Low Net

I’ve become the annoying training aid guy

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This story first appeared in Low Net, a weekly newsletter written for the average golfer by an average golfer. The newsletter will be for Golf Digest+ members, but you're getting it free for now. To continue to get Low Net, sign up for Golf Digest+ right here. Have a topic you want me to explore? Send me an email at Samuel.Weinman@wbd.com.

It’s possible I have a training aid problem. I got a new one last week that helps shallow my swing path. Which I can use when I’m not swinging a weighted shaft for swing speed.

Downstairs in the basement, I have a putting mat to practice putts of different breaks. It’s also where I use a mirror to make sure my eyes are over the ball at address. And where I’ve added this nifty Dave Pelz gadget that ensures I start putts on line.

There are two ways to interpret the above:

  1. Wow, this guy has some cool stuff.
  1. Wow, this guy needs to get a life.
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The challenge in identifying so many areas of focus in my game is I have accumulated enough swing thoughts to be published in bound volumes. The question isn’t whether I need to get better all these different ways. It’s if I should be trying to get better at everything all at once.

“It’s not unusual to meet players that are working on a lot of stuff,” said Joe Plecker, the Director of Instruction at the Landings Club, Savannah, Ga., and a Golf Digest Best in State Teacher. “Typically for me, it's my job to organize their thoughts, organize their efforts. And when we start to measure together and determine what's the most important thing, we can rank them.”

I had posed my question about overkill to Plecker knowing there are only so many hours in the day, and only so much square footage in my home before it morphs into a Golf Galaxy. The teacher said it comes down to understanding not only what I should be working on, but why.

“From my coaching perspective, we always have to assign a value to things,” he said. “It's my job to listen actively, frame it for the player, what they're trying to do, and then create a value structure around those things, and then we can work on it.”

This last part is an often-missing ingredient. I have a teacher who I trust, but when we’re not in contact, I can spend hours online in search of some magic fix to my problems. Throw in my unique place of work, and I have been known to tumble down a different rabbit hole every day of the week.

The solution for players like me, Plecker said, is clarity. It usually starts with understanding ball flight, and then determining what needs the most work when. Plecker isn’t opposed to using training aids, provided those aids are treating the core problem. Otherwise, they end up in a predictable spot.

“My office is full of donated training aids from students who are like, ‘This isn't doing anything for me,’” he said.

In case you’ve missed it, Joe and our Luke Kerr-Dineen have collaborated on a fantastic series called How To Do Everything in Golf, which features simple, easy-to-follow visual instructions on golf’s core shots.

Questions from Low Netters

Thanks to everyone for the feedback and questions. Have a question or idea for a future topic? Send me an email and I’ll do my best to dive in.

Our Monday group plays a low-net stroke-play game as well as skins. It seems like limiting handicap strokes for par 3s is good for skins, but using the full handicap for everyone is best for the stroke-play event. Your thoughts? —Bob

Bob, I am worse at math than long bunker shots, but there’s no question the gap between my 11 index and a scratch player is going to be more pronounced in stroke play, so that’s where I need as many strokes as I can get. Since I have more blow-up holes than a good player, my occasional 7 to their 4 makes a big difference in my 18-hole score. In a match, it’s no different than a simple bogey.

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One thing that my club members often do is they all stand around the cup to watch the last player putt out (and then look for their bags that are often all over the place). Do they ever see the pros on TV do that? No, they leave the green after their putt and move in the direction of the next tee. —Denis

This is a tricky one, Denis. First, let’s agree that bag mismanagement—namely not placing it down closer to the next tee—is in the same irritating category as the cart grievances we’ve discussed earlier. But I’m torn on the etiquette of leaving the green before everyone putts. My golf archrival Joe does that sometimes, and then on the next tee he'll ask if I made the last 4-footer. If the answer is somehow yes, he reacts as if this was physically impossible and I was clearly lying. Dude, maybe hang around to see for yourself!

What slows everyone down are the damn scopes. They take WAY too much time to determine yardage. Most of us have a GPS unit on our wrist or bag, and a quick glance is all that’s needed. Some guys, however, have scopes and have to scope everything. —Pete

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Pete, I could probably devote an entire newsletter to yardage and distance-measuring devices. There are two schools of thought here: 1) every little bit helps; or 2) most of the time, we’re not good enough to worry. I have reached a point using a watch where having precise distances seems to help. But there’s no doubt I overthink it sometimes, and worse, relying on devices has caused my own sense of distance to atrophy. Throw in how it might slow pace, and I think Low Netters like me need to compromise by picking our spots. We might need to know how far to carry a water hazard. But if you’re really worried about the difference between a 153- and 155-yard shot, I should probably be paying you for lessons.