The Value of Engagement

Engagement in learning is defined as the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism and passion that students demonstrate. Most of the current research shows that an increase in student engagement leads to improved retention and heightened skill acquisition. What are you going to do about it and how can this impact you as a golfer?

Have you ever had a boring practice session? Headed to the range to get your ‘reps’ in? It’s time for us to move beyond rote practice regimens because when practicing, the ideal environment is one of engagement and ultimately, challenge.

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Don’t get me wrong – block practice will always have a place on my lesson tee. It just shouldn’t be the only form of practice we put in. Let’s incorporate challenges where you keep track of a score or an outcome. Let’s try to do things you previously have been unable to do. If you’re doing all you can to beat your personal best score for a particular chipping challenge, you cannot help but be passionate, interested and optimistic. That’s where the real growth occurs!

To a certain degree I’ve looked up the research to see if it aligned with what I’ve been seeing anecdotally with my students recently. I’ve created a few games to challenge some of my better golfers during their long hours on the range and the results have been promising. They find themselves spending less time on the technical aspects of their golf swing and more time trying to break ‘records’ and put up a ‘score’ and I like that. They do too!

The research and my experience agree – we get better when we’re very much into what we’re doing. Here are a few challenges that will whip you into learning shape…

16 Shot Driver Challenge

  • 4 sets of 4 balls
  • Each 4 ball set is for a different fairway you select on the practice ground
  • Shot 1 is rough both left and right
  • Shot 2 is rough left and hazard right
  • Shot 3 is hazard left and rough right
  • Shot 4 is hazard both left and right
  • Scoring is 1 for fairway, 2 for rough and 3 for hazard
  • Objective is to score 20 points or less

18 Shot 9-Club Approach Challenge

  • Use the 9 clubs between wedges and driver (3 wood to PW)
  • Hit 2 shots with each club in random order
  • Each of the 2 shots are to a different target
  • Each club hits a shot to the left and a shot to the right of the target
  • Don’t select clubs in a smooth order – keep it random
  • 30 foot zone for <5 handicap
  • 40 foot zone for >5 handicap
  • Scoring is 1 for in the zone, 2 for outside the zone on safe side, 3 for wrong side of the target
  • Scoring objectives are ability/handicap dependent

36 Shot Pitching Challenge

  • 36 different shots inside 60 yards
  • Targets can be flags, balls, divots...anything
  • You compete against your own expectations
  • Balls should be counted out prior to getting started
  • Scoring is 1 for better than expected and 0 for outside expectation

10 Ball Gate Putting Challenge

  • Select a 15 foot putt
  • Place a tee at 15' from the hole and another tee 2' behind the hole
  • After reading the green place 2 coins a putter head width apart in the mid-point of the putt
  • The coins are adjustable and indicate your start line
  • Scoring is 1 for through the gate without touching the coins, 2 for appropriate pace with the ball finishing between the front edge and the back tee and 3 for a make
  • There is the potential for 30 points and the scoring objective is dependent on putt difficulty and player ability
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These challenges are really fun to work through and they will certainly engage you in the process of executing better golf shots. I’ve even found that asking students to report there score to me via text or Edufii serves to heighten their level of engagement and thus learning.

My hope is that this article serves to cause you to institute productive changes into your practice routine. Make 2018 the year where your performance finally meets your potential.

How to Deal with a Headwind

Controlling your golf ball in the wind is one of golf's greatest challenges. For quite a while now I have been asking my junior players to hit a 140 yard approach shot directly into whatever wind might be blowing that day and none of them have ever reached the flag! Now, part of this is ego and another part inexperience, but being a curious coach I wanted to do what I could to help them play these headwind shots effectively. At Savannah Harbor we have a double sided range and in the spring we can experience some strong winds. The double sided range means that I can hit shots into and down the same wind. Having TrackMan is a huge help here as it tracks the ball accurately throughout it's flight. Watch...

After quite a bit of testing on and off the golf course I have found that this formula produces positive results. Please keep in mind that hitting any shot in the wind is not exact science and there will always be a subjective side to selecting the appropriate club and shot.

  1. Determine how many MPH of wind are blowing in your face
  2. If its 12 MPH then add 12 yards per 100 yards of distance required
  3. Determine what club you would need to hit the ball that distance
  4. Take one additional club and play a knockdown type shot

Example scenario: For a 140 yard shot into a 20 MPH headwind. I would add 28 yards (20 yards per 100) to 140 to get to 168 which is a full 7 iron for me. I would thus take a 6 iron and hit a knockdown for this scenario.

You might wonder how you'd come to recognize the wind speed...? Experience certainly helps, but there's nothing against checking a weather app on your phone prior to going out to play to help you gauge wind speed. And remember - there is no such thing as a one club wind!

Thanks for reading and I hope this information helps you better control your ball in challenging windy conditions.

Develop Your Skills

Getting better at golf should be fun! As I become a more experienced coach I'm finally grasping the role that skill plays in lowering any golfer's score. I think of skill as what you can do with your technique. What shots can you hit? How well can you control your golf ball? That's achieved with skill. Check out this drill that I came up with to not only help you become a better golfer, but also to help you have more fun while you practice...

We all need skills. Hopefully wicked skills! By giving yourself ONE opportunity to hit each of the shots required to complete this drill you are continuously challenging your ability to adapt to the requirements of each unique situation. Something real golf requires on every shot! The seven required shots are a big slice, a medium fade, a baby fade, a straight one, a baby draw, a medium draw and a big hook. Don't hit them in order, but mix it up. Real golf doesn't work in a neat and smooth progression - neither should your practice. Keep a score too. It will help you strive to achieve full marks! 

Add golf skills to your resume...

Add golf skills to your resume...

Give this drill a try the next time you go out to practice. In fact, any skill based challenge or drill you can come up with will help you to develop wicked golf skills that you can take out on the course with you to start shooting lower scores.

Thanks for reading.