Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Information Overload, Why Cause and Effect by itself isn't enough: A lesson from Jason Dufner

Here is a lesson from Jason Dufner's career that applies to every player.  I love the story about Jason and golf coach Chuck Cook, who was one of my golf mentors. Chuck took a 32-year-old PGA Tour player who was 650th in the world rankings, and in four years helped make him a PGA Champion.  Is there something you can learn from what Jason Dufner and Chuck Cook have done and apply it tour your own golf game? 

A little background.

Chuck Cook started out as a golf mentor of mine and in 1989 I asked Chuck if I could watch him teach. He graciously agreed.  I knew I wanted to learn from one of the best. I was fortunate to be living in Austin, Texas, an area with such great instructors such as Chuck, Mike Adams and Dave Pelz.

One of the things I loved about Chuck was his approach to teaching something as complex as the golf swing and communicating it simply. I was happy to watch him teach at every level, from him working with amateur golfers to his University of Texas players to PGA Tour players such as Tom Kite. Years later, it was just as rewarding to be able to work with him on my short game when I was an LPGA Tour player, especially since the odds of making it on a major tour is 1 in 7 million.  I continued to work on and develop the skills Chuck taught me until I owned them. I saw a dramatic change with such simple concepts, concepts that held up under the rigors of playing at the highest level on the LPGA Tour and quickly improved my scores. I teach with his concepts even today.

Back to Jason Dufner and Chuck Cook.   According to Alan Shipnuck's interview with Dufner, they started working together and Dufner had a shut club face and other compensating moves.   During the 2008 season, Jason and Chuck Cook worked on making his swing more repeatable. They continually work on the plan they have made for his game.
Jason described that year. "It wasn't always easy," Dufner said. He recalls taking 17 penalty strokes in one tournament, the Mayakoba Classic. That year, Jason Dufner finished 184th on the money list and said, "I've always understood it's a progression."  Even with all those penalty strokes they didn't abandon the plan they had put in place.

Chuck and Dufner knew how to stick to the plan, to make the progressions that were necessary. There are no magic bullets or Chuck would have given them to him. By 2009, Dufner felt as if he finally owned his swing, and he spiked to 33rd on the money list. Now that he had done the work on his swing and felt like he had practiced it enough to own it, he was able to proceed with the next step of their plan.  They spent the next year focusing on improving his wedges and then in 2011 they worked on his putting.

Would you have been faithful to the plan after 17 penalty strokes? 

Most people would have tried to change something immediately and gone in a different direction.  Most amateurs want a quick fix, but the funny thing is it's taking them longer to get rid of the problem than if they would have addressed it and continued to work on it, like Jason did in the first place. You can't think you are going to find the magic solution in one lesson and be able to take it to the golf course.  Just being able to identify cause and effect (what you are doing wrong and why) in your swing doesn't mean your problems are solved and that alone is going to change how you score. 

The best players in the world don't do that. Instead, they find a coach to look at their entire game and make sure they are improving the things that cost them the most strokes. Tour players continually refine their games and test it under playing conditions, don't you think that plan also makes sense for players who don't have their skill level?  Why would you be able to do it in two lessons when even the best players in the world know it doesn't work that way?  Your playing goals are unique to you, what you want to accomplish in your game and how much time you have. It could be as simple as developing one skill to take off the 4 strokes you are looking for.  It's actually a lot easier for an high handicapper to cut down strokes than a top player to shave a half a stroke on their game.

Have you really looked into your scores to see where you lose strokes and know exactly what to fix and how to drive your practice, or is it a guess?

Have you been bombarded and overloaded with information about your swing and did it change your score? Do you have a million swing thoughts and change them every day searching for the magic move? What if your biggest weakness is a simple problem? Did you really need to revamp your entire golf swing?  Instead of revamping your swing when that might not be the problem, doesn't it make sense to keep what works and correct your scoring issues?

Which of the seven golf skills have you fully learned and do you own? Here's an example of a typical scenario. Let's say this player has a slice that really is manageable, he doesn't have too many wasted shots with the slice, but just doesn't like it.  However, every time he chips it ends up costing him a shot because it's his weakest link.  When he goes to analyze his scores and realizes he is only hitting 6 greens a round and has to chip 12 times, did that slice he is standing on the range trying to correct help improve those 12 shots he lost when he played his last round?  Upgrading that chip is a quick solution with impact on his score.

By Jason and Chuck improving all the parts of his game to produce better statistics especially in his weak areas, this is what led Jason to win the PGA Championship. This is the essence of how the best coaches and players in the world make a plan for improvement.  That's also what I did when I was on the LPGA Tour and when I went to see Chuck for my short game. This is the essence of Tour Tested Golf Coaching, I want to save you time and frustration by giving you the truths that I know because I lived them.  I know what it takes to become skilled and to improve your scores.  If you fully learn and follow through with a plan for the weaknesses in your game like Jason and Chuck did, you might be able to make up for the time you have wasted creating a swing full of quick fixes. This plan will help you develop all your skills, keep what works, and improve the issues that cost you the most strokes and see the plan through like Jason Dufner. This is the right way to get out of the quick fix mentality and build a game that produces long term lower scores for every level of player.