March 2013 Newsletter

Josh Zander Golf
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Everybody loves distance. When someone comes to take a lesson, they always ask for more distance. There are ways to generate more power but this article is about the relationship of distance control to scoring. Knowing how far you hit the ball in any part of the game is the key to scoring. Most people think of inaccuracy as missing left or right. I think that is only part of the story. How about missing it short or long? I hit my 8 iron 150 yards when I strike it solidly. If I miss it 7 yards left, I have a 21 foot putt. If I miss-hit it and leave it 15 yards short and dead on line, I have a 45 foot putt or maybe a bunker shot. I define accuracy as proximity to the hole. By that definition, my 8 iron that I pulled 7 yards left is a more accurate shot. Tiger Woods always talks about hitting the ball pin high with his irons. It's challenging to hit the ball on a perfect line but a solid strike will get you the proper distance as long as you know your yardages.&n bsp;
This applies even more to the short game. Trackman has a fun test that measures 10 pitch shots to a certain distance. It then gives you a handicap for your playing ability from that distance. Students are amazed how Trackman is a tough grader. I took the test the other day from 55 yards and I averaged 3 yards from the pin. It gave me a .6 handicap. That's averaging 9 feet from the hole! Tour players make 50% of their 7 foot putts so even the best in the world would miss more than they make form that distance. Since tour players are more like +6 handicaps, they would average less than two yards from the hole on this test and make a lot of birdies from that distance.  If you average 10 yards from the hole, you handicap is in the 30's. Ouch!
Chipping and putting adheres to the same principle. Most people three putt or do not get up and down because their distance control is poor. You don't slice or hook your chips and putts so the inaccuracy is mostly in the distance control. 
Go to the video vaults in the ZanderGolfClub to learn distance control in all aspects of the game. As I've said before, live by the DIE rule, DISTANCE IS EVERYTHING and I am not talking about power. 





Everyone gets nervous. It just means you care which is fine. The key is how do you deal with your nerves. The first thing to understand is that worst thing that can happen to you if you hit a bad shot is nothing. This should relieve some of the stress and allow you to perform. Breathing is a great way to deal with your nerves. After all, choking, as Johnny Miller likes to explain is literally not being able to catch your breath. The lack of oxygen to your brain and muscles leads to poor decisions and poor performance.  Focus on taking deep breaths through your nose and exhale through your mouth. As you inhale say to your self "alert mind", and as you exhale say "calm body". Now go do it and have fun. 
A reporter asked Jack Nicklaus what he did well the week he won the 1986 Masters. He said I only crossed my target line 3 times the whole week. What he meant by this is that if he was hitting a fade, his fade would start left of the target line and move towards his target without ever crossing the target line. After all a fade that starts right of the target line would not work and a fade that sliced across the target line would be moving away from the hole. Similarly, his draws started right of the target line and never hooked across the target line. Nicklaus was known as a power fader of the golf ball but would work on a draw a few weeks before the Masters as Augusta favored a right to left ball flight. Its nice to have that kind of talent and control.  Never crossing your target line is a key to being a great ball striker. The concept is very similar to putting the ball and missing on the pro side which you will see in the putting section of this newsletter.
Using a hybrid from the fringe is a great choice. There used to be a club that was called a "chipper". It looked like a putter in that it was short with a flat grip but had about 20 degrees of loft on the face. You would simply use your putting stroke and the ball would pop up in the air and roll out like a putt. These days you can use your hybrid the same way without the stigma of using a chipper. Even tour pros use this shot quite a bit. The biggest challenge to hitting this shot is that the ball tends to jump off the face of the hybrid and roll out quite a bit. My suggestion is to practice your distance control in the short game area to get the feel for the shot. The cool thing is that it is hard to miss-hit this shot as it is just like putting. therefor, you can focus you attention on the target which will help you with your distance control. 


We've all heard the term, you hit your putt on the pro side or the amateur side. The pro side means that the ball approaches the hole from the high side of the slope while the amateur side approaches from the low side. There are two reasons why the pro side is better. First of all, if the ball is approaching from the high side, it is always getting closer to the hole as the ball slows down and comes to rest. This allows for a shorter second putt and obviously fewer three putts. Secondly, the ball has a chance to fall in if it approaches from the high side. Quality green reading is a key to shooting lower scores. That is why I am a certified Aimpoint instructor as understanding the true break of a putt is essential to lowering your score. If you are not doing Aimpoint, I recommend that you choose a line where you cannot believe the ball has a chance to end up on the amateur side. You will be amazed at how your three putts go down and how you will hole more putts. 


Driving the ball in play is a huge key to scoring. This is a part of the game that has plagued golfers through the years including Tiger Woods. If you look at old videos of Ben Hogan, you will notice that he closed his stance to hit his driver. He did this because when you put the ball forward in your stance and swing up on the ball, the path of the golf swing is going to the left at the moment of the strike. This causes a slice. To combat this, Hogan closed his stance to neutralize his path which led to accuracy off the tee. Check out the following link:
Becoming the best golfer you can be requires an ongoing commitment to doing everything possible to put yourself in position to be successful.  This goes far beyond playing once a week or beating balls on the driving range.  It is truly a lifestyle commitment that involves every aspect of your life.  One important piece is taking care of the most important piece of equipment you have:  your body.  I spent the first two issues of this newsletter on golf-specific exercises for warming up before practice/play and rotational power exercises for developing greater club head speed and stability in the body.  Another aspect of preparing your body for competition is how you fuel your body before, during, and after a round of golf.  I’m talking about nutrition.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) defines an endurance activity as a sport where the competitor trains and competes for 90 minutes or longer.  That means that golf is an endurance sport and golfers are endurance athletes.  A nutritional plan is especially important for endurance athletes because they are at high risk of bonking, or as I call it, having the “low-fuel light” come on.  When that low-fuel light comes on golf performance suffers.  You become fatigued, irritable, and unable to focus.  These are killers for a golfer.  So we need to have a strategy so that the fuel tank stays full the entire round.  There are two key areas to focus on if you want to prevent a low-fuel light during a round of golf—fueling before exercise and fueling during exercise.  

Before You Tee Off:  A race car never starts a race without new tires and a full tank of gas, so a golfer should not start a round without fueling. Eating before a workout guarantees that the body starts with a full tank of fuel - primarily carbohydrates - to get you through a 4-5 hour round of golf.  If you have three or four hours before you tee off, eat 300-600 calories, primarily of carbohydrate (2-3g/kg body weight), moderate in protein and low in fat.  Ideas for pre-round meals can include:
    •    Oatmeal with milk, fruit and nuts
    •    Turkey sandwich with fruit
    •    Cottage cheese with crackers and fruit
    •    Toast and peanut butter
Also, three to four hours before you tee off, drink 2-4 cups of fluids. One hour before you tee off, drink 1-2 cups of fluids.  Water or sports drinks are fine.  Try to stay away from carbonated beverages.

During The Round:  This fueling opportunity is the well-planned “pit stop.” The fuel should be simple, easily digestible carbohydrates that the body needs to maintain energy and prevent fatigue.  Fuel every 45-60 minutes during a round of golf (approximately every 4-6 holes). ACSM guidelines recommend 30-60 grams of carbohydrate (120-240 calories) per hour. Remember that for optimal performance, we also need to provide the body with fluids and electrolytes.  Ideas for fueling during your round include:
    •    Granola bars
    •    Trail mix
    •    Sports drinks
    •    Fruit & nuts
    •    Half a sandwich
Notice I did not include candy bars or a hot dog and beer at the turn on this list!  Foods that are high in fat and sodium can stay in your stomach and make you feel lethargic and weak.  High sugar foods can peak your blood sugar leading to a hyperactive feeling and will then cause a crash in blood sugar which will make you feel tired and irritable.  

These nutrition tips can help you have the needed energy and focus at the end of a long round of golf to make sure that you finish strong.  Many courses have very difficult closing stretches of holes (anyone play the last 4 holes at Monarch Bay recently???).  You need to be at the top of your game to handle anything the course can throw at you.

Until next month, I’ll see you on the fairways and greens!

Dr. Chris

Dr. Christian Thompson is the owner of Thompson Fitness Solutions ( 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.