Here’s the thing… does asking Professional golfers to speed up play make a difference? There are threats of sanctions and fines and extra strokes, but rarely has anything ever been done other than putting a player on the clock. And we still have snail-like pace of play. For those watching on TV it is rarely a problem as the cameras invariably cut away to a different player, but down the closing stretch it can be more engaging to watch paint dry than watch some of the top professionals go through their pre-shot routines. How might we combat this in the vain hope that 5.5 hour rounds will roll back to a more palatable 4.5 hours… not to mention stopping new, young golfers (and some older golfers, who should know better) from imitating the habits of their favourite Professional golfer? Well, the recent RSM Player Performance study, conducted by RSM in collaboration with the European Tour, may be a good starting point. To break it down simply, the study has found that Professional golfers can achieve greater success if they spend less time over the ball. Whisper that to a few of the main offenders out there and you probably won’t get much traction. “I’m in the zone, man! I live and die by my routine.” But put it in monetary terms and you might see a little spark of interest. The study focused on:
• Time spent at address – is there an optimal amount of time to spend at address? • Player behaviour/pre-shot routine • Pre-round and practice round trends and patterns The objective of the study was to identify the key drivers of player performance at the elite level and provide credible data and insights to shape the future of the game of golf. The RSM study collected data on 47 European Tour professionals across five tournaments, 304 rounds of golf and 22,579 shots. It was led by Dr Matt Bridge, Senior Lecturer in Coaching & Sports Science at the University of Birmingham UK, and the study revealed three key findings:
1. Spending less time over the ball could earn a European Tour player an extra €189k per season.
2. Quicker shots improve performance. A shorter time over the ball across all putts results in a 90 per cent increase in the likelihood of strokes gained.
3. Consistency of time spent over the ball leads to a greater chance of making the cut. When players are more consistent in rounds one and two they are 50 per cent more likely to make the cut compared to less consistent players.
All three findings are thoroughly interesting, no! Oh sure, you could probably drive a truck through the holes – particularly as the study doesn’t focus on the duration of the pre-shot routine – but you know yourself how sometimes stepping up to a short putt and just smacking it in is a far more successful strategy than agonising over it from every side. Routine and consistency are vital to success but deviating from that routine, even by an extra second, can reduce the efficacy of the shot. (See chart.) This speaks to the very real problem faced so often by amateur golfers in the area of overthinking the shot. “The longer I’m over the ball, the more thoughts I get in my head. So I tend to go quick… one look to make sure I’ve got my target, the next look to double check, and then swing.” Stephen Gallacher, Professional. Now, if only we could get some of our professionals to reduce the duration of their routine we’d be well on our way.
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