It’s All in the Set-Up.

Have you ever hit a perfectly struck ball that ends up 10-yards left or right of your target? Chances are you were aiming there. Have you ever hit a thin, low shot only to see it end up several feet from the pin with your playing partners groaning and saying “lucky miss”? Chances are you were aiming there. That brings me to my point. It’s all in the set-up and one of the most important elements of the set-up is alignment. Typically, instructors place too much emphasis on the technical aspects of the golf swing when often the fix is nothing more than a correction in one’s set-up.  Simply align yourself correctly to the target by picking a spot between the ball and your target line that is directly in front of your ball. Next, align the clubface to the spot. Finally, set your feet parallel to the ball to target line. If correctly done, your feet will point left of the target and not directly at it.  

My mentor, and collegiate coach for Jack Nicklaus, told me the three most important parts of the swing are set-up, set-up and set-up. A proper set-up promotes a good swing. Let’s examine other components of the set-up. This includes ball position, correct body/spine angles and proper weight distribution in your feet.

Ball position – I tend to see the average player with the ball positioned too far back in the stance causing one to back up from the intended target on the down-swing, bottom out and chunk the shot or raise their body at impact to avoid bottoming out with the result being a thin shot. If this is happening, position the ball in your stance toward your left heal. It will force you to stay in the hitting zone longer and promote the proper weight shift.

Correct Body/Spine Angles – a common mistake of the average golfer is picking the club up abruptly on the take-away with arms rather than making a good turn away from the ball with one’s shoulders. The tendency with picking the club up is that the weight drifts to the left side on the back-swing causing a change in your spine angle and what we call a “reverse C”.   Set up with a perpendicular spine angle and simply turn around it. You will generate more power and avoid the chunk or thin shot. The one exception is with the driver. In an effort to sweep the ball off the tee, there should be a slight upper-body tilt away from the target during your set-up. In order to maintain the correct spine angle on your backswing, get your left shoulder over your right leg.   

Proper Weight Distribution - I like to say that golf is played underneath you rather then around you. If your weight is on your heels at the setup, you will sit back in your posture. This leads to playing golf around you creating a bigger dispersion of left and right misses because of the club face being square to the ball for only a fraction of a second. This is in comparison to the weight at the set-up being on the balls of your feet. Along with a slight upper body tilt forward, this will position you properly with your arms hanging directly under your shoulders.  Playing golf underneath you will keep you in the hitting zone with a square club-face for a longer period of time. 

By focusing on your set-up and less on the technical side of the swing, I believe you will be more relaxed throughout the swing. Remember, when you’re struggling with your swing, check these elements of the set-up first before looking to make swing changes.

Planning the Right Tournament and Instructional Schedule for Junior Golfers

With the New Year upon us, it's time to start the planning process for a juniors tournament schedule. Many questions such as how many tournaments one should play in and which ones should be considered are important considerations. Obviously, skill level weighs heavily in the planning process. However, regardless of ones level, it is still important to select a few events that you treat as majors. Even if it is a few tournaments on your local tour's seasonal or year-long schedule.  Below are several thoughts to be considered. 

Step 1 is to identify the 4 or 5 most important tournaments. From there, you can build your remaining schedule around it. Don't make the mistake of thinking every tournament is a major. One should use the events leading up to the most important tones on your schedule as a tune-up. Also, don't schedule too many tournaments back-to-back leading up to your majors. You want your junior tested but fresh. Each junior is different so I refrain from stating a specific number. A parent should know their child's limitations.         

I am often asked how many events should a junior play during the course of the year. This depends on whether or not one is of age and playing high school golf. If one is, the additional tournaments scheduled during the high school season should be few. High School golf can be consuming which brings up the point as to whether the top players should even consider playing high school golf. There is good and bad that comes with high school golf when it involves top-ranked juniors.  

Step 2 has to do with the process of getting a junior to peak at the right time. There has to be a time of the year when the player is focused on swing mechanics and not competition. I often see players make the mistake of changing swing mechanics too close to the start of competition. Give yourself 3 full months to work on major changes. If you elect to test yourself in competition during this period of time, make sure your junior has the right mind-set of using it as a test. Once the competitive season begins, it is still important to check in with your pro a minimum of once a month. Incorporate this into the planning process. 

The question of travel often comes into play. Once again, it has to do with ones skill level. Top-ranked players should travel to test their skills against the best. However, until the player wins or is one of the best players at the local level, they should refrain from traveling. The money saved can be put to better use such as in the area of instruction.

Finally, I believe it is very important to involve your child in the planning process. Let them have some ownership in the final decisions.  

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Roger Porzak, Director of Youth Development for the Porzak Golf Academy, has extensive first-hand experience planning tournament schedules and traveling throughout the world with juniors. For more information, email him at roger@porzakgolfacademy.com.

                                            

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Hit or Stretch!

Have you ever been running late for your tee time? 

Do you hit a few balls or do you stretch?

Obviously hitting a few balls before a round is a good idea if you leave yourself plenty of time, but if you have only 5 minutes before your tee time getting a really good stretch would be best.  Warming up your shoulders, hamstrings, calves and quads would limit your injuries and make for a better start to your round.

Here are a few quick stretches:

    •    Arms extended, make big and small circular motions forward and backwards- 8 to 10 count

    •    Bend forward try to touch your knee cap or toes- 8 to 10 count

    •    Now take some practice swings after your warmup 

VIOLA! You're ready to play some golf. 

Keep checking in for my quick tips on how you can start developing good golf habits TODAY!

 

Calculate Yardages In High Altitude

How to calculate yardages when playing in higher altitudes and how it affects ball flight.

One of the PGA Tour stops last week was the Barracuda Championship in Reno Nevada. In the foothills of the mountains dividing Lake Tahoe and Reno was Montreux Country Club. This is a beautiful venue that's main challenge was gauging elevation changes and most of all, altitude. With the low points on the front nine reaching close to 5,000ft and high points on the back nine exceeding 6,000 feet in elevation, hitting the ball solid is only half the battle. The caddies and players have to be on their games this week when deciphering how far the ball will carry and how it will react on the green.

Having the opportunity to work with Lee McCoy at the tournament, I noticed three aspects of ball flight were affected most by the elevation.

Carry distance:  Steve "Pepsi" Hale, Lee's caddie and a true veteran on Tour(not to mention a native of Denver, Colorado) is no stranger to altitude being in the mile high city...he said, the general rule of thumb is for every 1,000ft in elevation there is approximately a 2% increase in ball flight. With an increase of nearly 12%, it is difficult to imagine the typical 100 yard shot carrying 112 yards with no added effort on the golfer's part.

Shot shape:  The higher elevation, the thinner the air so there is less resistance or friction for the ball's spin to grab on to.  There has to be much more effort to turn the ball over if you would like to hit a draw and visa versa if you're hitting a fade.

Spin control:  Very similar to the shot shape, with the lack of air density, the ball would not spin nearly as much on the greens. The other factor affecting this was the fact that the ball was in the air longer, therefore, the ball would lose some of its spin by the time it hit the ground causing the ball to release a lot more. 

Tips for Playing 

1.) After calculating the yardage, if in between clubs, take the lesser of the two, as it is generally better to be short of the hole as opposed to long.

2.) When having 2 clubs less in your hands than you would at sea level from the same yardage, trust the altitude and the fact that the ball will go farther. Our subconscious is funny, as many players won't believe the club in hand will get there, which leads to them over-swinging or forcing the shot leading to a poor result. 

A quick side note...If you would like to boost your ego, get out to the mountains to play some golf and watch your drives reach distances you never thought imaginable! 

 

Team Effort and Preparation

This week, we were excited to be a part of Lee McCoy's professional debut at the Memphis St. Jude Classic. We are also extremely proud to announce what will hopefully be a long relationship with Pepsi, who is amongst the great caddies in the game.  Steve "Pepsi" Hale has been a long time caddie on the PGA Tour. He has some incredible experience with multiple Ryder cups and major championships, highlighted by winning the PGA Championship with Keegan Bradley in 2011. Pepsi got his nickname from hiding cans of Pepsi all around the golf course. He places them strategically behind trees and bushes in the days leading up to the tournament to not add extra weight to the bag while still enjoying the sweet taste of Pepsi! 

When you're out on Tour you realize how strong the competition is, and the value of having a team along with the role each team member plays. 

Steve "Pepsi" Hale, Lee McCoy (Center) and Adam Porzak

Steve "Pepsi" Hale, Lee McCoy (Center) and Adam Porzak

For the instructors Adam Porzak and Mike Pitt, our role is to watch Lee's pre shot routine, set up and stroke. Each component affects the other, so it is important to make sure that he remains sharp until the putt is on its way to the hole. If anything is off, we will offer our opinion and talk it through with Lee to make sure he understands, agrees, and is willing to trust the change. 

As the caddie, Pepsi must give his opinion on the line and speed of the putt. More often than not, his purpose is to concur with Lee's insight, therefore, promoting Lee's confidence and commitment towards the shot at hand.

Tip: The caddie's role is crucial as we would rather have a player confident and committed to the wrong line, than unsure and uncommitted to the right line.

Lee, being the man to get the job done, must come to a conclusion as to how he is going to approach the shot based upon what he has heard from his coaches and caddie, but most importantly, trusting himself and his instincts to execute.

In the pictures you can see the team working together around the green.  The coaches watch and give feedback while the player and caddie go through their game time process. This is a crucial part of preparation, practicing it on the putting green exactly as it would be done on the course come game time. Lee will take his time making his read, stalking the putt from many angles, and he may call in the caddie for a assistance or reassurance if needed.

Our mission here is to help golfers understand how the best in the world prepare, but more importantly to help our competitive golfers of all ages to understand the importance of going through "game time" moments.  This will make practice more like a competitive round on the course, and in turn make competitive play feel more like practice.

 

Lee McCoy, Steve "Pepsi" Hale and Adam Porzak

Lee McCoy, Steve "Pepsi" Hale and Adam Porzak

Lee McCoy, Stevie "Pepsi" Hale and Adam Porzak

Lee McCoy, Stevie "Pepsi" Hale and Adam Porzak