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January 29 2013

4:15 PM

Tip from Travis: Woods back on top

(Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)

You know sometimes, I think we are too critical when judging the performance of certain athletes. Tiger Woods is one of those guys that, not too long ago, was playing at a level that we have never seen before. Since that time, a lot has happened to Tiger, both on and off the course. He's revamped his swing three times, leading to much discussion and critique.

No matter who you are in this game, when changes take place in the golf swing, it takes a lot of time for them to develop and show up on the golf course. Tiger and his swing coach – Sean Foley have done a terrific job of laying out a plan to get Tiger’s distance and accuracy back in the full swing. This week at Torrey Pines, Tiger ranked first in Total Driving, which is very bad news for the rest of the field.

Tiger’s athletic ability to swing a golf club is something that most of all us can’t relate to. We can’t turn like Tiger during the backswing, create separation like Tiger on the downswing, and et cetera. However, what we can do is learn from his approach to getting better. Throughout Tiger’s career, his approach to getting better at the game of golf is second to none.

Here's a few things to apply to this approach.

1. The first step to getting better at golf is to understand what you need to do to get better. In order to do this, an evaluation of your game needs to take place with video and ball flight data. From here, the instructor’s job is to lay out a plan with good information -- in the right order -- to specifically address these needs.

2. Once the new concepts are identified, then the golfer needs to go to work with repetition learning how these new skills are changing ball flight. Ideally, this is to be done with some supervision so you don’t get off track. Self-discovery from the student is paramount during this time, leading to ownership of the new skills.

3. As the new skill set is coming along, it’s then critical to transfer these things to the golf course. This can be the most difficult step, and it's easier to achieve with a well-defined practice plan that has the same variables and interference as the golf course; for example, consequences, competition, people watching, weather, etc. This step -- more than the previous two -- is why Tiger has been successful with three different golf swings.

4. Finally, the new skills are ready to show up on the golf course. At this time, confidence has grown, and you should be able to be more instinctive on the golf course with the new skills. Once you feel the new skills are automated, you can then begin to work on developing the next set of skills.

The reality is, you can’t rush this process. It takes discipline, reps and time to develop new skills, so let’s all get to work.

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