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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


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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


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BURNOUT BEWARE!

Are you overlooking one of the most important parts of any training program? Are you RECOVERING appropriately in order to help you establish your Optimal Performance State? If not you’re risking the biggest of all Performance inhibitors; BURNOUT.

It’s that time of Year where a lot of Golf is played. More rounds per week, 36/72 Hole Events and multiple weeks on the road where Golfers attempt to acquire the appropriate scores and points to achieve their Goals. It’s the perfect storm of ambition, routine and fatigue. The lure of success leading to long hours of practice, preparation and play. Where more ‘work’ becomes custom and practice. Not only are balls hit prior to a round they’re also hit AFTER in an attempt to “fix” a problem, to iron out the creases of poor Performance.

When Performance is sub-optimal the temptation is to keep grinding. To keep working hard by hitting thousands of Balls on the Driving Range or spending hours on the Chipping/Putting Green. However this behaviour might well be anaesthetising you from the real issue: you’re not in your optimal Performance State (Physical, Mental & Emotional Condition), which in turn is causing your Technique/Skill to breakdown.This makes it even more important for Players to be self aware of their State.

A great example of being totally in tune with this is from Episode 9 of The Earn Your Edge Podcast featuring Beau Hossler (Hit the Image to Listen). I recommend you listen to the entire episode but if you tune in between 21.40s - 27.09s you’ll hear how Beau was playing his 14th Week Straight on the Web.com Tour (just think about that for a second!!!) as he needed to give himself the best chance of acquiring the required amount of ranking points to get his PGA Tour Card, and he wasn’t Playing well. However, he knew that if he prepared well and ensured he was in the best possible Performance State, that would give him the best possible chance of grinding out a decent result vs trying to ‘fix’ his Ball Control with lengthy Practice Sessions. He recognised he needed to prioritise his Recovery/Rest! Spoiler alert: he finished 19th that Week and got his Card!

I can’t tell you if need to Work or Rest, that’s down to you being in tune with yourself (aka self-aware) Physically, Mentally and Emotionally, however I will provide a tool (keep reading ;) that will help you determine the best course of action to get your Performance where you want it to be.

So how do you Optimise Recovery?

Well, I’ve broken it down into 5 distinct elements: 

  • Sleep

  • Hydration

  • Nutrition

  • Physical

  • Psychological


Sleep

Sleep plays a major role in athletic performance and competitive results. The quality and amount of sleep Athletes get is often the key to Winning. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep in particular provides energy to both the brain and body (Learn More about the specific stages of Sleep Here: https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/sleep-101). If sleep is cut short, the body doesn’t have time to regenerate, repair & consolidate memory and release hormones.

NFL Legend Tom Brady famously advocates 10 hours of sleep, regularly “hitting the hay” around 9p.m (Learn More about his Sleep habits here:https://www.nectarsleep.com/posts/learn-sleep-habits-tom-brady-sleep-like-champ/) and Lance Armstrong famously dared people to get 6 to 8 hours of sleep (amongst other things 🤭) to improve mood, performance, and concentration.

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A study in the journal of sleep confirms the role of sleep in performance with results that show declines in split-second decision making following poor sleep. Results also showed increased accuracy in well-rested subjects.

Exercise (like lifting weights or playing Golf) depletes energy, fluids, and breaks down muscle. Hydration and the right fuel are only part of training and recovery (I’ll cover those in a bit). What athlete’s do immediately after competition also determines how quickly their bodies rebuild muscle and replenish nutrients (again, I’ll cover this later). This helps maintain endurance, speed, and accuracy.

Some research suggests that sleep deprivation increases levels of stress hormone; cortisol. Sleep deprivation has also been seen to decrease production of glycogen and carbohydrates that are stored for energy use during physical activity. In short, less sleep increases the possibility of fatigue, low energy, and poor focus at game time. It may also slow recovery post-game.

Whether you’re at the top of your game or in the game for the fun of it, getting the proper amount of sleep is necessary to face the world with your best foot forward. Sleep will not only help you play better, it’ll get you on the road to good fitness, good eating, and good health.

Here’s a great info-graph from Precision Nutrition (you should definitely follow them on Instagram, they’re awesome. Here’s their Profile: https://instagram.com/precisionnutrition?igshid=ulzmuk20f3fd) that illustrates the optimal amount of sleep for different ages:


Hydration

Hydration during Performance is a hot topic right now in the Literature World - lots of poor studies from days gone by. So it looks like we might not need to drink that much during Performance after all. However, proper Hydration has a big influence on Performance as just a 1% drop in your hydration levels will have a negative impact (see Table and Image below, percentages might change as a result of future research):

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Replacing the fluid lost during a round of Golf is extremely important, especially if you’re playing several days in a row . Hence why it’s an essential part of your Recovery program. A simple way to monitor your fluid levels is to measure your weight prior and post round. Every Kilogram of weight you lose during the round is 1 litre of water you need to replace. Best practice is to replace a little more than what you have lost during the round to allow for urination, so as a general rule you should replace 150% of what you have lost. This means that a Golfer that weighs 70kg prior to a round and 68kg post round needs to drink 3 litres of water post round to ensure they’re fully hydrated for tomorrow’s round. 

A solid rule of thumb to help golfers stay hydrated and focused is to consume 100-150 millilitres (small cup) of water every 15-20 minutes/2 holes during a round/practice. Golfers should also avoid fizzy or sugary drinks, as these contain ingredients that can dehydrate the body.


Nutrition

As Golf isn’t as physically taxing as other Sports and the fact it’s played at a pace that allows for snacking this isn't as big an issue as in other Sports (see my Previous Blog “Fuel Your Round” for advice on what to eat during your Round). That being said it’s important you eat a balanced diet in general and fuel your body with nutritious meals prior, post and between rounds.

Lean protein is required to help repair any damage to the muscles and minimise muscular fatigue, vegetables provide micronutrients + carbohydrates to replenish your energy stores as well as being easy to digest and good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) help with general energy and hormone balance levels. Pitta Bread & Hummus or a Baked Potato with Baked Beans and Cheese are solid post Round Options.

It’s important to ensure you plan your meals as it is easy to get caught in the fast food trap, especially if you are traveling for an event. Make sure you have access to cooking facilities and appropriate sources of food to avoid unhealthy choices i.e. foods that provide minimal micronutrient content and contain high amounts of bad fats i.e Hydrogenated and Saturated Fat.


Physical 

Truth be told this isn’t my area of expertise, so for further information on this topic I’d recommend heading to the myTPI.com website and find your local TPI Certified Trainer to discuss this in more depth (click on the image below). 

However, Physical recovery is something we all can relate to as we’ve all finished a round and felt stiff, sore and tired. The easiest way to deal with this is with massage/manual therapy - a qualified masseuse can be very beneficial in aiding recovery between rounds. Unfortunately, not all of us have one on standby, however there’s a variety of self-massage techniques i.e. foam rollers or spiky balls (Here’s a quick guide from Runners World: https://www.runnersworld.com/health-injuries/a20812623/how-to-use-a-foam-roller-0).It’s important to stat that the mechanisms in massage and foam rolling are not what they were once thought. Although it often helps athletes “feel better”, so most believe it has a predominately Psychological benefit.

Massage can also be used in conjunction with hydrotherapies such as hot and cold immersions to ensure a well-rounded physical recovery strategy is maintained. By alternating between a hot bath/shower for 1-2 minutes and a cold burst for 30 seconds you will assist the recovery process.


Psychological 

The final area is Psychological Recovery. This is an area that’s often completed subconsciously by Players, often very poorly. Most Golfers will finish a round, head to the clubhouse and relive their experiences by reciting all the poor shots they played. The concept of reflection is a good thing but the focus on the bad shots isn’t. Its essential Golfers debrief with a positivity bias as it “completes” the round from a psychological standpoint, and as John Dewey Says:.

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This can be done very effectively by using a wonderfully simple reflection tool created by Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott of VISION54 called “Good, Better How”. You can complete this in a Journal, Notebook or simply download this Template:

Make sure to include all aspects of your Performance: 

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

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

These provide you with “both sides of the coin” i.e. Objective Data on your 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).

This reflection helps you formulate a Positive Action Plan, and if you’re not sure of the best course of action, it’s a great tool to start a conversation with your Coach. The Players in my Connected Coaching Programme swear by it!

Another Psychological Tool that’s gathering popularity in the Golf World is Mindfulness, its most famous advocate being Rory McIlroy. Here’s what he had to say about it prior to this years Masters (Hit the image Below to watch):

In short, Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment (aka being “Present”).

Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future. Definitely something to try if you find yourself physically and/or mentally fatigued.


Reflection

I hope you’ve found the above information useful, particularly when facing an intense stretch of Tournament Golf. Don’t be a BUSY FOOL!

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Thanks for reading!

Oliver C. Morton

The Leading Edge Golf Company

www.TheLeadingEdgeGolfCompany.com