A Visit With Dr. Bob Rotella
I had one of the standout days of my 30 year golf industry career last Friday, when I spent two hours with noted sports psychologist, Dr. Bob Rotella. He and I have had several telephone conversations over the past couple of months, and when my travels put me in Richmond, Virginia – only an hour from Dr. Bob's home in Keswick -- I had to jump at the opportunity to spend some time with him in person.

What brought us together was a SCOR Golf customer who's a huge fan and also a client of Dr. Rotella's. Gary thought we should visit and compare notes about what each of us is doing to try to help golfers score better. Dr. Rotella, as you probably know, has worked with dozens of tour professionals, and has authored numerous books on the subject of performance psychology, most notably "Golf Is Not A Game of Perfect". If you haven't read any of his works, I highly recommend it.

We spent two hours talking about the performance challenges all of us golfers face, and diving deeply into the technology of SCOR4161 precision scoring clubs and why we've done what we have. What I want to share with you today are some of the real "pearls of wisdom" that I gleaned from that very enjoyable visit:
  1. It's all about short range performance. Dr. Rotella told me that tour players hit "10 and a half to 12 and a half" approach shots a round with an 8-iron or less. For the big hitters, they are mostly on par fours and threes, because all the par five holes are two-shot holes. For the shorter hitters, those approaches come on the par-fives and shorter par fours. He went on to express his advice that you just try to not hurt yourself when you have a seven-iron or longer into the green, and you fire at flags with the short irons and wedges. In his words, if you don't feel like you can knock flags down with those scoring clubs this week, you might as well stay home.

  2. The tight fairways scare the pros, too. Over the past few decades, the mower heights on fairways has been moved closer and closer, so that the pros play tighter and tighter lies all the time. I just read where the fairway height at Merion, for example, was at one inch when David Graham won the U.S. Open there in 1981, but was increased from one quarter to one half inch for this year's Open. That's a huge difference. So, because the ball is sitting tighter, shots are hit lower on the clubface, which we've found in our testing, produces lower and hotter flight. And it makes short range pitch and chip shots scary even for the pros. That's because they play low bounce wedges to deal with the bunkers on tour. (Which I'm getting to in just a moment.) Watch TV and you'll see tour pros putting from off the green more often than you used to, and now we know why.

  3. Those tour bunkers. I've long known that the PGA Tour had a standard for bunker sand. They like them firm and moist, so the players can hit those miraculous bunker shots with lots of spin, and they very rarely get a "down" or plugged lie. As I've written before, the PGA Tour knows their "customer" is the television viewer – over 50% of which don't even play – and they like to see these things. But I have a problem with the best players in the world enjoying bunkers that are not nearly as tough as the ones we all play every week. But what I learned from Dr. Rotella was that the PGA Tour also requires caddies to rake the bunkers from the back side, directly away from the flag – so that the rake grooves run directly at the flag! If they don't, they get fined. Really? Sheesh!
There's a lot more I took away, but not enough room here. Would you all like me to share more from my "Morning With Dr. Bob" next week?
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[ comments ]
jasonfish11 says:
Yes please share more. You've been on a roll lately with your articles. Thanks for all the info.
dtak84 says:
Wow, secrets of the Tour! Keep it coming Terry!
Anti-Mulligan says:
Terry - your best article this year. Please share more.
Kurt the Knife says:
I read his book. Was kinda helpful.
Gromit5 says:
"If you don't feel like you can knock flags down with those scoring clubs this week, you might as well stay home."

If I were a client, how much would the Doc charge for this jewel? Psychology is not a field of perfect.
Shallowface says:
So if no one likes the tight lies, why do they dry them out into tarmac and then mow them that close?
Probably because that's the only way they can get 50 or 60 yards of roll on the tee shot.
I plugged a tee shot in the fairway this week, because the course was so wet due to trying to keep bent grass alive in the final hot spell of the year.
I've got a set of Browning 440 irons that handle tight lies just fine!
Matt McGee says:
I'd love to see more of this. Bob Rotella has some valuable knowledge about the mental side of the game.
The PGA, like most professional sports, is controlled by television viewers. Longer drives means more viewers, thus, 1/4" fairways. Spectacular sand shots equate to more viewers, thus, perfect sand. It's hard to fault the PGA for giving its customers what they want. If the lies get so tight that the pros can't come up with amazing approach shots, I'm sure the problem will be remedied quickly, because good approach shots are cool to watch on TV.
elliottgaryusa says:
Love it. Keep it coming. I've wondered about the sand. I rarely get to play in stuff like that. I've practically ruined my meager bunker game trying to copy all this pro advice about opening up the blade. It doesn't work in some sand.
dirdeestack says:
Dustin Johnson, a bomber if there is one, had these MEASURED approach numbers from the fairway or tee for the 2013 PGA Tour season.

50-75y 12 attempts all year:0

(*This small sample size didnt keep Golf Mag from braggin about his 7th ranking on tour and giving him a partial wedge article. Yes, he can still hit them better than I ever will and I'm sure the article is great. I'm just pissed they think I won't look their stat up)

50-75y 12 attempts, 2.02% of 595 total measured fairway or tee approach attempts
75-100y 33, 5.55%
100-125y 65, 10.92%
125-150y 117, 19.66%
150-175y 139, 22.86%

Obv it depends...but I'll pluck 175y number out of the sky for DJ's 8i and under club. 366/595=61.51%

175-200y 111, 18.66%
200-225y 71, 12.44%
225-250y 33, 5.55%
250-275y 8, 1.34%
275y+ :) 6, 1.01%

Then we have 229/595=38.49% left.

IFFFFF <175y is his 8i, it looks like this bomber hit rougher 50% more 8i and lower MEASURED fairway or tee approaches last year
dirdeestack says:
Brian Gay is at the other end of the Tour distance spectrum. His swing speed matches mine. Sadly my short game doesnt match his...or my long game for that matter... or my bank acct. sigh...

"Comparison is the thief of joy." Teddy Roosevelt I think?

Brian Gay’s MEASURED 2013 PGA Tour fairway and tee approach #’s:

50-75 y 16' 5" 121st 31
75-100 y 18' 10" 140th 105
100-125 y 17' 3" 15th 77
125-150 y 21' 5" 32nd 161

Like Brian, I also swing my driver at 105mph. So, GUESSING FOR FUN again, but since carry my 8i 145y ish at sea level in Miami... im going to give him 150y and down for his 8i or less attempts. OK, yah u got me, it's mostly cuz it's easier on the math to have a nice clean 150y number.


150-175 y 28' 4" 118th 201
175-200 y 36' 2" 166th 202
200-225 y 43' 11" 141st 142
225-250 y 54' 1" 117th 51
250-275 y 64' 10" 80th 12
275 + y 107' 4" 161st 6

!!!!!!! 614/988=62.15% !!!!!!!!!!!
dirdeestack says:
So even with "goin for it" ranking by % of 178/180 vs DJ's 8/180 (i am guessing, again, that that's why he has more 75-100y shots than 100-125y attempts)....

We find the opposite is true for Brian Gay. He is hitting roughly 50% more 7i+ approaches.

I'm not saying Rotella is wrong. I love this Wedge Guy. I promise these r the only 2 plyrs i looked up...so maybe it was sheer luck their numbers were basically opposite. Again, i guessed at what a 8i meant to each player. BUT, count your own approaches. Think about your game vs the pros. Think about your course and tees vs the pros. Just cuz Rotella (fyi, he's abrain guy not math guy. 2nd fyi, i'm not disagreeing with his math. But i would like to c his numbers:0) says they hit 10.5 to 12.5 8i or less a round....

DOESNT MEAN POINT 1A WITH A BULLET (I added the "A" and the "bullet" lika used car salesman, or golf digest, or the way guys who r selling things often do.....like wedges) SHOULD START "It's all about short range performance."
dirdeestack says:
It looks like the majority (62%) of DJ's approaches are from 75y grouping between 125-200y, and only 38% fall into the other 200 measured yards (50-125y + 200-275y)

and Brian hits 71.5% of his from 125-225y

So those approaches r their most common. Now, how important are they to their score?!?!??! I dunno. But i'm gonna find out. I'm tired of announcers and golf magazines having all the fun fake stats and useless tidbits. It shouldn't be this difficult to come up with accurate, usable info.
dirdeestack says:
but like the "tight fairway" (it is fun to watch them hit it far... but if the fairways were slow, like when they r wet, these PGA ninjas DESTROY EVEN THE LONGEST COURSES. It has to play firm and fast or it would b a laugher. Or "bunker" topic (yah, thats why the average ish 92 shooter cant get out of a bunker, the trap is raked in the wrong direction. lol)

these commentators and golf mags are just giving us what we want...entertainment. You're way ahead if u get a lesson here and there and go practice some. Thinking about your game, your course etc etc is a bonus. I (a nobody low handicapper) encourage it. But use your head when u are being bombarded by announcers and salesman too.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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