Matt Kilgariff, PGA, Director of Player Development at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., says games where scores are kept will provide real data to help quantify students’ practices and help them know when and how it’s paying off.
Ever wonder what areas of the game need to be addressed and improved to provide the greatest gains and lower scores? Every golfer does. Players such as Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau have obviously figured it out. Time and time again, they prove that “the power game,” or speed, are the keys to achieving their greatest gains on the course.
When it comes to increasing power, there are several areas professionals must assess and analyze. The first is strength. In general, it takes great physical capability to swing a club at 100+ mph. This can often be gained through a proper “golf-specific” fitness program. Consider working with a Titleist Performance Institute Fitness Professional. They are well-trained and do an excellent job working with golfers on all physical aspects of their game.
In my personal practice, once I properly screen a student, we typically use Speed Sticks as a tool to gain speed. These help players increase swing speed through a concept called Over Speed Training. This works by reducing the weight of the golf club, therefore allowing the player to create a faster-than-normal golf swing. Every student that completes Speed Stick training with me gains a minimum of 5 mph of clubhead speed, with the average being closer to 10 mph.
Another step includes analyzing a student’s swing to be sure it is firing in the proper kinetic sequence. The best tool for measuring this ground-force reaction is a Swing Catalyst Motion Plate. A proper sequence should have peaks in the following order: horizontal, rotational, vertical. If the sequence is correct, then work can begin to increase certain forces to gain additional speed.
Once we have increased power, the focus can move to creating a better wedge game. I tell my students—especially the juniors—that they must strive to be the best wedge player in the world if they want to have a chance to succeed at a high level.
When it comes to the short game, it helps to create games for students that will quantify their practices and help them know when their practice is paying off. Games where scores are kept will provide real data to help show if and how a player is getting better. “Every Shot Counts,” by Mark Broadie, is a great book with sample games in the back that may provide some inspiration.
Lastly, there’s putting—the most individualized aspect of the game. There are countless setups, grips and strokes. The most important thing is that the golfer is comfortable in the setup.
My favorite tool for working on putting is the Blast Motion. It is a data sensor, placed on the grip end of the putter, that reads 11 parameters and connects wirelessly to a cell phone. The most important parameter is tempo, which is a 2:1 ratio.
The folks at Blast Motion have even taken their studies deeper and have found that the best putters in the world are .60 seconds to .30 seconds, back stroke to impact. I have realized that when I get my students to attain this ratio almost all mechanical errors are alleviated, because they are unable to take the putter back too far, which can often lead to deceleration through impact.
If your players really want to score better, working on wedge shots and putting can provide the quickest paths to lowering a one’s handicap—which is truly the most important data point when it comes to scoring.
Matt Kilgariff is a PGA professional who spent much of his career working for Butch Harmon and the Harmon Family. He is currently the Director of Player Development at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. Prior to joining The Bridges, Kilgariff was Director of Player Development at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. Matt has also been part of TaylorMade’s National Advisory Staff since 2012.