.

Mark Broadie has done an exceptional job in sifting through the mountain of Shotlink data generated by the PGA Tour over the last decade. A Columbia Business School professor and avid golfer, Broadie is widely credited with coming up with strokes gained - a measurement of how much better or worse a golfer performs off the tee or from any given distance when compared with all other PGA Tour players.

The PGA Tour has been using strokes gained putting for a while now, but Broadie has also developed strokes gained driving for tee shots; strokes gained approach for shots of more than 100 yards; and strokes gained short game for shots of less than 100 yards, excluding putts. Add them together and you get total strokes gained.

From 2004-12 the top 10 players in total strokes gained were: Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, Luke Donald, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson. A pretty impressive list and arguably the best players in the game over the last decade.

The author goes on to show how these proven golfers outperformed their counterparts - "Two-thirds of the strokes they gained were from shots outside of 100 yards and one-third was from inside 100 yards," Broadie said. "Putting accounted for just 15 percent of the scoring difference between the top 10 golfers in the world and the average PGA Tour pro."

Wow! I have quizzed many of my students over the past few weeks on how they would rank, in order of importance, the four primary areas that contribute to the standard of any golfer. I think one person (who had secretly read about the book and it's findings) got the order correct. Most of them had it completely backwards. It also shocked me how many ranked putting as the most important factor.

Here is the order: (followed by the player who gained the most strokes on their competitors over the last decade)

  1. Approach shots outside 100 yards (Tiger Woods)
  2. Driving (Bubba Watson)
  3. Short game shots inside 100 yards (Steve Stricker)
  4. Putting (Luke Donald)

To me this order is hugely important as it should influence the manner in which you go about improving. I have encouraged all my students to ramp up the amount of long iron, hybrid and driver practice they have been doing.

Essentially, good golfers are good because they hit it good.

markbroadie

The book also shows the importance of length and what an asset making the ball go a long way is. Bubba Watson has literally pummeled his competitors off the tee with brute power and speed. Now all of my competitive students work on speed sets to increase their clubhead speed as much as possible.

The book is filled with valuable nuggets for both the better and weekend golfer - far too many to mention in an article like this. It includes drills for putting and even ideas on how to approach challenging tee shots dependent on your ability. If you are an avid golfer or coach and you find that your progress has plateaued, do yourself a favor and go out and buy this book and commit to reading it twice. The second time with a highlighter in hand!

If you don't get anything from it call me and I'll refund you your money...

No Major for The Players

The article below is an one I wrote two years ago expressing my concerns about the golf course at TPC Sawgrass and how worthy it is of hosting a "major championship".  My sentiments have not changed....

When was the last time the top 10 players in a major were a combined 55 under par after one round?  When in a major have 57 players shot under par on any day?  The PGA Tour is trying to buy their way into a major championship by touting The Players as the "5th Major".

Not many people are aware that the PGA Tour does not operate or run a single major championship. The Masters is run by Augusta National, The US Open by the USGA, the British Open by the Royal and Ancient and the PGA by the PGA of America.  With the Players Championship the PGA Tour is making a vain (in my opinion of course) attempt to get into the mix.  From the monstrous clubhouse, to the monstrous purse, to the monstrous public relations spin they put on the event - they are eagerly attempting to join a closed club.

My primary reason for voting out the Players is the golf course!  Sure the holes we see all look frightening, with tremendous risk and reward, but what about the rest of the course.  Ever notice how much the Tour focuses on the closing holes?  Please don't get me wrong - you must be a ball striker to do well here, but this is simply Harbourtown where rough has replaced trees.  Distance does not make a great course , but give the best in the world ten opportunities from inside 140 yards and look out.  There are 10 short, legit birdie opportunities on the course (holes 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17).  Holes where every player in the field, from the longest to the shortest, should be thinking birdie or par at worst.

I have taken the rounds of two players, the longest and the shortest, namely Bubba and Fred Funk and broken them down for your perusal.  Let's start with Fred Funk who played earlier this morning.  When it comes to driving distance Fred Funk is currently 62nd on the Champions Tour with an average drive of 265.9yds.  That would leave him at 183 out of 185 on the PGA Tour ahead of only Faxon and Pavin.  His driving distance was 260 today and he scored a +1 /73.  The following numbers indicate the yardage he had into each of the 10 selected holes in regulation:(They include all four par fives and a par three)

1-156yds, 2-82yds, 4-115yds, 6-115yds, 9-87yds, 10-146yds, 11-101yds, 12-81yds, 16-4yds, 17-137yds for an average of 102.4 yards.

The shortest player in the field averaged just over 100 yds into 10 holes on a major championship course?

Now let's check in with Bubba Watson who played nicely and shot -5 /67.  He is currently the longest hitter on the PGA Tour at 313.8 yards per poke.  Today he averaged 318 yards off the tee.  His yardages into each of the ten selected holes were:

1-90yds, 2-53yds, 4-91 yds, 6-104 yds, 9-76 yds, 10-139 yds, 11-29 yds, 12-92 yds, 16-3 yds, 17-137 yds for an average distance in of 81.4 yards.  I wonder how many drivers Bubba used on these holes?

The facts indicate that every player in the field is faced with 10 holes on a supposed "major championship" course where the longest shot they are required to hit is approximately 140 yards.  And this is with a rainy night before the tournament got under way.  What major course has a four hole stretch (9-12) where no approach shot of over 125 yards is required?

In 2008 the greens had just been reshaped and surfaced and as a result were rock hard.  The wind blew between 15 and 25mph each day starting at 10 am.  In other words conditions were as tough and challenging as they could get and yet, the playoff number was -5.  Can you imagine conditions being brutal at Winged Foot or Carnoustie and -5 playing off...?

Grow all the rough you want, make the greens rock hard and roll at 13 on the stimp, but my belief is this - if they have soft conditions and windless days the winning score will be lower than -15.  You heard it here first - this is no major, just an over-sized, over-hyped attempt by Tim Finchem to create a PGA Tour major.  Sorry Tim, I vote NO!

That being said it should be a fun-filled event with a fantastic field - enjoy!

Amazing PGA Tour Stats from 2011

At the end of each year, with the help of ShotLink, the PGA Tour puts out a stat sheet that gives an in-depth review of various statistical categories. There are always some very interesting numbers - some of which I thought I'd share with you today...

Driving

  • The PGA Tour average driving distance for all measured shots was 290.9 yards.
  • The longest driver was JB Holmes at 318.4 yards while the shortest hitter was Brian Gay at 269.8 yards - that's almost 50 yards per tee shot!
  • There were 21 golfers that averaged over 300 yards per tee shot. In 2000 John Daly was the first and only player to average over 300 yards.
  • Rory McIlroy hit 51 out of 56 tee shots over 300 yards in the WGC-Bridgestone event.
  • The longest drive of the year went to Dustin Johnson at 463 yards - it did involve a cart path!
  • Joe Durant was the straightest driver hitting 75.65% of his fairways while Anthony Kim was the least accurate hitting only 46.99% of the fairways.
  • No player led the field in driving accuracy en route to victory, while Bubba Watson led the field in driving distance for both of his victories.
  • Seventy golfers had rounds where they hit every fairway  - a feat Joe Durant achieved four times!
  • John Merrick had a streak of 36 fairways in a row!
  • Darren Clarke only hit 41% of the fairways in winning the Open Championship.

Approach Shots

  • Boo Weekley led the tour in greens in regulations (GIR) with 71.68% - that's just over 12.5 greens per round. Keep in mind the average golfer hits 4 greens per round.
  • Robert Garrigus and Graeme McDowell both hit 92% of the greens at Kapalua - the easiest course on tour to hit greens.
  • 15 players manged to hit all 18 greens in a round and no golfer accomplished this feat more than once.
  • Webb Simpson had a streak of 32 greens in a row!
  • The hardest green to hit on tour was the 6th Hole at PGA National (29.98%). The hole is actually a par five for the members and is truly frightening.
  • The course with the most hole outs from off the green was Harbourtown GL at 101. Primarily because the greens are literally miniscule and very easy to miss.

Around the Green

  • Brian Gay led the sand saves category with a 63.40 % up and down rate.
  • Greg Chalmers led the scrambling category with a 65.17% up and in rate.

Note: I do have a problem with the PGA Tour scrambling stat in that they measure scrambling for any shot to the green that is one stroke higher than regulation. This means that tee balls hit OB should be up and downed from the tee to convert and that pitches and chips played to a par five in three are not counted...not too much sense in that.  (Thanks to Pete Sanders from ShotbyShot.com for pointing this out to me)

  • Five players led the field in scrambling in the same week that they won.
  • Jason Dufner was 23 out of 24 for scrambling in the Waste Management event.
  • Brian Gay and Paul Stankowski each had 17 consecutive sand saves!

Putting

  • Luke Donald led the tour in the best stat on tour in my opinion - Strokes Gained-Putting with +.844. That means he gained an average of .844 strokes on the most "average" putter for every round he played and has led the tour in this category the last three years.  Boo Weekley, for all his hitting prowess, was last on -1.102 and Luke gained almost two strokes per round on Boo - just with the putter!
  • Luke Donald had 1 three putt for every 80 holes of golf he played.
  • On average Tour winners out performed the field by +1.426 strokes per round with the putter. That's only +5.7 better than the field average in a four round event...
  • 6 out of 38 winners in 2011 led the field in strokes gained-putting and 25 of 38 winners ranked in the top ten.
  • Charlie Wi gained +12.68 strokes on the field in the Crowne Plaza Invitational.
  • Hunter Mahan only managed to make 219 feet of putts in the 4th round of the Deutsche Bank Championship.
  • Three players managed to have 15 one putts in a round!
  • Luke Donald had 483 consecutive holes without a three putt and Kevin Na made 676 out of 676 from inside three feet!

Scoring

  • Luke Donald led the adjusted (?) scoring average at 68.86 while Webb Simpson led the actual scoring averages at  69.16.
  • Webb Simpson had 60 rounds of scoring in the 60's and 13 out of 98 rounds that were bogey-free.
  • Four players had 11 birdies in a round and three players made 27 birdies in a four round event.
  • 4% of all rounds on tour were completely bogey-free.
  • Luke Donald had 17 consecutive sub-par rounds (I have those all the time!) and Briny Baird had 12 consecutive rounds in the 60's.

The PGA Tour currently keeps a total of 416 various stats on each player for every round they play and with the help of some very smart people each stat category is getting deeper and better as they move forward.  Ever read the book Moneyball by Michael Lewis? Well golf is finally starting to apply sabermetrics to the massive amount of data they collect every year - and they're better off for it.

You cannot improve upon something if you cannot measure it! I believe that statement to be true and I know that quality stats are vital in helping any serious golfer improve.  That is why I have aligned with noted statistician Peter Sanders and his fantastic site ShotbyShot.com. With this site you have the ability to truly assess your strengths and weaknesses. You even have the ability to judge your putting against scratch handicap golfers in a strokes gained type format - the only other way to get something similar is to become a Tour player!

To all my students: If you are serious, and I believe you all are, please contact me about a fantastic opportunity for us to participate at ShotbyShot.com. After all, if you want to improve something we have got to measure it....

Hitting Up or Down? Here's How to Set Up

Correct Set Up for a Descending Hit
Shots struck off the ground need to be hit with a descending blow and shots struck off an elevated tee are better when hit with an upward blow - fact! While TrackMan stats for the PGA Tour may show that on average Tour players hit down on their driver (1.3 degrees), as mere mortal golfers, we need to make sure we are efficient and get the most distance we can out of the driver by hitting up on the ball.  If you need some more convincing how about this: Golfer A swings at 90mph and hits 5 degrees down on the ball (-5 attack angle). Their average well struck tee ball goes 234 yards. Now, golfer B swings at 90mph and hits 5 degrees up on the ball (+5 attack angle). Their average well struck tee shot travels 256 yards - a gain of 22 yards while swinging the same speed!  Ready to listen now....?
I have recently started noticing that many golfers actually set up to hit their irons in the same manner as their woods or vice versa. Ever wondered why so many of your playing partners are either good with the woods and not the irons or no good off the turf and solid with the driver?  The answer is, is that there are two different types of swings. One that suits shots hit off the ground or close proximity to it and a swing that suits the upward, efficient hit of a driver off a high tee.
The picture above is an excellent illustration of what I have been seeing.  Here, I have a student setting up to a driver and an iron. Notice any similarities? In case you're wondering the seven iron stance is on the right.  They look decidedly alike don't they? The good news is that this was taken at  the beginning of the lesson, she made the necessary changes and gained 14 yards with her driver while maintaining a solid descending impact with the irons.
It should stand to reason that if there are two swings then there should be two different set up positions.  Here are the important differences...
Setting up for shots off the ground:
  • As in the picture at the top of the page the weight should be anywhere from a 50/50 split to favoring the front foot slightly
  • Your head should be centered between the heels
  • There should be very little spine tilt away from the target and as a result the shoulders will be fairly level

Setting up for shots off a high tee:

  • As in the picture below the feet are fairly far apart and there should actually be a little more weight on the back foot than the front foot
  • The ball is positioned inside the left heel and teed high
  • The spine should be tilting away from the target a little as you prepare to "swing uphill" 

Set Up for an Upward Strike

The best teacher you have available to you to help with this is a mirror. You are now aware as to what it should look like, but you don't quite have the feel yet. Get in front of a mirror, set up so that it looks correct (your feel might have something else to say about it!) and take that with you to practice or play.

Can You Get Better in 20 Minutes?

I recently ran an interesting promotion where I offered golfers an opportunity to gain 10 yards if they participated in a twenty minute TrackMan session. The cost was $50 and if they didn't gain the yardage their session was free. This meant I had to be on my game and I had to make simple and effective upgrades to get paid...it's not often a golfer can take a lesson and only have to pay for the lesson if they see immediate results!

My reason for running the promotion was primarily to create interest and excitement in the new TrackMan unit and to give the Berkeley Hall membership a peek at what this technology can do for them.

I had eighteen golfers, eleven men and seven ladies sign up and I encouraged each of the participants to focus on the driver. In case a participant wanted to work with an iron I had them each bring their driver and a seven iron along.

When hitting the driver I try to get my students to have an attack angle of somewhere from 1 - 5 degrees up along with a club path of somewhere from 1 - 5 degrees from in to out.  I prefer that most golfers hit out and up on the ball creating a high launch, low spin trajectory with the driver. We all could benefit from a few extra yards, no?

Here is a compilation of points of interest from the day:

  • The average swing speed for the men with the driver was 83.9mph. The top speed achieved was 96.1mph while the slowest was 70.1mph. Keep in mind that this event was promoted as a "distance" event and as a result the golfers who came out tended not be the longest of hitters.
  • The average speed for the ladies with the driver was 65.6mph with the top speed being 73.4mph and the slowest being 60.3mph.
  • Before any changes were made 11 out of the 18 golfers hit down on the ball at an average of 1.6 degrees with the driver.  After the changes had been made the same 11 golfers averaged 0.6 degrees up on the ball. Not bad...
  • Before any changes were made 7 golfers (a surprisingly low number in my opinion!) hit from out to in at an average of 3.3 degrees with the big stick. This means that their club path was travelling 3.3 degrees left (for a right hander) of the target at impact. After adjusting, the same 7 golfers averaged 0.8 degrees from in to out - a very positive change.
  • Prior to any changes 4 golfers hit too much (in my opinion) from in to out at an average of 6.6 degrees. After the changes they averaged 2.2 degrees in to out - a far more respectable number.
  • Not every golfer gained yardage, although the majority did.  A few golfers actually lost some clubhead speed while they were working on the changes which were primarily in the address position.  It was interesting to note how some golfers adapted and changed easily while others had a tough time.
  • The golfers with slower swing speeds tended to be more efficient, something I had already noted from the PGA Tour stat on Total Driving Efficiency and as a result it was quite difficult to get them make the "required" yardage gains. They were quite close to optimal already...
  • Similarly, I found the ladies to generally be more efficient in transferring the energy they created to the ball than the men. I've also noticed that LPGA golfers also tend to be more efficient than their PGA Tour counterparts, particularly with the driver. The mantra seems to be "the more energy you create, the more likely you are to waste it!" It does not have to be that way though.
  • Every golfer who attended the event improved in an important area regarding how they deliver the club to the back of the ball. Quite a few golfers did not gain 10 yards, but they all left feeling like they had the knowledge and feel they needed in order to realize longer tee shots.
  • One lady had a fantastic golf swing with very efficient numbers, but, primarily due to her petite size, she was unable to generate much clubhead speed. She had an older, heavy driver with a 70 gram shaft and so I spent most of our time talking to her about what equipment (lighter = faster) suited her best and what exercises (Momentus woosh) she could do to increase her speed with the driver.  I'll be interested to see how she does with the new club.
  • Almost all the participants commented that while the "numbers overload" from TrackMan was overwhelming at first, once we had isolated a particular problem (attack angle, club path, spin axis etc.) it seemed very simple. They were able to key in on one area and get a feel for how much change was required in order to reach their goal - all without much in the way of complicated, positional swing changes.
  • The twenty minute time format worked well for the students and for me. They did not get overloaded with information and I had be concise and clear (for a change!) in what they needed to upgrade.

So, back to the question, "Can you get better in twenty minutes?" I would have to say an emphatic yes. With the right feedback mechanism, which TrackMan certainly is, and a simple approach, you can make fairly substantial changes in a short period of time. The important thing moving forward is that you practice the changes in order to gain a measure of comfort and confidence in them - and as we know, that takes more than twenty minutes.

Thanks for reading.

Miracle Birdies - Helping Others

CHILDREN’S MIRACLE NETWORK HOSPITALS ANNOUNCES PARTNERSHIP WITH  JIM FURYK

2010 PGA Tour Player of the Year Launches New Miracle Birdies Program to Raise Funds for Children’s Hospitals

SALT LAKE CITY (April 13, 2011)—Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals® a charity that raises funds for 170  children’s hospitals across North America, announced today a new partnership with 2010 PGA Tour Player of the Year and FedEx Cup champion Jim Furyk. Furyk has named Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals as his charity of choice for the next two years.

 To kick off the partnership, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and Jim Furyk are launching Miracle Birdies, a new fundraising program in which individuals, groups and sponsors can make a monetary pledge for each time Furyk makes a birdie during his tournament play in 2011. Each individual’s entire donation will be donated to their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. Individuals can participate by signing up at www.MiraclesBirdies.com.

 "I am honored to be partnering with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in the important cause of raising money for children’s hospitals,” said Furyk. “Through our ongoing support of one such hospital—Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Florida—my wife and I have witnessed many of the miracles that happen through the generosity of others. My hope is that together we can all create many more through the Miracle Birdies program.”

 “Jim Furyk is committed to our cause of saving the lives of children across North America, and we are appreciative of his support and the generosity of fans who will contribute to the Miracle Birdies program,” said John Lauck, President and CEO of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. “Through Jim’s extraordinary talent and career success, he will be a strong voice in motivating his supporters, sponsors and other individuals and groups to raise funds for sick children at hospitals in communities across North America.”

 Fundraising through the 2011 Miracle Birdies campaign is slated to begin in April at The Heritage PGA TOUR golf tournament and will conclude in October at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic in Orlando, Fla. In addition to supporting the Miracles Birdies program, Furyk will sport the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ logo on his hat during tournament play. For more information on Jim Furyk’s Miracle Birdies, visit www.miraclebirdies.com.

# # #

About Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals® raises funds for 170 children’s hospitals across North America, which, in turn, use the money where it’s needed the most. When a donation is given it stays in the community, ensuring that every dollar is helping local kids. Since 1983, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals has raised more than $4 billion, most of it $1 at a time. These donations have gone to support research and training, purchase equipment, and pay for uncompensated care, all in support of our mission to save and improve the lives of as many children as possible. Learn more at CMNHospitals.org.

 Please go to the link and pledge whatever you feel you can - thanks!

TrackMan: Definitive Answers at Impact and More

Here are a few very interesting facts that I have learned with the help of TrackMan. TrackMan is a radar unit that measures both club delivery and the full trajectory of any golf shot – essentially it measures almost everything pertaining to a golf club striking a ball. This might shed some light on, or dispel, a few of golf’s oldest myths:

For PGA Tour golfers (please note that these are averages):

  • All clubs, on average are struck with a descending blow from a PW (-5.0 degrees) to a driver (-1.3 degrees).
  • Every club in the bag hits the ball at the same height 30 yards.
  • The average clubhead speed with the Driver is 112 mph; ball speed is 165 mph and carry distance is 269 yards.
  • The average clubhead speed with an 8-iron is 87 mph; ball speed is 115 mph and carry distance is 160 yards.
  • Clubhead speed increased by 2 mph from club to club.
  • In conditions that eliminated any roll, an average PGA Tour player would hit a driver and a 5-wood 500 yards; a driver and a 7- iron 441 yards; and a driver and a PW 405 yards.
  • The Carry distance difference between each iron is 12 yards (8-iron 160 yards and 7-iron 172 yards).

For LPGA Tour golfers (please note these are averages):

 

  • All clubs are on average struck with a descending blow other than the driver which is 3.0 degrees upward.
  • Every club in the bag hits the ball the same height25 yards.
  • The average clubhead speed with the driver is 94 mph; ball speed is 139 mph and carry distance is 220 yards.
  • The average clubhead speed with an 8-iron is 74 mph; ball speed is 100 mph and carry distance is 130 yards.
  • Clubhead speed increased by 2 mph from club to club.
  • In conditions that eliminated any roll, an average LPGA Tour player would hit a driver and a 5-wood 405 yards; a driver and a 7- iron 361 yards; and a driver and a PW 327 yards.
  • The carry distance difference between each iron is 11 yards (8-iron 130 yards and 7-iron 141 yards).

General information:

 

  • Shot accuracy is primarily determined by a combination of face angle, club path and point of contact.
  • The ball launches PRIMARILY in the direction of the club face - approximately 75-85% on full shots.
  • For putting, shot accuracy is determined primarily by the face angle - the softer the hit (as in chipping and putting) the greater the effect of clubface. In putting the face accounts for 95+% of where the ball goes.
  • Face angle (largely) determines the launch direction while shot curvature/shape is mostly determined by the club path relative to the face angle – the opposite of what has been taught for years. Think of it this way: when a ball is struck with a descending blow, i.e. ball first, divot second, the attack angle is down, yet the ball goes up. The ball goes up due to the angle/loft of the face!
  • The initial ball direction falls between the club face angle and club path - remember that it greatly favors the face angle.
  • The further apart the club face and club path diverge from each other (basically - point in different directions) the more the ball's spin axis tilts and the more curvature exists on the shot.
  • By the way - THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS SIDE SPIN - it is merely back spin on an axis and the more the axis tilts, the more the ball flight curves.
  • The only way to hit the outside of the ball is to have the face closed relative to the target line and to hit the inside of the ball the face must be open relative to the target line. Path plays very little role in what part of the ball we hit.
  • The highest recorded clubhead speed on the PGA Tour in 2009 was Bubba Watson at 128 mph while the World Long Drive Champion, Jamie Sadlowski used a clubhead speed of 145 mph (418 yards!) to win. The average male golfer swings a driver somewhere between 82 and 90 mph.

  • A carry distance of 100 yards for ladies is equivalent to a carry distance of 130 yards for men; 200 yards for ladies is equivalent to 250 yards for men.
  • A par four of 350 yards for ladies is equivalent to a par four of 430 yards for the men.
  • The most important factor in increasing carry distance is clubhead speed. For every 1 mph you can add to your swing speed you stand to gain almost 3 yards.
  • An increase of 1” in the length of a club can increase the clubhead speed by as much as 4 mph.
  • The quality of the hit is very important as it relays clubhead speed into ball speed. Smash factor is calculated by dividing the ball speed by the clubhead speed. The maximum smash factor is just above 1.5 (e.g. 100 mph clubhead speed divided into 152 mph ball speed) and indicates an ideal transfer of energy to the ball. A smash factor of 1.5 is most often only attainable with a driver.
  • The ball spends 1/2000th of a second on the clubface. That means it would take a scratch handicap golfer almost 28 rounds of even par golf to have the ball be on the clubface for one second!

Something to keep in mind is that no golfer should discard accuracy in search of distance as there should always be a balance between the two. It is, however, possible for just about any golfer to significantly increase their distance with only a marginal decrease in accuracy as a result of a sound, long-term plan coupled with commitment and discipline.

Interesting stuff - any thoughts or questions?

To hit it like a Tour player check THIS out!

A Note to Tim Finchem and the PGA Tour....

The PGA Tour has problems. And while I am no Albert Einstein I do have opinions. Here is a brief run down on what I believe the problems to be: What were the folks at the Northern Trust Open thinking? They went from $30 per ticket to get on the grounds during the event in 2009 to $50 in 2010! That might have something to do with the sparse crowds around the 18th green on Sunday. (Okay, it was Superbowl Sunday, but the gate for the whole week was significantly down.) Would you rather have two people paying $25 or one paying $50? The answer is clearly two, as they would have far greater spending power when it came to concessions and souvenirs. Not to mention that the event is now 'touching' twice the number of people and the buzz for the event is dramtaically increased. I thought golf needed to grow... There are certain long standing events on the PGA Tour that have not seen more than a mere smattering of top 50 golfers for over 10 years. Hagen, Nelson, Snead, Hogan, Palmer and Trevino all won the Texas Open at some point in their illustrious careers. During the last decade the event has seen winners like, Bart Bryant, Robert Gamez, Eric Axley and Tommy Armour III alongside the big names of Justin Leonard and Zach Johnson. I take nothing away from these golfers, but they would not be mentioned in the top 100 golfers of all time. Jack Nicklaus actually won the Disney event three years running! Can you imagine the greatest golfer in the world playing in Milwaukee three years in a row? The PGA Tour has created a major problem for events like the Texas Open (GMO, GHO, Heritage, Hope, Pebble etc.) by inflating the purses, points and value (in sponsors eyes) of the WGC events, the crock FedEx Cup and it's very own darling little event The (non-major)Players. These events have detracted so greatly from the 'regular' events that players, fans and sponsors now, unfortunately, regard them as (dare I say it) second class citizens.

Tiger Woods won more money in the few events he played in 2008 (prior to taking more than half the year off with a broken leg) than Jack Nicklaus won in his entire career! That's not to mention endorsement money. The purses have increased so dramatically that they are a major reason for the loss of sponsors for tour events around the country. It was only 21 years ago when Curtis Strange defeated Tom Kite in the Tour Championship to be the first player to earn over $1 million in a season. It only took 18 more years for a player to get to somewhere around the $10 milion mark! I have attended many PGA events and it does not take long to realize that the tour has more than their fair share of whiny, spoilt millionaire brats. Now appearing at a tour event near you: Mark Calcavecchia; Tommy Armour III; Steve Lowery; Scott McCarron; Billy Andrade; Jeff Maggert and Harrison Frazar! Wow! The advent of "fourth" tier tour events has allowed names like this to remain on tour for years and pick off just enough prize money to sustain a very pleasant existence. There is currently a huge crop of excellent young talent waiting for a chance to tee it up against the big boys, and unless they Monday qualify or get an invite from a sponsor they have one chance a year to get to the dance. There are currently too many "fat cats" hanging around the fringes of the tour for my liking. Here are my solutions:

Okay, so we've got the majors, the (non-major) Players and the Tour Championship, which should be a limited field, final event of the year affair in the upper echelon of events. I say get rid of all the other high-brow WGC and FedEx events, make the purses the same at every event ($750k to the winner) and let sponsors sign on for a three year term. The gate fee at every event is $25 (kids under 14 are free) - every day, every event other than the upper tier tourneys. Get people excited to watch the greats! Now, you make a rule whereby every player who has been on the tour for 3 consecutive years must play every regular event at least once. That way every sponsor gets a shot at hosting TW or Phil at least once. There is obviously an injury loop-hole clause along with this rule. If you finish in the top 90 money winners you get to keep your card! 30 from the Nationwide and 30 from the Q-School also get in. Monday qualifiers are increased to 8 spots, sponsors get 4 spots and any golfer who finishes in the top 20 from the previous regular event gets in too. The best will always get in no matter how the system is set up, but this gives the young set a glimmer of hope and keeps the golden oldies on their toes. The PGA Tour needs to stop trying to be something it is not - they simply cannot compete with Nascar or the NFL. Start treating all your events and sponsors fairly, open the doors so that as many people as possible can come out to see the best players in the world and stop babying millionaire golfers. Make them play for what they get - they'll be fine!

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2009 in Review

That's all she wrote! The 2009 "official" golf season is in the books and while there were glimmers of excitement, I felt like the year was not one to write home about. Here are a few thoughts: Tiger Woods eclipsed the $10 million mark again - Steve Stricker, his nearest challenger was more than $4 million behind!

Steve StrickerNo majors for Tiger. If he does not win at Augusta next year I predict Hank Haney will be looking for some new students. Biggest surprises in the top 20 on the money list: Kevin Na; Z. and D. Johnson; Y.E. Yang; Brian Gay; Lucas Glover. How about this list of golfers outside the top 125: Chris DiMarco; Carl Pettersson; Stuart Appleby; Rocco; Chez Reavie; Johnson Wagner; Trevor Immelman; Ken Duke and multiple other tour winners.

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Golf Has Only Nine Shots!

I've got all the shots I'm just not sure when I'm going to hit them!

Control Your Ball!

Or what about a shank, a top, a blade, a whiff?  Okay, there are only nine proper shots that a golfer needs to master.  They are the low draw, straight one and fade; the regular height draw, straight one and fade and the high version of each option.  Tiger Woods incorporates all of the above shots into his practice sessions - shouldn't you?

Try this fun and challenging exercise in your next practice session:

  • Be sure to use an alignment string that is set up to a target within range of a 7 iron.
  • Keep the size and pace of your swing at around 75%.
  • Start on the 'ground' floor (low) with the shot shape that is most comfortable for you (draw or fade)
  • Stick with the low shots until you have hit one of each.  Keep in mind the draws/fades should start at the target and curve away from it.
  • Work up to the medium and high trajectory shots until you have also hit one of each.
  • Keep track of the number shots required to complete the SLAM (all nine shots) and set yourself a target score for the next time you practice.  The fewer shots, the better.

This exercise will illustrate to you the type of shot that is most difficult for you to hit. (Hey, some golfers just don't know!)  Practice the most difficult shot until you can pull it off on the course.  This will serve to neutralize your swing and allow you to ultimately hit the ball straighter.

If you struggle with slicing the ball, practice hooking the ball!  If you hit the ball inordinately high, practice hitting low punch shots all day long until you can hit it at a regular trajectory.  Get to a point where your extreme misses are less extreme than before and the ball will stay closer to the intended target and your scores will do the same!

Over the upcoming week I'll address the techniques required to hit the ball low or high and with a draw or fade.  Check back!

Things to Ponder:

  • At the Texas Open this Lance Ten Broeck, both caddied for Jesper Parnevik and played in the event. They both missed the cut but what must it feel like as a player when your caddie beats you! (Ten Broeck 141 vs. Parnevik 144)
  • The PGA Tour must be struggling to find players.  I can think of 20 golfers better than a caddie and a dozen washed up golfers from the 80's to play in a PGA Tour event!
  • And this little interesting snippet from www.geoffshackelford.com

John Huggan with this nugget from last week's Players:

Not only did the diminutive leader of the world's richest circuit manage to mangle the champion's name, calling him "Heinrik" more than once, Finchem's minions were apparently hard at work pressuring host broadcaster NBC into not mentioning just how many Fed-Ex Cup points the Swede picked up along with the $1.7million first place cheque. Embarrassingly, that number is nil, due to the fact that Stenson (who will no doubt have welcomed the sizeable boost to his bank balance in the wake of losing a goodly chunk of his fortune amidst the recent Stanford fiasco) thinks he can muddle by without being a PGA Tour member.

  • Don't think the PGA Tour does not go out of their way to censor what information we get during the broadcast of their beloved 5th major!
  • Zach Johnson is quietly becoming a top five player in the world.  Gutsy!

No 5th Major at TPC Sawgrass

When was the last time the top 10 players in a major were a combined 55 under par on day one?  When in a major have 57 players shot under par on any day?  The PGA Tour is trying to buy their way into a major championship by touting The Players as the "5th Major". Not many people are aware that the PGA Tour does not operate or run a single major championship. The Masters is run by Augusta National, The US Open by the USGA, the British Open by the Royal and Ancient and the  PGA by the, well, PGA. With the Players Championship the PGA Tour is making a vain attempt to get into the mix. From the monstrous clubhouse, to the monstrous purse, to the monstrous PR spin they put on the event they are eagerly attempting to join a closed club.

My primary reason for voting out the Players is the golf course! Sure the holes we see all look frightening, with tremendous risk and reward, but what about the rest of the course. Ever notice how much the Tour focuses on the closing holes?  Please don't get me wrong - you must be a ball striker to do well here, but this is simply Harbourtown where rough has replaced trees.  Distance does not make a great course , but give the best in the world ten opportunities from inside 140 yards and look out. There are 10 short, legit birdie opportunities on the course (holes 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17).  Holes where every player in the field, from the longest to the shortest, should be thinking birdie or par at worst.

I have taken the rounds of those two players, the longest and the shortest, namely Bubba and Freddy Funk and broken them down for your perusal.  Let's start with Fred Funk who played earlier this morning.  When it comes to driving distance Fred Funk is currently 62nd on the Champions Tour with a distance of 265.9.  That would leave him at 183 out of 185 on the PGA Tour ahead of only Faxon and Pavin.  His driving distance was 260 today and he scored a +1 /73.  The following numbers indicate the yardage he had into each of the 10 selected holes in regulation. They include all four par fives and a par three.2006 PGA Championship Third Round, Round 3Saturday, August 19,

1-156yds, 2-82yds, 4-115yds, 6-115yds, 9-87yds, 10-146yds, 11-101yds, 12-81yds, 16-4yds, 17-137yds for an average of 102.4 yards.

The shortest player in the field averaged just over 100 yds into 10 holes on a major championship course?

Now let's check in with Bubba Watson who is playing nicely and shot -5 /67.  He is currently the longest hitter on the PGA Tour at 313.8 yards per poke.  Today he averaged 318 yards off the tee.  His yardages into each of the ten selected holes were:

1-90yds, 2-53yds, 4-91 yds, 6-104 yds, 9-76 yds, 10-139 yds, 11-29 yds, 12-92 yds, 16-3 yds, 17-137 yds for an average distance in of 81.4 yards.  I wonder how many drivers Bubba used on these holes?

The facts indicate that every player in the field is faced with 10 holes on a supposed 'major championship' course where the longest shot they are required to hit is approximately 140 yards.  And this is with a rainy night before the tournament got under way.  What major course has a four hole stretch (9-12) where no approach shot of over 125 yards is required?

bubbawatson1

In 2008 the greens had just been reshaped and surfaced and as a result were rock hard.  The wind blew between 15 and 25mph each day starting at 10 am.  In other words conditions were as tough and challenging as they could get and yet, the playoff number was -5.  Can you imagine conditions being brutal at Winged Foot or Carnoustie and -5 playing off!  Grow all the rough you want, make the green rock hard and roll at 13 on the stimp, but my belief is this; if they have soft conditions and windless days the winning score will be lower than -15.  You heard it here first - this is no major, just an over-sized, over-promoted PGA Tour dream.

I love the event, just not the way the Tour is painting it!