Making Gains

It seems like just the other day that I embarked on my teaching career, yet it was almost 30 years ago. As a young coach it didn’t take me long to get to a point where I thought I pretty much knew everything there was to know about the golf swing. My how things have changed! I remember saying that one day on Tour we would get to a point where there were no more ‘bad’ or unusual looking swings. Ha! Anyone seen Matthew Wolff’s golf swing?

ManyWays.JPG

When I first started coaching Phil’s backswing would have been too long, Bubba’s feet would have been too active, Jordan could never be successful with a bent lead arm, DJ’s club face would have been impossibly closed and Jim Furyk - well that just had no chance.

Perhaps it’s my experience speaking, but I believe the golf instruction industry has come a long way in the last two decades. We have made more progress in this time than all the years before. Our eyes have been opened to the uniqueness and intricacy of the golf swing and how there truly are many ways to get the job done. A better understanding of the forces and torques that golfers are exerting on both the ground and the club has opened our eyes to perhaps why the players pictured above are successful.

Another important revelation over the last two decades has been the value of skill. Your technique allows you to hit the ball towards your target, but its skill that enables you to adjust the flight, shape, distance and ultimately, the outcome of each unique shot on the course. So many golfers were falsely led to believe that if they simply upgraded their technique/mechanics/swing they would be world-beaters. Technique, no doubt plays a role, but the value of skill can no longer be over looked. The great Seve Ballesteros is a fabulous example of a golfer that relied more on skill, and heart, than technique…

Seve Ballesteros

Seve Ballesteros

I feel that the internet has been an important catalyst in our improvement and understanding as a community of golf coaches. Sound information is out there, if you simply know where to look or who to contact. I cannot overlook the role technology has played either. I know that having the opportunity to teach with TrackMan, SwingCatalyst and K-Motion over the years has served to make me a better informed coach.

We have also improved our knowledge of how people learn and we now know it’s not all about pounding balls and getting your reps in. Sure, we still need to work hard, but we have a better picture of how to effectively take full ownership of changes and better incorporate them into who we are as a golfer.

Are we there yet? Do we have all the answers? As an older, more seasoned coach, I never think I know it all anymore. Our understanding is significantly deeper than it was 20 years, but we still have much to do.

It’s an exciting time to be a coach and a golfer.

To Mill or Not to Mill?

My three test subjects...

I must be honest and write that I did this test in the hopes of proving a few people wrong. Instead, I have proven myself wrong. With my research for the Wedge Project I put my "stake in the ground" on what I believed regarding milling on the clubface. All the tests I performed using TrackMan and various wedges always showed that a wedge without a milled face generated less spin (albeit slightly) than wedges with the fine "corduroy" look of milling between the grooves.

I looked up a person I believe to be very knowledgeable when it comes to equipment, Tom Wishon. I read all that he had to say on the matter of grooves and surface roughness and his findings aligned with the results I was seeing in my tests.

Based on what I had available to me I had done my homework and had placed my "stake in the sand" in favor of milling on the clubface. It just made sense to me. Until this....

David Neville and the crew from Vokey Wedges have been kind enough to let me have access to a few test wedges. They sent me six wedges of which I chose to use three for this test.

No grooves and no milling

No grooves and milling

All three wedges have the same grip, shaft (DG S200), length, grind (M) and a stated loft of 56 degrees. I did not check their weight, actual loft, lie angle or bounce measurements. I hit 60 shots off a mat (to eliminate ground interference) with the no groove, no milling club and 60 shots off a mat with the no groove, milled club. I then eliminated the 15 lowest spinning shots to leave the remaining 45 highest spinning shots with each club. I used slightly used ProV1X balls and attempted to carry each shot 50 yards. I wiped or cleaned the clubface between every 3rd or 4th shot. Here are the results:

Titleist SM4 TVD M 56 degree Chrome Fly Cut without Grooves or Milling

Titleist SM5 56.10 M 56 degree Raw Surface without Grooves/Milling Only

As you can see the club that had surface milling or roughness actually generated less spin - 6009 RPM to 6229 RPM. While the difference between the two is negligible and most golfers would have a hard time telling the difference between the ball flight of one versus the other (myself included), the result is significant to me in that I firmly believed the outcome would be reversed.

Keep in mind this is a test involving one golfer hitting a limited number of shots to one distance. The results might be a slightly different with multiple golfers at different distances, but I don't believe different enough to sway the outcome of this test.

I recently posted this quote by Martin Palmer on Twitter: "The secret to mastery in any field is to forever be a student." Today my "stake in the sand" moved - I was a student and I learned something. I think it is vital as a coach, or even as a golfer, to place your "stake in the sand" and firmly believe in a method, approach or theory. Stand by it and argue in its favor. That is, until you uncover sound evidence or reasoning against your viewpoint - then you pick up your stake, admit you were wrong and adjust your approach.

As a point of interest I wanted to see how a standard clubface might interact with the ball. I hit 25 shots (keeping the best 20) with the Titleist SM4 TVD M grind that has 17 standard grooves and a milled face. Here are those results:

Titleist SM4 TVD M 56 degree Black Oxide 17 Grooves with Surface Milling

As you can see this clubface with both grooves and surface roughness generated the highest spin rates of all three clubs. This leads me to believe that grooves play a larger, more important role on cleanly struck shots than I originally thought.

As I continue to learn and work towards providing my students with what I believe to be the best current information and knowledge available I know that I will continue to be wrong. The blessing is that each time I am wrong I will learn, adjust and be less wrong than I was before.

Country Music and a Recipe for Success...

Zac Brown Band I recently attended a two day Southern Ground Music and Food Festival in Charleston, SC put on by the Zac Brown Band. Now you may be asking - "What does this have to do with golf or my game?" Stay with me here, because as you will see, there is so much you can learn from successful entities in other industries.

I came away from the event inspired about what I needed to do to move forward and how I can do a better job for my students. Here is what I learned:

HARD WORK

In 2013 ZBB will have been on tour from early January through late October. Once the tour is done they will be recording a new album - talk about getting down to it!  They always seem to be stretching their abilities by experimenting with new or different genres of music. Lesson -  persistently work hard at being the best you possibly can be - every minute of every day!

SUPPORT and EXPERTISE

ZBB is made up of a motley group of supremely gifted artists where each member is exceptionally talented in one or multiple areas. It truly is a case of the sum of the parts is greater than each individual part. Each band member beautifully complements what the others do. Lesson - specialize, but also surround yourself with experts in each field. Don't be afraid to ask for help in areas you might be weak in.

PROFESSIONALISM

The band strives to go above and beyond what one would expect - even above what one would expect from a world class act like they are. Their sets are immaculately planned and nothing seems to be "thrown together".  Lesson - be over-prepared! Let your students see that you are ready and excited to help them achieve their goals.

SHARING and MENTORING

ZBB is always open to lending a helping hand to young up and coming bands. The Festival I attended was evidence of this in that most of earlier acts were younger bands being supported by ZBB. They will also often invite artists, both young and old, to perform on stage with them. This is in addition to their album titled "You Get What You Give"! Lesson - go out of your way to help younger teachers and golfers. It costs you nothing!

GRATITUDE

I have been fortunate to see the band perform a few times now and they are always very thankful for all the people who allow them to be successful at what they do.  Lesson - always let your clientele know how thankful you are for their support and business.

Zac Brown Gives Thanks

You might think I'm crazy (and there's a good chance you're right!) but I took all that from a concert put on by an exceptional country music band! What can you take from this information? And how can it benefit what you do in golf?

#southerngroundfestival