Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Follow Woodland's path to golf improvement

 (Gary Woodland / Getty)

The following is an article by Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction at PGA Tour Academies.

One of the things that will happen at the beginning of every year for a lot of professional golfers is this: They sit down with their coach and look at last year's stats. At that time, the coach and player go through a full evaluation of the player's game, identifying strengths and weaknesses. At the end of the 2009 season, when he was coming off shoulder surgery, Gary Woodland and his coach, Randy Smith, sat down and outlined a game plan for improvement.

Improvement is what we all want as golfers, as I have never met a student at our multiple TOUR Academies across the country that didn't want to improve. But improvement can be difficult for many reasons, as there are certain barriers we all have to overcome in our day-to-day lives. However, improvement can be had by all if we are willing to do the things necessary.

One of the first steps to improvement is to take a page from Gary Woodland and evaluate your game. Some of you may have an instructor you currently work with, but statistics tell us that most of you don't. With the golf season now right around the corner, I encourage all of you to go back over last year's rounds and write down what you feel were your strengths and weaknesses. Next, take this data and find an instructor that can help you with a plan to get more out of your game. This doesn't mean you have to take one lesson every week or two. Simply narrow your thoughts on what it is you are trying to do to improve your game.

The quickest way to improve is to address your weaknesses. For Gary, this year one of the main areas of focus with Randy Smith was improving his short game -- in particular, putting. Over the years, Gary has been one of the longest hitters on the PGA TOUR. This year, he is currently ranked eighth on the PGA TOUR in Driving Distance at 299.5 yards. However, Gary hasn't always been able to capitalize on his length by making enough putts.

In 2009, Woodland was ranked 174th in Putting Average and 178th in Putts per Round. In 2010, 2010 he was ranked 119th and 121st respectively. So far in 2011, Woodland has jumped to 11th in Putting Average and 92nd in Putts per Round. Big improvement with the flatstick was never m ore important than in last week's game plan on the difficult Copperhead Course in the Transitions Championship.
What's important to take away here is not only the importance of an honest evaluation on one's golf game, but also a clear game plan that is agreed upon by the instructor and student that has both parties moving in the same direction. This agreement is critical, as results can sometimes take some time; for example, Woodland is finally now starting to see these results some 18 months later.

So my question to you is: What are your strengths and weaknesses? For some of you, it might be ball-striking, whether it's not enough distance off the tee, not hitting enough fairways and greens or maybe it's both where you are just very inconsistent with all clubs. Others it might be short game, not getting up-and-down enough, three-putts, bad bunker play, etc. Whatever it is, I encourage you to identify these areas at the very least and hopefully begin to work on plan that will help you turn your weaknesses into strengths -- just like Gary Woodland has done in 2011.

The 20th Hole: Stat Book and Log for Golfers is designed to help players track their stats, identify strengths and weaknesses, keep notes from practice sessions and lessons, track records, and more.