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Over the past few months, we’ve seen a lot of media buzz about this current trend to longer putters, both the belly and longer versions. Having been in this business for almost 30 years, I’m having a bit of a déjà vu moment here, as this same hubbub was churning back in the late 1980s, as I remember. When a few of the senior tour players began having success with them, there was a spurt of interest in the long (not belly) putter, and most putter companies quickly responded with one or more long putter models. As I remember, sales of long putters skyrocketed for a short while.
Well, here we are again, witnessing the same market reaction. A few tour players are having success with the long and belly putters, and the market is reacting again with a flood of those broomsticks from nearly every putter brand. And once again, battle lines are being drawn between those who think golfers should be able to do almost anything and everything to score better, and those who fear the integrity of the game is in jeopardy once again. Most in the business are expecting the USGA and R&A to weigh in on this soon.
So what’s the big deal? Do these putters jeopardize the game? I’m witnessing one ‘conversion’ at my club with one of our better players who was really struggling with his putting, to the point of absolute frustration on the greens. So, he took the plunge, began working with a long putter, and his enjoyment of the game has totally turned around. And he’s making lots of putts. And taking money from his buddies. And his handicap is going down to level the playing field at his new skill level.
So, how is the game suffering because this guy (and many more like him) found a way to score better? It’s not like the long/belly-putter users have knocked everyone else off the tour. It’s not like they are making a mockery of par. And so what if they were? Tour golf is so far-removed from the golf the rest of us play, it’s not even the same game in many ways. How many legitimate 3-shot par five holes are there on tour, compared to your course?
For me, who occasionally fights a bout of the yips, I’m not ready to go there, though several of my golf friends suggest I try it. I’m an old schooler, and believe that the way to beat a golf affliction is to practice harder. And I just simply don’t like the look of them. I’m a traditionalist, and it just doesn’t seem right to me to anchor the putter to the body in any way.
But it also galls me to see golfers wearing cargo shorts. Shirt tails that aren’t tucked in. Caps on backwards or cockeyed. And my biggest pet peeve – guys who wear flip flops at the country club. Sheesh. Get some shoes, guys!!!!
Anyway, I’d like to hear what you guys think of the long putter debate. Should you be able to anchor the club to the body? Should there be a maximum length allowed for a putter? Does it just look “wrong”?
Let’s have some fun with this one and everyone sound off, OK?
One of my favorite old movies is “Holiday Inn”, with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Both were accomplished golfers, you might know, but that really has nothing to do with it. It’s just a great old song and dance movie like they made so many of back in the 40s and 50s. Anyway, there’s a song in the movie called “Plenty To Be Thankful For” where Bing Crosby’s character shuts away his melancholy of losing his girl to recount the things that he’s thankful for in his life.
So, here we are on the cusp of another Thanksgiving Day, and it’s time again to think of all the things we can be thankful for in our lives. The economy has been tougher on some than others, I’m sure. All of us, at one time or another, find ourselves in somewhat of a funk, or focusing on the things in our life that aren’t quite right. But if you will take some time and focus on the things that you DO have to be very thankful for, it sure brightens your day. Here’s my short list:
I’m thankful first for being born when and where I was, to the best parents in the world. I lost my Dad when I was only 28, but my Mom is still perking along at 90+. Wow, how blessed I am to still have her, and she’s looking forward to her two boys, one grandson and her two grandchildren with her day after tomorrow.
And I’m very blessed to have met the most wonderful woman almost three years ago and get my “do-over”. We’re building our dream house in the country and will be married in the spring. I pinch myself to think how unbelievably lucky I am that she chose me to love, and having her in my life makes everything else pale in comparison.
I’m also thankful for my many friends – those of nearly all my life and those that are relatively new. When it’s all said and done, your life is the sum of your relationships, I think, and then your experiences. Love as many people as you can and life never gets too darn bad.
Of course, I am so blessed to be able to make my passion for golf also my livelihood. For 30 years I’ve been able to build a career around this game, and it’s culminating in the rapid growth and success of SCOR Golf. We have really struck a nerve in the marketplace with this revolutionary approach to wedges and short irons and the feedback from our early adapters is nothing short of phenomenal. Big things are in store for 2012 with this departure from the boring norm in scoring clubs. We hope you will let us show you what they can do for your game.
Finally, even with all the problems in our country, I wouldn’t trade living in the good old USA for anywhere else on earth. Where else could a boy from humble roots in a small town grow up to live free and choose a career path like I have?
I would like to encourage all of you to take time to think about all the good things in your life, then thank the Lord above for all you have. It’s what this week is all about, and what life is all about.
Oh, and back to golf with Bing and Fred, I got this the other day and thought I’d share it with all of you. Pretty remarkable, at least to me. I guarantee you will be impressed – Watch Now.
Almost all reasonably serious golfers have some kind of handicap, just to allow us to keep track of our overall improvement with our golf games. But wouldn’t it be more useful if that handicap was such that it told us where we could improve the most? Unfortunately, that’s not the purpose of the USGA handicap program, so I’ve devised my own “Short Game Handicap” calculation to help golfers understand that this is where they are most likely going to improve their scoring.
The premise of my short game handicapping formula is the notion that once we get inside short iron range, the physical differences between golfers is increasingly negated. Your physical skills and abilities will never let you hit drives and irons shots like the best players. But anyone can learn to execute good quality chips and pitches, and even full swing wedge and short iron shots. It really doesn’t matter whether your full-swing 9-iron goes 140 or 105, if you can execute shots from there on into the green, you can score better than you do now.
So, the starting point is to know exactly where you stand in relation to “par” when you are inside scoring range. And I don’t really care how many strokes it took you to get there, actually. Once your ball is inside that range where you can reach the flag with a comfortable full-swing 9-iron, you should be able to get up and down in 3 strokes or less almost all the time. In fact, I’d say that the times you get down in two strokes should outnumber the times it takes more than three, regardless of your skill level.
So, let’s start with understanding what this kind of scoring range skill set can do for your average score. I created this exercise as a starting point, so I’m encouraging you guys and ladies to chime in with your feedback.
What was your last (or typical) 18 hole score?
#1 minus #2 plus #3 = ______ Your short game handicap
And that’s how many shots will come off your average scores if you give your short game and scoring clubs the attention they deserve. (Think you can save that many shots with a new driver?)
I would like for each and every one of you readers to do this simple calculation and let us know what you find out. Come on, share!!!
If you are fortunate enough to live in a climate where the golf season really never ends, then count yourself among the lucky ones. Living in South Texas my whole life, it is easy to forget that many of our customers at SCOR Golf and many of my readers here at WedgeGuy are about to put away the sticks for the next few months and just tough it out. For you guys and ladies, I’ll write regularly over the next few months about drills you can do during the off season to give your golf game a head start when the snow melts and the sun comes out again.
But today, I’m addressing something that all of the rest of us need to keep in mind as we begin to play golf in cooler temperatures, winds that blow from the opposite direction and on courses that either have grass that goes dormant or are over-seeded with winter rye or bent mix.
The game is going to be harder until Spring, so adjust your expectations when you go out. You’ll probably be playing a little less often and the shorter days are going to cut into your afternoon practice sessions (if you do those!) You’ll have more clothes on which restricts your swing, and the courses are simply playing harder than they did in the summer, most of the time anyway.
So, here are a few keys to playing in the off season, but the most important one is to relax your expectations of yourself and your golf game. So what if your scores are a little higher over the next few months? At least you’re out there playing, while our friends in the north are cooped up inside.
So, have fun this winter and get in all the golf you can, but realize that your scores are going to climb for the next few months, most likely. But at least you’re playing!! Think about our online golf buddies in Minnesota and other “hinterlands” who won’t give you an ounce of sympathy when you whine about the conditions.
As a custom club builder, we get numerous orders for over-length golf clubs with a request to keep swingweight to a “conventional” D2-3 measure. Too many golfers have this notion that swingweight has to be there for the golf club to be “right”, regardless of their other specifications. In my opinion, this represents bad club building practice. Let me explain.
The swingweight scale measures the relative balance point of a golf club – nothing more, nothing less. There is no finite measure of “1 point of swingweight”. It is not a unit of measure like an ounce or gram. It takes less weight to change a 45” driver by one point, than it does to change a 35.5” wedge by the same amount. The scale uses a completely arbitrary range of measures, from B-zero to G-zero to compare the relative balance point of one club to another, and to an equally arbitrary “standard”.
When the swingweight scale and process was developed in the 1940s by Kenneth Smith – the first mass custom club builder — he found that most good players’ clubs yielded a D0-D2 measure on his scale device. So this became the “gold standard” for what clubs should feel like. Bear in mind that during this era, clubs were much shorter, shafts were much heavier and heads much lighter than they are today.
As technology lightened and lengthened shafts over the decades, and made heads heavier, the swingweight scale remained a standard measuring device, and this adherence to the “gold standard” of D0-D2 remained as well. IT MAKES NO SENSE WHATSOEVER.
During the 1980s, Dave Pelz and a few others opined that this was too heavy and the “featherlite” craze was thrust upon us, with the new target swingweight in the ‘B’ range. History has proven that this was not good club design as these heads were just too light to do the job. The marketplace ruled that as fact.
So, that brings us to my philosophy of “swing weight equivalents”. No one else talks this way that I’ve ever heard. Here it is in a nutshell:
The only way to beat this reality is to significantly compromise the head weight up or down, which changes the entire dynamic of the golf club and is not advisable in any circumstance.
To hit this arbitrary D0-D2 weight on clubs that are over or under length, you would have to remove or add as much as 5-7% of the head mass. And that would seriously compromise the playability and performance of the golf club.
This one is probably going to strike a nerve, but I can’t wait to hear what you guys have to say on the topic. Let’s roll.
Or maybe the question is do you really want to get better? And then that begs the question, “How do you measure that?” Lower scores? Better quality shots? Learning more kinds of shots?
So, assuming that most of us want to continue to improve, hit better quality shots, minimize our worst ones and shoot lower scores, is that what we’re achieving? What is the path of your handicap over the past 5-10 years? Is it steadily going down? Or are you “stuck” on a number and can’t seem to break through that level? My goal is to help you, if you really want to improve. And I can break that down into several key elements of this game where you can focus your attention over the winter and as you head into the new Spring 2012 season.
The tools you choose to equip yourself with can have a dramatic influence in your ability to improve. During the off season, it would be a good idea to invest some time and a little money to visit a qualified independent clubfitter & builder to learn more about what’s really in your bag. I know you think you know what you have, because you’ve invested in each and every club. But really knowing can open your eyes to why you might have problems with certain clubs, and why others are your favorites. Besides, getting into the clubs themselves is fun.
Fix the Big Pain
Almost every golfer has that one bad shot pattern that creeps in unexpectedly to start a round spinning out of control, or at least destroy one or two holes. It might be the snap hook, a big push, fat approach shots, thin wedges, chunked pitches or chips, or missed short putts. But I’ll bet if you think about your rounds this year, you’ll isolate one or two things that keep coming back. The good news is that they can be fixed, maybe even over the winter months. Visit a golf professional and have them fixate on that one thing. You don’t want a swing overhaul, but only to understand why and how that shot happens so that you can be aware of it, and fix it mid-round.
Improve Your Fundamentals
This game is infinitely easier to play well if you have great fundamentals. These are the pieces of the puzzle that happen before you ever take the club away from the ball. I’m talking about your grip, your posture and set-up, of course. There are several WedgeGuy articles about these basics that I suggest you read and refer back to. Sitting in front of your TV, or on the phone in your office, you can practice gripping and re-gripping the club so that by the time Spring rolls around, the new fundamentally sound grip is thoroughly learned. And practicing your set up and posture is as easy as putting pictures from any golf magazine or book up on a mirror and copying that. I’d venture to say that at least 95% of golfers with over a 10 handicap are preventing their own success by ignoring these two most basic of the building blocks of a good golf swing.
Improve Your Mind
I think the most overlooked “fundamental” is your understanding of the golf swing and what your objective is when you have a golf ball in front of you. Use the off season to read great books about the golf swing – there are many. Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons”, Tom Watson’s “Getting Up and Down”. Putting books by Dave Stockton and Bob Rosberg are wonderful, as is Ben Crenshaw’s. The more you know, the better you will understand what it is you are really trying to do out there.
So, fire off your questions to me about where I can help, and I’ll certainly do what I can. But getting better is up to you. Is that what you really want? And what are you willing to do to make it happen?
One of the most basic principles of this crazy game is that you need to get your body set up in the proper posture, with a sound grip on the golf club before you attempt to execute any shot. And a huge part of the proper posture is to have your body aligned properly in relation to your target.
Sounds simple, huh? But of the hundreds of golfers I observe on the course, driving range or during demo/fitting events, most do not give more than a passing notice to this very basic fundamental.
In a golf magazine I was reading a while back, Keegan Bradley, the PGA champion, said that he never hit even one ball in practice without an alignment club or stick on the ground. That stopped me, as it made so much sense I was mad that I hadn’t thought of that before. But hitting balls on the range without such reinforcement of your alignment and aim is rather pointless. Let me explain.
When you go to the practice range, your goal is to ingrain a swing that you can count on when you are on the golf course. You pick out a target flag and begin hitting away. But if you are aligned right or left, those shots that appear to be right on are really pulls or pushes from where your body is aligned. In other words, you are practicing swings, but not hitting accurate shots to where your body is really aligned.
The odds of replicating that same amount of pull or push repeatedly throughout a round of golf, from driver to wedge, are really pretty dismal. But, if you practiced your aiming at the same time you practice your swing, you bring the two together. You will get a very clear and ingrained picture of what proper alignment looks like every time you practice a swing.
Trust me. This works. I’ve used it to discover and correct a right-erred alignment flaw in my own game which had crept in over the past month or two. My swing, therefore, had become an increasingly “pull” move to compensate for that, until it got to a point where I had no idea what I was doing.
Your eye hand coordination will force you outside the learned swing in an attempt to make the ball go where you are looking . . . NOT where you are aimed. There is a huge difference.
So, take the PGA champ’s advice and always carefully place one or two alignment clubs or sticks when you are hitting practice balls on the range or in the short game area. It will pay huge dividends in your scores.
I was out of pocket all weekend, away on a hunting trip far from newspapers, so I didn’t learn of the icy blast that hit the northeast until yesterday. My heart goes out to all of you who were ushered into winter with a shocking blow. Hope all is restored to normal soon.
That made me think about how many of you have to put up the sticks for several months each year – how awful that must be. Makes me thankful to live in South Texas where we just have to dodge the inclement weather a day or two at a time. Cold northers can make things miserable from now til March, but we wait ‘em out and it’s nice again within a couple of days.
If you’re one of those who sees the 2011 golf season slamming to a halt, why not take the next few months of off season to give yourself a chance to re-build, re-fresh and re-new your golf game for 2012? Why not make a commitment to do the indoor things necessary to make next year your best ever? The golf swing is much more easily learned without a ball in the way, and changes to your technique can be completely ingrained indoors through the winter months.
You can work on posture and alignment, developing a better starting position. You can work on making those fundamental grip changes that will give your shotmaking consistency a boost. Putting and short game technique drills and improvements can also be achieved indoors, along with working on your pace and rhythm in the short game.
And one of the most dramatic improvements to your 2012 golf can be affected by spending the winter months working on your flexibility and strength. You can research the internet for plenty of exercises that will lead to better golf core strength and stretching exercises to keep or improve your late-season form.
So, I’d like to ask you to ask me … what do you want to know? What can I do to help? I don’t hear from you as often as I used to, so fill my email inbox, OK? I write this column every Tuesday and Friday for YOU … ALL of you. And I’d rather write about what you ask, than just pick topics on my own. Please???