Golf: The Grip

The grip you are looking at is  Sam Snead’s, one of the greatest golfers of all time.  Sam was noted more, for that long graceful swing, that gave him one of the longest PGA careers of all time.  In my opinion, he also had, one of the best grips in golf.  He was the perfect example of what I call the classic grip.  There were two things that made this grip classic. The line made by his thumb and the base of the forefinger, commonly called the V’s pointed more toward the right shoulder than at the chin or the right eye.  Second, those two V’s ran parallel to each other. Ben Hogan was the first top player, to introduce the grip, where the  left thumb was more on top of the shaft. In the Hogan grip, the right hand was also  more on top of the shaft, with the V’s being close to parallel again. Annika Sorenstam and Tiger Woods,in their respective instructional books, put the final touches on the grip. This is what I call the modern grip.   They keep the left thumb on top of the shaft, but they place their right hand on the club, a little more like Sam Snead, and therefore the V’s are not parallel.  The grip is one of the basic fundamentals of golf.  You can not play good golf, without a good grip.  There is no question, the grip has evolved over the years.  Here are some other elements of a good grip. The grip needs to be firm, but you do not want to feel you are squeezing the club. That’s why the waggle is so important.  A nice rhythmic and long waggle should give you the right grip pressure.  The hands should feel snug together with no gaps.  I do not think it makes much difference, whether you overlap, interlock, or have all four fingers of the right hand  on the golf club. Results and comfort should dictate that. There are lot’s of other variations on the way the pros grip the club, and I am not going to write about all that. There are plenty of places to go, to get good instruction, on how to grip the golf club, when making a full swing. I want to discuss a different way to utilize your grip.

This will be my experiment over the next 2 to 4 months, depending on how it goes, and how much golf I will play.  I started it yesterday, as we were able to play 18 holes, under not too bad of conditions, and the first round went rather well.  There has always been this resistance in the golf teaching community to use the grip as a way of working the ball, from right to left, and left to right.  There is the unwritten rule to never change your grip.  In my view, it is much easier to change your grip, rather than make swing adjustments, to work the ball in a certain direction. It is quite simple.  When you want to work the ball from left to right or hit a fade. use a grip that has your left thumb on top of the shaft and your right move on top of the club.   When you want to hit it right to left or a draw, then you turn your left hand, so you are seeing at least 3 and even 4 knuckles, when you look down at ball, and your right hand is more underneath the shaft. Get committed to the shot by aiming enough left for the fade and aiming enough right for the draw.  Of course, the rule of thumb is to work the ball away from trouble, not at trouble. By using this method, you never really need to make any swing adjustments,  and your hand action will curve the ball in the desired direction.  We will see how this experiments works over the coming months, and I will keep you posted.

 

 

Food: Caffeine

Caffeine is the most consumes drug in America, and probably in the entire world. In the United States, it is estimated between 85 and 90% of the people, consume some amount of caffeine daily, with the average being about being about 164 mg per day.  Over the years caffeine has gone from being bad for you, to being good for you, back to being bad, and now it is considered good for you, again. There are many medical and food sites, that discuss the pro and cons of consuming caffeine.  The general consensus is, that for the most part caffeine can help you, more than hurt you.  It’s pretty common knowledge, that caffeine affects the brain, and it seems to allow you to concentrate better, and be more alert, about one hour after consumption. The common side affects, are  keeping one awake at night, and it might give you some heart palpitations at higher doses.  Anyone can go on line and find the information.  However I did find some things that were interesting, and surprising, about how the scientific community feels about caffeine, and  there is still a lot to learned.

One thing I found that has to with nothing, but is interesting, is caffeine supposedly was discovered by an Ethiopian goat herder, who gave it to his goats, and it seemed to give them more energy.  Why you would want goats to have more energy is beyond me. The second new fact, for me anyway, was that there is not a lot of difference between what is safe to drink and what could cause some problems.  Taking in about 150 to 300 mg of caffeine per day seems to be very safe.  However taking in about 500 mg very quickly can cause some heart and blood pressure problems. So drink that coffee slowly. There is a debate in the scientific community, on whether caffeine is addictive.  Some sites say that it definitely is, while other sites say that it does not have all the traits of what constitutes an addictive drug.  All I know, is that some people do seem to have withdrawal symptoms from caffeine, if they try to stop taking caffeine abruptly.  They can get the shakes, headaches, and will be come more agitated in certain situations. My most surprising finding was that it seems that we are all drinking  coffee at the wrong time.  It all goes back to that darn circadian rhythm, again.  Its seems that when we wake up in the morning, that cortisol levels are at their highest, and therefore we do not need that jolt of caffeine, even though are brains may be telling us something different.  It is best to hit the coffee machine about 10 am, when your cortisol is starting to go down, and your body really does need that boost.  We seem to cycle back down around 1:30 so another cup will help again.   It is best to end the caffeine intake just after 2PM if you want a good nights sleep.

There is no doubt that caffeine is a drug, and the affects of are real.  On the whole caffeine can be a benefit, to help and maintain a healthy lifestyle.  However, there are more dangers involved than the general media puts forth.  After all, the coffee industry is a multi billion dollar business.  It goes back to those idiosyncratic responses that so many people have to so many different substances.  I know many people that say they can drink one or two cups of coffee at 7 to 8 PM, and sleep like a baby.  If I drank one cup at 7 PM, I would be up all night. Caffeine has many health and wellness claims, some more substantiated than others.  One claimed benefit is helping to prevent gall stones. The dose for prevention is 400 mg per day and even higher.  I think I would take my chances with gall stones.  I am going to start drinking my coffee later in the morning, when possible, and see if it makes any difference. It boils down to the same old thing.  Please. just listen to your body, it will tell you all you need to know.

Sports: Spring Training

Spring Training, everybody knows what that means, without saying anything else. In other sports they all have camps.  If you say summer camp, this could be something your kid is doing, not the start of the NFL season. When you say Spring Training, you know baseball has started, thank God.  This year, Spring Training is taking on a different feel for more than one reason.  You have teams apologizing, managers and general managers just acquiring jobs, and this weird feeling that the season is already over. I will explain that later. Spring Training, just has a nice ring to it.  Spring is coming, wonderful. The players are training, because that is what baseball requires. It is the most difficult game to play, but that will be for a future blog.  The game is swimming in money, and there is just something about baseball, that  makes you feel good.  But let us look at what is making this Spring Training, very unique.

First there is the “apologetic” Houston Astros.  The Astros would have been better off, just letting the media talk to individual players, rather than have Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, make those pathetic statements of apology. Then to top it off, their owner, Jim Crane, said that he did not feel the Astros sign stealing methods, affected the outcomes of games.  If that doesn’t prove that money is not synonymous with brains, then nothing does.  It also supports the theory that one of the biggest factors in being successful, and making a lot of money is luck.  Just think about what he said for one moment.  He said, that knowing what pitch is going to be thrown, is not really that much of an advantage.  REALLY REALLY.  Why not lobby to make what the Astros did, to be within the rules. Why did you fire your manager and your general manager.  I have never seen an organization make things worse for themselves, on a daily basis.  Because of the illegal sign stealing scandal  we had three teams scrambling for managers and a general manager to run their teams.  We will see how this affects the Astros, Red Sox, and Mets.  If the Astros win the division, I will be shocked.  I also look for the Mets and Red Sox to perform below expectations.  The other thing that makes this Spring Training unique, is that you have the feeling, that you could go to sleep, wake up around October 20th, and be certain that the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees, will be playing in the World Series.  MLB Network likes to talk about the super teams in baseball, and will name 2 to 3 teams, in each league,  that they feel fall into that category.  This year, the Dodgers and Yankees have separated themselves from the rest of baseball so much, that both of their years could be historic.  The Yankees could break the all time record for wins in a season.  I think 120 wins would not be unrealistic, considering some of the bad teams, that are going to be in the American League, again this year. The Dodgers could do this too, but face stronger competition, in a more balanced National League.  Yes, I know the games have to played on the field, and injuries could affect any team severely, but if nothing unusual happens, I don’t see anything stopping these two teams from dominating the entire season.

Then there is my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates, who enter spring training with a whole new regime of coaches and a team that is basically unchanged. In my view, a team that has done so little during the off season, is harder to evaluate, than a team that has made a lot of moves. I will not do a final analysis, until just before the season starts, but you still have to wonder, what are they doing?  I was not for a complete tear down and rebuild.  I thought this team needed a third baseman, right fielder, and one or two starting pitchers, and they would be able to contend for the division title.  This is not a long list.  They did none of this. In fact, they lost their center fielder and really have not found a replacement, that approaches his value.   The few additions they have made, were  large defensive upgrades, at their positions.  That makes sense.  The Pirates were one of the worst fielding teams in baseball, no matter what defensive metrics are used.  There are moves that still can be made.  Even if the Pirates stay exactly as they are now, I do think that they are going to be better than most projections. The one on USA Today had them losing 102 games.  I still have to take a wait see attitude on the new regime.  So far, they have not done a lot to impress anyone, but the season has not even started.  Like I wrote, spring training has begun, and it still gives me that nice warm and fuzzy feeling, even though it is only 20 degress outside here in the Burgh.

Food: How Did We Get Here

The consumption of food is costing us billions of dollars every year. I don’t mean the cost of the food. I mean the results of consuming too much food for our own good.  Over half the world is overweight.  Over one third of world is a lot over weight.  I am not going to use the o word, in describing how much a person is overweight. In my view, any amount of weight over your ideal weight, can cause a problem. This is different than being pregnant, where you can be a little bit overweight.  This should not lull you to sleep, thinking that this is probably ok for your health, because it is not. Spend an entire day carry around a 10 bag of potatoes, and see how you feel at the end of the day. This is how your body feels, after it  carries your ten pounds of excess fat around, for the last so many years. This blog is not about how to lose those 10 pounds or more, but to try and find out how the world go so fat. How did we get to this state.  This is a problem that is on the rise.  More people die from complications of being over weight than smoking.  The cost of treating weight related diseases is estimated to be 147 billion dollars a year.  Each individual has to take responsibility for their own condition, but let’s look at some big picture elements, that have a lot to do with it, and what if anything we can do about it.

The beginning of the fast food chains, has done has as much as any industry, to cause people to eat more.  The fast food industry has taken a lot of criticism, over the years, for not offering as many healthy choices as they should.  Because of this criticism, fast food has improved in quality and variety. However, fast food still entices you, in many clever ways, to eat more than you should.  From catchy names like the Big Mac, The Whopper, The Whaler, MAKE IT A MEAL FOR ONLY $1.50 MORE and SUPERSIZE IT, DUMB ASS. Not only do they entice you with catchy slogans, but the more you eat, the less you pay per unit. A single Burger at Wendy’s is 4.49, but put another patty on, for just a buck, and make it a triple for just another dollar.   It goes on and on, and every chain is like this.  Should there be a law against this.  If that’s what it takes, to keep this from happening, yes, I am all for it.  There should be at least a suggestion, like on alcohol commercials, to eat responsible, because we all don’t want to pay for  those 5 stents you’ll get in 5 years.  You should not have to pay more, but you should not get a discount, because your appetite is like the offensive line of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The entire food industry is like this.  That’s the whole purpose to buying clubs like Sam’s and Costco’s, in that they want you to buy in bulk and save money.  Unfortunately, I think this makes you eat in bulk also.  This kind of thinking. in my view, must come to an end.  The idea of the bigger you buy, the less it will cost.  It is not doing us any good. By the same token, all you can eat food bars, should come to an end. Again, they just contribute to a problem that is escalating at an unbelievable rate. I know that none of these things are going to happen, but it would be interesting if they did, just to see if they helped this costly problem of American  and world health.

Everyone is responsible for their own health and well being, but it does not help when people are bombarded with the above nonsense.  Can we learn a lesson from all this? We can all get into the mode of moderation.  With some moderate consumption habits and some moderate exercise added to our daily regime I think most of us can get back to a more healthful condition of our body.  Even though I wrote that any amount of being over weight is not good for your body, any amount of weight loss is good for your body.  Enjoy your food, but only eat one patty of ground meat, and eliminate the word large or big from your vocabulary, anytime you are going to order food.  Unless you have a big family buy small and eat small.  In the long run you will make you and the world a better place. Now excuse me, as I take my 54 tater tots out of the oven.

Meditation: Breathing and Control

Breathing and control, two things that seem to be very different, but can have a strong relationship, if you understand them.  Breathing is something you have to do, to stay alive.  Control is something that you strive for, in managing your life.  Well meaning friends and relatives,  will often say get control of your life, when things may not be going well for you personally, or professionally.  This could mean trying to control an unwanted behavior, or making a decision concerning your career, to time manage your life better.  Trying to set aside more time for your personal life, and not letting a job or business run you.  Is control something we should strive for? Is it even possible?  Before we answer those questions, let’s look at breathing to see how unique it is, and how it applies to getting control of our lives.

Breathing is a function of the lungs, where we take in the oxygen from the environment, and expel carbon dioxide into the environment.  We breathe without thinking about it. We can control our breathing to some degree.  We can hold our breath for a certain amount of time. Some people are better at this than others, but most of us can hold our breath for at least 30 seconds.  Eventually, we all have to start breathing again. Under stress, our breathing may become very short and rapid. If allowed to go to an extreme, we may start to hyperventilate.  This is when we are told, to take a deep breath, and try to relax.  You will see athletes take a deep breath, as a way to relax, before they perform a function, in their sport. They are exerting some control of their breath.  When we start to exercise, our breathing will start to increase, and as the exercise becomes more strenuous, the breathing will become more rapid.  There will come a time depending on how good of shape we are in, that the breathing will become so labored, that we will have to slow down, or stop altogether. All of these things can be beneficial when dealing with everyday situations in life. Even though breathing is a natural and spontaneous function, there are ways we can inflict our control over how we breath, but only to a certain degree.

The same thing can be said, when we try to control what is going on in our lives. We all might think we have control of our lives, but in reality this control does not exist.  At times, we can control some aspects of our lives, but over all, it is circumstances, that are in control.  For many people this is a hard pill to swallow.  Trying to get control of your life, or certain situations, can lead many people to have debilitating frustrations. In order to gain control of your life, you must give up control of your life. When you realize this, your life will take on a whole new meaning, and it will free you from not only trying to control yourself, but other people as well. Just like breathing ,there are certain elements of your life you can control, like what time you might want to eat dinner, go to bed, and get up in the morning.  Even those things can be fouled up, by unforeseen circumstances.  Trying to set goals and not accomplishing them, may be seen as failures, in getting control of your life.  Even trying to improve personally, and not achieving a desired result can be more devastating, when it is tied in to the ability to control one’s life. That is why, when you give up control, that you get back control of your life.  When you realize, that life’s circumstances, whether seen or unforeseen, is what controls your life, you will become more flexible in dealing with day to day life.  It’s when you let go, allow things to evolve in the proper time and place, that your life becomes easier to live and accept. You create a new awareness, that will enable you to deal with life as it happens, not as you want it to happen. When things seems to be getting out of control, remember that life, like breathing, can only be controlled so much. Sit back and take that deep breath, dig in, and make the best of it.  You will be doing yourself your biggest favor.

Golf: When is a Fault a Fault

It has been one month since I have written anything about golf.  I have  played 2 rounds, since the last blog, thanks to some of the up and down weather, we have been having this winter. Nothing major to report on my own game, and was just happy to get out, and play once in January, and this past Monday, in February. No matter how good we play, we are always looking at our swings, and feeling, that in someway, we have some kind of flaw, in the way we swing a golf club. Even when I was trying to do, what I called 100% Mental Golf, I would find myself, still trying to think about my swing, and make it “better”.  I am not as bad as I use to be, because I can play the game without swing thoughts, during the round, but I still think about, what I could do to improve my swing, when I am off the course.  I continue to do this, even though I know, there is nothing I can do to improve my swing. My swing  is my swing.  With an index now, of 4.7, thanks to the new handicapping rules, my swing can not be all that bad. Yeah, that’s one way to lower your handicap, have the USGA,  just change the rules. No practice is necessary, which I don’t do anyway. Can a single digit handicapper, have a swing flaw that is keeping them from improving. My guess is they do not.  Some instructors, when talking about golf swing flaws, often like to use the Jim McLean term, “death move”.  This is a term used to describe a flaw in the golf swing, that keeps you from hitting the golf ball with any accuracy, or even hitting the golf ball at all.  Depending on what year it is, there are anywhere from 21 to 25 death moves, described by  Jim McLean. Do you really think so? I doubt it.  I tried to find these death moves on the internet and some of them are not death moves at all.  One of them is being shut faced or closed at the top of the swing.  Dustin Johnson and Lexi Thompson give back all your money, because there is no way you could hit the ball that well, and be as  shut faced at the top, without some non-conforming help. There are other  moves mentioned, but are they being done by anybody, who has played  the game for awhile, and shooting below 90, not very likely.  Yes, these moves are being done by beginners, but if they are getting any lessons at all they are all easily correctable.

Are there swing faults, that are keeping players from improving their game? Well, maybe, but I am having my doubts, more every day, and my new hero is Matthew Wolff, on the PGA tour, and he has already won a tournament. He no doubt, has the worse golf swing, in the history of tour. The only one that is even close, is Miller Barber of the 1960’s.  Because he has won a tournament, and drives the ball a long, long way, all anybody wants to talk about, is how great his swing is, and all the good things he does. The golfing public would be so much better served, by showing and emphasizing all the things he does wrong, from the standard golf swing techniques.  I would say that he does at least 7 of the so called death moves. I am not being critical  of Mr. Wolff, or his swing. I am being critical of what everybody his saying about his swing and how it could be the swing of the future.  Are you kidding me?  There have been articles that state, that there are things in Matthew Wolff’s swing,  that the average golfer should try and incorporate in their own swings.  I would say, if the average golfer tries to do this, he will probably wind up in the hospital, in traction.  Everybody is eventually going to have a golf swing, that they can call their own, if they let it happen, and it will serve them well.  Once you get to a certain point in playing golf, there should be other things you concentrate on rather than your swing.  The bottom line is this.  There are no faults, in anyone’s golf swing, that is keeping them from improving. Once you realize that, you will improve, at a rate that you may not believe.

Meditation: Ten Minutes Don’t Bet On It

There are many meditation apps available today, and they all have some positive things to offer.   They help with sleep, relaxation, stress management, and show other benefits of meditation. There is one area, where it seems they have all gone astray.  They seem to feel that 10 minutes a day of meditation is acceptable, and with this  amount of time, one will receive the full benefits of meditation.   I do not agree.   Maybe they feel in this day and age, with time being of the essence, that 10 minutes is all you can expect from the modern world. They are trying to make life a little easier by only requiring 10 minutes per day to meditate.  Whatever the reason, this has become a popular viewpoint. To me the minimum time for meditation, has to be 20 minutes.  Considering that there are some people that meditate for one hour or even longer, 20 minutes does not seem to be very unreasonable.  There are some things that need to be accomplished during meditation, and 10 minutes is not enough time. It is like any part of life,  how much can you accomplish in 10 minutes.  Do you eat lunch in 10 minutes.  Are you even able to complete any task at work in 10 minutes.  Now some people may argue, that there should not be any goals in meditation. These same people will use the term benefits when advocating meditation, but to achieve these benefits more than 10 minutes will be needed.  If you are a starting to meditate, naturally you will have to build up to 20 minutes.  Meditating for even one to two minutes per day will get you started.  Gradually increasing the time every 4 to 5 days, will eventually get you to the 20 minute mark.  Let us look at two important reasons to meditate and why 20 minutes is necessary to get the best result.

The first benefit of meditation is to relax the body.  It is a process of scanning the entire body, and relaxing each section.  This is going to take some time.  Think of other ways to relax the body.  One of  the common ways is to get a massage.  Most massages are going to be at least 30 minutes to do a good job.  I don’t think the 10 minute massage is going to sell anytime soon.  The hot bath or steam seems to be another method to relax those tired and tense muscles.  Does anybody take a 10 minute hot bath? In meditation not only are you trying to relax the muscles of the body, but also the mind. We should all know by now, that sleeping is not relaxing for either, the mind or the body.  Sleep is a necessity in order to function at your best.  It has nothing to do with relaxation. The second  benefit or function of meditation is to discover your inner or true self.  Sometimes journeys of self discovery are aided by health professionals.  Does anybody have a 10 minute session with them. If you are going to have a substantial benefit from meditation, then you must commit the 20 minutes per day per session.  Ten minutes is simply not going to do the job. Maybe that is why there are all the extras, such as sleep aids, relaxation music and coaches for success, on these sites, to make up for the fact, that they seem to think that 10 minutes is enough. Remember morning meditation is always nice, but you can meditate anytime during the day, and it will be just as helpful in finding your true self and well being. I know we live in a busy and hectic society, which makes it even more essential  to set aside that 20 minutes, to do the most important thing, that you can do for yourself, meditation.