This has been an exciting week for golf after months of rerun tournaments. Then there’s the endless talk about what might happen in future tournaments that may not take place. Many states are including golf as an acceptable activity during the early stages of reopening, Peyton Manning roasted Tom Brady in preparation for an upcoming charity golf event, and Brady Schnell called Vijay Singh a “complete turd” for entering the Korn Ferry Challenge. All signs point to golf returning to business as usual.
After talking to a few professionals and indoor practice centers, we’ve noticed some gaps between practice and course readiness. In the spirit of helping you step back on the course in top form, keep these considerations in mind:
1. Practice Where You Play
If only instructors had a dollar for every time a client said, “I do awesome on the driving range. I don’t understand why my practice isn’t translating to the course.” While it’s exhilarating to hit a drive over 300 yards at the range, the range is a very different environment than a course. Unless you’re practicing precision shots that land on or near a small target at various ranges (no, I’m not suggesting you take aim at the poor guy in the range cart—pick a yardage sign or something), you’re not simulating the same exercise. Keep in mind during course play, you’re aiming for a target less than 1/8th the width of your average range. Another key point people often overlook is an accurate long drive is only a portion of their game. Mark Broadie, a member of the United States Golf Association’s handicap-research team, spent four years compiling golf game statistics before publishing his research in 2008. He found 41-47% of all shots are taken between 3.5 feet and 100 yards from the pin. About 18% are putts four feet or less from the pin. Hitting the perfect drive consistently absolutely will help your score but neglecting the other 60%+ of your game isn’t wise. This recommendation for practice swings by club types follows Broadie’s findings closely.
2. Know Your Game
Recently I was witness to a rather eloquent tirade about the pitfalls of golfers adopting advice from YouTube, magazines, or books. Many people swear by these methods, but this particular golf pro was not impressed. To summarize (and clean up for a broader audience) his findings, unless you accurately diagnose what’s wrong with your game, you may be learning a technique that ultimately hurts your handicap.
Remember how-to tutorials are for a specific problem, but it may not be your problem. Using video and analytics from simulators can come in handy when you need to understand where your swing is going wrong. These stats can also help you understand which clubs you need to spend more time with. If we’ve learned anything from the coronavirus, it’s that anyone can have a YouTube channel (I promise the virus did not come from a Mexican beer). Check the credentials of the golf professional you follow online. A talented coach isn’t always the most dynamic video personality, so entertainment value should be secondary to technique.
3. All Golf Simulators Are Not Created Equal
There are some great tools out there to help measure drive distance. The short game is where most launch monitors and simulators struggle. Make sure the training tools you purchase can analyze the aspects of your game that need the most work.
Keith Bennett, a Seattle area golf pro, recently tested aG Links for the first time. We think he captured what we strive to achieve when he said, “When I make contact with the ball, I can tell if it was perfect or not. When I look up and see that the ball is flying how I would expect, I know that this sim is accurate” When a golf pro is impressed, we’ve done our job well. They analyze their game in great detail and can tell whether a simulator provides an accurate read. When evaluating a simulator, research how the manufacturer measures spin. We’ve found spin is absolutely critical for simulating the short game with precision.
4. Make Practice Fun
We have a treadmill in our house. We only use it when one of us is recovering from an injury, the sidewalks are buried under ice, or it’s too late in the evening to run around the neighborhood. Why run while staring at a wall when you can see new things outdoors? Many of us have experienced the feeling of defeat once we’ve allowed a piece of exercise equipment to morph into an expensive drying rack. The key is finding a training tool offering dynamic content to keep you engaged. We’ve found a little friendly competition can go a long way. aG Content offers multi-player mini-golf and chipping games like darts or beer pong to hone your short game. Razor’s Edge is a fan favorite for developing long drives with precise direction. We also host regular online competitions that put money and bragging rights on the line.
“If it wasn’t for my sim, I’m not sure I would make it through the COVID quarantine. Hitting the par three is a bonus and joy.” —David Chaikin, Week 4 Winner of the Alpha Home Tour. Chaikin also won a $1,000 prize.
5. On Course Best Practices
We’re thrilled we can play on course again in the state of Washington. Tee times promise to be a little hard to get with lower group numbers, but we hope things are truly normal soon. Please practice social distancing in these early days back on the course. We all want to get back to life as it used to be, but that can’t happen if we abandon safety measures and experience another spike in cases.
Take advantage of the safety programs your home course has in place (online ball and tee time purchases, sanitizer stands, etc.) and consider wearing a mask. The safer we play the game, the sooner we all win. Stay safe and happy golfing!