What The Foley Firing Means

In short, nothing because Humpty Dumpty has already fallen.  Lanny H Golf nailed the motivation behind the timing of the firing with his piece today  and how it’s midway between the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup.  Tiger, being the narcissist that he is, couldn’t stand to stay out of the limelight for too long and kicked Sean Foley to the curb just as interest in Woods was waning.  What I found more than coincidental is that Foley also coaches Hunter Mahan, who just won The Barklays, and the dismissal came not one day after his victory.  Really Tiger?

Looking at the merits of the firing, this should have been done several years ago, but now it doesn’t matter who’s trying to put the pieces back together.  Readers of this blog know that I think Sean Foley’s approach is very technical, so much so that his students play golf swing; not golf.  The most casual observers of Tiger’s play under Foley could pick up the overly mechanical approach and it has devastated Tiger’s previously superior golf mind.

Again, it’s too late, but if Tiger even thinks he has a shot at resurrecting his game, I would advise a series of appointments with a Bob Rotella type to first get his mind right, then think about a swing coach.  Tiger is damaged goods and no top flight swing coach should think of taking on this rebuild project.

 

Tour Tempo – Book Review and Road Test

Tour TempoI checked out Tour Tempo by John Novosel from the community library a couple weeks ago and have been on a recent test drive.  Authored in 2004, I was completely unaware of the Tour Tempo series but after reading, am adding this to my golf library.

Many instruction books and tips espouse a secret or magic move to better ball striking which can be attributed to one tour pro or another.  Novosel’s “Last Secret Finally Revealed” is completely non-mechanical and is backed up by a solid investigative approach and detailed film analysis.  His premise is that tour players are in “The Zone” much more often than amateur golfers and what’s consistent about Zone ball striking is rhythm.  If you can duplicate a tour player’s rhythm, not his swing speed, you can dramatically improve your ball striking.  Think about which tour player has the smoothest, slowest, and most effortless swing.  Many would say Ernie Els.  Novosel shows that Els’ swing is actually faster than Greg Norman’s, but the key to Els’ smooth appearance is timing.  He compares and times swings of top pros from Sam Snead to Tiger Woods and finds that almost everyone has a 3:1 ratio of backswing to downswing.  Yes, some pros swing faster than others, but the ratio is always the same.  If amateurs can duplicate the ratio, their rhythm and balance will improve dramatically, even if their strength and fundamentals don’t approach tour standards.

The book comes with a CD containing video and audio tracks.  The audio files provide three different swing speed mantras which you can listen to before hitting balls or warming up for play.  You use the mantras to adjust your timing and get to the 3:1 ratio.  For most, it will feel like you are moving incredibly faster than your normal swing, but the adjustment period is short.  I tried it and needed to speed up my downswing a bit, but saw immediate positive results with my driver last weekend, and got a feeling of rhythm and balance I hadn’t felt in about 20 years (when I used to drive the ball much better.)  Imagine my excitement!   At the range today, I warmed up with Tour Tempo and was hitting it pure.  I did not have as good a round as the previous week, but did hit some very good shots.  The best part has been my non-reliance on swing keys or mechanics.  For the last 36 holes, I’ve played with one swing thought; the Tour Tempo mantra, and love the simplicity of the approach.

There are tips and WOOD band-aids that we golfers play with all the time, and true to form, they usually only do Work Only One Day.  But when you are on to something fundamentally correct that is consistent from day-to-day, round-to-round, and practice session-to-practice session, you need to grab hold of it and go.  Tour Tempo feels like that fundamental change.  It’s simple, easy, and it works first time out of the box, and since you are making no mechanical changes, is very low risk.  I highly recommend you give it a try and let me know how it works for you!

Are you “Golfing” if you relax the rules?

A recent segment on The Golf Channel’s Morning Drive  broached the subject of playing golf with a relaxed set of rules, and it’s fostering a spirited debate.  The question:  Are you playing golf if you aren’t abiding by The Rules of Golf?  RulesGolf is a unique sport because we referee ourselves, but I believe you can play golf by a different set of rules depending on the venue and type of competition.   The most important rule is that everyone in your group or the competition play by the same set, even if you are in technical violation of USGA or R&A standards.

The most common rule players break is rule 1-1 that states you must hole your ball with a stroke.  Essentially when we take putts, we are in violation.  Weekend golfers take putts.  The second rule most folks break is the various permutations for lost balls.  Most just drop  as close to where they lost it and count one penalty stroke.  I believe, if agreed upon, this is permissible, because it speeds the game up.  If you post a handicap round that included a lost ball that was played in this fashion, you are posting for a lower score than you actually shot, which is the opposite of sandbagging, and again, I have no problem.

Where it gets dicey is for folks who don’t play the ball down.  I play it down and many of my weekend partners do not.  You gain a huge advantage of improving your lies in the rough, as well as in the fairway.  If there’s no money on the line, I’m fine this transgression, but it’s where I draw the line for personal integrity.   The other relaxed rules about picking up after double par and limiting searches for two minutes make sense as well.

I have played in sanctioned Mid-Atlantic PGA events, Pro-Am competitions, club championships, member-guests, outings for charity, weekend money matches, and just for fun.  Each of these games was played by a different set of rules (some with a local rules sheets, others without).  Each time I believe I can state I was “playing golf” even though I may have been in technical violation of some USGA rules.  Generally, the  more serious the game, the more closer you’ll usually have to conform to the official Rules of Golf.

Do you believe in relaxing the rules?  If so, which ones to do you bend or break most often?

 

 

Golf Course Meet-Ups and Conversation Starters

I was going to write a course review for Eisenhower, a muni we played last weekend in Anne Arundel County, but the course was just ho-hum and not worth the writer’s block.  However, the playing company was outstanding and got me thinking about the most notable cast of characters I’ve ever met on the golf course.  Here are some of mine, who are yours?

Last weekend:   My partner and I roll up in our cart and are introduced to the twosome paired with us.  One middle aged fellow has a Philadelphia Eagles hat on, tattoos up and down his arms, and is constantly out of breath.  I strike up a conversation, “So are you from Philadelphia?”

Not our guy, but close. From deadspin.com
Not our guy, but close.
From deadspin.com

He says, “No I’m from across da  riva in South Jersey,” – as if I couldn’t tell from the accent.  We dialog the Eagles, Redskins, and baseball for a hole and a half and on the third tee, he asks, “Hey, you guys aren’t priests or minsters are you?”  He reiterates, “I’m from South Jersey and you’re gonna hear some F-bombs today.  Hope that’s not a problem.”  The rest of the day we were entertained with tales of glorious bar fights, driving his car through the corn fields of south Jersey at 110 mph, and hoping he didn’t pass out from retrieving his ball out of the hole.  I’m no stranger to salty language on the course, but if the U.S. Air Force had dropped all the F-bombs coming out of his mouth.  Nice guy though.

Character number two:  78 year old guy playing at my local muni on a 95 degree day in June.  He’s carrying his bag and swears to me as we’re walking down the first fairway that he does 100 push-ups every day.  I’m thinking who is this guy, Jack Lalanne?  Then we are waiting on our second shots in the first fairway and he drops and gives me 30 right there.  Must have finished his daily allotment during the rest of the round.  Hope I’m that physically fit at 78 – although mentally, not so sure.

Character number three:  A few years ago, my friend and I are paired up with a young soft-spoken guy at Clustered Spires in Frederick, MD.  He doesn’t say much to us all day, but is 4-under par on the backside alone, and I’m thinking we’re playing with the club pro.  So on the 17th tee I ask him what he does for a living.  He replies, “Nothing.  I’m on parole and have been in prison for the last 18 months.”  He goes on to shoot 5-under 66 and seems irritated because he played bad.  We leave with our jaws dragging in the parking lot.

My greatest thrill in golf.  Met The King in 2010 at Bayhill!
My greatest thrill in golf. Met The King in 2010 at Bayhill

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the chance encounter – meet up with Arnold Palmer on the course at Bay Hill  with nobody around but my son and his playing partners.  I’ve written about this before, but it remains the most profound experience I’ve ever had at a golf course.  What are yours?

 

 

 

Eliminating My Big Miss – The Hank Haney Experiment

I am 1,100 swings into my Hank Haney experiment.  To review, Haney recommends for the time challenged golfer, to take 100 practice swings per day in your back yard (merely a 15 minute time commitment).  In week one I took the first 500 with a 5-iron.  In week two, I split the balance between a 5-iron and driver.  The last couple of sessions I have felt particularly strong and enjoyed some excellent rhythm and a confidence boost.

Yesterday, I changed things up and went to the range in the afternoon to see actual ball flight with the 5-iron and driver.  Smother hooking 40 balls will humbly reminded you why golf is such a damn hard game.  Just when I thought I was on to something good the pendulum of bad habits swung in my direction.  I left the practice tee discouraged but knew that I had a round to play the next day, and figured I’d better work some short game.  I finished up with a pretty good session on the practice putting green.

Now I am one of those players who generally plays like he practices, and the prospect of teeing it up a day after facing down a bucket full of Big Misses felt like crossing the U-boat infested Atlantic Ocean in an unarmed merchant ship.  I was dreading the surfacing of the Big Miss and can’t remember being less unenthusiastic about the prospects of playing a weekend round of golf.

I arrived at the course early this morning and headed immediately to the range, and figured it’s best to face your fears head on.  The warm-up was pretty good and I maybe saw five Big Misses out of 40 swings; a much smaller percentage, but just enough to keep the threat lurking.  Incidentally, I was hit by this same swing malfunction about a month ago in another pre-round warm-up, but a playing partner spotted my physical error and helped me with a band-aid fix before play, so I was armed with this little bit of knowledge.

I piped my tee shot on #1 but The Big Miss surfaced on the #2 tee shot.  Somehow I managed to save bogey and then it mysteriously disappeared and I played the rest of the front nine and the first two holes on the back striking it solid and straight.  Then BAM!  Four Big Misses in a row led to two straight double bogeys (the second of which was nearly a triple), and I though I was done for the day.  I stabilized with the band-aid and managed to birdie #16 and #17 with some solid swings and limped in without killing anyone, and carded a six-over 77.  Despite the strong finish, I am questioning the wisdom of the daily practice swings.  Should I continue if there’s a chance that I’m practicing a mechanical fault with no ball flight feedback?   I did hit 11 GIR last weekend and 12 in today’s round, which is over my season average of eight.  Maybe it’s working and I can’t see the forest of incremental progress from the trees?

Any thoughts or recommendations to stay the course or abandon for something else?

Bang! Woosh! End Of An Era

That sound is the deflating golf bubble, as we know it today, and much has been made of the recent decline in the industry.  Nobody likes to see 500 PGA professionals get fired at Dicks or five million fewer participants, but we are simply at the end of a massive market boom known as the Tiger Woods Era. While the economic impacts are real and unfortunate, they are not a terrible cause for concern because the underlying market factors are natural.

As in any sport, interest is driven by three entities: Domination, Rivalry, and Disaster, and when they are removed, interest wanes. While Tiger was the face of the sport, all three were in abundant supply. Now that he’s a middle-tier, often-injured shell of himself, the draw is gone and the vacuum hugely noticeable. Tiger still drives TV ratings when he appears, and the mainstream media bend over backwards for a smidgen of real time coverage, but between the injury time, scandal time, and missed cuts, air time is rare. Broadcast of his arrival in a SUV for a PGA practice round was silly/obsessive and reminiscent of another guy driving his SUV down the freeway in 1994.

Try this quick exercise: Think back to the half dozen most riveting golf moments you’ve ever seen on TV. Mine; in no particular order:

  • Nicklaus wins the 1986 Masters – “Yes Sir!”
  • Tiger drops the huge curling chip on #16 at Augusta in 2005
  • Justin Leonard sinks the bomb to win the 1999 Ryder Cup
  • Jean van de Velde at the 1999 Open Championship
  • Greg Norman’s historic collapse to Nick Faldo at the 1996 Masters
  • Phil crushing Tiger head-to-head by 11 in the final round at Pebble in 2012

Great theater, and there are many more, but each of these directly touches Domination, Rivalry, or Disaster, and that’s what sports fans live for. You had to love the playoff between Jason Day and Victor Dubuisson at the Accenture Match Play earlier this year with Dubuisson’s scrambling from incredible trouble in the desert to continually extend the match. It was truly fascinating, but Tiger wasn’t in the field and TV ratings plummeted. Whether you love him or hate him, Tiger was the major part of golf history for the last 15 years. Now he’s almost gone.

In three years, nobody’s going to remember “Day vs. Dubuisson In The Desert” so what will be the headliner? How will the industry recover? Does it need to recover or just return to the pre-Tiger state? Much is being hoisted on young Rory McIlroy’s shoulders because without him there is no compelling story out there. I wonder how this will play out.

In the meantime, enjoy the abundant starting times, wide open golf courses, and discounted merchandise at Dicks. What do you think will solve for this or does it need solving?

When You Are In “The Zone” How Did You Get There?

Try to think back to the last time you were in “The Zone.”  What was common about your time in with previous times?  Is it possible to recapture it on demand?  In golf, as in all of sports, most athletes have been in The Zone at least once, and the experience is fabulous.  I haven’t been in the zone since a round in September of 2013.  Not that I haven’t played well since then, but being in The Zone is a level above playing well.

Identifying the characteristics of Zone play and duplicating seems like the key to trying to get back with more frequency.  Personally, there are three factors consistent with Zone play.

Excellent ball striking warm-up.  This is probably unique to me because some folks can warm-up poorly and play great.  More common is a good warm-up followed by the inability to take your range swing to the course.  I get a clue that Zone play is possible when I strike it pure during warm ups.  I have never been in The Zone without a great warm-up and rarely play well when warming up poorly.

Supreme confidence with the driver.  Every time I’ve been in The Zone, I’ve been able to stand over every tee shot with the driver and know with complete confidence that I’m going to pound the ball dead straight.  For me, good play, great play, and Zone play all starts with the driver.  Lately, this has been the biggest Zone inhibitor.

Birdie the first hole then relax.  I know it’s just one hole, but when I birdie #1, I feel like I’m playing with house money and it relaxes me.  Being in the zone is usually accompanied by a great feeling of relaxation and calm during the whole round.  I feel totally in control of my game and can play worry free.

I got to thinking about this today because I touched The Zone but did not enter.  Josh at Golf Is Mental wrote a post on going low which resonated and put me in a very good frame of mind.  I took his advice, set a very low target number, warmed up well, birdied my first hole and shot 1-under on the front nine.

A second helper has been this video from Hank Haney.

Hank recommended that for time challenged players such as myself, we commit to taking 100 practice swings every day, which I did all week (with a 5-iron).  My mid-iron game was on the money today and I felt the extra work definitely helped.  Give this a try!  Inconsistency off the tee on the inward half of my round slammed the door on Zone entry, but the 4-over 74 is a good round for me.

This week I’ll split the 100 daily swings between driver and 5-iron in an effort to get more confidence off the tee.  Not saying I’ll get back to The Zone immediately, but the taste today was nice and I feel like I have a plan going forward.

When was the last time you were in the zone and what advice do you have for getting back?