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Golf instruction

Make The Turn Challenge #23: Shift Your Perspective

One of the more confusing aspects associated with putting is green reading. The most common problem I see golfers make is significantly under-reading the break. This is always evident when I play in a scramble tournament with a few amateurs. During a scramble, the group plays collectively as a "team" from the position of the group's most favorable shot. As it relates to putting, the "team" aspect really kicks in as players strategize to find the perfect line. Without fail, the amount of break or "read" is often very minimal. I hear a lot of "right edge," "left edge" or a "cup" out. The reality is, putts break a lot more than the eyes naturally see. In fact, research has shown most golfers tend to under read putts by up to 75 percent.

I learned a lot about reading greens during my years coaching for Dave Pelz. Part of the learning process was demonstrating just how far off a person's read actually was. I always loved setting up a test putt for a big group. I'd pick a putt with about three to four feet of break and then let each individual offer their best guess. In the hundreds of times doing this exercise, I don't believe a single person ever nailed the exact break. Like the research suggests, most were at or below the 25 percent line.


Does being a lousy green reader make you a terrible putter? Not necessarily. In order to make putts, you simply have to be able to compensate to maneuver the ball to the proper line. As it turns out, some people are just better at compensating than others. During my time at the Pelz school we tested a number of tour players who didn't read greens much better than the average Joe. Still they putted pretty darn good. One player, after learning how far off he was, remembered how as a kid he would play the course early in the morning before the greens had been mowed. He said he would make putts, but would then be surprised at how the ball's track mark through the morning dew was always way higher than he had intended. I found this to be a pretty cool point that I remembered experiencing as well.

So what's the best way to improve your putting? For the majority of my clients, I start with learning how to create a quality roll that lends itself to reasonable distance control. Next is learning how to better understand the slope for a more accurate read. The final step is tuning up issues associated with direction. Why is direction last? If you're not consistently seeing the proper line, a repeatable directional pattern is of no use.

Putting will always be a combination of art, science, emotion and adjustment. As it relates to finding a better read, there are even some cool new strategies, such as "AimPoint," you might want to check out that are actively getting players more engaged with developing this vital skill.

Spend a little time trying this week's exercise and you can count your green-reading challenge as complete.

Improve Green Reading Skills
Increase Confidence
Make More Putts

Jeff Ritter is the CEO/Founder of MTT Performance. The program operates out of Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif. Follow him on Twitter at @mttgolf
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Golf instruction

Make The Turn Challenge #19: Trap Perfection

By Jeff Ritter

Coaching golf has come a long way. If you're working with someone on your game, chances are you've utilized video analysis and possibly even super high-tech devices such as force plates and launch monitors, which dissect every action and reaction associated with your golf swing.

While advances in technology provide golfers with more information than ever before, the real secret to playability is to develop the "feelings" unique to you that deliver the contact and control over the golf ball you're looking for.


A great way to do this on your own, is by practicing a simple self-coaching trick called "trapping." This is a fantastic exercise in personal development, that can quickly deliver big results. The key is to create an environment where you allow yourself to make drastically different swings. Instead of always seeing the same pattern in your golf shots and not knowing quite "HOW" to change them, trapping pushes the parameters of cause and effect to intentionally produce opposite ends of the ball flight spectrum. Once you establish your "extremes" in a particular characteristic such as: Contact point, height, direction or curvature, you essentially know that your perfect result lies somewhere in the middle, "trapped" between swings A and B. Within only a few attempts you should now be able to find the motion that delivers the upgraded contact and flight pattern you desire.

My goal as a coach is always to empower the player in a manner that makes them as self-sufficient as possible. Commit to practicing this exercise in the art of self-discovery and you can count this challenge as complete!

Increased Impact Awareness
Develop Self-Coaching Skills
More Accurate Shots

Jeff Ritter is the CEO/Founder of MTT Performance. The program operates out of Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif. Follow him on Twitter at @mttgolf

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Gear & Equipment

Three reasons the Swing Caddie SC100 is a launch monitor worth looking at

By Keely Levins

ORLANDO -- Voice Caddie, like many other companies, is making a launch monitor. The Swing Caddie SC100 will be on sale starting in March. Here's why it matters:

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1. The SC100 doesn't cost a billion dollars. When I'm looking at techy products such as simulators and launch monitors, I'm always wary of the price. There's a ton of very cool stuff out there that is very much out of the average person's price range. Swing Caddie SC100 is not one of those products: It's going to retail at a manufacturer approved price of $269.

2. It looks cool. There's nothing boxy or boring about this piece of equipment. It's simple, sleek, and kind of looks like a big iPhone. You can hold it in your hand without a problem, making it easy to pick up and look at your stats, and easy to carry in your bag on the way to a range session. 

3. You're given stats you understand. As minimalist as it is in looks, it's equally minimalist in the stats it gives you - and that's a good thing. Too much information can be overwhelming and end up being more of a hindrance than a help. Set the SC100 up four to five feet directly behind your ball (it has a built in stand) and hit your shot. The SC100 gives you carry distance, swing speed, ball speed, and smash factor. These are all stats the average golfer can understand and use; nothing extra, nothing unnecessary. As with any company new to launch monitors, we're going to have to wait and see if they'll earn their place by being accurate. 

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Gear & Equipment

Full Swing makes simulator golf two steps: drop and hit

By Keely Levins

You know when you're hitting into a simulator, and a thousand other people have hit a thousand shots off it before you - but you can only hit off that one specific spot, because otherwise the simulator won't pick up your ball flight? On Wednesday at the PGA Merchandise Show, Full Swing Golf and Swing Catalyst announced the solution to this problem: ION 2 Vision Technology. 

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ION 2 Vision Technology uses a camera mounted on the ceiling above the hitting mat. The camera can notice the ball when its placed anywhere within about a two-foot diameter circle on the mat. Once the ball has been identified, the simulator automatically adjusts to the angle at which you're hitting into the simulator screen.  

Ian Poulter was an early adopter and now he has company; Hunter Mahan and Bill Haas both are now using Full Swing simulators. If you're as techy as these pros, all you have to do to get the ION 2 and the rest of the simulator set up is foot the $40,000 - $65,000 bill.  

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Gear & Equipment

GolfTEC program keeps you sharp in winter

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

Was your New Year's Resolution to improve your game during the winter months, only to have the plan foiled by the recent deep freeze that blanketed much of the country? Well, don't let the polar vortex get you down, contend the folks at GolfTEC. The network of game-improvement centers is running a Training Camp program starting this month at its 165 locations in the U.S. and Canada geared to recreational players who are trying to stay sharp before the weather warms up. The program uses GolfTEC's indoor video and motion measurement devices as part of a introductory swing evaluation. Instructors follow up with a series of 10 individualized lessons that incorporates 18 hours of video-based practice work. Players' equipment needs can also be addressed via GolfTEC's custom-fitting process. Consider it a down payment on the money you'll win off your buddies this spring while they're still shaking off their rust.

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Gear & Equipment

Stockton to issue DVD, 'Unconscious Putting'

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Dave Stockton's putter expertise continues to turn up in the news, as it has often since Phil Mickelson credited his help in winning the Tour Championship in 2009. This time, it was the LPGA's Suzann Pettersen, who has been working with him this week at La Costa Resort, site of the LPGA's Kia Classic.

"I spent a lot of time with Dave Stockton early in the week literally preparing for next week [the Kraft Nabisco Championship]," she said Thursday following a round of 68. "But it's definitely worked, and I made some good putts and started to feel better with my game as we played along. We're just trying to make putting the simplest thing in the bag. Hitting them shouldn't be that complicated compared to the rest of the game, and that's the philosophy we both believe in.

"Since I started with him almost a year ago, for the most part, I've been putting a lot, lot better. It's a lot less technical, which is for me probably is the biggest change. But that being said, you want putting to be the easiest thing you do on the golf course. That's what we're trying to make it."

Stockton, who also has worked with Rory McIlory among a long list of tour professionals, is issuing a DVD based on his book, "Unconscious Putting: Dave Stockton's Guide to Unlocking Your Signature Stroke," written with Golf Digest's Matt Rudy. The DVD, which also features the other two members of Stockton Golf, sons Dave Jr. and Ron, follows the book chapters: "Putting Signature," "Create a Picture," "Let It Go," "Roll Your Ball," "Why You Three-Putt," "The Mental Game," "Why Equipment Matters and When It Does," and "Troubleshooting."

The DVD can be pre-ordered here (it will be released in April) for $29.95.

-- John Strege

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Gear & Equipment

'Butch Harmon About Golf': You, too, can learn from him

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Butch Harmon's curriculum vitae suggests that, more than most (or all) instructors, we should listen when he is talking about golf and instruction, as he is doing in his new instructional videos, "Butch Harmon About Golf."

His clientele through the years has included Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman, Adam Scott and Ernie Els. He, too, is the son of renowned teaching pro (and former Masters champion) Claude Harmon.

Related: "Like" Golf Digest on Facebook to get 20 percent off the Harmon video

"You think about Stewart Maiden with Bobby Jones. That's great," said Terry Jastrow, whose Jastrow Productions produced Harmon's videos. "You think about Jack Grout with Nicklaus. You think of Harvey Penick and Ben (Crenshaw) and Tom (Kite). But in the aggregate, on any matrix you want to use -- number of players he helped get to number one, number of majors his players have won, number of tour events won, international players -- you cold argue that he's the greatest teacher of all time."

"Butch Harmon About Golf" includes two DVDs with more than four hours of instruction, as well as interviews with many of those with whom Harmon has worked, including Tiger Woods.

"When we first talked about it, I said, 'how do you make it great? How do you make it different? There are hundreds of these out there,'" said Jastrow, who through the years has produced instructional videos with Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Curtis Strange and Phil Mickelson, among others.

"Just doing it with Butch is a giant step. But he said, 'I think I can get my guys. I'll bet they'll tell you how I helped them.' My God, I thought, that would be gold."

They all agreed to do it, including Woods, who said this: "No one understands the golf swing nor has more knowledge about the game than Butch. He can help any golfer, amateur or pro. He is a great communicator and motivator. Simply put, I think that he is the best instructor in the world."

"The lineup he's touched, nobody could deliver like that," Jastrow said. "I said, 'really?' Butch said, 'yeah.' He talked to Tiger and said Tiger will do it. They were all happy to do it. Every single one said the sweetest things about Butch, how he's a great communicator, how much he's helped them."

The videos can be ordered through the website for $79.95, plus shipping and handling.

-- John Strege

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Gear & Equipment

Take a golf lesson live, at your desk

Those who might not have the time to take a lesson now have the opportunity to do so at their desk, 10 minutes a session, live, with a teaching professional, via the Internet.

It's called Golf Coach Direct and is the brainchild of Phil Auerbach, an entrepreneur and self-described golf nut, who has played in the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship and is a 10-time club champion at Brae Burn Country Club in Purchase, N.Y.

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"What we've found is that lessons are not affordable or they're not accessible," Auerbach said. "People have limited time for golf. They'd rather play at golf than work at golf."

Golf Coach Direct takes the time and cost constraints out of the equation. "Ten minutes, $20," Auerbach said. "You just upload your swing and pick your coach."

It's a simple process that begins with video of your swing, which can be taken with any kind of device, even a smart phone. It's uploaded to Golf Coach Direct and analyzed by your instructor, chosen from among 100 of them from around the country, with whom you communicate via webcam.

"There are four different screens during the lesson," Auerbach said. "Picture the Ayatollah, Frank Chirkinian [the late CBS Sports director] in his truck deciding whether to go to the 15th or the 17th hole at Augusta National. Not only can your coach do that, he call put up a split screen and pull up a swing of yours from a different day, or one from his own locker to compare yours with, or even put up a tour pro's swing. Our library of tour pros' swings run the gamut -- Phil and Tiger, McIlroy, Mahan, a lot of great women players. Another view is when the coach comes onto the camera itself and shows you what you're doing wrong."

The instructor also can use lines and arrows and such to demonstrate where your club is supposed to be at various points of the swing. At the conclusion of your lesson, it is saved in your locker for referencing at your leisure.

Eventually, Auerbach said, he intends to add a fitness component to it as well.

"I'm proud to say the site is working incredibly well," Auerbach said. "It's a whole new age way of thinking."

-- John Strege

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