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Golf Blueprint Research Division 

Welcome to the GBRD, a home for research, findings and thoughts from Doc Darras. 

We talking about (golf) practice. Not a game. Practice!

Welcome to the Golf Blueprint research blog and I’m so pumped to have you here. This is going to be a place where we expand on the concepts seen on Golf Blueprints social media and can really dig into topics, in long form. In true Monday Q Info form, I apologize in advance for any spelling and grammar errors, I am doing my best! My name is Dr. Nico Darras and I will be your guide throughout this research blog.

By far and away the most common question that I get from both amateurs and tour pros is: "I want to get better, but how?"

Every single golfer is looking to improve, but struggle with the same few challenges: improving their swing, the limited amount of time they have and commitments off the golf course.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the number one player in the world or someone looking to win the Friday skins game at the local muni.

How can someone with limited time improve their golf game without buying thousands of dollars of new equipment, improving their swing or spending hours a day at the golf course?

You wouldn’t go to the gym without a plan show up and just decide well today I’m going to do some bicep curls and I guess I’ll do two sets of squats and I’ll finish with a few minutes on the treadmill, so why do we do the same thing in golf? Why do we buy a large bucket of balls, stand on a flat driving range, “work on our swing” and think we’re going to improve? Luckily for us, golf is not subjective to how pretty your golf swing is. As our friend Claude Harmon III says, "there’s no room for pictures on a scorecard."

Very few of us will ever make a living playing the game, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get continually improve. Your “masters” might be the club championship or qualifying for the state amateur. What’s important is setting clear goals and deciding how you’re going to get there!

Genesis 1

Golf Blueprint’s genesis story began in Arizona as I drove home from an outlaw tour event after firing a 72. An incredibly impressive feat for someone who had been playing just over 2 years, except when the winner of the one day event shot 61. I needed to get better and fast...

I knew that I couldn’t catch the players that I was playing strictly with the amount of hours spent because all professional, golfers work hard, so I needed to find a way to close the gap in a shorter amount of time.

As I was driving home, I tuned in to one of my favorite podcasts, The Fried Egg hosted by our (now friend!) Andy. Andy had on a guest named Dr. Kevin C. Moore who was a mathematician from the University of Georgia and was using his education to help golfers shoot lower scores.

Dr. Moore had a deep understanding of both math and golf as he played collegiately at the University of Akron and became a full professor at UGA in just four years. Dr. Moore spoke to Andy about how he was using math and a concept called strokes gained to help golfers strategically plan their way around golf tournaments.

Dr. Moore’s system was so effective that he tested it on himself and went to a USGA mid a.m. qualifier without seeing the golf course and shot a 66 using his strategy and qualified for the Mid AM.

I was so impressed with Dr. Moore’s academic and athletic pedigree that I mustered up the courage to send him an email from my brand newly created Pepperdine student account. I had been a doctoral student in education for only about a month but I gave Dr. Moore the hard sell via email and luckily enough for me, he agreed to meet on zoom and we got to work.

Dr. Moore taught me about strategy and how I could use my extreme driver length to attack golf courses. With Dr. Moore’s strategy system I began to initially shoot lower scores, but we quickly realized there was an issue... I was absolutely bombing driver within the 60 yard recommended dispersion pattern and had wedges consistently into every par four at my Arizona club, but I was still struggling to break par consistently.

This conundrum fascinated Dr. Moore as a math problem because how can someone who’s not hitting it out of bounds hitting it in water, hazards or having penalty shots continue to struggle? One session Dr. Moore broke the news to me. Turns out I was a terrible wedge player.

“I’m not a terrible wedge player. I said to Dr. Moore, "I make six birdies around!” As we dove deeper and deeper into the stats, we realized that making six birdies around at this type of club, would be an inevitability if I was driving three of the greens consistently.

Too often people are presented with a problem, but no solution.

It is the goal of this blog and Golf Blueprint in general to present both problems and solutions that have worked for us. This is not a catchall, or a guarantee, but instead rather the story of the willingness to try.

Upon receiving the news that I in fact was not an elite wedge player, my confidence initially was shattered. Golfers have very fragile egos and for good reason. The game is hard enough and as my college baseball teammate one said “you have to stay on your own side at all times. You can’t ever turn on yourself and you have to be you’re number one fan.“

That blow to my ego was the best thing that ever happened to my golf game. The first step to solving any problem, is first understanding that there is a problem. Now armed with the knowledge that I needed to fix something, I got to work. I didn’t come from Golf. I didn’t start playing until I was 22 years old and up to that point I had had one formal lesson and it didn’t go great.

The beauty of this is that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. What I did know, however, was how to work. As a division, one baseball player, the concept of grinding was instilled in me from the time that I was a child. I might not have always been the most talented or gifted player, but at the end of the day when I put my head on the pillow, I could look at myself and say I outworked everybody. Whether it was true or not didn’t matter because I believed it and I gained confidence.

I took that same concept to the golf course and now I had a chip on my shoulder because I had something to prove to Dr. Moore. I could find a way to become an elite wedge player!

Golf practice doesn't equal perfect

Initially, I just started hitting wedges on the driving range. I didn’t know what to do so I just hit them and I hit them and I hit them for hours and hours on end but for some reason I wasn’t getting better, in fact I was probably getting worse.

For the first time in my very brief golf career, doubt begin to creep in that I might not be good enough... I really might not be able to fix this problem. I did with most players do in this situation, and I looked up a local, teaching professional.

He was very highly rated and had had some playing experience, and I thought he would be the answer to my woes. Unfortunately, as I would later, learn, he taught one swing, and that swing didn’t match up with my body and caused a lot of issues not only in my wedge play, but in my game in general, and I was getting worse, fast.

Realizing that this coach wasn’t the answer to my problems I went back to work, but now I had three issues. first, I had a swing problem second I had a wedge and third I had confidence problem.

One night as I was doing my assigned homework for my doctoral education work I read Dr. Robert F Mager's life in the pinball machine biography. This book would change my life in ways that I did not anticipate, nor know at the time. Dr. Mager created the concept of criterion referenced instruction, sometimes called criterion reference test in response to the challenges he was facing in the military.

Dr. Mager needed a way to disseminate information more effectively and efficiently to the troops in which he was trying to lead. Dr. Mager hypothesized that these men were not bad man Norman who are trying to intentionally disobeying orders unfortunately, they just did not have a clear understanding of what was expected of them. Dr. Mager created a system that the soldiers knew exactly what was expected of them and essentially worked backwards. This concept has been adopted widely in both business and academic settings across the world but up to this point had never been applied to Golf performance.

At first I created what is commonly called a learning menu. A learning menu gives power to the student to choose. What would they liked to learn with in the recommendations of the teacher many of you have seen this if you have children who are in school today.

Golf Blueprint Learning Menu 1.0

Golf Blueprint Learning Menu based on PGA Tour data.
Golf Blueprint Learning Menu

At first, the learning menu was incredible. I created a few yardages in which I needed to improve from and then I would just work on those numbers each day at the driving range. Initially having the structure and just basic planning was so comforting and I really enjoyed the process.

As a baseball player, I never had to show up to practice and choose what to practice so the idea that in golf, I would suddenly have to be my own coach while being the player was very foreign to me. I did not understand the concept, and to this day, I still don’t how people can be expected to do this.

As a few weeks went by, I began to experience the phenomenon called cognitive fatigue from having to decide what to practice within the learning menu. I quickly grew bored of doing the same yardages and wedge drills that I had found and was back to square one with Dr. Moore.

As I learned more about the work of Dr. Robert F major and criterion referenced instruction. The path became crystal clear to me, this is what I need to be doing to improve.

As any academic would do, I wrote a paper. Initially, my goal was to get a paper published and I had hoped Dr. Moore would co-author it with me. I did the classic therapy model where you drop some thing on the therapist just as you’re exiting the session.

I told Dr. Moore I had written a paper and I had hoped that he would read it. A few weeks went by and I hadn’t heard anything and I began to get nervous. What if the work wasn’t good or Dr. Moore didn’t like it? Much to my chagrin Dr. Moore emailed me back and said he would like to meet with me on Zoom to discuss the concept.

Dr. Moore said this wasn’t a journal paper, this has the idea to have real world applications as a business model. I created the first Golf Blueprint using available PGA tour statistics and the quote on quote “average PGA tour player”. I poured over the numbers and deduced the areas of the game that I thought were the most important.

Together, we then broke the game down into five distinct categories: driving, approach, wedges, short game and putting.

The first Golf Blueprint algorithm was designed using these five areas of the game as anchors.

Because I only had a limited amount of time some days as little as 30 minutes and somedays, as much as two or three hours, depending on my academic schedule, I needed to make the most of it. Instead of looking at just one practice session as an individual entity, I looked at first a week, and then a month as a whole and built a Golf Blueprint off of that.

To be continued in volume 2!


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