Here at BGGA we strive to create the simplest, most direct path to student improvement possible given we are playing a sport with ever changing environmental factors and numerous variables. Creating a blueprint for a student is crucial to their development. Reaching your goals in golf can be challenging task but if you have a blueprint or road map, one that you understand and truly believe in, you can rest assured that even on the days when you are not performing your best, you are on the correct path to reach your goals.
In order to establish the blueprint, we need to have collect enough data to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of a player. This is a 4 or 5-day process. We use a combination of observing and recording the different skills we want to measure as well as using technology. I am a big believer in technology. That can scare people at times and sounds complicated and lead to too much information. Technology has never given a lesson, nor has it in itself ever helped a student or hurt a student. Technology in the wrong hands can be a disaster. In the right hands, it can help the coach get the most specific information possible, eliminating trial and error and guesswork. This actually allows the student to spend more time on the golf course as opposed to being a range rat and trying this and that on the range, searching for a swing thought. Put another way, the information is for the coach, not the student. I have personally used Trackman and assessed a PGA tour player in 3D, hooking him up with sensors with multiple wires coming out of them, looked at the data and literally only changed their posture. The assessments we use at BGGA to do this consist of the following:
1- putting assessment. We need to test to see how good one is at the skills needed to be a successful putter. These include starting the ball on the proper line, hitting the ball with the proper pace, and reading the green. Our overall putting assessment consists of three parts. This first is test players outside on the putting green hitting putts at various lengths. We have the student hit 5 putts from 3 feet, 6 feet, and 9 feet. However, one of the key points of this is where they putt from. Most people would hit their putts on the same hole, from the same spot and from north, south, east, and west around the hole. In our way of thinking, that doesn’t simulate real golf, what you experience on the golf course. We want to make it as realistic as possible. The student hits the putts from predetermined spots set out by us but they are on different holes and at different angles. So all of the 3 foot putts you hit, they will all be to a different hole. We then test your ability to make 15 putts breaking from left to right as well as right to left. The avg. PGA tour player makes less than 30% from this distance so the chances of us making it are even smaller however we want to see if they can match the proper speed to the line and see how they perform on these breaking putts from both sides of the hole. Next we test longer putts. We do this in two ways. We want to test the skill of lag putting so we hit five 45-foot putts and points are given if the ball comes to rest inside a certain predetermined distance. The next area tests the ability to two putt, no matter where the ball ends up, and their grit if you will. Naturally, we pick a different hole for this and a different distance as well.
2- Green reading- it is very rare to watch anyone practice their green reading. Only in recent years since the green reading system Aimpoint was introduced to the golfing world do I recall seeing anyone practice their green reading apart from during a lesson, and that doesn’t happen enough either. However, if you think Tiger Woods was the best putter in the world (or whoever you do think is), I can assure you they are the best green reader in the world. How else can you make that many putt? That is why we do a green reading assessment. The results are usually quite surprising…not in a positive way. Typically students are less skilled at reading the green than they think they are.
3- SAM putt lab- for those of you not familiar with Sam putt lab, it is a piece of technology that uses ultrasound to measure the putting stroke of the students. It measures 28 parameters of the stroke. The important ones are the ones that are challenging to see, even with high-speed video capturing 240 frames a second or more. They are the face angle, especially relative to the path the club is swinging on. While most people always want to work on the path of the stroke, it is actually the face angle at impact that determines approximately 90 % of where the ball starts bases on the loft of the putter. That means most of us spend most of our time working on what determines 10 % of the balls staring line. The path is the easiest to see, and has the most movement so it must be the most important…or so we think. The other important thing we can gather from this information is the tempo, speed and acceleration of the stroke. The ratio of the backswing to downswing and how the club accelerates (or doesn’t) are crucial to hit the ball on the proper line with the proper speed which are vital if you want to hole the all important yet difficult 10 -20 foot putts, the ones that they the winners make more of that particular tournament.
4- short game- it goes without saying that this is an important element to cutting strokes off of your score, especially in the shortest amount of time. By now, I am sure you have realized we want to make this as much like the course as we can. We have players hit 12 different shots (5 times each) including bunker shots (long and short), plugged bunker shots, lob shots, out of the rough, basic ships, difficult lies, etc. All of this takes place within 25 yards of the hole.
5- Pitching- We use Trackman to do what is called a pitching combine. This will test the student in a variety of shots from 30 – 80 yards. It consists of 15 shots and you guessed it….Trackman will give the student random distances to make it as close to the golf course as we can. Most people would hit 5 shots from 30 yards, 5 form 40 yards, etc. In this combine they might have to hit one 37 yards, then 62 yards, then 46 yards, etc., etc.
6- 3D analysis. As technology gets better and more cost effective, it is a very viable source to analyze a swing. Keep in mind that in golf we are moving in 3 dimensions yet on video we can only see two. For example, in every golf swing a student is moving in 6 different motions with their hips (pelvis) in … and should be but in a the proper way and the proper amount. A student’s hips are rotating, swaying or shifting (towards or away from the target), tilting (right side and left side getting higher or lower), thrusting (moving toward or away from the target line), bending anteriorly or posteriorly (belt buckle tilting up or down), and lifting (moving up or down). It isn’t possible to see the combinations of these on video, and some of them are hard to see period on video, especially the timing of these movements. Now combine that with the upper body doing the same thing and the motion of the arms and wrists rotating and hinging, you can understand you don’t want to guess if you can measure. Once again, keep in mind, this is for the coach to know and understand, not the student. The coach might only use one of these to tell the student or not any of them. It all depends on the student’s ball flight, and what they need to achieve their goal.
7- Video- We use the 3D in conjunction with the standard video analysis since that is what students are used to seeing and can readily check their improvements this way vs. being hooked up to 3d constantly.
8- Strategy- We also have strategy assessment using a yardage book format and give them different scenarios and have the answer questions based on that. While there are countless scenarios in golf given different lies, wind, position in a tournament, etc. This gives us some introductory data into how a player thinks on the course. It also gets the student using a yardage book and thinking like they would in a tournament where some of the development al players would not be used to doing so.
9- mental assessment- we all know golf is a mental game. It was the famous Bobby Jones that said, “ Golf is a game played on a five inch course, the distance between your ears.” That being said, it is very important we assess the mental game of a player. This includes many things such as the student filling out a growth mindset questionnaire, a goal setting exercise (process vs. outcome), performing a exercise on the golf course called “talking out loud” where we can get an idea of their thought process, pre-shot and post-shot routine, etc. Our Director of mental performance can then take this information and provide a mental blueprint for that particular student.
10- Fitness assessment –After Tiger Woods came on the scene, we saw a huge increase on the amount of “athletes” that began playing the game. Combine that with technology in golf balls and golf clubs that propel the ball longer and longer distances, it became very clear that the functionality of the player’s body is very important. We all come form different environments, soccer players and hockey players tend to have tighter hips, someone that sits at a desk hunched over their computer will tend to not be able to extend their thoracic spine as much as some people. Obviously, this will lead to these different people having different swing faults. It is imperative, more than in the past that people have developed fundamental movement skills as well as fundamental sports skills in order to reach their potential. Golf fitness doesn’t mean lying on a bench and lifting weight over your head. You would be surprised how many people can’t do the little things yet can perform a bench press on a stable surface. This instance would have a high probability of getting that particular player less functional for golf, not more.
11- Tournament – After “assessment week”, we have a tournament to get a barometer of their performance on the course. This is the important area obviously, how they perform on the course, when it matters.
We then take all of this information, combine it, put it together and make a plan for that student with their coach, Director of mental performance, Director of health and athletic development. A lot of these assessments are done multiple times throughout the year to show a trend for that student. Doing it once or twice a year isn’t statistically significant and doesn’t distinguish between whether the player ha d a good day one day or a bad day one day. Research show that “testing” is a better way for a student to learn as well. This sets the blueprint for the year. Despite a few bumps in the road such as a player playing in a lot of wind and their posture gets bad, etc. it takes a long time to “own’ these changes prescribed in a tournament environment so it should be a clear road map for them to achieve their ultimate goal.