How to Follow Your Golf Improvement Plan While Traveling

I have a routine for every morning. The alarm goes off at the same time.  I hit snooze 3 times.  I proceed to shower and get ready the same way every day.  I like the routine.  It makes life easy.  The days where I need to get to work early or my son’s school does something different throws me completely off.  The day feels off.

Golf improvement is the same way. I want to follow the exact days on the schedule.  I know when everything will happen.  When the week is not normal, then planning is critical.  I know many people just want to go day by day, but only looking at one day makes it easy to keep putting off practice because the day is busy.  Pushing the practice back usually means it won’t happen.  To prevent missing practice,  I look at the week on Sunday night to see what is happening to get a sense of where to make adjustments.

I was out of town the last few days in NYC. Bethpage Black is on my bucket list, so my plan for months was to blog about an amazing experience on the Black.  I could also get in my round for the week that way.  Unfortunately, the timing didn’t work and I couldn’t play a round while here.  I didn’t want to get off track though, so I planned to still practice while there.

My week generally includes 2 days off. I was gone 3 days, so I could take 2 off and still be on track.  This week, I plan to take Tuesday and Thursday off since those are travel days.  I am not taking my golf clubs, so creative solutions are necessary.  I thought of a few.

Ideas to Stay on Track

My first idea is to practice turning without a club. One of my major problems is my upper body and lower body get out of sync.  When that happens, the club gets stuck behind me and under plane.  My shots will be blocks or hooks.  I could work on staying in sync and getting everything together.

I am a golf nerd who loves all gadgets and training aids. About 10 years ago, someone bought me a golf travel kit.  It has a putter, hole, and a couple balls.  Here it is on Amazon:

I used it multiple times on golf trips just for fun.  I know it isn’t the perfect putting aide, but I can definitely work on starting the ball on line.

A newer version has a telescoping putter.

Putting would be helpful, but I googled driving ranges in Manhattan to see if I could hit balls. I found Chelsea Piers Golf Club.  It is a 4 tier driving range with rental clubs.  Range time is even better than putting practice, so I decided to head out there.

I completely enjoyed the experience. I received a bay on the first floor.  I wish I was on one of the higher tiers, but I still enjoyed the bottom floor.  I purchased 128 balls, and the machine auto tees the ball.  Great way to be lazy and just hit balls.  The Hudson with Yachts in the background made great scenery for a driving range.

My only complaint is the rental clubs. Renting from the front desk is a mistake.  They provide old and beat up clubs.  They gave me what must have been an original Taylormade 9 iron, a 6 iron from the 80s, and a driver with the bottom caved in.  The NY Golf Shop attached had brand new clubs to rent for a higher price, but they closed at 8.  I didn’t finish until after 8, so that wouldn’t work.  In spite of the equipment, I hit the ball reasonably well.  I would definitely recommend the facility to keep up the practice.

Following the plan while out of town requires planning ahead.  Take a travel club or find a local driving range.  Make sure to not give yourself excuses to miss practice.  Looking at the week to know where problems will arise and where adjustments can be made makes success easier.  Success won’t magically happen.  Success requires constant planning and adjusting to make everything work.  Remember, the process is what matters.  Keep up the great progress.

Post in the comments your favorite secrets to staying on routine and practicing while traveling.

Executing and Assessing My Golf Improvement Plan

I love to eat, and I definitely love to eat a variety of foods. Quality buffets (yes, there are a few) are among my favorites because I can pile my plate high.  I put everything on my plate with huge expectations, and then, I fail to eat everything.  My eyes are always bigger than my stomach.  Our practice expectations succumb to similar problems.  After buffet style planning, executing and evaluating our execution are the next steps to success.

 

Executing the Plan

Top sports psychologist continually profess the need to focus on the process and execute a clear plan. We all hit great shots that take bad bounces or have putts hop on bumpy muni greens.  Focusing on what we can control is important, so we must focus on the process.

The key to execution is following the plan. My plan is to spend 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week practicing.  The plan is fool proof.  30 minutes is easy to find in a day, right?  I spent 3 weeks so far trying to follow the plan.

You should write down or make mental notes of the progress for evaluation, so I noted a few patterns. I don’t get my 30 minutes on days with kids’ sporting events.  30 minutes seems easy, but working and the sport make getting through anything else difficult.  However, I can spend time at the course with my son for longer than an hour and work on chipping and putting.  Doing both doesn’t follow spaced repetition as well, but I practice the same amount of time on the short game.

 

Assessing My Execution

Execution is easier said than done. We must now assess whether our eyes were bigger than the time to practice throughout the week.  30 minutes a day sounds easy, but work, kids’ games, and life can take up every extra minute.

When assessing execution, analyze:

  • Did I complete the tasks in the plan
  • Were the tasks effective
  • Do I need to adjust the plan or tasks

 

 

Completing the Tasks

I succeeded week 1!! The first week is also when motivation and intention peaks.  Unfortunately, I didn’t succeed in week 2 or 3.  I made it to 4 days of 30 minutes in Week 2, and Week 3 fell to 3 days.  3 days is more than before my plan, but I need to determine whether to change my plan.  Psychologists say continually failing will decrease motivation, so if I set myself up for failure, I won’t continue the journey for the long term.

Week 2 included 4 days of at least 30 minutes, and I only missed my chipping day. Week 3 missed a short game day (either chipping or putting since I did both one night) and the round.  Looking back, I want to say Week 2 and 3 were abnormally busy, but those weeks were probably similar to my normal week.

 

Tasks Effective

Completing the plan is great, but the tasks must improve my golf swing. I do believe the interleaving tasks helped me.  At the range and my house, I continually change clubs.  Switching forces me to focus on the new setup, swing, etc.  I perform each swing more deliberately.  Putting practice is harder at home, but I worked on starting the putt on line.  In a future post, I will discuss the different indoor putting work I do without true roll, but starting the putt online is helping.  As I said a couple weeks ago, the optishot helps with simulation.  I like switching clubs and creating the pressure of a round.  I normally play online with someone, so I have the added pressure of winning.  The tasks are working.

 

Adjust Plan

3 Weeks is a short period to make adjustments, so I will continue to note whether I can execute. I will continue to update my progress.  To stay the most up to date, sign up below to get the newest information as I post it.

 

Everyone enjoy the nice golf weather!



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Can the Golftec Method Guarantee My Success?

96% success rate lowering golfers’ handicaps. Lesson packages with continuous lessons that ensures progress.  Advanced methodology focusing on the right way to build a repeatable, quality swing.  Video based instruction to help visualize the right positions.  Does Golftec live up to these claims?

Golftec states they follow the most advanced teaching pedagogy, and as a professor myself, I believed them. They do setup a couple lessons a month with video instruction, and the theory sounded good.  I believed success was imminent, so I signed up quickly to get started.

As a quick disclaimer, everyone’s experiences are different, and I believe a good relationship with an instructor can have great success. However, the 96% success advertisement makes it seem like their system is nearly foolproof.  My expectation was Golftec would be the best instruction possible and my handicap would consistently drop.  I must be in the 96%.

I did not experience the success Golftec nearly guaranteed. I went through Golftec’s program for approximately 2-3 years.  I don’t remember the exact number, but I believe I took approximately 30 lessons.  In 30 lessons, my handicap did not decrease, and I did not shoot my lowest score ever.

My experience began well. The instructor conducted the swing evaluation and decided my swing plane was too flat.  He also showed me that my knees move towards the ball during the swing.  His analysis was correct.  I was under plane (causes pushes and hooks) and I did move towards the ball.

I proceeded with lessons for a year. My swing progressed to on or above plane on the backswing and downswing.  Many of the parts gradually came together.  However, my score wasn’t dropping.  He would show me a tour swing and compare it to my swing.  We worked on correct positions, but even though my positions were more correct, I still missed greens.  I followed an agreed practice plan, but I felt the instructor tried to move me to a predetermined swing that was not conducive to my tendencies.

After about a year and a half, I thought I hit the ball better. I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and then, my instructor quit for a non-golf job.  I understand pursuing another career, but a job completely outside golf seemed odd.  I transitioned to working with the store manager.  He knew what I worked on with the other instructor, but he brought a few new ideas.  We made a few subtle changes that weren’t entirely consistent with the previous approach.  My score stagnated.  After a 6-9 months with him, I played a good round to finish the season.  I started hitting 50-60% of the fairways and more greens.

Success seemed imminent. My handicap would soon drop.  My new instructor then took another job as a head pro in a different state.  I now had to move to my 3rd instructor.  I wasn’t completely alarmed because Golftec is built on a method.  My 3rd instructor was incredibly nice, but he basically wanted me to flatten my swing back to slightly under plane.  I am not a golf instructor, so I will admit some ignorance here.  However, I felt like he asked me to do moves that I worked 2 years to change.  Not only that, my lesson package ran out.  I didn’t have any more lessons with a swing back at square one.  I was incredibly frustrated.

Even though the process frustrated me, I gave Golftec one last chance. I talked to the regional office and voiced my complaints.  They provided me a lesson package for the transition between so many instructors.  The new instruction continued down a completely different path, and my handicap continually rose.  My GIR went down to 1-2 a round.  My fairway percentage dropped.  The instructor told me it would get better.  The lesson package ran out.  I faced the decision whether to spend another significant sum of money to continue.  The instructor told me he loved teaching and planned to be at that Golftec for a long time since he was now the store manager, so he committed to me.  I remained skeptical and thought 3 years with no success (with tons of money expended) meant I should try something different.  Great choice because he is no longer at that location as well.

I may be the anomaly, but I would not recommend Golftec as an entity. I agree with most reviews that the instructor is what matters.  I had 3 different instructors, and my dad had an instructor leave on him in a different state.  There must be a reason for the turnover, so I don’t recommend Golftec.  I am sure they have some great instructors that last a long time in other locations.  Their theory for continuous lessons and practice is good.  The swing mechanics probably do work for many people.  However, I think they get away from playing golf and focus too much on mechanics.  I also wonder why I lost 3 instructors with multiple others leaving my location in 3 short years.

You can make a good plan and practice on your own. If you want instruction, find an established instructor in your area and they can help you with the plan.  I believe consistent practice with a good plan can work without paying thousands of dollars.

If you had experiences with Golftec, leave your comments below.

Is the Optishot a Good Improvement Tool or Just a Fun Game?

The beauty of #7 at Pebble Beach.  The danger of #17 at Sawgrass.  The Road Hole at the home of golf.  I played all of them, in my house.  The Optishot provides a great opportunity to play historic courses, but can that experience help improve your normal Saturday round?  I believe the answer is unequivocally yes.  Optishot measures face angle and club path extremely well.  Most golfers can get better by improving swing plane and face angle.  Optishot will help with those.  I played a round a couple weeks ago and was frustrated because I thought the sensors were off.  My shots were either blocks or duck hooks.  I went to the range a couple days later, and shockingly, I either blocked or hooked my first 20 shots.  The Optishot was completely accurate with my ball flight.

The Optishot is also a great tool for practice because it integrates interleaving practice. Load up one of the courses, which are good replicas of places I want to play, and play a round.  Each shot is slightly different with a different club.  I get to practice chipping, pitching, and putting.  The simulation and score creates the pressure and focus of a normal round.  This is a great tool.

Optishot does have drawbacks. The most accurate reading is path and face angle.  The sensors don’t detect fat vs. thin shots because it is reading the club, not the ball.  For that reason, the trajectory isn’t accurate.  You will most likely get a favorable trajectory, which makes holding greens easier.  The club speed isn’t precise, but that is adjustable.  Putting is obviously easier with a putting grid to read greens.  For all those reasons, most players score much better on the Optishot.

Scoring better isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I compare Optishot scores only to other Optishot scores, so I still get the benefit of simulation.  My focus right now is plane and face angle, so this is ideal for me.  I concede there are far more accurate simulators, but for amateurs, the Optishot provides the information needed for improvement.  I highly recommend the Optishot.

My latest round on the Optishot was my best ever!  The fairway looked wide on every tee box. The pin locations were accessible for all approaches.  The greens rolled smooth and straight.  Have you ever had your shots go exactly where you wanted each time?

I hit a sweet draw down the middle of the fairway on #1.  The shot felt good.  I put the approach on the green and 2 putted for a nice par.  The tee shot on #2 landed in the middle of the fairway.  My wedge shot landed close, and I 1 putted for birdie!  I thought, “if I stop now, technically, I shoot under par.”  The round started perfect.

The perfect start laid the foundation for the round.  I hit a wild tee shot to the right of the par 5 3rd that bounced off a house (no problem since fake, right?).  The second shot hit the house again and went backwards.  The third shot landed right of the green, but I chipped it close to get up and down for par.  Even the bad shots were manageable.  At that point, I knew the rest of the round would be smooth.

I finish the front 9 with another birdie and a bogey for a 35. 1 under on the front, which is my best 9 holes on the Optishot.

OS f9crop

The back 9 could derail the round.  A par on 10, but then, I hit my 2nd shot in the water on #11.  I doubled 11, and for the first time all night, I was over par.  The next hole would determine the success of the back 9.  I hit a great drive on the short par 5.  My 2nd nestled just off the green.  An easy up and down for a bounce back birdie!  Even par through 12.  I have a chance to beat my previous best of 76.

I birdie the short par 4 14th and par 3 17th.  I get to 2 under going to 18.  In my mind, I think, “bogey or better finishes under par and anything less than 10 beats my previous record.”  Terrible thought.  I should have focused on making a good swing and trying to par or birdie.  Instead, I tried to avoid a blow up hole.  Trying to avoid disaster almost caused disaster.  I hooked a tee shot left, and then hit my approach even farther left. I faced a tough shot to get on the green in 3, but I made it.  2 putts for bogey and a 1 under 71!  My thoughts probably cost me 1 shot in the end, but I will take my first under par round on Optishot.

OS2b92

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Week 1: Success!!! (and struggle)

The key to improvement is focusing on the process, so I am excited to say I succeeded in following my plan last week!  I had 5 or more days of at least 30 minutes of practice.  Monday I worked on myhappy-face_veer_3x4 full swing without a ball, Tuesday was putting, Wednesday was off, Thursday was on the range, 16 holes walking on Friday, 36 holes on Optishot on Saturday, and Sunday off.  I didn’t have the specific short game session, but I had an extra round, which had a ton of short game shots.  Success!

With every success though, comes the struggle.  My round on Friday was bad.  I didn’t record an official score because I wasn’t putting out to get through more holes on a twilight round.  My estimate is a 48 on the front 9.  I missed most of the fairways and all the greens.  The swing wasn’t there, but I know the process will get enough spaced repetition to make the improvements.

Now, time for week 2.  Post any successes you had last week in the comments.

3 Techniques for Every Golf Practice Session

Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and pretty much every other professional golfer practices different than recreational golfers. They follow fundamental principles that most of us don’t imitate, but should.  We want their swings, but we don’t do the same thing to get there.  Now, I am changing my practice to take my range swing to the course.

“Practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect.” Vince Lombardi knows a few things about improving athletic skills, so perfecting our practice habits should be a priority.  My practice has not been perfect.  I would put an alignment club on the ground and pick a flag for some of the shots.  I would hit close to 100 balls switching clubs after 3-5 shots.  My practice and range swings look like this:

DSCF0043

Nice balance, good finish. Swing of beauty.  However, somehow the real swings are more like this:

DSCF0045

Falling back, inconsistent, pretty ugly. I need more real swings like the top picture, so I will focus on 3 techniques to make that happen:

  1. Interleaving practice
  2. Spaced Repetition
  3. Game Simulation

 

Interleaving Practice

Interleaving practice is not a new concept, but a few authors began discussing it for golf recently. The idea is that continually practicing one specific skill for a long period of time (block practice) isn’t the most efficient way to learn the skill.  For golf, hitting 10 6 irons, 10 7 irons, 5 8 irons, 15 drivers, 20 wedges, and finishing with 15 hybrids is inefficient, and what most people do.  A recent article regarding research from UCLA states that practice should vary to create lasting improvement.  Each shot should be with a different club, to a different distance, with a different target.  The idea is the brain focuses on each task intently and continually learns from the experience.  New shot requires the brain to focus more, which leads to long term learning.  The researchers conclude less practice that is varied will produce better results than beating balls for hours.

Brad Brewer, top 100 golf instructor, recently wrote on his website about the same ideas. My practice now includes less time or shots with more switching clubs.  I have 2 full swing practices each week.  1 will be in my house without a ball similar to Haney’s advice.  I switch clubs, the direction I face, and my imaginary target each shot.  My other full swing session is normally on the range.  I only buy 2 tokens now and switch clubs and targets with each shot.  I have difficulty switching clubs after a bad shot, but the research says this is the best way to practice.

 

Spaced Repetition

Spaced repetition is another concept neuroscience says will make huge improvements for skill development. Spaced repetition is when you study or practice for shorter increments of time but over multiple days as opposed to spending long hours only on 1 day.  Cramming everything into 1 day, like cramming for college midterms, holds the information for that day, but the information is lost quickly.  Studying for the same amount of time over the previous few days permits the brain to process the information, create schema, and create long lasting knowledge.  Recent research says the same is true for athletic skills.  Spending 1 day a week at the range for 1.5 hours is less effective for long term development than 3 days of 30 minute practice.  I spend 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week practicing.  The consistent practice over more days will get the brain thinking about my swing for a longer period, which should lead to longer term improvement.

 

Game Simulation

How many times do you play golf holes on the driving range? All the great golfers simulate golf rounds while practicing, so we should to.  Before professionals go to the first tee, many of them play the first few holes on the range by imaging the hole and hitting the clubs they will use on that hole.  The idea is to simulate the pressure, shots, and experience before hitting a real shot.  Anything that puts pressure on shots improves the ability to repeat the shot on the course.  I play a rounds on the optishot at home and turn off all gimmies and mulligans to make it a real score.  Optishot is still a game, but I can try to beat previous scores and create pressure.  I finish range sessions with point games to see how many greens I can hit out of 10 shots or how many draws I can hit out of 10.  My putting practice includes games against my kids.  The idea that every shot counts makes improvement more likely.

 

We all want better pro-style swings, but many of us don’t follow the best practices to get there. Post comments below with great ideas for games or practice techniques following these principles.

My Plan to Work Full Time and Improve at Golf

Do you envy professionals because they can practice every day. I believe I could dramatically reduce my handicap practicing 8 hours a day, but my family may not be happy if I quit my job.  That dilemma is what most of us face.  You and I have full-time jobs, but we also want to keep improving.  Good news, I believe we can improve even with full-time jobs!

“If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” Most of us heard this quote from Ben Franklin, and most of us understand it.  However, have you created an improvement plan to decrease your handicap?  I hadn’t created one either.  I went to the range and tried to get better, but I didn’t have a clear idea what “get better” meant.  I also didn’t focus on the areas that would lead to the most improvement.  Now, I will follow step 2 of my improvement approach and build a quality plan.

30 minutes a day will change my handicap. It may not bring me to single-digits this summer, but I can easily get to 14.  I won’t cut back time with my wife or kids because they are too much fun, but I waste 30 minutes hitting snooze or playing on my iPhone.  I know I can commit to 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week.  Sounds too simple.  However, I remember watching Hank Haney tell Rush Limbaugh to make 100 swings a day, and Rush made significant improvement in a short amount of time.  100 swings take about 30 minutes.  I will employ even better learning theories from recent neuroscience research in my next blog to maximize my 30 minutes.

Planning to spend 30 minutes a day isn’t a detailed enough plan. I get 5 days a week, so I should break down what I will do on each of those days.  I intend for 1 day to be a round of golf on the course or on my optishot.  I need to split the other 4 among specific golf skills.  Here are my current stats to help determine where to spend time.

Time Period Fairways Greens in Regulation Scrambling Putting
May 2015-Present 42% 17% 10% 1.9 per hole

 

My stats show ok fairways and putting. I have the biggest opportunity for improvement in GIR and Scrambling.  Having that information, I won’t spend extra time with full swing drivers.  My plan will be:

 

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Break 30 Minutes on Full Swing 30 minutes putting Break 30 Minutes Chipping or Pitching Golf Round (optishot or course) or 30 minutes Full Swing 30 Minutes Full Swing or Golf Round

 

I now have a plan. I can follow a schedule and put in the time.  I believe the time can reduce my handicap to 14 by the end of the season.  The time is now to make improvements, and I encourage you to follow my progress.  Sign up below to join my mailing list to follow my progress.  You don’t want to miss my next post demonstrating how I will use those 30 minutes.



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Discover the Plan to Lowering My Golf Handicap this Season

Professionals make it look easy, but we all know golf is extremely difficult. Most amateurs want to get better, but USGA studies show handicaps are virtually the same now as they were 20 years ago.  Do you want to improve, maybe start writing down more 70s, than 80s or 90s?  I know I do, so I am creating a plan.  You can follow my progress to improvement or start a plan for yourself.  Now is the time for lower scores!

I teach students how to pass high stakes tests, so I have insights into building specific skills. The foundation to improvement in almost anything includes these 4 steps:

  1. Create a SMART Goal
  2. Build a Quality Plan
  3. Execute the Plan
  4. Assess our Execution and Edit Plan

Have you ever created a New Year’s Resolution and failed miserably? Me too.  The reason is New Year’s resolutions aren’t SMART goals.  Our first step is to create SMART goals to set ourselves up for lower scores.  SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Bound.  Without goals, we won’t be able to create a plan and will continue to do the same thing over and over with the same scores, which of course is the definition of insanity.

My long-term goal is to reach single-digits. For me, breaking 80 would be awesome, but I want to do it more than once.  I want more 70s than 80s, so I want a single-digit handicap.  However, the goal I will write down won’t be single-digits.  As you see on the current handicap page (April 2016), my handicap is currently a 15.8.  Dropping 6 strokes will take significant time, which allows too many opportunities for demotivation, setbacks, etc.  I break all long-term goals into small pieces with shorter times, so you should as well.  Meeting small goals creates motivation to continue the journey and create more short-term goals.

2016 ball

My SMART Goal is for my Handicap to drop to 14 by November 1st, 2016.

I can easily focus on 2 strokes this season. Specific goals are ones that you can understand exactly what the end result requires.  I know exactly what a 14 handicap is, so my goal is specific.  Measurable requires being able to determine whether the goal is satisfied.  For better or worse, I will look at my handicap on November 1st and it will either be a 14 or not.  Attainable is a goal that is difficult enough to motivate you to work hard but still achievable.  Many people become demotivated if they can’t reach the goal.  This is another reason to focus on the short term.  Decreasing my handicap 2 strokes in 1 season doesn’t seem outrageous, and as my next post will illustrate, creating a plan to improve 2 strokes is straightforward.  Relevant is whether the goal is important to the long-term goal, and decreasing strokes will help me achieve single-digits.  Time-bound is straight forward.  Create a deadline, which for me is this season.

Now it is your turn. Create a SMART goal for this golf season and leave it in the comments below.  Don’t forget to sign up to get more tips and follow my journey to single-digits.