Archive for May, 2011

May 31, 2011

Power Play Golf is not for me!

I have read about the new format of “Power Play Golf” that is being promoted in a few highly publicized events this year.  I don’t know about everyone else, but it seems like a really cheesy attempt at making golf more extreme and exciting for viewers.  The people behind power play golf should have taken a good lesson from the flop that was the XFL and left this one alone.

This first obstacle is the fact that they are implementing new rules for the new format.  Most people don’t understand the current rules of golf and now they are going to have to figure out what the heck is going on with brand new rules?  Sorry, but that isn’t going to happen.  I have a feeling that most novice viewers will be lost at the first sight of two flags on the green.

Just the name alone makes it seem like golf is trying to take a stab at an X-games type feel to golf which is never going to happen.  Golf is a game built on tradition and there is no getting around that.  No matter how much the high ups in golf want to reach new markets and grow their viewer base they will always be hindered by the fact that golf is a game of tradition.  It doesn’t have the flash of end zone dances and huge hits like some other sports.  Tiger changed that for a time when he was dominating, but that isn’t the case anymore.  Just look at who is the new world #1!  It is a scrappy looking Englishman who doesn’t hit it much further off the tee than most lower handicap players.  He is steady in his game and is a great putter, but lacks all of the flare that Tiger did.

That last sentence might sound like a bad thing, but I assure you I 100% think it is a good thing.  I truly believe golf is one of the pure sports left out there.  It doesn’t have the big ostentatious draft day like the NBA or NFL.  It’s players don’t have tattoos from head to toe.  The game is played with respect and integrity.  Most NBA players try to get fouled in order to make baskets and gain an advantage.  PGA tour players call penalties on themselves just to preserve the integrity of the game.

What I am really trying to say is that I don’t like the idea of power play golf and I think the powers that be should leave golf alone.  It is a wonderful game of tradition and respect.  Those two character traits have largely been lost in the world of sport recently and we should embrace them where they still remain in tact.

 

May 26, 2011

It’s about time Donald took over the #1 spot!

I know it is only the first round of the BMW championship and Donald has by no means gained the top spot in the world, but I have to say come on already Luke!  Westwood only managed an even par round and will be fighting a serious uphill battle tomorrow and possibly this weekend to maintain his top spot.

If Luke Donald does in fact take over the top spot in the world I think it will be great for the PGA Tour.  Westwood has played well this year, but the knock on him is that he isn’t always playing against the top players in the world every weekend.  That can’t be said for Donald since his success has come on the PGA Tour this season.  Now he is backing it up on the European Tour which makes me think his game is that much more elevated than Westwood at the moment.

There have been two different story lines this year that come into play here.  The fact that the European players are stepping up and occupying the top ranked spots and the argument that the European Tour is becoming just as strong as the PGA Tour.  To the first point, yes the Euros are 100% playing better golf than the Americans this year so far.  If Donald continues to dominate this weekend does that settle the argument that the PGA Tour is stronger?  Probably not, but it definitely makes me wonder.

Either way, I am excited at the prospect of Donald taking over the top spot in the world rankings for two reasons.  #1 I like the idea of the top player being a PGA Tour member and #2 he is a Chicago guy and I have to support the Chicago athletes!

May 25, 2011

Grip Pressure for Consistent Contact

I would say the one truly glaring area of my game that I always struggle with is hitting greens in regulation.  I am comfortable with my shot shape and the fact that I am going to make good contact with the ball on all of my shots, but the amount of draw or fade I have on my shots varies and I have been struggling to lock it down.  Golf is a game of misses and I have been striving to make my iron shots miss a lot better than they have in the past.

In order to do this I have been focusing on hitting down on the ball more instead of trying to pick the ball clean.  I have written a few posts about the importance of taking a divot recently so I won’t go into that again.  The second thing I am focusing on is keeping a bit of pressure on the last three fingers on my left during my swing.  I tend to flip the club over through impact which causes a hook and having all the pressure of my left hand on my thumb and index finger makes my last few fingers almost come off the club at the top of the backswing.

By keeping my pressure focused on my last three fingers I am able to keep the club head much more steady throughout the entire swing and deliver a much more square club face at impact.  It also creates more stability in my entire grip which decreases my flip and creates a much straighter ball flight.

A lot of people would say this is a basic fundamental, but so is keeping your eye on the ball and how many people do you see messing this up?  A lot!  I know it is a fundamental, but I didn’t realize I was doing this until someone pointed it out.  Now that it has been brought to my attention it has helped my iron game, but I still need to fine tune it if I am going to get down to a single digit handicap.

May 24, 2011

Would a Random Practice Routine Really Help Your Game?

I was reading an article this morning that talked about the importance of mixing up your practice sessions by never hitting the same club back to back along with varying your shot shapes and objective for each shot for every ball you hit at the range.  The article pointed to the fact that when you play a round of golf you never hit the same club back to back, unless you duff a shot and practicing for that scenario will prepare you to play out on the course.

I understand the concept behind this approach, but the argument balances on one pivotal point.  It assumes that the person taking part in the practice session is comfortable with all of their clubs and shots.  If I am confident in most of my game then I can totally see going to the range and playing a practice round in my head by hitting a driver, 7 Iron then a chip to simulate a hole.  That makes sense, but I am always struggling with one portion of my game and really benefit from devoting a larger chunk of time to that struggling area.

If I am losing confidence in my shots from 100 yards then I want to go to the range and hit a bucket of 100 yard shots.  Am I crazy to think this actually does help me build my confidence back up for this shot.  The next time I go to hit that on the course I have a full practice round behind me to pull from and establish confidence that I CAN hit that shot.

If I go to the range and play a simulated hole where I hit driver and pull it left then hit a punch shot to simulate being in the trees then an approach shot that sequence will probably help me when I go to the course and find myself in the trees.  Other than that, I want the initial feedback of being able to hit another driver after I hit a bad one.  That is the reason I am at the range.  To work out the kinks.  If I hit a bad drive I don’t want to let that go without addressing it.

As much as I want to like this approach to practice, I just can’t.  I think it is unrealistic to ask the average everyday golfer to spend their money at the range and not be able to work out their mechanics by hitting balls and gauging results.  If the golfer is comfortable with their game then it makes more sense, but I don’t see that being the case for most of us.  I could be looking at this the wrong way, but I don’t see this being a real upgrade in practice techniques.

May 23, 2011

David Toms has a Short Term Memory aka Next Shot Mentality

Is there any better recent example of having a “next shot mentality” than David Toms this weekend?  The guy hasn’t won on Tour in forever and is undoubtedly on the down swing of his career.  Not only that, but he lost last week on a heartbreaking playoff putt that would cause most people to walk away from the game for an extended period of time.  Does that get him down and depressed?  Nope!  What does he do instead of pouting and feeling sorry for himself?  He comes out and shoots back to back 62’s in the first two rounds at Colonial.  Granted, he backed it up with a 74 and blew a 7 shot lead the next day, but what did he do after that?  He shoots at 67 to win.

If you aren’t impressed by that then you must not love the game of golf.  First off, the fact that he came back after missing that putt at the players and shot a 62 is amazing.  He obviously had his internal fire for the game reignited to pull something like that off.  Then to back it up with another 62 was truly incredible.  After posting the 36 hole lead the questions swirled about whether Toms could hold the lead through the weekend or whether or not he would add his name to the slew of other players this year who have held a 36 or 54 hole lead only to blow it big time over the weekend.  After his third round 74 it looked like he would do just that.

Listening to his interview you could tell he was not shaken by the poor score.  He acknowledged his disappointment in the score but said he was happy to get himself back in contention and felt his game was much better that day than his score indicated.  Talk about a guy who didn’t let all of the outside factors get to him.  That to me shows incredible heart, determination and mental toughness.  I was expecting him to flub this tournament again just because most players this year have shown that they are very adept at losing leads on the weekend rather than retaining them.

He proved me wrong and it was fun to watch.  I give him much credit for pulling it off this weekend after such a heart breaking lose the previous week.  Tom’s resurgence is truly a great story in golf and one I hope continues to progress.

May 20, 2011

Divots can be your friend…

Recently, I have given a bit more attention and notice to the divots I have been taking out on the golf course.  In the past I was a bit afraid to take a healthy divot because I felt like I was going to hit every shot fat and I really didn’t understand the concept of the divot.  I understand that there are guys out there (Steve Sticker types) who are good enough to pick the ball clean, but I am not that kind of player or nearly that good.

I haven’t had a chance to read Tom Watson’s new book yet, but I can already tell I am going to enjoy it and learn from it just by reading a few excerpts online.  Watson acknowledges that a golfer can learn a great deal about the quality of their golf shots by looking at their divot.  I have to be honest that prior to this year I never spent much time looking at my divots or really caring about them.  If I hit a shot thin or fat I would just say, “oh I came up out of that shot or I hit behind the ball.”  Now, I am trying to focus on hitting the ball first and leaving a shallow divot a few inches in front of the ball.  Now when I hit a thin shot I don’t leave much of a divot and if I hit it fat, my divot is much deeper.

The hardest part about this concept for me is the lack of a grass driving range in the city of Chicago.  The feeling you get when you hit the ball first then take a clean divot is unmatched on a mat.  I am not sure how to get around this, but I would encourage all golfers out there who want to get better to take some time to look at the divots they are leaving out on the course.  It can tell you a great deal about your alignment, swing path and shot shape.  Be a student of the game and learn from your time on the course.  It will make a difference in your enjoyment of the game!

May 19, 2011

Everyone Hates Golf Practice, Yet We All Come Back!

I am working out in the suburbs this week at a client and I quickly realized that there is a grass driving range just down the street from the office.  I brought a few clubs with me yesterday and utilized my lunch break to get a little practice in.  I thought I would have the range to myself since the weather wasn’t great and it was right around noon.  Boy was I mistaken.  Just like me, there were TONS of people out hitting balls on their lunch break.  The range is just across the street from a business park and the stalls were filled with guys wearing ties and dress shoes.

It was cool to see so many people out actively working on their game in bad weather and in the middle of the day, but it got me thinking about the nature of golf practice.  Is there any other sport where numerous people will go out on their lunch break and take part in an utterly frustrating and sometimes demoralizing game?  I’m sure there are a few people out there who go shoot free throws, bowl a few frames or throw the baseball around but not nearly in the numbers that people go out and practice golf.

In all the years I have played sports I have never experienced the amount of frustration while practicing as I have with golf.  I have played competitive sports my whole life and have put in countless hours of practice that has been rewarding and made a tangible difference to my playing ability.  Golf is not the same.  I have often left the course or range feeling like I have taken steps backwards and lost all confidence in what I had been previously working on.  I really believe this is unique to Golf.  I am not saying that players don’t experience setbacks in other sports, but how many times have you seen people at the range slamming clubs on the ground or expressing their frustration in a very visible manner?  I can’t remember a time when I have been at a crowded range and not seen someone have a minor melt down due to frustration.

Regardless of that frustration factor we all still come back for more!  It blows me away how much we are willing to put up with in terms of frustration to try and get better at this game.  What blows me away further is that people think they can get better simply by going to the range and hitting balls with no foresight, keys to work on or outside help to assist them with their swing.  It is never going to happen.  Never ever.  Just hitting balls to hit balls is more detrimental and increases the amount of frustration we normally experience.  I can’t stress enough the importance of utilizing your practice time with a focused approach that is aimed to helping your game.

Pounding balls at the range to pound balls never got anyone on the Tour.  Try and focus your practice where your game needs it the most and by all means take a lesson to identify glaring bad habits that you are most likely engraving into your muscle memory at the range.  When you go out and practice with an attainable goal in mind you will leave feeling much happier and optimistic about your game.  Trust me, it makes a difference and you will feel much better walking off the range and enjoying a small laugh to yourself at all the players slamming their clubs in frustration.

May 18, 2011

Colonial Fantasy Pick

This week I am going with Hunter Mahan to win at Colonial.  He is having a pretty good year so far, but is due for a full week of good golf.  You have to think that posting 6 top 10’s in 12 starts would annoy any golfer who really wants to win.  After sniffing the lead that often you have to think that Mahan will find an extra gear of motivation and bring a win home.  He is T10 on Tour in greens in regulation at 70.37% and T18 in scoring average at 70.41.  This is all while being a mediocre to good player off the tee and around the greens.  His iron play saves him all the time and expect it to save him again this week.

He hasn’t been the steadiest off the tee or in scrambling, but his ability to make it into the top 10 says enough.  He is playing well and is due for a week where he puts it all together.  If Mahan drives the ball well and hits greens like he normally does he will again find himself in contention.  You have to figure that the experience of being up near the top of the leader board will kick in for him this season and he will close one of these tournaments out.  Since Bubba doesn’t want to be the face of American golf maybe we need someone like Mahan to step up and start carding wins in bunches.  I, for one, won’t be holding my breath on that, but I do think he will win this weekend or at the very least post another top 10.

My dark horse pick this week is actually Sergio Garcia.  I am not a huge Sergio fan to begin with, but he has played some pretty good golf this year thus far and he came home strong at the Players for a T12.  Sergio has won here before which should boost his already growing confidence a step further.  Will it be enough to put him into the winner’s circle?  I don’t know, but it seems like it could be a perfect storm story line for Sergio.  Adding to his increased play is the potential for him to break his major appearance streak this year at the U.S. Open due to his drop in the world rankings.  A win would put him back in the field and he knows that.  He isn’t my front runner, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a good performance this week.

May 17, 2011

Grip Change for the Driver

I have been struggling with my driver a bit over the past few rounds which is normally one of the stronger points of my game.  After two frustrating rounds I made my way to the range to see if I could make some effective tweaks to straighten my drives out.  I tried a few things with no avail.  I played with ball position, grip pressure, stance, posture, back swing length, follow through and weight shift.  Not much was helping.  I was hitting a two way miss which was really frustrating.

I finally decided to try and grip the driver with an interlock grip instead of my normal overlap grip.  I also started to try and focus on keeping my grip pressure tighter on my last three fingers on my left hand.  All of a sudden I started to hit the ball straighter with a slight cut.  My normal miss is left, but I have always wanted to hit a slight cut.  I didn’t get too excited, but it stuck for a few more swings and started to feel very solid and fluid.  I took it to the course the next day and shot an 87 with no balls OB off the tee on a tighter course than I am used to.

I am not sure exactly why this is because I am not a golf instructor, but I have a feeling it has to do with me releasing my wrists too soon or too late and not having a solid club head angle at the point of impact.  It was making me lose confidence in my swing.  By changing my grip I felt like I was delivering a square club face at impact with a smooth swing.  It was refreshing and fun to find something that has made a difference in my swing and created much more consistency in my drives than I previously had.

I am playing again on Friday afternoon so we will see if I can carry it over, but I feel confident about it and am looking forward to getting out and playing.  Now I just need to find a short game.   Anyone know where I can find one of those?

May 16, 2011

Bogeys, Divots and Gators!

I am back from my trip to Kiawah, S.C and the weather in Chicago still sucks!  How is that possible?  It was very depressing getting off the plane to rain and cold weather after a week in 80 degree sunshine.  Oh well, life goes on.

The golf down in Kiawah is truly amazing.  It is a little bit pricey, but the lack of crowds and caliber of the courses makes it worth while.  I ended up playing four times in the week I was down there, but hit balls every day.  I played Cougar Point (97), The Ocean Course (110), Daniel Island: Ralston (93) and again at Cougar Point (87).

My biggest take away from the week golf wise was a putting tip from my caddy at the Ocean Course and the realization that you absolutely have to hit balls (off grass) every day or close to every day to get better.  I have been struggling through bad weather conditions in Chicago and a range that only has mats so far this season.  That paired with limited practice time makes getting better much harder.  Just from being down at a place where I was free to chip, putt and hit balls on real grass (not astro turf) made all the difference in the world.  I made more progress in my game during one week of un-interrupted golf than I have in two months in Chicago practicing inside and playing only on the weekends.

After three days down there I was hitting the ball cleaner and much more consistently.  My short game got much better.  My putting got better and my confidence was through the roof.  Besides the Ocean Course (110) I wasn’t all that upset with my scores.  I got better every day and hit some really good golf shots over the week.  Being able to hit balls consistently and hit balls off of grass made a huge difference for me.  I am all for hitting off of mats if you don’t have any other options, but nothing can replace the feeling of hitting the ball first and taking a divot.  The feedback is amazing and crucial to striking the ball better.  As the week went on I could clearly see that I was hitting down on the ball better and taking a divot in front of the ball.  My ball flight was straighter and more consistent and my scores dropped as well.  I really need to figure out where a grass range is in the city!

Quick side note: The Ocean Course is absurdly hard and I don’t care what your handicap is, nothing will prepare you for the waste bunkers on that course.  They don’t fill the bunkers with fresh sand because the wind blows it all over the course so most of the waste bunkers (not the green side bunkers) play like they are basically cart path.  They are impossible to get out of.  The 2012 PGA Championship will be interesting to say the least.

So, on my last day at Cougar Point I played at 7:30am and on the fourth hole ran into the guy below.  He was about 8 feet and once we passed by him he strolled out into the fairway and laid down to get some sunshine.  I can’t imagine the view from the tee box for the guys behind us!  Sorry for the poor picture quality, but I didn’t want to get too close.

If you made it this far I feel it is only fair that I share my putting tip with you that I got from my caddy at the Ocean Course.  It is not revolutionary by any means, but it made a big difference in my game.  He noticed right off the bat that my putter was toe up a little bit.  He suggested that I move closer to the ball to get the toe to lay flatter on the ground.  Instantly, my putts were hitting the sweet spot and rolling smoother.  I nailed a few longer range putts throughout the weekend and can tell it is going to help me immensely this season.  This is obviously not a huge tip, but if it weren’t for the caddy I never would have known.  I suggest to everyone that they get their putter checked/adjusted to fit their set up and game.  It makes the most difference out of any other club in your bag and deserves a little attention if you are serious about shooting better scores!  Despite the bad weather and lack of practice facilities, I am glad to be back!