Golfspy Dave’s Handicap Reduction Program
What to do During the Golf Off Season?
A few weeks ago I started a thread in the MyGolfSpy forum asking what forum members do during the winter months to stay golf-fit during the off season (HERE). There were numerous suggestions. Some of the suggestions, like heading to the gym or putting in the basement, were helpful. Other suggestions, like living in a place where you can play golf all year, were not really applicable to everyone. Regardless, the replies in that thread really got me thinking about what I could do this winter to improve my game.
My initial thought was that I would take lessons. Although the weather in Northern California would probably support outdoor lessons, I decided that I wanted to pursue a lessons program that was based primarily upon indoor instruction. There were two main reasons behind this path. First of all, writing an article about taking lessons outdoors would be neither helpful nor relevant to golfers who live in climates where golf is not possible for weeks, if not months, this time of year. My second reason for indoor lesson curiosity comes from having a conversation with someone along my golfing path who did not believe that indoor lessons are effective at all. I remember that the argument was something along the lines of “how can you learn anything when you only see the first fifteen feet of ball flight”. I quote loosely there, but that was the general gist of the conversation.
So there in lies one of the central themes of this whole project, can indoor lessons be an effective way to improve your golf swing? Thinking about this made me realize that there are likely thousands of golf instructional facilities that teach completely indoors. This brought a few questions to mind:
- What if someone really can’t learn a golf swing by hitting into an indoor net?
- Are these facilities and instructors just farming money from desperate golfers?
- Should a golfer just save the lesson money until outdoor lessons are feasible?
- Can quality golf professionals overcome the limitations of an indoor environment and deliver a quality instructional program?
- Do some of the components of an indoor program, such as FlightScope units and video analysis, actually allow golf professionals to address aspects of the swing more effectively indoors than outdoors?
Armed with these questions, and more than a bit of curiosity, I went out to find a local indoor teaching facility.
So is Curiosity About Winter Lessons Your Only Motivation?
In the spirit of full disclosure, I will have to answer that question with a no. Although curiosity and wanting to provide information about the lessons for the readers of MyGolfSpy are drives for this project, the main drive is my nearly all consuming desire to play better golf. Those of you who read my Pebble Project series last summer have a reference point for my desire to improve. How many high-handicap, amateur golfers would be willing to publish every scorecard for other golfers to see and critique? I think that I improved greatly over the course of that project and I felt very satisfied as I reflected upon my play after the round at Edgewood Tahoe last summer. Progress was made in my game.
The thing that I have come to realize over the past couple of months though is that the progress I made last summer is not enough. I always sort of figured that bogey golf would be satisfying and sufficient. It is not. Maybe if I were playing true bogeys-only golf it would be different. My bogey golf consists of bogeys, but also double bogeys and pars. There are low rounds where I get into runs of pars, and high rounds where doubles would be welcome. Inconsistency in the constant. There is a thought in my head that says if I can shoot two or three pars per round, why can’t I shoot more? I want to be better and I am unwilling to accept that the swing I have now is the swing that I will have to play with for the rest of my life. I am motivated to improve, and you can rest assured that everything that I report back to you in this series will be coming from the perspective of the motivated student.
So What’s the Plan Dave?
Last summer I ran into someone that I went to high school with, Bobby Siravo. This is relevant because in addition to being a fellow alum, Bobby is also a former tour player who owns a golf shop, iFit Golf in Folsom, CA. Bobby’s shop seemed like the ideal setting for this project as it contains everything that you would find in an on course shop, excellent club selection, a putting green, club repair, clothing, footwear, and so on, minus an attached driving range or golf course. Lessons and fittings at iFit Golf are accomplished indoors in two Callaway Performance Studio hitting bays. I bet that iFit Golf looks quite a bit like the shops that you can find near you, thus making it perfect for this project.
After agreeing to participate in this project, Bobby introduced me to Kevin Estrella, the director of instruction at iFit Golf. As you can see from his website, Kevin has vast experience as a player and as an instructor who has been trained in the methodology of the Titleist Performance Institute and is an authorized instructor for The Golfing Machine. I found one of the statements on Kevin’s website to be very intriguing,
“As a certified golf fitness instructor Kevin will help you understand how your body affects your golf swing in order to help you find your most efficient swing- one that produces consistent, desired results”.
As many of you are aware, I came to the game of golf later in life than some, picking up the game at thirty-nine. My long-term goal is to play golf well into my senior years. I’m very interested to see what kind of swing Kevin can get my forty-two-year-old body to produce.
The Scope of the Project
Over the next few months, Kevin Estrella and I will be working together to:
- Assess my current golf swing
- Assess my current physical strength and flexibility
- Develop a plan to improve any areas of physical concern that could be affecting the swing.
- And finally, to develop my “most efficient swing- one that produces consistent, desired results”
I will be reporting my progress and lesson details on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, depending upon the specifics of the lessons. I will also be posting all scorecards like I did last summer during the Pebble Project.
In addition, there are a couple of new features that I think will make this project even bigger and more interesting to follow than the Pebble Project. First, I am going to include as much video as possible. Not really all that excited about this aspect, but video is a major component of most indoor lesson strategies. In addition to video, Kevin also will be using a launch monitor and simulator to track my launch conditions (i.e. ball speed, spin rates, launch angle, and shot dispersion). Also, through the use of a 3-dimensional motion capturing system called the K-vest we will be able to measure my swing efficiency via the kinematic sequence and use visual and auditory biofeedback to train and improve every aspect of my golf swing including set up, backswing, top, downswing, and impact. All of these feedback mechanisms will give you a concrete reference for how my swing is changing and improving (fingers crossed).
Secondly, we are also enlisting the assistance of a physical therapist, Greg Parry, to help with my strength and flexibility assessment and to help me get into my best golf shape. I don’t remember reading about another lesson program that has included this aspect. Greg is an excellent golfer and Titleist Performance Institute trained as well.
Another interesting addition will be that the other parties involved in the project, Kevin, Greg, and Bobby will also be adding commentary to the articles. I promise not to edit what they bring in any way so you can see what is happening from the different perspectives. I am looking forward to reading these sections perhaps even more than you are…
Finally, while my motivation for the project is to play better, Callaway Golf has generously volunteered to add some additional incentive for me to improve. Callaway Golf has committed to donate one junior set of golf clubs to the First Tee of Sacramento for each handicap point that I drop between now and the end of the Sunday round of the Master’s tournament in April. If I can improve, some young golfers will get brand new clubs. This is a huge motivation factor for me. I don’t want to let down those kids…
Coming Next: Initial Assessments
Next week, I will be posting the details about the initial assessments of my swing and physical condition. It may be ugly, but it will give us a place to move forward from. Until then, you can find out more about the people involved in the project by following these links:
Bobby Siravo, Owner of iFit Golf in Folsom, CA (LINK)
Kevin Estrella, Director of Instruction at iFit Golf and Kevin Estrella Golf (LINK)
Greg Parry, Owner and Physical Therapist at Parry Physical Therapy and Athletic Enhancement, Inc. (LINK)
As always, I welcome your comments and questions. Both directed toward me and also toward the other participants in the project. I can’t wait to hear what you think as this project progresses along. See you next week!