What a week it was when 22 year old Taichi Kho, and ECGA Tour Team member, won the World City Open on the Asian Tour last week. Taichi became the first ever winner from Hong Kong on the Asian Tour, and to do it in his 3rd start as a Professional shows both his pedigree and potential.
My journey with Taichi started 7 years ago in 2016, at a tournament in Singapore. He was +14 after 2 rounds and a competent player with a good looking swing but struggling to perform. I asked Taichi what his dream and ambitions were and he was clear in that he aspired to become a Tour Player.
Having worked on Tour, as a Coach the question you ask yourself is what is the GAP? To be successful on Tour you need to be able to score the ‘ -16 for 4 rounds’. So then you ask yourself what is the ‘low hanging fruit’ i.e. the things you can do to help a player score lower. This will help build Player-Coach trust, and then from there you can look to make a longer term plan. I was fortunate in that I had the opportunity to work with Taichi both through our Mentoring Program through his College years and through face to face camps in the USA. Of course we worked on all aspects of his game, developing swing competency, thinking and his processes or systems for success. But in this article I want to focus on one critical concept, which is relevant for both Coaches and Players. This concept is a GAMECHANGER in my opinion and I am going to use the case study of Taichi’s last training camp here in Australia at the beginning of 2023 involving one aspect of his game, this being putting.
Looking at his 2022 Stats there was a big GAP with his putting stats. So as a Coach, the question is then how to make progress and ‘close the gap’. First step it to look at technical patterns – Read, Speed, Starting Direction – then checking this on straight, left to right and right to left putts. Then we looked at distance control and from a technical perspective acceleration profile and center contact. The technical assessment was that his stroke, acceleration profile, centeredness of contact etc. were all pretty sound, but his reading was inconsistent with a definite bias, and speed control and holing out were not great when looking at his 2022 Putting Tournament Stats.
The critical point is that we then looked to install PROCESSES to develop CHANGE. The biggest mistake in golf is that people search for an instant pill - like the person who thinks he or she will gain 25 meters buying a new driver. I stopped doing 1 hour lessons as a Coach 20 years ago because I learnt in my first 15 years of coaching players come looking for the instant pill, and then as a Coach it becomes a frustrating business. However in my coaching journey, by changing from 1 hour lessons to Coaching programs over 3 months and beyond, success is almost guaranteed as you then can develop PROCESSES to progress the OUTCOME. Use the analogy of going to a gym - you’ll never change your body shape and composition in a 1 hour PT session, but over 3 months progress is very possible if you consistently do the right exercises.
The medicine we decided on what to introduce 3 new processes to his putting practice. Firstly he invested in a PERFECT PUTTER to practice his green reading, whereby he now looks to go around the putting green (with no putter) and read 5 putts, then checks the read with the PERFECT PUTTER. What a great feedback exercise that would help every player. The next process was to develop his speed putting. So we designed a game, which he plays every day when he is at the golf club. The game is to hit 6 consecutive putts within a putter length of the hole, with each putt being to a different hole and from the range of 15 to 40ft. If one ball does not go within a putter length, he starts at ball 1 again, and you ‘lose a life’. He has 3 lives to finish the game, so whether he wins or lose, it’ll take about 10 minutes in total. The final process was to develop ‘holing out’. Of course like with every player there is some level of anxiety related to this as it immediately can put an extra shot on the scorecard if you miss. So we used a drill -which I was introduced by a specialist Junior Coach who uses this drill with 10 year olds – whereby he hit putts on a double rail with alignment sticks, which helps with starting direction and whereby the ball is guaranteed to go into the hole. We use 3 stations (left to right, right to left and straight) and then he strokes putts into the hole. It makes it seem easy ( it really is!), and then we take the rails away and then he putts the balls into the hole.
Just like a gym trainer creates progress for their clients by prescribing exercises, I want you to think what exercise, or processes, do you need to change and develop in order to create a change in the outcome you desire?
You may not win a Tour event next month like Taichi, but I guarantee you will make progress sin your own personal journey to be the best player that you can be and if you do that month on month, season on season, who knows what you can achieve?
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