Why It's Called "Hell Week" - Golf Skills Assessment Week at Pro Tour Golf College Through a Students Eyes
"I had a chat with Lawrie, saying how I've never had so much difficulty hitting this little number of golf balls before. He then explained to me that this is exactly how we were going to train throughout the rest of the program, and that this was already going easy on us! As he explained more, everything started to make sense."
I'm Ian, currently a student doing my first semester with Pro Tour Golf College. I'm here to share a bit about my first week at PTGC, but before I go into that, here's a little background information about myself.
I'm from Singapore and have been playing golf for 19 years, never had a lesson and instead learnt most of my golf from a Jack Nicklaus book, along with countless tips from anyone and anywhere.
I managed to practice my way to a single handicap, and eventually became a member of the Singapore PGA.
After spending several years teaching, I decided to give up coaching and give competitive golf a shot, so here I am.
So, down to the gist of it.
Assessment Week or "Hell Week" at Pro Tour Golf College
Assessment week was pretty grueling (that's an understatement) - 770 shots from all sorts of lies and distances, all requiring a full pre-shot routine.
Having to maintain focus at a high intensity for 6 hours a day is no easy feat, but after five days of having given it our all, it was finally over.
Going through the full assessment gave me great insight on the strengths and weaknesses of my game, but more importantly it taught me about the teaching philosophy that is Pro Tour Golf College.
Being a touring professional is a job, and a difficult one at that. As such, we should structure our training like how we would run a business.
Nobody with a right business mind would say "okay let's just order this amount of X and that amount of Y, and hopefully we will be able to sell them all."
There would be so much more planning involved, so much more to factor in. "What is the market demand? Is the demand seasonal? How much competition do we have? What is the size of our target audience?"
Business is not my strongest point, but even I would not want to step into any venture without having explored every factor involved in achieving success before I pump my money and effort in.
Why shouldn't it be the same in golf?
"I grab 300 balls from the dispensing machine, do a quick warm-up, then proceed to hit balls, working my way up the bag. If I hit a good shot, yippee good for me! "
I have always been hard-working when it comes to sports. I would hear of how Vijay or Ben Hogan train, spending hours and hours hitting hundreds of balls every day, and my mindset was that if I do that too, I would somehow find "the secret in the dirt" eventually.
I knew my short game was weak, so I just need to dedicate more time chipping, pitching and putting.
I grab 300 balls from the dispensing machine, do a quick warm-up, then proceed to hit balls, working my way up the bag. If I hit a good shot, yippee good for me!
If it didn't turn out the way I wanted it to or hit a bad shot, I'd try and figure out what was wrong, dedicating the next few shots towards rectifying the problem.
This was the same for chipping and putting practice. My practice routine was formless, and did nothing to prepare me mentally for a round of golf.
As I went through assessment week, our coach Lawrie kept reminding us to take each shot as if it was on the golf course, making sure to give each and every shot our full attention.
Needless to say, at the end of the first day after going through 280 balls in this manner I was knackered.
I had a chat with Lawrie, saying how I've never had so much difficulty hitting this little number of golf balls before.
He then explained to me that this is exactly how we were going to train throughout the rest of the program, and that this was already going easy on us!
As he explained more, everything started to make sense.
On the golf course, we have one shot. Regardless of whether we hit it well or not, that moment is gone. We don't have mulligans to rectify our mistake, and our next shot is not (hopefully) going to be in the same place that we would hit the same shot again.
That point in time is over, and we have to let it go and embrace the new reality, the new challenge before us. It is the same with how we train: it is not a cluster of balls we are hitting - it is one ball. And then another.
And another, do that ten times, take a short mental break, then move on to the next ten balls, but one at a time.
Whatever happens to the ball, embrace the result, then let it go as you move on to the next.
Also, having the training structured like this conditions us to learn how to sharpen our focus when we step up to the ball, and giving our mind a break every now and then.
My training used to be pretty monotonous; it was just ball after ball and never really trained me to switch off and on, such that I was not very good coping with my mental stamina.
"Everything from now on has to be planned. I have learnt so much within such a short amount of time, and this is the beauty of this program - we aren't taught how to play golf, we are taught how to learn."
Lastly, the assessment covers a huge variety of shots, such as chips from 10-30 metres, flop shots from 10-30 metres, putts from 1-14 metres, buried bunker shots and rough shots from 10-30 metres, approach shots from 30-90 metres, and full shots from 90 metres onwards.
Every category's scores is recorded and mapped out on a chart, where I got to see exactly which areas in my game were lacking, also allowing me to compare my stats with the tour averages.
I came in with the pre-conceived notion that my short game was very weak, but after the assessment I found out that some parts of my short game were actually not that bad, for example:
However, it became very obvious that I needed to work on my putting across the board;
If I hadn't known this, I'd probably still be spending a lot of time working on areas that aren't on the top of the priority list.
With this, I have learnt to take responsibility for my training.
No more random or mindless practice sessions, no more second guessing.
Everything from now on has to be planned.
I have learnt so much within such a short amount of time, and this is the beauty of this program - we aren't taught how to play golf, we are taught how to learn.
Ian Sim - Student at Pro Tour Golf College