Justin Thomas had an outstanding 2017. Five wins including the PGA Championship, member of the victorious President’s Cup Team, FedEx Cup champ and winner of Player of the Year honors. Pretty good right!? Yes indeed but the items listed above probably aren’t news to you. They are things you remembered. What you may not recall however is that he missed six cuts in 2017 including three in a row. Miss three cuts in a row in 2018 and I’m sure the media will be all over you Justin! What you also may not know and what golfers (adults and juniors) and parents of juniors should know is what a full year of scores looks like. How consistent are PGA Tour pros? In the chart below you will see all of the scores Justin Thomas shot and what that looks like in the big picture of a full season. His average score is listed as well as his median. As with all of us, he has a 50 percent chance of shooting his median score or higher and a 50 percent chance of shooting his median score or lower. There is a large difference between his highest score and lowest score that being 21 strokes. This difference is not due to some crazy high score because those are normal every year by most every player but because he shot an extremely low score … a 59. If you take the 59 out of the mix there’s still 17 strokes between his lowest and highest score and let me tell you that is NORMAL. Unfortunately we are playing an inconsistent game. We’re just trying to lower our scoring average and be less inconsistent. Hopefully realizing what the best players do will give you some freedom as a player to not beat yourself up for a tough day on the course.
Bad shots are a part of the game. Champions do something well on their next shot. They rebound. They bounce back. Non-champions drag negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions to their next shot, hole and round. They talk negatively to themselves, blame others for their mistakes, and complain about things that they cannot control.
The next time you hit a shot that you don’t care for try the following:
1. Watch it all the way; find a specific spot to walk toward
2. Under-react to it; shrug it off
3. Do not leave the area from which you hit the shot until you’re over it. Take a practice swing feeling a better swing then place club back in bag and move on, period.
4. Get hungry/excited to hit your next one (play smart; bogey can be a great score)
Golf is about many things … honesty, integrity, friendships to name a few but mentally it’s about how you react and recover when the ball doesn’t go where you had intended.
What You Should Know If You’re Searching For a Golf Teacher/Coach
Finding the right golf teacher/coach for you or your child is a very important process and should not be done in haste. Because the industry is not monitored or regulated, any one person can wake up one day and start teaching at a driving range or golf course. And don’t think it doesn’t happen – it is common practice for golf academies to employ teachers who have never given a lesson. They are often disguised by showing their playing abilities but in fact have no teaching experience. It is for these reasons that you need to do your homework and we hope the following information helps you find a qualified teacher and coach as well as a facility worthy of making the time and financial investment you’ll be making.
A great teacher/coach does more than identify areas of improvement in your setup or swing. He should have communication skills that are unparalleled! That is critical to not only your improvement but also your enjoyment of your time together. He should first find out what is the weakest link in that student’s game and tackle that first. The teacher helps people improve by helping them understand the learning process. They then help the student understand his current swing/stroke and how that relates to the shots he’s experiencing. Next the teacher explains what TO DO and they go work on it together as a team developing a simple and clear plan. Additionally, the teacher/coach should show the student how to practice properly, how to evaluate his own swing so that he can eventually become his own coach all without losing focus on the real goal which is to shoot lower scores. And all throughout this process the teacher/coach will encourage and support his students through the ups-and-downs of this game.
To begin the process, you should expect an invitation from the teacher to meet and take a tour of the facility. You should be expecting some questions directed at you during this initial meeting or in the form of a questionnaire. You might want to ask the teacher if you can watch him or her give several lessons and don’t be afraid to ask for the names and contact information of several students so that you can inquire about their experience with that particular instructor. When you sit down with a teacher to interview him or her, it will be easy for you to recognize those who go above and beyond to help his students, who will care about you and are quite concerned about your progress.
You should have questions for the teacher as you’ll be doing much of the interviewing. The following information should help arm you with a few questions and help in your decision-making process.
There are a number of golf academies that aren’t owned by the person whose name it bears. Some teachers franchise their name while having nothing to do with the training of teachers or operations of business. Often times the real owner(s) typically take a larger than normal percentage of the instructor’s pay. Such practices don’t attract the best staff of instructors. Finding who the actual owner is can simply be found out by asking if you can get a lesson from him. Regardless, it is of the utmost importance to you to know the instructor who will be teaching you. Just because the name on the building may be famous doesn’t mean that that person or the teacher you will get will be an extraordinary guide in your improvement process. You have to do your homework but doing so will pay off.
An instructor belonging to an association relating to golf or teaching means nothing to you unless he or she can help you. Don’t place too much weight on the instructor’s golf associations. More important is his or her experience. Instructors learn from each other and because of this, the instructor you’re seeking should have taught with several top instructors not just one or certainly not with other inexperienced teachers. Ask for a resume and ask who the instructor has worked under in the past. Ask for an exact past history and experience – this should be laid out in a resume and verified. Experience alone doesn’t make a teacher good however. They need knowledge and other skills like communication and proper diagnosis to help you improve.
It may be important to you to ask the teacher about the progress and accomplishments of those students whose handicap or ability resembles yours. This is one way to confirm whether that person has the experience, knowledge and skills to teach you. You should not feel embarrassed at all to ask for those names and contact information. If you’re concerned with being taught by a professional of a certain gender this is a great tool to utilize. Those students you contact will open up and share their experience both pros and cons about the particular instructor – this is an extremely useful process and one that should be taken advantage of.
Exclusivity to Teaching
Many golf professionals aren’t teachers or coaches. Everyone who is in the instructional side of the golf business has playing experience so just because they won a golf tournament doesn’t make them a great communicator or someone who holds the knowledge to help you improve. Other pros have too many other duties at their facility to spend the necessary time teaching, growing as a teacher or checking up on their students’ progress. Most spend countless hours merchandising, running tournaments, hiring and maintaining a staff, budgeting, putting out fires and frankly, many other duties that they tend to be centered on. While this is certainly not a blanket scenario, it is quite common. You should be looking for a person who can relate to you, communicate to you, who is dedicated to your progress and perhaps whose entire career revolves around the instruction side of golf.
Does the teacher have a philosophy? Does it match what you would like to accomplish in your game? Is the philosophy versatile enough to work with every ability level, person, gender, age, et cetera or is it a one-for-all approach in which you may not fit into? You can gain this information from talking with his or her students. If each student is working on the same thing, then it is likely you’ll be doing the same thing regardless of your need for it. Do you prefer instruction and communication to be non-mechanical and picture-like or do you prefer very technical terms? A great instructor is able to accommodate to the learner and find out which process is most beneficial to the student.
Access & Lesson Scheduling
Conversing with your teacher will be important as you progress. You will have questions and you want to be able to have them answered in a timely fashion. Your instructor should provide you with a high level of customer service. When you contact several of his or her students ask them the instructor’s timeliness in returning a call or email. Additionally, what process should be taken when booking a lesson? Is it done solely online, via telephone, email or are any an option? Will the instructor give out his or her personal email address to you and cell phone number? Ask yourself what mode of communication you prefer when away from the facility and make sure your teacher accommodates you.
Hours of Operation
It should be important to you to know what days and times the instructor works and if those times match your schedule. How far in advance can a lesson be booked would be a valid question. The answer will dictate how busy the instructor is which can work two ways – perhaps the teacher is too busy to serve you at a level that is comfortable to you or perhaps the teacher is so open that it should raise a red flag.
Your teacher should be continually learning and growing as a teacher, coach, communicator and business person. It’s one of the attributes of being a great teacher – they never stop learning. Your instructor should obviously be skilled in improving one’s mechanics but also be educated in the learning process, have superior communication skills, understand how the body moves and maybe even have some experience or knowledge about the psychology of golf. Inquire about what the teacher does to increase his own education of the many facets of instruction. The truly educated never graduate!
The facility in which you take instruction has great value in your experience and your ability to learn effectively. While you will ultimately decide where you go and who you see, you should weigh the benefits of a particular teaching facility to that of others. Something that has been studied and confirmed by many experts in the study of how humans learn, is that people tend to learn best when it takes place in the same environment in which one performs. Ultimately, that would be the golf course. Unfortunately, many facilities don’t allow for instruction to take place on the course due to the number of people playing. Some facilities have practice holes where on-course instruction of all sorts can be applied without any speed-of-play considerations. Outside of instruction on the course, the next best place is in an outdoor environment. You should certainly look at the versatility of the facility where you will be learning. The following will expand on that core issue.
Many indoor golf teaching centers have popped up over the past several years. While there is some advantages to taking swings indoors or even without a golf ball, to solely take lessons indoors is very limiting. When you decide to invest in your golf game, you should consider the versatility to work on your full swing with your teacher and yet also shift to hitting bunker shots, enhancing your green reading ability, go play a hole with your teacher or go roll a couple putts on the green before your lesson is over. You should be able to work on one aspect of your game and move on to another. Hitting off of real grass, being able to hit bunker shots, experiencing varied terrain, seeing how the ball reacts on the green with short game shots and seeing the flight of the ball are vital to connecting your swing improvements with what actually happens outdoors and is also a crucial step in your ability to successfully transfer your game to the course.
Taking a lesson at a golf facility that also has an indoor facility may be important to you. By having an indoor facility you will always know you can work on your mechanics indoors. Indoor instruction can obviously be done year-round but to see the flight of the ball, learn distance control with your wedges, learning to curve the ball, gain better touch with your putter, et cetera will all have to wait until you can get outside. If you have something in your swing that requires your ball flight to take a step backward and you can’t seem to improve due to your concern of seeing that ball fly poorly then temporary indoor instruction could be great for you. If you want to work on your game during the colder months finding a facility that has an indoor aspect blended with the right instructor could be a huge asset to improving your game come warmer weather. One other question you may pose, is if the indoor facility has the option to hit from inside the building out onto the range or will you only have to hit balls into a net?
Can you practice at this facility? As part of taking lessons, is that practice free or is there a charge? Can you drop by to ask questions if the teacher is not in a lesson? Does the facility have range memberships?
A huge number of people are visual learners and video analysis can be extremely helpful to those people. Some though don’t care to see their swing on video and sometimes the teacher can overuse it. Your teacher should be able to use such technology and yet also know when it’s best for the student to veer away from it. During your tour of the facility you should be shown the technology that can accelerate your learning and the tools that you’ll go home with after each lesson. These typically consist of sending your lesson to the internet where you can privately view it from any computer, personal notes, a DVD/CD of your swing and/or take-home photos. These don’t mean much though without an experienced instructor telling you what to look at, what to work on first and how best to work on your improvements. REMEMBER … technology should be used to enhance the art of communicating and coaching!
What happens during inclement weather? Is the lesson cancelled? Should you expect the teacher to call you? Is an indoor center available at this location? On-course lessons, bunker lessons or the like are typically weather dependent but you need to inquire as each facility is different.
For some golfers the privacy of the learning environment is important. Take a tour so you can see how close you will be hitting balls next to someone else. There needs to be enough space not only for safety and your comfort but also for the teacher to move around and video you if need be.
Jordan Spieth rocked it in 2015 …. five wins, two major championships, FedEx Cup champion, $23 million on-course earnings and the Vardon Trophy. However, I am certain that you and/or your students will be amazed at the insights the chart below presents. Share this with your students, adults, juniors and their parents!
To show you what sort of year Jordan Spieth had, I have displayed in the chart below all of his 2015 scores and the frequency in which he shot those scores. Please note there may be some European Tour scores included. Additionally, he shot over 20 rounds where he shot 68 which exceeded our y-axis on the chart. And for those that don’t know, winning the Vardon Trophy means that he had the lowest scoring average on the PGA Tour so when you look at these numbers you should realize that you’re probably not going to find anything better.
You can see that his average score was 68.58 and his median was 68.2. These scores are also displayed with lines on the chart. His average score is depicted with a blue line and his median with a white line. The median for those who don’t know (or remember from college stats class) is the middle which in this case means there are as many rounds of golf, and therefore scores, on the left side of the white line as there are on the right side of the white line. That said, the scores on the left side of the white line are lower than the median and the scores on the right side of the white line are higher.
Things to Note:
- The difference between his best and worst scores of the 2015 season was 14 strokes. I have done this charting on several players over the past few years and the lowest margin between best and worst rounds was Yani Tseng with 12 strokes in 2011.
- Jason Day’s 2015 score chart, which I posted last week, shows a difference of 20 strokes between his best and worst scores. And if your memory is short, it would be Jason Day’s 2015 season that you’d like to have if it wasn’t Jordan Spieth’s!
- Jordan Spieth has a 50% chance of shooting his median score or lower and a 50% chance that he’ll shoot his median score or higher.
- Las Vegas is going to bet that he shoots his average score and not his best score. The same is true for you. Golfers (and parents of juniors) should know your average score over your handicap.
- The best players in the world tend to have a 13-14 stroke gap between their best and worst rounds of the year.
- Players tend to shoot their lowest score only one or maybe two times during a season.
- All golfers have some sort of “bell” curve of scores. It’s very challenging to squish that curve to less than a 12 shot difference. We’re all just working to move the curve to the left giving us a lower scoring average.
- If you divided this chart into thirds (as you see below), you can begin to think that there are average scores, worse than average scores and better than average scores. The same concept is true for the caliber of shots you hit, the kinds of bounces you will encounter, the kinds of weather you will play in, the condition of courses you will play, the personality of the opponents you will play with, the tee time you draw, the type of warm-up you may have and more.
A special thank you goes out to Dr. Rick Jensen for sharing his wisdom and who explains such a chart so wonderfully with his famous jar of marbles.
If you couldn’t have Jordan Spieth’s 2015 season, you would probably want Jason Day’s. Jason made nearly $12M on the course last year. And to think that was 2nd on the list is mindboggling. To show you what sort of year Jason Day had, I have displayed in the chart below all of Jason Day’s 2015 scores and the frequency in which he shot those scores (please note there may be some European Tour scores included).
You can see that his average score was 68.86 and his median was 69.2. These scores are also displayed with lines on the chart. His average score is depicted with a blue line and his median with a white line. The median for those who don’t know (or remember from college stats class) is the middle which in this case means there are as many rounds of golf and therefore scores on the left side of the white line as there are on the right side of the white line. That said, the scores on the left side of the white line are lower than the median and the scores on the right side of the white line are higher.
Things to Note:
• The difference between his best and worst scores of the 2015 season was 20 strokes. Take out the horrible 81 and it’s still a 15 stroke difference between his best (61) and worst (76) rounds of the year. I have done this charting on several players over the past few years and the lowest margin between best and worst rounds was Yani Tseng with 12 strokes in 2011.
• There is a 50% chance that he’ll shoot his median score or lower and a 50% chance that he’ll shoot his median score or higher.
• The best players in the world tend to have a 13-14 stroke gap between their best and worst rounds of the year.
• Players tend to shoot their lowest score only one or maybe two times during a season.
• All golfers have some sort of “bell” curve of shots. It’s very challenging to squish that curve to less than a 12 shot difference. We’re all just working to move the curve to the left giving us a lower scoring average.
• If you divided this chart into thirds with an equal number of rounds into each third, you can begin to think that there are average scores, worse than average scores and better than average scores. That said, the same concept is true for the kinds of bounces you will encounter, the kinds of weather you will play in, the types of courses you will play, the personality of the opponents you will play with, the tee time you draw, the type of warm-up you may have and more.
Next week, I will post Jordan Spieth’s 2015 chart and we’ll see how these two players compare.
A special thank you goes out to Dr. Rick Jensen for sharing his wisdom and who explains such charts so wonderfully with his famous jar of marbles.
I know, the title sounds a bit odd doesn’t it? You might be asking why would I want to and how would I practice getting over them?
You’re putting in a lot of practice time so that you don’t hit bad shots. You might be working with a teacher/coach to gain more consistency so why on earth should you do this? The reason is that golf is a hard game and while it’s probably a bit easier than most people make it, you will never perfect it. You will always hit shots that are disappointing or that don’t turn out the way you had intended. And frankly, if your shots were always perfect the game wouldn’t have the draw and allure that it does. Just watch a tour event for this reason next time. Tour players ALWAYS hit bad shots. It’s just a challenging game. So that said, since everyone, even the best players in the world hit bad shots, shouldn’t you be preparing yourself for this? The answer is absolutely!
On the chipping green, even if you’re working on your technique, after hitting a bad chip shot, don’t rake over another ball and go again. Instead, train yourself to put down your wedge and pick up your putter. Then go finish it out. Even if you don’t make the putt you’ll be training yourself that every shot in your pile of chipping balls matters and you’ll be training yourself to deal with it and getting over it.
When you’re on the range, after you hit a poor iron for instance, resist pulling over another attempt/ball. Grab a wedge and pretend you missed the green with your iron by hitting that wedge to a target close to you as if you had a pitch shot remaining.
That’s how you practice getting over bad shots and that’s how you’ll move on and perform better on the next shot when you’re on the course or in a tournament.
Sounds simple and it really is. You just have to make your practices productive. If your practices don’t help you play better then they’re probably helping you play worse!
The average driver club head speed for the average 14-handicap male is 94MPH. This happens to be the same MPH that the average LPGA Tour Player swings her driver, however, this LPGA Tour Player hits her drives over 20 yards farther than the average 14-handicap male. In many cases, this is due to the 14-handicap male golfer, as well as golfers with other various handicaps, hitting too DOWN on the golf ball. When a golfer hits too down on the ball with the driver, the launch and spin numbers don’t gel making the golf ball travel shorter than it should given the MPH of club head speed the person is producing.
With this statement, it means many people can hit the ball farther without swinging faster. They just need to learn how to maximize what they’re doing and in the case of this segment, learn to hit more UP with their driver. We utilize a launch monitor at our golf academy but show you in the video below an easy way you can test your “compression” so that you can increase your ball speed and therefore distance on your drives.
Your Hands Will Follow Your Eyes
I went to a Porsche World Road Show yesterday to race some Porsches around a race track. What a great experience! But one thing that I heard the instructor tell us when going around a curve was to look well ahead of where you are because “your hands will follow your eyes.”
The same is very true in golf as we could all learn to get out of our own way a little better than what we tend to do in this great game. Whether you’re hitting a full swing shot engaged in your target or rolling a putt to the hole, we should do the same – your body will perform well when you let your eyes “drive” the motion.
Just had the fortunate experience of doing three live segments on The Golf Channel’s Morning Drive as well as a dozen or so taped tips and we talked about that very same thing as it relates to putting. Take a look at the link below for the segment.
This is a continuation of our A.C.E. Routine. This is Part 3 of 3:
Jason Day, after his win at this year’s PGA Championship held at Whistling Straits, admitted in the press conference that he had a thought come into his mind, “Don’t hit it short in the water.” He went on to say, “That’s the moments where you have to pull yourself back and say, nope, I’m not going to have that. I’m going to stomp on that thought.” These types of thoughts or distractions happen to the best of us. But it’s what you do with them that will make you or break you!
EXECUTE: execution is simply swinging the club. There is virtually no time that takes place between the time you become committed and the time you swing. The commitment trigger not only counters any negativity but also fills the timeframe when most negative thoughts creep into your mind. However, there are times when you need to back off of a shot, regroup and recommit. This would include:
- Any negativity creeps in your mind
- Your eyes drift to, say the pin, when your target is something else
- You get distracted
- Score comes to mind
- The wind speed or direction change
- You’re not really 100% committed
No one else is to blame for the shots you hit – it is your responsibility. Back away and gather yourself if needed. The best level of commitment is one that engrosses you so much in your shot that you don’t even notice the distractions that are around you. Being so into the process of your shot allows you to disregard poor shots helping you to put them behind you and dramatically aiding your ability to bring a clear and focused approach to your next shot.
This is a continuation of our A.C.E. Routine. This is Part 2:
Jack Nicklaus always said that he was very consumed in the particulars of the shot and that doing so always kept his mind off of any negative thoughts. Sometimes negative thoughts creep in during the last couple of seconds when we’re over the shot. The second part to our routine – Commit – will help get your mind quiet and your shots more effective.
COMMIT: this is the few seconds just before you hit the shot and where you need to create your own trigger that confirms you’re in a beneficial frame of mind and ready to swing. A Commitment trigger helps fill those vital few seconds and assists with keeping the demons out of your thoughts. A Commitment trigger keeps things positive and helps you stay focused on what TO DO.
- “I see a runway leading from my ball to the target then I swing.”
- “I see the apex of the shot in the air then I swing.”
- “I burn a thin red laser line into the green on the trail in which my ball will take to the hole then I roll the putt.”
- Say to yourself “This is perfect!” then swing.
- Say to yourself “Right at it!” then swing.
- Say to yourself “I own this!” then swing.
- “I let out a breath then swing.”
- “When my feet feel grounded and solid then I swing.”
- “When I feel connected to the target I swing.”
- “I look at the target 3 times then swing.”
- “I count to 4 … ‘1’ is positioning my club behind the ball, ‘2’ is my feet getting set, ‘3’ is when I look at the target, and ‘4’ is my backswing begins.”
Experiment with a commitment trigger when you’re on the range to see what helps you get engrossed and consumed in the process of what you want to do instead of what you don’t want to do.