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I’m writing this morning from Sacramento, CA, where we are showing SCOR4161 at the renowned Expo at Haggin Oaks Golf Complex. This is the biggest Demo Day (rather 3 days) in the world, and if any of you are attending, please come by and say “Hi”. I’ll be on the main stage today at 2:00 with a program I call Short Game Boot Camp.
Demo days are a strange experience for us, as most people are roaming up and down the line, hitting every driver and fairway wood they can, swinging from their heels and seeing if they can find something magical. Truth is, they probably won’t. Unless you haven’t bought a driver in five years or so, or just have one that isn’t right for you, the technology is so against the wall that you probably won’t find that new driver that really makes a difference. But that bomb it mentality seems to get in the way of thinking short and testing wedges. We’ll do our best to change that, of course.
The point is that recent tour statistics indicate that you just might be looking in the wrong place if what you are after is lower scores. Which is more satisfying – big drives but a score that stinks, or fairways, greens and consistently lower scores? If it’s the latter, here are a couple of recent insights into the PGA Tour this year that might be interesting to you.
The point of my story today is that all of us have physical limitations when it comes to driving the ball. You won’t ever approach the 300+ yard average of the bombers like Bubba Watson. But you can work on the shorter end of the game and be darned formidable as an opponent. Luke has proven that.
Think about it as you roam the range at the next demo day you attend.
One of the most important . . . and misunderstood and/or overlooked aspects of your golf clubs is the lie angle. That is the angle of the clubhead and shaft that is built into each club, and it has a huge impact on the quality of contact you will make with the ball, and on the flight path the ball will take as a result. Getting the right lie angle prescription is one of the major points of dynamic clubfitting. And the only way it can be done correctly is to do it dynamically . . . hitting actual golf shots with your clubs.
Yes, there are some online and other methods for “fitting” that ask for your height and wrist-to-floor measurement, but that is based on a projected “typical” posture and set-up at address, and the assumption that all golfers swing the same way. Neither are reliable at all.
The only thing that matters in lie angle fitting is how YOU set up and swing YOUR clubs. The goal is simple – to make sure that the sole of your clubs interact with the turf properly, where the score-lines and sole of the club are parallel to the ground through impact. If the lie angle of your clubs is too upright for you, the heel of the club will dig deeper through impact and cause ball flight to go left and lower. If the lie angle it too flat, the toe will dig through impact and cause the opposite. But here’s where it becomes tricky, in my opinion.
The trend to dynamic fitting over the past few years has shown (or caused?) a movement to longer and more upright golf clubs. That’s because the typical recreational golfer makes a swing that delivers an excessively downward path of the clubhead to the ball; he or she engages their upper body too much, their stronger right shoulder and arm too much (right handed players) and they hit “at” the ball, rather than swing through the impact zone. Dynamic fitting then shows that you “need” clubs that are longer and more upright, when what you really need is to learn a more proper move from the top of the swing through the impact zone.
Now I understand that golfers today are bigger, taller and stronger than the typical golfer of 2-3 decades back. Few pro golfers then were over 6 feet tall, and now almost all of them are. So, it stands to reason that clubs have to get longer and more upright, right? Well, they have, but the typical 6’2” golf professional is playing clubs at a much flatter lie than most of his recreational counterparts of the same size. On the PGA Tour, length and lie angles are typically shorter and flatter than what we see coming out of the fitting carts for recreational golfers.
A trip to a good fitter . . . . or two or three for second opinions . . . is a great investment in your game. But you can also “do it yourself” a bit if you’d like. Simply take your 6-iron and PW out to the range with a small piece of thin plywood or plastic – about 10” wide by 18” long or so. Put a strip of masking tape on the bottom of each club and hit a few balls off the hard surface. Then look at the bottom to see where the club’s sole was making impact. If you haven’t been custom-fitted, you’ll probably see it toward the toe. This is certainly not a substitute for a good thorough fitting, but you’ll probably learn something about golf clubs and your swing.
The next step is to put new tape on the sole and make swings while TRYING to move that contact toward the middle of the sole or even toward the heel. Just think how you have to move back and through so that the sole engages the board differently. And watch what happens to your ball flight as you do that.
I promise you it will be a fun and enlightening experiment.
There’s no question that golfers and golf fans have become enamored with “the long ball”. Most industry advertising activity is centered around drivers and hitting it further. Or golf balls that go longer. Irons lofts are being continuously cranked down to give golfers the impression that this new iron model’s 7-iron is a full club longer than the others.
On television, announcers are continually talking about how far so-and-so hit that drive, or that he’s hitting an 8-iron approach from 175 or some such silly number. Hitting 5-irons or less to par-fives has become a normal thing on the PGA Tour. But is all this good for golf? Or more importantly, your golf?
I’m going to say “no”, actually. I think the overwhelming focus on “the long ball” is hurting golf participation in general and junior golf in particular. The tour professionals are hitting the ball miles due to several factors:
The problem that I’m seeing stems from that last point. I watch junior golfers of all ages at our club, and they are all totally star-struck on hitting the ball hard. The youngsters, age 8-12, often don’t even finish holes, they just want to go out to the range or walk a few holes and pound some drivers and hit irons as hard as they can. The closer they get to the green, the more boring the game gets for them. To them, hitting it far, not actual scoring, is the goal and fun of golf. So as they get older and aren’t the longest hitter in their group of buddies, I think they’ll lose interest. And as they get into competition and get smoked by someone who does score, they get demoralized.
I’ll offer as proof that junior golf is suffering is the situation in my own home town — Victoria, Texas. When I was in high school, growing up in this area, there were dozens of kids in this and surrounding towns who could break 80 all the time. In my small high school of 700 students, we had 8-10 who could.
But today, in our town of 60,000. . . three high school golf programs . . . we have ONE kid that can shoot in the 70s consistently. ONE. And these kids have access to two private clubs and their driving ranges, practice greens and courses. Every day.
To me, the focus on the long ball just might be the number one threat to the game. What do you think?
Do you always hole out every putt? I mean even the shortest ones, under a foot? Should you?
We had an incident at a club tournament this weekend that caused quite a flap. Even though it was a tournament, Day 1 was a two-man scramble so teams were “giving’ putts of sure-fire length. Well, apparently one team took it up with another that they hadn’t really finished a hole, even though they had given putts to each other up to that point. It caused quite a flap, which could have been totally avoided had everyone just finished each hole according to the rules.
That got me thinking about how many holes in the typical round of golf with my friends that I really do finish. By that, I mean how many holes do I actually hear and experience the ball drop into the hole. In “Getting Up and Down”, one of my favorite short game books, Tom Watson says he always finishes the hole by hearing the ball drop, as anything less seems like unfinished business. He explains that his dad started him in golf on the putting green and told him to make the ball go in the hole. And to this day, that this part of each hole has always been his favorite. How many of us think that way? Not too many, I would guess.
This all got me thinking about how much longer it would really take if you just finished each hole by tapping in. Hearing the ball drop. Really finishing each hole you started. I’m going to experiment with that a while and ask my buddies not to knock the ball back to me when I get it in “the leather”.
And what is a “gimmee” anyway? You’ve seen it many times, a golfer puts his putter head into the hole to measure whether a putt is a “good” or not. Like there’s some law to define it. What’s that really about? And does the long/belly putter user get more freebies than I do, with my 32” putter? Wouldn’t it be easier if we all just holed out?
If you research it, I believe you’ll find that “in the leather” originally meant inside the length of the grip on the putter, not the distance from the putter head to the bottom of the grip. That would make “gimmees” something under a foot in length, which might not be too bad.
But my new approach is to hole out everything, even if just a few inches. I’m going to see if that doesn’t bring a new feeling of completion to each hole in the round. And to each round itself.
What do you guys think?
I guess it was unavoidable that Ping® would offer copies of Bubba Watson’s pink driver for sale, and I’m betting all 5,000 are already spoken for. But what puzzles me is that the driver should have lost the Master’s for him, so what’s the big deal? He hits his tee shot on the second playoff hole so far right, it was a miracle he had any kind of shot at all. He should have found it unplayable, or limited to a lateral pitch out to the fairway at best. He was in D-E-E-P trouble.
But the hero club . . . if there was one . . . was whatever he hit out of that trouble, hooking what was said to be a gap wedge about 40 yards, onto the green, giving him a great birdie look, sure-fire par, and demoralizing his opponent for sure.
My point of all this, as you might expect from “The Wedge Guy”, is that time after time, it’s the wedges that bail out errant drives and iron shots. But they don’t get any respect at all, do they? Rodney Dangerfield could have a heyday with that.
“Hey up there . . . driver . . . snuggled under your plush, cushy headcover that looks like a tiger or duck or whatever the heck that is. How many times am I going to have to bail you out today? Our poor guy keeps going back to you time after time . . . for what??? Blocked into the woods right on 3, snapped into the bunker on 5, so far short on 7 that he couldn’t reach the green with a Howitzer. What are you guys doing?
So here I am, stuck down here rattling around with these oddball irons, just waiting to be called upon again to bail you guys out of trouble. No telling what kind of lie you’re gonna give me next. No, never nicely set on top of a damn tee. How the hell can you hit a bad shot off of a tee? Try it from that gnarly rough behind #3 green sometime. Or these awful bunkers all over the place. The hardpan beside the cart path on #9. You should see the golf course from where I see it. It ain’t pretty.
Nope, you guys don’t give me no respect. No respect at all I tell ya. I rattle around down here, banging around while you ride high all snug and warm in that stupid headcover. What’s up with that?
Hey, I got an idea for you guys. Why don’t you try playing a round of golf without any of us lowly wedges? How do you think you’d score then, huh? Bet it wouldn’t be pretty. But I’ll bet my guy and most any others we wedges belong to would do just fine without a driver at all. Wanna a little wager?
Well, I’m not Rodney D., but I think you get my drift. Want to see which is more important, your driver or your wedges? Try this. Play nine holes this weekend without ever using your driver and see what you shoot. Then try nine more without once using any of your wedges. And just see which nine holes turns out the better score.
It seems that Augusta National and the Masters never fails to deliver great theater on Sunday afternoon. Once again, the cast of characters came through for us and gave us a lurching series of ups and downs. And that finish was just what we had been sitting on the sofa for hours waiting to see, wasn’t it?
Sure, your favorites might not have been there, but the heroics and crashes that produced the playoff were just what we were expecting . . . and hoping for as we settled in for a few hours of golf watching. We saw Phil make a triple bogey that cost him his fourth green jacket. We saw a double eagle, only the fourth in Masters history. Lots of birdies and bogeys, pars saved and a spectacular shot on the second playoff hole that has to be one of the most memorable in all of Masters history.
But my nostalgic take on the Masters was tempered by the modern game — the unbelievable distances these guys are hitting the ball. I’m a history buff, and I don’t really like or understand the modern game these guys play. Just before the telecast started, there was a special on the 1987 Masters, when Larry Mize derailed Greg Norman with that spectacular chip-in on the second play-off hole. In the holes leading up to that playoff, they showed Norman, Ballasteros and Mize negotiating the final few holes. What stood out for me is that these guys played these holes with much longer clubs into the greens than what we saw when the telecast came on.
For example, back then, the typical approach to the 18th was with a 4-iron or 5-iron. Even after lengthening the hole in the late 90s and again in the early 2000s, Bubba Watson had a sand wedge in from 113!! No one has hit more than a 7-iron to that green in years, probably. And on 16, the typical tee shot to that same back pin used to be played with a 5-iron or 6-iron. Now, these guys hit 8s and 9s.
Watching these guys trying to figure out how to make birdies on these holes with short irons in their hands makes me wonder just what the modern player would shoot if he had the same club for his approaches that they guys in the 70s and 80s did. Back then, they played Augusta with primarily middle irons to the greens, with a few short irons thrown in on the shorter holes. Hitting the par fives in two meant a great second shot with a fairway wood or 2-3 iron. When Raymond Floyd won the Masters in 1976, they enshrined his 5-wood that he used to tame 13 and 15. These guys were hitting 5- and 6-irons to 15!!
My point in all this is how the game has changed, and the question of how can you compare the accomplishments of the game’s historic greats to the modern game? Should a modern player be as accurate with his 6-iron from 190-220 as Greg Norman was with his from 165-180? Or not?
When was the last time a tour player had a 2-iron second to a finishing par four, as Hogan did in his famous photo (some say it was a 1-iron)? Gene Sarazen hit a 235-yard 4-wood into the hole on 15 for a double eagle in the 1935 Masters . . . these guys hit 5- or 6 iron from there this past weekend.
All I’m saying . . .
I think most golfers get so wrapped up in thoughts that they get in their own way on the golf course, particularly with any single swing. The time it takes for a swing to happen – from the moment you start the club back to and through impact – is just not long enough for you to process more than one thought or swing key. At least that’s my opinion. When I see golfers take agonizingly long seconds to get the club moving away from the golf ball, I have to believe it is because there is a running dialog going through their head about all the things they are trying to remember to do . . . or not do.
But when I’m playing my best . . . and I’ll bet this applies to all of you . . . there is at most a single thought that is driving that. It might be a different one for drives, iron shots, scrambling and putting, but it just cannot be more than one. And often times, our best golf comes when we don’t have a thought in the world but are driven by a clear picture of the shot we face, and how it comes off perfectly.
The most destructive swing thoughts are those that are based on a negative. “Don’t let this go right”, or “Don’t let your weight get too far back” or “Don’t let the club get too high” . . . The fact is, it is almost impossible to not do something. Think about that for a minute. The only way to not do something is to do something else. So all your conscious infusions should be of a positive nature. Think of doing something, rather than not doing something.
Another thought on . . . . thoughts. It also seems to me that my most effective swing thoughts are based on something I’m trying to feel in my swing, rather than something I’m trying to do. For example, my tendency is to get to quick in my swing, regardless of the shot I’m trying to hit. From drives to short chips, my long-time Achilles heel is to get too quick. So, I’ve found what works for me is not to think about being slower, but to feel the end of my backswing. I just focus on feeling that position where the club is at the transition point at the top or end of the backswing, and that gets me back into the right tempo and downswing.
On putting, my current thought is to feel the back of the left hand moving toward the hole on the forward stroke. That’s because I found myself getting a little right-hand dominant. That also tends to slow down my stroke pace and make the putter come to a complete stop before it starts forward.
I’m a firm believer that much of your golf improvement and success comes from the time away from the golf course or range. Time spend thinking about your golf while you are driving or sitting on the back porch can do wonders for your success with a club in your hand.
Give these ideas a try and let’s see what you guys all have to offer to this dialog.
Have a great weekend.
Well, the 2012 golf season officially gets underway for many, as this is Masters Week. And this one might have more drama surrounding it than in many years. Is Tiger really back? Is Rory fully recovered and ready to atone for last year’s meltdown? Is Ernie Els really going to watch on TV? Where does Phil fit into the mix? Is Luke Donald ready for his first major?
It’s always been said that the Masters begins on the back nine on Sunday, but this one seems to have already begun, according to the volume of news stories and opinions on the subject. Tiger and Rory go in with a lot of expectations, and those can play havoc with one’s psyche — even players as talented and skilled as those two. The golf mind is fragile, and no matter what skill level you achieve, it can go haywire on you.
Was it Rory’s swing that broke down last year? No.
Was it David Duval’s swing that broke down a while back? No.
Was it Ian Baker-Finch’s swing that disappeared? No.
All these guys have the skills to play golf at the highest level . . . all the time. What changes from week to week, round to round, hole to hole and even shot to shot . . . is your mental make-up. That applies to all of us. Some days we “have it”, other days we don’t. In the wonderful book, “Golf In The Kingdom”, one passage dives into the concept that “it takes perfect balance to play your best golf.” The character was talking about balance in your life and your mind, your emotion and your overall well-being. If you are in a “good place” with all that’s going on in your world, this game is much easier.
You play better with good friends than with people you are not so fond of, or strangers. You play better when the competition is to your level of comfort, not too much or too little. You play better when things are good at home and work.
And that all applies to these guys, just like it does to us.
So, it’s Masters Week, and one of the very few where I will actually make time to park in front of the TV for a few hours, especially on Sunday afternoon. Let’s hope the “actors” get their scripts down right and give us the show we are expecting . . . and hoping for!
My bet is that Tiger, Rory and Phil will definitely rise to the occasion and be there on Sunday afternoon. But also that one or more of the many talented players in the field that we might not think about going in, will get in his own “right place” and be right in the mix with them. I don’t think there is a guy going in who doesn’t have the game to win if he can just get in the zone.
But my favorite this week? I’m pulling for Luke Donald. I like the way he plays the game with precision and a wonderful short game earned through hard work. And it wasn’t but a few years ago that Zack Johnson proved you can win at Augusta by taming the par 5s with your wedges, rather than your driver.
It should prove fun to watch.