Friday, January 25, 2013

Week 1 In the Books

Practice this week has gone very well.  I repeat often that I love this team, but I will say it again.  Their games show evidence of a lot of work over Christmas break and they came back to school ready to play.  With that being said, we still have a lot of work ahead of us if we want to compete for the NCAA Championship.  We started the week with the Red Zone Challenge.  It is a test for your short game in a book written by Charlie King and Rob Akins.  The test showed us what we already knew.  Our short games aren't good enough....yet.

One skill in particular, chipping, was below the standard we want to set on the team.  We worked on Wednesday with half of the team on technique and hitting intermediate targets.  I'm amazed sometimes at how well players score with a lack of basic skills.  However, I wander in to watch our basketball teams practice occasionally and the last time I was there, Coach Jankovich was telling me how poorly his team blocks out and that their practices should reflect how we all practiced in junior high and focus on basics.  So, we are all the same as coaches, we want the fundamentals to be solid and to go from there.

To be a great chipper, you have to control the handle of the club, not the club head.  Here is a video of great technique.  Whenever I need a good video, I look to the guys at Secret in the Dirt.  Elkington and Mike Maves know their stuff and they hang around Jackie Burke!

In this video, Elk shows beautiful technique.  The club sweeps through the impact with an arm swing.  He has beautiful tempo and is in control of the entire club. 

Yesterday, we did a timing game.  It was intense and fun!  We had six stations of 10 minutes each.  We made it a competition by keeping track of times for completion of each task.  Through the tasks, we learned a lot and there were a lot of opportunities for Dave and I to talk through stuff.

Here are our tasks: 1.  Make 20 in a row from 4 feet.  2.  Make 5 in a row from 10 feet.  3.  Lag 5 in a row within 18" of hole.  (Stations 4-6 on nearest chipping green) 4.  chip in from 20 feet  5.  Pitch 5 balls that land on the towel.  6.  Hit 10 bunker shots within a wedge length of the hole. 

This type of practice was written to get the team to have a quick, reactionary practice vs. a technical, thinking practice.  Its time to start playing and quit grinding.  We also got a lot of very focused reps.  The scoring made the players adjust quickly and they were truly paying attention to the feedback of the shots.  For example, on the lag putts, they figured out that the ball had a better chance to end within 18" of the hole if it remained on the high side of the hole.  As soon as they made that adjustment, they made a lot of 40 footers!  The same thing happened in chipping.

We found the pitching challenge to be the toughest.  In 10 minutes, our leader hit the towel twice.  I don't believe the challenge was too hard, but that we need to continue to learn to control our distance and trajectory with wedges.  We also need a better understanding of playing higher shots to targets that are elevated and lower shots to level or downhill targets. 

Overall, the day was a lot of fun.  I saw everything in that hour of intense focus that I see on the golf course.  I saw players who got dejected when they were the final one in the drill and their body language showed their emotion.  I saw players who hit shots without focus, instead of recognizing their state of mind and taking a short break.  I saw the players create beautiful rhythm and tempo.  I saw determination, focus and smiles.  Whenever you can get all of that from a practice, you have a lot of opportunities to coach and improve. 

Here are our results:
1.  20 4-footers in a row:  Best times:  Mehar 3:10, JP 3:35, Kim 3:40
2.  5 10 footers in a row:  Felicia 3:05, Elena 3:38, Mel 3:45
3.  5 lags inside 18" in a row (from 40 feet):  JP 4:00, Felicia 5:00 Caitlin 6:10
4.  Chip in from 20 feet:  JP :42 seconds, Alex 1:50, Felicia 2:10
5.  Hit the towel from 40 yards:  Caitlin 2, 4 tied at 1
6.  Hit 5 shots within a wedge length (3 feet) of the hole from the bunker: Mehar 6:10, JP 6:56 Elena 8:00

Our Red Zone Challenge results:  Top 3
Overall Handicap:  Caitlin = 2, Melanie = 3, Mehar = 3 (1 player in double figures)
Wedge Shots:  Jenny H. = +1.5,  JP = 1, Kim & Caitlin = 3 (2 players in double figures)
Bunker Shots:  Mehar = 0, Caitlin = 1.5, Melanie = 2 9 (no one in double figures)
Pitching:  Mel = +1.5, Felicia = 4, Kim = 5 (5 players in double figures, YIKES!)
Chipping:  Felicia = +1.5 (All other players in double figures, DOUBLE YIKES!)
Long Putts:  Caitlin = +1.5, Alex = 1, Mel and Mehar = 2 (2 players in double figures)
Short Putts:  Caitlin & Mehar = +5 (WOW!), Melanie = +3

We will continue to test the players to measure their improvement. 

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