August 18, 2014

Whistling Straits Trip in the Books

The trip to Whistling Straits is in the books and this post has taken me a lot longer to write than I originally expected. The main reason is that I am in the middle of finalizing a move back to California and have been a bit distracted. Now that I have a few free minutes I’m happy to report that if you have any level of love for golf you need to make your way to Kohler Wisconsin and play the Straits course. It is definitely expensive, but worth the cost. I have played a lot of championship courses (Torrey Pines South, The Ocean Course and Pinehurst #2) and I can confidently say that the Straits course is the most unique and memorable golf experience I have ever had.

While I was there we played all four of the courses and each course had its own unique layout and charm. Hands down the best course we played was the Straits course simply because it hosts major championship golf and it feels and looks just like a true links golf course. You won’t see any houses on the course, golf carts or paths, maintenance crew or most of the staples of public golf courses. Once you leave the caddy shack in front of the club house you step out into a truly unique golf experience. From the first hole to the 18th you feel like you are out playing golf in Scotland or Ireland and the fact that you are on the shores of Lake Michigan is simply an after thought.

The most surprising thing about the Straits course was that it is actually playable. I made it around the course with only one ball when I was expecting to lose a full box. The other three courses have much more penal hazards and tall grass. Also, you will be treated to some amazing views and if you are luck lots of wild sheep. If you are really luck you will finish your round and check your phone to see that your caddy has taken it upon himself to leave you the lasting gift of a selfie. All in all the trip was absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to see the tour pros play it next year for the PGA.

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I lost the banana costume bet on a failed up and down on the 18th hole and have never been more devastated walking off the 18th hole of any course in my life. It was crushing.

 

July 16, 2014

What do a Banana Costume, Whistling Straits and a 5K Run Have in Common?

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A banana costume, whistling straits and a 5k run might not seem like they have anything in common, but during this upcoming weekend all three of them will collide in a fantastic golf bet. In the past I have written about the friendly major golf bet between myself and my golfing buddy. This weekend we are making the drive up to Kohler Wisconsin to play 4 rounds at the American Club and decided to change our bet slightly.

Normally the player with the lowest score after the 4 rounds would have to buy the winner whatever golf shirt he wanted from the pro shop of the most expensive or memorable course we played. We have done this about 5 times in the past and decided to put something else on the line. There is a 5K run on Cape Cod called the Brew Run that we will both be running this sumer. We decided that the loser of the round on the famous Straits course will have to run the race in a full banana costume. I don’t know why we thought this was such a great idea, but the build up and smack talking that has followed has been amazing. I will be glad to post the picture of the loser running in the costume during the race!

While the golf bet is fun I have to say that I have been playing much better heading into this trip. Normally I would be pounding balls at the range trying to find some magic before the trip, but this time I have changed my approach. Based on two posts from Brian Penn here and here I decided to take his advice and play a lot more during the week in 9 hole spurts and on the days I didn’t play I have dedicated 15 minutes minimum to chipping and putting. As Brian mentions in his posts I changed my preparation to focus on playing and gaining as much confidence as possible on the shorter shots. The results have been very promising. The confidence I have gained on chip shots and putts just from making sure I have a wedge or putter in my hand every single day no matter what, even if it is just for 15 minutes, has been astronomical. The biggest change I have noticed is in my putting and gaining a ton of confidence in my stroke. Not to mention a better habit of keeping my head down! Don’t ever forget that. By doing this drill I have noticed just how much I have neglected my putter and that aspect of my game.

This preparation has been very fun and has gotten me even more fired up to go play a ton of golf at Whistling Straits. While we are up there we are playing the following courses:

1. Black Wolf Run – The Rivers Course

2. Whistling Straits – The Straits Course

3. Whistling Straits – The Irish Course

4. Black Wolf Run – The Meadows Course

I am worried I won’t be able to sleep tonight I’m so excited to get in the car and get up there to start playing. I’ll take as many pictures as I can and report back on the courses and the play! Wish me luck!.

 

June 23, 2014

New Irons are Staying in the Bag for Good

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New bag and Irons from the PGA Superstore

I am back in Chicago after my 8 day trip to sunny San Diego and in true Chicago fashion it is raining cats and dogs outside and there is no potential to play any golf. It’s a bit depressing going from hitting balls or playing every day to being stuck inside due to bad weather. Now that I am back from my trip I have a few things I learned about my game and also my equipment.

I have written about this before, but this trip to the west coast re-affirmed my belief that there is no better way to improve your game than playing consistently for multiple days in a row. Being a range rat is something I have been guilty of in the past since playing golf while living in a city like Chicago can be a challenge to say the least. Hitting balls at the range is cheap compared to actually playing golf and it is easier to hit the range for an hour or two compared to getting in a car and driving 30 or 40 minutes outside the city and spending 6 plus hours on the course. After being on a golf trip where the sole purpose of the trip is to play and get your game dialed in it is beyond clear how valuable consistent play and practice are.

Before I left for my trip to San Diego I had the privilege to be invited to go into my local PGA Superstore and get fit for a new set of irons. When I received the invite I wasn’t sure I wanted to go in because I actually really liked my current set of irons and had an amazing fitting experience when I got them two years ago. I thought about it and decided that doing the fitting couldn’t hurt since I had been fit two full years ago and my swing has definitely changed in the past two years. When I went to do the fitting the first thing that stood out to me was just how big the PGA Superstore actually was. The building itself was massive and they had every single piece of equipment and clothing you can possibly imagine. It was pretty cool to see that many options all in one place. Not only was the store impressive, but everyone there was very nice and informative about the equipment.

During my fitting I hit the Mizuno EZ Forged, Titelist AP 1s, Nike RZN and the Callaway Apex irons. I was playing Adams a12’s prior to this fitting with KBS C-Taper stiff shafts. The big adjustment for me during the fitting was hitting clubs that were more forgiving and learning that my irons should be 2 degrees toe up and that I could actually benefit from playing standard length shafts. My current irons are a 1/2 inch short. My numbers from the fitting with the Callaway Apex irons were hard to ignore and I was more than pleased with them. My club speed was 86, ball speed 109, launch angle of 22.9, spin rate of 3160 and my total distance with a 6 iron was 174. Needless to say I took the clubs and played them during my time in San Diego. The numbers made me happy during the fitting but what I really liked was how consistent I hit just one ball flight. I personally like to play a light draw and every shot I hit with the Callaway irons gave me that slight draw. My misses would go a little bit further left, but I wasn’t fanning any out to the right. Basically, I felt like I could confidently get rid of one side of the course. Sure I’m going to hit some right every now and then, but the ball flight was staying steady throughout the fitting and I was able to take that confidence to the course immediately.

The new irons not only look great but they feel fantastic on the course. I have seen a remarkable improvement in my ball flight consistency and confidence. Standing over the ball with confidence you know what your shot is going to do is what all golfers are trying to achieve. This new set of irons has given me that feeling more than any other set of clubs I have ever owned. My misses have dramatically improved and my good shots are going exactly where I want them to go. My first round in San Diego was nothing to write home about, but after that warm up round I played an early morning round with my brother in law where I hit 79% of fairways and 50% of greens. It was a great round for me and the biggest thing I took away from it was how comfortable I was over the ball on each and every shot. I’m beyond excited to keep the momentum going and keep making more and more progress with my game.

If you haven’t been fit in a while I would highly recommend going into your local store and just get checked out. You never know how your swing has changed and how some of the new technology can help your game. I know for a fact that going in and getting fit again has helped my game.

 

June 11, 2014

Off to San Diego for 8 Days of Golf

I’m officially on my way to San Diego from Chicago and updating from the famous EL Train on my way to Midway airport. Every year I like to head back home to San Diego to get in some consistent practice and play to officially kick start the summer golf season. This year I am lucky to be able to spend 8 full days out there.

I’m going to have a mix of practice sessions and full rounds while I’m out there but it is all in preparation for my return back to the Midwest to continue fighting for a win in my season long golf bet with my normal foursome. Also, I have a big golf trip coming up in July to Kohler Wisconsin to tackle the famous Whistling Straits course. This will be another major championship venue I can check off my list. In the past I have played Torrey Pines South, The Ocean Course and Pinehurst #2.

There is a lot of great golf ahead of me over the remainder of the summer and I’m hoping to use this trip home to really dial in my brand new irons and engrain some of the changes I have made with Geoff Lound over the winter and early season. Geoff has given me a lot of good things to work on and my new irons have given me a new level of confidence that my game has really been missing. I’ll be updating during my trip but can’t wait to get there and get to work.

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May 27, 2014

Great Summer Long Golf Bet

In the past I have shared the golf bet that my friend and I call the “Friendly Major” and I’m a big fan of it. After three years of the same betting scheme, my group decided to mix it up this year and implement a season long bet. It is reminiscent of the Fed Ex cup season long race for points that the PGA Tour implemented a few years ago. It is in no way original, but I have been surprised by how fun it has made even our worst rounds so far this season.

Here is how it works. There are 4 golfers in our group. Every time we go out and play there are points available for the winner and for second place. The winner is awarded 3 points and second place is awarded 1 point. The golfers who come in 3rd and 4th essentially “miss the cut” and are awarded 0 points. At the end of the summer the golfer with the most points wins the pot. Our group put in $50 a golfer so the winner will get $150. Pretty simple right?

Using this system has allowed us to hone in on a new level of competitiveness I didn’t know we had. Each round there are points available and even if you shoot an awful score you can still win points. It has made all of us stay in the match right up until the last putt drops. Before when we were just playing for a score it was easy to have one blow up hole and say ok my round is cooked. Now, each of us has stayed in the match and really learned to grind out every stroke. You would be surprised how often our matches come down to a shot or 2 standing on the 18th tee box.

If you are looking for a new way to get competitive with your normal playing group give this a shot. It has been surprisingly fun and the season has just begun. I’m looking forward to seeing how the point system shakes out as the season goes along.

May 13, 2014

Missing Way too Many Greens

So far this season I have had a couple of decent rounds and a few very uncharacteristically horrible rounds. The last round I played I only hit a handful of fairways and had to scramble on every single hole except 2. My iron play was and has been downright awful. This last round I missed a ton of greens due to poor play off the tee. The course we were playing has not cut their rough all season and it has grown beyond penal. Playing out of that kind of rough, there is just no way to hit the ball close and make good scores.

The other rounds I have played I have had to scramble and grind out my scores and even when I’m hitting greens I’m not hitting it close enough to give myself good chances. I got my irons custom fit over two years ago and generally really like my clubs. I’m starting to wonder if a change in my irons would be a good thing for me at this point since I’m struggling so much to hit greens. I have been hitting the range hard and practicing a ton, but my misses just aren’t very good. If I could eliminate some of the bad pulls and pushes just fractionally I think I could pick up some strokes each round.

I have been toying with the idea for a while now and think I am going to do another fitting. Last time I did my fitting I went in completely blind towards any brand and bought the set that fit me best. It was between a set of Adams and Mizunos and I went with the Adams. I’m hoping another fitting will shed some light on what is going on with my ball striking and hopefully I can straighten some of my issues out. There is a giant PGA Superstore outside of Chicago that is doing a fitting promotion that I am going to try to check out in the next few weeks.

Anyone have any advice on clubs to check out or getting fit for irons in general? Would love to hear some feedback.

April 29, 2014

One Swing Thought and I Finally Posted a Decent Score!

So far this season I have been able to play about 6 rounds and have had very mixed results. My first few rounds were really encouraging with some improved short game stats. Then I hit a weird patch where I just didn’t feel comfortable with some of the off-season changes I made. If this has ever happened to you then you know what I’m about to say. This is a recipe for mental warfare with yourself on the course. I probably played 4 full rounds with no consistency in swing thoughts or where I thought the ball was going. It made golf not very fun and my scores were just awful.

After an afternoon of 27 holes I stuck to a new swing thought key and started hitting the ball better. Not great but better. The next morning I got an impromptu call to go play 18 with some buddies and if you read this blog you know that some of my best rounds ever have come from impromptu rounds. My theory is that the lack of anticipation and expectation really lets you just play the round. Anyways, I went out and played the round and hit every club in my bag the best I have all season. I drove the ball straight and long, hit my irons cleanly and putted great. I finally put together a decent round and I really think it is from sticking to a trusted swing thought. Once I keyed in on that one thought and used it for a few holes I no longer worried about my stance or posture or where the ball might go. I knew that if I stuck to what I was doing I would hit the ball clean with a slight draw. This makes golf MUCH more fun.

The mental side of the game is fascinating to me. It is remarkable what amazing changes you can make on the mental side and it is something I want to look more into. I have spoken to a few mental coaches for the blog but never really embraced it since I’m just a weekend golfer. I’d be interested to see how simple focus and strategy could help my game though. More to come!

April 7, 2014

Early Season Insights and New Putter Grip

So far this season I was able to get two rounds in while in San Diego as well as a few days of great practice. Nothing special came out of my rounds in San Diego and my first round in Chicago on a chilly day was nothing short of discouraging. This past weekend I went back out and had a better round with a lot more to be excited about. I hit the ball well off the tee, never put myself in too much trouble, had a few scrambling pars but also a few holes that were simply rust inspired.

Over the winter I took a quick putting lesson and have been determined to make myself a better putter this season. I know I need to work on my grip pressure and speed to make this happen. Over my first few practice session I just didn’t feel very comfortable with the putter or consistent with my speed control. In my past experience I have found that sometimes a simple change can get you excited about your game again and make a big difference. This got me thinking about what I could change about my putting. I have messed around with different putting styles and didn’t want to do that again. Enter the Super Stroke putting grip.

These grips are making a splash on the PGA Tour and I’m sure you have seen the commercials. I figured what the heck, let’s see what the fuss is about. I put one on my putter and have to say I’m a fan. The bigger grip has let me grip the putter lighter and still roll the ball with much more consistent speed. My putting stats have improved so far this short season and I’m encouraged that they will only get better as the weather warms up and playing becomes a more consistent reality. I’m not a big proponent of pushing products, but I would encourage anyone who is curious about these grips to give them a look. I was pleasantly surprised.

February 6, 2014

Bringing it Back to the Backswing

After my last post about my swing update I was feeling really good about my swing and where I was given the fact that it is winter here in Chicago and -10 degrees almost every other day. I took that confidence to the simulators at Play 18 and played a round of indoor golf against two of my normal playing buddies. The results were less than impressive and I felt a little bit off with the swing I was so confident about a few days before.

Prior to the round on the simulator I took a lesson with Geoff Lound and worked on some fundamentals around my grip and backswing. I felt good about what we were working on and it all made a lot of sense. After the simulator round I took another lesson with Geoff and a big light turned on about my lack of understanding on the fundamentals of the back swing. The picture below is a screen shot of my back swing position during my first lesson. Geoff pointed out that it is across the line with a little bit of a cupping in the left wrist. After seeing this I honestly had no idea I was doing it and couldn’t get myself to “feel” the backswing without the cup in my wrist.

Swing Right

Geoff and I started my next lesson with a few swings and he again pointed out the cupping in the wrist and the lack of control at the top of the swing. He put me on the Swing Robot in order to feel the proper position of the takeaway and the back swing. He was trying to get me to really focus on feeling the proper wrist action on the back swing. A lot of this was stuff that I worked on last winter with Mike Thornburg, but I had let myself slip back into bad habits. Also, if you haven’t seen the Swing Robot you should check it out. The thing is wacky, but really cool. It definitely helped me feel the proper position in the back swing. For me it felt like my club was super laid off, but in reality it was right on plane.

So after working on the robot and doing some swing drills with Geoff we took another video and here is my back swing position after using the robot. Notice a difference?

Swing Left

I was very surprised to see how flat my left wrist was and how on plane I was. Again, this to me felt like I was extremely laid off. It took some getting used to, but the results were immediate. I hit some shots on the simulator and after a little calibration I was getting a fairly straight ball flight with very consistent distance. This was very encouraging. I know that the feeling will take some getting used to, but now that I know what it should feel like, I feel pretty confident that I can implement the change into my swing and game.

Here are the two swing side by side. Crazy what a one hour lesson can do for your game! If you are in Chicago, I highly recommend you check out Play 18 and get a tune up with Geoff.

Backswing Side by Side

January 17, 2014

Swing Update January 2014

I had some time to get into the indoor hitting bays at Play 18 Chicago again and got some good work in. I wrote in my last post how I was pleased with the way I was swinging and hitting the ball after so much time off. Now that I went back, I wanted to share a brief clip of my swing. This is a full out 6 Iron after hitting a handful of Sand Wedges to warm up. As you can see, the numbers are pretty darn good. I’ll take a 180 6 Iron with a 2 yard draw all day! Excited with where things are and can’t wait to keep getting better heading into the summer! As always please feel free to share your thoughts on the swing.

*Ball speed 120, Club speed 95, Vertical launch 21.3

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