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Wide Focus

Building on last weeks instalment, Course Management: Part 1 - Know Your Game, where I highlighted the importance of understanding your Skills in order to develop solid Course Management, the next step is to frame your tactics via a Wide Setting. In my experience the most effective way to do this is to utilise a concept famously implemented by a young Tiger Woods: Personal Par


Personal Par

A huge mistake many Golfers make is setting the Intention/Goal of endeavouring to score ‘Par' on a given Hole. Par is what a PRO is expected to score. Thats like a Gym newbie attempting to lift the same weights as a Professional Powerlifter - CRAZY!

Instead implement the strategy of Personal Par. Here’s how: 

Save your scorecards for next three times you play the same Course from the same tees. Now establish a realistic Par for each hole based on the scores you achieved over those three rounds (think of it as a “Personal Best” score for the hole). Then, next time you play, adjust each Hole’s Par on the Scorecard (scribble it out and pencil the new number in), now use your ‘new’ Scorecard and try and better it (go set some new Personal Best’s). Alternatively use your Handicap and Stroke Index. Here’s an example:

(The Scorecard on the Left/Top is the Courses “Regular” Scorecard i.e. 0 Handicap. The Scorecard on the Right/Bottom is for an 18 Handicap Golfer. Spot the difference 😉?)

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This simple adjustment will help determine your tactics for a given Hole (think of a Par 4 you play regularly suddenly turning into a Par 5). It reduces the temptation to go for those high risk, “Wonder Shots” that often result in a “card wrecking” Score. Another benefit is that it helps you avoid placing too much attention on what Par for the hole/course is and/or what your competitors are doing..

IMPORTANT: Make sure you keep evaluating and adjusting your Personal Par (and associated Tactics) as you improve.

Stay tuned for Part 3: Weather

Thanks for reading!

Oliver C. Morton

www.TheLeadingEdgeGolfCompany.com



After writing an Article for this Months Today’s Golfer on ‘Playing Smart’ (pick up a copy HERE or by Clicking the Image) my initial intention for this Topic was to construct a fairly concise, albeit thorough piece that shone light on the key areas of Good Course Management. However, like with most things I do, the more I delved, the more comprehensive it became. So it’s now morphed into a “Comprehensive Introduction to Course Management”, delivered over a 5 Week Series (see what I did there ;)

I’m keen to admit that there are much smarter people that specialise in this field, such as Mark Broadie from ShotLink, Scott Fawcett from Decade and the Team at Shotscope. They will be able to take your interest deeper than I can - I highly recommed you check them out and give them a Social Follow. However, in order to get you to their door, I believe it’s important to provide a broad guide on what I believe are Key Concepts to good Course Management, or to the rest of the Sporting World - Tactical Awareness.

They are:

  1. Know your Game

  2. Personal Par = Course Par + Handicap

  3. The Environment

  4. Go-Zones

  5. Play Smart!


As you’ll have deduced, I’m keen that you understand things from a broader perspective initially then get into the specifics later. So “stay tuned” over the coming Weeks. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin..


1. Know Your Game

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Truly understanding yourself & your tendencies is vital to great Course Management. It’s folly to implement someone else’s Game Plan - they’re not you, they see the World differently, they haven’t got your Game! Avoid a “one size fits all” approach. You need to Know Your Game and tailor your Tactics appropriately.

To start the process I recommend you implement a solid Post Round Debrief. This will help you understand the quality of each aspects of your Game on an Objective Level i.e Off the Tee, Approach Shots, Short Game and Putting (aka: your Skills).

The tool I recommend was created by Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott of VISION54 called “Good, Better How”. You can complete this in a Journal, Notebook or simply download the Template below:

Make sure to include all aspects of your Performance i.e:

  • Ball Control (Greens In Regulation, Fairways Hit, Hole out Conversion etc)

  • Performance State (Commitment and Focus Levels, Post Shot Reactions etc)

Combining these aspects provides you with “both sides of the coin” i.e. Objective Data on your specific Ball Control Skills (Off the Tee, Approach Shots, Short Game & Putting) and Subjective Analysis of the State you were in that facilitated the your Ball Control Outcomes (the Story behind your Skill if you will).

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To truly understand your Ball Control Skills I recommend you accumulate Statistics (commonly known as “Stats”) on your Performance. Platforms like Shots to Hole and Golf Stat Lab are fantastic tools that help you establish Objective Data. They provide wonderful perspective and help you manage your expectations, especially when you compare your Stats (Skill Level) to the World’s Elite (see the Table).

This is particularly useful from a Tactical standpoint as you can establish your “Game Plan” using the proven assets of your Game.

This reflection tool, combined with Stats, helps you formulate a Positive Action Plan not only for highlighting aspects of your Game that need improvement, but also will guide your Tactical choices for your coming rounds.

Knowing Your Game (understanding yourself & your tendencies) can’t be understated. It’s the foundation off which you build not only great Course Management, but your entire Performance.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Personal Par = Course Par + Handicap

Thanks for reading!

Oliver C. Morton

www.TheLeadingEdgeGolfCompany.com


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Origin

This article is a result of a Fellow PGA Professional asking me a Question I couldn’t give a solid Answer to (something I really dislike 😉), so, I did some research. What I found was fascinating - so much so I thought it was necessary to share.

His question was:

What’s the Face Angle Margin for Error when Putting?

To clarify, Face Angle is defined as the Direction the Club Face is pointing at the moment of Impact in relation to the Target. Face Angle is 90% responsible for the Balls Launch Direction (Launch Direction: Horizontal Direction the Ball Launches in relation to the Target). If the terms I’ve just used are totally Alien, have no fear, I’ve included a ‘Jargon Buster’ at the end to help 👍🏻.

Photo Courtesy of The Lost Art of Golf

Photo Courtesy of The Lost Art of Golf

So, we know a Golf Hole is wider than a Golf Ball (4.25in / 10.795cm vs 1.68in / 4.267cm) meaning we have a certain “Window” (aka Margin for Error) we can Roll the Ball through in order for it to go in the Hole. But how big is that Window? Well, as with most things in Golf; it depends!

I alluded to some research earlier and fortunately I didn’t have to look far from Home.

As some of you may know, I’m based at the wonderful Archerfield Performance Centre and fortunately so is Gary Nicol. Gary is a veteran European Tour Coach and a fellow TrackMan Master (making Archerfield the only Facility in Europe that has 2 TrackMan Masters, just sayin’ 😉). 

He frequently collaborates with one of Europe’s finest Performance Coaches, Karl Morris, famed in the Golf World for his work with Louis Oosthuizen (Google “St Andrews, Red Dot”). Together they have written a best selling Book “The Lost Art of Putting” (it’s technically a Putting Book but I feel it’s benefits stretch far beyond a persons ability to use the ‘Short Stick’). So all I really had to do was knock on Gary’s door and ask a few questions (as I often do). His response: “Read the Book Oli.”

So, I did (and I highly recommend you do too. Pick up a copy HERE), and I didn’t have to read for long (26 pages to be exact) to get my Answer.

After leafing those initial pages I came across Niklas Bergdahl’s piece On “TrackMan Performance Putting”. Those 8 pages have completely changed the way I Coach Putting (and left me feeling mildly frustrated that I’ve been focussing on the least important aspects of Putting Performance for the last 10 years 🤦🏼‍♂️). It also answered my Associates Question. 


Findings

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Here’s what I discovered (please note that much of the below is pulled straight from Niklas’ piece in The Lost Art Of Putting, with a little of my interpretation - don’t want to be getting any undue credit 😉):

It’s pretty common knowledge in the Golf World that there’s 3 Key Skills to being a Technically Proficient Putter (there’s obviously other Major Factors at play such as Mental and Emotional Skills + Tactical Awareness in order for someone to be a ‘World Class’ Putter), they are:

  • Start Direction/Line: Being able to start the Ball on your intended line

  • Pace: Hitting the Ball the appropriate Distance

  • Green Reading: The ability to predict how the Ball will roll on the Green aka Situational Awareness

It’s also common for people to believe the most important aspect to get right, and spend most of your Practice time improving is Start Direction/Line. What follows might change that.

Assuming someone’s ability to Read the Green is sufficient (big assumption I know 😉) , their ability falls to getting the Pace/Distance & Line right. This leads us to 3 Key Putting Technical Parameters a Player has to Optimise in order to Hole a Putt:

  1. Launch Direction: Horizontal Direction the Ball sets off on in relation to the Target/Start Line

  2. Initial Ball Speed: Speed of the Ball off the Club Face just after Impact

  3. Launch: Distance to the Balls first touch to the ground and how much Skid (rapid deceleration of Ball Speed, which increases Distance variability - influenced by Launch Conditions & Surface Type) and Roll (where the Balls rotation (peripheral speed) matches the velocity of the Ball, causing steady deceleration). We need some Launch as the Ball sits in a small impression when static on the Green.

But what to focus on first? What to spend most of your Practice time on? The below info from TrackMan will help to Answer that (the info on the left side in particular). It’s important to state the below table relates to the angular error on a Straight Putt (no Break). The variables that have the greatest influence on Putter Face Margin of Error are Green Gradient and Angle:

In short: the firmer you hit the Putt (higher Entry Speed) the smaller the effective Hole size, thus the lower tolerance on Launch Direction – which is 90% determined by Face Angle.

So, every Putt has a Window of Ball Speeds (or a Margin of Error - see what I did there 😉), this creates a ‘Cone’ of possible Lines that enable the Ball to be holed. The longer Distance to the Hole, the smaller the Launch Direction Window/Cone and vice versa, see below: 

More Pace results in less Break, so the Launch Direction will be closer to the Hole compared to the lower Ball Speeds. This also makes the effective Hole size smaller, plus leaves a longer Distance for the next Putt should it not go in. On the other hand, the lowest Speed possible requires a Launch Direction further away from the Hole compared to faster Speeds.

The slower Speed strategy will result in the largest effective Hole size as the Ball would reach the Hole with as low a Speed as possible, making it more likely to drop in the Hole (as long as it reaches the hole 😉). An important consideration is that even though this ‘Dead Weight’ Pace could be argued as the ideal Speed, as it creates the largest effective Hole size, the Ball is more susceptible to Green inconsistencies as it reaches the Hole, plus the risk of leaving it short is higher.

Focus on an Entry Speed of 1.68 mph / 0.7 ms. This would still be considered on the ‘low side’ of the Launch Window, results in an effective Hole size of 74% and creates a Roll out of 1.5 feet past the hole (Stimp being 10) - matching Direction with this Speed is obviously required. This approach is less aggressive and lowers the possibility of a long return Putt if missed - meaning you’re less likely to ‘3 Putt’.

Ultimately there are combinations of Launch Directions and Speeds that can make the Ball go in the Hole. Even with unintentional error in Direction and Speed, the Ball can still go in the hole using a different Line than was intended (think of those Putts you thought were crap but still went in 👍🏻).

Question = Answered 😉


How to Use this Info?

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  • Golf is what the Ball does: Prioritise Ball Control over Stroke (and Swing) perfection.

  • If you truly don’t know how the Green will influence the Direction and Distance of the Putt, you should never allow yourself to question your club delivery. Add uncertainty and lack of commitment and any proper Technique will breakdown.

  • The first considerations should be Green Reading; being able to determine situational tendencies, as well as Green inconsistencies (understanding of situation and its influence) i.e Effective Situational Interpretation / Prediction.

  • Crucial elements of Putting Performance come down to the Players ability to predict:

  1. The Effective Stimp

  2. The Speed needed to reach the Hole with the desired Entry Speed

  3. The amount of Break their chosen Speed will lead to, thus determining the required Launch Direction

  • These elements need to be Practiced in order to reduce Club delivery variability and skilful understanding of how to effectively predict the Balls interaction with the ground. This leads to a Player obtaining a high capacity of predictability and adaptability to a given situation. The skill of adaptability is fundamental to Performance; Golf is played with a big factor of randomness (I discussed this in my previous Blog on Failure).

  • Players need to practice Start Direction/Line at different Putt lengths and Paces, not to see how good their Stroke is, but to asses their ability to determine Situational Influence.

  • Ball Speed at the Hole is more important than the exact roll-out, as the latter is determined by the effective Stimp of the Green - GOLF IS WHAT THE BALL DOES!

  • Beware artificial Greens as they are different to the real thing. Most don’t effectively simulate real grass, so the Ball will behave differently. Even on real grass the conditions vary, so a Player & Coach must process good knowledge of how certain Green conditions influence outcome.

  • With this in mind, compare Speed, Skid, Roll, Break and Distance outdoors vs indoors. This gives a good indication of how well you can adapt to different surface conditions (especially the Skid & Roll differences). Practicing in different conditions gives you a great perspective on the true quality of your Performance.

  • Stop focusing excessively on wether you hole the Putt or not. Effective coordination between Speed and Direction can still make the Ball go in, even if it wasn’t executed according to the your Intention. That’s not to say you should never Practice to a Hole, the point is that you need accurate feedback on Direction, Speed, Skid, Roll and Break before you can truly assess if the Putt was executed according to the Intention - get yourself booked in for a Putting Session with your local TrackMan Certified Professional!


Reflection

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In short:

  • Golf is what the Ball does! Prioritise Ball Control over Stroke (and Swing) perfection.

  • Pace is King. It determines your Line/Launch Window/Margin of Error/Club Face Angle Tolerance.

  • The variables that have the greatest influence on Putter Face Margin of Error are Green Gradient and Angle.

  • Slower Pace = Increased Chance of the Ball going in. Focus on an Entry Speed of between 0.01mph and 1.68mph. Use what works best for you though!

  • Practice with Variability (hit lots of different Putts from lots of different places vs hitting the same Putt over and over). Adaptability will forge your Putting. If you want help with this check out my Connected Coaching Programme.

  • Buy a copy of The Lost Art or Putting, and book yourself into one of Gary & Karl’s Workshops!

I hope you’ve found the above information useful and insightful?

p.s. Please find my Jargon Buster below.

Thanks for reading!

Oliver C. Morton

The Leading Edge Golf Company

www.TheLeadingEdgeGolfCompany.com


Jargon Buster

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Face Angle: The Horizontal Direction the Club Face is pointing at the moment of impact in relation to the Target

Launch Direction: Horizontal Direction the Ball Launches in relation to the Target  

Distance: The total Distance the Ball travels in a straight line from the starting point 

Initial Ball Speed: Speed of Ball off the Putter Face (consistent = good launch Control)

Ball Speed is determined by:

  1. Club Speed (primarily determined by forward swing time and stroke length)

  2. Impact Location

  3. Club Head Weight + COR (Coefficient of Restitution)

Stimp: Amount of friction the surface will impart on the Ball (High = Less, Low = More)

Skid: Rapid deceleration of Ball Speed & Increased Distance variability (influenced by Launch Conditions & Surface Type)

Skid Distance is determined by the Ball Speed, Launch Angle, Launch Spin, Green Conditions and effective Stimp. This is determined by Club Speed, Dynamic Loft and Impact Location

Roll: Where the Balls rotation (peripheral speed) matches the velocity of the Ball. Roll Speed is a consequence of the Ball Speed and Skid Distance

Roll %: The amount of Roll on the Total Putt Distance

Roll Out: Total Distance the Ball would travel (if not holed)

Speed Drop: amount of Ball Speed lost due to Skid Phase

Break: the amount of side movement (Left or Right) in relation to the Launch Direction (More Ball Speed = Less Break, Less Ball Speed = More Break)

Entry Speed: pace the Ball enters the Hole (Slower = Larger Target, Faster = Smaller Target)

Entry Point: The part of the Hole the Ball enters