Peter Sokolov Golf

State of the Golf - My 2017 Perspective

Peter SokolovComment

As I am driving down I-95 in South Florida I see a course in Boca Raton off the highway that is in shambles. Closed and weeds growing everywhere. Residents of this community purchased due to the golf course views they were promised.  Now as Lennar proposes to build more homes on the course their view is about to change dramatically. Every dinner I have attended over the past few months, similar stories about clubs closing their doors becomes a topic. Sadly for those property owners the communities rarely own the course. They are often sold by the developer after the community is completed. 

I then read articles about how the game of golf is in a great decline. Golfsmith and other golf retailers are closing up their stores and packing it in. Golf equipment companies are merging to stay alive and some are just giving up (Nike). Sounds pretty bad hugh. 

People are saying the social family dynamic has completely changed and dad is no longer going to the club on the weekends to play with the boys. 

All of this has merit. But if you step back and look at the big picture it is a little more obvious. Golf was on a bubble ride since the late 90's. Real estate was grossly over developed with every community being built in Florida termed a "Luxury Golf Course Community". If you were a developer you would have done the same. Lending was loose, the markets had a good run, and plenty of people were interested from the north in buying a zero lot line slice of sunny Florida. It sure didn't hurt that you had a marketable player dominating the game fist pumping his way onto everyone's TV screens.

We all know the rest. Markets tanked, real estate bombed, and the marketable tour player fell with it. Before that all happened people were flush with some extra spending money. They were buying that new driver each year since those new drivers coming out were a big improvement. Upgrading to a nicer course was doable. Maybe even joining a private club or buying in a nice community. 

Anyone want to go back? Not me!

Anyone want to go back? Not me!

Thoughts:

1) Tee time re-sellers are questionable for courses. But great for new and starting golfers. Rates have definitely become more competitive. I grew up playing golf as a junior for under 20 dollars. It was somewhat affordable as a kid. 80 Dollar golf is not realistic for someone learning. There are more offerings again at reasonable prices which is good for the future of the game. Data shows there is a decline of new golfers over the past 5 years. Of course there is. Until greens fees become realistic most new golfers are not going to pay $90 to play. It's starting to get there. 

2) Online booking of tee times is a must. No more calling shops trying to see whats available. This has made for more competition regardless of the re-seller debate. This is great for new and younger players. They have been looking for this for years.

3) There were too many golf courses built. We all know that. Some are going to close that were heavily leveraged in good times. I feel bad for people that bought lots for extra money and a golf course view. That would be hard to stomach. 

4) Equipment is basically capped. You can't have a hotter driver. The golf ball is essentially maxed out. Spending money is tight for many. They are not out buying anything that's not already worn out because there is not a visible difference. 

5) Junior golf in most areas is extremely busy. College golf is very competitive. I remember when you could sign up for any junior event or even AJGA events and get in. Now you have to qualify and enroll and hope to be selected. There are more junior golf tours and tournaments than ever. There are plenty of juniors trying and playing the game.

6) The economy is doing pretty well in most segments. However expenses for most people have gone up considerably. Insurance costs have become brutal. Either as an employer or a employee. Not just health but your home / auto etc have all increased substantially. Obviously other costs have increased as well. This has put a pinch on "fun money". 

Where is it all headed?

Obviously it's my opinion. Some courses are going to disappear. Product sales will never increase as dramatically as they did. Online sales of tee times will lead to a more competitive environment which will lower rates on a public and resort level. This will allow some of those now junior golfers to continue to play after college and when starting families. If rates come down those junior golfers will continue to play and golf will remain stable. Some courses will also do well by differentiating themselves from typically snobby and stuffy attitudes. I've seen some offering blue-tooth speakers in their carts and other similar non traditional perks. Were headed towards the "after the bubble" cycle. Much like our real estate market is returning to a more normal environment, golf will settle in as well. It's not going to disappear. There are plenty of players like myself who just can't give up the relentless challenge this game provides. Not everyone is out for constant instant gratification. 

Looking forward to a great 2017... at whatever your trying to do!

Peter S. - SCOREYOURBEST

 

Squat and Turn... Bomb it

Peter SokolovComment

May has been very busy... coaching, playing, writing. Looking forward to heading up to NY for July. 

This weeks topic is going to be the POWER swing. Sounds good right? Who doesn't want to bomb the ball. So let's dive deep into creating a consistent powerful swing. I was recently coaching some students and I took some video of their swings before instructing them. Both had some concepts they were working on from a previous lesson with another coach in their hometown. They flew to see me and upon reviewing their swings there were some obvious issues. The problem is they never heard these issues in their previous lesson. Let me break it down...

Golf is an athletic motion. It involves athletic movements and transfer of weight back and through the motion. It is no different than every other major sport. If your foot work sequence is improper your seriously limiting yourself. Working on swing planes and your release is counter productive when your footwork is poor. THE LOWER BODY IS THE ENGINE OF THE GOLF SWING. Want power? Let's learn how to get it:

Hockey? Why are we watching this?

Now Tennis? I thought we were learning Golf?

Okay... fine... let's talk golf:

What are the common traits that we should apply to golf that are common to all athletic movements? First, allowing your weight to move into your back foot as you move the club back. A slight movement is needed. It's so often that I see people raising their rear foot and reverse pivoting. Killing their chances to return the club with power to the ball. 

KEY 1 - Your weight will move into your REAR foot and your rear foot will NEVER come up on the back swing. 

Now as you transition into your downswing your lead pocket will start to rotate around your spine. You don't need to slide into the ball you need to rotate horizontally opening your hips for impact. 

Squat and Turn

Squat and Turn

KEY 2 - In the game of golf some of the most powerful players have a squat with their bodies to initiate the rotation to the lead side. Lowering slightly on the downswing sequence is common among long hitters. 

KEY 3 - Your lead pocket will rotate around your spine initiating the POWER move into the ball. This is where the EXPLOSION of power occurs into the ball. 

Note how I placed nearly no emphasis on what your arms are going to do. Just keep in mind proper athletic sequencing. Your arms firing downward never results in powerful strikes. Squatting and turning after having some load into the rear leg is what generates club head speed. I will add that you would desire to have your smaller muscles in your arms relatively relaxed in order for speed to develop. The tighter your muscles the harder it is to create speed. Imagine trying to throw a ball with a very tight grip and your forearms clenched. Not going to happen. 

  1. Allow some weight to move into you rear foot on the backswing. 
  2. Have some squat and turn to initiate the downswing
  3. Rotate the lead pocket around your lead thigh as a pivot point. 
  4. FINISH IT - Keep accelerating through impact.

Keep it simple... be an athlete. Move like an athlete. If your footwork is poor start with learning good athletic sequencing with a medicine ball or similar. Before long you will tap into your athletic sense. Start by making swings at 30% speed and then work your way into hitting balls. Once your timing develops your swing speed will increase and your going to gain some distance. Best part is the power delivery and repetitive ability will become more consistent than throwing your arms at the ball. 

Be An Athlete! Score Your Best!

Till next time... Peter

To Rotate, Or Not To Rotate - That Is The Question

Peter SokolovComment

Hope everyone is having a great spring and that their golf season is warming up with the weather. It's been a very busy March and start of April here in South Florida... 

I recently posted a tip on Twitter regarding putter face rotation:

https://twitter.com/PeterSokolovPGA/status/717896992366706688

The average amateur rotates their putter 45 degrees on a 20 foot putt (left). Reduced rotation = more makes

Over the past twenty years that I have been coaching golf, putter path and rotation has been one of the most discussed topics in putting. For 15 years I was a senior instructor at one of the top 3 golf schools in the world. This school happened to specialize in short game and putting. It seems as if every time there is a discussion about the path and face angle of the putter there are two major schools of thought:

  1. Keep the putter square back and through (right picture)
  2. Allow the putter to arc around your body, similar to a full swing (left picture)

Yes I know as of late there are even more:

  1. Take it back square and rotate it through
  2. Take it back open and then square through

Really? Anyone else have an opinion? How about the figure 8 stroke? Anybody?

People get caught up in theory that once again they forget about playing golf and optimizing their real world percentages. They live in some theoretical world of absolutes missing the reality of what occurs on the green. In the last few weeks when spending time with amateur golfers, I had them roll some twenty foot putts. I asked them if they try to keep their putter generally straight during their strokes. Guess what they said? I received answers like "yes", "of course I do", "I try to." That's where it begins to get interesting. 

Upon measuring those golfers on twenty foot putts as they held their finishes, I noted that amateur golfers rotate their putters on average 45 degrees on their follow through offline (Left Picture Above). Keep in mind that these are the same golfers that just told me they were trying to keep their putters straight. In their minds they thought their finishes looked closer to the above picture on the right. 

Now take a look at a few tour players on putts that are around 20 feet. Look at their putter faces. I would say they are all "pretty square." They certainly are not rotated 45 degrees. That is where reality kicks in. There is probably no one on tour that I am aware of that has a perfectly square stroke. Yes, there are a few that are pretty close. It is, however, safe to say there are none with excessive body turn and face angles that are 45 degrees off line on a make-able putt. Would you bet that the average tour player is closer to zero degrees of rotation or 45 degrees of rotation at twenty feet?

Too easy right?

The first thing I would tell you is to measure your stroke on an actual 20 foot putt with your video camera on your phone. It would just take a minute to video yourself putting down the line. Look at where your putter is pointed on the finish. If it's more than a few degrees offline, do some drills using an alignment rod, yard stick, or string. Now here is the trick. When you practice it's my experience that you want to try to learn a stroke that is as square as possible. Try to keep the putter directly over the stick when your practicing. Odds are you will never fully internalize that motion. But if you ended up close you would be right where you desire to be. With no rotation or minimal rotation. 

Practice your stroke over an alignment rod

Practice your stroke over an alignment rod

The game is all about optimizing your percentages. If you want to make a few more putts, get your putter to match the line of play keeping any rotation minimal. If your putter closely matches your intended line you have a good chance of eliminating some inconsistencies that others fight.

I'm no billiard pro... but I do know this cue is going to track straight through impact.

I'm no billiard pro... but I do know this cue is going to track straight through impact.

Here's your last example. Imagine your learning to play billiards. Your having a hard time impacting the cue ball solidly and having a hard time sending it down your intended line. Your coach tells you to start rotating the cue open and closed with your arms and shoulders saying it's natural. Really?  Enough Said.

Keep it Simple...

Your Coach For Life... Score Your Best!

Peter Sokolov 

Teaching the TRENDS... chicken wings, loop swings, how many planes?

Peter Sokolov2 Comments

Have you heard of the three plane swing yet?

  1. The first plane is when you're hitting it good.
  2. The second plane is when you decided to change your swing to hit it better.
  3. The third plane is the flight you take when you miss the cut on tour because you were thinking about which plane your swing should be. 

That's a joke from an actual tour player. But in a way it's not really a joke...

These guys can't be any good with those silly swings right?

These guys can't be any good with those silly swings right?

I recently received a comment on Instagram - instagram.com/petersokolovgolf/ 

It was regarding a post about extension on short game shots vs. chicken wing based on the following picture.

Extension vs. Chicken Wing... I'll take extension.

Extension vs. Chicken Wing... I'll take extension.

Someone mentioned that Jordan Speith had some "chicken wing"... he sure does.

Should we now all jump on the let's "chicken wing" bandwagon? Maybe we all forgot about the Isao Aoki putting setup? But wait... what about the Jim Furyk swing school? You have not been to that yet? 

Let's cut to the chase. Golf instruction often runs towards the hot trend of the moment. That could be the latest winner or the latest technology. The media propels it. I mentioned the dangers of the overuse of technology in my last blog post. I caution players to not look for quick fixes or "secrets."

Golf is a game played from the ground up. No, I'm not talking about "ground force biomechanics." I am talking about good solid setup fundamentals.  Stance, ball position, balance, grip, and POSTURE. Not as exciting as saying I wore my 100 sensor vest hooked up to a launch monitor to tell me I just snap hooked it out of bounds. Launch monitors don't fix bad setups. They don't tell you your posture is terrible. 

On the flip side, you know I love launch monitors for certain tasks. The technology keeps developing and I sure love using it in my daily life. However, it's not what the majority of players need as their primary focus. 

Every tour player you look at regardless of swing plane or club face position has very similar positions through impact. Most also have very similar setups when they start their swings. 

Your thoughts should be simple. Work on setup from the ground up. Work on posture. Work on grip. Work on staying relaxed and rotating well. If you have some major swing faults that happen over and over... correct them with a great coach. Always keep measuring your improvement. Are your scores coming down? Do you know with confidence that what you're practicing is making you better?

As the snow melts up north, don't jump into the trend of the moment. You know why? Because next month there will be another trend. 

Fundamentals never die. Work on them... improve on them... make them second nature. 

Till next time... 

Your Coach For Life... Score Your Best!

Peter Sokolov 

- Leave comments! I'd love to hear from you and respond!

Are you playing golf or golf swing?

Peter SokolovComment

Here we are... in the middle of the "lets measure everything" revolution of golf. Want to know what your optimum driver landing angle is to maximize roll out once you hit the fairway? We can measure it. Want to know how many degrees your shoulders are rotating in relation to your hips on a 5 iron shot? We can measure that too.

After a trip to the PGA show in Orlando in 2014 I knew times had changed as I was offered a twenty thousand dollar launch monitor that would track nearly every variable of a golf swing. Soon thereafter nearly every swing or putt could be tracked and measured as accurately as the science and algorithm programmed into the monitor allowed. Awesome! Right?

I love technology, gadgets, teaching aids and anything that will help students improve. I am all for it! Anything that helps quantify a students IMPROVEMENT can be a terrific aid in becoming a better more confident golfer. Here in lies the problem. The majority of this technology is being used in a way that is skewed towards teaching a golf swing. Talks of perfect "biomechanics" or "zereoing"  out your numbers sounds good in theory however when your laying the sod over the ball on a chip shot how is that going to help? Did you need a 20k launch monitor to tell you that you just hit 2 inches behind the ball?

I have a concern immediately when I walk into a bay that is housing 30k worth of monitors and cameras. My first thought is that person has probably fallen trap to TEACHING A SWING. Your job is to get the ball in the hole in the fewest strokes possible. Jim Furyk is 4th on the all time money list nearing 66 million dollars in earnings. Would you change his positions if you were teaching him to swing? Everyone immediately says... "of course not". The reality is they are lying. If they had a junior come up to them with that big loop in their swing they would immediately jump to say "if we fix that he's going to be amazing". You have to watch someone PLAY GOLF in order to know if their swing is any good. You can zero out your numbers on a launch monitor and flat out suck on the golf course... I have seen it. There is more to golf than "numbers". You better understand that. 

Quick non technical point... here are three pictures of Tiger Woods. Considering he has been with 5+ swing instructors and has endured surgeries and multiple life events that everyone says completely changed him, look at these pictures:

Nearly ten years apart look at these back swing positions. Look at the club face angle. Look at the lead arm. Look at the lead knee etc... shockingly different right? Not really.  I know that someone out there on tv could talk for 10 minutes about all the major differences, however when you look at the big picture does it really look much different? Nope. 

If you want to be great, golf is more than just learning a SWING. Golf is about learning how to PLAY GOLF. Launch monitors can zero you out and optimize every part of our swing. Does that mean your handicap is coming down? No it does not. I can assure you of that. In fact I have seen the opposite occur. You still need to learn to hit intentional hooks, slices, high cuts, high draws, low spinners, and many more variations to be a great golfer. You don't learn that on a launch monitor. 

Now the flip side is if I  was being fit for a new driver I would definitely want a launch monitor. It could quickly show me the benefit of the new driver vs my old one. Fitting clubs with a launch monitor is a home run. With a very consistent high level player, assessing driver or ideal iron specs is another home run with a launch monitor. However just because a player's attack angle went from -2 to +1 with their driver does not mean their handicap will come down. There is so much more to great coaching than just technology.

Don't forget that you still have to PLAY GOLF. There are instructors that have taught for years and have never seen their students PLAY GOLF. I appreciate any instructor that can track their students handicaps improving. Most don't. They tell you how their student has a better angle of attack with their driver during their last 30 minute lesson. That's great. I'd want that too. But does that mean they're shooting lower scores? How about they quantify that? That is what you ultimately should care about. Technology is great... I don't want to play gutta percha balls or hickory shafts. Just don't forget how to improve... you must learn how to PLAY GOLF. Not just work on your "swing". 

Till next time... 

Your Coach For Life... Score Your Best!

Peter Sokolov 

- Leave comments! I'd love to hear from you and respond!

 

What happened to your sand wedge?

Peter Sokolov1 Comment

Do you still carry a sand wedge? I doubt it. At least not in conventional terms.

You might say that you have a 56 degree wedge in your bag. Well it's much different then what a "sand wedge" was. Much different. First, note what an original type sand wedge sole looked like.

"Old Style Sole" Wilson R-90

"Old Style Sole" Wilson R-90

Opening a wedge with high sole width on a tight lie is asking for sculled shots.

Opening a wedge with high sole width on a tight lie is asking for sculled shots.

The original sand wedge designed by Hagen and Sarazen had metal soldered to the back of the skinny flange of a pitching wedge. This gave the club a larger "skid plate" in order to prevent it from digging into the sand. The problem that started to occur is that in the 1980's and 1990's high end country club fairways and tournament fairways started to become mown tighter and tighter. If you take a wedge with a large sole width that might work great in soft sand and try to utilize it on tightly mown lies your asking for trouble. Most likely a scull that will send your ball sailing into trouble well beyond the green. 

Grinding that flange down to create the  "perfect sole".

Grinding that flange down to create the  "perfect sole".

Over time what happened is that high level players would take their old wedges and start to grind the back of them down to create a relief on the wedge and to reduce the effective sole width. Shortly thereafter came an era of wedge "grinders". They were the go to guys in order to find flanges that were better suited for a players game. In rolls the club manufacturers to now provide many different flange types to help fit you dependent on your swing type.  Currently there are some club manufacturers that offer well over ten different sole configurations for different swing types and turf conditions. That is a topic worthy of it's own post in the future. 

The modern 56 degree wedge. Not your grandpa's Sandy Andy.

The modern 56 degree wedge. Not your grandpa's Sandy Andy.

Now enter exhibit "b", the modern sand wedge. First you will see that the modern sand wedge does not even have the name sand wedge on it anymore. The reality is that your sand wedge might even have a thinner sole on it than your 60 degree wedge. How about that? To this day I have students come in and tell me how their sand wedge is the "only" club they can use in the sand due to it's "magical" properties in sole design. Well guess what? It's not true. In fact the majority of green side sand shots played on tour are attempted using 58 degrees or higher. Many using 60 and 62 degree wedges. Gone are the days that the sand wedge is your one and only pick when entering the pit of doom. I jokingly call it the pit of doom with my students since so many come to me with massive mental trauma from past experiences in the bunker. It's not too hard of a shot. Especially once you learn it right. I will be offering some instructional videos soon to demonstrate the techniques that work best. 

My final thoughts. Don't buy wedges with names (S / L etc) on the bottom. It's very "old school". All the great high end wedges are simply stamped with the loft and bounce. Come on... you want to look like a player too right? Well that old SW in your bag is dating your set. Kind of like pleated golf pants. If your wearing pleated pants and have a SW in your bag you're in trouble... big trouble. Get yourself a nice mid bounce 56 and a mid bounce 60 and look like a player. I can teach you how to use them... I've been doing it for over 15 years. I wrote a book on it... Short Game Reality (412 Pages... Ingram Publishing). Learn to use those modern wedges in all conditions. You're going to score better... I know it. 

Till next time... 

Your Coach For Life... Score Your Best!

Peter Sokolov 

- Leave comments! I'd love to hear from you and respond!

"I am Inconsistent"

Peter Sokolov2 Comments

I have probably taught more lessons and golf schools in the past 15 years than just about anyone. The number one complaint that I hear from recreational golfers is how they are inconsistent. They will tell me how they were playing great the day before and now they "lost it". They tell me how they "used to be able to hit that shot". They tell me how their game resembles...  Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Sound familiar?

What gives?

Well... a few things contribute to your inconsistency:

  1. You don't practice and play as much as a Tour Player
  2. You don't work on your rhythm 
  3. Your swing requires so many manipulative and compensatory motions to make up for flaws that no matter how much you practice you are never going to be consistent. 

1. You don't practice and play as much as a Tour Player

- No kidding. Who has that kind of time? Every tour player that I have taught or know has a club in their hand 6 days a week. Yes... your one day off you can go to the gym instead! All kidding aside, If you are swinging the club once a week you are going to have a tough time being as consistent as you want to be. People always ask me how much they should practice. The better question is how well are they going to practice. If you are just striking balls aimlessly you are just ingraining any bad habits that you have. I was the senior instructor for the #1 short game school in the world for fifteen years. I have seen my share of what poor practice does to you. People with the shanks, chunks, blades, sculls, and yips... yes you name it, I have seen it. They come to me because they are on their last hope of a solution. They have succumbed to such dire mental trauma due to poor habits and poor practice. Realistically, if you played twice a week and practiced twice a week you should see improvement if you are doing it right. Learn to practice properly and you have a chance. 

Practicing will make you more consistent with one caveat, extra poor practice will only make you consistently poor. 

2. You don't work on your rhythm

- Rhythm is the holy grail of golf. I'll take a poor swing with great rhythm over a technically great swing with horrible rhythm. There is not one rhythm for everyone. But you do have an optimal rhythm. It's different in regards to putting, short game, and full swing. You want to learn what your rhythm is and embrace it. Good or bad flaws automatically become more consistent if you can repeat them. The only way you are going to repeat anything is by working on rhythm. One to one in putting, two to one in short game, three to one in the full swing. That's the relationship in timing the back swing with the follow through. When is the last time you went to practice and you solely focused on rhythm instead of mechanical flaws? I already know the answer... 

Have a strong underlying focus on improving your rhythm in your practice.

3. Your swing requires so many manipulative and compensatory motions to make up for flaws that no matter how much you practice you are never going to be consistent.

- The killer problem. If you have the ball in a position that is not consistent with where your club bottoms out you should hit a poor shot every time, right? However, once you chunk one or blade one sooner or later you will find the ball and attain a good result. When your mind finally sees that ball end up near the flag, you just ingrained the fact that whatever you did was right.  The problem is when you start flipping, sliding, scooping, reverse pivoting, and many other potential flaws your chances of pulling off a quality shot on the course erodes. Take a "hang back chicken wing scooper" and place them on a nice fluffy lie, they might be golden. Stick that same player on a tight country club fairway and the ball is still going to be ascending after it has passed the flag (imagine the visual). In all reality, if you can improve your motion to reduce the total compensations that you are making, you have a better chance of having real world improvement that will carry over the course. Especially under pressure!

Work to reduce manipulations and compensations in your swing that mask major problems. Identify the root cause and work towards eliminating it. 

Your Coach For Life... Score your Best!

Peter Sokolov

- Leave comments! I'd love to hear from you and respond!