June 17, 2016 - 1:45pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Rob Labritz
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We all know about practicing on the driving range, but what about practicing on the course? PGA Professional Rob Labritz has some fantastic on-course practice methods to help you lower scores.

The definition of golf is to get the ball in the hole in the least number of shots possible. To that end, you have 14 tools (clubs) at your disposal.

This latest bit of advice from PGA Professional Rob Labritz is going to dial you in to each one of those tools and help you understand that each one of your clubs is like an adjustable wrench -- it's not meant for just one type of shot, but multiple shots from a variety of distances with a variety of trajectories.

So, how do you accomplish that? For this practice, Labritz says you'll need to move away from the driving range, chipping area and practice green and over to the course itself.

Have you ever heard a PGA Professional say, "don't hit balls, hit shots?" That's the purpose of this.

RELATED: How to break 100 | 90 | 80 | 70 | Getting out of the rough

"I want you to go out and play a round with just 2-3 clubs, including your putter, and play from the forward tees," Labritz said. "You can use whichever three you'd like, but for those trying this for the first time, I would recommend a mid-to-long iron, a wedge and a putter. You're going to play all 18 holes with just those three clubs. The less clubs you carry, the more creative you'll get forced to be."

The point of this, Labrtiz explained, is to help you learn how to manufacture golf shots.

"It takes away that idea of, 'I have to hit this club from this distance,' and brings in your ball-striking skills and shot-making ability," he said. "Let's say one of your three clubs is an 8-iron, a club you maybe typically hit 140 yards. But, you're 100 yards away. You're going to have to work on how to hit that 8-iron from 100 yards while controlling the distance you want it to travel, the trajectory and the amount of roll out it has once it hits the ground."

Don't get frustrated. When you start out, it's almost a sure thing you're not going to hit it exactly as you'd like. That's why it's called, "practice."

If there is just one thing to focus on with each of these shots, however, Labritz says it's to pay attention to holding your finish. You know when you see your favorite Tour player holding the pose at the end of a gorgeous swing? Yeah, they're not just doing that for the cameras.

"Holding your finish does a couple of things," Labritz said. "One, it provides you a good look at your shot and allows your brain to accept the shot -- good or bad. You're not learning anything when you give up on the finish. Holding that finish teaches you just as much what to do as what not to do. And two, if you're holding that finish it means you're in balance -- in balance at address, at impact and then the finish."

Also with this drill, you're going to teach yourself how far you can hit a shot with a certain club with a 1/4 swings, 1/2 swings and 3/4 swings. Imagine how much easier that will make it for you the next time you play a round with all your clubs.

How nice will it be when you're faced with that 140-yard shot with an 8-iron, but there's a tree branch in the way and then you realize, "hey, I can hit my 6-iron 140 yards and much lower, so that branch won't even be a factor?"

"At that point," Labritz said, "you're dialed in."

Along with creativity, shot-making and ball-striking, there's one more valuable lesson this on-course practice is going to teach you, which is most important of all.

"It makes your brain think more about how to play the golf course than about executing a golf swing," Labritz said. "At the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to play the course in the least amount of shots possible."

Rob Labritz, who has played in four PGA Championships (he was low-Club Professional in 2010 at Whistling Straits), is currently the Director of Golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in BedFord Hills, N.Y. He was also the PGA Met Section Player of the Year in 2008 and 2013, as well as the Westchester Golf Association's Player of the Year in 2002, 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2015. You can learn more about Labritz at www.RobLabritz.com and you can follow him on Twitter, @Rlabritz.  

Golf tips: How to practice on the golf course
May 12, 2016 - 10:17am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Rob Labritz
USA Today Sports Images
Trying to beat those milestone scores like 100, 90, 80 and 70? In the final piece of this four-part series, PGA Professional Rob Labritz offers up some great advice that's sure to make you a better player. For this week, Labritz focuses on those trying to break 70.

Now that you’ve mastered all the prerequisites for breaking 100, 90 and 80 – working from the green backwards – you might be wondering: what is it that I have to do to break 70?

Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. PGA Professional Rob Labritz is a guy who breaks 70 often. The key, he says, is putting in an immense amount of time at your game, honing all those skills it took to break those other milestone scores.

“It might not be as simple as it sounds, but you have to eliminate every mistake you might typically make,” Labritz said. “A perfect round – in golf terms – would mean you hit every fairway, hit every green and take two putts. Eighteen pars. On most courses, that’s a 72. With that mindset, now you have to figure out where you can attack the course to break 70.”

RELATED: Advice for breaking 100 | Advice for breaking 90 | Advice for breaking 80

It’s not as simple as walking to the first tee and sticking the peg in the ground. Just like anything else you desire to be great at, it requires some homework. For Labritz, that means studying the golf course and examining the scorecard.

“Here’s what you do to break 70,” Labritz said, “it starts with birdieing all of the par 5s. The par 5s are giving you an extra shot. If you’re an above average driver, birdieing all the par 5s is a must. See how long the par 5s are and ask yourself: can I reach the green in two? If the answer is ‘no’ then ask yourself: where do I have to positon myself to have the most comfortable wedge shot possible to get close in three?”

With the birdie mindset on the par 5s, Labritz said you have to shift to a par mindset for the par 3s. With ball in hand (on the tee), Labritz said, you should be able to do that.

Now, here comes the wildcard: The par 4s.

“The par 4s are funky,” Labritz said. “You birdie the par 5s, par the par 3s and then you pick your spots on the par 4s. Some you can attack. You have to approach it like this – if you have a wedge in your hand on a par 4, it’s a birdie club. You should get it close. When you break down the par 4s, see where you can attack with the driver. Then there are holes you won’t hit driver on. In those spots, put yourself in the most comfortable positon off the tee for your scoring shots. Pick a number you feel most comfortable with and make sure you’re setting yourself up with those clubs.”

If you’re breaking 70, Labritz explained, it’s because you’re managing your game around the course.

“It’s about breaking down the course to suit your game to where you feel comfortable,” he said. “You also have to know where not to hit shots. There are no-zones where you definitely don’t want to be in those areas because making par is a hard ask. Stay away from OB and the hazards. If you’re hitting in those spots you need to make a lot of birdies. And, it probably goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway – you’re going to need to make a lot of putts.”

If you’re like most people, chances are you freak out a little bit when you’re on the cusp of breaking a “milestone score.” You know the feeling. You’re standing on the 18th tee, sniffing the round of your life. Suddenly, your palms get sweaty, you start thinking ahead, you leave “the moment” and 10 minutes later you’re bummed out because of a disaster finish when you were oh-so-close.

Labritz has a sure-fire plan to get you comfortable with shooting low scores.

“When you’re practicing, play a bunch of rounds from the forward tees, and for women, play from where the fairway starts,” he said. “Instead of playing from your normal 7,000 yards for men, get in the 5,800-yard range. And less than that for women. Two things will happen here. One, you won’t be hoping to shoot a low score – you’ll expect to shoot a low score. And two, you’re going to get a lot of work on your scoring clubs. You get a sense of playing pretty far under par and how to score. See how low you can shoot. Several rounds under par later following this advice, you’re going to build a confidence when it’s time to move back.”

That, Labritz said, is how he got comfortable shooting low scores – something he had to get comfortable with if he was to have any success on the mini-tours he was playing, where guys were shooting 7- or 8-under par every day.

“Doing that helped me a bunch,” he said. “People can freak out. We get diluted and think about the future too much. When you’re a better player, your score correlates with your preparation, of course, but also your mindset and attitude.”

Rob Labritz, who has played in four PGA Championships (he was low-Club Professional in 2010 at Whistling Straits), is currently the Director of Golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in BedFord Hills, N.Y. He was also the PGA Met Section Player of the Year in 2008 and 2013, as well as the Westchester Golf Association's Player of the Year in 2002, 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2015. You can learn more about Labritz at www.RobLabritz.com and you can follow him on Twitter, @Rlabritz.  

Best advice for breaking 70 from PGA Professional Rob Labritz
May 10, 2016 - 1:03pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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GolfTEC
GolfTEC
Thanks to what’s being dubbed, “the most fact-based analysis of the golf swing ever conducted” – the SwingTRU Motion Study – there’s a sophisticated new way to quickly identify and diagnose the flaws in your swing, while also putting in a quick, long-term fix.

CRANSTON, R.I. -- It’s a pretty safe bet that you can’t fix what you can’t see. That’s especially true when it comes to the golf swing.

Thanks to what’s being dubbed, “the most fact-based analysis of the golf swing ever conducted” – the SwingTRU Motion Study – there’s a sophisticated new way to quickly identify and diagnose the flaws in your swing, while also putting in a quick, long-term fix.

The study identifies specific body positions within the swing, such as shoulder and hip rotation, that directly correlate to handicap level and play a key role in improving distance, accuracy and consistent contact.

And the best part of it all? You need only visit your local GolfTEC for a visit with one of its knowledgeable PGA Professionals to go through the evaluation.

I recently took a trip to GolfTEC’s Cranston, R.I., location to meet with facility’s PGA Director of Instruction, Nick Siudela.

After spending roughly 20 minutes talking about the strengths and weaknesses of my game and reviewing a questionnaire I filled in prior to the visit, Siudela placed me in a hitting bay and put a motion harness over my shoulders and around my waist (think something similar to a hiker’s backpack).

Following roughly 10 shots, Siudela put up a split screen video. The left side featured my swing. The right side featured the swing of PGA Tour winner Hunter Mahan. Using super-slow motion video analysis, Siudela was able to pinpoint my flaws – something you can’t always see with the naked eye.

As Siudela broke down the video, he was also able to add video instruction drills to a “virtual locker” for me to access on the GolfTEC website. It’s particularly helpful with a smartphone to be able to few the drills while you practice them on a driving range.

“Technology has come super far even in just the last eight years,” Siudela said. “As an experienced instructor teaching outside without video – I can tell you this: The naked eye sees very little. All these philosophies that we were built on – open the toe on the backswing and shut the toe on the downswing – that was taught because we thought that was right. Now we have video proof that that’s not what the best players in the world actually do.”

And if you think you’re not a good enough player to go through this type of evaluation, you may want to reconsider. If you truly want to become a better player, it’s more likely you’re not a good enough player to not try something like this.

“Visually, you just learn so much faster,” Siudela said. “That’s why I think you see so many first-time winners on Tour these days. They grew up with all these tools – video, sensors, ball flight measuring equipment. It makes learning and improving so much easier and these tools are now at the disposal of anyone who plays the game, no just the pros. I’ve had guys who pick up a club for the first time two weeks before they come here. They want to learn how to play. Within a year, they’re breaking 80. It’s not because I’m some fantastic instructor. I know my stuff, but it’s the visual – everything makes more sense when you can see it.”

So what does the SwingTRU Motion Study prove?

“Until now, there really hadn’t been a correlation between handicap/someone’s ability level in relationship to how their golf swing is, or how it performs,” Siudela said. “You can see guys with scrappy golf swings and they can still shoot good scores. Those are the outliers. But, with the data we have access to – such as shoulder bend, or hip sway at impact – and how those correlate with the level of play is kind of how we got to all this data in the SwingTRU Motion Study.”

Siudela said for the study, video of over 13,000 clients was used along with more than 645,000 motion measurements.

“That’s significant data that we were able to correlate with handicap level to what their [motion] numbers were showing,” he said. “When you’re working in the bay and we can show you these numbers, you just experienced for yourself how quickly and easily it is to make a change.”

For the lay person, don’t be scared by the numbers that come with the measurements. That’s for instructors like Siudela to worry about. Those numbers are broken down and easily explained to the student.

“We all teach differently,” Siudela said. “These numbers are a guideline for us. The numbers we see are ranged. There are Tour players who have been able to make it work with funky golf swings. There’s no cookie-cutter golf swing by any means. We’re not here to teach people to do that. All these numbers are a guideline to help students improve certain body movement function. It’s to get everything to feel more connected, which, in turn, will help you to better performance on the course.”

Utilizing the swing evaluation, GolfTEC says it has seen a 96 percent success rate among students, who drop an average of seven strokes from their scores. Imagine subtracting seven strokes from your scorecard?

For more information, visit www.golftec.com to find a facility near you, or call 877-446-5383.  

 

What I learned trying GolfTEC's new SwingTru Motion Study
May 5, 2016 - 11:03am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Rob Labritz
USA Today Sports Images
Trying to beat those milestone scores like 100, 90, 80 and 70? In the third of this four-part series, PGA Professional Rob Labritz offers up some great advice that's sure to make you a better player. For this week, Labritz focuses on those trying to break 80.

In this week’s “best advice” column with PGA Professional Rob Labritz, we’re turning our eyes to the better players out there who are on the cusp of a single-digit handicap – the ones looking to break “80” on a consistent basis.

Even if your game fits into this category, you’re going to want to go back and touch up on the tips for breaking “100” and breaking “90.” After all, Labritz’s entire theory of becoming a better player starts at the green and working your way backwards to the tee.

So, provided you’ve gotten yourself comfortable with the short game inside of 100 yards, this is the piece for you.

How the heck can you break 80?

RELATED: Advice for breaking 100 | Advice for breaking 90 | Instruction videos

Labritz chalks it up to just two things: iron control and driver control.

It may seem simple, but there’s some “charting” that goes into it – and that starts with the irons.

“There are a few things I use,” said Labritz, fresh off a win in the MasterCard Westchester PGA Championship on Thursday. “First, you want to get access to some type of measuring device. If you can use something like Trackman, or another type of launch monitor, or even the Game Golf device, that’s a great place to start. The thing is, you want to learn how far your ball travels with each iron.”

Once you figure that out, Labritz said, it eliminates the guesswork.

“Play a couple of rounds, or spend time on the range just dialing in the distances your irons travel,” Labritz said. “And if you don’t have access to what we’ve already covered, a laser rangefinder will work too. Once you’re hitting consistent iron shots, hit the target where the ball is landing with a laser and see how far it’s flying.”

When you get comfortable with that, it’s time to step back to the tee.

“The key to hitting a tee shot has nothing to do with hitting it as far as you can,” Labritz said. “It’s all about positioning. It’s about playing the hole from the green backwards. When you’re on the tee, imagine you’re looking down the fairway from the green and ask yourself, ‘where do I have to hit this tee shot to give myself the best position to get my iron-shot approach into the area of the flag on this green?’”

Like most, you may be programmed to think that with driver in hand, you should take a mighty lash at the ball from the tee. You’re wrong. Over-swinging leads to problems with balance and that’s the reason for your wayward tee shots.

Labritz has a simple fix for that.

“One driver drill I love is to take a full swing at half speed on the driving range,” he said. “Give yourself a pretend fairway between two targets. Using full motion, only swing half speed. Two things will happen when you do this. First, you’ll get control of your driver face. And two, you’re quickly going to realize that you don’t have to swing so hard with the driver. Over-swinging makes it hard to hit fairways, which – you guessed it – makes it very difficult to break 80.”

To summarize: having control of your driver and control of your irons – specifically the distances they travel – is going to allow you to properly position yourself off the tee, giving you better access to greens and pin positions. Better players hit more greens in regulation.

“The big problem is that people hit the wrong club for the shot,” Labritz said. “That decreases accuracy and increases scores. If you follow the steps we laid out today, you’re going to develop comfort and balance and that’s going to build confidence, which will result in lower scores.”

Rob Labritz, who has played in four PGA Championships (he was low-Club Professional in 2010 at Whistling Straits), is currently the Director of Golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in BedFord Hills, N.Y. He was also the PGA Met Section Player of the Year in 2008 and 2013, as well as the Westchester Golf Association's Player of the Year in 2002, 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2015. You can learn more about Labritz at www.RobLabritz.com and you can follow him on Twitter, @Rlabritz

Best advice for breaking 80 from PGA Professional Rob Labritz
April 28, 2016 - 10:26am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Rob Labritz
USA Today Sports Images
Trying to beat those milestone scores like 100, 90, 80 and 70? In the second of this four-part series, PGA Professional Rob Labritz offers up some great advice that's sure to make you a better player. For this week, Labritz focuses on those trying to break 90.

It's no secret that if you're going to shoot lower scores on the golf course, it's going to take a commitment to improving your short game.

In last week's "Best advice for breaking 100" piece, PGA Professional Rob Labritz put an emphasis on putting and chip shots.

This week, as we look toward breaking 90, Labritz says we're still going to use that idea of "working from the green backwards to the tee."

"The gist of it is this -- if you're a player struggling to break 90, chances are you're not hitting a lot of greens in regulation," Labritz said. "To make up for that shortcoming, you're going to need to get dialed in from 100 yards and in. If you want to consistently break 90, you need to dedicate time to working on pitch shots from 100 yards and in with all of your wedges -- pitching wedge, gap wedge, sand wedge and lob wedge."

RELATED: Advice for breaking 100 | Short-game instruction videos | Putting videos

With the ball in the middle of your stance, Labritz said to start hitting shots with all your wedges beginning at 30 yards and working yourself up to 100 yards in 10- to 15-yard increments.

"Using all your wedges results in two big positives for your game," he said. "First of all, you're going to develop touch by understanding how long a swing you need to use to reach those distances. Secondly, you're going to give yourself options on these shots."

Those options, Labritz said, relate to two things: trajectory and roll out on the green.

Since a shot with a pitching wedge will have a lower trajectory than one with a lob wedge, it's going to have more roll out on the green.

"You need to tighten up the wedges," Labritz said. "You're going to find out the different trajectories with which you hit each of your wedges and then you're going to see where the ball lands and where it rolls out. You've got to hit these shots from the fairway and the rough since the ball will respond differently from the rough -- it will affect the trajectory. Once you get the hang of all your wedges, you're going to have access to front flags, middle flags and back flags because you'll know how each wedge shot is going to react."

Early in this process of dialing in your wedges, Labritz recommends taking just half swings -- hip-high on the backswing and hip-high on the way through -- from 30, 40 and 50 yards out.

Once that feels comfortable, you can start moving back -- up to 100 yards tops -- and lengthening the swing. This process is designed to also help you build a solid foundation for the full swing, which will come later.

It's also important, Labritz noted, to spend time working on 8- to 10-yard bunker shots.

"Again, it's all about developing feel and getting familiar with how your ball reacts from different types of lies," he said.

The bottom line is this for those of us who want to consistently break 90: get comfortable with your scoring clubs. 

Rob Labritz, who has played in four PGA Championships (he was low-Club Professional in 2010 at Whistling Straits), is currently the Director of Golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in BedFord Hills, N.Y. He was also the PGA Met Section Player of the Year in 2008 and 2013, as well as the Westchester Golf Association's Player of the Year in 2002, 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2015. You can learn more about Labritz at www.RobLabritz.com and you can follow him on Twitter, @Rlabritz.

Best advice for breaking 90 from PGA Professional Rob Labritz