Golf: Why Is It So Hard?

It looks like the surge in golf play due to the Covid pandemic may be coming to an end. It’s too early in the year to evaluate how many people will be playing golf. However, I base my opinion on a visit to a local golf repair shop. This shop takes used clubs on consignment and sells them to the public. The last two springs have been pretty slim pickings because of many people either taking up golf for the first time or playing again after not playing for many years. During the height of the pandemic, golf was about the only thing you could do. The last two summers have seen more play than normal. There were what I called Covid foursomes. These were beginning players that had no idea how to play or what the game was all about. I visited the shop last week to get a couple of grips put on my clubs and the used club racks were filled to the brim. There were more clubs there than I have ever seen and I have been going there a long time. The fact remains that many people take up the game of golf, and after a year or two of playing, will quit the game. There are other stories of people who have played the game for years, and then after being so frustrated with their games, finally just throw in the towel and quit for good. What makes this game so difficult? I have always been hard on golf instruction, for not being very good at teaching the game and this is, indeed, a factor. There are, however, several things about golf that has nothing to do about trying to hit the golf ball, which makes the game unique, but also very difficult. Winston Churchill may have summed up golf best when he said, “Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an ever-smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose”.

The first thing that makes golf so difficult is you are trying to hit a target with an object, and you are not able to look at the target. This is not lost on all of instruction. Some advocate that you look at the target and as soon as you look back at the ball you start your swing right away without delay. This sounds all well and good, but you still really have the same problem, you are not looking at the target when you are in the act of trying to hit the target. I feel this is even worse than trying to hit a target with your eyes closed. Think of any other situation where you are trying hit a target. Every time, you are looking at the target. I am a little surprised that putting while looking at the hole is not more popular. Tennis is similar, but the target is in the same place and distance every time. There are 18 times in golf that you hit the ball off the tee ground. On a golf course that has 4 par 3’s, 4 par 5’s and 10 par 4’s, that means that the other 18 full swings will most likely be totally unique shots. Not only will they have different distances to the green, but the lie of ball, the lay of the land, and the environmental conditions will all be different for all of those 18 shots. Let that one sink in for a while. In fact, I am thinking about it, and I think I will quit the game. What kind of swing are you going to groove for those kind of shots? Let me clue you in, you are not. You are going to have to make 18 adjustments for 18 shots during a round of golf. If you do not make those adjustments, you will hit the ball thin, fat, left, right, short or long of your target, depending on what adjustment you failed to make. Some shots, you may have to make 2 or 3 adjustments from your normal swing. The more slopes and hills a golf course has, the tougher all this becomes. Even if you have played some relatively good to great shots, you then have to deal with the nightmare called putting. Putting has nothing to do with the golf swing. Putting is to golf like a bowel movement is to eating. You have to do it but it is not near as enjoyable as the first part. Putting can save a hole or ruin a hole with no in between. Other than a club face coming in contact with a ball, putting has absolutely nothing in common with the process of hitting a golf ball. There are entire books just dedicated to putting. The worse part, it looks maddingly simple. Finally, there is the way that golf can just play havoc with your mind. It can get to the point where your body just simply does not function. It would be like putting a fork in your eye when you are trying to eat, or pouring something into a glass and missing the glass completely. In a nutshell, golf completely controls your being. It can be the scariest thing about golf and would make anybody quit the game.

If you continue to play the game after reading this, is there anything you can do to try and make such a powerful game more enjoyable. The short answer is no. I could go through the acceptance bullshit and that has some truth to it. Resignation may be a better word to use and cultivate when trying to play golf. What makes golf a great game is that everyone wants to help each other, even a competitor. Golfers seem to root for their fellow golfers. The game is the definition of good intentions. However, there is that little devil inside of all of us that does find some pleasure when the greatest players in the world hit some of the worst shots ever known to man. When those same players miss that 2-foot putt with a twitch of the putter that they could not possibly duplicate on the practice putting green, you shake your head and think it happens to them, too. Even those these players are millionaires, golf still makes their bodies do things that they just can’t believe and did not think was possible. This game is hard, and technique has nothing to do with it.

Golf: You Cannot Overswing.

If you look up the definition of overswing, it says trying to swing a bat or club too hard. By that definition, you can overswing in golf. However, overswinging in golf is defined as trying to take the club too far back on the backswing. Anytime the club head goes below the horizontal level at the top of the swing most instructors will call this overswinging. They use all kinds of excuses, like great hand eye co-ordination or lots of practice, to explain why some top players seem to overswing and still have had a lot of success in playing golf. The list will include John Daly, Phil Mickelson, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Nancy Lopez, Brooke Henderson, Tom Watson, and Gary Player to just name a few. Golfers of the 1920’s 30’s and 40’s had a tendency to have very long backswings. Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Lawson Little, Ted Ray, and Tommy Armour all had swings that went well below horizontal on the backswing. Because of calling overswinging a fault, it has caused many a golfer to have way too short of a backswing. Golfers have developed many ways to restrict the backswing because of this belief that you can overswing. This simply is not true. There is a much more of a tendency to not complete the backswing, due to being anxious about trying to hit the ball. In my view a nice long backswing aids in making the transition from backswing to downswing. Before we get into the benefits of realizing that you cannot overswing, let’s look at what “causes” overswinging, and how you can “correct” it. Unfortunately, I am going to have to be rather redundant in order to prove a point.

The breaking down of the left arm is not overswinging, it is the breaking down of the left arm. Over cocking the wrists is not even a fault but it certainly is not overswinging. Picking the club up with the arms is not overswinging, it is picking up the club with the arms. Loosening of the grip at the top of the swing is not overswinging, it is loosening of the grip at the top of the swing. Overturning of the hips I do not consider a fault, but it does not lead to overswinging. The collapsing of the left knee toward the ball is not overswinging but is collapsing of the left knee toward the ball. Not making a nice turn and coil on the backswing is not overswinging but is not making a turn on the backswing. If you overswing, your clubhead at the top of the swing will point to the right of the target and this will make you have a tendency to come over the top on the downswing. Watch the videos of Jack Nicklaus in, Golf My Way, and you will see his club cross the line, and points to the right of the target. I don’t think Jack came over the top on too many shots. All the things, and there are more, that I have just listed are things that “cause” overswinging. All of these things are significant faults, but they do not lead to overswinging, because overswinging does not exist, therefore is not a fault. You could correct every one of the above faults and by definition you could still easily overswing. In fact, all the pros that we mentioned had none of these faults. You could demonstrate every one of those faults and still not overswing. I think it is much more detrimental to your game by even thinking of trying to restrict your backswing in anyway. It causes the downswing to be rushed, and in order to make a shorter swing work, you must swing with a faster tempo, which is never a good thing for the average golfer. Now let’s look at the things that I do not consider faults, that really contribute to a nice long backswing that winds up being easy on the body and allows you to hit the ball powerfully and yet smoothly.

There is always going to be limitations on how far back a particular individual can take the club back on the backswing. The other thing that dictates the length of the backswing is the length of the club. The shorter the club the shorter the backswing. Swinging with different clubs is a subject for another blog. Fully cocking the wrists will help you make a much longer backswing. Sometimes this full cocking of the wrists is called the collapsing of the wrists, when trying to correct overswinging. The more you can cock your wrists the more of a snap you will get at the bottom of the swing, and this will increase you clubhead speed. To know how far you can comfortably cock your wrists, from your address position, simply pick the club straight up, using only your wrists. Get the feel for that and then simply turn your body as you would for your backswing, and you should be able to get the correct feel at the top of the swing. In order to have a nice long leisurely backswing you need to turn your hips as much as you can on the backswing. Golf instruction will say that you can overturn your hips. This is simply not true. You can turn your hips as much as you want as long as your weight stays on the right side at the top of the swing. Keep your grip nice and firm at the top and there should be no problem with a long backswing. Having a long backswing is the best way to have a nice easy tempo. It is the shorter backswing that requires a much quicker tempo. The quicker your tempo the more well time your swing must be. That is what requires more practice than anything, timing your swing. Don’t do anything that you think is going to restrict or inhibit your backswing. Just wind it up as much as you can in a nice easy fashion and then just start the backswing nice a slow with the hands coming straight down from the top. Your ball striking should improve, and your body should be able to swing the club much easier with less stress on those joints, tendons and muscles. See you on the links.

Golf: More on Starting the Downswing.

The handicap season ended this past Sunday in Western Pennsylvania, with me adding two more rounds in the seventies, to end the season with a 5.2 index. I started the season at 4.9 but before I changed the way I started the downswing my index had climbed to 6.9. Of my last 20 rounds I now have only 2 rounds posted in the 80’s. This is by far the most consistent golf I have ever played. I have not shot any real good rounds but my 14 rounds have been between 74 and 79. As I discussed in my previous blog putting as had a lot to do with my sudden improved scoring, it always does. If you don’t putt, you do not score. Despite all the practice, swing changes, and obsessing we do about our golf swings, putting remains the most important part of the game. It is one of many reasons that this game is so goofy. I know that many of you like to think that greens in regulation is the most important stat, but if you can not finish the job, then the score will not reflect your better ball striking. Striking a golf ball, and controlling where you want it to go, can seem like a very hard skill to learn, while putting seems so simple and easy. Until you accept that putting is the most important part of the game, you will always be frustrated when it comes to golf. It doesn’t mean that you can hit the ball all over the place, and shoot par or better. It is important to find an efficient and easy way to make contact with ball. The first move to start the downswing has always been a little controversial, with many well know instructors advocating different ways, to do one of the most important fundamentals of the golf swing. Let’s look as to why this is, and what many believe is the proper way to do it.

One of the basic principals of the golf swing, has always been, the downswing starts before the backswing is fully completed. There is video proof of this, and I am not going to dispute it. However, when you try to do this in the golf swing, it usually leads to poor results. This is something that just happens naturally, and you do not have to really think about it. Here are some of the many recommendations on how to start the downswing, that you will see in many instructional articles or videos, by well know instructors. A slight forward movement of the hips, with the hips turning. Kicking in the right knee toward the ball. If you lift your heel on the backswing, then placing the heel back on the ground should initiate the downswing. Begin straightening the left knee. Shifting the weight to the left side with the lower body. Dropping of the right shoulder with the arms following. There are other suggestions but these are the ones that are seen most often. What they all leave out of course, is the hands. The one thing that actually connects you to the club. It is the one and only thing, that allows you to feel the clubhead. The great fear in golf, is that you will use your hands to soon in the swing, and lose your power. The solution to the problem, makes it seem that you should not use your hands at all, or try to throw them in at the last moment. The idea is that the body will control the hands. Allowing the hands to initiate the downswing, by pulling straight down from the top of the backswing, no matter where that top of the backswing is, let’s the hands control the body, and forces the shifting and turning of the hips. Doing this method, will get your hands where they are supposed to be, at the halfway point of the downswing, and you will begin to make much more solid contact with the ball. It is a most simplistic method. Hands pulling straight down and then firing away with no inhibitions. This method works for all shots, from short game shots, to chipping and bunker play. Once you activate the hands for the second half of the swing, you will see that the game is going to become much easier. This will stop you from throwing your hands at the ball, which causes the over the top action of slicing and pulling. It will also stop you from having a too shallow of an angle of attack, from the hands being to far inside during the downswing. It has improved my ball striking immensely and should do the same for you.

Golf will be sporadic from this point on until about the middle of March. Hopefully, I will be able to get out and continue to improve this downswing method. As I progress or digress, which ever it may be, I will continue to update via the blog. Have a great holiday and do eat a lot of turkey and enjoy!

Golf: New Putting Philosophy

Any time you have a period of good scoring, putting always has to be an integral part of it. I have done many putting methods, and have battled the putting yips. One of the most unusual methods I did, was allowing my body to move during the stroke, when one of the basic fundamentals of putting, is to keep your body, dead still. This method worked extremely well, and helped bring me out of a slump, that had been going on for over a year, in 2017. I eventually went back to a more conventional method, once the move the body method, seemed to be no longer giving me, the desired results. My putting philosophy has always been rooted in two principles. First, it is not the putter, it is the puttee. I rarely switch putters, and when I do, it is to a similar putter. I have a Ping Anser Dalehead putter, that was made in the late 1960’s. When I did switch, it was to a regular Ping Anser, made in the same time period. I was usually desperate, when I made the switch, after weeks of very poor putting. My second principle was to stick with a particular method of putting during the round. I have changed this philosophy based on an experience that I had about 6 weeks ago. I always liked wrist putting and decided to go to the wrist pop stroke one day and it worked beautifully on a day that I was playing in a group skins. However the next time I played, under a less pressure situation, I yipped miserably, and went back to the arm and shoulder method, around the 7th hole and putted much better the rest of the round. This all led to a new putting philosophy.

I now change putters often, when I consider my putting just mediocre. The second putter is a putter made by Tour Edge, which is similar to the Ping Dalehead but is a little bigger and slightly heavier. I go back and forth between the two putters. Over the last 12 rounds the longest I have putted with the same putter is 3 rounds. I am not saying that I would not putt longer, but I only putt with the same putter when I consider that I have had a good to excellent day putting. I also, can use two different putting methods during the round, based solely on results, and sometimes just a sense of what I should do. My one method is the modern arm and shoulder stroke, that is used by the vast majority of players today. I use a normal width square stance. My second method is a wristy pop stroke, with a slightly open narrow stance. It seems that this stroke works best on greens that are a bit faster and on downhill putts, but that is not in stone. I always start the round with the wrist pop stroke. I continue with this method until I feel I have made a really bad stroke or had a yip. Then I will go to the arm and shoulder stroke, possibly for the rest of the round but there can be exceptions. If I feel that I have yipped with that method or made a bad stroke I will go back to the wrist stroke. I could use the same method for the entire round if the results are good. To help explain this better, let me go through my round of last Sunday, where I shot a nice 75. I started with the wrist stroke and canned about a 25 foot putt for birdie on the very first hole. I continued with the wrist stroke for the entire front nine, making 2 nice par saves from about 6 to 8 feet. I yipped one putt in on the 7th hole from about 6 feet and was ready to change, but on the 8th hole, I had a very downhill 20 footer, for birdie. I like the wrist stroke on downhill putts, and almost made the putt. However on 9. I had a nice 12 foot birdie putt, and made a really bad stroke. On 10, I went to the arm and shoulder method, and even though I 3 putted the 10th hole, it was from about 70 feet. Both putts were good and the strokes were good, with a bad read on the second putt causing the miss. On 11 I missed a 10 footer for par, but it was also a good stroke. I then made 10 to 12 foot putts, on the next 2 holes to save par, with the arm and shoulder method. I used it on the next 3 holes, including making a 2 foot birdie putt on a par 3, that I did not yip. Then on 17, I had this 10 footer for par, with a slight left to right break, that was slightly downhill. I just had the feeling that I should use the wrist stroke. This isn’t a fairytale, so even though I hit a very good putt, it broke just a little more than I thought and burned the left edge. On the 18th hole I had about a 50 foot putt for birdie, and with the arm and shoulder method I canned that bugger to end a very good day on the greens.

Only time will tell if these things that I am doing will become a permanent part of my game. It has been a pretty good stretch of golf to say the least, and that always feels good. Pulling straight down, and I can not overemphasize the word straight here, has had a major impact on my over all ball striking, and short game. The fact that I have been using this method for the last 12 rounds, is remarkable, in and of itself. I should be back in the saddle, so to speak, this coming Wednesday, and will see if my game continues to thrive, with my new vision added in there, for good measure. I will continue to update as the year comes to an end.

Golf: Maybe Sam Snead Was Right After All.

Before I get to the subject of today’s blog, and the resurgence of my golf game, after a very frustrating season, I must take personal moment. This past Tuesday I had cataract surgery on my left eye. My left eye is my only good eye, with my right eye only seeing fuzzy images, that for some unknown reason, is not correctable. Needless to say, I was pretty uptight about the procedure, even though I have a great surgeon, and this is a pretty routine procedure. I am happy to report that 3 days post op, everything is fine, and my vision is better than its been in 3 to 4 years. I am cleared to play golf, this coming Wednesday, and can not wait to see, if I can see a ball land on the green. Before the surgery, I could not see the ball on the green from a 100 yards. I still have to take it easy for a few more days, but it seems that I am not going to have any complications. Complications from this surgery are rare, but there is no solace in 1000 to 1 odds, if you are that one. Now, on to the surprising turn around in my game.

I have broken 80 for 12 consecutive rounds. I have had two 79’s, three 78’s, one 77, four 75’s and two 74’s. There have been three things, that have been the key factors in my improved play. First, I have tried to get into a more balanced position at address. I like to feel that my weight is evenly distributed over my feet, and I make sure that there is no pressure on the balls of my feet. This is nothing new, you do not want to get your weight falling forward to your toes. I am just more aware of my feet at address. By doing this I am getting a little closer to the ball. The biggest factor is the new way, that I start the downswing. The traditional way of starting the downswing, is by making sure the lower body initiates the movement, with a turning of the left hip, and a distinct shift to the left foot. However, back in the fifties, Sam Snead and few other pros, wrote about initiating the downswing by pulling down with the left hand. In fact, Snead even went so far as to write, that you should pull down with the last two fingers of the left hand. This type of instruction was often ridiculed by other well known instructors of that era, and in the future. Tommy Armour in his book wrote, “Chick Evans, years ago, when he was an excellent player, described the feeling as that of pulling a bell cord. That’s the way Sam Snead describes it. Confidentially, I think that all the bell cords Chick and Sam pulled Sunday morning wouldn’t disturb many sleepers”. There were many others who criticized this advise over the years, because they felt that starting the downswing with the hands, would cause the average golfer to over use his hands, and bring the clubhead into the hitting position too fast for the body to catch up, resulting in many pulled or sliced shots. In fact, this criticism caused Snead to change his downswing advise to a turning of the hips, in some of his later instructional writings. Well Sam old boy, I am afraid you may have been right after all. Now, many times the way a swing feels, may not be what is actually happening. What was not emphasized enough, by the pros that advocated the pulling of the left hand in initiating the downswing, is that the feeling should be one of pulling straight down from the top. By pulling straight down, rather than feeling that the hands are moving toward the ball, will automatically push the hips forward, and start the turning and weight shifting process. I have utilized this straight down pulling action from the top for all of my shots, including, bunker shots, short pitches, and even chip shots. The easiest way I know how to describe it, is you get to the top of the swing, and pull the left hand straight down to the ground. Once I started doing this, many positive things started to happen.

My swing became more balanced, all the way to the end. My short game improved dramatically, and I had very few yipped chips, and short pitches. My bunker game slump came to an end. I began to work the ball much better, especially moving the ball from left to right, in a controlled manner. All of this resulted in improved ball striking, and better scores. Naturally, you are not going to see improvement in your scores unless you are making putts, and that is the final change I made. This will be the subject of tomorrow’s blog. I have made some philosophical changes in my putting and it does seem to be working. You will find out tomorrow, how I am now succeeding on the greens. I do not know how long any of this is going to last, but for right now it feels really good. Oh, and by the way, I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW.

Golf Stories: The 2000’s

The 2000’s saw my golf game go into a basic decline, that made me start the blog, so I would keep on playing golf. It is not to say that good things did not happen, in the first 10 years of the new century. I acquired holes in one number 4 and 5, and did play some good golf periodically, but for the most part, things did not go all that well when it came to my golf game. I did go down to Florida for one winter, and taught at a golf school, and have tried to find the answer to this goofy game, since around 2010. While I think I have learned a lot about the game, and myself during this time, I have not come close to finding the key, to this game called golf. I thought I had it a couple of times, and it is all documented in the blog, but I have really never been able to play, up to what I consider, to be my true potential. But enough of the present, and lets look at some of the things that happened in the early 2000’s.

My fourth hole in one took place at the Club of Nevellewood, on November 2, 2003. It was by far the best of the five. It was on the 17th hole, a 180 yard par 3, with a green that was wider than it was long. The pin was on the right side of the green, which was the toughest pin placement, because you had to carry the trap, in order to shoot at the pin. I was having a good back nine, after a mediocre front of 40. I came to the 17th hole one under on the back nine. I decided in my typical fashion, what the hell, to shoot at the pin. I hit a 6 iron perfectly, and it hit about 3 feet in front, and to the left of the pin. Even though I had played the course a few times, I was not that familiar with that part of the green. There was an upslope on that side of the green. My balled rolled to the very top of the slope, and started the slow trickle back to the pin. We could see from the tee box that the ball was still moving back to the pin. In what seemed like an eternity, it just kept moving slowly down the hill, until it disappeared into the cup. It was a very pleasant surprise, and quickly got me to 3 under on the back. Even with all the excitement of the hole in one, I managed to par the last hole, and shoot a very nice 33 on the back. My fifth, and final hole in one, came in June of 2005 at Castle Shannon golf course near Steubenville, Ohio. It was another hole in one I did not see go into the hole. The hole was playing 200 yards downhill and I again hit a 6 iron. With the sun glare, I could not see the ball hit the green and thought it was short. This was further confirmed in my eyes, when my playing partner Pete hit a beautiful fade, that hit just short of the green, and bounced up about 15 feet short of the pin, which we saw all the way. Driving down to the hole, we could not see a ball short of the green, but when we got closer, there was a ball mark about 8 feet short of the hole. I took one look at Pete and said, “That SOB is in the hole”, and sure enough I was right. The back tees on the hole list the hole being 245 yards and when they put the notice in the paper, they listed hole 245, and it said I had hit a 6 iron. I got some calls on that one, wondering how I had hit a 6 iron 245 yards, and into the hole, no less. I gave out very little info on that one, because it was fun to let people think I had really done that. Other than the some other spectacular shots, one time I went 2, 3, on a par 3 and 5, and almost holed both shots, my golf was for the most part disappointing.

My winter of teaching was fun, and I went through a major swing change myself. I met a lot of interesting people down in Florida, but none more interesting than Babe Belagamba, who was the head of instruction at the school that I taught in Orlando. The Babe was the definition of a character. He was an inventor and had many of his inventions at the school. I still use some of his quotes to this day. He gave me many a lesson and I remember him telling me “Your body is not doing what you think its doing, trust me, you’ll see it on the video”. Of course, he was right. His swing principles, were to make sure your right elbow was digging into your side at address, have your weight pressed into the right side of the left heel, and take the club pretty quickly to the inside to help you turn on the take away. He was not a big believer in visualizing the shot, but more in controlling the body. He wanted you to feeling a stretch up the left side at the top of the swing and release it like a sling shot. I do not do a lot of what he taught me, back then but maybe I should. My favorite quote of his is ” Several years of school, can produce a good brain surgeon, but golf is a lifetime education in frustration. He was right, golf is not brain surgery. Unfortunately Babe passed away in 2006, just a little over a year, after I had met him, and I never got to hear enough of his golf wisdom.

The decade ended with me about ready to quit the game, for the second time, and I thought that this time, it would be for good. Then I happened to see in the local paper, a listing of golf courses, in the area. I started to count them up, and all of these were all public courses, that were at least 6000 yards long. In other words, no par 3 or executive courses. I noticed that there were around 100 golf courses, within 90 minutes of my house, and I thought, why not try to play them all, and start a blog about it. Rate the courses, including the hot dog at the turn, and see if I might be able to figure out this game, in the process. The blog has evolved in to it’s current form where I discuss various subjects involving the necessities of life. Yes, golf is a necessity of life. The non golfers, non meditators, non foodies, and non sports nuts, really don’t know what you are missing. It’s never to late to find out what life is really all about. See you on the links.

Golf: My Cup Runneth Over

This past weekend, golf had two of its signature events, with the FedEx Cup coming to it’s grand conclusion, and the Solheim Cup finishing up on Labor Day. Of course, golf has a wrap around season, and I think the new season is starting up this week, but who cares, as golf really doesn’t have an off season. The Solheim Cup is the women’s version of the men’s Ryder Cup, and the outcome was the same, as the European Women retained and won the cup. The FedEx Cup is the PGA tour version of the World Series, Super Bowl, and NBA finals. Unfortunately, the PGA Tour doesn’t really understand the concept of playoffs, so they have had many format changes, none of which gives the event a playoff or championship feeling. The Solheim Cup is a much better event, but the media has a hard time understanding, why the Europeans win most of the time, in both events. I will clear that up, at the end of the blog.

Playoffs, in all other sports, are a process of elimination, through head to head competition, which ends by crowning a champion. This concept is totally loss on the PGA tour. They think having 3 stroke play events that eliminate a certain number of players each week, constitutes a playoff. The only way the FedEx Cup finale will ever have a true playoff feel, is to eventually, go to match play. Of course, because of golf’s inferiority complex, in trying to compete against other sports for ratings, the powers to be are petrified of match play. What if there is no star power in the final? What if the final match is a blow out? So what, this is what sports is all about. There have been many lousy Super Bowls, but it is still the most popular sports event in the United States. To help ensure some significance to the long PGA season, and make the finals more fan friendly, here is how I would pare down the field. The top two point getters at the end of the last event, would automatically make it to the final four, of match play. The positions of 3 through 6 would make it to the quarter finals. Then, the next 16 highest point getters, would qualify for the match play final. The finals would be 24 players, not the current 30. On Thursday, those 16 players would play 8 matches in the morning, to get down to 8, and in the afternoon, there would be 4 matches to get down to 4 players remaining. Then on Friday those four player would play the 3 through 6 ranked players with 4 matches in the morning, followed by 2 matches in the afternoon to get down to the 2 players who would meet the 1 and 2 players in the semi-finals on Saturday. The finals would be Sunday with the losers teeing off first to determine 3rd and 4th and then the Championship Match to follow for the 15 million dollar prize. That, PGA Tour, is what is know as a playoff. Get with it.

In the Solheim Cup, the Americans gave it their all, but fell short, as Europe won the cup, again. It was a great show, and there is no need to change anything about either, the Ryder Cup, or the Solheim Cup. The only thing that needs to change, is the US media perception of the European teams. There is always some excuse when the Europeans win. It’s the way they pick their teams, it’s the captain, they like each other more, and the best one, they are use to the format. How is that true? The only reason the Europeans win more Solheim Cups, and Ryder Cups, is that they are simply better players, for what is required. They may not be more use to the format, but they embrace the format, much more than the American team does. I think, overall, they just enjoy playing golf, more than the Americans do. It is as simple as that. The other thing that helps fuel their fire, is that no matter how many Cups they win, they always go into the next Cup as the underdog. Talk about an example of denial. The feeling is always, that there is no way, that the Americans should lose to the Europeans. In the Solheim Cup, Europe has won 4 of the last 6. In the Ryder Cup, Europe has won 7 or the last 9. Even so, in a couple of weeks, the populous will be expecting an easy American win. The simple fact of the matter remains, that the European players are just better, and are better equipped to deal with the pressure of representing their country.

Golf: U. S. Open Impressions

Yesterday, Jon Rahm won the U. S. Open in grand style, by birdieing the last two holes. He played a great round of golf, and was a very deserving winner. I watch some of every round in this U. S. Open, and the entire final round. This was one of the best Opens in a long time. The venue was set up perfectly and the weather co-operated by not having a lot of high winds. The leader board was crowded with some of the top players in the game, and some regular tour players, trying to make the big splash. In the middle of the final round, there were about 10 players within two shots of the lead. Everybody seemed to be going along just fine, when all hell broke loose on the back nine, and just about everybody fell apart, except Rahm and Lois Oosthuizen. It wasn’t until Oosthuizen took a very aggressive line on 17, and knocked his drive in the hazard, and barely missed a par saving putt, that you felt that Jon Rahm had the victory. I have to give Oosthuizen some credit, for taking the aggressive route, and really trying to make birdie on that hole, but unfortunately it did not work out. During the final round, there were many players, who had a chance to win, but none more so than Bryson DeChambeau. When he almost made the hole in one on No. 8 to take the outright lead, I thought we were going to have a repeat champion. Then after making a par on the par 4 10th hole, he decided to take 40 blows on the last 8 holes to fall all the way to 26th place. Bryson characterized his back nine as having bad breaks and just being “golf”. Let’s take a closer look, and also go back to Fridays round.

Bryson blamed a lot of his back nine on bad luck. I attribute his horrible back nine to some of the worse thinking I have ever seen by a top player. I am not talking about bad thinking on one particular hole, like Jean van de Velde did at the final hole of the 1999 British Open, where he made a triple bogey, when he only needed a double bogey to win the tournament. DeChambeau’s bad thinking, is an overall bad approach to the game. It showed up on Friday, when he tried to reach I believe the first par 5 on the back nine in two. He hit a great shot, but it was just short, and rolled back down the hill about 50 yards, into a sand filled divot. That was a very bad break. This was time to take your medicine, and hit a nice little lob wedge, right into the throat of the green, which would have put him about 30 to 40 feet, right of the pin, for a birdie putt. Instead, he tried to hit the ball directly at the pin, over a bunker. He chunked the shot, right into that bunker, and exploded the ball over the green, and was lucky to chip back, and make a bogey. Then, when he drove it into the rough on Sunday, on the same par 5, instead of trying to get the ball back in the fairway, where he probably could have gotten home in three, he continued to hit the ball down the rough and wound up making a double bogey 7. He has a philosophy, that he can hit any shot he pleases, and get away with it. He has done this, in other tournaments, as his whole game lacks any type of strategy. When things go wrong for Bryson, he calls it just golf, and really learns nothing. Unless this philosophy changes, I do not see him ever winning another major. Only time will tell, of course. One things for sure, it is not for the lack of a golf game.

My overall impressions of the tournament were many. These guys make a lot of putts and shots around the greens. One of the odd things about this Open, was the number of truly great shots from fairway bunkers. Many times, the player who hit from the fairway bunker got closer to the hole, than his playing partner did, from the middle of the fairway. I am not going into specific instances, but it was interesting to see, that all the rough was not created equal. There were some spots that were particularly thick and then other areas where it was not near as penal. I am not talking about areas that were trampled down by the fans, speaking of which, it was also interesting to see players, trying to hit in these areas on purpose, rather than the fairway. It shows you, even the best players in the world are affected by hazards, that are close in play. It seems like no matter who you are you are not immune from the pressure of the U. S. Open. You saw it all Sunday, drives out of bound, impossible lies in bunkers, shanks, and even balls stuck in trees. Now, that’s bad luck Bryson. There are many golfers who have been in contention over the years that just don’t seem to be able to seal the deal. You have to wonder are they really trying to do anything different or are they just looking for the answer, too. In the end Jon Rahm stood out as the best player of the week, and took home the greatest prize in golf, the United States Open.

Golf: Frustration

My last post was about frustration in general. This post is about what has frustrated me the most in my life, and that is golf. There is nothing, that even comes a close second. I have been playing golf since I was 8 years old, beginning in 1958. There were two years, 1964 and 1995, where I did not play at all. There have been years that I have played very little golf, due to other commitments. Since 1996 I have played regularly, at least 2 to 3 times per week. Since 2010, I have played at least 100 rounds every year. When I tell people this, they will comment that I should be able to play well, playing that often. If you are playing badly, it doesn’t make any difference how often you play, you are just playing badly often. The game has many ups and downs, which can be expected in any endeavor, but golf takes this to an extreme. What makes golf so frustrating? Let me count the ways.

Golf has many unique qualities, when compared with other sports, and I have written about them before. These unique qualities do contribute to some of the frustrations, but they are far from being the most frustrating thing about the game. The biggest frustration with golf, is how much your game changes from day to day. If I drove a car, like I play golf, I would have an accident, about every third trip. Right now I am going through a down time in my game, which has developed, into what I call, a full blown slump. About 10 days ago, I had, out of the blue, one my best rounds of the year, which enabled me to shoot my age of 71. In fact, I was going to write a blog about this accomplishment, going into fine detail about the round. However, I slowly, but surely, got back to my slump levels, which dampened my desire to write about the round, which now seemed like such a fluke. The next day I shot 76, and then the following day ballooned to an 86. Last week, due to some unforeseen circumstances, I was only able to play two rounds, and did not break 80, either round. Naturally, I was doing some certain swing feelings, when I shot the 71, and I thought wow, this could be what is going to lead me out of this slump. Wrong yip master. This happens all the time. The other frustrating thing about golf is just hitting horrible shots, that should be easy. Missing short putts is another wonderful facet of the game. Not being able to perform at your normal level, when the round is more important, is mystifying and frustrating. Playing well for about 14 holes and then shooting terrible for the last 4 is just another fun part of the game. It does not help, that you see all the same problems and issues at the highest level of the game.

So, how do I deal with the frustrations of my golf game? I have tossed wedges into the woods, never to be found. I have thrown at least 100 balls into various lakes and woods. Slamming a clubhead into the ground seems to relieve a lot of stress. Swearing seems like a nice senseless thing to do. Trying to put my foot trough the bottom of a golf cart, when I hit the accelerator, was another method, that seemed to have some merit. Frustration was a big part of the reason I did not play in 1995, and I almost quit in 2010. I just read my blog about frustration, and I don’t seem to recommend any of these methods. Maybe I am going to have to rewrite that blog. Anybody who plays golf at any level, goes through exactly what I have been describing. It is the nature of the game. If the frustrations of the game are just too hard to overcome, then getting away from it for awhile, or permanently, is a viable solution. Even though I wrote previously, that seeing the greatest players in the world go through the same thing, does not help, but there is some comfort in the fact, that you are not alone. My recommendation to avoid frustration with your golf game, is truly the only way to handle the problem. Other than quitting, how is that accomplished? It is not easy, but I believe there are a couple of things you can do. Have no expectation for any round of golf. When you have that unexpected great round, be happy, and then forget about it. Be ready for the surprises that can happen in any round of golf, good or bad. If you are ready for anything, then whatever happens is not a surprise. Remember, there is a solution out there, we just haven’t found it, yet.

Golf: Stories, The 90’s

In the 90’s, I went full circle, when it came to golf. I played a lot for the first 4 years, then hardly played at all for 19 months, and finally, went full bore at the end of the decade, as I played on my first professional tour. My years at Rolling Hills will be included in the 90’s stories, even though I joined Rolling Hills Country Club in September of 1986. I went to putting left handed in the the 90’s. During this time, my veterinary practice had its greatest years, that would continue into the 2000’s, until I sold it, in 2004. I would not record a hole in one during the decade, which would mark the only decade that I did not have a spectacular shot. Even though I did not record a hole and one in the 2010’s, I did get an albatross, in 2017. I did hit a lot of good shots during my years at Rolling Hills.

I spent 7 full golf seasons at Rolling Hills. The odd thing about my play there, is that I holed out more shots from the fairway during those years, than I did anytime before or since in my entire golfing life. I did not make a hole in one but I eagled every other hole there, with exception of the long par 4 17th hole. Some of the hole outs were fairly long shots. A 3 iron,(remember that club), from 200 yards out on number 9. Various wedges on numbers 1,2,4,6,10,11,12,16, and 18. Short irons on 5,8,13, and 15. During the 7 seasons, I had 20 hole outs of 50 yards or longer. I saw many odd shots at Rolling Hills. Once one of my playing companions hit a high pulled iron into a tree to the left of the 8th green, we saw two things drop from the tree. I thought it was just some leaves on a branch. When we got up to the green, we saw his ball and a dead squirrel. Knowing my profession, he wanted to know if I could revive it. I saw many shots that were hit to the left of the 18th green, hit a retaining wall, or the clubhouse balcony, and bounce onto the green. This tee shot on the first hole, however, tops them all. There was an electrical tower, just to the left of the first tee. Odd isn’t it. In one of the club events, this player started his round, by lining a low left hard hit heeler. The ball hit a brick, that surrounded a flower bed, just to the left of the first tee. It flew straight up into the air, to the top of the electrical tower, and noisily rattled around. It flew out of the tower even further to the left, then it hit the awning of the pro shop, and bounced across the practice putting green, where people had to scatter, and wound up about 25 yards to left and behind where he had teed up. Since this was an event, the putting green had to be cleared so he could hit his second shot. Even though I enjoyed my years at Rolling Hills, golf was becoming something, that I was not enjoying, so I decided to take a hiatus from the game. I remember when I made the decision. I was sitting in the men’s grill, on a rainy Sunday morning, waiting to see, if we would get to play, and suddenly, it was like I was the only one in the room. Everybody was talking to other people, and for once, I was not talking. It just hit me right then, that I was going to quit. About 2 weeks before we had just qualified to go to Orlando for the National Oldsmobile Scramble, in late September, early October. I knew that would be my last golf, for awhile. Everybody was shocked, that I was going to quit playing golf. Some thought I joined some kind of cult, and had to give up something to belong. Some thought I was devastated by my 4 runner up finishes in the club championship.

Why did I give up the game for awhile? Like most decisions, there were a lot of little things that just added up. I had hit a wall in playing the game and was getting frustrated as hell. There were many other reasons, some not even related to golf, but I knew I just had to get away from the game. First, I always knew that I would take it back up, in fact I continued to hit balls, and I did play in various scrambles, and did get a chance to play Scioto Country Club. I played about 6 rounds of golf over that 19 month period of time. I really did not miss the game at all. I ran 5K and 10K races every weekend, and I had lots of other things to do to keep me busy. In fact looking back on it, the only mistake I made was coming back too soon. I should have waited until the spring of 97, to start playing again. Once I came back, I was still having the same problems I had, when I left the game. It was then, I decided to putt left handed, and that started a nice turn around. I have lefty in me, as I throw left handed and my left eye is my dominant eye. I turned 48 in 98, and many senior tours allowed you to start playing on them, at the age of 48. I played on what was called the Tornado Tour, beginning in the spring of 98. It was in the eastern part of Ohio and it played the events on Wednesday or Thursday. I played on that tour for 4 years until it went belly up and actually won one event. I still don’t know how I did that, but it had no carry over affect in future competitive endeavors.

As the nineties came to a conclusion, I was firing on all cylinders in every aspect of my life. I was keeping a brutal pace for someone just about to turn 50. I admit I was loving every minute of it, but in the end, I really could not get it together on the golf course. By the end of the next decade I was ready to quit the game again, and this time for good. Instead I decided to start blogging in 2010 and have kept playing every since. I felt there was some kind of unknown quality about the game, and there was a better and easier way to play the game. I am still looking.

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