Solving the Poolesville Puzzle

Ever run up against a course that has your number?  What are your strategies for conquering?  I am playing mine tomorrow.  Poolesville  is a local muni in the western reaches of Montgomery County, and has my number for the last six years.  At par-71 and at a nondescript 6,405 yards, in my last 15 rounds I have never played well, with 76 being my best score (achieved twice) and I’m struggling to a stroke average of 80.31.  Ball striking always seems to be an issue as are slow starts.  It has been impossible to get on a roll, much less threaten to go low.  I did notice that on one of those rounds of 76, I was very comfortable mentally because I had finished reading Putting Out of Your Mind by Bob Rotella the day before and was implementing his techniques.  My ball striking wasn’t great, but I was a peace with myself and not worried about my score or missing any putts.  This leads me to think this is purely psychological.  How do I get past this mental blocker?

I wrote earlier on how I got past a mental blocker hole at Rattlewood by totally changing the way I played it and I’m thinking of taking a similar approach. Normally, at Poolesville, I’m always playing defensive and trying to keep the ball in play with a 3WD off the tee, but that has left me with longer approaches into the smallish crowned greens.  GIR stats plummet and I inevitably leave myself short-sided too often and can’t score well.  Perhaps a total reversal is required, with an attempt to bring the course to its knees by busting driver on every hole,  which should leave shorter irons into the par-4s.  I’m getting inspiration watching Rory McIlroy destroy the field at The Open Championship with the same strategy.

It’s often that when NFL teams go into the prevent defense in an attempt to protect a lead, the lead inevitably vanishes.  Perhaps this is my prevent and I need to get aggressive.  Anyone have some experience handling problem courses?  I’d like to be a horse for this course and I’m all ears.  Thanks!

 

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Halfway Point Report Card – Golf Is Fun Again!

Report cardFor the golfing enthusiast, nothing is more frustrating or disheartening than a protracted slump.  I’m 21 rounds into my season (halfway point) and I’m happy to report the game is fun for me again as my first quarter troubles appear to be over.  To recap, I was mired in an epic ball striking quagmire and had failed to hit 10 GIR in any of my first 10 rounds.  But in the last 11 rounds, I’ve hit or exceeded the number seven times.  As The Grateful Golfer would say, “my GAF is high, ” and today I capped the first half with a 1-over 73 which was my best round in my last 30, and my index has dropped to a 4.9.

What’s the fix?  I believe the early slump was caused by infrequency of play/practice and as readers of this page know, I’ve been struggling with my golf/life balance and have been trying to get enough reps in to remain effective.  A solution seems to be at hand, though.

I’m still playing only 18 holes per week, but have added a critical practice nine in early on Saturday mornings at my local executive course.  Normally, I get out early enough to play by myself and have borrowed a technique (two ball – best ball scramble) I think I saw on Hank Haney’s show.  The key in this game is to take two shots from every spot and play your best ball until holed.  With two shots at every green, albeit short executive length holes, I fill my scorecard with dots (for GIRs) and hitting greens becomes a habit.  I’ve learned there is no substitute for striking shots and watching the ball land on the putting surface time and again.  As a result, my ball striking  during the 18 hole rounds has improved as a I expect to hit more greens.  The practice nine only takes about 1.5 hours and I sometimes follow up with some putting and light chipping, but when I’m on the course, I make sure to take my share of extra short game shots at every opportunity.  Normally, I’m home by 10:30 a.m. (before half the household is even awake), and am not even missed.  Throw in three 15-minute chipping and putting sessions on my weekly commute home, and I’ve got a recipe that works because I’ve got my hands on clubs in one aspect or another FIVE DAYS PER WEEK!

The little 15-minute practices are invaluable and give me a great measure of satisfaction when I pull off shots during rounds that I’ve worked on during the week.  Today, I was 5 for 6 on green-side up and downs, using techniques honed during the afternoon commute.

So, get your hands on the clubs as often as you can in a way that allows you to fulfill your responsibilities to everything else in your life, and when you practice, try to get in enough work where you see balls flying at flagsticks onto actual greens.  Hopefully, it works for you as it has for me.  Good luck and please share any time-saving practice tips you’ve had success with.  Thanks!

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2014 British Open Picks

Hoylake, from golfclubatlas.com

Picking a winner for the 2014 British Open Championship is an exercise in deciphering the actual probabilities of victory from the preferences of the betting public.  There is considerable money to be made betting against the current John Q trend lines.  Consider, U.S. Open Champion Martin Kaymer is at 20:1 in early action with Tiger Woods leaping ahead of him at 16:1.  Are you kidding?  Kaymer is in awesome form, has his head screwed on right, and is a multiple recent major winner.  The smart money is on him and Adam Scott.  Tiger looks about as well oiled as the 38-year old Huffy sitting in my garage with the chain off.  The stiffness and restricted back swing on display at the recent Quicken Loans National  should have Tiger in the 150:1 range.

Rory McIlroy is the pre-tournament favorite at 10:1, but doesn’t play well enough in this perennial home game and will not win it.  He is looking good in early action at the Scottish Open and we’ll be watching to see if the positive momentum he gained from Woz-gate changes his personal and professional performance around major time.

Could one of the B.P.T.N.H.W.A.M. contenders take it this year?  How do you officially get on this list?  Is it fair to keep someone on past the age of 40?  I think not, so Steve Stricker comes off at 47.  Of the five remaining principals, Henrik Stenson has been the closest and doesn’t appear to psych himself out and warrants considerable support.  Sergio Garcia has played well on this course but he doesn’t have the stones with the flat stick to ever win a major.  It’s not happening this week for Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, or Jason Day.  Actually, Day has some good potential, but I’d like to see him  playing more frequently and try less to time his game around the majors.

So, when do we put Jordan Spieth on this list?  He’s clearly one of the best players in the world even if he still can’t order a beer with his wings at Hooters.  I’m a huge Spieth fan and like him for a top 10 but he’s too young for the list and will likely break through at The Masters or U.S. Open.

Dark horse look-outs:  Jim Furyk is at ease with himself again, is playing well, and contended on this venue in 2006.  Every year we see an older player make a move at The Open and this year it’s him.  Phil Mickelson has the mind and experience to win this, but different parts of his game go out of sync too frequently and I fear the age of Phil contending in every major is quickly vanishing.

Your 2014 British Open predictions:

Adam Scott:  Champion

Martin Kaymer:  Runner-up

Jim Furyk:  Sneaks into third

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Work Your Golf Game Like You Tie Your Shoes

From kidspot.com

From kidspot.com

Readers of this page know that I have been struggling recently with my golf-life balance and trying to find the time to get enough play and practice to maintain my effectiveness.  I had a thought about a month ago; that to give myself a chance, I needed to make golf more of a second nature activity, like tying your shoes.  After all, how often do we tie our shoes, maybe twice a day?  Does anyone screw up tying their shoes?  No.  Does anyone have to think about how to tie their shoes?  No.  Like golf, it’s a learned activity, and while we may have spent a few hours practicing while we were very young, we dedicate merely seconds per day and execute flawlessly every time.  If only golf were so easy.

The Plan:  A week before I left for Myrtle Beach, and every day in the two weeks since I have returned, I’ve made sure to chip and putt for just 15-20 minutes at a golf course on my way home during the evening commute.  My family hardly misses me.  In the two weeks that I’ve been back, I’ve only played nine holes twice, and will attempt 18 tomorrow, but the return on these mini time investments has been big.  I’m very comfortable over any short game shot and am executing fearlessly.  More importantly, I’m not thinking about the shot or putt, just feeling it during the rehearsal strokes and pulling the trigger.  The metrics have been good as well.  I’ve never chipped and pitched on the Myrtle trip so effectively and today during my 9-hole round was 3 for 3 on up and downs.

The mechanics of the daily routine.  I arrive at the course and select one club to work with and three balls.  Vary the club daily but make sure to putt at least every third day.  I also put a tee in my pocket in the event that all the holes on the practice green are occupied and I need to set up my own target.  Only practice for the prescribed time and focus intently on every shot; make every precious second count.  The short duration makes concentration easy and the only distraction I deal with is the occasional pack of children getting themselves ready for their twilight nine-hole event.

So you say, “Brian, what does this do for your ball striking?”  Nothing, except fill me with confidence that if I miss the green, I’ve got a good shot at saving par.  As a result, I’m more relaxed on the full swings.

Remember, there are no pictures on the scorecard, and everyone doesn’t need 10,000 hours of practice to become proficient, so try working your short game in these little micro-bursts and see if this doesn’t work for you as well.  Anyone out there had any success with this method?  Good luck if you try!

 

 

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Surf Club – Course Review

Looking down #1 tee at Surf Club

Looking down #1 tee at Surf Club

We played Surf Club in North Myrtle Beach, SC on Saturday, June 14, 2014.  This George Cobb design was built in 1960 and is nestled neatly into a neighborhood one block from the ocean.  Surf is a very old style private club with good conditioning and traditional parkland style routing and if you like doglegs, you are going to love this golf course.  Only about four of the longer holes do not have some kind of bend and an absolute premium is placed on solid ball striking off the tee.  Surf’s Bentgrass greens have a reputation for being among the fastest on the beach but we played them about three weeks after their aeration.  They were almost full recovered and were rolling at medium speed.  On a previous visit, I recall the course playing firm and fast with the the greens running lightening quick.

I’m not an arborist, but the type of trees that frame most of the holes are unlike most you’ll see on Myrtle Beach courses and certainly not the tall Carolina pines you are accustomed to.  Normally, you can play out of the trees but not at Surf.  Trying to hit low recoveries almost always caught bark and was usually the natural predecessor to a double-bogey on the scorecard.  You’re best advice is to drive it straight or punch out sideways.

We played from the back tees and there are three holes that play like a beast.  The par-4, 7th at 442 yards bends to the right and if it’s playing into the wind, is virtually like a short par-5.  You turn right around on the par-4, 8th which plays 430 yards and you hope the wind is favoring your direction.

Par-3, 18th at Surf Club

Par-3, 18th at Surf Club

Finally, the par-3, 18th is one of the finest finishing holes in Myrtle Beach.  At 217 yards, you are faced with a forced carry over water, and we played it straight into a two club wind coming in off the ocean.  Thank goodness for the front flag position, as my fully struck 3WD barely covered the 200 yards needed from tee to pin.

Value (3.75 out of 5.0)

Surf was an upscale addition to our golf package but to our very pleasant surprise, the afternoon replay rate was only $27.  This is a very affordable, high quality golf experience.  Driving range privileges are included and the free tees in the pro shop were one of those nice little touches.

The Range at Surf Club

The Range at Surf Club

Facilities (3.0 out of 5.0)

The clubhouse and grill were on the smallish side and the pro shop displays were nicely detailed, but a little limited in scope.  The grill served very basic golf course food and had walk up service only.  We dined on hot dogs, wings, and chips after our morning round.

The 15-station driving range had good turf to hit off and high quality balls, and the practice green was medium sized and adequate for a warm-up.  I did not observe a separate chipping/pitching green and was unsure if short game work was permitted.

Pro Shop at Surf Club

Pro Shop at Surf Club

Customer Experience (4.0 out of 5.0)

I’m not sure who the amiable professional on duty was but he made you feel very welcome and at home.  He was very accommodating when we inquired about working us into the afternoon tee sheet for a replay and went out of his way to ensure that we had everything we needed to enjoy ourselves.  The rating goes even higher except for the staff at the bag drop were nowhere to be found when we arrived at the course around 7:30 a.m.  It was clear that we were one of the first groups at the course, but we didn’t expect to haul our bags in from the parking lot.  Anyway, they found our equipment and had us loaded in time for play.

Surf Club was a good value and a fun day.  We played the blue tees at 6,842 yards (par-72) I shot rounds of 87 and 81.  It was difficult but I loved it and will be back for more on future golf trips.  Don’t miss this one.

Overall Rating (3.5 out of 5.0)

Clubhouse at Surf Club

Clubhouse at Surf Club

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One Pic – One Fix – One Stroke!

Usually when I return from the annual Myrtle Beach golf trip I don’t touch a club for 7-10 days, primarily because my body feels so beat up from all the rounds and practice balls.  This year was different and I felt pretty fresh.  Not trying to overdo it, I made it a point to stop off at a local course on the way home from work every day this week, and chip and putt for just 15-20 minutes.  My short game is always sharp after the trip and I wanted to keep the feeling.  Then mid-week, Fred, from Team Walmart (AZ guys) sent me a photo stream of pics from our trip and I immediately picked up a flaw in my move that I felt would be an easy fix, and lend itself to more consistent ball striking.

This morning I headed out to my local muni to try the fix on our inside nine.  After just a couple of stretches, no Advil floating through my veins, and no practice balls, I teed up a 9-iron with the fix in play, and rifled it towards the first hole – easy par.  #2 was playing 110 yards and I selected a smooth pitching wedge and drilled it with two hops and into the hole for the second ace of my life.  The first was 31 years ago with a 7-iron – quite a gap.  My last thought before heading off to retrieve and retire the Titleist was, “Who needs a stinkin’ warm up?”

It’s nice when a plan comes together.  Hope your Saturday got off to as good a start as mine did.  When was your last/first hole-in-one?

Posted in Opinion, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Lion’s Paw – Panther’s Run Course Reviews

Clubhouse at Lion's Paw and Panther's Run

Clubhouse at Lion’s Paw and Panther’s Run

My travel group played Lion’s Paw on Monday, June 8, 2014 and Panther’s Run the day after on a recent trip to Myrtle Beach.  These are two of the four Big Cat courses at Ocean Ridge Plantation in Ocean Isle Beach, NC.  We’ll review them together because they are sister courses and play out of the same clubhouse.  Tiger’s Eye is the top play of the Big Cats group and is run from a separate clubhouse across the street, but as we learned, the golf operations are distinctly different.

On Monday, we arrived at Lion’s Paw as they were preparing for a ladies tournament on the front nine.  Our two foursomes were scheduled to go off #10 and we were thankful for that.  The bag drop and staging area is rather small and was extremely congested and chaotic.  Play for both courses is launched from the same constricted space.

Staging area on Monday

Staging area on Monday

Due to an airline luggage snafu, four guys in our group were playing with rental clubs, which the golf staff had hastily assembled.  They charged $40 per set for the rentals which were a mediocre mishmash of late year model irons and metal woods.  Nobody in our group was impressed with the offerings and the guys renting actually played several shots using clubs from the rest of our bags which was a little disruptive for everyone.  Given the short notice, I was thankful that the staff could even assemble the sets to allow us to play together.

#3 Tee at Lion's Paw

#3 Tee at Lion’s Paw

Both courses share a medium size driving range with Tiger’s Eye , and the range is located at the far side of the parking lot across the road.  Unfortunately you aren’t allowed to ride your cart to the range from Lion’s/Panthers, but you are from Tiger’s.  Also, the shop charged $3.00 for balls from Lion’s/Panthers, but Tiger’s extended complimentary range privileges.  We thought this was strange given the courses were under the same management company.  There is a small pitching green with one flag and a practice bunker next to the range and two putting greens next to the Lion’s / Panther’s clubhouse.  I felt it would have been beneficial to have a chipping green that allowed your shots to run out, but clearly there was no space for one.  There was good turf to hit off at the range but the quality of the balls was suspect.

Lion’s Paw:

On the course, we found Lion’s Paw to be in good condition, with the Bermuda greens rolling medium fast and smooth.  A couple of the tee boxes were crowned  which was a bit odd but didn’t affect playability.  The course is fairly open off the tee and weaves its way through a residential area with several nice homes nearby, but you don’t have a lot of privacy.

Mike on #3 tee at Lion's Paw

Mike on #3 tee at Lion’s Paw

A couple of the par-3 holes were memorable for the contouring, water carries, and bordering with oyster shells, but you weren’t struck by anything overtly beautiful or difficult.  Lion’s Paw is just a solid, well maintained nondescript golf course.  The biggest appeal for the enthusiast is the ample opportunities for afternoon replay.  With the four Big Cats in close proximity, we chose Tiger’s Eye for the afternoon and at $45, found it a tremendous value and a tremendous golfing experience.  The replay rate at Lion’s and Panther’s is $35 and we actually were given the $35 rate to replay Tiger’s later in the week after they had started fairway aeration.  For the record, at Lion’s Paw, I had a 7-over par 79 from the white tees which were playing 6,457 yards.

#9 green at Lion’s Paw

Panther’s Run:

Tuesday we played Panther’s Run and had a decidedly different experience.  There was no tournament, the course was fairly empty, and everything seemed more organized and less rushed.  Everyone in our group was now playing with their own equipment and the day was more enjoyable.  IMG_0857Panther’s Run is more of a traditional parkland style course that meanders through tall trees with the holes being better framed than Lion’s Paw.  I preferred this layout, although the greens were putting a bit slower, a few tee boxes were a little chewed up, and the fairways were starting to brown out.  Again, nothing affected playability as overall conditioning was pretty good.  Of note are the back to front sloping greens.  Several of the pins were cut in the back along ridges that dropped down at the rear of the greens.  Long two putts were difficult because if you charged these back flags the drop offs would roll out significantly.  I took 36 putts and thee-jacked three times.  Playing for the middle of the greens with back flags was the way to go.  I shot a 9-over 81 from the blue tees which were playing at 6,706 yards.

Jim contemplates the approach on #18 at Panther’s Run

A couple of nitpicking notes:  When we played the par-3 11th, one of the rangers was sitting in a cart just behind the tee box talking on a cellphone and seemed completely unaware of his surroundings or that people were playing golf nearby.  It would have been considerate if he could have held down the chatter.  Also one of our group was perturbed by an experience in the pro shop while in line making a purchase.  The person behind the counter was interrupted by a club member with an inquiry about another matter and immediately discontinued their service on the transaction at hand to cater to the member’s request.  Otherwise, we had a fairly positive golfing experience at Panther’s Run.

If you are traveling to the Myrtle Beach area and want to play the Big Cats, Tiger’s Eye is your course if you only have time for one round.  Lion’s and Panther’s are enjoyable plays as well.

 

 

 

Posted in Course Reviews, Myrtle Beach, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Team Walmart Storms Myrtle Beach!

From ramblinobeachchat.com

From ramblinobeachchat.com

The dust has finally settled from Golfapalooza 2014 (Myrtle Beach) and this was a trip like no other.

Our plan was  to have four players (myself included) drive down from Maryland and four fly in from Arizona on Sunday June 7th, with the intent on playing Monday-Saturday (June 8-14).  Storms on Sunday evening delayed the AZ group’s arrival and then left them stranded in Charlotte, NC as US Airways cancelled their flight to Myrtle.  Determined not to miss their Monday 8 a.m. tee time, they rented a car and drove the remaining 240 miles to Myrtle through heavy rain, and arrived around 8:30 p.m. with nothing but the clothes on their backs.  The airline refused to release their luggage and equipment to them and promised to fly them in on the next plane.

Sunday evening at 10:30 p.m. we checked at the US Airways lost luggage counter at the Myrtle airport but no bags had arrived from Charlotte and we were told the luggage and clubs would be in on the first flight on Monday – uh oh.  Our AZ guys were given permission to buy clothes, toiletries, balls, tees, shoes, and rent clubs, and expense them to the airline, so instead of resting up for our 5:30 a.m. wake up call and dreaming of all the pars and birdies we were going to make on Monday, we went shopping at Walmart at 11:30 p.m.

Team Walmart

Team Walmart from AZ

On Monday, we called Lion’s Paw early and alerted them that we needed four rental sets but upon arrival realized the clubs assembled were barely fit for a yard sale.  Was this how a golf vacation was supposed to start?  The course was also trying to launch a tournament off the first tee and sent our two Team Walmart foursomes off #10.   In the chaos of the arrival, tournament prep, and rental assembly, I did not have the opportunity to hit balls and went to the tee cold.  Somehow I scratched out a 7-over 79 on Lion’s Paw but was out of sorts all day and carded my worst round of the trip in the afternoon (89 on Tiger’s Eye).

In the afternoon, we received word that the clubs and bags had arrived, and had been shipped to our condo.  Upon arriving home, we noticed that all the clothes and golf equipment were soaking wet.  Apparently the airline had left them overnight on the tarmac during the torrential rains in Charlotte.  Very nasty-gram going to US Airways on that one.

Tuesday, armed with dried clothes and equipment, we headed back to Ocean Ridge Plantation for a round at Panther’s Run.  I got a good warm-up in and started to relax a bit.  On the second nine something started to click and even though I carded a 9-over 81, I hit 10 GIR for the first time in 2014.  My ball striking had been so bad this spring I was wondering if I’d ever see 10+ GIR and it was a welcome relief.

Then I got on a ball striking hot streak for the next 54 holes and shot 77 and 75 at Tiger’s Eye, with 13 and 11 GIR respectively, and carded a 76 at Leopard’s Chase with 10 greens.  Our AZ group was starting to play better as well as they settled in with their own equipment and clothes and it started to feel like a vacation again.

Friday, at True Blue, my ball striking was just a little off and I carded a respectable 82 in the morning followed by an 81 in the afternoon.  When the wind is up you need to hit it very solid off the tee, as the 6,812 yards plays like a beast.  If you don’t believe in the horses for courses theory, consider that last year I carded an 81-81 at the same venue under pretty much the same conditions, and in 2012 during my last round at Leopard’s Chase, I also carded a 76.  I’ve observed over the years that I’ve accumulated significant local knowledge and preferences, and often play well/not well at the same venues on repeated attempts.

Saturday at Surf Club (course review coming), I lost my swing and struggled for 27 of the 36 holes we played.  Inevitably, when playing this much golf in a short amount of time, you get too mechanical in your thinking, and I paid for it.  Only on my last nine when I decided to dispose of all swing thoughts except hitting the ball at the target, did things right themselves.  I struggled with a 46-41 (87) in the morning, and finished up with 44-37 (81) in the afternoon and enjoyed a super high note finish, as I hit a 3WD six feet below the hole on Surf’s 200-yard par-3 18th hole, which requires a water carry and was playing into a stiff two-club wind.  It’s great to hit your best shot of the trip on your last attempt.

Stay tuned for trip reviews of Lion’s Paw/Panther’s Run and Surf Club.  Happy Father’s Day to all!

Three fourths of the MD guys

Three fourths of the MD guys

 

 

Posted in Opinion, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Golf game is coming around. . .FINALLY and thank you!

It’s not often we once-a-week chops are able to string a series of positives together, but I had such the experience from last weekend to this, and it finally feels like my game is coming around .  It has been a brutal spring punctuated by bad weather and terrible ball striking.  The bad swings compounded into stress, worrying, and some serious mental game foibles.   But after this weekend, things are finally looking up and many in the on-line golf community have played a positive part and deserve my thanks.

First, thank you to The Grateful Golfer for pointing out that focus is extremely important in golf.  After our dialog, I realized that I needed a serious re-commitment to my pre-shot routine and to work on changing focus to targets instead of mechanics.  It’s great to bounce ideas off Jim; he’s such a wealth of knowledge and has great perspective.

Next, thank you to The Birdie Hunt for reinforcing the notion that continuous play is more important than practice, especially for the weekend hack.  I try to do both, but clearly the part time player benefits more from play.  Playing once a week is hard because it feels like you have to re-learn too many shots instead of call on them.  I finally played two days in a row for the first time this season, albeit only 27 holes, but the added reps were great.

Third, thank you to my friend Jim Rush who spotted a serious flaw in my swing during my pre-round warm up last weekend.  Nothing will start your round off worse than hitting huge smother hooks while you get loose.  I leveraged his advice as well as the on-line lesson from FixYourGame.com I took a couple years ago.  The takeaway; when things go bad with your swing, you are usually reverting to bad habits, as I was.  I will probably be fighting spine angle issues the rest of my days, but at least when I spray the ball, I understand why and can work it.  Yesterday and today I worked it and finally felt in control off the tee.

Lastly, thank you to Gary Marlowe for the chipping lesson back in 1983.  Gary was a fellow student at the University of Maryland and on the golf team.  Later he went on to play the PGA Tour for one season but had his career cut short by injury.  Gary and I were on the putting green one afternoon and he had me choke down to the metal with my trailing hand for better control, and play the ball back with a pronounced forward press.  I have been very dissatisfied with my distance control and contact this season, and recommitted to this tip yesterday during my nine-hole practice round and it felt good.  Today, I missed the green on #1 at Northwest and imagine how great it felt when I chipped in for birdie.  Change validated!

I’m not totally out of the woods, but it was nice to feel like myself again over consecutive rounds.  Hoping the momentum continues to build through next week’s trip to South Carolina.

How’s your swing coming along this spring?

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U.S. Open Picks

The 2014 U.S. Open is setting up to play out as one of the most intriguing majors in recent memory.  Will the back-to-back line up with the Women’s Open have an impact?  You bet it will, as will the course redesign by Coors and Crenshaw in 2010.  Picking a winner this early requires some deep analysis.  Let’s go out on a limb and make a prognostication without seeing results from The Memorial, because I’m gearing up for my own U.S. Open (Myrtle Beach trip) and can’t take the time next weekend.  So here’s your early winning pick – call your bookie now to get the best odds :)

Pinehurst #2 - 17 tee

The look from the par-3 #17th tee when we played it in 2011

When I traveled in 2011 and played Pinehurst #2, along with gathering data for the course review, I was trying to evaluate how this storied venue would stack up for the Open after the redesign.  What immediately struck me was how wide open it was off the tee.  I had mentally prepared to be hitting a lot of 3WDs but ended up with driver on every par 4 and 5.  We were playing if from the same yardage as the women will play the following week, but noticed that our tee shots were landing with ample room in the fairways and there was literally no rough.   The natural waste areas were mostly sand but were not played as a hazard (unless you were in a bunker within the waste areas).  I thought the way they had these laid out was awkward and it would be difficult to determine how to play if your ball was on the edge of a bunker.  Expect an abundance of USGA officials traveling with each group to speed along ruling inquiries, but the main takeaway is that unlike most U.S. Open venues, the rough will not be the penal impediment it usually is.

Pinehurst’s crowned greens will be the course’s main defense, BUT they won’t be able to shave them down and dry them out almost to the point of burning them because of the Women’s Open immediately following.  So with small reasonably well watered greens, expect some diabolical pin placements and a premium on chipping, missing the greens on the correct side, and solid bunker play; but not a fairways and greens affair.

This sets up perfectly for Matt Kuchar who will win the tournament.

From golfweek.com

From golfweek.com

Kuchar is not the greatest driver of the ball but has a wonderful short game, is getting in contention with every major, is from the southeast, and just feels like the right pick.  I’m giving him a pass on the missed cut at Colonial.

Justin Rose is the defending champion and his golf swing looks great.  He’s over his shoulder injury and actually seems rather bulked up (have you noticed too?) and I’m wondering if he’s been collaborating with Tiger The Gym Rat Woods, considering they both work with Sean Foley.  Normally, I’d take Rose to repeat in a ball striking competition, but his short game is not strong enough.  His form is good for a top 10, though.

From dailystar.uk.com

From dailystar.uk.com

Jordan Spieth From bostonherald.com

Jordan Spieth
From bostonherald.com

Coming in a close second again is the hottest golf property on the planet, Jordan Spieth.  He is getting so close, is so mentally mature and tough, that it’s just a matter of time; just not this time.

So that brings us to Phil Mickelson, who would be the perfect pick for the way this course sets up.  Phil is without a top 10 this year and despite finishing second at Pinehurst to Payne Stewart back in 1999, Lefty will remain a sentimental pick.

So what about Rory McIlroy and Woz-gate?  Good timing or bad?  I say bad and a missed cut.

Rory and Woz during better days. From businessinsider.com

So there you have it with Koooch finally getting his first major.  You like this pick or someone else?

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Golf – Part Time, Full Time, or Bus Driver’s Holiday?

I think I am safe in saying that as serious players most of us think we don’t play as well as we should.  When I’ve played rounds with friends who aren’t as serious, they often ask how to get better and I’ll offer the usual comments about taking lessons, getting fitted, working short game, but the conversation usually concludes with, “you get out of this game what you put into it.”  Tonight I was reminded about the advice I usually dispense.

On occasion if I don’t have enough time to engage in a normal practice session, I’ll grab a wedge and my bag shag and head out to the adjacent school field for a few swings.  This evening was one of those times and after hitting a couple dozen flip wedges (the first four flew straight right), I left frustrated and mad at myself for the lack of commitment on my part to enough play and practice to remain effective.

I have played this game seriously for nearly 40 years and am still searching for the right golf-life balance.  Back in my 20s, I worked a couple of years as an assistant club professional and along with the 6-day 60-hour work weeks came an inordinate amount of play and practice.  You worked your 10-hour day and then played or practiced after work until dark – I was totally hooked.  On your one day off, you played golf.  We were open every day of the year except for Christmas and New Years, and my unhealthy addiction was constantly fed.  The sport was a true bus driver’s holiday and was well in excess of what a normal human could enjoy from a game, and was the only time in my life that I was burned out on golf.

So what is the optimal amount of play and practice you need to get to the point of satisfaction?  Can you ever get comfortable or are we like nomads constantly wondering in the desert?  I’ve long since given up getting to scratch from a 5-handicap, as the workload would be enormous for a desk jockey with a day job.  Right now I’d be happy to maintain the 5, but feel it starting to slip.  In essence, I’m still searching for my optimal amount of play and practice but I know 30-40 rounds per year and one day of practice per week is not cutting it.  Golf has always been a game of adjustments, and the key is to get enough frequency to mitigate the big momentum swings.  Lately every time out I’m fighting a new fundamental fire with the problem being exacerbated when I take additional time off.

Anyone out there have any suggestions for a balanced approach?

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Golden Nuggets from THE PLAYERS

GoldGot some gems to share from this year’s coverage of THE PLAYERS Championship.  Normally during the majors and big tournaments, I try to avoid over-saturating my brain with the available round the clock coverage but for some reason I’ve been compelled this week, and am picking up some great stuff.

Nugget One:  If you watched “Live from THE PLAYERS” on Golf Channel early Saturday, you watched Zach Johnson warming up on the putting green using an alignment stick to ensure his upper body and hands were working together.  You need a putter that you can hook the stick on top of the club and anchor the other end to your sternum.  My Ping Answer worked perfectly (see photos).  As you rock your shoulders, make sure the stick stays anchored and the putter shaft does not cross under the stick.  This ensures you’ve maintained a solid lead wrist and have not broken down with a handsy stroke.  It’s easy to do and is an awesome simple concept.  Has anyone tried this?

Good Stroke

Good Stroke

Bad Stroke

Bad Stroke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nugget Two:  Same episode of “Live. . .” Kelly Tilghman was discussing an interview she did with Jordan Spieth during a segment when the preeminent talking heads were trying to figure out Spieth’s secret sauce of success.

Jordan Spieth From bostonherald.com

Jordan Spieth
From bostonherald.com

Supposedly when Tilghman asked Spieth  if he would take millions of dollars to make an equipment change and risk introducing a distraction to what had made him successful to date (ala Rory McIlroy), he  emphatically said, “No.”

Spieth’s sensibilities and game management are spot on and is why fans are being drawn to him.  Listen during Sunday’s coverage and you’ll hear the cheers of “Spieeeeeeeth,” reverberating through the TPC.  This guy has guts, an awesome short game, commits to his game plan, and shows some personality.  Sure he gets hot after a bad shot, but he gets it out and doesn’t let it burn for more than 30 seconds.  It’s refreshing to see him fist bumping the fans and showing some up and down emotion.  Too often our coverage is punctuated with the totally stoic faces of the grinders, like Jason Dufner, or the sunken-eyed look of a Tiger Woods, who can’t seem to enjoy golf even when he’s winning.  Count me as a big Spieth fan.

Nugget Three:  There is a changing dichotomy in professional golf as we settle into a period of non-domination.  There are so many good players who excel in short bursts but can’t seem to sustain long term.  Since the end of the Tiger Major Era, which I’ll identify as the post-2008 U.S. Open period, there have been 23 majors contested and only Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson have demonstrated the ability to win multiple times (two each).  While domination by a single player is better for television ratings and growing the game globally, those days are over.  Many pundits think we are entering a popping of the golf bubble that was inflated by the influx of Tiger Woods’ supporters.   Do you think that’s the case?  What’s that wooshing sound I hear?

 

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Countdown To GolfaPalooza!

TigersI absolutely love this time of year.  Today is G-minus 30 days from the annual pilgrimage to Myrtle Beach and it’s time to start counting.  Maybe it’s the aha moment I discovered today with my golf swing, or maybe it’s the five sustained days of 80 degree temperatures we’ve got lined up, or maybe it’s the prospects of total immersion in the game I love (playing 216 holes the same week as the U.S. Open is contested at Pinehurst.)  Either way, the anticipation and lead-up to this trip is almost as good as the real thing.

Leopard’s Chase

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2014 MB lineup (36/day weather permitting).

June 9: Lion’ Paw

June 10: Panther’s Run

June 11: Tiger’s Eye

June 12:  Leopard’s Chase

June 13: True Blue

June 14: Surf Club

The best thing about playing Ocean Ridge Plantation (Four Big Cats) is an abundance of replay targets.  Often, you have the opportunity to play a different course in the morning and afternoon, and I’ll bet we come home with at least three rounds on Tiger’s Eye, which is one of my top five plays on the Grand Strand.

The best thing about playing True Blue is that it’s one of the finest public golf courses in the United States.  Everything about this Mike Strantz design is great.  We added it to the line-up and removed Tidewater after learning that the latter had lost their greens due to a fertilizing double bogey by the greenskeeper.  I’ll have three new course reviews coming for Lion’s Paw, Panther’s Run, and Surf Club.  Anyone with an early season report on course conditions for these six, please pass them along.

As readers of this space know, I’ve been in an early season ball striking slump.  It’s hard for the serious player not to let a slump affect the rest of his life, but we try (and usually fail), you know what I mean.  So today was huge.  I recalled Vet4golfing51‘s advice to review the fundamentals during my ball striking slump last year.  Darned if it wasn’t my grip again, and I validated with some swings on my patio driving range mat and then again with some PW shots off turf.  The fix feels great and it’s funny how the rest of your mood improves when you have better prospects with your golf game :)

I hope your season is off to a great start.  Mine is certainly looking up!

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What Is Your Opinion About Indoor Golf Facilities?

I was at the driving range a few weeks ago during Taylor Made demo day trying to work the kinks out of my golf swing and the local pro sauntered up and asked me if I’d like to try the new SLDR ($399) and JetSpeed ($299) drivers.  I politely declined, as I was working on my swing, but he had set up shop in the stall next to mine and after about 20 minutes interrupted again to tell me how I could get 20-25 more yards of distance with the latest instruments.  Not wanting to be rude, I hit a half dozen with each new offering and then returned to my Big Bertha FT3, for comparison sake, and promptly cranked it past the newer models, somewhat humbling my demo pro.

With the advent of more indoor facilities and fancy launch monitor technology,  would you buy a new $400 driver without seeing actual ball flight?

I’ve never been drawn to indoor facilities, at least since I bought a Taylor Made R7 driver several years ago, after hitting it on a launch monitor at the local Golf Galaxy, and then finding out I was totally dissatisfied once I got to the range and observed real ball flight.  As a traditionalist, and previous club builder, I’m in the camp that golf needs to be played outdoors, on real grass (or at least on driving range mats), and that there’s no substitute for seeing the ball fly.

Admittedly, back in November of 2012, I saw master club builder Wade Heintzelman at the Golf Care Center in Bethesda, MD, and he fit me for my new Mizuno JPX irons and did it exclusively with indoor technology.  Now Wade has worked with PGA Tour professionals and is not some assistant pro du jour that was pulling sticks from a rack of R7 drivers in a retail store.  I rightly put my complete faith in his abilities and am a very satisfied customer, despite not seeing any actual ball flight during my two-hour fitting.  My only twinge of concern was when he said I had hit a 3-iron H4 217 yards on the monitor and I know I can’t hit a 3-iron that far, but chalked it up to the field goal kicker in a dome syndrome.

So my view on indoor facilities is mixed.  I understand that folks in colder climates, or in areas where it’s just too expensive to enjoy golf on a course (Japan comes to mind) might be more suitable for indoor facilities.  But to answer the question, no I would not buy a $400 driver without seeing actual ball flight, unless someone of Wade Heintzelman’s reputation were doing the fitting.

What is your opinion about indoor golf facilities?

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Trying To Golf Like a Professional Stock Picker

DowEver wonder why your golf scores look like the monthly trend charts for the Dow Jones Industrial?  Why can’t you build any consistency into your game?

Admittedly, it’s early in the 2014 season and my scores to date (92, 77, 78, 83) are a small sample size, but the inconsistency has me concerned.  I thought to stabilize and hopefully see steady improvement from week-to-week, I’d rethink my approach to work more like a professional trader on Wall Street.  In an attempt to remove the impact of market fluctuations on my portfolio, I will employ some technical analysis, which simply defined is using the examination of critical pieces of past performance data in an attempt to predict future behavior.  In my case, I’m going to attempt to drive performance instead of predict it.  Good luck to me.

Tomorrow, I play at Poolesville, the site of the ugly opening day debacle.  I reviewed performance notes I’ve kept on all the rounds played at Poolesville since 2010 and picked up three trends.

  1. Ball striking was inconsistent especially off the tee which repeatedly had me playing out of trouble, and didn’t improve until mid to late round when I benched my driver.  Last week I wrote about the great experiment I was considering with driver benching on par-5 holes, and it starts tomorrow.  Driver is out of the bag and replaced with a 5WD.
  2. On good ball striking days, I noticed a tight connection between arms and torso and my pre-round full swing practice usually included focus on making a shorter back swing.  When I try to make too full of a turn, my arms continue back after my shoulder turn is complete causing me to come up and out of my spine angle and hit loose shots.  Today’s practice will be a bucket full of 3/4 pitching wedges to get the feel of a tight connection.
  3. Poolesville’s greens are undulating and fast.  When I opened my stance with the putter somehow my feel for distance greatly improved and I putted well.  Not sure why this was the case but an open stance is in the game plan.

After reviewing data from Poolesville, what irks me is that I usually found solutions (adjustments) late in my rounds after my mistakes had impacted my score.  Hopefully by adding in what’s worked during past practice and play, before I start, I’ll have a more enjoyable experience.  Maybe tomorrow is the start of a long bull run and a look at more opportunities from the fairway!  Anyone ever tried this approach out there?

 

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The Great Course Management Experiment

ideaAdmittedly, I am one of those golfers who gains enjoyment from turning myself into a bit of a test laboratory on the golf course.  What fun it is to hypothesize on a mental or physical problem and go test it out using yourself as the guinea pig.  Vet4golfing51 seems very adept at this with his work on the mind-body connection, and I thought I’d give it a try.  I’ve been developing an idea for better scoring and I wanted to try it out on my readers before putting into play.

The experiment is in course management on par-5 holes.  Normally, the majority of alpha males step to the tee on a par-5 and immediately pull driver.  Summoning every ounce of  strength, their effort usually culminates in a massive blow with the ball traveling a long way but not necessarily in the direction desired.  My thought was to try like heck to stay out of trouble on the tee shots which should open up easy birdie opportunities and cut down on the big numbers.  When you hit a fairway bunker or put it in the woods or a hazard, you are most surly looking at bogey or double on the par-5 because of the remaining length you have to cover to make up.  And nothing feels worse than having to scramble on a par-5.

The experiment is to spend the entire week in early June on my Myrtle Beach trip hitting nothing but 3WD on every par-5 hole during the 216 hole golf-a-thon, then try to determine if stroke average improves as a result of keeping the ball in play.

The thought came to me after playing the par-5  17th at Northwest last Sunday.  I had been struggling with my ball striking through 11 holes and made the decision to bench the driver for the balance of the round.  #17 was playing 532 yards into a light breeze.  I made an aggressive pass with a 3WD off the tee and smartly placed one in the left side of the fairway.  Another solid 3WD had me at 109 yards where I hit a smooth pitching wedge pin high for a good look at birdie.  It seemed too easy, but easy is good!  Then I thought back to a 500 yard par-5 on my home course where I used to hit driver all the time and inevitably littered my scorecards with bogeys and doubles.  The last few years I always play it 3WD then 3-iron which leaves me about 100 yards and looking right down the throat of the flag stick.  Par or better is usually the result.

When you think about it, if average par-5s are 500-530 yards, and you can cover 200-230 with a 3WD tee shot, that leaves you with essentially a 300 yard par-4 hole; and who wouldn’t want that?  A long iron second puts me at 100-110 yards, which is my wheelhouse and most course architects don’t leave fairway bunkers back around 100 yards.  Here’s the post with my scoring stats from last year’s trip.  I’m hypothesizing that the scoring average will come down, as will the double bogey total.  The birdie number is more or less dependent on how well I’m putting, so no guarantees there, but the experiment is to eliminate the big numbers.  Driver will still be in play on the par-4s because length is critical, especially on the long ones.

What do you think of this approach?

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A Picture Is Truly Worth a Thousand Words

I headed out to the driving range this morning determined to fix the mechanical fault in my golf swing that had created so much angst last weekend.  If you’ll recall, I wrote that last Saturday’s range session had left me with a bad case of the pulls and I was able to slap a partial band-aid on for the following day’s round.  Needless to say but I had completely taken the right side of the golf course out of play.

Armed with the same band-aid, today I proceeded to have one of those range sessions where everything was pure garbage.  These things occasionally happen and I had the common sense to immediately whip out my iPhone and grab some DTL video with my gap wedge, Driver, and 6-iron.  What I captured with the 6-iron was revealing.  See if you can spot the root cause of Mickey Mantle:

The video coupled with a review of a couple DTL setup shots from previous blog posts solved it.  Here is a shot from me last November at Baywood Greens when I was beginning to suffer a case of the pulls:

18th tee at Baywood Greens

18th tee at Baywood Greens

Now here’s a shot From Ross Bridge in October when I was hitting it good.  Spot the difference?

On the tee at the par-4 eighth hole.

On the tee at the par-4 eighth hole.

In the good shot, I’m very balanced at address and in the Baywood Greens shot, my weight has started to slip back toward my heels.  In today’s video, my weight is very much on my heels creating the insight path on the back swing and over the top move on the downswing.  A good move in golf is an athletic move and I was in a poor athletic position.  I could feel something wasn’t right but couldn’t nail it with out the visual.

What’s fascinating and frustrating are how these things keep creeping into my swing, but I understand that golf more than any other sport is a game of never ending adjustments.  Part of the fun and challenge is trying to bank a group of recognizable adjustments that you can call on in short order when something goes a kilter.  So, if you aren’t periodically filming your setup and swing you should be, and the more you can, the more you will learn, and the steadier you’ll play.

Can’t wait to battle test this tomorrow afternoon at Northwest.  Happy Easter everyone!

 

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Better Late Than Never?

Has this ever happened to you?  You are in the throws of a terrible range session leaving yourself physically and mentally spent and then you find something on the last ball?  What do you do?

It happened to me last Saturday.  I was looking at dead yanks with everything from the short irons to the driver.  I had started out working the Nine-Shot drill but had to abandon as the controlled fades became straight yanks and the draws were pull hooks.  Finally at my wits end, I tried something that worked and nutted a driver dead straight on the last ball.  How many of you would chalk it up to a random cosmic accident and head for the parking lot and how many would go buy another bucket?  As it turned out, I was exhausted but with the prospect of teeing it up the following morning and having to sleep on such an awful session, my curiosity got the best of me.  I went up and down the line scarfing a couple balls here and there from my fellow range rats; just enough to validate.  Turns out the swing fix straightened out the driver but not the irons.  Better late than never?  Absolutely!  I feel it’s essential to leave the course after play or practice with some form of hope that tomorrow will be better than today and it worked.  My round the following day was a solid ball striking one propped up by a mix of drivers, 3WD, and 3-irons off the tee.  Definitely a more conservative approach than normal, but there’s a lot to be said for getting the ball in play when you’ve got swing foibles as serious as I had lurking just beneath the surface.

What’s your strategy for playing after a shaky range session?

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2014 Masters Picks

Masters LogoThe Masters green prognostication jacket is out of the closet.  Ready for a changing of the guard?  It’s here and this year’s champion will be a first time major winner.

First, the usual suspects.  Tiger’s body is breaking down and he’s withdrawn.  Phil’s body appears to be giving him more difficulty than in the past and while he’s overcome some significant arthritic issues, age is becoming a factor.  I love watching Phil compete, but he is 43 and will turn 44 in June, and from a major winning standpoint, players hit the wall at 44 (see data from golfmajorchampionships.com below).  Phil still has game and usually turns it on at Augusta no matter what type of form he’s showing in the preceding weeks.  That being said, of all the majors contested since Willie Park won the first Open Championship in 1860, only eight have been won by a player older than 43, making Jack Nicklaus‘ victory in the 1986 Masters, at age 46 all that more impressive.   Look for a top-10 finish for Phil.

MajorWinners Augusta National is the premier horses-for-courses venue and picking the winner is the easiest of all the majors because course familiarity is a huge advantage and some of the entrants are aging past champions who have no chance  The contest also boasts the smallest field of all the majors with 97 entrants in 2014.  The other majors routinely field more than 150.

I love the newer younger cast of characters because they all have great ability and are dynamite when they get hot, but each has a distinct weakness that prevents dominating performances from week-to-week.  Come Sunday evening, the tournament will pit four players head-to-head:  Rory McIlroy, Matt Kuchar, Adam Scott, and Jason Day.  Let’s take them in reverse order.

Jason Day will win The Masters this year.

Jason Day From golfdigest.com

Jason Day
From golfdigest.com

He’s been so close with a 3rd in 2013 and a T-2nd in 2011 and it is now his time.  Jason hit’s it a long way, knows the course very well, and has finally got his mind right.  I loved the way he kept his cool and closed at the WGC Accenture when Victor Dubuisson kept getting up-and-down out of trash cans, dumpsters, and desert cactus against him in the final.  Day’s weakness is his ability to control his distances under pressure.  He’s adjusted with a repeatable pre-shot routine and doesn’t deviate based on the situation.  Alan Shipnuck’s piece at Golf.com on Day is must reading for students of the mental game.  Day’s visualization techniques are more in-depth than any I’m aware of.  His fascination with Navy Seals training and affinity for hitting the gym are sounding Tiger-esque and I would caution him about taking too extreme an approach.  But for this week, as long as his sore thumb holds up, he wins his first major.

Adam Scott and Matt Kuchar will tie for second.  Scott is the horse for this course, has Steve Williams on the bag for steadiness and sense of purpose, and has the full compliment of tools.  He’s susceptible to getting on bogey runs which are protracted and seem to come at terrible times under pressure.  Yes, he pulled through last year in an epic moment for self and country, but his fellow Aussie will edge him out.  In the back of Scott’s mind has to be the upcoming ban on anchoring and how he will adjust.  Is it starting to affect his current work with the flat stick?

Kuchar plays well at Augusta, knows the course intimately, and has the temperament.  He won THE PLAYERS Championship, which is just as hard as a major, and is also ready.  Kuchar’s achilles heel is his driving distance.  He’s also mediocre in GIR and the fact that he’s so highly rated year after year in scoring average is a testament to his lights out short game and putting.  This new closed stance and slightly over the top move is supposedly getting the job done, but doesn’t bode well for the right to left ball flight needed at Augusta and will be just enough to hold him back.  Down the line shots at Shell indicate he’s made a slight correction from last week at Valero but still looks too closed to me.  Hopefully it helps him.

Rory McIlroy finishes alone in 4th.  The Northern Irishman is starting to look like Phil Mickelson from a roller coaster perspective.  When hot, there’s nobody better, but when his driving is off, it affects his mindset and his total game suffers.  Physically, he’s got the tools to be the best player in the world and is a multiple major winner.  He’s still young and it still may happen.  Now I need to see a serious run with no final round collapse.

Value picks for your Calcutta.  Look for Zach Johnson to make a run.  The 2007 champion had a great 2013 season, is hitting fairways and greens in 2014, but has slipped to 68th in total putting.

Nobody wins in his first attempt at Augusta, but I look at these three making their Masters debut to have an impact.  Jordan Spieth has the guts and the game to win a major-now.  Billy Horschel got real hot this time last year and has the confidence to contend.  Harris English has all the physical tools but needs more time under the gun.  Missing from the conversation is Jimmy Walker who’s leading the Tour in FedEx points and has three wins under his belt.  He kills it of the tee, putts great, but is only 86th in scrambling, which is a must have around Augusta.  While he’s shown steady improvement over the last five years, I don’t look for him to make a move in his Masters debut until he gets some experience chipping to these greens.

Masters Sunday is one of my favorite days of the year.  Play golf in the morning and settle into exciting final round coverage in the afternoon; I can’t wait.  Good luck in your pools!

 

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Do You Plan Your Practice?

Are you one of those individuals who loves spontaneity and enjoys flying by the seat of your pants?  Or are you always calculating and feel compelled to plan out every activity for which you participate?  Count me in the latter group.  And for those ultra-organizers out there, you understand the trait is both a blessing and a curse because while you’re always organized, others start to expect you to organize them as well.

So for the organizers, a couple tips about practice.  First, you get much more benefit if you have an idea of what you are trying to accomplish and how to get there.  I’ve tried it the other way (just show up and bang balls or chip and putt) and it doesn’t work.  You don’t have to plan out minute by minute or ball for ball, like Tiger Woods (read Max Alder’s April Golf Digest Column), but structure your time according to your objective.  Last weekend after my disastrous opening round on Saturday, I headed out Sunday morning and videoed myself hitting the 58 degree wedge shots that I had struggled with the day before.  I planned what technique I was going to work on and stuck to it.  The film review and planning were great because I uncovered a couple flaws and didn’t have to stew all week on my mistakes.  Thanks to Vetforgolfing51, for suggesting that the best time to practice is as close to after your round as possible.

Second, introduce an element of game simulation into your practice.  On full swing, work your technique, and then play an imaginary nine holes at your home course.  Use different targets and shot shapes on the range.  Don’t get stuck raking balls after a bad swing; move on to the next shot and try to hit the recovery as if you were on the course.  For short game, play nine holes (or 18 if there’s time) of Up and Down.  Drop balls in various lies and use different clubs to go after holes requiring all the techniques you’ve been working on.  Count each hole as a par-2, with a chip or pitch in as the only way to make birdie.  Mark and clean your ball just like you were out on the course and even write your score on an old card.  See how close you can stay to even par.  I usually score about four or five over and it’s a wonderful challenging game to build nerve and technique.  I always wrap up my short game sessions with Up and Down.  Today I was even par through seven and the pressure was intense!  Great stuff for transitioning practice to the course.  I bogeyed #8 but my one-over score was the best I’ve had in years and left me filled with confidence and feeling like my practice time was well spent.

A final word about Tiger’s practice habits.  Yes, the guy is quite anal but he’s been the greatest player on the planet for the last 15 years and you’d be smart to emulate some of what he does.  I’ve been using the Two Tee drill, that he implemented while under the tutelage of Butch Harmon, to practice putting before rounds for the last couple of seasons and it really promotes a solid putting stroke on the short ones.  More advanced players should also copy his use of the Nine-Shot drill to build confidence and add different options to your repertoire.

Got any tips for good practice?  What’s your most effective technique?  Please share!

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