It’s the winter season, and many would-be golfers are stuck indoors dreaming of tight fairways and rolling manicured greens while putting a ball across their living room carpet while watching golf on TV. Hey, its not ideal, but we make it work until it warms up outside. With the Farmer Insurance Open on the PGA Tour and the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters on the European tour coming up soon, no doubt you’re gearing up for some time in front of the TV yourself.
In this article we thought we’d suggest ways to use what you see on TV and translate those learnings into your own game for new season in 2016. There’s plenty to learn from watching the best players in the game on TV, if you actually spend time analyzing versus sipping beer, eating chips, slipping into the occasion food coma or betting at William Hill. Here’s what we’ve found most interesting to analyze on TV, and how you can translate this into your own game.
1. Pre-Shot Routines
This part of this post could easily stand by itself. Whether their its the first drive of the day, to the last putt of the eighteenth hole, you can study and analyze how each professional approaches the shot that they face (even if you can’t quite picture all the elements involved in it). The important things to take away from the pre-shot routine are how repetitive and intentional the sequence of moves is. Their purpose are to gather information, trust the line, relax and execute the shot flawlessly. The average golfer can learn from this, and work to incorporate this into their game. For example, every seen a pro look at a putt from behind their line, then from behind the hole, then perpendicular to their line? I’d bet you have, and there’s a reason behind it that few golfers know about. This is called triangulating your line. While this can be time consuming, doing it will often lead you to see breaks that you may overlook if you simply just look down the line from one angle. Its true that your eyes plays tricks on you, and depending on shadows, slopes & terrain you may see 1 foot of break or 5 on the same putt depending on what angle you’re looking from. Triangulating the putt gives you all the information you’d ever need – if not too much.
Another example is the pre-shop routine for chipping, usually the pro is trying to envision a couple of factors…. where they want the ball to land and how the expect it to roll once it hits the ground. Depending on how much green they have to work with, they may decided that they need to hit a specific spot with a lot of height and spin to give the ball the best chance of getting nearly the hole. Or maybe they can run it up and play the break. Regardless, their focus point 9 times out of 10 is never the hole, its their landing spot. You’ll often see professionals stare at a point away from their hole (or even walk up to it and squat to get the expected roll the ball will experience once they hit their target). Few amateurs chip like this, they are always hole focused. This is often why they miss-hit chips, because they are not analyzing the whole shot, and thinking critically on the best way to approach it.
Finally, when it comes to the full swing, you’ll likely see professionals perform nearly an identical routine shot in and shot out. They pick their line, waggle or practice swing, get comfortable and swing. This confidence is something to emulate in your swing. They don’t second guess themselves often on the tee, they commit 100% to the shot – rules to live by on the golf course.
2. Course Management
Golf isn’t an easy game, and when watching it on TV you cannot see all the nuance of the shots the player’s face (more on this later). Yes, you get a sense of their lie, a sense of what their shot must do, where the pin is, but there’s a ton of other factors at play during a round. Golfers at this level are very talented at not letting slip ups hurt their score. If they miss the fairway, the often play conservatively to get the ball on or close to the green to save par. They always give themselves a shot at par. You’ll see this most commonly on short par 4’s and par 5’s – sure, they can take out their drivers and woods and try to go for it (in two for par 5’s), but often you’ll see them pull irons and lay up. Why? Because they weigh the risks and the rewards. They know they have to hit a near perfect shot to get a chance at eagle, and even a birdie is not guaranteed. Sometimes on short par 4’s and par 5’s they’ll have a wedge in for their third, a club that are deadly accurate with. This approach basically eliminates their chances at bogie, and gives them a really decent shot at birdie without any additional risk. This is something amateurs can take out on the course with them. Trying for that miracle shot? Maybe you should check your ego at the door at just give yourself a guaranteed par, and a decent shot at birdie.
3. Mental Game
Golf is a mental game, and professionals see the worst of it. Think your two footer to break 80 is nerve wracking, how about a 2 footer to win the green jacket and millions of dollars (not to mention endorsements)? Professional golfers are exceptionally good at weeding out distractions and focusing on their game. They have to deal with all the course elements, like you do, but in addition have to deal with thousands of moving fans who are noisy, all while playing for millions of dollars on every shot. When watching the pros on TV you’ll notice right before a shot they go into “the zone” mode. They are laser focused on what they want to do, and rarely do they let distractions interrupt their focus when their in this mode, no matter what is going on around them. While learning this by watching TV isn’t really feasible, its always nice to see it in action, and when you do finally get ‘in the zone’ yourself, and understand what it feels like, you’ll be able to relate to those pros you watched on tv.
With all this said, we wouldn’t recommended analyzing swing technique in too much detail. You may have noticed when watching a pro hit a ball on camera and from watching TV it looks like a dead shank, but sure enough the ball is going straight at the target. Or how about how seeing break before a player putts is nearly impossible from your couch. This is because you’re missing a huge part of the picture – not only does a TV do funny things with light and shadows, it also does odd things with angles. For this reason alone, analyzing golf swings in detail, unless the camera angle is perfectly down-the-line, will do you more harm than good. Take away the things you can from watching golf on TV, and work out the rest on the course. Good luck!