STORY #1 (South Central PGA Match Play Tournament)

First is going to be about my (Tim) tournament last week.

I played in the South Central PGA Match Play Championship last week at Reflection Ridge Golf Course in Wichita, KS. I won the event by winning 5 matches, the last with a 7 and 5 victory. If you haven’t seen the results yet (was actually posted on chatroom before I even saw the article), you can see the article written in the South Central Magazine at:

Thought I’d try and give a little insight to the play and how it can help you when you are in the course and/or getting ready for those important rounds/tournaments.

The tournament ran Monday – Wednesday. On Sunday I went to the club for a practice round (had never played RRGC before). On the first tee I was asked by a few friends (in the tournament) to play with them. I decided on the way up to the course, I’d give myself the best chance in the tournament by having the best possible practice round I could. I politely declined and played as a single behind their group. On each hole I hit a couple of drives (on par 3s played from different parts of the tee box where I thought the tees might be placed) and marked yardage and targets that I wanted to hit at. On par 3s I also marked what club I hit from what yardage and more importantly where the wind was blowing from.

For example, #3 was a 175 yard par 3 slightly down wind. In the practice round I hit a 7 iron to the middle of the green (marked on the card, 7 iron, 10 mph down wind). In other words, if the hole played with no wind or into the wind it would be at least a 6 iron during the tournament. The other thing I did in the practice round was to practice short game shots from as many places around the green as possible. I would hit a shot onto the green, pull the shot off the green and chip or pitch 3 or 4 balls on to the green from many different locations around the green.

I focused on the speed and slopes of the greens, but to be honest, focused more on the rough around the greens, bunkers around the greens and areas you didn’t want to miss shots. By the middle of the back nine I felt I had practiced all the different shots I might have in the upcoming matches (chips, pitches, long pitches, punch and run shots, short, mid and long bunker shots, yardages off the par 3s, targets off the par 4 and par 5 tees, and hit many shots from the rough off the fairways to determine if the ball was flying, or had to punch out..) I tried to have the best practice round I could to give me the most confidence.

One thing want to mention before I go on… the week before the tournament I called the head pro at the course and asked about the rough and speed of the greens. He told me it had rained a lot in the past few weeks and the rough was pretty high (and they weren’t planning on mowing) and the greens were running about a 10 1/2. With this information, I practiced on these type of conditions the week prior to the event.

I went to a course with greens a little faster than my home course and also went to a practice area with some high rough to practice around the green.

In the tournament, I won my first 3 matches 3&2 (against the courses assistant professional), 4&3 (against the courses head professional) and the third match 4&3. In those matches I only made 2 bogies (did miss a few greens each match, but got up and down all by 2 times.. I believe I as 9 for 11 up and down). In my fourth match I played the professional I beat in the finals in 2003. I was 2 up with 4 to play and the sky opened up for a 2 hour rain delay. When we returned, he birdied #15 for the win, then holed out from 60 yards on #16 to win that hole. I went from 2 up with 4 to play, to even with 2 to play. Needless to say, was a bit shook up. I told myself, never say die and went to the 17th tee (double dogleg par 5).

He hit a high cut (too high) off the tee and it plugged in the fairway (from all the rain). I saw his drive and played a low running cut off the tee about 40 yards past his drive. He couldn’t get home, I played a 4 iron to the front edge of the green (about 50 feet from the pin). He wedged to about 15 feet, I chipped to 5 feet. He missed, I made, I was one up. On #18, we both pared from the fairway and I won one up.

Now for the last match… I played Jim Woodward. Many may know Jim – he was on the PGA tour for 8 years, made 146 cuts (4 short of full PGA pension which he is going to try for on Senior PGA tour in 5 years). Jim and I decided to play our final match Tuesday late afternoon instead of staying another night in Wichita… After the first 6 holes, I was 1 up. I had birdied 3 of the first 6 and Jim birdied 2. (Jim hit a great shot on #4 – he was 90 yards from the green, behind a big pine tree with water between the tree and green (pond). He pulled out a 3 iron and skipped it across the water to about 15 feet from the hole… he is a very good player..). On number 7 tee I had one of those “talks” with myself. I told myself, “one of us is going to have to make a move”. I know the quality of player Jim is and either he was going to make birdies or I needed to…. I proceeded to birdie 6 of the next 7 holes.

On the next 7 holes, I hit it within 3 feet on all but one. Jim was in shock… he even stated (you can see in the article.. “I’m getting tired of this $%&*, down the middle and 3 feet, down the middle and 3 feet” – pretty nice when your that is coming from your opponent.). I won the event 7 and 5. On the 10th green (after going 4 up), Jim turned toward me and said – “My $%^ if this is Natural Golf”. I laughed and said, “You’re right, it isn’t, it is Moe Norman Golf”. He said, “Now that makes sense” – I told him he was more than welcome to come to our schools anytime (we both laughed).

Couple of points I want to bring up about the tournament and want to recommend to everyone:

  1. I prepared the best I knew how before the event – I didn’t want any negative thoughts about lack of preparation before the event.
  2. My practice round was great! I left “no stone unturned”. It wasn’t rushed and I practiced and learned the course.
  3. During the tournament I focused on pre and post shot routines to get in a rhythm. I knew the better the rhythm, the better the focus.
  4. I had 100% confidence in my short game. I believed, if I missed a green, I would make par. I was not going to lose by making mistakes.
  5. I had switched to a Titleist 905T driver the week before the event – have to admit it gave me a lot of confidence in length and hitting fairways. I was not out driven all week.
  6. In the final round, I was in the zone… a feeling of 100% confidence. Even the reporter following our match said I looked “glass eyed”. This feeling for me was having 100% confidence in everything I was doing. Not that I would hit everything perfect, but no matter what happened, I could manage the outcome and I was on control of my surroundings rather than my opponent or the course.

I would like to thank everyone for there congratulatory notes and emails – and hopefully can have more events like this one in the future.

STORY #2 (Alumni Great Improvement)

This past week, an alumni of ours (Court Koontz) from Corrales, NM came back to see us at our training academy here in OKC. I told him I wanted to tell his story and asked him questions about his journey to where his game is today. Here is his story:

Court has gone from a 31 handicap (4 1/2 years ago) to a 7 handicap today. And to be honest, my assessment has him at a 3 by the end of the year and a scratch by the middle of 2006. Meaning, in about 5 1/2 years, he will have gone from shooting around a 100 consistently to par golf (and under) consistently – that is AWESOME!!

Court started as many of our alumni – he attended a 3 day Natural Golf School. He saw the Lifetime of Better Golf Infomercial, ordered the LOBG package and then attended a school. He bought the clubs, did the entire package to try and get better. He said he did improve slightly, was happy to be involved with the single axis swing, but wanted more.

Court saw us for the first time in Albuquerque, NM 4 years ago. He attended one of our 3 day schools. At that time he was in the high 20s for handicap and we got to work with him. Court had many of the same issues as most of our students, grip, setup and backswing issues to work on. But this is where Court differed than most….

After 3 years with us, Court attended a Build Your Game Camp here at our Academy in Oklahoma City. Court told me that is where he felt he finally put the swing together. Meaning, we fix your swing at our schools, but teach you to fix your own swing at our camps. That is the primary reason we set up our camps, to give us enough time to fix your swing and teach you how to fix your own swing in the future (to us it is like training instructors in the field).

Court does/did the following to get where he is today:

1. He works on ONE thing at time and only one thing. And when he works on that one thing, he works on it for a long enough time until he solves the issue. (Meaning, sometimes he may work on one swing issue for a month or two until it is solved).

2. For the first 3 years, Court would see us about every 6 months. Whether in New Mexico or traveling to Las Vegas to see us at one of our schools, he continually updated what he needed to work on in his swing. He would leave our schools with 3 or 4 areas of his swing he needed to work on.

3. Court also put a lot of time into his short game. If you would have seen him the first time I saw him, versus now, you’d wouldn’t recognize him. He now has a short game that will take him to scratch golf… the first time I saw him, I really wouldn’t even call what he had a short game (sure Court appreciates that comment…).

Now to present day and what I saw this last week with Court:

Court now comes to our academy about every 3 months for follow up. He spends an hour or two with Todd each day and then I take him on the course for a couple of hours. To me, this is absolutely the best type of continual instruction (after a camp) you can get. He works on his swing and then works on his game.

Characteristics of why he has had such good game improvement (and recommendations everyone should follow):

  • Court understands making swing changes is a process and while making those changes, the ball results are not going to be good. Yesterday, when on the course with Court, we hit shots from all over the course, as we were working on these shots, he didn’t care about results, he cared and focused on how to execute the shot, rather than results. His primary focus was to work on areas that needed help (long bunker shots, shots out of high rough, etc..) and to continue to build his short game (we covered down hill chips, uphill chips, cock and pop type chips, bird’s nest type flop shots, etc..).
  • He understands his limitations. Yesterday after being on the course, he came back to the academy for more work on his swing. After hitting balls for about 15 minutes, he was back in my office watching Moe video. I asked him what he was doing and he stated he wasn’t accomplishing anything on the range and thought he would take a break rather than “mess things up”. His understanding of limitations has got him where he is today.
  • After our session on the course, we sat down and Court took about 6 pages of notes on what we covered to REVIEW the new shots and swing issues. This is GREAT as writing down what he needs to work on will only emphasize continual improvement.
  • Court reviews our teaching material (Little Moe Swing for Life and 7 Principles Series) when he has questions about the swing and short game at home. (Yes, it does seem he has those memorized… that’s a good thing) and he definitely talks the talk and “walks the walk”.
  • He has the ultimate “trust” in what we say. This may seem simple, but to us as instructors – this may be the most important characteristic we see in Court. When we recommend a change or show him a new move, Court says “Okay, let’s do it”. There is no hesitation – only trying to understand.

Finally – and most important – Court seems to love the process. His enjoyment of the process (rather than looking for a quick fix) is why he is getting so much better. Remember – the average golfer shoots 97 and will see minimal or no improvement after 3 years of playing the game. Court is absolutely wiping these stats out!!!!

In conclusion – (will process through the 7 principles here):

1. Develop a Sound, Repeatable, Powerful Swing of Ease based on Moe Norman’s Golf Swing. (Single Plane / Straight Line Motion).

  • As with Court – don’t rush – build the swing, don’t bandage the swing. Work on one part at a time, master, go to the next. Work as a process not a quick fix.

2. Develop an efficient Short Game (50% up and down).

  • Will lower the score faster than anything you work on. But, MUST use proper fundamentals and build as Court did. This is the creative part of the game – learn to be creative.

3. Become a good Putter (Under 30 putts per round). Again – work on stroke, path and face alignment – always focus on these areas.

4. Build or buy Clubs That Fit your game.

  • If you clubs don’t fit, you will fight your single axis swing… improperly fit clubs will hinder progress. Court changed clubs about 2 years ago when he wanted to continue his improvement – he felt his old clubs were hindering his progress.

5. Learn to Play on the course using developed skills. (Course Management).

  • As you read, Court now puts much of his focus in this area… bring the swing to the course.

6. Learn How to Practice efficiently.

  • Know your limits, know how to practice, know when to practice….

7.Learn How to Think.

  • Learn how to think in practice, on the course, off the course, manage your game – DON’T let your game manage you.

I wrote this story not to brag about Court (okay, maybe a little..) but rather to encourage all those wanting to improve their game to take a little advice from him and his progression. As I always say, see what is working with other golfers and see what you can do to mimic their progress. Much easier to copy a model than create a new one….

STORY #3 (Alumni Testimonial & Improvement)

From Carmen P (NB, Canada): Todd, Tim, Jared, Brent:

Gentlemen, let me begin by saying that this email is far too late in coming. It’s been nearly 2 months since I attended the 3-day school in Connecticut – and I apologize for taking so long to send this.

It is my hope that this note not only serves as a ‘thank you’ to everyone at the Graves Golf Academy, but also as helpful information for those golfers who may be considering attending a Graves Golf School in the future.

I have most volumes of the 7 principles series of DVDs. I have practically every video the Graves Golf Academy has produced. I have the original LOBG set. etc. etc. The Bottom Line is this: NOTHING, I REPEAT, NOTHING COMPARES TO ATTENDING A GRAVES GOLF SCHOOL IN-PERSON. NOTHING. PERIOD.

To prospective students: The school is first-class all the way. Excellent teaching stations and an exceptional golf course coupled with great service and attention to detail. This instruction is highly personalized, VERY one-on-one, and extremely consistent. It didn’t matter if Todd, Tim, or Jared looked at my swing – they all saw the same basic flaws (I guess it was pretty obvious!) and each of them recommended the exact same starting point for me to improve. And the patience was incredible. I literally had Todd stand behind me and place my club, hands, etc. in the correct positions for 20 minutes straight so I could get the proper ‘feeling’ of where to put the club. And then both Tim and Jared personally assisted in the drill necessary to begin ‘grooving’ that move. Which brings an interesting point to light: I assure you, what you ‘feel’ you are doing in the golf swing versus what you are actually doing are two completely different things. And the fastest way to bridge the gap between ‘feeling’ the right thing and actually ‘doing’ the right thing is to attend a school and see these guys in-person. Further – be sure to do all 3 days. Or a 5 day if you can swing it. I went to all 3 days of the school in CT and I will again next year.

Before I attended the school, my game could be summed up as follows: All full shots were weak fades. Distance off the tee was my biggest challenge. And every time I played or practiced, I would be trying another ‘magic bullet’ fix. I did not head to the course or to the practice tee without attempting to change at least 1, if not 5, things. Each and every time. Sound familiar?

This is my experience since attending the school: I only hit a fade when I want one. Otherwise, I hit straight or with a slight draw. Distance off the tee has improved dramatically. I actually hit a drive 3 weeks after the school (on a 462 yard par 4) that went 303 yards – and it was directly behind the 150 yard stake in the center of the fairway. This from a guy who struggled for 200 yards off the tee. Further, when I go to the course or to the practice tee, I only ever work on one thing. And I know if I work on that one thing long enough, I will be one major step closer to my ultimate goal of scratch golf.

To Todd, Tim, Jared, Brent et al, thank you. It has been, and will continue to be, a great learning experience and the best value in golf today.

To all prospective students, do it. It is the best money you’ll spend on golf, without question. Frankly, if I had to make a choice between actually playing golf next season or going to the Graves Golf School and simply practicing in my basement all summer, I’d go to the school (thankfully, I don’t have to make that choice!). That’s how critically important it is for you to see these guys in-person if you’re at all serious about swinging like Moe.

Once again gentlemen, thank you.