10 Things to Learn from the PGA Pros Before Hitting the Tee
One of the most exciting things about golf is that anyone can come from a relatively unknown background to become a star within the golf realm. Golf is a sport where technique and strategy prevail over brawn. If you look at the majority of the PGA pros, you will find one thing in common: They are not hulking behemoths like you might find in basketball or football. These are very average-looking people whom you wouldn’t bat an eye at twice if you saw them in public.
The beauty of the sport is that it provides a level playing field where any of us can compete and do well. Mastering your golf game is a relentless pursuit in which you focus on your internal attributes, such as your golf swing, and perfect your game to accommodate for external factors such as the course and various hazards it may contain.
One of the best ways to improve your golf game is to follow the example of the PGA pros. As the largest governing body in the sport, you can be sure that this is where the talent is. The best players in the world compete on their circuit. When you want to be the best, you should start by emulating the best. Let’s look at a few things we can learn from the PGA pros before hitting the tee:
GET COMFORTABLE PITCHING WITH YOUR SAND WEDGE
When the pros need to hit a greenside shot that stops abruptly, they most often reach for a club with a lot of loft. They are able to make it stop quickly by hitting it a bit higher. A sand wedge is a great tool that’s useful for more than just getting out of bunkers. Normally, the sand wedge will be the heaviest club in your bag, and it comes in handy when trying to push through thick lies. If you learn to use it right, you can expect it to guide the ball through the grass without getting stuck and help you decrease your strokes.
IT ALL STARTS WITH A GOOD GRIP
According to David Leadbetter, 2017 PGA Teacher of the Year, one of the most critical aspects of a good golf swing is having a strong grip. He states that 9 out of 10 professional golfers he works with have a weak grip. In order to control the golf club better, you should hold it with your fingers as opposed to holding it in the palm of your hand. Holding the club with your fingers also allows the wrist to extend and flex more during the progression of the swing. Hinging with your wrist will provide a stronger follow-through and lead to a better swing.
A weak grip can be caused by weak forearm muscles, which are also a contributing factor in Golfer’s Elbow. Make sure to train your grip. A strong grip translates into a stronger golf swing and no Golfer’s Elbow!
DEVELOP A RHYTHM
Darrell Kestner, 2017 PGA Professional of the Year, is known for his putting ability. Darrell developed his putting skill while studying one of his idols. He caught on to the fact the follow-through during a putt is not nearly as important as the backswing. Darrell actually has no follow-through at all while putting, and who are we to argue with the PGA Pro of the Year? Darrell recommends developing a rhythm and cadence to your putt. He counts “one thousand one” (during the backswing and during contact) to himself during every putt. Try focusing on developing your own rhythm and pay attention to the backswing. A short putt will require a shorter backswing, and so on.
YOUR SHORT GAME MATTERS
PGA Pro John Hughes claims that over 60% of your strokes will take place within 100 yards of the hole or less. He recommends spending a proportionate amount of time practicing putting and chipping, as these two swings would make up the majority of your short game strokes. It’s too easy to get hung up on developing a strong drive, but in reality, that’s a very small part of the game.
AROUND THE WORLD PUTTING DRILL
This drill may seem inconsequential, all the way up until you miss a three-foot putt. The drill will make sure you never have to experience that again. Place 8 golf balls around a hole about a club’s length away. Start with the easiest putt. Once you knock it in, then move around the circle. Try to putt in as many as you can. If you miss a putt, set up all 8 balls and start over. Measure your performance each time so you can analyze your progress.
Once you can consistently knock all 8 balls down in a row, it’s time to increase the distance a bit. After practicing this drill enough, you should never miss another short shot again.
In a perfect world, every golf course would be flat...but clearly, we don’t live in a perfect world. A lot of golfers get stuck on their approach to the sidehill shots. If you don’t know how to approach the sidehill shot, a great game can turn ugly in a matter of a few strokes. One tip to keep in mind for sidehill lies is that the ball will tend to curve in the direction of the slope, so be sure to adjust your aim accordingly. The uneven ground will throw off the bottom of your swing. Chuck Dunbar, a tenured PGA pro, states that the best way to familiarize yourself with the angle of the hill is to take plenty of practice swings and see where the club bottoms out or brushes the turf. The practice swings will serve to help you set up a little better and have better results playing side hills.
Are you currently tracking and keeping detailed statistics on your golf game? If not, you’re missing out. If you watch any PGA event, you will see they keep detailed statistics on every competitor.
Tracking your game closely allows you to analyze your strengths and weaknesses. A general rule that applies to almost every aspect of life that you can think of is that you are only as strong as your weakest link. You may have a great drive, but if your short game is off you are never going to pose a real threat to the competition, and vice versa. Start keeping honest statistics. It will allow you to analyze your game and your weaknesses. Work on your weaknesses and the total package will improve.
FITNESS DOES MATTER AT HIGHER LEVELS
While you shouldn’t expect a golf tournament to remind you of a scene from Zack Snyder’s movie 300, you should know that at the highest levels of the game, fitness does matter. Like in many sports, when all other variables (experience, technique, etc.) are equal, the more fit individual will prevail.
Tiger Woods has always been very involved in fitness, and his efforts kept him healthy all throughout his career. Tiger is actually one of the few professional golfers who would lift weights on his competition days, according to his athletic trainer Steven Klein. Before Tiger actually begins his workout, he goes through a 40-minute stretching circuit designed to make him more flexible. His weight program is focused on lower weight and higher repetitions, which helps to build stamina. This type of training is very helpful in the later rounds of competition where muscle fatigue would normally start to kick in.
Training the muscles also helps to prevent muscular imbalances that can be brought on by golf. Nobody swings a golf club on both sides of their body. Generally, you pick one side and stick with it. When you perform a strenuous movement on one side of your body hundreds or thousands of times without performing the same movement on the opposite side, you are bound to develop muscular imbalances. These imbalances can promote injury, so a great way to stay healthy is to train both sides evenly.
You also want to watch out for lower back injuries, as lower back strains are pretty common in golf. Working the muscles of your hips, abdomen and core is a great way to pre-habilitate these muscles and get them ready for a few rounds of golf. If your lower back is sore and stiff after golfing, you should try using a quality back brace for greater support. A good back brace will provide compression and ease the pain.
NOBODY IS IMMUNE TO GOLFER’S ELBOW
J.B. Holmes, Mike Weir and even Tiger Woods have struggled with Golfer’s Elbow at one point or another during their career. This one goes hand-in-hand with staying fit, but if you play a thousand rounds of golf a year, there is only so much your elbows can handle.
If you’re struggling with Golfer’s Elbow, your golf game will be off. Not to mention, playing with a sore or injured elbow can aggravate your condition. If you’re in pain, definitely seek medical attention.
Aside from seeing a doctor, using a quality elbow brace is a great idea. Bracing the elbow will serve to increase stability at the joint. A good brace will also add compression, which has a soothing effect on the pain. You should also expect to have more circulation while wearing the brace, which may help heal those distressed tendons of the forearms and ligaments surrounding the elbow. Take care of your joints and your golf game will thank you for it.
THE RIGHT MINDSET
Professional golfers didn’t achieve their status by accident. They got there by putting in thousands of hours of practice and having the right mindset. A strong golf game isn’t something that’s developed overnight. You may not see progress for months at a time. The difference between the pros and the average weekend warrior is the desire and the mental courage to get there.
The pros don’t sweat the small stuff; they cannot afford themselves the luxury of being intimidated by other players. If intimidation was all it took to win, David would have never beaten Goliath. The fact of the matter is that even the best golfers have a bad day, and that provides the challenger with an opportunity to beat the best.
In 2009, most golf enthusiasts said Tiger Woods had the PGA Championship on a silver platter before the tournament even began. Tiger entered the final round with a two-shot lead over competitors Padraig Harrington and the relatively unknown Y.E. Yang. Tiger missed a vital putt and that allowed Yang to take the lead.
Yang put his signature on his win by smashing a 210-yard approach shot which put him just 10 feet away from the hole. He sunk the final hole and became the first and only Asian-born player to win a major PGA tournament. Yang didn’t allow himself to be star struck, and he didn’t let his nerves get the best of him and blow his lead.
The sport is all about focus and putting yourself in the right mental state. When you second-guess yourself, your judgment will be off. If you work hard to perfect your game, you should be confident in your ability. Don’t doubt yourself out of a great shot. The PGA professionals are of flesh and bone, just like us. They have doubted themselves before, they have been injured, defeated, and yet they are still marveling us with their talents. Do you want to master the sport of golf? Learn these tips from the pros, work hard and you will succeed.