The Local Knowlege


You've been practicing golf all wrong, and there's science to prove it

Have you been to the range recently? If so, you probably adhered to the typical range pattern, starting with some wedges, working your way through your irons, before moving on to hybrids, fairway woods, and then driver.

If you're like me, you probably hit a bunch of shots with a selected club and only agree to move on once you feel like you have that swing grooved. That's how a lot of golfers practice, and it's no different than musicians trying to master a difficult piece of music. Much like a golfer who will toil away at his 7-iron until he starts hitting it clean, a violinist, for instance, will repeat a certain passage of music until he or she feels they have it down pat. 

That's called a "blocked practice schedule," and it's the way a lot of us have gone about learning a variety of tasks. It's also woefully ineffective.

Dr. Christine Carter is a clarinetist who wrote her dissertation on "contextual interference effect." It's a method that she champions for musicians, and which she expounds upon in a recent post on Golf is never mentioned, and yet the thinking directly applies to the way we work on our games.

christine-carter-clarinet.jpgAs Carter writes, the problem with repetition is after a while our brains aren't as receptive, because what we really respond to more is change. We might feel like that 13th consecutive 7-iron felt pretty good, but we're still not learning it as effectively as we could. And unless you're playing a version of golf that requires you to hit 13 consecutive 7-irons, it's not applicable to a real golf situation.

"The fact is, repeated information does not receive the same amount of processing as new information," Carter said. "And on some level, we all know this. Constant repetition is boring and our boredom is telling us that our brains are not engaged."

Instead, what Carter advocates is called a "random practice schedule" where your brain has to constantly re-adapt. In music, it would mean bouncing around to different passages so you're constantly engaged. And in golf, it would mean different clubs: a driver, followed by a wedge, followed by a 7-iron. The goal is to still hit a bunch of one particular club, just not in a row -- which, of course, is how golf is played anyway.

"This challenge lies at the heart of why random practice schedules are more effective," Carter writes. "When we come back to a task after an intervening task, our brain must reconstruct the action plan for what we are about to do. And it is at this moment of reconstruction that our brains are the most active. More mental activity leads to greater long-term learning."

Although Carter doesn't address golf, she does cite another sports example in which two sets of elite baseball players are thrown pitches in either a blocked pattern -- i.e. a bunch of fastballs, folllowed by a bunch of curves, followed by a bunch of sliders -- or a random pattern. The results were dramatic.

"After twelve practice sessions, the baseball players in the random practice schedule hit 57% more of the pitches than when they started. The blocked group only hit 25% more of the pitches, meaning that the random practice schedule was almost twice as effective, even though the two groups hit the same number of practice pitches."

So consider this an argument for scrapping your usual range routine. The next time, bring a bunch of clubs with you. And make sure you switch them out often.

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5 statistical oddities from the 2014 PGA Tour season

Richie Hunt is a statistician of the Bill James ilk. He works with tour pros like Daniel Summerhays, Ben Crane and Brian Gay by analyzing mounds of data and deducing from it strategies to help them play better. And every year, he turns his findings into a book called the "Pro Golf Synopsis."

We wrote about the Pro Golf Synopsis last year, and in lieu of the 2014 edition's release on Monday (you can purchase the ebook on Hunt's website), we decided to run though a few of Hunt's newer findings.

Laying up on a par 5 or a par 4 should be considered the last option.

The closer you are to the hole, the more likely you are to hit your ball into the hole. Even if you think you're really bad from 100 yards, you're still more likely to hit it closer to the hole from 100 yards than from 125 yards. That's true for golfers of all abilities, so unless you're going to hit it into a hazard, you should forget about laying up. Just try to hit your ball as close to the green as often as you can.

Tour players tend to be more accurate with their driver than their 3-wood off the tee.

This was true in a number of instances throughout the 2014 season. Hunt suspects it's because drivers have become so big that they are now the most forgiving club in players' bag. Therefore, a mis-hit with your driver tends to turn out better than a mis-hit with your 3-wood.

The better drivers of the ball often split their misses closer to 50/50.

That old adage of "knowing what your miss is" isn't true, Hunt says. In his analysis of tour pros, Hunt finds that pros generally have no more than a 55-percent to 44-percent miss bias. So, if a pro who struggles with a hook hits 20 mis-hits, only about 11 of those will actually be hooks. The other nine will finish right of the fairway.

Scores are typically lower in the morning than in the afternoon.

On the other hand, that old adage of "the wind always picks up in the afternoon" appears surprisingly true. Conditions do tend to get tougher as the day creeps on, which means scores get increasingly higher as the morning turns into the afternoon.

Round 1 Scoring Average has the strongest statistical correlation to PGA Tour success, followed by Round 2 Scoring Average.

During Round 1 there's less pressure, so the thing that differentiates players is their pure, raw ability. But as Rounds 2, 3 and 4 creep around and the pressure ticks-up a few notches, it throws more wild cards into the mix. All that volatility leads to a kind of leveling of the field.

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Make The Turn Weekly Challenge #38: Create The State

When it comes to achievement, it can be argued one of the greatest barriers to success is waiting. That is, holding the belief that things need to be different in some way in order to be deserving of doing something big, or that certain results need to be present before a confident mindset can take shape.

As it relates to this idea of confidence, we might start by asking the question, "Where does confidence come from?" The easiest and perhaps most common answer would be from prior success. There's no doubt when you have a history of getting what you want it sure is a lot easier to feel confident. However, confidence is really a mental state that comes from thinking.

So if confidence is born from thought, is it possible to feel confident about something you've never done before? Let's say I've never given a speech to hundreds of people. Just because it's a new experience, does that mean I can't possibly be confident in my ability to execute to a desired outcome? Does lack of "proof" from previous experience determine whether or not I'm permitted to feel good?

What if I wait for success before I allow myself to feel deserving of confidence? Under those circumstances, success might never occur, as each act will be accompanied by a shrunken version of my true ability, thwarted by a cautious and fearful mindset.

In writing this, I'm sure a number of you are thinking, "Don't you have to have a certain degree of skill to feel confident?" When it comes to golf, I'd say you definitely need skill in order to hit a ball 200 yards over a deep ravine. BUT you don't need "proof" that you can in order to feel confident about the task.

Another example of confidence might be tied to our own mortality. For example, there are a lot of people who believe in some type of positive existence or experience after death. In this instance, we might call confidence "faith." Yet this confidence that is so strong in so many exists without first-hand experience or proof. In applying this idea to coaching, I like to have my clients consider the difference between "hoping " and "knowing." When a player is "hopeful," they're actually operating from a very weak state of mind. However, when they operate from a place of "knowing," they ignite their ability to "Act As If" success is a foregone conclusion. They move, swing and play happy, light and free, allowing them to have full access to the creative genius that exists within themselves. Knowing is a form of trust or "faith" that allows us to perform without fear.

Another action just as bad as "hoping" is "wishing." Since we were little kids we've been conditioned to wish for things such as good luck. It's a part of our culture that seems harmless enough, but a much better thing to teach our kids is the ability to simply "create" luck, or make the shift from "wishing" to "doing!" Now that's a powerful place to operate from, infinitely accessible levels of self-confidence fueled by a doer's mentality.

Henry Ford once stated, "Whether you believe you can or can't, you're right," so if you believe this type of talk is a bunch of garbage, I'd say you're probably right. Whether you agree or not with this perspective, one undeniable truth is that people are most often at their best when they feel their best. As a performer, athlete or someone who has a desire to do great things, your mind will be your greatest downfall or your greatest asset. As you chase your own personal nirvana you're going to need every advantage accessible, so why not start tapping into a more confident way of being right now?

Make the commitment to making the shift from hoping to knowing, wishing to doing. CREATE THE STATE without the wait and you can count this mindset challenge as complete!

Feel Better
Live Stronger

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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How He Hit That: Jordan Spieth's wind-proof swing

Any PGA Tour player has the skill to go really low. But some low rounds are held in more esteem than others, and Jordan Spieth's Sunday 63 to win the Australian Open is one of them. 

It wasn't just the eight birdies Spieth made against no bogeys at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney. The 21-year-old American did it in high winds against extremely difficult hole locations, when 67 was the next best score. Spieth called it the best round he'd ever played, and he quickly outpaced Greg Chalmers and Brett Rumford, with whom he was tied for the lead after three rounds. Spieth ended up winning by six and moved to 11th in the world rankings. 

"Jordan Spieth doesn't have the most conventional swing in terms of what you see on the PGA Tour, but the name of the game is controlling the ball, which is something he does very well," says top Louisiana teacher Shaun Webb, who is based at the David Toms Golf Academy in Shreveport. "Jordan makes a full turn at the top of his swing, but he does it without swaying his lower body to the right. This lets him transition correctly into the downswing and move in good sequence."

Spieth's elite ball-striking comes in part because he rotates both his upper and lower body so well through the downswing. "Most amateurs have the tendency to stop their body rotation leading into impact," Webb says. "That hurts accuracy and power and leads to mis-hits. Here, you can see how much more he's turned at impact than the average 20-handicapper, on the right." 


"To get the feel of a good transition and improved body rotation in your swing, start without a ball and your feet together," Webb says. "Before you get to the top, step toward the target with your lead foot and swing through to the finish."

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This is (sort of) what Chris Como and Tiger Woods are working on

In the golf world's version of a Supreme Court justice confirmation hearing, we're diving deep into the stacks to find anything we can about Chris Como, Tiger Woods' new coach.

Como is a relatively new name, so there's a natural curiosity about his background and his philosophy. And Tiger has historically told his teachers to keep radio silent about what they're working on, which leaves an information vacuum to fill.

This clip is a part of a 2013 presentation Como did about the importance of ground force in a golf swing. In English, it means that a big chunk of swing speed comes from pushing off properly and using the ground for leverage--a subject Como is almost certainly discussing with his client during the Woods 6.0 build.  

But probably not on a 10-meter diving platform.

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Make The Turn Weekly Challenge #37: Bomb It Big

Everyone wants to hit their golf ball farther! Although it helps to be built for power, anyone can very quickly learn to train themselves into a little more club head speed. 

This week's challenge was presented to me while running my Nike Junior Golf Camps in Pebble Beach. I had hired a good young coach named Jim Waldron to teach on staff and run the fitness component of our program. Jim won the Arizona Long Drive Championship Series in 2014 with a ball of 426 yards. As someone who is built for power, Jim's clubhead speed has been clocked as high as 147 miles per hour!

One morning before camp, I was awakened to the sound of a feverish lashing coming from outside the walls of our camp housing. The continuous "whoosh" was powerful, crisp and concise as if being executed by the hand of an accomplished swordsman like "Zorro" himself. As I walked out to investigate, I saw Jim working on a technique he called "overspeed training." Just like the exercise demonstrated in the video below, Jim would alternate between max speed swings with a light object and slow, elongated, muscle stretching swings with a heavier weighted club. He would spend 10-15 minutes with the practice, training three-four times per week. 

Anything you can do to work towards hitting it harder is worth the effort. I guarantee within your first time trying this exercise you'll begin to notice and "feel" where speed is lacking and how to start producing it. Go as fast as you can with the light shaft or alignment stick swing, but make sure the long weighted club swings are slow and deliberate as to avoid injury. 

Dedicate a few minutes to trying out big Jim's training routine and you can count this week's challenge as complete.

Increased Club Head Speed
Longer Drives
More Fun

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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This hole in my sweater is the best training aid ever

One of my favorite sweaters has a prominent hole in the armpit, which means it's only a matter of time before my wife discovers it and confiscates it behind my back (ours is otherwise a relationship based on trust).

I could follow my colleague David Owen's practice for holey sweaters by wearing shirts of a similar color underneath, thus masking any flaws. Or I could try to establish some previously unknown golf justification for its survival. For now, that's what I'm going with.

Check out this image pieced together by another colleague, Luke Kerr-Dineen, who also doubles as my unpaid swing guru. The orange line runs down the shaft of the club; the silver line rests on the right tricep.

On the left is Ben Hogan. In the middle, Jason Dufner. And then there's me. Impressive, right? As you can tell, one of my worst habits is a tendency for my right elbow to ride up and away from my body, costing me power, for one, but also leading to the occasional snap hook. There are a number of makeshift aids to help with such a problem -- a towel, a headcover -- all designed to force your arms and body to stay connected.

The greatest incentive, though, may be humiliation, and that brings me back to the sweater. As you might imagine, one way to obscure a hole in the armpit of a sweater is to never let the armpit be visible to the human eye. Which means you can't really lift up your arm in any haphazard manner. Which means -- you guessed it! -- my arms and my body have to stay connected.

Still not convinced? Check out this short video starring Golf Digest Senior Editor of Instruction Peter Morrice and myself. In the meantime, I am exploring ways to take advantage of a stain on one of my favorite pairs of pants.

New swing tip involving my ripped sweater! For more go to

A video posted by Sam Weinman (@samweinman) on

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New study says listening to jazz music could improve your putting

If you're struggling with your putting and have exhausted all other options, Clarkson University may have just offered you a lifeline.

According to a new study by the school published in the Journal of Athletic Enhancement, listening to music while you putt seems to correlate with making more putts compared to hitting putts listening to no music. Jazz music, in particular, saw a notable uptick in the number of putts made compared to other genres, while rock music proved the most ineffective.

The study was conducted by having 22 Division 1 college golfers (8 male and 14 female) each hit four five-foot putts from different directions and then rotate across a randomized set of holes. Different sets of music played as they hit their putts, and their results were recorded. 

Ali Boolani, Clarkson University's Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy & Physician Assistant Studies, admits that the 22-golfer sample size was small, but hopes this study will pave the way for more research that will lead to more definitive results.

And so, in the interest of better putting, here's 55 minutes of Miles Davis' music. Enjoy.

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How He Hit That: Bubba Watson's playoff-clinching bunker shot

Bubba Watson doesn't play like anybody else on the PGA Tour, and it isn't because he uses a pink driver. The lanky lefthander often curves his tee shots 40 yards from right to left, and his course-management strategy is improvisational on its best day. 

So it was fascinating to watch Watson secure a place in a playoff with Tim Clark at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China by holing a bunker shot he hit with an utterly conventional swing -- if he were playing from the fairway. "If you overlaid the swing he used there in the sand with one where he was hitting a soft pitch from the fairway, they'd look almost the same," says top Georgia teacher Brandon Stooksbury.  "He didn't do anything different because he was in the bunker.

"Bubba hit what I would call a chunk and run shot," says Stooksbury, who teaches at the Idle Hour Country Club in Macon. "His technique was specifically designed to take a lot of sand and produce a shot that came out and had some run to it. He moved the ball to the middle of his stance, instead of near his lead foot, so he could take a very steep angle of attack."

If Watson had hit the shot like a "standard" greenside bunker shot, with the ball forward in his stance and the goal of taking a thin cut of sand, the ball would have come out high with plenty of backspin before it checked and stopped. Instead, it rolled to the hole like a putt and got him into extra frames against Clark. He would birdie the first one to take home his first WGC title -- and $1.4 million. 

"It's a great lesson for the average player," Stooksbury says. "You don't have to change your swing a whole lot for the sand and do some kind of one-off thing. You just want to change your ball position to accommodate what you're trying to do. In this case, the goal is to trust the loft of the club to get the ball out and make a big enough swing to produce that big divot and move all that sand."  

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Make The Turn Weekly Challenge #35: Super Wedge Spin-Off

Nothing in golf is more fun than making your ball spin. Sometimes it's an appropriate play, whereas in many occasions it's not. Either way, it's always cool to see a ball dance on the greens. I remember how awesome I thought it was to see Greg Norman in his prime land a ball pin high, only to see it zip back into the water. He was hitting those Spalding Tour Edition golf balls and had a bevy of swing characteristics that amped up his spin to an unreasonable level. Although I'm sure it drove him nuts, it was truly amazing to see.

Golf is such a diverse game. The more shots you have at your disposal, the better chance you'll have of tackling any situation. As it relates to stopping power, the proper conditions (seen in video below) need to be in play to really make your ball check up. Most shots, however, may best be executed by understanding how trajectory and landing point work together to deliver the desired overall distance you're looking for.

There's a principle in physics known as the law of reflection. For example let's say you observed a ray of light approaching and reflecting off of a flat mirror. The behavior of the light as it reflects would follow a predictable "law" known as the "law of reflection." The law of reflection states that when a ray of light reflects off a surface, the angle of incidence or the angle of approach so to speak is equal to the angle of reflection.

So hypothetically, if you had a perfectly flat green and you landed the ball 90 degrees to the surface, with no spin at all, the ball would eventually come to rest right where it landed. The point is, in most situations, "trajectory" is going to offer the most predictable determinant for stopping power for most players. The steeper the ball's angle of approach is to the surface, the less it will roll out upon landing. The shallower the angle of approach, the more it will run after striking the putting surface. In reality, relative to a flat surface you'll not be able to produce the exact hypothetical scenario discussed above, however, understanding angle of reflection is a good way to start imagining how "based" on angle of landing approach, your ball might hop and advance towards the hole on basic close range chips and pitch shots which may not have a high level of spin affecting the outcome.

This week's challenge is really about having some fun elevating your "Golf IQ" and proving that you have command over your golf ball. See if you can master the Super Wedge Spin-Off and you can count this week's challenge as complete.

Elevate Golf IQ
Bolster Short-Game Arsenal
More Fun

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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