A quick video about the state of the national golf training.  Enjoy!

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Tyler here with quick comment on my favorite golf show, “The Haney Project,” and the lessons we can take from it.

Another Haney Project comes to a close – this time a success
‘Third time’s the charm’ appeared to ring true as the third season of the Haney Project came to a close last week with a successful season for his student Rush Limbaugh.  The season had significant ups and downs but overall Rush showed great improvement as he improved his swing plane, clubface awareness, and concept of the bottom of the swing.  I want to applaud Hank for his success in this season, but also dig a bit deeper and see if we can’t figure out his recipe for success.

What was different about this season’s project?
Ray Romano and Charles Barkley did not improve their swing or game during the season of the Haney Project – but Rush did.  Ray and Charles are both passionate golfers who spend a lot of time practicing, have taken lessons before Hank, but who reached plateaus with their games.  Rush on the other hand was a weekend hacker.  He played golf, but didn’t really do anything to try to get better other than playing more golf.  In the first few episodes, we saw him lament the prescription of “range time” and even questioned whether he had the time to invest in what it would take to change his swing.   There are lots of these golfers out there, just as there are lots of golfers like Ray and Charles, but I think this was a key as to why Mr. Haney had success this season.

Golf instruction – it’s not for everyone
This show epitomizes a concept that I have grown to understand over the last 7 years.  Traditional golf instruction can get you to a point, but it will not take you past there without a more comprehensive approach.  First let me describe what I mean by   traditional golf instruction.  Traditional golf instruction follows a simple “if this, then that” rule.  If you are slicing, then try this drill to fix it.  If you are struggling, then think about this differently or feel like you are doing this.  There is no real diagnosis in traditional golf instruction because there is no real further testing than a video camera.  The modern, TPI based, system for golf instruction follows a more comprehensive – ” if this, find out why, then that” rule.  If you are slicing, we will do some physical or concept test to find out WHY you are slicing, and then do this to fix your specific reason for slicing.  A great analogy I have heard for describing the system is using a sniper rifle to attack the problem instead of a hand grenade – but maybe traditional golf instruction is more like a Nuke.  Complete with the fallout of spreading toxic images like, “keep you head down.”

The traditional golf instruction, hand grenade, worked on Rush because he had never tried it before.  He had never tried practicing.  He had never tried soliciting an expert to help organize the confusing thoughts in his head.  After a few episodes, you could see that he was really beginning to understand the golf swing better and understood how practicing made a huge difference.

Which do you need, a sniper or a bunch of hand grenades
Traditional golf instruction can work for beginners and novice a like, and it can work for elite athletes who happen to share the learning style communicated by the instructor -  but for more and more golfers, this doesn’t seems to be enough.  Ray and Charles showed us the limitations of traditional golf instruction and how if you have reached a plateau, or trough in Charles case, then you need a TPI expert or someone who at least understands the body in order to break through that barrier.  If you have put in hours of practice and taken lessons and just believe you need someone to explain it to you better, then you probably need some body work to reach a new level.  Charles or Ray, the offer is out there if you want to go through a program and see how the body and swing connect, then give me, or any other TPI instructor, a call.

As for Hank, I suggest sticking to your formula for next season, find someone who never practices or has never taken a lesson and I bet you can work your magic again.

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Greetings golfers!  Tyler here, and while I sit in the waiting room while my car gets some work on it, I thought I’d share with your one of my fun annual traditions.  At the beginning of each year, I like to go to the PGA tour website and check out some statistics.  We in the golf instruction and training industry get obsessed with making our golfers the best ball strikers they can be, because, well, quite simply – hitting the ball where you want to makes golf more enjoyable.  So when most of us instructors are giving lessons, we gravitate toward the popular swings as comparisons, such as:  Ernie Els, Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Davis Love III.  We generally compare your swing to one of these successful winners on tour.  But are these guys picked at random, or are they really the best in the world?

Who is REALLY on top of the full swing game? – 2010 Ball Striking
If you take a look at 2010 ball striking statistics, you may be surprised by who is at the top of the list.  Here are the top 5 ball strikers (combined total driving and G.I.R)

  1. Charles Warren
  2. Graham DeLaet
  3. John Senden
  4. Joe Durant
  5. Davis Love III

Whew!  At least we got one of them on the list.  So where are our other favorites?

  • Ernie Els is 116
  • Adam Scott was pretty solid at 23rd
  • Tiger Didn’t have enough rounds to qualify

Ok, so maybe these ball striking statistics are flawed.  Let’s look at one of my real favorite categories instead, it’s a seldom used stat called proximity to the hole.

Here are the top 5 in Proximity to the Hole (basically, how close do they really hit it to the pin).

  1. Tim Clark
  2. Jay Williamson
  3. Joe Durant
  4. Cliff Kresge
  5. Omar Uresti
  6. K.J. Choi

Uhh, Houston, we have a problem.  Those swings are some of the goofiest on tour.  I added KJ in there because I dare you to go to your instructor and tell him you want to swing like KJ – you know what, I Double dog dear you….

Now, for our favorites.

  • Ernie Else  – T 151
  • Davis Love III -  T 23
  • Adam Scott – T 41

After seeing some of this interesting data, naturally, I would like to study some of these “other” swings to see what makes they so good at hitting the ball.  A quick search on youtube should help me out, right?  Wrong!

You can find a few swings for John Senden (1 in high speed, which is all that really count).  No swings for Charles Warren or Graham DeLaet.  And then if you watch the Konica Minolta Swing Vision Analysis of the swings listed (other than Davis Love III) you will usually hear that this is a weird swing that relies on timing and good athleticism.  Can the top 5 at something really all be weird, while the guys in the middle of the pack are proper and the ones we should emulate?
I present this data to back up the concept that there is no one right way to swing a golf club and that you need to find a pro who can help tailor your swing to how it works with your body.  The goal of the golf swing is to create as much clubhead speed as you can, with a reasonable amount of control.  The proven method for generating speed is to use your feet and legs to initiate the downswing, transfer and increase the speed of movement through the hips, do it again through the core and shoulders, and then use your wrists and hands to get that speed squarely into the golf ball.  If you do that consistently, you too will be a good ball striker, just like our lesser known leaders, John Senden, Charles Warren, Tim Clark and Joe Durant.

2011 has already been named the Year-of-the-Glute on the fitness side of the game, maybe it’s time we also make it the year you build an efficient swing.  We could call it the Year-of-the-not-as-pretty-as-Ernie-Els-but-efficient-for-me-swing…

How about this, I’ll work on a better name, and you go work on using your body more effectively.

‘Til next time golfers.

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Tyler here to welcome you to 2011.  I hope you had a wonderful holiday season, and are making this the year that you pursue your golf and fitness goals.  A better, healthier athlete makes a better golfer – every time.

I wanted to start off the new year with a video and this is me taking the initiative.  Enjoy this video on how I determine how strong a golf grip is.  Enjoy!

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World Golf Fitness Summit 2010 – Day 3 Review

I’m going to apologize upfront about a few things regarding day 3.  First, it was the 5th day in a row of lectures and I might have been a bit fried by this point. If you look at my binder, the volume of notes decreased significantly between day 2 and day 3.  Second, I missed the middle portion of speeches because I was getting my monthly neck check from my friend and therapist, Janet Alexander.  So this review will be a bit light.  Oh well, that which I did manage to see was very strong, so let’s get to it.

Istvan Bayli…Scratch that, we have a surprise speaker Ben Crane with 2/9ths of his team – Dr Rose and James Sieckmann!

The first speech of the day was supposed to be Istvan Bayli but his flight from Canada had some troubles and he didn’t make it in time.  It’s a shame, and I hope they book him for the next summit.  Istvan is one of the pioneers in the world of long-term athletic development, and one of the chief researchers responsible for the systems in the TPI Junior certification.  He would have been great to hear as his slides were a bit blurry, but chopped full of information.  But we can’t just sit and cry about it, there is a summit that has to go on.

Greg is always prepared to go on the stage.  He is what I would call a natural performer.  Anyway, with the Isvan crisis luming, he called in a favor and brought in one of the recent golf fitness celebrities, Ben Crane.  Ben, started off his talk with a convincing discussion of the “sledge wand.”  He talked about the importance of the stance and how you can’t start the destruction until you can feel the tension in your quads. He recommends doing this exercise barefoot to maximize the feel through the feet.  It was really convincing, and I kid you not, I heard stories of trainers taking frantic notes.

Anyway, after a few minutes speaking to us “from the now, in the middle of the now” Ben told us about himself and his path to where he is.  5 years ago, he met Dr. Greg Rose, who ultimately saved him from an early retirement do to back pain.  He climbed the ball striking ranks over the last 5 years, and he has always been a world class putter, but after a discussion with his 9 member team last winter, they decided that the project for 2010 was going to be wedges.  So they consulted the “best wedge player on the planet” in their mind, Tom Pernice.  Tom introduced Ben to James Sieckmann and the rest is history.  Sieckmann and Dr. Rose went on to explain how the kinematic sequence of the best wedge players in the world is backwards of what the best ball strikers do.  Basically, in the full swing you are trying to be powerful, with wedges (less than 40 yards) you are trying to intentionally be weak.  So you cast the club then at impact rotate your chest past your lowerbody.  You want no lag, and you want no stretch-shorten cycles do to segmental loading.  Ben Crane explained how he feels that he has 4 swings.  A putt, a wood swing, an iron swing, and a wedge swing, and they are very different.  This helps explain why many golfers struggle with one part of their game on any given day.  This talk was just a taste of the 4-hour lecture that Sieckmann gives as part of the newly redesigned Golf Pro level 3 Track.  I can’t wait to take it and get more of the theory.

Some other comments that stood from the Crane, Sieckmann, Rose show:

  • Narrow stance, left knee and foot turned out (for right-handed players), a real soft left arm, left wrist stays in extension and the right arm externally rotates in the backswing.
  • Swing plane is the most critical factor in the short game and the clubface rotates more in the short game than the full swing.
  • To hit high, lower the handle
  • Sieckmann talked about fitting wedges differently than the full swign.  He said, “My irons are one degree upright, but my sand wedge and lob wedge are one degree flat.”  Take that Mr. lie board.

Lance Gill and Dave Phillips –

Lance and Dave have given a few presentations together, and they are one of my favorite tandems to listen to.  Lance does an amazing job of setting Dave up for the punch lines, but is quick enough to provide a comedic retort of his own.  This presentation was all about putting and the effect that the eyes have on putting.  It’s a critical piece to the putting pie and probably the most commonly overlooked putting fundamental.

Dave started the presentation with one of the classics, are you right or left eye dominant?

  • A right eye dominant, right-handed golfer is going to set up with the ball more centered in his stance and he should be slightly open to the target line.  A good way of determining how open a golfer should be is to have him address the ball, but then set his feet while looking at the hole.
  • A left eye dominant, right-handed golfer is going to do better playing the ball more forward in his stance and set up with his body more square to the target line.

The second thing that they went over was the ability to visualize and the implications that visualization has on putter fitting and pre-shot routine.  They have some shape tests that they do to determine if you can visualize or not, and the general rule is that the more you can visualize the less support you need, while the poorer your visualization skills, the more visual guides you need.  While this concept makes sense in theory, I tend to question this a bit because of the data.  Dr. Craig Farnsworth, “the putt doctor,” mentioned in a clinic I attended that a few years ago 95% of golfers used a line on their golf ball to help them aim their putting.  From doing the visualization test with good golfers, I can assure you that greater than 5% of the PGA tour are good at visualizing; yet they still see a benefit in using a line.  Another putting expert, Dr. Kipp Patterson, explained to me that humans have an ability to connect dots and fill in gaps, it’s called the Gestalt principle.  So the line on the ball helps golfers to utilize this feature of the brain.  I think that it goes wrong when people don’t practice lining up the ball prior to taking this to the course.  If you put a line on there pointing in the wrong direction, then yes, it is going to mess you up, but if you have it pointing on the line you intend, then I think it will help anyone, whether you can visualize or not.

So you Don’t believe me on this practice thing?  Dr. Farnsworth tells a story about Annika Sorenstam going to the putting green for 2 hours and practicing nothing but aiming the ball at the hole.  She just practiced aiming the ball, without hitting a putt.  I challenge any of you to give that practice session a try, then let me know if the line helps or not.

Jason Glass – 3 Keys to explosive rotational power – BOOM!

Jason Glass is a great story for any of us who have followed the TPI circuit over the last 5 years.  He started, like the rest of us, by taking the seminar classes.  But he has refined the principles and developed his own explanations.  This creativity and persistence helped him become one of the level one instructors in Canada.  This was one of the more entertaining performances of the whole week.  It had lots of crowd interaction.  It had great videos of injuries and mayhem that presented his points.  And it had a tee shirt slingshot that ended up with a woman taking a tee shirt to the face.  Aside from that, the content was really clean and easy to apply and use.  He gave great examples of how to use his exercises in a group setting and how traditional strength training just won’t cut it if power is your real objective.

Jason’s three keys to explosive rotational power are:

1. Sequencing

2. The Pelvic Powerhouse

3. Segmental Stability

His presentation included simple illustrations with “volunteers” demonstrating usable exercises on how to work on the three keys.  They were creative exercises that are not the typical ones that you see in the levels of TPI fitness.  If you want more examples of great combo exercises that work on these features, then check out his DVD “Feel Better, Play Better” available at the TPI store.

Well, that’s it for this year.  It only took me a month to get all 3 days reviewed.  Hopefully, in two years when they have the next WGFS, I will be more of a video blogger and can get the reviews done quicker.

Stay tuned for more exciting information from Dee and I here at GFG.com

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Peter Kostis – If you want a revolution, the only solution, evolve
I was excited to hear from Peter’s team and their concept of the evolution of the golf swing and boy did they deliver.  Peter points out that the golf swing has evolved over the last hundred years for three reasons
1.     Equipment changes – including clothing
2.     Golf course design
3.     Conditioning
Tweed Man - Peter took us chronologically through the evolution of the ideal swings starting with an ambiguous 1890’s golfer referred to as “tweed man” who played with hickory shafts and restrictive clothing.  This golfer had a lot of hip turn and a fair amount of elbow bend to accommodate the syrupy transitions required to load that type of shaft.
Bobby Jones – less restrictive clothing than “tweed man” allowed for the longer swings that we picture when we think of hickory shaft golfers.  Kostis pointed out how Bobby Jones retired young as a result of the change in equipment.  I had never heard that explanation of why Jones stopped playing when he did, but it made a lot of sense.  Apparently, Bobby Jones experimented with steel shafts but didn’t want to put in the hours it would have required to change his game.  Too bad he didn’t have a Nike sponsorship back then, it would have been nice to see what he could have done if he had chose golf.
Hogan/Sam Snead – Golf’s first athletes and the prototypes of the modern golf swing built for the requirements of steel shaft.  I have to apologize for combining these two and not having notes for Hogan.  Unfortunately, on our thumb drive we didn’t get a copy of this presentation and I goofed on the note taking.  Back to Snead.  Kostis mentioned that Snead was the first golfer to use fitness to his advantage.  In an interview, Snead mentioned that he had some at home equipment for working on his upper body and we all know the stories about him kicking the top of a door jam at age 80.
Jack Nicklaus – The era of the spinney balata ball.  This era was dominated by the slide in an attempt to get the ball to launch really low.  If you were to put a “modern” swing with a balata golf ball, they would lose 50 yards at least.  Golf courses started to become softer and have less run up options on approach shots to greens.  There was no going back to the links style golf with lots of shots played low on the ground.  Sorry tweed man, you need to be able to land a ball with a butterfly with sore feet if you want to play this game, and the Jack style swing could certainly accomplish that feat.
Tiger Woods – Restrict those hips and get your x-factor working in a swing that is more geared at high launch and low spin.  This is the new model and it is a combination of the change in golf ball and the increased athleticism in golfers.
Additional comments
Peter left us with a few key thoughts.

  • Most golf pro’s these days think that studying the golf swing began with the video camera in the 80’s.  He reminds us that there was 100 years of golfers playing some pretty remarkable golf without all of this technology.
  • “As we get old, we must turn” – he cautions people from trying to turn the average golfer into Tiger Woods.  Maybe Sam Snead or even tweed man would work better for your average golfer with restricted movement and weak stabilizers.  He would rather see an older golfer turn those hips than try to mimic the modern swing.
  • “I would rather give someone too little to work on than too much” – Peter believes in changing the swing slowly.  He uses the diet analogy of losing 1-2 pounds instead of going on a crash diet if you want the weight loss to last.

My last Peter Kostis point reflects a neat metaphor – and I won’t do it justice without video.  He took the stance of a teacher erasing a blackboard, with his back to the audience and arm holding the imaginary eraser up against the board.  He points out that as the teacher erases more vigorously, his butt will move more.  He cautions that just trying to move your butt, can you picture Peter Kostis up there just shanking his groove thang?, won’t make the eraser move any faster.  This is the perfect real world example of the beauty of kinetic linking.  Get that energy moving from the ground to the hand and the butt will be doing the right thing.

Dr. James Andrews – why it can hurt to play golf
Dr. Andrews is the most important person in sports that you may have never heard of.  Dr. Andrews is has performed surgeries on some of the greatest athletes in the major sports including: Troy Aikman, Charles Barkley, Roger Clemens, Allen Iverson, Bo Jackson, Michael Jordan, Jack Nicklaus, Emmitt Smith, John Smoltz and Doug Williams.  His speech was detailed with usable information relating to injury in the world of golf.  Here are just some of his fun facts to know and share:

  • 62% of amateur golfers will sustain an injury during their career
  • 85% of pro golfers will sustain an injury

o   Higher incidence in professionals occur in the low back and shoulder
o   Other common injuries include wrist/hand, elbow, and knee

  • Ball impact has highest incidence of golf injuries.
  • Males have a higher incidence of left shoulder injuries
  • Females have a higher incidence of left wrist injuries
  • At impact – a well struck golf ball will impart a force of approximately25% of bodyweight to the lead shoulder while a poorly hit shot with a deep divot can be greater than 100% body weight
  • Swing changes that relieve lower back pain include

o   No hip sliding
o   Rotate on top of spine
o   Avoid excessive lumbar rotation
o   Avoid side bending position
o   Limit bending over at address
o   Flex at knees
o   Play with longer clubs

  • Lastly, he presented a study indicating that turning your left foot out can decrease the amount of force going into the left knee significantly.

The study on the turning of the left foot will really stick with me as a quick and easy way for your students to take some stress off of their back.  You do not have to set up with the toes square to play good golf.

Mike Bender and Scott Shepard – This team thing must really work
Unfortunately we did not get the slides for Mike Bender’s and Scott Shepards presentation so I’m missing a lot here.  The presentation was a summary of Mike Bender’s teaching method and how Scott Shepard has designed exercises and drills to support Bender’s system.  This is really the key message that I took from the presentation and it is a critical one.   As the fitness leg of the team, it is critical that you understand what the golf pro is trying to do with the player, the worst thing you can do is suggest a drill that contradicts what the pro is working on.  A classic example would be a player learning a single pivot swing, like the stack and tilt method, and you start doing lateral bounding and explain how it helps build the feeling of loading up into the right side.

A second point that I want to mention is a comment that I did write on my note sheet where bender talked about training aids being only as good as the coach that uses them.  This echoed a comment by Dennis McDade earlier in the week who stated that he didn’t really like the use of most training aids.  If you refer back to Richard Schmidt’s speech about random practice and the detrimental effect the use of a model can cause you will understand why training aids should be used at minimum.  I know that a lot of golfers like them, but it is our job as the coach to explain why they like them, and why the increased proficiency during practice is detrimental in the long run.

Bender made one critical comment that created a bit of a shockwave through the audience.  He mentioned that Zack Johnson has gotten a lot stronger over the last 4 years but in the process has lost distance.  He issued a caution that working out was the way to get more power in the golf swing.  While it’s true that simply adding strength will in no way guarantee a faster clubhead speed, this audience knows that if you are working on the right things, you can absolutely gain distance from working out.  It was an interesting comment to make in this arena, and I’m sure he meant nothing by it, but the way it was received was controversial to say the least.

Brain Bradley – What is normal should not be confused with what is healthy
Brian Bradley is the vice president of therapy protocol with Egoscue.  His presentation at the last WGFS was one of my favorites.  He has a strong presence and knows his stuff as it relates to the body.  This speech was an expansion off the presentation that he gave two years ago.  The basics of it are simple – if you don’t breath properly then don’t worry about any of the other stuff.  Why can he make this claim?  It’s simple really.  Poor breathing leads to decreased spine stability and a decrease in the movement of the organs, which can cause many issues that lead to reflexive core inhibition.   Both of these tendencies would make an explosive rotational movement, like the golf swing, very difficult to perform safely.  Further complications from a poor breathing pattern can be C-posture related faults characterized by.

  • Upper trapezius ¨
  • Levator Scapulae ¨
  • Internally rotated and Hinged Humerus ¨
  • Shortening of Pectoralis
  • Compression of SC and AC joints

Brian then left us with a great way to practice breathing.  Place your thumbs just below the back side of your rib cage – if you do this correctly you will stick your chest out a bit and your elbows will flare out wide.  It looks a bit like a pose Mick Jagger might make, but stay with it.  With your thumbs placed at the base of your ribcage, take a breath.  If you are using your diaphram correctly, your will feel movement back into your thumbs as well as feel the ribcage moving laterally.  This is a more accurate description than the typical “belly breath”, where the belly distends forward and the drag it exerts can actually inhibit diaphragmatic breathing.  Brian refers to this concept of how to train breathing as “East West Breathing” and can do more for your core than thousands of planks.

Janet Alexander – If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail
For those of you who haven’t had the privilege to listen to Janet, let me say that she is without a doubt one of the smartest people in the world of health and wellness that I have had the pleasure of listening to.  Her presentation this year was all about designing yearlong periodization schedules for golfers.  The bottom line here is that you can throw out all the standard periodization plans that work in other sports.  Or rather, you need to adapt them for each individual golfer.  The reason they don’t work, is because golfers don’t really have a long enough off season to both recover from the season and to build muscle, they require peak performance multiple times a year, and when they are not peaking they don’t have enough down time to build muscle properly.  The goal of a year long plan is to grow muscle during the off season and then here and there when you can string a few off weeks together.  The goal for the rest of the year is to maintain that which you have gained so that you can build on it at your next opportunity.  One of the key messages was that if you don’t work out at least once in 2 weeks, you would lose the training effects of what you have built previously.  So make sure your golfers get in at least a few workouts each month so that they don’t take that dreaded step backward physically.

This presentation really targets those working with touring professionals, but the take home for those of us working with the average golfers and the weekend warriors is the importance of planning and showing them the plan.  Get a white board and use it to inform your golfers so that they understand why they are doing this now.  It will help with compliance when the going gets tough.

Two Days down and one to go.  It’s fun relieving all of the wonderful information that was presented but it’s taking a bit longer than I hoped.  My goal when I get set up for it is to transition over to more videos/monologues.  But not until I finish day 3 – which includes the presentation with Ben Crane, Dr. Greg Rose, and James Sieckmann.  It could be a toss up in terms of my favorite presentation between this and Richard Schmidts.  Can’t wait to write it after I enjoy some turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving golfers.

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No manual this year?! Oh well, it can’t be all perfect
Tyler again with a look into the wonders of the world of golf training.  Last week I attended the World Golf Fitness Summit, hosted by the Titleist Performance Institute.  This was their third summit, and the best by far.  The speakers this year really came to play and did a great job of refining old topics and presenting some new controversial ones.  I’ll get into the topic reviews shortly, but first let me say that the one disappointment was the lack of of a slide book to write notes on.  This year, instead of a bound book with all the slides, they gave us a thumb drive will all of the presentations on them.  For some this is probably preferred, but for someone like myself who takes  a lot of physical notes, this was a mild frustration.

Every game needs it’s rules – even Calvinball had rules
The overall theme of this years summit was reinforcing the concept of the team.  The main stage speakers stuck to this topic and presented in a couple different formats.

  • The big key speeches – on topics that should be interesting to everyone in attendance
  • Team presentation – each of who explained how they worked with their players
  • Panel speeches – 5 leaders in a field sat on stage and gave their thoughts concerning the audiences questions

Then, after a lunch break, there were multiple speeches going on at the same time with specific topics dealing with what’s going on in the world of golf, fitness, medical, and junior topics.

The speakers have spoken
Here is a review of some of my favorite speeches and what I got out of them.

Mark Verstegen
Before you worry about the specifics of the golf performance you need to establish a foundation.  His fundamentals include the proper mindset, nutrition, movement, and recovery.
Key points and commentary

  • “we are in the field of behavioral change” – we forget that our goal is not to convey the most perfect information or to sound smart but to actually change the behavior of a person.  This can include lifestyle, nutritional, how they think, or how they move.
  • “40% of the 46 muscles in the hip cuff are internal and external rotators” – I round up on this kinda thing.  Roughly half of the hip muscles aid in rotation of the hips.  Are half of your lower body exercises rotary, or do they only include squats, deadlifts, and lunges (not including multidirectional lunges).
  • “spinning a ball analogy” – to spin a basketball you can hit either side.  If you wanted maximum speed and had an extra hand, you would hit both sides.  To spin your hips (or thoracic spine really) you can either pull with the left half or push with the right half, but ideally, you would do both.  Good reminder that rotation is a two sided movement.  The flexing of one side coupled with the extension of the other generates rotation.  If you can figure out which side of the rotation is the real problem, then you will have more success than just trying to fix “rotation”
  • “getting within 3-5% of a movement patter will affect it” – he was defending the chop as a movement that will not disrupt a golf swing movement patter.  I completely agree for a good golfer, but am unconvinced that a novice has a defined pattern small enough where this wouldn’t overlap.  However, it is interesting to think about.

Sean Foley and his team – How you like d’em apples?
I don’t know if it has been said somewhere else, but close your eyes and listen to Sean talk and you will swear that you just woke up as an extra in one of my favorite movies, Good Will Hunting.  His team Neale Smith (mental) and Craig Davies (Fitness) gave a few jewels during their presentation.  They spent about 20 minutes longer than was needed on their background stories, I think their intro could have been, “hi, we’re Tiger Woods team,” but once they got into how they work with Sean O’Hair and D.J. Trahan there was some really good stuff.  My favorites were:

  • Sean Foley – “explain why your swing works, not just point out the mistakes” – This was an interesting concept.  How often do you see a golf lesson focus on what a player does well and why it produces the results that it does?  But as far as committing to a shot, understanding why your swing works well is more important than understanding what is wrong with it.
  • Neale Smith – Reaction to good shot should be stronger than reaction to bad shots.  He gave the example of giving a big old Tiger fist pump and screaming YESS! after a good shot, and saying nothing, just putting the club back in the bag after a bad shot.  This sounds like a good in-season project for anyone trying to score better.
  • Sean Foley – In response to a question from Chuck Cook about a youtube video where he was advocating a single pivot movement similar to stack and tilt, Sean responded to the effect of – that video was taken like 4 years ago and it was something I was really into then.  It was refreshing to hear a teaching pro talk about the constant shift in information and how we should not take any single instruction topic or tip too seriously.  Or take any one tip out of context as the be-all of an instructors teaching philosophy.

Richard Schmidt - he spins my head right round, right round
I have to admit that when I saw his name on the speaker schedule I got excited like a teenage girl getting to hold the tickets to her first Jonas Brother concert.  For those of you who don’t recognize the name, Richard Schmidt is the godfather of motor learning.  He wrote the two definitive textbooks on the subjects of Motor Control and Learning and Motor Learning and Performance.  When you teach movement, you better know motor learning.  His talk was more intense than most of the golf room was probably prepared for, if you’ve ever heard a master researcher talk about his subject then you know what I mean, but there were some key lesson’s that will guide my own researching for a good bit.

  • Motor Programming vs Muscle Memory – his first study presented demonstrated that there is no such thing as muscle memory but rather that movement is controlled by motor programs.  The study involved a pipe that slid on a track.  The subjects used a tricep extension to move the pipe on the track until a certain point where they would stop it.  Electrodes mapped the muscle activation in the tricep and bicep.  They had two groups – one who slid the pipe and stopped it, and one who started to slide the pipe but didn’t stop it because it was electronically brought to a halt soon after they started it.  So the key question was, was the bicep acting as a reflex to the lengthening or was it reacting to a program.  Both groups generated the same pattern of activity indicating that it was not the reflex of the muscle and the joint, but rather, the program from the brain.  The implication of this for us is pretty strong – the brain controls everything, so if you are not affecting the movement pattern as a whole, you are not helping the program.
  • Blocked vs Random – This was the main event on Schmidts fight card.  There is a lot of talk these days on the benefits and difference between blocked practice vs random practice.  The research is pretty clear, and this topic will require a blog or two following my WGFS summaries.  The conclusion from 4 decades of studies show that UNLESS you are a rank beginner, random practice has a stronger carry over on retention tests.  Since golf is what we care about, here’s one study that supported it.
    • putting and pitch shots practiced
      – Day 1 – pretest
      – Day 2 – practice (80 putts; 80 pitches)
      – Day 3 – retention test
      • Subjects assigned to one of three practice groups on Day 2
      – Blocked: 80 putts, 80 pitches (or opposite order)
      – Alternating blocks: 10 putts, 10 pitches (repeated 8x)
      – Alternating shots: 1 putt, 1 pitch (repeated 80x)
      • analyzed shot outcomes and movement patterns – and in both performance and quality of movement, the group that alternated each shot did far better, followed by the group that did the alternating blocks, and the worst group was the 80/80 strict block practice group.
    • A second interesting study involved 10 practice sessions and a pre-test question.  This concept is the key for golf instructors going forward.
      • Random – predicted that they would do about average, actual results were slightly better but pretty close to the prediction
      • Blocked – predicted that they would do very very well, actual results were that they did drastically worse
      • Think about it.  If you just gave a lesson, you would want the golfer to think they are going to do well.  Blocked practice builds that false confidence.  If you actually wanted them to do well, you would do almost entirely random.  However, they would leave the lesson not feeling as good about what they “learned” as if they had done blocked.   This is, in my mind, the biggest single barrier to getting the average handicap to actually drop.
  • Random with a model -  Another group of studies showed that if the person has a model to mimic when they are doing the random practice, then it wipes out the benefits.  However, they will predict that they will do better than even the blocked groups.  This provides a problem for us because according to Schmidt most training aids fall into this category included the one close to my heart – biofeedback training.  When he said that, my eyes bugged out and I didn’t breath for a second or too.  But as he moved on to the next slide, instead of jumping out of my seat, I began to think about it.  My take on it is, that if we are referring to practice not learning, this makes sense.  If you have no idea what the correct movement is, then use an aid to get the movement but then once you do it once or twice correctly (the movement, not hitting the ball) then you need to step back and start random practice.  Think of it this way, once you know how to write a letter a, don’t do a page of writing it 100 times, start writing words with the letter a in it.  Biofeedback training will take you out of the moment and ruin your ability to practice the process.  So yea, even though I love it, I have to say, use it judiciously.

Gray Cook – Mr movement himself
Gray cook is one of the greatest lectures in the world of health and fitness.  If there was a hall of fame, he would surely be a first ballot inductee.  His most recent textbook, “Movement” is paving it’s way through the golf medical specialists.  It is an outstanding overview of the world of screening and assessing and how to utilize each tool correctly.  It is informative, well written, and highly practical for anyone but it’s especially usefull for those of us who have studied his FMS and SFMA systems.  This WGFS talk was focused on dynamic stability training.  I don’t have a lot of notes from this one, so instead of interesting comments, I’ll give you more of a summary from the slide.

  • Stability training is typically done to prevent injuries, but statistics don’t show any correlation between lack of stability and the risk of an injury.  The biomarkers that do predict injury are:
    • Previous Injury
    • Asymmetry
    • Motor Control
    • BMI
    • Stupidity

Gray went on to show studies supporting examples of each as a biomarker for an injury but followed it up with a study that he has been conducting using the FMS as a possible predictor.  For those of you who don’t know the FMS it is a movement based screen that allows you to objectively rank the quality of a person’s movement.  It involves specific versions of a squat, a lunge, a push up, some core stability tests, etc.  One interesting thing they found was that when you fix the person’s worst movement pattern, they showed the biggest improvement in the two core stability tests.  This helps support his argument that stability is more about the timing of muscles in movement, not the ability to hold a plank for 20 minutes.  He is saying that if you clean up your squat pattern, your core stability will increase, and the likelihood of an injury will decrease.

Bottom line, stability is really about timing, not about strength, so train the movements to be clean and you will have stability.  Train the stabilizers to be strong and it won’t necessarily give you better movement.

On second thought, maybe one at a time is best
So I was going to summarize all 3 days in one article, but that damn Richard Schmidt took up half the blog.  So I will spare you and call this the firs in a 3 part series.  Stay tuned for my reaction to the second and third day coming soon!

…oh, but don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten the promised article on error detection and transference.  It’s coming after this series.  And a closing thought,  I think the next wave in golf instruction will revolve around how to practice instead of how to swing.  It may be a little wave compared to such things as one-plane or stack-and-tilt, but I have my board ready for when it comes.

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Greetings golf fitness boys and golf fitness girls.  Tyler here with a tip from my recent trip to the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI).

I was watching Greg and Lance help one of their players with their putting.  This player thought that most of his putting troubles were a result of poor green reading.  However, after some simple testing, TPI determined that it was not green reading.  Then this player thought it must be his stroke.  After some simple testing, TPI determined that it was a bit of his stroke, but it was more about how he practiced.  This is nothing new for me.  TPI is on the forefront on the research in motor learning and so I know how they stress the importance of transference to the golf course.  Transference is how well does the change in practice show up on the course.  Here is what they changed in his practice routine.

This golfer had previously hit hundreds of balls using a plane board (like a putting arc type training device).  This type of tool has shown to have MINIMAL transference.  Let me restate that.  These things do NOT help change your stroke on the golf course.  So now, this player gets to have the putting device over on the side of the green to hit a few putts with if he needs the feel, but then he needs to go quickly back to his putting drills.  Every putt after his 10 ball warm up MUST be hit with his preshot routine.  In fact, the putt begins with taking the putter out of the bag.  This was the key moment that dawned on me.

When I played basketball, and we would practice free-throw shooting, I noticed that lots of players would toss the ball up with some back spin so that they could start their free-throw routine from the catch.  Well folks, the epiphany that I had was that the golf stroke starts at the bag.  Yes, using this method, you may only be able to hit 30 putts in an hour on the putting green.  But this practice is vastly superior in how it helps transfer over to the course.  The same thing can be applied to the range.  Hit a shot, put the club back in the bag.  Pick a new target and new shot shape, then take the club out of the bag, go through your pre-shot routine, hit the shot, and repeat.  This is what it takes to do random practicing, which after you have a basic understanding of the mechanics should comprise 70% of your practice time at minimum.  Give it a try, and see if you don’t feel more comfortable on the course.

Next week, Dee and I are headed to the World Golf Fitness Summit.  Stay tuned for some more tips from the leaders in the world, or golf, fitness, and health.

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Tyler here with a thought inspired by a local pro here in Scottsdale.

The golf season is just beginning here in Arizona and with it, I am doing more and more 3D evaluations these days. I had a great experience last week that I wanted to share.

I was at a local club showing off the powers of the motion capture system that I use to a local head teaching professional and his first assistant. When I was working on the assistant pro, I discussed his swing with the head professional and learned that they were working on preventing his head from dropping in the downswing. While I don’t agree with the description, the head should not stay the same height during the swing for a variety of reasons, I do agree that it should not drop in excess (whatever that vague term means). So I captured a few swings and took a second to do a quick analysis. He had a bit of an excess hip trigger at transition and a pelvis that didn’t stabilize it’s lateral motion through the ball. Uh oh, spaghetti-o’s. So I gave him a couple things to contemplate about his swing and explained that we needed to get his abs more turned on during the transition. We tried a couple methods and settled on one that seemed to be making the biggest change. In 5 swings his hip trigger was back to a acceptable degree and the lower body was starting to stabilize through impact. This quick physical change with the aid of the 3D was nothing new or exciting, at least for me, but the head professional watching was amazed.

He said, “this [meaning the 3D] is going to revolutionize golf instruction as we know it!”. It still gives me chills to think about. However, he went on to explain his thoughts and maybe that will help you understand his excitement – I’ll paraphrase his explanation:

Golf professionals learn to interpret the ball flight first, then look at the divot for more information and then if they have time (or video) to look at the swing plane and big body movements. Many very good teaching professionals still work primarily off of ball flight. With the 3D, ball flight is the last thing that we care about. 3D helps us see how the body is moving and with that information, we can see if your body is running smoothly. With the assistant pro, I was able to see quickly that his abs were not engaged during a critical tenth of a second. This is something the teaching pro would have never focused on in a million years.

My advice is simple. If you have been struggling with a swing fault for some time and have not looked into the body, do so very soon. It could ultimately save you a lot of time and frustration. Good luck.

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Tyler here with a take on the mental game that might surprise you.

“Golf is a game that is played on a five-inch course – the distance between your ears.” – Bobby Jones

If you stick around golf long enough you will hear many different versions of the same conclusion that Bobby Jones made – that golf is mostly a mental game.  I do not disagree that golf has a strong mental component, but I do think that a majority of issues labeled as a poor mental game are really a consequence of some other factor.

So let’s take a little different perspective on the mental game and see what filters out. Let’s play the scenario game.

Scenario number one -
Golfer A arrives to the course and goes through a warm up and then heads off to the range. He’s hitting the ball great on the range with one right after another fly at the practice greens on the range. But then, he gets on the course and while he hits his first three drives in the fairway, he somehow manages to hit his first three iron shots fat. His inner commentary goes something like this, “I was striping my irons on the range, but out here I’m such a head case!” His friends agree, but was he right?

Scenario number two -
Golfer B is a range wizard. He can hit any shot he wants with his full swing but has some troubles with the short game. His biggest problems are with chipping and putting. When he is practicing his chipping he thinks he does pretty well, but when he gets on the course he gets nervous and hits a lot of chip shots fat. Is this guy mental?

Scenario number three -
Golfer C is in a bit of a slump. He’s a bit over weight and his doctor has asked him to start working out and eating better. So, he hired a trainer and a nutritionist and feels like he is doing great.  After a few months of  working out and eating low fat he has lost 20 pounds. He has more energy, he feels great, but he has noticed that his game is suffering a bit. Recently he has been erratic and has had a hard time focusing. He is mishitting more than usual and he’s also been missing a bunch of putts but doesn’t know why. He had been playing great up until recently and is actually thinking about putting the weight back on to get his scores back down. Is he going through a natural cycle of his game or is he just becoming a head case with his putting problems?

Are these all mental?

Granted, these scenarios are made up, but the represent some common themes that I have seen with my students. There is a comfort in claiming that something is mental and fixing it is “out of our control.” But for me to believe that something is mental, you must be able to do it well about 75% of the time in practice and then succeed less than 25% of the time with the same thing on the course.  The areas that I see most confused with “mental” are the aspects that relate to:

  • How a golfer practices
  • How a golfer eats
  • How a golfer exercises

Let’s go back and put a new spin on these scenarios.

Scenario number one -
Golfer A arrives to the course and goes through a warm up. He’s hitting the ball great on the range. One right after another fly at the practice greens on the range. He gets on the course and hits his first three drives in the fairway, but hits his first three iron shots fat. His inner commentary goes something like this, “I was striping my irons on the range, but out here I’m such a head case!” Confirmed by his friends, but was he right?

So let’s go through the possible pitfalls going on here.  The warm up could be something he just picked up from gym class (like stretching the hamstrings triceps and shoulders) and didn’t warm up his core rotators.  So as a result he was tighter on the range and stayed more on top of the ball then when he loosened up on the course.  More likely, he was probably hitting off of mats in the warm up.  On mats or out of thick ruff (watch out for this if you practice in a field) you can get away with coming in too steep and flipping your hands as your method of release.  So Golfer A gets two strikes for how he practices.  Sorry guys, he doesn’t know how to practice, so his mistakes on the course are not mental in my book.

Scenario number two -
Golfer B is a range wizard. He can hit any shot he wants with his full swing but has some troubles with the short game. His biggest problems are with chipping and putting. When he is practicing his chipping he thinks he does pretty well, but when he gets on the course he gets nervous and hits a lot of chip shots fat. Is this guy mental?

We see this all the time.  A guy who can hit the ball more accurately from 150 yards than he can from 20.  The skills required for hitting the ball well are very different from those that make a short game wizard.  I think this guy may be a technical issueHow are you practicing?  If you are struggling with your chipping, or with your driving, or putting, or iron play you need to practice until you can hit it solidly.  If you never do it in practice then you won’t do it on the course.  But here’s the real trick, you need to practice until you can do it solidly the FIRST time.  If you go to practice your chipping and you hit the first one fat most of the time, then what you are doing is not working.  I don’t care if you find a groove before you leave where you are hitting it solidly on most shots.  If when you return you still hit the first one fat, then your practice didn’t help you.  Using my 75% gauge your first shot or a shot where you have at least 5 minutes in between shots, should be hit solidly 3 our of 4 tries.  If you don’t have this on the range then it is not mental on the course.

Scenario number three -
Golfer C is in a bit of a slump. He’s a bit over weight and his doctor has asked him to start working out and eating better. So, he hired a trainer and a nutritionist and feels like he is doing great.  After a few months of  working out and eating low fat he has lost 20 pounds. He has more energy, he feels great, but he has noticed that his game is suffering a bit. Recently he has been erratic and has had a hard time focusing. He is mishitting more than usual and he’s also been missing a bunch of putts but doesn’t know why. He had been playing great up until recently and is actually thinking about putting the weight back on to get his scores back down. Is he going through a natural cycle of his game or is he just becoming a head case with his putting problems?

Let’s get the easy one out of the way first.  Anytime I hear, “hard time focusing”, “made some poor decisions” I am thinking nutrition and more specifically hydration and blood sugar control.  The very first sign of dehydration, before feeling thirsty, is poor decision making.  Common signs of low blood sugar levels include anxiety, nervousness, confusion.  So this gentleman’s eating low fat foods usually means eating more sugary foods which could contribute to the trouble focusing on the course.  But the troubles with his game probably relate just as much to the new exercise as they do to the diet – especially if the exercises are primarily driven toward weight loss.  The weight loss exercises can hurt golf if you are not careful.  The leg press and other leg machines can tighten up the hip rotators, while the bench press and lat pull down can tighten up shoulder rotation.  And not one of those exercises mentioned works the core in an integrated fashion..  Golf fitness is relatively simple.  We want flexible hips, flexible shoulders, flexible spines and we want a strong core and back.  This golfer who lost 20 pounds and probably stiffened up is not losing his mind – he lost his body.

I want to be clear.  This post is not meant to diminish the importance of the mental game – it is meant to clarify it.  It is supremely important to get in a zone if you want to achieve maximum performance, but you can hit a perfectly crappy shot while deeply immersed in the zone.   And to tag a golfer as mental can be damaging, especially if this masks a potentially easily fixed problem like nutrition, practice habits, fitness, or even technique.  Golfers are highly suspicious and easily influenced, and you as a GFG are better than that.

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