By Sebastian Rühl – National Coach, Germany, junior female players
October 9th, 2009, was a big day for golf. At a summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, the IOC decided to bring back golf to the Olympic Games at the 2016 summer Games in Rio, Brazil. With the announcement, it was also declared that professional golfers were allowed to partake and compete – a significant change for the German Golf Association (DGV) and its structure at the time. Up to this point, the DGV was principally responsible for amateurs and their requirements. With the change, the DGV needed restructuring to include professionals in their systems and procedures. The structural change was significant as German law dictates that the leading association of a sport must take care of all their athletes preparing for the Olympics. The change was the foundation for a new, long-term athlete development program for German golf.
Looking at the Olympic disciples as a whole, every single one of them has a specific performance diagnosis test program. Endurance and power related sports like lifting require special power testing machines that measure different parts of the body. Each Olympic discipline has its own specific, performance-based tests, which have been developed and expanded over the years. With golf back in the Games, the German Olympic Sports Confederation demanded the DGV create tests to measure the performance of golfers preparing for the Games.
We began by studying a wide variety of sports participating in the Games before elaborating a solid, blueprint line up of tests to measure strength and weaknesses, and to diagnose performance: Strokes Gained is the ideal first step in the diagnosis of a golfer’s performance, followed by tests in mobility, stability, jumping, throwing and endurance, along with the more classic performance tests of putting, short game, long game, and mental stamina. Today, the DGV has a sound, structured, long-term player development program with goals and structures that adapt perfectly to the individual player in all key areas of the game. As we all know, golf is a complex sport, and great achievements are often a combination of many factors.
The TrackMan Combine Test is probably the best tool to measure the capabilities described above. It’s a test for players of all levels and ability and particularly well suited for long-term player development. Its score system is phenomenal as it motivates and encourages the player to do better next time while letting them compare their scores with the best in the world via the global online leaderboards. Many tests do not make the player perform better on the course. This one does, and that’s paramount to me, as players progress and grow. Players also feel the pressure, just like when they are in contention, and the protocol even provides them with instant feedback and reporting after completion, allowing us to study and understand their strengths and weaknesses more profoundly. I am a great fan of the book „Every shot must have a purpose“ by Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott. This same is true for the TrackMan Combine: Every shot has a purpose.
A Combine Test takes about 30 to 40 minutes, which for a coach is a perfect time frame to observe a player in order to get an idea of his or her shot-making skills. It allows me to get a good idea of their routines, grip, aim, stance, posture, and swing mechanics. I also video record them and anticipate when errors emerge as that’s when I get to know the player better and how they react to failure.
All data and test results are collected, analyzed and indexed, providing an excellent blueprint for each player. More importantly, it provides a platform for building specific training plans, addressing key components for the individual player, but always with a holistic approach and the big picture in mind. National team players do this complete ‘blueprint’ program twice a year, but the TrackMan Combine is performed regularly for training purposes.
I would like to end this article with a personal note that means a lot to me. We all are humans – coaches and players alike – with our own strengths and weaknesses, and in today’s world of technology, we can measure and quantify pretty much anything, especially with a big test line up like I described above. However, we also know the player who may hit it terribly on the range, yet manages to turn on the scoring-mode mindset on the course and shoot a 65. We must, therefore, do everything we can to preserve such strengths while at the same time help control, reduce and even eliminate a player’s weaknesses. Once we truly understand our players’ dreams, thoughts, beliefs, fears, and self-talk, and thereby position the human in the spotlight – then the numbers and data also make sense and come into play. That’s what I like to call having the big picture. But remember, the big picture wouldn’t be complete without the numbers, and without a TrackMan, I cannot make informed decisions, as the possibility of missing critical information would become imminent.