Monday morning swing coach: How can a team format help your game?

May 1, 2017

Every Monday, we tap GOLF’s Top 100 Teachers in America for their insights on what went down between the ropes over the weekend on the major tours, and more importantly, how you can use this information to improve your own game. Call it trickle-down tips—learn from the best to play your best.

1. The new Zurich Classic team format was a fun departure from the usual 72-hole stroke play status quo. Foursomes is a format we don’t often see—or play—in the States. Make a case for why a more frequent foursomes game with your buddies can make you a better player.

Dave Phillips, Titleist Performance Institute, @mytpidave: Feedback: the biggest difference between tour players and amatuers. Tour players constantly get feedback from their coaches that travel to tour events and watch them play as well as their caddies’. The best thing about playing a team format is you can have your partner give you feedback about your game after you play. It also makes you want to focus and play better for your partner. That’s why you see so many incredible shots in team play. 

Mitchell Spearman, Mitchell Spearman Golf Academy, @MSpearmangolf: Foursomes is a popular at some of the old crusty clubs in the UK. You get around more quickly and will feel a pressure on each shot, more than playing individual golf. I highly recommend it for times when the weather isn’t ideal to be out there too long.

Chuck Evans, Chuck Evans Golf, @ChuckEvans: Alternate shot can be a friend maker or a friend breaker! If your partner isn’t very good, you’ll have a lot of “creative” shots—kind of like playing “worst ball!”  That being said, your focus, technique, and shot-making ability will improve in this format.

2. One of the aspects of fourball that makes it so much fun is the opportunity it gives you to go for the green on a reachable par 4 or par 5, or give a long putt a good run when you would usually play more conservatively. When you’re playing individual stroke play, how do you decide when to go for something and when to play it safe?

Spearman: Fourball is fun, as usually the steady player goes first, hence freeing up the more aggressive player. In individual stroke play, it’s much more about building the process of the round, being patient and putting yourself into contention. The only time you might break that style of play is if the cost of going for it will greatly affect the outcome, from making the cut to a top 10 finish or a win. Usually this is a one-shot situation like going for it on par 5 or trying to drive a short par 4 or attack a pin that’s tucked on a par 3.

Evans: In stroke play, your ability ultimately drives your decision. Or, another case would be how you’re feeling that day. Did your warm up go well on the range or just so-so? Let that be a determining factor.

Phillips: During individual stroke play, the decision you make should be based on how your feeling and what your best shot is. 

V.J. Trolio, Trolio Golf, @VTROLIO: During individual stroke play, you make decisions based on aggressive swings to conservative targets. Scott Fawcett’s “DECADE” system is great too!

3. During the Zurich Classic’s first round, Miguel Angel Carballo and Brian Campbell were given the first slow play penalty on the PGA Tour in 22 years. For recreational players, slow play is a big issue. What’s the most common problem you’ve witnessed on the course, and how can it be remedied to speed up play?

Evans: High handicappers trying to play like the pros. Touring pros take a lot of time, and rightfully so, they’re playing for big money! The average golfer would be better off to make their decision, make a practice swing, then hit it!

Spearman: I think the slow play issue has been looked at from the wrong perspective. Golfers that are playing public courses want to get their money’s worth. They have no intention of rushing around the links, and they want to enjoy every shot, every hole. They didn’t pay to be pushed around the course. (Just go to Pebble Beach to see this.) Now on the other hand, at private golf clubs, a slower player quickly gains a bad reputation as the guy you don’t want to play with or behind. In this situation it’s up to the Director of Golf to reach out to him or her and help them move along quicker,  or take them out and show them how to be ready to play. Usually educating a golfer as to what they need to do to speed up by a well-meaning professional can help. I know a Director of Golf that send out letters to their members if their rounds are so long, and they offer them their time to help them but make it clear that another poor time will unfortunately mean temporarily losing their club privileges. 

Trolio: We just need enforcement at every level by players, PGA professionals, and tournament directors. Junior, collegiate, amateur and professional. College golf needs the most “speeding up.”

Phillips: The most common slow play problem is not being ready to hit when it’s your turn. There are also too many tee boxes! There should be one for regular play, one for ladies and a tournament-only tee box. This is common in Scotland, and you can play golf in under three hours there, no problem.