June 2013

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Old vs. new

I had a very interesting experience this past January while attending the PGA Coaching and Teaching Summit. I was invited to join a group of about 75 instructors at a restaurant one night to discuss golf instruction. When you get that many egos and opinions in the room, it can get pretty explosive and it did!

What's going on in golf instruction these days is that there is a debate between the old school and new school instructors. The old school teachers are wonderful and they have a gift of using simple language an imagery to get their point across. Harvey Penick would be the personification of old school. The new school instructors are using the new amazing technology in almost every lesson. They have great diagnostic tools but as a result, may not have learned the art of teaching and communicating. The old school instructors feel that they are able to teach the swing without much technology and argue that the technology is ruining golfers by paralyzing them with all of this information. The old idea of KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) is going out he window and golfers are getting worse as a result. The New School instructors feel that important information is missed in the diagnosis without the use of new technology. 

Obviously there are instructors who balance old school and new school. This is where I find myself. I was trained by many old school instructors which was awesome but I love the ability to use technology to make me better and more efficient as I train my students. As many of you know, I have high speed video as well as a Trackman that gives me so much precise information that the human eye cannot detect much less quantify. 

The overall theme of this newsletter is to embrace some of the new information and take these numbers to help us become better golfers. Of course, my job is to take this information and communicate it to my students in a simple way where they can take it to the course and free it up. 


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zander Tip zone

mental game   strategy tip   short game

Whatever you do, don't compare yourself to other players. Thinking that you should beat that guy or I used to be better than him will not help you become the best player you can be.

I tell my juniors all the time that the only comparison should be between the player you are today and the player you were yesterday. Have you done something today to make yourself better? If so, you are on the right track.

Feel free to learn from others or imitate their technique if they do something well but don't worry about your skill set relative to theirs. You can only control what you do. 

Your goal as you go through the improvement process is to become a better player tomorrow than you are today. Think about your weaknesses and figure out what you can do to improve.

Goals are great but the true gold is the process. If you enjoy the process of learning and striving to improve, you have already won. 



 Everyone wants more distance. I hear that all the time from my students and I get it. I like to hit it far as well. But hitting it longer by definition means that the ball will go more offline. Sometimes the prudent play is to take a 3 wood or hybrid off the tee. Lets look at the numbers. If you hit the ball 5 degrees offline off the tee your ball will miss your target by the following yardages based on your distance:

300 Yard drive: 26 yards offline

250 Yard drive: 21 yards offline

200 Yard drive: 17 yards off line

150 Yard drive: 13 yards offline

I'll leave it up to you to make your decision. 5 degrees offline is not much, yet you are 21 yards offline on a 250 yard drive. By the way, if you are 10 degrees offline on a 300 yards drive, you are 53 yards offline. You are now probably hitting 3 off the tee! Please choose your driving club wisely.


In order to score, you need to know your wedge distances. When I was playing golf professionally in the early 90's, there was no such thing as a rangefinder. I went to the hardware store and bought a roller that measured distances. I measured out my distances and then put cones or towels down at 5 yard increments to measure my yardages. I knew that distance control on my wedges would lead to lower scores, especially birdies on par 5's. 

Now we have rangefinders so it is a lot easier to learn your yardages. If you can spend sometime on a Trackman, you can hit shots and get instant feedback on how far each club and swing goes. I have a Trackman and once my students learn their yardages, I call out the yardage and we have fun trying to hit the ball the correct distance. The percentage of one-putts goes up when you are inside of 10 feet so if you can hit it within 3 yards of your target, your scoring will improve. 

Once you learn your yardages, write them on a piece of paper and tape them to your golf club. This is legal and will help dial in those wedge shots. 

putting tip

I'm going to go old school on you here. Distance control is the key to great putting. I see to many amateurs making practice strokes looking at the ball or at their stroke with no attention to the hole. Your brain is brilliant! If you look at the hole, you will have a better chance of rolling it the proper distance. Butch Harmon likes to say the great players glare at the hole and glance at the ball while amateurs glare at the ball and glance at the hole. The best putter at my home course growing up looked at the hole the entire time while he putted. Let your brain take a mental picture of the hole and then putt to the picture. 

Ball Position

The more I think about 

The more I think about Hogan, the more amazed I am at what he figured out about the golf swing. One of the secrets that he found out as he pounded ball after ball was that he needed to change his ball position and alignment as he changed clubs. As you can see from the diagram, Hogan moved the ball forward on his driver and progressively back as his irons got shorter. What he figured out was that to hit the ball straight with each club, ball position and stance needed to change. We now know that you hit down on an iron and up on a driver. Putting the ball back in your stance allows for a downward hit but as you hit down, your path is to the right, hence you need to open your stance to accommodate that to hit it straight. Conversely, you hit up on a driver so you need to but the ball forward in your stance. But as you move the ball forward, the swing path is going to the left, hence you need to close your stance with a driver.  There were a lot of secrets in that dirt!



Irons Vs. Driver
Fitness Prof

We are very fortunate to live in a part of the country that allows for year-round golf. I’m originally from Boston where golf was seasonal and the clubs pretty much sat untouched from November through March. I’d spend those long winter months playing other sports, including basketball and indoor track (running the 800 was worse than making double bogey on a easy par 4!). And during those months, my fitness regimen would be much different because those sports require different physical capabilities than golf. My medicine ball throws and cable golf swings were replaced with speed ladder drills and tempo runs. This is because of the Principle of Specificity that guides exercise program design.

The Principle of Specificity states that a training program should include sport-specific exercises in order to enhance performance to the greatest degree. General conditioning is important (often referred to as multilateral training) and will lead to performance benefits, but not to the magnitude of a program that includes numerous sport-specific training elements. So let’s look at the physical demands of golf and use those as the foundation of our golf-specific exercise program design.

First off, you need to realize that golf is a sport where physical fitness does matter (probably why Tim Herron isn’t showing up on many leaderboards these days). It requires cardiovascular endurance to complete a round of golf without feeling fatigued along the closing stretch. Additionally golf requires joint mobility to make a full turn while maintaining good posture. And finally it requires rotational power to execute a strong downswing and get the ball to fly with distance and proper trajectory. Couple these elements with general conditioning exercises and you will be developing a body that will be capable of doing great things in golf. The other factor that needs to be considered is the Principle of Progressive Overload. This principle states that a training program must provide the right dose of exercise in order to lead to adaptations and reduce risk for injury. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends performing cardiovascular exercise three to five times a week, muscle strengthening exercises two to four times per week, and flexibility exercises every day. These recommendations are based on the scientific literature and take into account the amount of recovery needed to ensure that body does not get injured by over training. So, based on the Principle of Specificity and the Principle of Progressive Overload, here is my recommendation for a well-crafted golf-specific training program:

Frequency: 4 days per week (plus daily foam rolling and flexibility work - detailed in my last newsletter article and my YouTube video of golf-specific flexibility work at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyta0raVnOQ).

Program Elements:

• 30-45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise (at moderate to vigorous intensity)

• 15 minutes of core conditioning exercises such as Pilates or Yoga (my next newsletter article will detail core conditioning)

• 2 sets of 12 repetitions on a weight training circuit that includes both lower body and upper body exercises (either free weights or weight machines)

• 2 sets of 60 second intervals of multi-directional medicine ball throws and cable golf swings (see my YouTube video of these exercises at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShUFsOTFHks)

This will provide an excellent general conditioning program for your ongoing health and fitness as well as developing golf-specific fitness. Now you just need to find the time to do it! Till next month, I’ll see you on the fairways and greens!

Dr. Chris

Dr. Christian Thompson is the owner of Thompson Fitness Solutions (www.thompsonfitnesssolutions.com) and has taught golf-specific fitness classes and clinics for the past 12 years. He has been on faculty in the Kinesiology Department at the University of San Francisco since 2002..