November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Golf Game…PINK BALL

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If you are like me and have a regular Thanksgiving Golf game every year with either family or friends I want to share a fun wrinkle to consider for a fun betting format. First things first, this format requires more than one foursome of players. It works best when each foursome is a team and plays against one or more additional foursome.

The way our group plays is in three different foursomes so 12 guys total. 8 works just fine too. Here are the nuts and bolts:

  • Each foursome (4 players) makes up a team
  • Each team will card 2 scores per hole
    • One score is a scramble score between three of the four players. (Each of the three players hits a tee shot and they take the next shot from the best shot, etc)
    • One player from each team will play a Pink golf ball. (Generally, we play with an actual Pink golf ball, but yellow or any other variation works as well)
  • The player who is playing the Pink Ball on the hole must finish out the hole completely with their Pink Ball. No gimmies.
  • After that player has completed the hole they will pass the Pink Ball to another player in the foursome. That player must now play the next hole alone with the Pink Ball while the other three play it as a scramble.
  • The order by which the Pink Ball is passed should be established on the first tee and can’t be altered during the round. Consider Par 5 and Par 3 hole numbers and play to your team player’s strengths.
  • The team with the lowest combined Pink Ball and Scramble score wins!

Example: If a team is playing a Par 4 hole and the three players playing as a scramble card a 4 and the player playing alone with the Pink Ball cards a 6 their team total is 10 for that hole.

The game is pretty fun with large groups and actually a lot of fun. Getting the Pink Ball on your tee is surprisingly stressful when you know you are all alone and your team is depending on you for a score. Try it out and let me know what you think!

November 18, 2014

Study the Worst Golfer, NOT the Best

I stumbled across a very interesting article on LinkedIn this afternoon and I couldn’t help but share it and add my thoughts to it. The article is titled “How the world’s worst tennis player can help improve your performance.” (Article HERE).

The article raises a very interesting theory that as someone who wants to get better it is more beneficial to study people who have performed poorly in the desired field and work hard to not make the same mistakes they did as opposed to studying people who have been excellent in the desired field and trying to emulate them.

The concept is actually fascinating when applied to Golf. Think about it for a second. All of the instruction you see out there tells you to try to hit the ball like certain PGA Tour pros. Instructors use the V1 video software to compare your swing to Tiger Woods and Adam Scott. I want to clarify that I do believe that video training has a lot of value and benefits for the average golfer. We are constantly looking at what we should be doing, but how often do we stop and focus on what we shouldn’t be doing?

According to the theory proposed in the article players like myself can learn more by looking at what bad players do wrong and trying to avoid those mistakes than simply trying to emulate a great player. I took this theory to the driving range and tried to add the lens of looking at players and seeing what mistakes I wanted to avoid rather than looking for traits I wanted to mimic.

Here is what I noticed as I walked down the range. It was much harder to point out the things that the really good players were doing right than it was to point out what the bad players were doing wrong. It was far easier to notice that a bad player was coming out of their posture on the back-swing and completely losing their balance after hitting the ball than it was to point out the grip, posture, balance, impact position, stability of their head, etc of the really good player. As I walked down the line at the driving range it was easy to jot down a few notes based on some major mistakes I was seeing from the worse players. Using these as guidelines of things not to do I felt like I had a good foundation of ideas on which to use in my practice session and I actually had a very productive and positive session.

I think one should be careful with a theory like this because I could see the benefit of avoiding mistakes quickly dissipating when too many thoughts creep into your head. Having a head full of ideas that start with Don’t makes me really nervous as a golfer. On the flip side seeing someone do something wrong like lose their balance after impact and back peddling is a great visual to remind yourself to stay balanced throughout the swing. In fact, I would say it is a much better visual reminder than watching the swing of a PGA Tour player.

By trying to emulate Tiger Woods there is little chance you will become as good as Tiger Woods. By avoiding the mistakes that average golfers make, chances are you can elevate your game to a high level. I’m not sure if I 100% buy into this theory, but the article got my wheels turning and I wanted to share my thoughts on it. What do you think?

October 29, 2014

California Swinging!

It’s been a while since I have been actively posting and I have a good reason, I promise. In the last month I decided to pack up my apartment in Chicago and move back to sunny San Diego. The move also took place two weeks before my wedding which was not what I would call ideal timing. Regardless, I am finally settled down after the wedding and the move and I am focused on dropping my handicap as quick as possible.

Since being back in California I have noticed how much easier it is to get practice in due to a few factors. Even after being here just one month I can noticeably tell the improvement in all aspects of my game. My short game is sharper, my putter is rolling consistently and my iron game is firing on all cylinders right now. What are the items I attribute this to? #1 is the WEATHER. It is impossible to replicate how perfect the weather is out here. On a daily basis you get ideal golfing weather. In Chicago I never knew what the weather was going to do. One minute it was perfect outside, the next it would be a thunderstorm. Being able to actually go play and practice pretty much every day is truly amazing. #2 is access to practice facilities that aren’t just mat driving ranges. The range I have been going to have both mat and grass hitting bays, two chipping greens, green side bunkers and a massive putting green. Compare that to the two-story only mat driving range I used to go to in Chicago and I feel like a little kid on Christmas morning. It is so easy to lose 3 hours at this new range just messing around with your game.

Bottom line of this post is that I moved back to California and am LOVING it so far. My spirits are up, my golf game is getting better every day and it feels really good to be home!

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!

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