In this second Golf Chalk Talk video we break down the results from my recent tournament competition. We’ll see how to analyze the stats and then use the analysis to determine game priorities. Then we’ll translate those priorities into a practice plan. This approach of breaking the game down and then selecting specific statistics to improve is one of the keys to high performance golf. It’s an approach that will help all players – no matter their level of play.
The best way to improve your golf game is through highly focused practice. That means spending 80% of your time on the one or two key areas that will make the biggest impact on your score. As you’ll see from the video there are two areas that jumped out of my play – driver accuracy and mid-iron distance control. These become my top practice priorities, and the majority of my practice time will be spent improving my stats in these areas. By keeping a few simple stats while I play I am able to get insights that will help me improve faster and use my practice time much more effectively.
RECAP – GOALS
In my first Golf Chalk Talk video I mentioned that although I had been practicing it was time for me to find out where I should be spending my time in order to make be as productive as possible. I decided to play in a professional tournament because there are no gimmies or do-overs in a tournament, which is what I wanted.
I set a number of goals for the tournament. The first goal was to establish what I call a baseline performance level. I wanted to know what parts of my game were working and which parts needed the most attention. You can usually get a pretty good feel for that from the round, but it is when you back up your impressions up with stats that the real insights come out.
My second goal was to have fun. One of the keys to having fun is taking the pressure off. I did that by deciding in advance to play without expectations. Although I always want to play well enough to win, my primary purpose was simply to observe and learn. Suspending expectations is a great way to keep your round in perspective.
Smart Golf Goals
I also had a number of performance-specific goals – mostly centered around the mental aspects of the game. These goals fell into two categories: playing smart golf, and managing my mental process.
My goal with respect to smart golf was to make good decisions with respect to course navigation and good decisions with respect to game management. Specifically I wanted to play each hole backward to determine in advance where I wanted to place each shot, and to put myself into a position where I was playing from my strengths as much as possible, while not playing against the strengths of the course.
When it came to game management my goal was to select a shot strategy where I had a high level of confidence. The overall idea is to adopt a conservative strategy so I could make an aggressive swing. I was largely successful with both course navigation and game management strategies, and it helped with my scoring.
The Hero Shot Mistake
The one time I deviated it cost me at least one shot and maybe two. I attempted a “hero” shot on a par 5. I was within striking distance with a hybrid on my second shot, but I had a lie in the rough with the ball below my feet to a green with water in front, out of bounds right, and trees left. The smart play would have been to lay up to my favorite wedge distance.
But in that moment I’ll admit I was thinking about how cool it would be to hit the green, make the putt for eagle and possibly pick up a skin on the field. The problem is that it was a shot I could pull off only about 2 in 10 times, which is why we call it a hero shot. I wound up putting my ball in the water, which goes to show you how hard it is to stick to your strategy. I imagine it is a lesson I will continue to learn. I graded myself a “B+” on my smart golf goals.
Mental Toughness Goals
My other goals with respect to the mental aspects of the game were to trust my swing and maintain a target focus. I wanted to play without mechanical swing thoughts and trust that my athletic brain would be able to create the shot I imagined.
For the most part I was successful with my mental toughness goals. Early in the round there was a little corner of my mind that was wondering what would really happen. I could have let that uncertainty take over, which would have manifested in me trying to control the swing rather than swing tension free. The first few holes were definitely a challenge. But after the third hole I was pleased that I was able to put the uncertainty down and just commit to my strategy and shot selection. I grade myself a solid “B+” in this area as well.
Breaking Down The Stats
Here are the raw numbers from the round: I shot a 77 (+6 over par), with 32 putts (and three 3-putts). I hit 8 of 14 fairways (57%), and 9 of 18 greens (50%). My average first putt for greens in regulation was 26 feet, and 14 feet on up&down opportunities. My up&downs were only 40%.
Priority Number 1 – Driver Accuracy
Here’s what really jumped out at me from the stats. First, when I hit the fairway I made par or better 6 of 8 times (75%), and I was -2 under par. Contrast that to the times I missed the fairway, where I made bogey or worse 5 of 6 times. In fact, when I break down my driving further I used a 3-wood twice and a hybrid once (all of which found the fairway), so in reality when I used my driver I hit the fairway only 5 of 11 times, or 45%. The implication is clear: Hitting more fairways is critical.
But the great thing about this stat is that it give me a very concrete starting point and allows me to set specific goals. When I go to the range my goal will be to improve my fairway percentage to 65% initially, and then 75%. To do that I’ll pick out markers on the range to define an artificial “fairway” and hit 10-ball sets to see how many stay in the fairway. I’ll track my progress over time, and use the feedback to help me focus on different aspects of my golf swing.
The beauty of using a stat like this is that all the work I do on my swing and on my target focus has one purpose: improve my fairway percentage. All the practice I do can be highly focused and evaluated with respect to whether it is helping me improve my accuracy or not. In other words, I won’t just be trying to improve my swing. I’m only going to be making adjustments and refinements if they contribute to more accuracy. And since I will be tracking my stats on the range I will have concrete knowledge that what I am doing is working.
I hope you can see that this is a very different approach to spending time on the range. It is far more productive than just banging range balls with the vague hope of trying to improve consistency. This is specific and measurable. It allows me to select specific drills and it give me a framework within which I can evaluate the effectiveness of the drills and my progress. I also know that if I can improve my fairway numbers to 65% it will save me two to six shots per round. That keeps me motivated because I know what the payoff will be.
Priority Number 2 – Mid-Iron Distance Control
Here’s the second priority from the stats. As I mention in the video I would normally be headed straight to the short-game practice area if my up&down percentage was only 40%. But when I use the stat to reflect on my short game and tie it back to what really happened, I know that many of the up&down opportunities were impossible. They were impossible because my approach shots kept putting me in positions where I could not get my pitch close.
The real culprit, it turns out, was my yardage control with my mid-irons (7, 8, 9 irons). I was long with these clubs (read “over the green”) all day, and in a “short-sided” position with the green sloping away and no chance to get the ball to stop near the hole.
In contrast, when I had a wedge into a green my distance and direction was usually quite accurate. I have been practicing my wedges and I know my distances to the yard. But not so with the mid-irons.
So the lesson from my round is that I need to “gap” my mid-irons. That means I need to hit a number of 10-ball sets with each of my mid-irons, plot where each ball lands and the yardage it flies, and come up with a standard distance for a normal, full swing.
I established a baseline performance level with my round. By keeping stats and combining that with what I felt and remembered from the round I was able to identify my top priorities with a high degree of specificity. Since I have metrics I can now frame my practice sessions and select the drills to help me achieve my goals. The framework also provides me with a context that allows me to evaluate the effectiveness of the drills as well as a way to measure my progress.
The next step is to head out to the range and execute. In the next video I’ll show you exactly how I plan to work on my priorities. My hope is that by showing you the process that I use you, too, can integrate high performance techniques into your own game and practice to start playing your best golf.
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