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September 3, 2019

Chez Reavie was already a stellar ballstriker when I started coaching him in 2015. My first job was to temper his preconceived notion that his swing contained too many deficiencies, and that these deficiencies were to blame for a serious left-wrist injury he suffered in 2012. (Chez missed the following two seasons recovering from surgery.) There may have been some merit to his anxiety, but my job as a coach—for Chez or any player—is to emphasize the good parts of a player’s technique first and highlight areas that can be modified to avoid stress on the body second.

So far, the plan has worked. Chez bagged his first victory in 11 years (the Travelers) back in June, and has notched four additional top-10 finishes this season (through the Open Championship). There’s been a lot of hard work, but also some smart focus on ways to get Chez where he deserves to be—competing week in and week out—sooner than later. Call them “Chez’s Cheats.

Here’s how they can help your game, too.

Cheat No. 1: Let Your Body Determine Your Swing

As I do with all the players I work with, I physically screen Chez to see how his movement patterns are influencing his swing. (As a testament to how important this is to Chez’s success, he also consults with three performance experts: chiropractor Dr. Craig Davies, osteopath Dr. Atay Varlii, and trainer Brandon Harris of Scottsdale-based Premier Fitness Systems. Chez may be short (5’ 9”) but he’s incredibly flexible, which means that the most effective way for him to hit the ball far enough to survive on Tour is to trace a long swing arc and fully leverage the ground beneath his feet. Then there’s the issue of his left wrist.

To reduce stress in that area, we’ve worked on establishing a better face-to-path relationship through impact, starting with a squarer, more stable clubface in the early transition and throughout the downswing. It’s also been the key to developing Chez’s “never-fail” push-draw shot shape.

The Cheat: When looking for an instructor, find one with the experience to build an improvement map for you based on your body type and movement patterns, not a predescribed recipe of positions and aesthetics. You’ll be better off for it.

Chez Cheat No. 2: Optimize Your Numbers

Chez is a straight hitter; in fact, he’s number one on Tour with a 75.4 fairways-hit percentage (through the John Deere Classic) while averaging 287 yards off the tee. Credit the latter to the efficiencies created by Cheat No. 1: Chez’s Smash Factor consistently hovers around 1.51/1.52.

To achieve this, Chez prioritizes impact location and club delivery dynamics over swing speed, resulting in a high launch angle (14 degrees), low spin (2,100 rpm) and a sub-40 percent descent angle. These values combine to help Chez optimize carry and roll for max distance gains. He squeezes every possible yard out of his swing, which, when combined with his world-class accuracy, makes his driver a serious weapon.

The Cheat: On tighter holes where the rest of the field might defer to a 3-wood or hybrid to ensure they hit the fairway, Chez can confidently pull driver, thanks to his precision. His accuracy is a weapon that not only gives him cleaner shots into the green, but levels the distance playing field. The lesson: Build accuracy first, then speed.

Chez Cheat No. 3: Play Smart, Stay Patient

Chez hits 68 percent of his greens (44th). He also ranks fifth in proximity to the pin from the fairway at 33’ 11” inches. So not only is he giving himself a lot of chances for birdie, he’s doing it from makeable range probably half the time—an ideal environment for low scores. He does it with the help of two things: patience and discipline. Chez is accurate enough to fire at every pin, but he’s very selective about which pins he attacks.

This strategy has been an all-around effort since mental coach Bryan Hepler and statistician Mark Hortz joined Team Reavie. We develop a game plan for each course to maximize Chez’s skill set so he can shoot the lowest score possible. Each week, caddie Justin York works the plan, guiding Chez around the course—much like a jockey does with a racehorse on the track—sometimes pulling in the reins and other times letting Chez run. It’s true that constantly firing at pins and getting marginal gains in proximity to the pin will eventually produce a super-low score, but what about when you miss? We like the strategy championed by DECADE golf founder Scott Fawcett: scoring takes great discipline and patience, not bravado.

The Cheat: Do what you can do to hit more greens in regulation. This will boost your scoring potential exponentially. The more greens you hit in regulation, the more birdie putts you’ll have. So stay disciplined.

Chez Cheat No. 4: Give Yourself Options

Chez’s scoring average has improved since he swapped his 3-iron for a gap wedge (he’s now a huge four-wedge proponent). He uses 46-, 50-, 54- and 58-degree wedges, which allows him to cover a wider spread of distances at the short end of his bag. It also provides Chez with more options on par-5 layups and on recovery shots for par.

The Cheat: Adding an additional wedge automatically gives you 25 percent more full-swing yardages—and a huge boost in your margin for error.

Chez Cheat No. 5: Manage Your Misses

The key to posting good scores is avoiding bogeys. There are some golden rules for this, and the first is to accept the fact that bad shots happen. Eventually, you’ll have to rely on your ability to scramble, so whenever possible, make sure that you’re chipping and pitching uphill from the fat side of the green.

If you’re oblivious to bad-miss areas when mapping out your approach- shot strategy, you’re toast. If you’re in trouble off the tee, don’t always try to advance the ball as close to the green as possible. Sometimes laying back to a fuller shot will allow you to attack a pin with a wedge—rather than having to attempt a short difficult pitch to a tucked pin—and save par.

The Cheat: Bogey avoidance is about managing your misses and leaving yourself easier up-and-down chances. You can learn from Chez’s 61.94 scrambling rate by picking conservative targets and trying to leave yourself uphill chips.

Chez Cheat No. 6: Putting Strokes Mirror Full Swings

There are an infinite number of ways to putt, but I strongly believe that your putting stroke should mirror your full swing. Your stroke will hold up better under pressure this way, and this in turn will do wonders for both your scores and your nervous system. When Chez practices, he works hard to embrace a flowing, arcing stroke (instead of a more structured, straight-back-and-through stroke). His primary goal is to start putts on the correct line.

The Cheat: In your practice and when you’re out there rolling the rock for real, use start line and speed to grade the quality of your stroke, rather than trying to rely on what it looks and feels like. Nothing else matters. Part two: Get fit for a putter that suits your stroke type and aim bias. It’s true: You can buy better results. Do whatever it takes to get the ball in the hole—just like Chez!