Monday, July 13, 2015

Looks Can Be Deceiving in Golf

I think for amateur golfers it is always good to try and play golf with better golfers when you get the chance.  I also think it's likely most valuable when the golfer is slightly better than you are.  While it's beneficial to play with somebody like Rory McIlroy to learn how he plays and thinks, his talent level is so superior that it's harder to distinguish the little things that also make him a better player because they get overshadowed by him being immensely more talented.

In fact, I plan on going to see the US Mid-Amateur in person this October as it takes place just a short trip in Vero Beach this year.  I don't see myself playing in any events this year simply because I've used most of my vacation time the past five years on golf tournaments.  I'd like to get some real relaxation for once.  But, I'm still interested in what separates these players from my own game.

One of the great aspects of the game is that looks can be deceiving.  This September I'm considering playing Streamsong Resort.  So, I wanted to see if I would like the Blue Course or Red Course better.  I got on YouTube and found this video of a golfer playing each hole.

I would recommend just watching the first few swings in order to get my point.

At first, I was unimpressed by his swing and thought he was probably an 80's shooter that occasionally shoots a 75.  It doesn't look overly athletic or like he's really "moving it out there."  And he looks to have a swing that would produce some weak cuts. 

However, after watching this video and some other videos...I think he's a classic example of looks can be deceiving.  And he's a guy I wouldn't want to play for money. 

Throughout the videos, many on courses I've played before, he pretty much shoots in the -2 under par to +2 under par range.  I can't recall him taking a double bogey.  In fact, he played Sanctuary Ridge at my count, +2 over par which is actually a heckuva score on that course (it's very hard and there's nothing 'sanctuary' about that ridge).

He was actually playing quite well, but as he said, a 5 hour 45 minute round started to wear him out.  The camera doesn't do Sanctuary Ridge any justice as it is extremely hilly for *anywhere.*  It just happens to be in the one area of Florida that is not flat. 

And the reason why the round took so long likely is NOT that golfers happen to be slow, it's because the course is ridiculously hard.  And he makes it around there quite well.

As I said, looks can be deceiving.  When I started to look at his swing more intently, I noticed some really great things in this swing.

Here he shows very good pelvic rotation.  The golfer is not very long, but he's not short either.  I'm guessing he is hitting it 280 yards on average and generating about 107-110 mph club speed.  You wouldn't suspect that when he first swings.  In fact, one of the forecaddies at Streamsong mentions on the first tee that he's 'sneaky long' as he could possibly reach a bunker that the forecaddie didn't think he could get to.  Also, the right forearm is on plane which usually means he can control the club face.

I like this picture as well.

I drew a circle around the club head because the face is still very square and not closed over.  If there's one thing I noticed is that he has a classic '1-way miss.'  Meaning...he's not going to miss left because he can prevent the clubface from turning over too much.  It takes the left side out of play.  But just as important, he can still draw the ball if he needs to.  So, he's not the high handicap player that can't miss left simply because they slice everything.  He can't miss left because his rate of closure is slow and that prevents him from mis-timing and missing left.  He can still mis-time shots...but he's likely to miss right. 

Overall, here's where I think his game stands against mine at this point in time:

Driving: He is far more consistent that me, but if I'm having a pretty good day with the driver I am more effective because I can hit as many fairways and hit it further.  My main issue is hitting shots off the toe on occasion, although that is getting better and better.  I would trust him more off the tee on a course like Colonial where it has narrow, winding fairways that punish you if miss the fairway.  I would trust me more if the course was built more like Augusta and you can get away with the occasional miss and distance is at a premium.

Iron Play: I think this is a push.  I think he's probably a little better from the Yellow Zone (125-175 yards) and I'm probably a little better from the Red Zone (175-225 yards).  I think the differences are slight.  I think he is better at playing in the wind.

Trouble Shots: I think the advantage goes clearly to him. 

Short Game:  I think the advantage clearly goes to me.  I have had a pretty solid short game for years and I'm generally a good bunker player.  I think his pitch and chip shots are not pretty, but they get the job done.  However, I think the worst part of his game is bunker player.

Putting: I think the advantage goes to him.  I think outside 8-feet it's a push.  I still putt pretty well from outside 8-feet.  But, the putts inside 8-feet are still an issue for me and he's almost automatic.

Strategy: I would favor myself.  I'm not infallible out on the course even though I know the numbers and can guesstimate better than most.  If I tend to screw up, it's usually for being too aggressive.  But, the round at the Rolling Oaks course at World Woods (which is a good test), he cost himself several strokes by hitting 3-wood way too often off the tee.

One last thing...I think a big part of his performance and consistency is due to the mental part of the game.  Almost every hole he is trying to hit a *specific* shot before he hits the ball.  He's not worried about swing mechanics.  He will try to play a draw or a fade or vary the trajectory and then put a swing on it that he feels will produce that shot. 

Shawn Clement talks about this in this video with 'external focus' versus 'internal focus.'

This is something that Dr. Bhrett McCabe has discussed as well with 'call your shot' in your pre-shot routine.  And you actually want to verbalize it which I find helpful. 

Whether the golfer in the videos is actually verbalizing it or not doesn't matter because he's learned to place his attention externally instead of internally.  From watching his videos, I started to demand that I "ask myself to hit a SPECIFIC shot before I hit my shot." 

So, when you see a golfer that has a pretty darn good impact position, has a true 1-way miss, putts well and has good external focus instead of internal focus, it's easy to see why looks can be deceiving and he's a guy that I would want to avoid playing for money.


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