Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Just get the Ball in the hole...

Just get the ball in the hole 22 May 2015 by Paul Skinner What do you think would happen if your club took the flags off its greens in Saturday’s competition? Not the holes, just the flags. Well, after the mayhem and initial confusion, I can tell you what would happen. You’d shoot a lower score. I almost guarantee it. The proof comes from statistical evidence – and from the wisdom of some of our game’s greatest players. Jack Nicklaus once said: “I only ever hit it close if I pushed or pulled it.” Greg Norman once said: “If I hit a great 5-iron, it goes to 25 feet.” Essentially, two legendary golfers were aiming away from the flag, often simply to the centre of the greens. Which goes right back to my club competition theory. If you aimed exclusively at the middle of greens, with no other target in mind, you’d find yourself putting a lot more than you otherwise might, especially if you regularly aim at “sucker pins”. Here’s how I know this. As an eight-year-old I was lucky enough to meet Peter Fowler, who quickly became a mentor and the reason I pursued golf as a career. I practised every day and in 2000 earned my Australasian Tour card – my dream achieved. Or was it? I battled for years with limited success. I hit more balls on the range than anyone, trying in vain to perfect my swing. During this time I would caddie for Peter during gaps in my limited schedule, even working on the European Tour for a while. Peter is known as one of the hardest workers on tour and for his meticulous preparation and course management skills. One of the sport’s greatest short-game exponents, he’d consistently amaze his peers with the scores he churned out, even while playing less than his best. In all this time watching Peter, you’d think I’d have learnt my lesson. He was trying to teach me how to play golf; I was trying to play golf swings. Golf is a game of misses. What defines golfers is the quality of their play when things aren’t going quite right; when their so-called “perfect swing” isn’t quite perfect. I once asked Peter to tell me of the better rounds he had through his career and without a moment’s thought, he answered: “I shot 74 in the third round of the Scandinavian Masters back in ’89. Mate, I could not have had one less!” And this from someone who has shot a 63 to win on the European Tour! So I finally learnt the lesson. Even now the best golfer in the world might win three times a year, so there are going to be a lot of weeks on tour that will be a battle. So it’s meticulous course management and preparation when things aren’t quite working that helps us to score. Three years ago, my good friend and Victorian Institute of Sport coach Marty Joyce asked me to present a talk on course management and preparation to Golf Australia’s national squad at a training camp. I’ve since had the privilege of working with Golf Australia as a coaching consultant and they’ve been some of the best times I have had in golf. The kids are incredibly talented and, trust me, are truly the best this country has to offer. And it’s incredibly fulfilling that they are now taking towards having that scoring focus, not just honing that perfect swing. We now have access to myriad statistical data. One we study religiously is proximity to hole – essentially how close Tour players hit the ball, on average, from any given distance. We are using this data to challenge our players to think more about clubs they’re hitting off the tee and, in particularly, approach shots. We use terms “in position” and “out of position” and hopefully getting them to understand that top tour professionals fire away from a lot of pins. One of the theories we pose is that if a top-10 player in the world hits a 7-iron to 25 feet (sorry, the data isn’t metric), if there is any trouble within that radius, we need to aim elsewhere. An example of this for those who know Royal Melbourne is a pin within eight feet of the back left of the second on the East Course. If you go just 10 feet past, you’re dead and cannot get up and down – an automatic bogey at best. Playing into that green with a 7-iron, knowing our likely proximity to the hole is 25 feet, the pin I am playing to is short right of and taking two putts all day long. To hit it close to that pin is a mistake -- which is why I am so determined to make these kids get it! Is this a conservative approach? A lot of people have challenged me on this in the past few years – and the answer is simple. No, it’s not. It’s simply playing to statistical data that cannot be argued. Bernhard Langer used to have a “seven out of 10” rule. He would say, “I need to know I can hit this shot seven out of 10 times today, else it’s a different shot or a different club”. Peter, when asked why his short game was so good, said “a lot of it has to do with where I am chipping and putting from”. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for repeatable technique. I coach it every day. But I think among our elite young athletes, we are starting to get the balance right between good technique and actually playing the imperfect game that is golf. That culture is starting to shift. To have kids the calibre of Ryan Ruffels and Lucas Herbert go to Japan spending nine hours creating their own yardage book; to start hearing them talk about “being in position” and “out of position”; to see them warming up on the range hitting all the required shots for the day; checking pin sheets and weather conditions pre-round; is really cool to me. And I’m pretty sure it will pay off for Australian golf. Paul Skinner is a member of GA’s high performance staff and consults to the VIS, Golf Victoria and state associations. He can be contacted at Martin Joyce Paul Skinner Golf, located at Spring Valley Golf Club. E: M: 0433 122437 Thankyou for your time and attention, Geoff

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Championship playoffs this weekend...

Good weekend of golfing just past. My match play rounds are all on the coming weekend, first up the Semi final which I should win on Saturday. Play through that hurdle and it is the Quarter final against the defending club champion on Sunday. The rounds played on the past weekend were all club competition and whilst not too shabby the improvement from Saturday to Sunday was marked. Off the tee was again an issue on the first nine holes and added too many strokes to the score Saturday. Sunday I took the time to get out and warm up and the driver off the tee as back on target. Being a Par competition if it was not for a contact lens malfunction on the 17th hole I would have finished +2. Being +1 at the end of 18 holes was good enough. Same score as the club champion except he plays off 3 hcp and I am off 10 hcp. Fortunately I have this week settled to practise on my game, tuning up a few aspects that will give me a better foundation for the coming matches. Nothing special and no routine for "miracle improvement". Simply putting, chipping, driver and longer irons. The routine is well established the only addition is a routine to lessen the pulls to the left. It is great to play competition if, not the motivation to do the improvement practise would be lacking. With a reliable consistent swing established there is no need for hours of work. Common sense dictate how I practise, focused on targets derived from game results and the physical capability of myself. Thankyou for your time and attention Geoff

Monday, May 18, 2015

Qualified for Club Championships

The final qualifying round for club championships yesterday and the club captain put together a very interesting group that I played in. Including the reigning club champion, the current highest qualifier myself and a visiting 9 handicap golfer. The round was played in perfect weather and make no mistake the game was played in the best of sporting spirit. Best summed up by the vising golfer at presentations when he complimented us on or golfing etiquette and ability. It was perhaps the most I have ever been in the zone while playing a club competition. The results had the qualifying leader post a 75 gross, club champion a 76 and myself a 77 off the stick. I was keeping the champs card and our round within a round soon became an unofficial match play game. Considering he is a 3 handicap and myself 10.7 on the day the end result was gold for me. After 18 holes we were all square, this was the best possible boost that could be in my corner with the first playoff rounds starting next week.The draw has been made and I will not meet the current champion until the final if I win through. Besides the mental confidence booster there has been another major improvement for me course wise. Due to the new development and selling off some current golf land, a par 5 and par four have been taken out of play. Replaced with two par three holes this has been a significant aid to my golf capability. In the 24 hours between rounds Saturday and Sunday, the tee shots and approach shots all settled as desired. The putting even improved with one practise session prior to Sundays round. The foundation has been laid for a red hot tilt at the club championship this season. Thankyou for your time and attention , Geoff

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Playing in carts not for me yet...

Not as successful on the Heywood Golf Course on the second trip over Saturday. No complaints game wise, did not putt or chip as well yet much better off the tee. The big change was playing in a cart. Not something I usually do and it had a significant effect on my game. Where I am usually chatting with players in the group in between shots walking to the ball, in the cart the company is in your face all the time. I could not settle on my short game and putting all day and shot selection was erratic. No great problem as I won the raffle for a dozen beers and the other mate in the car claimed second so 18 bottles started the trip home in the booty chest. This weekend is a working one so apart from playing the 9 hole Friday comp. it may be an enforced golfing break. No complaints as any added rest is a bonus and the driving range at home is getting a good work out. Happy to work on the long iron technique and overall ball striking, with chipping and putting at the club for the week. Thankyou for your time and attention , Geoff