As you know, golf is incredibly challenging because there are so many different facets of the game. While most golfers don’t have the time or resources to become an expert, that doesn’t mean you can’t be proficient enough to see progress.
A common trap that golfers fall into (myself included) is avoidance. Sometimes, one part of the game is so daunting that you choose to try and avoid it at all costs. Recently, I played with a golfer that reminded me just how damaging this strategy could be, and I’m here to offer you all some advice on how to get through these hurdles.
Several weeks ago I was playing with a golfer who was quite skilled. He was a 4-handicap, and I was particularly impressed by his driving ability. Although he was two decades removed from playing Division 1 tennis, it was evident that his athletic skill allowed him to drive it relatively straight at 275+ yards.
But I noticed on shorter par 4s he kept hitting irons. Since my thinking on that strategy has changed, I asked him why he was keeping the driver in the bag when it was obviously his best club (which he also believed). He told me that he was terrified of 30-70 yard wedge shots, and tries to avoid them at all costs. I also asked if he spent any time practicing from those distances, and he told me that it rarely happens.
That fear came on full display when he putted from roughly 60 yards on the next par 5, which I hadn’t seen done on a course other than Phil’s “stunt” at the final round of The Memorial.
“I saw that playing out differently in my mind.” 😂 – Phil Mickelson after putting from 78 yards outpic.twitter.com/okBuTfzuhC
— GOLFonCBS (@GOLFonCBS) July 19, 2020
In my head, I knew this golfer was completely capable of hitting those wedge shots with his physical talents. And to be honest, I knew how he felt.
I’ve been playing golf for more than 25 years now. I’ve dealt with pretty much every single fear and problem that all of you have. The only part of my game that I’ve ever felt consistently confident in is my iron play. I have no idea why that is, but that just seems to be my golf DNA.
Over the years, I’ve played the avoidance game quite a bit myself. I, too, was terrified of those awkward wedge distances. Also, I spent many seasons trying to evade my driver as much as possible and hit other clubs off the tee, thinking they would give me a sense of security. Lastly, I spent most of my time as a golfer, never working on my putting all that much.
The result was frustration, mismanaged expectations, and a level of play I was generally not happy with.
But, I’ve learned a few things on how to conquer these avoidance issues in my own game, and by also closely watching other golfers.
Golf will expose all parts of your game eventually. If you want to become a better player, sweeping problems under the rug just won’t work. That’s not to say that you need to spend countless hours honing every single part of your game.
So if you find yourself in this situation where one (or several) parts of your game are becoming a major mental hurdle, I have three recommendations.
A lot of golfers reserve themselves to an inevitable fate. For a long time, I told myself, and anyone who would listen that I wasn’t a great putter, or I couldn’t drive the ball well. Every time I stepped on the course, I had this identity hanging over my head. When faced with a 60-yard wedge shot or a difficult driving hole, I felt the anxiousness building as I approached my ball.
I believe the best way to handle this problem is to try and flip the script. If you do want to become better, you need to embrace these deficiencies in your game and have a positive attitude that you are going to try and work on them. Negativity becomes a nasty self-fulfilling prophecy on the golf course.
While it will take some work (I’ll get into that), your goal is to change your identity. You want to go from the player who thinks they are a horrible wedge player, to the golfer that can address those shots with a healthy attitude. Of course, you’re never going to be perfect, but you can get incrementally better at these parts of the game where they aren’t the big gaping hole.
As always, I want to remind you that this process is relative to each golfer, their experience in the game, and skill level. For some of you, addressing some of these problems could help you break 100, and for others, it might be the last piece of the puzzle in becoming a scratch golfer.
This is perhaps the most challenging part because you are going to deal with a mixture of mental and physical issues.
My advice to the golfer who inspired this article was to seek professional help. I knew he was perfectly capable of hitting those wedge shots but needed some direction from a swing coach on what his core technical problems were.
I do believe golf lessons can help with this process and make your path to getting more confident on the course more efficiently.
However, I know a lot of you might not have the budget for lessons, or if you’re like me, sometimes prefer to do some experimentation on your own.
For example, reading Dave Pelz’s Short Game Bible
over a decade ago helped solve my wedge play problems. I took his framework and applied it to my practice sessions until I felt comfortable. Also, I created this wedge practice routine. Granted, I’m not a tour-level wedge player, but the fear is gone now. Which leads me to my next point…
If you want to improve any deficiency in your golf game, changing your attitude is not enough. At some point, you’re going to have to take a different approach and put some work in during your practice sessions. Getting lessons is perhaps my number one recommendation to make sure you are doing the right kind of work.
It’s impossible to predict how long it might take you to move from a state of complete avoidance to mild, or even supreme confidence. But if you never address the problem at all, it will continue to plague you on the course.
Currently, bunker play is an issue for me. Tendencies in my swing that work for me in my iron play seem to work against me when I’m in the sand. As such, throughout the season, I need to spend about 30-60 minutes in a bunker to re-establish the technique necessary to get the ball on the putting surface and avoid heavy, or bladed bunker shots that seem to arise when I play in tournaments under more pressure. The longer I go between bunker practice sessions, the further and further my confidence seems to wane.
I know all of you have a part of your golf game that gives you above-average anxiety. There are days we play when we feel like our whole game is the problem, but I want you to think about one issue in particular that maybe you have completely avoided. Unfortunately, they don’t tend to go away on their own.
To summarize my recommendation:
Hopefully, I have given you some new direction on how to solve the part of your golf game that you want to lock away in a mental closet. If you have any stories of your own on how you conquered an issue like this, please feel free to share them in the comments section!
Outerwear is an integral part of any golfer’s wardrobe. Dealing with wind, rain, and the cold is an inescapable component of the game.
Over the years, I’ve found that the quality of your outerwear can have a significant impact on your comfort level (and scores). If you go for the cheaper stuff, it usually doesn’t provide too much protection. My bigger problem is that budget brands can be uncomfortable while you swing, and don’t last as long. Conversely, premium offerings keep you adequately protected and remain viable for years.
When you invest more, you can expect to get products that have a lot of thought in their design and anticipate all of the issues golfers have when the weather is less pleasant. In my experience, this is one of the categories in golf I’m willing to spend extra money on because there is a significant difference.
One of the leaders is Zero Restriction. For years I have heard about their reputation, and I finally got a chance to try out some of their products. Overall, I think the brand provides some of the highest quality outerwear in the industry but doesn’t charge prices that are too expensive compared to its ultra-premium competition (check out the end of the article for an exclusive discount code).
Depending on where you play your golf, moisture can become a big problem. As you know, you may have to deal with a pop-up shower or a more prolonged downpour if you play golf enough.
There is nothing worse than having the wrong outwear for the job when it rains. I’ve found that cheaper brands don’t do a great job of keeping the water out, are uncomfortable while you swing, and don’t breathe very well.
I tried out a newer release from Zero Restriction, the Power Torque 1/4 sleeve, which is intended for warmer-weather rain storms. My first impression (and perhaps most important for me) is that it’s a breeze to swing while wearing. It’s snug enough around the lower part of the jacket that it doesn’t bunch up, which is one of my biggest pet peeves with some other rain gear. Additionally, it’s looser around your chest and shoulders to make your swing feel unencumbered. Zero Restriction is definitely an appropriate name for the brand.
All Zero Restriction waterproof gear is treated with something called Durable Water Repellent. It serves two purposes – to allow water to bead up and not penetrate the outer layer, but more importantly, enable the material to breathe so you don’t feel like you’re inside of a steam room underneath.
After wearing the jacket during a rainy round, I can say that the material delivers on both promises. It’s a great rain jacket, plain and simple.
Perhaps the most essential piece of outerwear is a versatile jacket. When it gets colder, windy, and in the rain, you need something to protect you from some mixture of all of these elements.
I’ve had quite a few of these kinds of jackets in the past, but the Z710 from Zero Restriction is perhaps my favorite.
Similar to the rain jacket, my first impression was the comfort when I first put it on. The sleeves are incredibly soft and stretchy, making it very easy to swing a golf club with it on. Additionally, the fabric in the center portion of the jacket is made from a warmer, more durable shell. It provides water protection, plenty of warmth, and shelter against the wind without being too bulky. I think most people will have a similar reaction to me when they first slip it on and declare, “this is really nice.” You can tell a lot of thought was put into the design of each element – the sleeves, pockets, or even how the collar interacts with your neck when fully zipped.
Previously, my go-to jacket was the Galvin Green Lance Interface, but the Zero Restriction Z710 has changed my mind (it’s also considerably less money).
At this point, I’ve written a lot of reviews on different products in the golf industry. Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense to spend more money on “premium” brands anymore. Distance measuring devices and golf balls come to mind with the direct-to-consumer movement. However, not every category can function that way.
With outerwear, you generally get what you pay for. I’ve found that if you’re willing to spend a little more money upfront, you’ll get a product that performs better and can last you comfortably up to 5-10 years. Going with a budget can leave you a bit dissatisfied, and you might end up replacing what you initially purchased several times.
While there aren’t a ton of options, I’d say Zero Restriction does one of the best jobs of giving you quality designs that protect you on the course, without going too crazy with the prices. Yes, you will spend more, but some of the ultra-premium brands do charge eye-popping numbers for their products.
Luckily for you, Zero Restriction is part of the Summit Brands family. If you use coupon code PG25 on their site, you receive a 25% discount.
For a long time, golfers had to choose between having clothes that looked sharp on the course or those that had performance fabrics that made it comfortable to swing in warmer conditions. Luckily, there are now apparel brands that are doing both. One of my favorites is a company called Redvanly.
When I first reviewed their clothes last year, I was mostly impressed by the quality of their performance material. I play the majority of my golf on Long Island, and anyone who has been here during the summer knows that you better be prepared to sweat. So I’m always on the lookout for clothes that can handle those conditions without making me feel uncomfortable and sticky while I play.
Recently, I got a chance to try out some of the new offerings from their 2020 line, and I think they’ve added some nicer designs and expanded into new territory.
When you go to the PGA Show in Orlando, it’s a bit overwhelming how many options are available in the apparel category. There are massive booths for brands like Travis Matthew, Under Armour, and Adidas.
Interestingly, I’ve found some of the smaller, more unassuming booths can surprise you with their quality.
This was the case when I first discovered Redvanly. The New York City-based company was started by two cousins who wanted to create better activewear for sports like golf and tennis. They set out to create the best performance fabrics they could find, and years later, they’ve built an impressive line of clothing that I’ve come to love.
I would argue that many of the independent apparel brands like Redvanly are making far better products than larger, mass-produced companies.
If you take a look at Redvanly’s selection of polos, you’ll see styles ranging from traditional looking to a bit wild. Usually, I’m not one who likes to take chances with my wardrobe selection. Give me a solid polo or stripes, and that’s about as far as I’m willing to go.
However, prints are becoming more and more common in the golf world, and I often joke with the company’s co-founder David Pagana, that some of their designs have made me a convert.
I really like some of Redvanly’s new 2020 styles, particularly their Upton Polo.
As usual, they deliver the goods on the fabric. I don’t think you’ll find a better performance material in the golf world with their soft polyester/spandex blend. The only other company that I feel can match them on this front is Rhoback. If I know it’s going to be a brutally hot/humid day on the course; I usually reach for either of these companies first.
Also, I got a chance to try out their Costa Quarter-Zip, which is incredibly soft and comfortable.
I think the sleeper pick in their lineup is their pull-on shorts and pants. It’s an interesting concept that no other golf company is offering.
Last year I was pleasantly surprised by their elastic-waist shorts, and now they’ve added pants.
This product category has quickly become one of their best sellers because they provide the benefits of a premium performance fabric, they look great, but more importantly, they fit like your Sunday-morning sweatpants around the waist! No one would ever know to look at them either. So if you’re downing a few hot dogs at the turn, don’t worry, the pants will grow with your waist.
It’s great to see Redvanly continue to grow. If you like a more modern style, and fabric quality is important to you, then you should check them out.
It’s safe to say that we’re collectively going through a difficult time right now. I thought I would share with you a fun father/daughter project that can bring a little joy to your day.
A friend of mine in the golf world, Lou Stagner, created a complete lego replica of the 12th hole at Augusta National with his daughter. The reproduction took 20,000 individual lego pieces and more than 60 hours of work to create in their basement. His daughter, who is in 4th grade, wants to partner with a pro golfer to help a homeless charity with the proceeds of the sale.
Take a look at this time-lapse video to see it come to life, it’s incredible:
If you’re interested in helping Lou and his daughter spread the word, and hopefully find an eventual donor, please contact him on Twitter here. Check out some more photos below:
A common trap that many golfers fall into is that they’ll spend countless hours practicing and assume that alone will entitle them to lower their scores. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. As a junior golfer, I used to get frustrated after hitting hundreds of balls and not seeing any real improvement. I think all of us can relate to this in some way.
There needs to be some balance between being on a golf course and spending time working on your game. While everyone’s schedules and time commitments are different, I want to help you understand something critical about what it takes to become a better golfer.
A lot can happen in 18 holes. You can go through periods of great play, and then abruptly forget how to swing a club two holes later. The emotional “swings” that occur are part of what makes the game so unique and frustrating at the same time.
One thing that golfers lose sight of is that you need to be on the course going through all of those trials and tribulations to gain experience. Most players who progress in their game will tell you the same thing; you need to be out on a course playing. In a way, playing is the best form of practice.
Simply put, you need to be comfortable on a golf course. There are so many little elements to this game that require a certain amount of experience, and if you can’t play enough, then it’s hard to develop them.
I can’t possibly quantify the number of hours, or what kind of ratio you need to divide between practice and playing time. What I can tell you is that at a certain point, spending more time practicing at the expense of playing will likely yield diminishing returns. I know most of you reading this have work, family, and all other kinds of time commitments that seem to get in the way of golf. That’s part of the reason why I talk about managing expectations so much, and why golfers are usually too hard on themselves.
Many of us don’t have unlimited time to work on our games and play as much as we would like. However, if you use that time effectively, you can see improvement.
I’ll discuss three hypothetical scenarios to illustrate my point:
Scenario #1 – Practice With Little Play: If you are a golfer who can get plenty of 30-60 minute practice sessions in but can only play one or two times a month – it usually makes sense to temper your expectations. Some players are more naturally talented than others. Still, I often find that if you are not able to test your skills and learn from them often enough, it’s challenging to gain any meaningful return on your preparation. Overall, if you can’t play enough, I wouldn’t expect too much.
Scenario #2 – Practicing Instead of Playing: If you do have more time to get on the course, but are choosing to practice more instead of play – I would urge you to find more of a balance. Every time you tee it up, it’s an opportunity to learn and challenge yourself. The things you’ve been working on at the practice facility, or your backyard, need a chance to be tested out in live-action.
Scenario #3 – All Play No Practice: Some golfers don’t want to practice at all, and use all of their free time to play. I get it. While I do think you still can learn and improve by playing plenty of golf, you are likely forgoing an opportunity to get better if you aren’t working on your skills off the course. All of the clues about your game are hiding in your on-course performance. If you can take time to analyze what is happening during your rounds, and use that information to work on some of the elements of your game that are lacking, there are usually some low-hanging fruit waiting to be picked.
Speaking anecdotally, the best golf I have ever played in my life has always been when I can get on the course often. I’ve also had the opportunity to learn and be around plenty of golfers who I have seen make significant breakthroughs in their game. They also were playing enough to allow those positive changes to occur. Better golf requires a certain amount of comfort level of actually being on the golf course. That’s almost impossible to replace during practice.
If you can’t play enough golf, that’s OK – there is still an opportunity to get better at this game. I would caution you to be a little more patient with yourself, though. If you only get to play once a month, don’t use that one round as a litmus test of your game. Playing once every 30 days is not enough to get any reasonable measure of where you stand. Please try to enjoy your time outside away from the distractions of the world and not put too much pressure on yourself.
Not all of you will be able to do this, but if you can practice on the course – do it!
If my course is empty on the weekdays, I’ll often go out for 2-4 holes. On each hole, I’ll try to hit several tee shots and approach shots. I’ll also throw a few balls down around the greens and hit wedge shots from various distances. This form of practice is extremely valuable, and if you can find small time windows to do this on a course without disturbing other players, I highly recommend doing it.
Let’s say you have an opportunity to play once a week. I think that’s a much more reasonable opportunity to test what you’ve been working on in your practice sessions and strike a balance between playing and preparing. Indeed, there’s no right answer for every golfer. But the two main points I would like to get across are:
Keep this in mind as you enter a new golf season. It’s impossible to find the perfect balance, but using some of these guidelines can help you make adjustments on how you spend your time and have healthier expectations for your game.
I’ve heard it many times before: “I can’t hit a fairway wood to save my life.” Hitting a solid 3-wood off the deck is one of the tougher things to do in golf. The shaft is long, there’s very little loft, and you’re probably facing a longer shot. Let’s face it; the situation can be a bit intimidating.
That being said, most players, on most courses, are going to need a club they can hit a long way off the ground.
“A-hem. We have a suggestion.”
-Engineers at Callaway
Enter the Super Hybrid
Most golfers are paying attention to the hype around the newly-released Mavrik line. However, Callaway has quietly introduced an exciting product that can potentially help a lot of golfers – the Super Hybrid.
Simply put, it’s a cross between a fairway metal and a hybrid.
The New Super Hybrid boasts:
Their goal was to create a club that was easy to hit off the ground, launched high enough to hold greens, and help add enough distance for those long approach shots into par 4s and 5s.
As a clubfitter, I’m often tasked with an entire set of clubs. One of the most challenging parts of building a full bag is gapping between the longest playable iron and the driver.
Despite working with some very high-level collegiate and aspiring professional golfers, the majority of my business is with recreational players.
In my experience, most golfers are less consistent with their longer clubs. Finding something they can reliably hit solid and straight(er) off of various lies can pose a challenge.
Callaway’s new Super Hybrid represents an innovation that I believe can build upon the success of traditional hybrids.
The idea is pretty simple – all golfers need something they can hit a long way off the deck, and some folks just flat don’t hit fairway metals well.
I regularly have to talk slower-speed players off the cliff when I tell them their new set will not include a 3-wood. If your driver swing speed is less than 80, you are likely going to hit a 4 or 5 wood higher, more consistently, and on average notably further than a traditional 3 wood.
Some major OEM’s have already begun marking ladies and junior fairway metals as “3-woods” despite the clubs having 18 or 19 degrees of loft, (that’s 5 wood loft folks).
If we strip away the labels, we can examine the design differences of these various long game options and use those measurements to help us choose the best one for a particular player.
Long irons traditionally had steel shafts that matched the rest of the iron set. Now utility irons or driving irons are available with graphite shaft options as well, giving fitters access to lighter weights and higher launching bend profiles.
Hybrids now come almost exclusively with graphite shafts. Most companies’ “stock” shaft length for a hybrid is slightly longer than the length of the corresponding iron. Ie. 3 iron = 39” while 3 hybrid = 40.5”.
For a player who is starting to lose some clubhead speed, this added “lever length” will increase clubhead speed and potentially add both height and distance.
Fairway woods take length to the next level. An 18-degree fairway metal stock length is about 42 inches, furthering the potential distance of the weapon. However, understand that this distance comes with a cost. Longer shafts can make clubs more challenging to hit solidly, especially off of the ground.
The Super Hybrid splits the difference between traditional hybrid and fairway lengths. It’s attempting to achieve some gains from shaft length but salvage some consistency as well. On a side note, it should be noted that the lie angle splits the difference too, making it appropriate for the length of the golf club.
As far as the shaft being offered, the Tensei CK Pro Orange is the only stock option. And it’s a very good one. This “real deal” counterbalanced low launch, low spin shaft is a veritable missile launcher. So far, in my fittings, I’ve batted 1000% with this shaft. The fittings consisted of establishing the flex of the shaft and tuning the hozel to the proper loft and lie settings. With a stock shaft this good, I haven’t had to look to anything else (although there are lots of other options through Callaway’s custom department).
As far as technology goes, Callaway is just rolling all their latest advancements into a new package. But they do seem to combine for some excellent results.
I tested the Callaway Super Hybrid against my current setup to gain some insight into its performance.
Precisely as it should, the Super Hybrid bridged the gap between my current hybrid and my 3 wood. It’s noteworthy that my current hybrid is 17 degrees, and my 3-bent-towards-a-2 iron (which rotates in and out with the hybrid) is set at 18.5 degrees. I must admit that the Super Hybrid was really easy to hit. None of the shots felt like they were dead center (although they weren’t bad either).
While the timing of the release was a bit odd, I think in 2020 we’ll be fitting a lot of players into the Callaway Super Hybrid
who either don’t like fairway metals or struggle to hit them.
As always – test before you buy and work with a qualified clubfitter if you can.
Greg Gibson is a Staff Golf Professional, Certified Clubfitter, Instructor, and Trackman Specialist at Golf Headquarters in Louisville, KY. He previously served as General Manager, Director of Golf, and Head Golf Professional at Shelbyville Country Club. To make an appointment with Greg contact the GHQ Louisville staff at 502-245-8600