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From the gridiron to the golf course — the similarities are surprising but real

Tips from Our Pros

The fall season means football — both NFL and college — but the autumn months are equally perfect for golf. On Hilton Head Island, the average daytime temperature is a comfortable 75 degrees. The ocean breezes gently touch your face, while the sun is always on your shoulder — and it is dry.

Doug Weaver is the longtime Director of Instruction at Palmetto Dunes Golf Academy. Doug’s father played football at Alabama for legendary head coach, Bear Bryant, for four years, including a pair of Cotton Bowl appearances. Doug’s son, Kyle, an 8-handicap index on the golf course, played offensive guard for the Citadel football team and helped lead the team to two Southern Conference Championships. Kyle’s playing weight was 285 pounds and he is very flexible.

Doug and his family, including son, Kyle, who was a four-year, standout football player for the Citadel.

Doug and his family, including son, Kyle, who was a four-year, standout football player for the Citadel.

Kyle Weaver was one of the Citadel’s team captains during his senior season.

Kyle Weaver was one of the Citadel’s team captains during his senior season.

Here, Doug spells out some of the similarities between football and golf, and tells us how thinking about some of these likenesses can help improve your game.

  • Sequence: A good running back in football can run a 4.5 second 40-yard dash. However, if he gets ahead of the 300-pound offensive lineman, then the linebacker can stop the quicker running back before he gains significant yardage. The running back must be patient and start slow, so that the play can develop as designed. He can explode his speed at the correct opportunity in order to avoid the defensive players and get long yardage. Sequence in golf is equally important. Most golfers who shoot in the 80s and higher start their swing too quickly from the set-up or start the downswing too quickly. Both errors cause the golfers to unconsciously try to correct their swing during the remaining split second. There is only one fast moment in the swing — and that had better be when the club strikes the ball.

  • Posture: Proper posture promotes proper action. In football each player has a unique purpose and therefore posture that is fitting to their movement. The lineman sets up with the lead arm extended forward and their weight is leaning on that hand like a spring-loaded gun. This encourages an explosive move forward toward the defense. The quarterback stands more vertically for vision, yet his legs are flexed for a quick, initial move. The stance is shoulder width, so that he can pivot to the right or left quickly and fully. Similarly, Golf Posture details are vital to efficient movement in creating a swing that will offer mobility and balance, with the goal of creating consistent, effortless power and accuracy. Most swing plane errors are caused by poor posture.

  • Adrenaline: Football games include cheering fans, cannons, bands and other fanfare. The teammates hit each other to prepare for the contact to come. The adrenaline is pumping into the players muscles, causing a high level of arousal that increases speed and strength. Amazing feats of athleticism are seen on the field with great celebration following. The coaches are often high up in the booth studying the formations and plays of the opponent, and sending decisions down to the field coaches, who relay the call to the players on the field. Golfers must do all the playing calling on the course, while being influenced by the adrenaline that causes the swing to increase in speed and make the ball go unusually or inaccurately far. The adrenaline can cause the golfer and the football player to be too aggressive or too quick in their moves, and therefore mess up the strategy or cause poor decisions. The golfer has a Pre-Shot Routine (PSR) that includes the 45 seconds before the swing. This routine is just as important as the one-second swing. The PSR is designed to manage the adrenaline that influences thoughts and actions. Adrenaline heightens mental and physical abilities. A golfer must know how to manage the adrenalin so that it is beneficial to their game, not detrimental. A moment in golf that we all experience is when we leave the practice area and go to the first tee. The adrenaline kicks in subconsciously. Most golfers feel the heart suddenly race and the hands become sweaty, and they become very anxious — doubting their ability to hit in a playable area. They cannot wait to get this first shot behind them. Jack Nicklaus was asked when he would retire from competitive golf. His answer was, when I quit feeling nervous on the first tee. When asked what that means, Nicklaus said, “When I’m nervous, that means I believe I can win.” Come to Palmetto Dunes Golf Academy and learn how to win.

Kyle Weaver didn’t back down during the Citadel’s upset win over the University of South Carolina in 2015.

Kyle Weaver didn’t back down during the Citadel’s upset win over the University of South Carolina in 2015.

  • Field goal kicking and the golf swing — a similar evolution: In the 1980s all field goal kickers stepped directly into the ball on a straight line to the field goal. Then one day, a soccer player stepped in and said, “I will kick it further and straighter, but do so in a circular motion.” The new style starts three steps from the side and the leg whips in an “around the body” motion. This creates more foot speed — and therefore produces longer kicks. Accuracy was doubted; however, the technique has remained with more accuracy and distance. The golf swing has been changing with the same concepts. The nearly vertical swing planes of Nicklaus, Watson and Norman have become less common to the flatter or shallower swing plane of Ben Hogan, Rory McIlroy and Matt Kuchar. I personally have made the effort to update my swing and I am very excited with results. I’m hitting more fairways and greens, and not losing but gaining distance. As a 59-year-old golfer, I am currently leading in 2019 Player of the Year points for the Hilton Head PGA. I’m playing with more confidence based on a swing that works very dependably under pressure. The “club golfer” experiences similar pressure competing in club events. I want them to share in my success.

  • Patience and calm are important in come-from-behind victories. Tom Landry and Roger Staubach were my 1970s examples of competitors with strong, self-controlled minds. Tom Brady is the man of the 2000s. The golfer must play with the same calmness and strong will of the quarterback. You want to achieve victory in the event — in golf you compete with yourself — but the mental process is just as important as swing mechanics or athletic ability.

Enjoy the 2019 football season … BUT REMEMBER … you have a DVR, so you can watch the game after the sun goes down behind the 18th hole.

The Palmetto Dunes Golf Academy offers classes and private lessons for all ages and skill levels. Lil’ Swingers is for 3- to 7-year-olds. The After-School and Back to Basics programs are for anyone who is hoping to improve. Private lessons can be arranged for you and your small group of friends. We also offer gift certificates for holidays and special events.

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