Golf: Stories, The 60’s Part II

The 60’s would be the decade of playing golf with my father, most of time.  Little did I know, it would be the last decade of playing golf with my father.  For some reason, he quit playing the game. That may have been partly due to  the fact, that I did not play much golf in the 70’s, and for the first half of the 80’s, but that is for another blog.  As I wrote in the previous blog, we played only on the weekends, in the early part of the 60’s, and the course was always crowded.  One of the things my Dad  did, when we had to wait on the tee box, for the group to clear, was to look for golf tees.  I still do this today, walking around the tee box looking for tees, just as a reminder, of  how much I enjoyed playing with my father.  The man was my one and only mentor.  I went to school for twenty years of my life, but I can honestly say, I learned more from my father, than any other person I was ever around.  He died in February 1999, at the age of 83, and the memories still live on, and I  see him in my mind many times.  The rounds we had together were great and so enjoyable, that even though they were very competitive, I do not recall the first time I beat my Dad for 18 holes.  Certainly as the decade ended I was beating him on a regular basis.  There were lot’s of good times and golf would always give us something to laugh and talk about.

Every once in awhile, my Dad and I would play some evening golf, arriving at the golf course about 5 to 6 o clock.  Most of time the first tee would be empty, and we would get around with no problem. This particular Saturday was no exception, and the tee box was empty when we went in to pay.  The first hole was a straight away par 4, that went uphill a little bit, about 200 yards out, and then flattened out about 120 yards from the green. When we got down to the first tee, it seemed like there was a lot of people, about 50 yards short of the green.  They were out of range, so we hit our drives.  We walked out to our drives, and it was quite an entourage that was on the first green.  But the one thing that really caught our eye, was a baby carriage right on the green. We stopped counting  when we got to 10 people  on the green.  When they brought out the movie camera, and started taking pictures of everybody, that was too much for my Dad.  He just looked at me, and told me to pick up my ball, we were heading for the second tee. It was the first and only hole, he ever skipped in his life.   Sometimes, my mother would just walk the course when we played in the evening.  By the 8th tee was a picnic area.  In the evening there would be guys playing volleyball, and of course drinking and eating, but mostly drinking.  These games could get a little intense, and there was always a lot of yelling and screaming, while you were hitting your tee shot on this long par 3, of over 200 yards.  One evening the combination of intensity and drinking, probably got carried away, because as we were getting ready to hit, there was more screaming, than yelling, then it got suddenly quiet.  The quiet made us look over to the volleyball game. Then the yelling and screaming became more intense.   Here, one player had stabbed another one, right in the belly.  I think it was only superficial, but the panic was deep. The guy that was stabbed, was bleeding pretty good, but they used somebodies T shirt to put pressure on the wound, and the game came to an abrupt end, with everyone hauling ass to their cars.  My mother looked at me as said” Please, Bobby stick to golf.”  We didn’t see a volleyball game there for awhile.  Another time in the late 60’s, my buddy and I were playing on a Sunday and we got to the 7th hole. These two guys came up to us, and just wanted to play this hole, so they could get to the food behind the 8th tee.  We said sure, since play was slow anyway, due to the outing. The first guy was what I call, a feeling good drunk.  In other words, he was loosie goosy, and he could swing the club, and hit the ball.  The second guy was gone drunk, which meant he could barely stand and walk.  After several failed attempts at trying to hit the ball, he just started the long walk of 568 yards, to get to the picnic area.   About half way there, he just whipped it out, and started urinating right down the middle of the  fairway, as he was  walking, with most of the urine going down his leg and pants.  When we got to the 8th tee finally, there was a big delay as usual, and they allowed us to go over a get a sandwich, to show their appreciation.     The seventh hole, the par 5 would give one more unique story.  We were playing with this guy who had joined us, and again because of slow play, he  was debating whether  to quit after the 6th hole, because the green was not  far from the clubhouse, about 150 yards.   He first said, he was just going to hit a drive, and walk in.   He hit such a good drive, by far the best of the day, he said he couldn’t end the day like that.  Low and behold, he hit a great  2ond shot right up on the green, and would be putting for an eagle.  He then proceeded to 5 putt.  Without much fanfare he picked the ball out of the hole, said good bye, and walked  about 600 yards to the parking lot. Never let you golf shots, affect your decision making process.

In the 60’s there would be two shots that I would always remember.  My first hole in one that was struck with a 7 iron on the par 3 second on July 31, 1968.  It hit about 10 yards short of the green on a rock hard fairway, and took 2 big hops, and then on  the third hop hit the pin, which I heard all the way back at the tee box, and disappeared.  The other shot I will always remember was just strange and more unlikely than the hole in one.  On the par 3 sixth hole at Mazeroski’s,  I hit this beautiful high 6 iron, and was watching it intently, thinking this was going to be a good shot, when suddenly, the ball collided with a bird, and both dropped from the sky, with the bird being killed. I do not remember what kind of bird it was, only that it was killed with a golf ball.  Believe it or not, this would not be the last time, I would see an animal killed with a golf ball.  I would finish the decade getting my first taste of competitive golf, but it would not be until the 70’s, that I would do anything competitively worth writing about.  As I mentioned before, the 6th green was fairly close to the clubhouse, and it was nice, that as darkness approached,  you could get in that extra 6 holes.  One day I was playing the 6th hole, and I could see that there were some pretty good storm clouds, moving in.  By the time I was putting out, there was thunder in the background and the wind was blowing.  I started running toward the clubhouse, that was about 150 yards away.   I was running pretty hard, with the golf bag over my shoulder, and getting a little winded, as I approach the first tee, where I was going to have to run uphill.  I was slowing down, thinking I was pretty safe, when a bolt of lightening hit a tree about 200 yards to my right.  Needless to say I got an adrenalin rush, that gave me that new surge to run my ass off, the remaining 50 yards to the clubhouse.  If I had been dumb enough to continue playing, there may never have been any 70’s stories.

Golf: Stories, The 1960’s, Part I

I started playing golf in 1958, at the tender age of 8 years old.  Like all my sport beginnings, I was taught by my father.  To get started in golf, he cut down an old set, that was made in the 1930’s. He made  a pull cart  from an aluminum downspout, and wheels and a handle from a grocery cart.  I played with those clubs for two years, and then for Christmas, I got my first “real” set, for juniors, with a golf bag.   The set had 8 clubs, including the putter. It came with a book, called Play It Pro, Golf, from Beginner to Winner.  My Dad and I read that book many times from cover to cover. It was about the history of the game, and had instruction about each phase of the game.  The driver chapter was written by Sam Snead, the iron chapter Ernie Vossler, short game by Tommy Jacobs, and putting by Cary Middlecoff.  I was fortunate to find this book in a used book store, about 30 years ago and still have the copy.   It’s funny, what I remember about those years.  I  do not remember playing that much, in particular, but I remember my first 9 hole round score, of 118. A week later I improved to 99 for 9 holes.   To this day, the biggest improvement I have ever had, from one round, to the next.  The golf course that my Dad and I played, 95% of the time, was a 9 hole course about 5 miles north of Martins Ferry, Ohio, named Vine Cliff, and later was purchased by Bill Mazeroski of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and became Mazeroski Golf Course. It was a very popular course, because it was very flat, which was unusual for our area.  Now let me introduce you to the wild times of golf in the 1960’s.

First of all, there were no tee times, any time, or any where.  It was a first come first serve atmosphere, that could get pretty testy at times. When I was very young, and I had to solely rely on my father to take me golfing, and we only played on the weekends.  The strategy was to go very early,  between 6:30 and 7, or late morning around 11:00.  If you paid for 18 holes, in other words, you were going around the 9 hole course twice,  you would get a ticket, with the date on it, and when you got done with 9 holes, you gave this ticket to the gentleman on the first tee.  Today we call him a starter. Back then, he was more like a referee.  This meant, since you were going to play another nine, and paid in advance, that you got to tee off right after the group on the tee, no matter how many people were waiting to hit.  When people saw that I was going in front of them, all 4 foot 6 of me, the grumbling would start right away. First tee pressure came at an early age, for yours truly.  Most of the time I would hit a pretty good drive, and my Dad, who was a good player in his own right, would hit a great drive, and the grumbling would stop. There would be some good natured comments, like,  I wish I could hit it as good as that kid.  There will always be one first tee experience, I will never forget.

I was about 12 years old, and this was one our late morning arrivals. When we pulled into the parking lot, the place was packed.  My dad was just going to turn around and head back home.  Since you could walk to the edge of the parking lot, and looked down at the first tee, I begged him to at least, just look at the first tee.  When we looked down, it was a mob scene, at least 50 to 60 people. My Dad just looked at me, and said ” It’s time to go home”. We were just starting to turn back to the car, when a guy ran up to us and said ” Is it just the two of you?”.  My Dad said we were, and he explained, that he and his brother were just two, and they had nobody to join them up with, and if we hurried, we could go out right away.  Well, instead of walking back to  car, we ran, changed our shoes, and ran to the clubhouse with our bags in tow, paid, and ran to the first tee.  When people us saw walk right  down to the first tee, and immediately go to the tee box, the grumbling began.  There are two facts that need to be told, at this point.  They were remodeling the restaurant that was just beyond the parking lot,  above and to the right of the first tee.  Second, what the guy that approached us failed to say, was this was his brothers first round of golf in his life.  They wanted us to hit first and when my Dad and I hit good drives this calmed the crowd down somewhat.  The guy hit and did ok.  Then his brother got up, to hit the first golf shot of his life, in front of about 50 disgruntled golfers. My Dad and I, still did not know this. He stood up to the ball ok, with  a reasonable grip on the club.  But then, he brought the club straight up over his head, where his head was right between his arms, as some kind of God knows what, pre shot routine.  He did this not once, not twice, but three times, very slowly.  Then he took a mighty swing at the ball, and made contact, but the ball went high and to the right, disappearing  into the center of  a cement mixer, that was behind the restaurant.  I thought there might be a riot.  He went back to his bag got another ball and after doing the same pre shot routine, managed to dribble the ball off the first tee.  By the time all this took place, the group in front of us was off the green, a par 4.  As soon as he hit a few more grounders, my Dad took charge, so to speak, and started to help the guy. Of course, the first thing he eliminated was that pre shot routine.  We struggled mightily along the first hole, but because the course was so crowded, when we got to the second hole, a par 3, the group in front of us, were still putting. With my Dad’s help, the guy started to hit the ball better, and we never really fell behind.  When my Dad was alive, we always referred to this as the cement mixer shot.  More stories coming soon.

Golf: The Swing

Now we come to the least important of the fundamentals of golf, the swing. For those of you, who have never played the game, or who can not consistently break 90, then these are the checkpoints of the golf swing, to guide you.  There are 6 checkpoints of the golf swing.  These are positions along the way of making a golf swing, that you can look at,  feel, and see if you are within the guidelines, of a correct golf swing.  Remember these are just guidelines, and not much here, is in stone, but at least you will have an idea of what the golf swing is all about.  The 6 checkpoints are: 1. The take away 2. When the club shaft is parallel to the ground  3. When the left arm is parallel to the ground 4. The end of the back swing  5. Starting the swing down  6. Finishing the swing. Let’s look at each one.

The take away.   The take away is consider the part of the swing, where you are moving the club head about 12 to 18 inches away from the ball.  The key to the take away is called, maintaining the triangle.  There is an imaginary triangle form by your left and right arm connecting to the club, and a line drawn across your shoulders.  That triangle should maintain itself during those first 12 to 18 inches of the golf swing.  There should be no independent movement of the hands, arms, and shoulders during the first part of the swing.

When the club shaft is parallel to the ground.   From there you get the club parallel to ground any way you want.  You can use your hands and wrists.  You can use your shoulder and body.  Once you get the shaft parallel to ground you need to check to see how the club head is pointing in relationship to the line.  To do this, you simply turn your body to where you are looking straight down the shaft of the club. Now, just drop the club straight down to the ground. Look and see how the club is pointing.  It could be square to the line, it may be slightly closed to line, or it may be open. It does not matter which one, just so you know what your tendency is and is it consistent.  Do this check many times.

Getting the arm parallel to the ground.  At this check point you should cock your wrists enough to have the shaft perpendicular to the ground. Your left arm and the shaft should form an L.   Again this is easy to check. You just stop and look.

The end of the back swing. You continue to turn your body and lift the club until your left shoulder is touching your chin or getting as close to that as you can depending on how supple your body is. Once you have completed your back swing, it is now time to bring the club head back to the ball.

Starting the swing down. It is this point of the swing, that everybody likes to call, the transition part of the swing.  There is instruction that talks about how the downswing starts, before the back swing fully ends, and has  convincing video to show this.  However, if you TRY and do this, you will fail miserably. The way to feel this, is to make the fullest back swing you can, then start your downswing, by doing one, of any of the 3 following things.  Feel your left shoulder going up.  Kick your right leg in the direction of the ball.  Straighten your left leg which will drive your left but cheek straight back. Doing any one of those three things will get your downswing started properly.  You may like one over the other, which is fine.  You may change from round to round, if that helps get your swing going. Eventually you will not have to think it, about once you get use to it.

Finishing the swing.  The thing to remember, is the swing is not over, when you make contact with the ball.  You must continue into your follow through.  Remember how that feels, and do it for all shots, long and short. Another term for this is hitting through the ball.

Now, will you do all of this perfectly or correctly, of course not.  Nobody does it 100% technically correct. These are all just guidelines to help you make a workable golf swing, that you will develop, as you play the game.  Hopefully, applying these guidelines will help you get your score low enough to the point, where you can forget the physical side of the game, and get to where you can play 100% Mental Golf.

Golf: The Address Position.

The last golf blog was about the grip. Now, I am going to discuss  addressing the ball. There is a little more to it, than what Ed Norton told Ralph on the Honeymooners, when he said “Hellooo Ball”.  However, there’s not quite as much to it, as some people would like you to believe.  There are some basic principals to follow, but when it comes to how you stand up to ball, there are lots of personal preferences you can apply.  A lot of this will be dictated by how you hit the ball, and in what direction the ball is going. Some of what you are going to do will be dictated on how you want to hit the ball, also.  It’s mostly what you do, before you take your swing, that will dictate how successful you will be, with the upcoming shot.  So I will look at the address position in two sections.  The basic principles, or things that you must to do, in order to hit the ball solidly, and in the direction you want it to go. Then in the second section I will look at parts of the address position that you can experiment with, that will suit your swing better.

My favorite phrase for addressing the ball, is you must be comfortable, and at ease when standing up to the ball.  You do not want to stand too far away from the ball, but on the other hand, you do not want to feel you are crowding the ball either. Since standing too far away is by far the most common problem, I would suggest trying to crowd the ball, and then backing off from the ball, until you feel that you are comfortable.  Your arms should hang loosely down with your left arm or lead arm fairly straight but not rigid.  The right arm will be folded slightly and fairly close to your right side, if not even slightly brushing the right side.  You will have to bend over at the hips to get down to ball, and your knees will have to have some flex in them, and not feel locked.  The most important part of addressing the ball, is how you have your weight distributed, over your feet.  Because you are bent over at the hips, the tendency is to feel the weight head toward the toes. You must avoid this at all cost.  In my view the best way to distribute your weight is to feel that it is dispersed evenly under your entire foot, and you should be able to wiggle your toes. Some people like to say to have the weight over the arches, but the arch of the foot is  not on the ground technically, and I do not like getting the weight too far back over heels, either. So, feel like your weight is distributed evenly over your feet, and this is the best way to maintain balance during the golf swing, which is one of the most important factors when swinging a golf club. You must make sure you are aiming correctly at this point. The easiest way to do this is too pick out a spot in front of the ball, in the direction you want the ball to go, and aim the club at that.  Then adjust your body into the correct address position. The final thing you must do, is to keep moving and stay relaxed.  I like to picture the baseball player, when he is batting. While he is waiting for the pitch, he is always moving and fidgeting.  He is never just standing still, and that is what the golfer needs to do.  You can not start smoothly from a static position.

Now that the basics are out of the way, there are three  things that you can experiment with when addressing the ball. Where to position the ball in relationship to your body.  Your probably all right to place the ball anywhere from your left toe, to approximately the middle of your stance.  An easy way to think about it, is to not go to the right of your nose. Moving the ball back and forth between your left toe and nose can help you make more solid contact with ball. This can help you if you are hitting shots fat or thin.   It can also help if you think you are hitting the ball too low or too high. No matter what the problem, move the ball  around, and you may stumble on the answer.  The only time you want to move the ball closer to your right foot, is if you are trying to hit a very low ball into the wind.  Another place you can experiment, is how wide you make your stance.  Again experiment with various widths for various shots and you may find some answers to poor shot.  I am not an advocate of starting with the widest stance for the driver, and getting your feet closer together for the higher number clubs. Do not get locked into that process.  Try different widths for different clubs, until you find what works best for you.  Remember, we want results here, not predetermined widths for certain clubs.  Finally you can experiment whether or not you want your stance square, open, or closed. Again do not get locked into preconceived ideas about closing your stance for a draw, and opening your stance for a fade. Hogan faded the ball with a closed stance for the driver.  There may be some technical aspect of your swing, that you could care less about, that may allow you to hit straighter shots, from open or closed stances.  You will never find out, unless you try to hit the ball from various stances.  Even though the swing is not the thing, I will discuss the swing in the next golf blog.  Meanwhile, when it comes to addressing the ball, go crazy man go crazy.

Golf: The Grip

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

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

 

 

Golf: When is a Fault a Fault

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

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

Golf: The Mind

This blog is about the mind, not the brain, and there is a difference. Boy, is there a difference. If you look up information about the mind, you will get a large variety of ideas and theories.  What I found interesting is, if you start with googling the brain, you will get mostly, if not all, academic and scientific sites.  If you google the mind, you will get philosophic sites, and some of the other two sites.  The mind has much more debate, about where it is,( yes not everybody thinks it is in the brain), about what it does, and how to control it.   The mind seems to encompass all facets of life, the past, the present, and the future. Most sites seemed to be interested in what the mind can do with the future.  The mind can change the way you eat, behave, and perform various activities relating to work and recreation.  These are all related to changing thought processes and attitudes. Mind control is discussed at various sites, ranging from brainwashing, hypnosis, and marketing ploys, to affect the mind.  On the other hand, the brain sites are much more scientific and discuss the functions of the brain.  We have learned a lot about the brain, over the last 40 years because of advance neuro imaging, which shows which parts of the brains are functioning, when we are thinking, or performing simple tasks. However, all this brain imaging has at times led us down the wrong path concerning how the brain really works, and has not helped us much in answering questions about the mind.

There have been plenty of books on the “Golfing Mind,” and these books could be classified as books on the mental game of golf.  These books discuss a variety of subjects.  They range from visualization, planning of the shots, first tee preparation, positive thinking, and handling pressure, to name just a few.  But does all this have anything to do with the mind.  Before I started reading all these sites on the mind, my answer would have been a 100% positive yes.  After looking at some of these sites, I am not too sure  these golf mental processes have anything to with the mind.  The other question is, what controls the mind?  On the site wikiHow, there is a list of things you can do to control your mind.  They are various things but all of them are related to thoughts. Now where do thoughts originate from?  That can have many answers, including nowhere.  As you can see these questions can go around and around with many perspectives and answers.  But the bottom line is this, do we, as golfers, really care, or should we be concerned with this? This time the answer can be an unequivocal, no.

After pouring through numerous sites on the brain, the mind, and thoughts, here is one man’s view, on what all this means for the golfer.  I think you can forget about a lot of the so called mental preparation that would go into playing a round of golf.  If you like to do these things, plan your round, visualize shots the day before, pre game relaxation exercises, then go ahead. They are not going to hurt you game at all, but probably, they are  not going to help much, either.  Listen, it’s always good to not beat yourself up, think positively, and have an upbeat attitude on the golf course, no matter what happens. This not only can make you a better golfer, but a better person to be around. No one wants to play with a grouch, who gets upset at the first bad shot of the day.  Is there one thing that you can count on from the mind?  In my view yes.  I  believe there is one thing that you can count on from the mind.  I am 100% sure of this. I do not have proof of this, or articles I can reference, because there are just as many articles, that would refute what I am about to conclude.  I think the mind controls the body 100%.   It controls the body so well, that it can even tell us what not to do.  It’s not like our thoughts.  It’s not like the old story, about telling  a person to think about anything but a white elephant in the room.  What do they think about, the white elephant. If your mind tells your body not to do something then it will not do it.  By the same token, if the mind tells you body to do something, it will do it.  I will explore this further in future blogs, and how it applies to playing golf much better.  For now, let this sink in and believe it. The mind controls the body.  The mind controls the body. The mind controls the body. Am I trying to brainwash you? Never mind.

Golf: The Brain

This blog could be the blog about making a blog.  It started out looking at one particular area and then turned into it’s current state, a mixed bag of end of the year thoughts, and highlights. Confused, you should be on my end of this blog. Like most stories, let’s start at the beginning.  The original idea for this golf blog was to look at the right brain, and see if we use the right brain  enough, when we are playing golf. The difference, between the right brain and the left brain, is that the right brain is the more intuitive side, and the left brain is the more factual side.  The left side tells you, this is a pen, and your right side tells you how to use it.  There are lots of articles, and even books about right and left brain dominance, some of which, I have read.  It was thought, that people could be more right brain dominate, and others could be left brain dominate.   I am not going to expound any more about this subject, and  how this affects an individual, because in researching this theory, I found out this is all hogwash.  Boy, do I wish I hadn’t read those books, that proposed the left right brain theory.   More up to date data shows that there is more communication between the left and the right brain than was thought previously.  Even though the right brain may be more intuitive and creative, it is being shown that the left brain may still be driving the bus. This so called dominance of one brain over the other is simply not true. This shot a hole in the idea that maybe we are not as intuitive as we should be on the golf course, especially if we are left brain oriented . This is found in an internet course called Brain Myths Exploded, lessons from Neuroscience.  It is an 11 hour course and I am about half way through it.

Considering, that I am still thinking that this game is 100% mental, once you reach a certain level, I find all this new information on the brain very interesting. Instead of this idea, that one side of the brain is dominating the other side of the brain, maybe it is the lack of communication of the two sides, when we are playing, that causes us to play so poorly at times, or to hit a particular bad shot. This could be saying the say thing as the domination factor,  just in a different way, but I doubt it. Lack of communication is not the same thing as dominance. Meanwhile, unless we get some unusual weather here in the Burg it may be awhile before I get to test out any of these theories. The brain probably is the most important club in the bag when it comes to playing golf. We just don’t know how far we can hit it, yet.

On a more personal note I am headed to San Diego for Christmas with the grandkids and family.  Looking forward to that trip, and seeing everybody.  I was able to play a few more rounds of golf, since the end of the season golf blog.  I wound up playing 135 rounds of golf this year, which is more than last year but just a little shy of my record of 150 rounds.  It will be tough to break that record, because  a lot of 36 hole days were played that year, and I think those days are behind me.  I think I can still play 36 holes in one day but not on a regular basis like I did 3 or 4 years ago.  The weather was better this year, which helped in getting more rounds in, than last  year. My most recent round was highlighted my a near hole in one.  On the 17th hole at Ponderosa I hit a cutting 7 iron about 140 yards into a cold wind that stopped about 3 inches behind and right of the hole.  It was a close call for hole in one number 6.   It has been a good year over all and I hope that I continue to have good health and be able to play this goofy game as much as I want. There may be one more blog before the end of the year but if there is not, Happy New Year, and see you in 2020.

 

Golf: The Race to the CME Globe

This week is the final event of the LPGA tour, their tour championship, with the winner taking home 1.5 million dollars.  If you are a sports fan, and not a big golf fan, you would never know it.  I checked seven internet sports sites, ESPN, Yahoo, Fox, Sports.com. MSN, CBS, and NBC, and none of them had a lot to say about the event, and no leaderboards on Thursday or Friday.  I looked at all the sites on Thursday morning, Thursday night, and Friday night, and things were pretty sparse.  I looked at the home page of these web sites.  On Thursday morning  ESPN had a preview article, about 10 stories down, Sports.com had an article only two rows down, and there was nothing about the event on the other sites.  Thursday night ESPN had a story about one of the rookies playing and NBC sports had an article about the leader.  No leaderboards were to be found.  Friday night ESPN had an article about the Korda sisters, and Sport.com had a story about the leader. The rest of the web sites had nothing related to the event.   This was on the main pages of the web sites, and I am sure if you searched the web site, you could have found a leader board, but you did not have to do that, for the current men’s event.  The most surprising lack of coverage was the NBC site, since they are televising the event  LIVE on Sunday.  The Golf Channel showed the first two rounds and today’s round on tape delay.  Let’s hear it for the Golf Channel, real  supporter of the LPGA tour.  This is the season finale, one of the biggest events on the LPGA tour with it’s biggest winner’s check.  So why the lack of coverage?

Maybe, they are trying to keep it a secret, that the 1.5 million dollar winners check is a very nice sum, but it is still just .1 the amount that the PGA Fedex Cup champion won.  One of the problems is that all these web sites seem to have their own product to sell.  Fox sports is the worse, as they plug their shows through out the web’s home page.  Not much room for the LPGA there.  Plus the U. S. Women’s Open had one of their lowest ratings of all time on Fox this year.  ESPN is into the NBA.  If some one in the NBA doesn’t get what he ordered on his pizza, it will be on the ESPN web site.  CBS is into the NFL, and  again any little story about football is going to be on the website.  This Sports.com website is nothing but ads, although they said the most about the tournament, which is not saying much.  MSN just seems to flounder around showing things that happened 3 days ago.  But the mystery is the NBC site, that has a golf channel section.  Very little coverage of a an event that they are going to televise against the NFL on NBC and Fox, tomorrow.  Maybe they just feel that no matter what they do, nobody is going to watch, ( I am by the way), so why promote the event, and look even worse, when nobody watches.  Then there’s the Golf Channel, with tape delay coverage on the first three days.  They are showing the men’s tournament live and they should be doing the reverse, but this is what happens when men make decisions concerning women.   Speaking of men making decisions for women, the LPGA decided to extend their television contract to end at the same time as the PGA tour in 2021.  Somehow they are going to try and make some kind of all encompassing deal  with the networks.  Men helping out women. Come on ladies, when has a man ever helped a woman without expecting a lot in return.  If that deal goes through, maybe the LPGA will have to caddie at some PGA events.

Of course at times, the LPGA has been their own worse enemy.  When Michelle Wie was one of the hottest commodities in golf, they refused to let her play because she was too young.  Then their previous commissioner wanted everybody to speak English, good God.  Even though the last woman commissioner was a disaster, they should get a women to lead the organization, and go out and make their own television deal.  They need to market their product much better.   In this day and age you should not have to search the sports sites to find something about the LPGA tour.  They have great players, play exciting golf, and are much more pleasing to watch, than those old fogies on the Senior Tour.  Yeah that’s right I wrote senior not Champions.  That was a nice marketing idea by that tour, to keep people from realizing that these guys have a hard time tying their shoes.  So, Ladies take charge and get your tour on the sports map where it belongs.

Golf: Season Wrap Up

Even though there is golf yet to be played in Western Pennsylvania, the handicap season ended on November 15th and the golf will be hit and miss for the rest of the year. It is time to look back at the golf season of 2019 and see what was good, bad, and indifferent.  This was the year of 100% mental golf, and it was neither a success or a complete failure. I learned some things, but in the end, did not make much progress in improving my game.  I started the year with a 4.1 index and ended with a 4.8.  My highest was 5.2, and the lowest, other than my start, was 4.2.   Before I summarize the year, lets break down each section of my game for 2019.

Driver.  This was the best part of my game.   I would have a bad driving day once in awhile, but for the most part I drove the ball well, and kept my driving distance steady, and did not lose any distance this year.

Fairway wood.   Contrast this with the worst part of my game.  Fairway woods gave me the most problem for the year.  I bought some new 15 degree clubs, and they made things worse, and I went back to my old Orlimar fairway woods, of 16 and 20 degree, and this seemed to help some.  It was with the 15 and 16 degree clubs, that I had the most trouble getting the ball airborne.  This part of my game contributed a lot, to seeing my index go up .7 points.

Irons.  I had a fair year with the irons.   I changed to Titleist AP3 irons with regular graphite shafts.  Theses clubs had strong lofts so a 5 iron was like hitting a 4.5 iron.  These clubs gave me such increased  distance, that I had a hard time adjusting.  I did have some really good days with these irons and will continue to play them.  Even though I have been playing them, since Mid May, I still feel I am going through a learning process with them.

Short game.  This part of my game improved.  I got rid of the chip yips ( another blog) and I am getting better around the greens.  My sand game is still bad but hoping for improvement. One of the things that have helped me is, I went back to using a 60 degree wedge with zero bounce.    This club is the old Cleveland 485 60 degree wedge.  I acquired the club about 2 months ago and have been doing betting around the greens. I use to play this club all the time, and I am glad I went back to it.   Will discuss zero bounce more in another blog.

Putting.   This was the most inconsistent part of my game.  Most recently I have had a good run of putting, which has helped with some low scores, but not quite enough to offset some bad ball striking.  Again getting rid of the yips on the greens has helped immensely.

To summarize, the biggest problem I had this year was where my bad shots went.   I had a very prolonged slump in golf, that started at the end of 2015 and lasted until about June of 2017, and this was the same problem, except then it was much worse.  I had about 10 to 15 rounds in 2016 and 2017, where I did not break 80, but my handicap score was between 76 and 79 due equitable stroke control.  I had the same thing happen in 2019, but not as often. When you top a ball 80 yards, or hit it so far off line, that its in the woods, scoring goes out the window.  My fairway wood game was this bad.  I would hit some iron shots, and  trap shots, that were just as horrible.    So that will be the first goal, to hit better bad shots.  Easier said than done, but I will give it a try.  Now to 100% mental golf.  I am still undecided about how to split the game up between the mental and physical side, and I hope to come up with a solution soon.  First I thought it was a 50-50 split.  Then, I went all the way over to 100% mental, and still think that is possible.  It is difficult to remove the physical side of the game entirely.  Maybe I should go a long with Yogi Berra, when he said, baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical. The older I get, which is getting pretty old, I feel that golf will be that mystery game,  I will never solve.  Maybe in Wonderland, tornado anyone.