In my journey to get better there’s been a lot of self-examination. Am I good under pressure? Am I managing the course well? Is my swing solid? What do I need to work on?
Self-examination is great, but let’s face it: I’m biased. Not intentionally of course, but I do have a point of view, and reality and perception can be quite different.
Which is why my recent session with Brian Rogish was so enlightening. Rogish is the owner and lead instructor of the Golf Academy at Crystal Springs Resort. A Tri-State PGA section teacher of the year who has worked at Turning Stone Resort in New York and Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in southwestern Pennsylvania, Rogish has a different approach than many resort teachers. Knowing he only has you there for a short time, he tries to send his students on their way with a game plan for improvement. One, hopefully, that can be used with your home instructor, if have one.
One thing he offers that’s really innovative is something called the TrackMan Combine, which is a standardized test that measures how well or poorly you hit certain shots. You get three shots each from 10 distances (yardages are 60,70, 80, 90, 100, 120, 140, 160, 180 and driver), and then they’re measured using TrackMan and scored on a scale from 0-100 based on how close they come to your target. The test is repeated and combined with the first test for more accurate results. In the end you have a picture of what you’re good at and what needs work. (What club you hit into these distances doesn’t matter, by the way. In fact, it’s a test that shows how well you adjust to wind and other factors.)
Not surprisingly, I found out that my strengths and shortcomings weren’t exactly what I thought. I did confirm however that driver, especially after I got mine custom fit recently, is fairly consistent. But my most accurate shots didn’t come from 60-yard shots like I thought, but rather 90 yards. Combine Test for Mike Bailey 2016-05-25
The reason that’s important is because it shows, among other strategy gaffes, that I haven’t been playing par 5s correctly. And that’s where I should be able to score. My old philosophy was to get the ball as close as possible in two, perhaps even hitting them in two on occasion. But the Combine data showed I should be laying up to 90 yards whenever possible because I’m fairly consistent with a full lob wedge.
After our session I confirmed that strategy. In my next round of golf I laid up to that position on three of the four par fives, while going for one of them in two. The result was three birdies and a par. I got up and down from 90 yards twice, and was just off the green for the third birdie. But that’s just half the story. By hitting layups on my second shot for three of those holes, I took the big numbers out of play. Two tournaments ago, when trying to get as close as possible in two on a dogleg right par 5, I wound up hitting a hybrid straight through the fairway and OB and made triple bogey.
The difference between par there (not mention the birdie possibility) and triple bogey, was the difference between a sixth-place finish in my flight (Senior Palmer) and third, which means I missed out on some valuable points in my quest to qualify for nationals.
The test also showed I wasn’t nearly accurate enough from 160 and 180 yards or so, which tells me where I need work. In the test, I consistently missed those shots to the left, which led Brian to suggest I work on a hold-off shot. I really don’t have that shot right now, at least not in competition.
Already, I think having this knowledge has been helpful. Since the Combine test, my scores in casual rounds have been about three strokes lower on average. If that holds true on the Golf Channel Am Tour, there might be hope for me after all.