Yes, good move for LaCava. Much speculation has been offered on LaCava’s decision to pick up Tiger’s bag with most of the sentiment running negative. Before we jump to conclusions, consider what LaCava’s motivations are. Early in his career he was on Fred Couples’ bag when Freddy took the 1992 Masters. He obviously earned a good living for the next 15 years and became Freddy’s confidant. Joe seems to want to remain on the big stage of the PGA Tour and switched to Dustin Johnson and his obvious upside potential when Freddy went on tour with the round bellies. I suspect LaCava is looking for more notoriety than earnings potential because unless Tiger is paying him a killer salary, Dustin Johnson’s playing potential is greater than Tiger’s. As we all know, being on Tiger’s bag can be a sideshow of its own and LaCava has positioned himself on center stage. Of more interest will be how Tiger performs at the Frys.com Open and if he can justify his controversial selection to the Presidents Cup team. Was the pick of Tiger and the timing of the switch of Couples’ long time caddy to Tiger coincidental? I doubt LaCava will have an effect one way or another on Tiger’s performance but he’ll certainly be along for the ride. The only loser here seems to be Dustin Johnson.
I haven’t read Dave Stockton’s new book Unconscious Putting, but during a recent appearance on The Golf Channel the guru piqued my interest while plugging his paperback. He reiterated tips from his earlier manifesto, Putt to Win, which I had read and most of the content sounded very similar. Not sure if there’s a whole lot of difference in the two books, but in Putt to Win, I thought the tips on pulling the left hand towards the target, not taking a practice stroke, and putting over a spot just in front of the ball were too mechanical, however I managed to incorporate his tip of reading break from the lowest point along the putt to my benefit. During The Golf Channel appearance, his explanation for not taking a practice stroke (allows you to stay better focused on your target) finally registered and I committed to try this last Sunday during my short game practice. Wow! At first putting with no practice stroke felt weird but the ability to zero in on the target improved my feel for distance incredibly. I putted nine holes in 16 strokes and banged in a couple of long ones but still felt a bit awkward. I also incorporated the recommended pre-shot routine of placing the putter in front of and then behind the ball, ala Nick Price, to ensure I was fully bought in. One more practice session with this method on Saturday, and I’ll be ready to game test it in my Sunday round. Has anyone out there fully converted to the Stockton method? Send me your feedback please!
I have experimented in my short game practice of hitting shots without rehearsal strokes and it’s worked well, but I’ve worked so hard to develop a repeatable pre-shot routine for short shots using two practice swings and I hesitate to abandon that. The lie of various short shots can vary greatly, as can your club selection and practice swings allow you to feel the shot before pulling the trigger. Ultimately, whatever routine I use for putting or short shots will be successful if I keep it consistent from shot to shot.
Last week was rough. I was coming off a great video lesson with FixYourGame.com and worked hard pounding balls in my backyard range all week. Saturday’s practice was seriously overdone as I started at one course in the morning for some short game work. Got kicked off there when they closed for a charitable event and went to my second course for some range work and putting practice. Finished up at home playing 18 simulated holes on the backyard range. When Sunday’s tee time rolled around I was popping Advil like SweeTarts.
Trying to play Sunday was mentally draining as I implemented the lesson changes and coped with the fatigue from the previous week of practice. I held it together for nine holes at even par but the tank ran dry and I faded to six over on the back. Oddly enough on Monday morning, I had no energy to book a tee time for the following weekend and have decided to take a badly needed break.
Two things became apparent. First, I got away from my routine of 75/25 practice time favoring the short game. Short game is easier on the body, is more varied so it holds my interest longer and allows me to play better the next time out. Second, it’s easier to focus on practice when you have a milestone event to prepare for. I got so psyched to play Myrtle Beach in the spring and loved preparing for Pinehurst over Labor Day this year, but felt rather deflated afterwards with seemingly nothing to play for. Definitely time for a break to get re-energized and focused on a new target. I’ve lined up Maryland National in early October and will head down to Ocean City, Maryland for a three-day trip in late October to finish up my season. Nothing but TV golf for me this weekend.
Something wonderful happened the other day during my putting practice and I’m still trying to figure it out. I was at the tail end of a short game session and had decided to leave putting for last. I putted nine holes on the practice green with unspectacular results and prepared to finish up with a series of 3-footers. For some reason I decided to build a small channel with two alignment sticks around my 3-foot putt. Immediately I starting rolling each putt through the channel with precision and confidence. The ball was coming off the putter perfectly and banging into the back of the cup. I hit about 15 straight in this fashion. Then I backed up to about seven feet and left my alignment channel framing the hole. Again, stroking the ball perfectly, I banged in about nine in a row. I backed up to about 12 feet and hammered another eight straight into the cup. It was if Phil Mickelson had taken over my body.
I have never putted with an alignment aid like a chalk line or between 2×4 boards, but something about those sticks framing the putt had me rolling it pure. I have always been conscious of squaring my putter face and alignment especially over the shorties and maybe the sticks freed my mind to produce a tension free stroke. I’ve also been leery of practicing with artificial aids and have attempted to simulate game conditions at every opportunity, but there has to be some value in this drill. At least there was a helluva lot of enjoyment 🙂 I’m going to continue with this drill with the hope that I can groove a better stroke and at the same time, not become too dependent on the sticks. Please send me your thoughts on this and if anyone has experienced something similar. Thanks!
Brant Kasbohm, Director of Instruction for FixYourGame.com is on to something. I first learned about this great on-line golf lesson service from reading TheBirdieHunt’s review and watching his lesson artifact, and was impressed. For $19.95, Brant will review video you take of your golf swing and within 48 hours, return a detailed written report and video lesson of the highest quality. Here’s mine:
Brant’s eye for faults and his ability to articulate the reason you swing the way you do are enlightening. His use of a telestrator-like tool to demonstrate angles and positions is very helpful.
I am a big proponent of filming my own golf swing especially after a mediocre ball striking day. But everyone needs another set of eyes from time to time and after my last film session I knew I was in trouble because I had a laundry list of things to work on. Which ones were the true faults and which were cascading behaviors of the faults? Brant found a problem I hadn’t even considered and provided the clarity and direction to help me improve.
FixYourGame.com is high quality, affordable golf instruction, and has my full recommendation. Thanks Brant. Now, off to work on my swing!
I met my new friend from PowerBilt on a recent Labor Day golf trip to Pinehurst. After dinner one night, we moseyed over to the Golf Augusta Pro Shop in Southern Pines so I could hunt for some used clubs for my wife and kids to use in the backyard driving range. Long story short: Mr. TourBilt made his way into my bag for a measly $5.00 and was in play the next day on Pinehurst #8. I have never played with a hybrid before but after knocking it stiff on a couple of 200-yard shots a new friendship was born!
This couldn’t come at a better time because the hybrid replaces my Sonartec 5WD which I hadn’t hit in the last four rounds. Fear of the ugly pull hook had crept into my head exposing the hole in my game from 200-210 yards. No doubt the pull hook was fully due to operator error, but once that gets in your head it’s hard to clear. My $5.00 gem may not be the permanent solution, but for now, let’s go play!
Playing your best golf on new courses has always been a challenge. Unfamiliar surroundings and lack of local knowledge can wreak havoc on your confidence, but there are several strategies I’d like to share to counter this.
Don’t try to perfect your swing before going on a golf trip. Lots of players attempt to work out all the flaws in hopes of having a ball striking nirvana experience. Don’t try: it’s not going to happen. This will have the opposite effect because you’ll be running with too many mechanical thoughts. It’s hard enough on a familiar course to play mechanically and on a strange track you’ll need to fully focus on where to hit the ball, not how to swing.
Do your homework by logging onto the course’s website and noting as much information about course characteristics as possible. Pay specific attention to the type of grass and the structure of the greens. You’ll gain valuable information to allow you to tailor your short game practice to suit course conditions. On my recent trip to Pinehurst, I knew I’d be playing to small elevated greens with significant drop-offs on all sides. Clearly this would require short shots with elevation and spin so I practiced nothing but pitches and lobs with my sand wedge leading up to the trip. In three rounds, I hit all my green side shots with the sand wedge except for one. It’s also a good idea once you arrive to practice at their short game facility to get more comfortable.
Do whatever it takes to keep the ball in play. It’s tough enough at your home course overcoming wayward tee shots early in your round but it’s even more important on a strange course because resort courses are often loaded with hazards not present off the tee on your average municipal course. “Hit the shot you know you can hit, not the shot you think you should be able to hit,” and you’ll give yourself a much better chance to score. Keep it in the fairway even if you need to tee off with a fairway wood, hybrid, or long iron. As you become more relaxed your confidence will grow and allow you to start hitting driver without hesitation.
Just returned from an excellent trip to Pinehurst Resort for three days of golf at one of America’s premier destinations. Here’s a link to the trip photo and video album. Played the #8 course on Saturday, #4 on Sunday, and finished out on the storied #2 course on Labor Day.
Pinehurst sells a variety of all inclusive deals with various lodging and playing options. We played on a three-day, two-night package and stayed at the Manor Inn which was the least expensive choice for lodging but was more than adequate for our needs. The Manor is an older building with clean rooms, nice comfortable beds, mahogany desks and wardrobes, modern bathrooms, and high speed internet access. Manor is very convenient to the rest of the resort as free shuttle buses can be summoned from any resort property and will take you anywhere.
The Carolina Hotel, pictured above, is the center of Pinehurst operations and is the largest of the lodging options. We enjoyed our three course dinners and morning breakfast buffets (all included) at the Carolina in their formal dining room. The food was delicious and the service impeccable. The staff at the Manor and Carolina were friendly and helpful and exuded class and plenty of old Southern charm.
Upon arrival, you are assigned a bag tag with your tee times and course numbers for your entire stay. You leave your golf bag at the main club and every day the staff has your clubs loaded on a cart at the course you are scheduled to play. Courses 1-5 play out of the main clubhouse and 6-8 are off-site. The main clubhouse is a tremendous facility with two pro shops managing play (#2 has it’s own). A huge grass driving range and extensive putting green are available along with several practice chipping and pitching areas. The practice facilities are simply the best I’ve ever played at. Inside the main clubhouse along the long corridor from the entrance to the locker rooms are displays detailing the wonderful history of Pinehurst and the various championships, trophies, and tributes to the winners.
The original 1907 Donald Ross design has been altered considerably by Coors and Crenshaw in 2010. Gone is most of the rough, replaced by natural looking waste areas containing sand, grasses, and pine straw. The par-3 17th pictured above, features this to the right. In some instances, bunkers have been placed within the waste areas blurring the line between hazard and waste area. My group was wondering how a ball on the edge of a bunker within a sandy waste area should be played. On a pre-round tour of the course, I thought I’d be playing several 3-woods off the tees for position since the waste areas extend the length of most par 4 and 5 holes, but surprisingly I found ample landing area in the fairways and hit driver on all holes. Making clean contact from the various lies in the waste areas was difficult and we also noted that after playing the first few holes with the same waste area look, subsequent holes were fairly indistinguishable from the previous. At the end of the round, no single hole stood out for its features or magnificence.
Our biggest disappointment was learning that the greens had been aerated and top dressed four days before our round. This was supposedly a surprise to everyone including the pro shop staff, as the greens superintendent had judged that the Bent grass greens were under tremendous stress from the summer heat and needed to be saved. I was highly suspicious of this reasoning until I learned that they aerated one day before a major member guest tournament. Maybe it was true? Either way, our round was played on bumpy sandy greens and we payed the full $175 surcharge. Elsewhere the course was in excellent shape with the Bermuda fairways and tees quite immaculate, and good quality sand in the bunkers. I found the lack of formal elevated tee boxes and the all-sand cart paths interesting, as an obvious attempt had been made to preserve the most natural of looks to the land. Also the closeness of several greens to teeing areas made me wonder how the 2014 US Open and Woman’s US Open participants would manage the proximity to other groups and the associated distractions. Finally, in contrast with the other Pinehurst courses, there were no indicators for pin positions and guessing yardages was difficult since the only markings were on the sprinkler heads. The course requests that you keep carts on the paths at all times and there are no distance indicators on the paths. The other seven courses employ the Red, White, Yellow flags to indicate positioning but the #2 pins are all white with the #2 logo emblazoned and unless you take a caddy or are equipped with a range finder, you’ll end up guessing the yardage and lugging a handful of clubs from cart to ball.
For the record, I played the white tees at 6,307 yards and carded an 82 and was left with the impression that #2 was an impressive layout but was a bit over-hyped.
The Tom Fazio 2000 rework of #4 produced a stunning must-play. The course was the best conditioned of our three with the greens rolling smooth and true, although not very fast, and the tees and fairways in excellent shape. Fazio has framed several tee shots with clusters of pot bunkers, most notably on the edges of dogleg par 4s and 5s. Additional pots are cleverly placed green side to defend against wayward approaches. I found myself hitting 3-wood off several tees for pot bunker avoidance which turned out to be a good strategy. You have to think your way around this course and can score by avoiding the trouble.
Each hole is unique and memorable. They do a great job on hole #4 which is a beautiful downhill par-3 that requires a forced carry over water, and reuse the same lake on #13 to present a sweeping dogleg left par-5 that is the consummate risk-reward adventure. The fun continues on the par-3, 14th which features the same lake all the way down the left. A few of the holes have significant elevation changes that adds to the uniqueness of the track.
Inevitably, you will visit some of the 140+ pot bunkers so bring your sand game but if you can avoid the majority, you’ll do well. We played from the blue tees at 6,658 yards and I shot a five-over 77. #4 was clearly our favorite play on this trip.
Number 8 plays off it’s own clubhouse and is another Tom Fazio design and was built to commemorate the Pinehurst centennial year of 1996. The layout of this course was varied and very enjoyable however conditioning was an issue. The greens had obviously been stressed by summer heat and had significant brown patches. Some of the collars were completely killed and were being actively worked on. The Bermuda grass tees and fairways were in excellent shape, as they were across all courses. After the sum of our experiences on the three courses, we thought the resort may want to resurface all putting surfaces with Bermuda to better manage the heat.
The key to playing #8 is placement off the tee. you MUST hit the fairway or are left with awkward lies in very penal Bermuda rough. Once in the second cut, either off the fairway or green side, the ball sat down and was very difficult to extract with clean contact. Despite the ragged conditions on the greens, I managed to have a good day putting as the surface of the practice putting green mirrored that of the course and left me very comfortable with the speed.
#8 has its own driving range which was beautiful but was only half opened and got very crowded during the morning warm-up with some folks waiting a few minutes for a spot. Double teeing was the culprit and I’d like to see the course avoid that practice. There was an excellent short game area that included several mowed approaches and a good size bunker. A second smaller putting green was located next to the first tee which was convenient.
We left thinking that if conditions were better, #8 would be a great play. That being said, we had a very fun day and I carded a six-over 78 from the blue tees which were playing at 6,698 yards.