2014 Lessons Learned

LessonsIt’s been repeated many times on this blog and no doubt on several others that the old Albert Einstein adage about the definition of insanity definitely holds true in golf .  If you repeat the same behavior, you’re going to get a similar outcome.  Well, I was not guilty of repeating the same behavior in 2014 but still received essentially the same results as in 2013.

A quick review of  KPIs shows my stroke average dropped from 80.25 to 79.97.  Average GIR improved from 8.15 to 8.47, and putts per round dropped one tenth of a stroke from 32.35 to 32.25.  Amazingly consistent performance considering all the attempts I made at game improvements.  The logical conclusion is that my “game improvements” amounted to mostly WOOD band-aids.  I’m sure others have tried the many improvement route only to bathe in mediocrity.  It’s happened to me before and will probably happen again, so the overall body of work can be summed up as an average year with no surprises.

Three notable lessons were learned which is always a good thing.

Lesson One:  I fell in love with the 9-shot drill early in the season after reading Hank Haney’s The Big Miss.  Only problem was that it was hard to implement and when I finally figured it out, didn’t know what to do with it trying to take it from the range to the course.  Takeaway:  It’s best to not to make significant changes to your ball striking over the winter and focus more on conditioning.  This is the second year in a row I’ve made the same mistake (the previous year it was my pitching technique – aarrrggg!!!)

Lesson Two:  I fell in love with Tour Tempo by John Novosel in the summer and leveraged it to only one really good ball striking round and found it impacted my short game in a very negative way.  Truly a WOOD band-aid that took some skin off on the peel back.  Takeaway:  (and I’m going to partially steal this from Vet’s last couple of excellent posts): Don’t fall in love with a swing thought and think you can repeat it from day to day.

Lesson Three:  In mid summer, because of a job change and new daily routine, I started stopping off at the course for 10-15 minutes of chipping and putting on the way home.  Takeaway:  This worked extremely well in terms of getting a daily fix and feeling current and fresh with all short clubs. . .until the fruit was over-ripened.  Worked great for about a month until I lost interest and had to take a break from the game.  Lesson:  don’t get into too much of a routine.  Mix it up or your concentration will suffer and at worse, you risk burnout.

So there’s your tidbits for 2014.  I’m spending December and January focusing on conditioning and getting healthy.  Hopefully, by mid-February I’ll be ready to rock and roll.  How was your 2014?  Bullish on next year as well?

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About Brian Penn

Avid sports fan and golf nut. I am a lifelong resident of the Washington D.C. area and love to follow the local teams. Also worked as a golf professional in the Middle Atlantic PGA for several years and am intrigued by the game to no end. I love to play and practice and am dedicated to continual improvement.
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20 Responses to 2014 Lessons Learned

  1. Not Bullish, but confident I can improve.

  2. Brian

    I think your self analysis is very good. Most of us feel the same way! However, you did improve in the three categories you mentioned. Not as much as you expected, but you did improve. I do agree with all your points, especially the fitness. I think for us who cannot golf year round that fitness is our best friend! I hope 2015 brings the changes you hope for.

    Cheers
    Jim

  3. Brian Penn says:

    Jim thanks. A lot of those statistics have dependencies that don’t show up in the numbers. For example, I know I improved my lag putting in the second half of the season after an adjustment to my pre-shot routine. You’d never know looking at the numbers, but I’m sure if I was tracking proximity to the hole, that would have been down in the same time frame. Ultimately, if you are completely honest with yourself, you know in your heart whether you improved, stagnated, or went the wrong way.

    Regards,

    Brian

    • Brian, You said a mouthful there! Examining your game with a real view to improve is all about honest with yourself. You are definitely on the right track!

      Cheers
      Jim

      • Brian Penn says:

        Hah, thanks Jim! You know me; it’s all about keeping it real. I’ll never have a problem calling it like I see it with regard to my own game be it good or bad. Thanks for the vote of confidence!

        Brian

  4. Brian,

    Good breakdown of your year. As Jim said, you did improve in the categories you mentioned, so take confidence that you’re headed in the right direction and build off of it. One of my goals for next season is to start keeping better track of stats.

    I’m thrilled to hear you’re focusing on conditioning and getting your body ready. Just curious, do you do anything for mental game conditioning in the off-season?

    Enjoy the off-season, and come back ready and hungry!

    Cheers
    Josh

    • Brian Penn says:

      Josh, I need to be careful with game improvement in the off season. I’m a big fan of reading books and too often pick up something I like technique-wise and try to implement without the ability to game test. Usually it’s an ugly surprise waiting for me in the spring. My off-season mental prep should involve committing to changes in pre-shot routine and course management; that’s it. Read most of the Rotella books and found them very beneficial, especially Putting out of your mind. If you haven’t checked that out you should.

      Regards,

      Brian

      • Brian,

        That’s great. It sounds like you’re in-tune with what does and doesn’t work for you. All of our minds and bodies are different, and what works for one may not be ideal for another. I like reading books too, but try not to get wrapped up in trying EVERYTHING, but rather look for small pieces of the puzzle that appeal to me to try incorporate into my game. I’ll definitely give your recommendation a read.

        Cheers!
        Josh

        • Brian Penn says:

          Josh, it’s probably the one book on the mental game that has had a lasting and positive effect on my game. After reading, it was like a new person had possessed my body the next few rounds out. Really cool when I started banging 6 footers in with confidence. Definitely check it out.

          Brian

        • That’s awesome Brian, I definitely will!

          Thanks
          Josh

  5. svgolfer says:

    Agreed on many fronts especially the routine thing after work and burnout. I think I need to just get out and play more next year instead of trying to be a studio golfer. Love the wood bandaid, might borrow that one myself. Good recap. Here’s to 2015!

    • Brian Penn says:

      SV, play is definitely key. You can’t get enough of it. I found that 9 holes on my short course (usually on Saturday’s) in advance of a main weekend round on Sunday left me with a good feeling of preparation for the main rounds given how little I play. Only managed 34 18-hole rounds all season and you need to maximize your time the best you can.

      Thanks,

      Brian

  6. Brian, nice write up (per usual). I get the feeling that with your desire to get better and your personality for trying new things out have you ever considered an approach to focusing on fundamentals as opposed to a huge sweeping change to your short game, ball striking etc? I am guilty of being a tinkerer as well and realized the biggest areas I have neglected are the simplest ones. Sometimes the biggest gains we can make are not from the huge sweeping fixes, but from going back and solidifying our fundamentals throughout the game.

    Also, quick question. Going into this season did you set an expectation of how much you wanted to improve in all of those categories? You noted that you improved yet you sound like you are disappointed in your improvement. Did you set metrics that you wished to hit? I’m curious from my own perspective since I am going through and setting my own goals for 2015.

    • Brian Penn says:

      Jon; incredible powers of perception on your part. My 2014 targets were to lower stroke average under 79, average 9 GIR per round and reduce putts per round to the 31.5-32.0 range. So while I improved on each metric,I missed on all. Close but no cause for celebration.

      My urge to tinker is born of lack of time to dedicate to the fundamentals and an honest but accurate fundamental assessment from a couple of years ago. My root cause fundamental fault is losing my spine angle on the downswing which was pointed out to me as something that would be very hard to correct given the time I can dedicate to fixing/practicing and that I’ve been working with the same swing for nearly 38 years. I’ve been able to fight it successfully for short bursts, but as you know, the secret to sustained improvement is consistency and the bad habit is just too deeply rooted.

      I will never stop trying though, and have some common sense thoughts about a playing approach for 2015 that I will be test driving as soon as the weather warms a bit. Stay tuned!!!

      Brian

  7. Brian, let’s be honest tinkering with the swing is WAY more fun and engaging then sitting on the range practicing fundamentals. I’m guilty of it too. I like that you had specific targets for all of your categories for your goals. I’ll be staying tuned as always!

  8. Great stuff here. I admire your dedication to stats and improvement. I spend all my time playing and do not devote near enough time to practice.

    • Brian Penn says:

      Given the choice between play or practice, I would favor play most of the time. Ideally you get plenty of both but there is no substitute for game conditions other than game conditions!

      Thanks for the comment!

      Brian

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