Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What Hank Taught Me

I had the opportunity to listen to Hank Haney for about 5 hours this past weekend.  He was teaching his Teach the Teachers seminar, where he trains instructors to be better teachers.  One thing he said jumped out at me and today's practice schedule is loosely based on his advice.  His premise is, if you control mistakes by taking no penalty shots, having no 3 putts and not missing the green from within 50 yards, you can win golf tournaments at any level.  It is a true statement. 

I went to practice on Friday and asked two players with wins how the wins felt.  Were they special tournaments?  What happened that didn't always happen?  Both replied that the tournaments weren't really special, but things just went well.  They hit fairways and greens and putted pretty well.  I asked if they had any 3 putts or penalty shots and both replied that they had none that week. 

Winning isn't remarkable, it is often just free of errors.  Following the talk, I watched my team closely for the errors we talked about.  Most of the doubles we took were caused by the 3 errors, but not as many from penalty shots as you would think.  Yesterday, I watched some of the finest young golfers in the U.S. compete at the Kathy Whitworth.  Mira Vista is a tough test, especially with a bit of wind and wet, dormant grass.  However, the errors made were generally 2 chips or 3 putts.  In both cases, course design caused many of these errors by luring golfers into missing it in the wrong place.  A right sloping lie in the fairway to a right cut pin with a big hill to the right of the green caused many players to have a very tough 30 yard pitch shot from the bottom of the hill with no view of the target.  Ask many of them what happened and the answer you receive is, I pushed it.  



A reliance upon poor ball striking to answer questions on the golf course makes many players fail to recognize the factors that lead to poor scoring.  It also begins the process of endlessly working on mechanics to become a better player.  There is so much more to playing well than simply hitting it well.  That may seem like a crazy thing to proclaim, but after watching countless rounds of junior golf where so much of the scoring is reliant upon lack of experience, it is clear that sound course management leads to the next step, which is college golf.  When players get sound coaching that helps them learn from the mistakes made on the course and doesn't focus solely on mechanics, scores go down much more quickly. 

Do you follow a mistake with pressing?  If you make a double, are you prone to putting your next ball in play or swinging more wildly?  When you have to punch out on a hole, does your first putt sail past the hole as you press to make the putt and forget about the speed?  When you make a mistake, do you hang your head or get angry?  Does it cause you to quit seeing the conditions around you, such as wind and slope?  Do you abandon your game plan when things go wrong and start shooting at the hole?  

There is a lot of skill in learning to avoid mistakes and manage a golf course.  Figure out how to focus on those two things and you will become a better player.  Here are some tips to get you started:
  • Be aware of the conditions of your shot.  Does the lie of the ball slope?  Does the wind blow toward trouble?  Is the hole cut over a false front?  
    • If so, play a little defense.  On a right to left slope, choose a target right of where you want to end up.  Play your ball into the wind a bit more than usual and add five yards to the approach over the front cut hole position.  
  • Be aware of your tendencies.  Do you tend to leave the ball short of the green on front hole locations?  Do you fight a hook off the tee?  Do you miss the shot right on a downhill slope?  
    • Practice to offset these tendencies.  You have to spend time learning what makes it happen and how to offset it. 


Here is a link to a quick article about the best putters and their stats.  Enlightening!

Today's practice schedule will help you with your wedge play, your long putts and learning to take a bit off of your iron shots to better control distance. 


Practice Schedule Mar. 13

1. Wedges
                Hit5 balls from 15 yards and putt each out. If you miss the green, add 5 balls to your       pile.  If you take 4 toget the ball in the hole, hit 5 more.  Dothis until you finish.  Do the same from 30, 60 and 120 yards. If you journal, keep track of how many up and downs you got from each yardage and how many times you added balls to the pile.  Remember to revisit it later this week if a distance gave you trouble.  You can change the distances a bit whenever you do this drill.
2.  Putting
                On a big green, play 9 holes with one ball and go to the closesthole to you.   How many under 18 putts were you?  Now play 9 holes and choose the hole 2nd closest to you.  Did you do as well?  Keep going if you want to challenge yourself with longer and longer putts.

3.  Chipping
                Havea contest with another player.  Pick toughchips.  You make the game!

4.  On the range,hit each iron in your bag until you land it on a spot you choose.  It has to bea spot that combines distance and direction, not just direction.  Now choose a spot 5 yards closer and use the same iron and drop the ball on it,too.  Go through your routine.  Plan, Visualize, Commit, Hit it!

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