Golf: A Very Interesting Video.

I watch a golf instructional video the other day, in fact it was probably about 3 to 4 weeks ago. I can’t find the site that I watched the video. I think I get e mails telling me when this site posts something, but I can’t find it on my Word Press site, which doesn’t surprise me. Anyhow, this was a golf instructional video about putting. It was done by a couple of pros from England, and they were in the US, shooting this with a pro, who had invented this putting aid. It was a flat piece of material with one side wide and the other side just wide enough that if you put 2 tees at the end of it, on either side, it left just enough room for a ball to pass in between. I assume there was some kind of an alignment aid at the end you struck the putt. The idea is to strike the putt between the tees which looked to be about 3 inches ahead of the ball. One of the English pros used the aid. He read a putt of about 7 feet. He read the putt to break about 3 inches to the right. Everything was set up, so that the device was aim at his projected target. He struck the first putt and hit the left tee, and of course, the ball caromed off, and stop way short. The pro made the adjustment and consistently put the ball between the tees at a good speed. However, his read was bad, and he missed all the putts low, by about 2 to 3 inches. He hit about 3 putts, so it was very obvious the read was wrong. The putting instructor reset everything to play more break. This time, when the pro took his first putt, he hit the right tee barely, and it threw the ball off line. He made the adjustment again and started to put the ball through the tees consistently. This time, although the putts were better, with what I call perfect speed, he was burning the left edge of the cup. When he hit one putt with dying speed, the ball fell into the hole. This device was to give a golfer proper feedback and groove a perfect stroke. This was not what I found interesting about the video. I am sure this device is great and it did what it is supposed to do very well. Here is what makes this video interesting, and extremely fascinating.

Remember, this was a PGA professional, who was doing the putting. He read the putt, and until he putted the first ball, we did not know that he had under read the left to right breaking putt. This type of putt is always more difficult, it seems for a right handed putter. His first putt hit the left tee, which means he had pulled his putt. However, this combination, of under read and pulled putt may have found the hole. By watching all three putts miss on the low side, the instructor moved the aim point about another 2 inches to the left. Naturally, there was a break in the action. When the pro hit the first putt with the new line, he wound up hitting the right tee, and again the ball was taken off line. He barely grazed it. He got right on track with the second putt, but his first couple, just grazed the left side of the cup. He died one in on the third putt. There it was on video, the famous disconnect, that I have seen all my life. Even with an experienced pro, something inside of him, which he did not realize, told him the putt was going to break more than he read. Even though he was trying to put the ball between the tees he pulled the putt on what most likely was the proper line, and didn’t even know it. Even with more knowledge, and a better, but not perfect line, he pushed the putt, on what would have been the line to take for the putt to go in with perfect speed. How does some part of us know this, but we can not communicate it, to what I call the conscious being? I have no clue to what the answer is, to that scenario. What happens to me a lot of times, in that situation, when my read is wrong, I will simply hit a weak putt. Nine times out of ten, the putt will wind up short, and drifts off in the opposite direction that I thought it was going to go. Is our subconscious that good at reading putts, and we don’t even know it. This is one conclusion that I have drawn from this. Is there a way to tap into such brilliance. Maybe Jack and Tiger already have, but just aren’t telling us. I don’t really think so, because they spent a lot of time reading putts. The purpose of the device, and the video was to show that the pros get feedback, so they know what they are doing. That may be true, but it showed a phenomenon that may be the key to finding great success on the greens.

Golf: Unusual Injury and a Feel Good Story.

I have haven’t written about my own game lately, which usually means that I am basically stinking out the joint, and this is no exception this time. I am having my usual putting problems, and short game blues. My ball striking as been ok, particularly my driving, and my iron game has been up and down. There have been two interesting things happen this year, that I think warrants some blogging. First, I had this very unusual injury related to playing golf. I have been playing this game for a long time, since 1958, and I thought I would never do this to myself, by swinging a golf club. On March 17, I was playing, on a fairly pleasant day, in other words no extreme conditions. I took a swing with an iron, and felt this pain on the inside of my forearm. It wasn’t excruciating, but I noticed it all the same. It was only on that shot. It never recurred the rest of the round, and I really never gave it another thought. Then due to the weather, I did not play for 3 days. The next time I played, I started out fine, but I felt the same pain in my forearm around the 3rd hole, like a small knot in the forearm. This time, it did not go away entirely. Then on the 7th hole, I hit a Gap wedge fat, and the forearm became very painful. I could feel a distinct knot on the inside of the forearm. Naturally, I played out the round, but I protected the arm, and although it was painful, I massaged it, which seemed to make it feel better. I left the course right away, went home, put some ice on it and massage it some more. When I woke up the next morning it felt a little better, but when I looked in the mirror, this is what I saw.

Holy shit!!! The only good news, is that it didn’t feel all that bad. I guess you would call that a severe contusion. As you can see, it goes from the top of the wrist to just below the elbow. I did have some elbow pain. When I hurt it with the fat wedge shot, the pain was only isolated in the inner part of my right forearm. I never expected to see anything like that, the next day. Believe it or not I played golf that day, but did protect the arm. When I showed this picture to my daughter, she thought I fell out of the golf cart. I played 3 of the next four days, with a little different swing, because the weather was just too damn gorgeous, not to play. I only had pain when I did not move my wrist for awhile, and it would wake me up at night, because of way I was positioned at times. I never really did anything for it, and it just slowly went away. I have not had any problems since, and it has been 5 weeks, since I did it. I admit, I have made some permanent changes in my swing, which I hope will avoid doing the same thing. I don’t know if this is necessary, but I do not want to go through this again.

Now for a feel good story. On March 30, we had an 11:16 tee time at Scenic Valley, but because of a frost delay we were pushed back to 11:45. The place was packed, because it was developing into a beautiful day. I was there with my buddy Pete, and we were joined with another twosome, which was fine with us. We went down to the putting green, to kill some time, and when we came back, we found out, that the twosome we were supposed to play with, got joined with another twosome, who were ahead of us. We were joined by a single, by the name of Alli, who is 85 years old and had only been playing golf for about 10 years. Both Pete and he played from the senior tees and Alli moved the ball pretty well with a homemade swing. Number 6 is the first par 3 at Scenic, and from the senior tees it is about 140 yards. Yep, you guessed it. Alli took a mighty swing with his driver, and hit a very nice looking shot, that landed about 20 yards short of the green, took some nice hops toward the pin, and went right in the hole for an ace. Naturally, it was his first ace, in his brief 10 year golf career. Alli bought the beers and the course bought the hot dogs, and it was just a grand day. I looked at Pete and said ” Look what we would have missed, if we had gone out with who we were originally paired with”. Golf is one great game.

Meditation: Results

When you read or hear anything about life, or life coaching, it is always about the journey not the destination. It is about the process, not the outcome. This subject, results, could have been written under any of the titles, that I discuss. Food, how does it taste? Golf, what did you shoot? Sports, what was the final score? Meditation, what are the benefits? All the answers to those questions, have nothing to do with the process, but the results. On your job, you need to have results. What is the bottom line? Every boss has said, at one time or another, I do not want to hear about any excuses, I want results. We all want to get to our destination, whatever that may be. People set a goal, and some will have a plan to achieve that goal. The best laid plans can go awry, due to many unforeseeable circumstances. This philosophy, that what’s important is the journey, or the process, is just a way to help handle failure. I am not too sure, if that’s the reason, that coaches try to get their clients to think this way, but to have this results only attitude, is not something that is going to improve your health.

There is no question, the sports fan is at the top of the list, of the results only philosophy. You will see many fans tweet, that if my team does not reach the championship game or series the season is a failure. Now in professional sports you are really fighting the odds. There are 30 to 32 teams in each of the four major sports leagues. That means, that with everything being equal, there is only about 3% chance, that your team is going to win the championship. Now, we all know that everything is not equal, so there are going to be some teams that have a better chance than others, to win the title. The teams that do win the title, seem to have some process, or plan, and when it succeeds, then everybody tries to copy them to some degree, with various results, that are usually not as successful as the original team. One thing about the process it is not ignored, especially in golf. In fact the process is given too much credit, by some professional golfers, who have had success in the past. They have a had a great stretch of golf covering years, and run into a bump in the road, and will change coaches, and swings, to see if they can recapture their previous success. Sometimes they don’t even need a bump in the road, to completely revamp their swing, supposedly, trying to get better. The best example I know of this, is Tiger Woods. After winning the Masters by 12 shots, he changed his swing. Now because he went on to have great success, that decision is not questioned, as much as it should be. There are many other examples of this in golf, the most recent is Rory Mcilroy, who is going through this process right now. He is only ranked 11th in the world, I would be changing my swing, too. Is it really the journey, and process, and what are we to do if the results are not what we want?

To get the first part of question out of the way quickly, the answer is a resounding no. If this kind of thinking helps you, then go ahead and continue, but do not delude yourself into thinking, that results do not matter. The one factor that is forgotten about, when there is any successful outcomes, whether it be on a small or short term scale, or a large or long term scale, is luck. Yes, that’s right good old luck. We never give luck enough credit, whether it be good or bad luck. The reason for this, is if we think luck played a major role in our success or failure, it takes the results, out of our hands. It can also, make it seem like all the hard work we put in, may have been wasted, if we were not lucky. Instead of being grateful for our good fortune, we brush it under the rug, and try to forget about it, because we do not want to lessen our accomplishment. This doesn’t really lessen the accomplishment, it is just our perception. When our luck is bad, we don’t talk much about it then, because it looks like complaining. If it is not the journey or the process that is important, how are we to handle the less than desirable outcomes or failures. You have to handle failure with acceptance. In other words you almost have to be happy to fail. This will not stem your desire to succeed, but it will allow you to move on, and possibly try again, or move into a totally new direction, with a new plan. It is the process that allows you to try and find your path. There is that fine line between having faith in yourself, and continuing on the journey, or finding a new path toward a different life goal. It is the hardest part of the whole process, of finding your way through this life. Results are important, but the most important part of any result, is what you do with it once you get it.

Golf: Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods, is the third member of the group, who should be considered the greatest golfer of all time, and thanks to the alphabet, I have saved the best for last. Despite the fact that I wrote, that Sam Snead should be in this group, the debate always boils down to Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods. Those that feel that Nicklaus is the best, will always point to his major championship record, which is second to none. There is no doubt that people look at the performances in major championships, as golf’s holy grail. We need a little historical background on major championships, to put them in a proper prospective. Although Tiger Wood’s major championship record is not as good as Nicklaus’s, it is not all that far behind, when you look at the entire history of golf.

When Nicklaus was trying to win the most major championships of all time, he was chasing Bobby Jones. Jones had won 13 major championships, which included the U. S. and British Amateur, where he won 5 and 1 respectively. He won 4 US Opens and 3 British Opens to round out his 13 majors. When Nicklaus was making his run at Jones, he had won 2 US Amateur titles, before turning pro in 1962. Walter Hagen had 11 professional major titles. He won 3 US Open, 3 British Opens, and 5 PGA Championships. He won 4 PGA’s in a row when the event was all match play. Speaking of greatness, he is the greatest match play player of all time. It was convenient when Nicklaus won his 14th major, which included his 2 amateur wins, he broke Jones’s major record, and Hagen’s professional major record, at the same time. As the years went by Nicklaus’s majors number always included his amateur wins. When he won that memorable Masters in 1986, it was stated that this was his 20th major championship, which in 1986, looked like a record that would never be approached, let alone broken. Then, along comes Tiger, and all of a sudden, the talk is only about the 18 professional majors that Nicklaus won, like the US amateur is not considered a major any more. No one had the guts, to write that the great Bob Jones, now only had 7 majors. If you count Tiger’s 3 US Amateur wins, then that brings his total to 18 and only 2 behind Nicklaus. They both have won the 4 professional majors, 3 times each. Jack has won one more Masters, one more US Open, and one more PGA, thus the 2 more career majors. You just can not change, what is considered a major as time goes by. If it was counted as a major in 1980, then it is a major today. Even though Jack’s record in the majors, is still the best, Tiger is a close second, for sure.

Tiger is the G.O.A.T, because he just has done too many things that no one has ever done, plain and simple. The only person to win 3 US Amateurs in a row. The youngest to win all 4 majors, doing it when he was 24, about 2 years younger than Nicklaus. His making the cut 142 straight times, should be enough to put him at the top. He broke Byron Nelson’s record of 111 and Jack made a good run, with 105. Hale Irwin follows with 86 and Dow Finsterwald is 5th at 72, just a little above half of Tiger’s mark. Tiger was the only player to win 4 professional majors in a row. See, I know how to sneak that professional word in too. He has the lowest career scoring average. He is tied with Sam Snead for 82 wins. He has led the money list 10 times, Nicklaus is second with 8, and Tom Watson and Ben Hogan did it 5 times, each. Biggest victory margin in the US Open 15, next Willie Anderson 11 in 1899. Biggest victory margin in the Masters 12, Jack second with 9. Biggest victory margin in British Open 8. Two other golfers matched this record, J. H. Taylor, 1900 and 1913, and James Braid in 1908. The major he does not have the biggest victory margin, is the PGA, where he did win by 5 once, but Rory has the record at 8. He has 41 European Tour wins which is 3rd all time. Tiger has won Bay Hill 8 times, and The World Invitational at Firestone 8 times, tying him with Snead for the most wins at one event. He is 14 and 1 when holding or sharing the third round lead in a major. He has won a record 22.8% of his starts on the PGA tour. Nicklaus won about 12% of his. There may one player on tour today, who is close to 10%, but that is about it. He won the Vardon Trophy a record 9 times. Last but not least his playoff record is 15-2. Ben Hogan’s playoff record is 2 and 9. Any questions. Tiger is it, baby.

Golf: Sam Snead

Sam Snead is the golfer, that is most overlooked, when talking about the greatest golfers of all time. Other than Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, there is not a lot of argument given, for anybody, to join them. in the discussion of the greatest golfer of all time. In fact, in some rankings, you might find Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Bobby Jones, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Walter Hagen, and even Harry Vardon ranked ahead of Snead. The biggest reason for this, is that Snead has this gaping hole in his record, of never being able to win the U. S. Open. He finished 2ond four times, and the one that stands out, is the 1939 Open, where he needed just a par to win the tournament, and made a triple bogey 8, to fall to 5th place. Snead said, that he thought he needed a birdie to just tie for the lead, and played the hole aggressively, which resulted in the 8. Such a thing would have never happened today, with all the scoreboards around. It is not to say that he would have parred the hole, but he certainly would have played it differently. But Snead’s career had many more highlights, than lowlights.

He won 7 major titles, 3 Masters, 3 PGA’s, when it was a match play tournament, and one British Open. He has 82 official PGA tour wins, and but also a total of 142 professional wins, including being the only man to win an LPGA event. It was in 1962, a par 3 event in Florida, and Snead defeated 14 LPGA players including Mickey Wright. It was held the previous year with 24 men and women playing, and Snead finished 3rd, losing by 2 shots to Louise Suggs. Snead joined the tour in 1937, and over the next 25 seasons won at least one tournament every year, except for 1943, due to military service, 1947, and 1959. He won the Greensboro Open for the 8th time, in 1965, at the age of 54, making him the oldest winner of a PGA tour event, to this day. He won on the senior tour in 1980, making him the only golfer to win senior and regular tour events over 6 decades. Snead made a lot of noise on the PGA tour, even when he was in his sixties. He made the cut at the U.S. Open at age 61, which is a record. He finished in the top ten in three consecutive PGA Championships at ages 60 to 62. In 1974 at 61-62 years of age, he played in 13 events, made the cut 11 times, and finished in the top five 3 times, a 2ond, a 3rd, and a 4th. In 1979 at age 67, still competing on the PGA tour, he was the youngest player to ever shoot his age. On longevity alone, this man could be considered the greatest of all time. His greatest year was 1950. Playing in 25 tournaments, he won 11, finished second in 5 and 3rd in 2. Yet, Ben Hogan was voted player of the year, because of his comeback, and winning the U.S. Open, his only win that year. Before Tiger, Golf Digest voted Snead the 3rd greatest golfer of all time, behind Nicklaus and Hogan. There has always been, some kind of prejudice against Snead, for some reason, in the golfing press.

Snead had this kind of down home folksy persona, but he was, also, pretty much of a skin flint, and was always looking for ways to make money, from everyday activities. There were many stories from the Greenbriar, where he was the pro, where he would ask to join a group, then ask for 100 dollars, from each member of the threesome, to do so. He was notorious for not tipping caddies, and for keeping all his money in cans, buried in the back yard. Nobody in the media, really wanted to ordain this guy, with the G.O.A.T. tag. The U.S.G.A. never seem to like Snead either. The method of croquet putting, where you straddle the line, was invented around 1961, and was being used in sanctioned professional events. It wasn’t until Snead started using it in 1967, to combat the yips, that the USGA got all up in arms about it, and banned the method in 1968. Snead was considered double jointed, meaning he had hypermotility in his joints. There is the famous picture of Snead kicking the top of a door frame when he was in his seventies. How much this helped his swing will never be known. Sam Snead was just a better and more natural player than Ben Hogan. When you think of the greatest golfer of all time you can not simply look at statistics. Think of a beautiful and powerful swing that created some of the finest shots in the history of golf. Think of somebody who played competitively, on the PGA tour, for over 40 years. Think of Sam Snead.

Golf: Jack Nicklaus

These next three blogs on golf, are going to be about, who I consider the best three golfers of all time. They are going to be in alphabetical order, so just because I am leading off with Jack, does not mean I think he is the best. Doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s the best, either. Most people feel there is only a top 2, but I do feel there is a third golfer, who deserves to be in the conversation, when talking about the greatest golfer of all time. I am going to mention each golfer’s record, but I am going to emphasize more, of what made these three unique that made them so great. After these three I do not think anybody else is really close, but in future blogs I will discuss some of the other greats, who fall outside of the top 3. Nicklaus’s record in major championships is second to none. He won 2 U.S. amateur championships, and then won 18 professional majors. He also finished 2ond an amazing 19 times. It is not inconceivable to think, that a lip out here, or a bad bounce there, and he might have won 25 to 30 major championships. Despite all those 2ond place finishes, there is still not a major, that anyone thinks that Jack Nicklaus gave away. He simply got outplayed. The only time I ever heard any criticism of Jack’s play in a major, where he contended, was in the 1972 British Open. Lee Trevino beat him by one shot with a lucky chip in, for par at the par 5, 17th hole. Many in the press, said that Jack played too conservative in the first 3 rounds, and if he would have been more aggressive early, he would have won the third leg of the grand slam, that year. Jack won 73 tournaments on the PGA tour, which is third all time. But here is what set Jack Nicklaus apart from everybody else.

There were two things. First, he was the master of what I called the killer putt. This was a putt late in the final round of a tournament that just knocked the wind out of his opponents. One of his most famous, was the putt he made up the hill at the 16th hole in the final round of the 1975 Masters which enabled him to edge out Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller, for the green jacket. Second, was the Nicklaus brain. I not taking about mental toughness, or the ability to stay calm and focused under pressure. I am talking about his golf swing brain. This is what Nicklaus had to say about his golf swing and what he is thinking when he is playing tournament golf.

“You know, every shot I play, I think of exactly what I want to do with the swing. I never just let it happen. Ever. Never. Even today, I can think of four or five things during a swing and do all of them. And I probably use to be able to do more. Most people say to think of one or maybe one and a half, but I’ve always been able to think of several things to do during the swing. And I do those things.”

This, in the day of having one swing thought, or no swing thoughts, here is one of the greatest players of all time, thinking about four or five things to do during the swing, and maybe even more, in his prime. One of Nicklaus’s most famous shots, was his one iron on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach in the fourth round of the U.S. Open. In a very strong headwind, he hit a laser like one iron that hit the green, took one big hop, hit the pin and dropped right by the hole, for a kick in birdie, to seal his 3rd U.S. Open title. This is what he said about this shot and swing. “I remember I took it back a little inside and shut. I felt that happening but I couldn’t stop, so I adjusted the swing by holding on a little throughout it and hit the ball dead flush. My timing was terrific that week. I was able to adjust within the swing.” That is one great brain, obviously made for golf. In my view, that made Nicklaus totally unique, and one of the all time greats, in the game of golf.

Golf: Intention

When you look at the title of this blog, you may think, that intention should be under meditation. If you google intention, you will find many sites related to life goals, and ways to make powerful intentions. Intention may be the one tool, that we are leaving out of our golf games. I was going to hold off on this blog for awhile, because I think intention is the thing that as sparked my own golf game, but I wanted to get more rounds under my belt, before I wrote about it. I have played 13 rounds using intention as my main thought process. What prompted me to write about this now, was watching the Phoenix Open. I do not think I have seen so many top players struggle so much, during a final round. The leaders were putting balls in the water, in the cacti, in sand traps, and missing more putts than I could count. When Brooks Koepka pitched in for an eagle on the 17th hole, I clapped, and said out loud, somebody finally did something. It was the winning shot of the tournament. After watching so much failure, from the best players in the world, it made me think that maybe everybody is missing intention in their golf game.

Intention can be defined in different ways. Intention can be something that you want, and plan to do. Intentions can be how you want to feel, or simply what you’d like to get out of the day. There are websites dedicated to how to go about setting intentions, to make your life powerful and strong. This is a breakdown of what most of them say. Set an intention and let it go. Set these intentions when you are feeling content and not when you feel you are lacking something. Detach yourself from the outcome. Allow the universe to handle the outcome. Try keeping the mind quiet. Keep things on the short term. Keep things positive and make sure that your intentions are always evolving. Try to stay in the present moment. You can see how all of this can be applied to golf. One of my favorites is keeping things on the short term. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Another one I like, is to keep your intentions evolving, because that is what the round is going to do, evolve. Before we move forward, we need to differentiate between intent and visualization, since visualization is so much a part of golf. There is some debate on this subject, but I do believe there is a distinct difference. Intent is a determination to do something. Visualization is related to mental imagery. You can visualize golf shots, but you must apply intention, as the final step. I will say, visualization is not as big a part of my game, since I have applied intention. We have all been there when our golf games have abandoned us. Here are some examples of things that have affected my own game. Hitting the poor tee shot into trouble. This may happen about 5 to 7 holes into the round. It does not really matter how I am scoring. I have hit 4 or 5 drivers in the round, and they have all been very good to excellent drives. The holes, however, have been fairly easy driving holes and now the 8th hole has some trouble on it. I do not care where the trouble is, left or right or on both sides, just a narrow driving hole. I have hit good drives up to this point, but sure enough my drive on this hole finds the woods, water, or worse the out of bounds. Another good example, I am hitting the driver well all day, even on the tight holes, but my irons into the green are atrocious. Then, there is the day that on the par 3’s I am hitting great iron shots, but I am driving so bad, that you never get to take advantage of your good iron play. Finally, there is putting. Of course putting would be involved, when you are thinking about missed opportunities, or bad shots. I may start out a round not playing all that great, but my putting is holding the round together, because I am making some nice par saves by sinking a handful of 6 to 10 footers, or longer. Then like many times in golf, I hit a good shot out of the blue, to about 10 feet, for a birdie, and of course, I miss the putt. This is where I believe intention can help reduce and eventually eliminate these bad shots.

How do you apply intention to your golf game? When those bad shots happened in the past, I would look at various things to help correct the problem. I would look at my swing. In fact there is one train of thought that your driver swing and iron swing are two different swings. I got away from that process, and also got away from swing thoughts on the golf course. But that does not mean I do not think about anything. On driving, the old thought process would be to try and visualize the shot and try to avoid trouble when the situation called for it. When it came to iron shots, the first thing I would have to do is to figure out what club to hit. In that process you weigh things like the wind, and where the trouble is around the green, and whether I would hit a draw or fade. This thinking would sometimes lead to a lot of indecision. On short shots you would try to visualized the shot, and you would do the same thing on putting. When you begin to put intention into your game you wind up making the game much simpler. It comes as close to trying to play with a blank mind as you can get. Now, when I have a driver in my hand, I go through my routine, but now I think simply of where I want the ball to go, which is the middle of the fairway, no matter what the hole is like. With irons I still have to go through the process of picking a club, but once the club is chosen, I simply think of where I want the ball on the green. With the short game and putting I think of where I want the ball to end up, in the hole. One little adjustment I make, which I think is critical, is that before I execute the shot, I look at the spot where I think I will pick up the ball, when I look up. On full shots I look at spot in the sky, and at about the height, I think the ball will be. On short shots, I look where I think the ball will be when I look up. I do the same think on putts. Since I have been doing this, I work the ball less consciously, but I work it more intuitively. I am aware of, but pretty much ignore trouble. Since I have been letting intention be my main focus during a round, my scores have been, between 72 and 84 with 9 out of 13 rounds being in the 70’s. One of the biggest improvements of my game has been the rhythm of my swing. I can’t say it never gets out of whack anymore, but it does not happen very often. Intention is something that is simple, but can be hard to put into practice, with the usual things going on when playing golf. Only time will tell if this will be a permanent, and beneficial way for me to play golf. It may take a lot of time, since we are in a winter wonderland right now, in Western Pa., with no end in sight.

Golf: Grip Pressure

How firmly or lightly do you hold the golf club when you swing? Grip pressure is such a subjective thing, that it can be very difficult to describe. One of the basic themes when discussing grip pressure is that most people hold the club too tight, in a so called death grip. Most instruction is geared to having a lighter grip on the club. Before we get to the ways that grip pressure has been described, I want to define two words, tight and firm. Tight is defined as fixed, fastened, or closed firmly; hard to move, undo, or open. Firm, when applied to gripping something, is defined, as having steady but not excessive power or strength. Now let’s look at the way grip pressure has been described in golf instruction over the years. This will not be a complete list by any means, but you will see some of the imaginative ways grip pressure has been described.

Probably the most common instruction has been to grip firmly with the middle two fingers of the right hand and the last three fingers of the left hand. In contrast the thumb and forefinger should have light pressure on the club. You can find this instruction in many golf books including Arnold Palmer’s My Game and Yours, and Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons.

Another idea when it came to grip pressure was that the left hand should grip the club more firmly than the right hand. Tommy Armour described the pressure of the left hand as about the same as the pressure you would apply when opening a door knob.. Bobby Jones in his instructional writings, advocates a much firmer grip with the left hand, when compared with the right. He also emphasizes those last three fingers of the left hand.

Ernest Jones, the swing the clubhead instructor, freely used the words tight and firm when talking about the grip. He felt the average golfer gripped the club too tight but advocated a firm grip. All three instructors talked about firm left hands, but not so firm, as to feel that the forearms are tightening up. They all three felt the right hand should grip the club lightly or with a lot less pressure than the left.

Leave it to Sam Snead to come up with a unique description of grip pressure. He felt you should hold the club like you were holding a bird and trying to keep it from flying away. What some people forget is that Sam probably had the most powerful hands in golf. I am sure it felt exactly like this to him.

Tiger Woods makes an interesting point in his book, How I Play Golf, concerning grip pressure. He feels that the reason many people grip the club too tight, is because their grip is faulty, and therefore it is difficult for them to maintain control of the club, unless they grip the club very tightly. Tiger likes to feel that his hands fit snugly on the club.

Even though most experts agree, that the average or beginning golfer grips the club too tightly, they still believe that you must have at least a firm grip on the club, especially with the left hand. Even though they do use the word firm in their instruction, I think this fear of gripping too tightly, has led many of us to grip the club without the necessary firmness. I think this may be even more true of the short game and putting. All that is ever talked about, is how light the grip pressure should be in putting. It is often said, that right before you putt, somebody should be able to come up, and take the putter right out of your hands, if you have the right grip pressure. As with so many other things in this game, I do not think there is enough experimentation going on, when it comes to grip pressure. I do not think that anyone, who is shooting in the 80’s, is holding the club too tight, for any phase of their game. However, they may be holding the club too loosely. Many advocates of light grip pressure, say, that as you start to swing the club, that you will instinctively increase your grip pressure. This goes against what some instructors say, that grip pressure should be constant, throughout the swing. You can not do that, if you are starting with light pressure, at address. Even though grip pressure may be difficult to describe, it has to be one of easiest things in one’s golf game to fool around with. Try different pressures for all phases of your game. You will never know what you might find, like consistency and fun.

Golf: Stories, The 80’s

As far as golf was concerned, the 80’s were just the opposite of the 70’s. The decade started off slow, due to work and family commitments, but ended with a bang. We joined Rolling Hills Country club at the end of 1986, and I went from playing 3 to 4 times per month, to playing 3 to 4 times per week. I have continued that rate of play, except when I went on a golf hiatus from 94 to 96. The reason I took a hiatus from golf will be covered when I discuss the 90’s. In fact, the Rolling Hill years will be covered, when I write about the nineties. The eighties were the South Park group, and I went on one unusual trip to Winged Foot Golf Club, in the early eighties. I played some of my best golf, during this time, and shot my two best rounds 67, both at South Park. On July 19th, 1988, I made my third hole in one, on no. 8, at South Park. This was the first hole in one, that I saw, and got to take the ball out of the hole. The unusual thing about this hole in one was, we had to wait, while the greens cutter changed the pin. I was the first player of the day, to hit at that pin. I hit a pitching wedge. The ball hit about 2 feet to the front and right of the hole, took one big hop, and then sucked right back into the hole. It was nice to make, what I called, a complete hole in one, almost 20 years to the day of my first hole in one, July 31, 1968. Before I get to my other South Park experiences, lets take a trip to Winged Foot.

A friend of mine Bill, who was a professor at a small school in Allentown Pennsylvania, had tutored a student of his, and helped him get through some classes. His dad, who was a member of Winged Foot, as a way of showing his appreciation, said he could come out and play at Winged Foot, all 36 holes, as his guest. When he said he could bring a friend, Bill called me, and I didn’t have to be asked twice. We were going to play 36 holes on Saturday. I left on Friday morning to head to Allentown to pick him up, which was about a 5 hour drive. I owned a Lincoln Towne Coupe, which was a big black two door sedan. I must preface one thing. I do not get cars fixed, as long as they are running. The knob that you pulled out to turn on the lights was broken, but the Lincoln had a sensor, so when it got dark, the lights came on. I was driving east on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and there are a couple of tunnels that you have to go through. I noticed, when I was in the tunnel, that my lights were not coming on. I did not think much about it, but I should have. I picked up Bill, and as we were heading for his student’s home in New York, it was getting dark. You guessed it, I had no lights. We stopped at some repair shop in New Jersey, and they could not fix the light switch, and did not know why the sensor would not work. It is easy to tell this story now, but at the time this was very upsetting, because these people were waiting for us at their house and apparently had some kind of spread, for us to eat. If you have every watched the movie Along Comes Polly, a character in the movie says that he just sharted. When Ben Stiller says he does not know what that means, he says you fart and a little shit comes out. Well, through this stressful situation, I had done the same. It’s not the greatest feeling in the world to be standing in some godforsaken car garage, with a spray job in your pants, and a car without lights. We were able to get down the road with flashers going, to a motel, in Paramus, New Jersey, the home of Championship Bowling, hosted by Fred Wolf. I just thought, that this was quite ironic, that I use to watch Championship Bowling every weekend, as a kid, and now I was going to spend an unexpected night in the town where it was telecast. Needless to say I dumped the underwear, no pun intended, and was just thankful to be able to get to a motel, without getting arrested. The next day went much better and we played 36 holes at Winged Foot. I got in a lot of sand traps that day. We played the West Course in the afternoon, and the old adage of practice makes perfect came true. I was in 8 green side bunkers on the back nine, and got up and down 7 times, to shoot a one over 37 and a 78 for the round. I hit one of my greatest bunker shots, that day. I had short sided myself in a very deep bunker. With very little green to work with, I cut under the ball, and when I looked up, it seemed like the ball had gone right through the lip of the bunker, but barely cleared it, winding up about 6 feet past the pin. I made the putt for another sandy. Thankfully the trip home was not as eventful and I did get the lights fixed.

The rest of the 80’s was highlighted by my South Park foursome, as I liked to call them. They were a little older than I am now but we all walked the course. We were the first group that teed off, that could see their drives. The first two groups in front of us, teed off in the dark, and we would never see them again. We took about 3 hours and 20 minutes to walk 18 holes. I played close to 400 rounds of golf with these guys at South Park, and we never had to wait one time to hit a shot, except for somebody finishing up cutting a green, or changing the golf hole. The group changed a little over the years. In the mid 80’s one of the group passed away. I have written previously about how one of the guys got kicked out of the group for hitting the wrong ball. The last 8 years from 87 to 94 the group stayed the same. I played some of my best golf with this group. I shot two 67’s and I had my best 12 stretch of golf, ever, when I was just about ready to walk off the course. Four of the first 5 holes are fairly easy at South Park, and if you are going to have a good round, you need a couple of birdies, during this stretch. This particular morning, I got off to a bad start, and was 3 over after 5 holes, and when I put my tee shot in the sand trap on the par 3 sixth hole, I was ready to walk off the course. Then, I hit the most beautiful bunker shot, and it wound up 2 inches from the hole. I just felt this really good rhythm, when I made the shot. I decided to continue, and went on to birdie 6 of the next 12 holes to shoot 69. Playing with those guys was a great experience and I always appreciated them allowing me to play with them, all those years. As the 80’s drew to a close I was playing more golf and fully entrenched in playing at Rolling Hills. We will hit the country club set when I delve into the 90’s. A decade that saw me go from not playing for a couple of years to playing on professional tours.

Golf: A Very Unique Day

I was originally going to write about this day, under the title, golf stories, the 2000’s, but the more I thought about this, I realized that this day, needed a blog, all to itself. I was not too sure, how to even categorized, this day. First, I was going to call it strange, but it wasn’t really all that strange. I think unique, describes it well, because I have not experienced a day like this before, or since. It was a day, because two rounds of golf were involved, not just one. It took place during the South Park Men’s Championship, at the South Park Golf Course near the end of the 2000’s decade. The South Park Men’s Championship is a 36 hole tournament played in one day. I played in the event until my early 60’s. I really did not have any delusions of grandeur of winning the event, at my age, but I enjoyed playing in the event, and they had a skins game so you could always have a good hole and recoup your costs for the tournament. There was a spit tee with groups teeing off on 1 and 10. If you teed off one for the first 18, then you teed off 10 for the second 18. I was starting on the back, for my first 18, and I was informed that 2 members of the group, had already signed for the cart. I found one member of the group, a young guy in his early thirties, and he was on the driver’s side of the cart. I introduced myself, and put my bag on the rider’s side. Little did I know, just how fortunate I was, being a rider. The 10th hole is a dogleg left, par 5, that is not long, even from the blue tees, so you hope to get off to a good start. We met the other two in our foursome, and we were ready to go. My cart partner looked pretty good on the tee box, had a decent looking swing, and hit a pretty good drive, that was not far enough to get around dogleg. He had some other problems on the hole, and made bogey. No big deal, right. To make a long story short, the kid probably had the worst case of nerves I have ever seen, and went on to shoot, are you ready, 121 on the first 18 and 127 on the second 18. I have to give him credit he finished. Here are the lowlights of the day.

First of all, he did something, that I do not think you could do, even if you tried. This was like something, maybe, a trick shot artist might be able to do. Five times during the round, with driver in hand, he swung mightily, was able to move the ball, but it did not go past the white tees, forget the women’s tee. Three time he just barely grazed the ball, and it trickled off the tee, and the other two, he hit so far behind the ball, the dirt move the ball, a few yards. The 11th hole, which is one of the hardest holes on the course, he made double bogey, but this still did not give me a clue, on what I was about to watch. That was followed up by two triples, but I knew I was in big trouble, after he hit a fairly good drive on the 14th hole. Believe it or not, despite all of his problems, we were not out of position, and had to wait to hit our second shots on the par 4 hole. He took this opportunity, to call his girlfriend, and tell her how nervous he was, and he just couldn’t believe, ( remember the last blog), that he was playing this bad. He told her, it was like he couldn’t see or function. She must have been trying to make him feel better because I heard I love you too, sweetie. Things just got worse after that, and he did some typical things, like miss 6 inch putts, and chunk chips about 2 feet, on his way to the opening round 121. There is a slight break between rounds, to get a quick bite, and he mentioned to me, that he thought, he couldn’t do any worse. I said don’t say that, at least you didn’t kill anybody. We started the second 18, on number 1, a very easy par 4. He hit a pretty good drive, with a little fade, but wouldn’t you know, it rolled right under a pine tree, and he had to take an unplayable. The second hole he butchered, but on number 3, a medium length, par 5, he hit his best drive of the day. He then took out a 3 wood, and hit another very good shot, that hugged the left side of the fairway, but took a horrible kick to the left, and rolled right under another pine tree, where he had to take another unplayable. I thought, this poor guy, he just can’t catch a break. But he waited until the 12th hole, the 30th hole of the day, to hit his shot of the day. The tee box does not give a lot of room to stand, because there is a large downslope, just to the right of the tee box. We had all hit, he was hitting last, and we were cramped in pretty tight just too the right of his teed ball. He took that big swing of his, hit one of those low heeler that was ripped. The only problem was, he lined it, right into the aluminum garbage can, that was just 10 yards in front, and right of the tee box. It was like a cannon going off. I must have jumped 3 feet in the air. It scared the crap out of me. Naturally the ball ended up right behind the can and we had to move it. He did do worse on the second 18 by carding a 127. But as I stated before he did finish. I know I wouldn’t have.

Needless to say I did a lot of walking that day, but thank God I was not driving. I am sure we would have held up play, if I would have had to drive him to all those shots. I do not have any recollection of who our playing partners were, but they did seem to take everything in stride. I shot two 78’s, not bad, considering. I did manage to pick up a skin, which paid for my day. After the round, someone who must have been giving him some coaching, could not believe his scores. He made the comment, that before the tournament, he was consistently shooting in the mid to high 70’s. I am sure, that this was the first competition, he had ever played. He counted everything, kept his cool, and finished the day. Thank God, he played in a group that was understanding, and very tolerant. If he was playing in a group that hoped to win the tournament, he may have been killed. That would have made the day even more unique.