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.

Golf: Sayings

I have been playing this great game of golf for over sixty years. Over that space of time, I have seen many changes in the game. But one thing, that has not changed, is some of the things you hear on the golf course. Swearing is always prevalent on a golf course, but I am talking about the phrases that people say, during the round of play. When I was a youngster, I really did not pay much attention to this, but when I became an adult, I began to notice these things, and over the years, they have not really changed. There are the quick phrases like, nice shot, great shot, good up, and so forth. There are things that are directly related to playing of the game, like your away, or worse, your still away. These are the sayings, that are not directly related to playing the game, but have been around for as long as I can remember. Here are what I consider the top three, with no. 1 being the top one by a wide margin.

What am I doing wrong, or simply, what am I doing? You hear this more from the beginning golfer, but I have heard this from every level of golfer. This leads to other common phrases. You picked your head up. You swung too hard. Your trying to kill it. You did not turn. You did not shift your weight. Your playing the ball to far forward or back. Your grip is bad. Your stance is too wide or too narrow. With someone who has played the game for awhile, you may hear more technical answers. You didn’t make a complete backswing. You took the club back too fast, or too slow. Your are using your wrists too much. There are many answers to this proverbial question. There is only one correct answer. You took up golf, asshole. I would suggest bowling. Then you or your playing partner should just walk off the course.

The second phrase is weather related and it is really two phrases, but since both are concerning the weather, I have lumped them into one phrase. The first is when you are playing the round and the weather is less than ideal. Maybe it is cold or there is a threat of rain, or maybe some high winds. For the moment, the weather is not too bad. Probably cloudy, cold, but no wind or rain. When that is the case, someone will say, now, if it will only stay, just like this. I use to say this myself, until I noticed how many times, it was said by other members of my group. I think people say this, and I admit I thought the same way, because this might help keep it just like this. The other saying is when you are waiting out a rain, and it’s been about twenty minutes, and someone will look over at the horizon, and say, it looks like it is lightening up over there. My thought has always been, yes but we are not playing over there. This was more common when there was no radar to look at. It reminds me of another often heard sentence concerning the rain, before radar. This looks like an all day rain. Twenty minutes later, the sun was out.

Without a doubt, the number one phrase you hear on the golf course is, I can’t believe. I can’t believe is followed by whatever the player can’t believe. I can’t believe it didn’t go in. I can’t believe the putt broke left, or right, or did not break. I can’t believe the wind didn’t affect that ball. I can’t believe I hit it that far, and it went over the green. I can’t believe that bounce. I can’t believe I’m short. I can’t believe it went that far right. I can’t believe that I hit it that bad. I can’t believe he gets a stroke on that hole. I can’t believe that buried in the lip. I can’t believe it didn’t stop. I can’t believe I didn’t carry the lake. I can’t believe that sucked back off the green. I can’t believe that the green is that soft or hard. I can’t believe how high this rough is. I can’t believe that my drive only went this far. I can’t believe it’s 150 yards, it doesn’t look it. I can’t believe that we can not find my ball. I can’t believe that my ball hit the tree or did not hit the tree. I could go on and on. There is one question to ask. Just what the hell do golfers believe? If they do not believe, what they are seeing with their own eyes, do they believe in anything. All I can say is, they must believe that the game has some kind of super natural powers, that defy the logic of the universe. It can’t be us.

These are the most common things I have heard on the golf course, over these many years. I have heard some unique things and this one bears repeating. Many years ago when I belonged to Rolling Hills Country Club, I was playing in a team event, a best 2 out of 4 balls with full handicap, and our team was doing particularly bad. Nobody was having a good day. As we were walking to the 13th tee, and it was obvious we were not going to finish any where near the top, one member of our group said, its a wonder any of us have jobs. I never heard that quote before, or since, and it did give all of us a good laugh on a bad golf performance. But after the round was over, everything was returned to normal, when another member of our group said, I CAN’T BELIEVE WE ALL PLAYED THIS BAD.

Golf: My 2020 Golf Season

I haven’t written about my own game this season, as there hasn’t been that much to write about, and I thought one blog about the whole season, would do the job. Despite the pandemic, and a very slow start, I was able to play over 100 rounds, for the 6th straight season. I did not come close to my record, of 150 rounds in one year, but getting over the 100 mark, is still nice, and as of right now I stand at 105 rounds. I had 52 rounds over 80, with two 90’s thrown in, and 53 rounds under 80, with the best, not that long ago, a 72 at Ponderosa. I have had a late season surge of good play, but more on that later. My handicap, with the updates happening every round, and only 8 rounds being counted, jump around more than usual, from a low of 4.5, to a high of 6.3, before ending the year at 4.9. Here is how the parts of my game performed in 2020. I drove the ball really well again, and it was by far, the best part of my game. I always find this a little strange, because in my younger years, it was probably, the worst part of my game. I have no explanation, other than this game is goofy. The irons were the most inconsistent part of my game. Some days, I would hit them great, and be very accurate, and other days, I would be all over the place. My short game was mediocre all year, with the chip yips and my sand play being the worst. The chip yips would come and go, and they had a major effect on my score. My putting was average all year, but I did have one day, that I will discuss later. No spectacular shots this year and overall the year was pretty bland. I am still not having any swing thoughts when I play, and I may have found why swing thoughts stop working, but more on that, on a future blog. There were 3 highlights of the year.

The first highlight was Covid related. I live in Western Pennsylvania, and we are close to the West Virginia border. Pennsylvania golf courses were closed for the month of April, due to Covid. However, Highland Springs is right on the Pennsylvania border with 12 holes in West Virginia, and 6 in Pennsylvania, with the clubhouse being in West Virginia. This golf course was open in April, and we managed to play 4 rounds, during the month. Needless to say, the golf course was packed, 7 days a week. The 5 hour plus round was the normal. I changed the name of the course to, Bubba Gump Golf Course, because just like Forrest Gump, who had the only shrimping boat to survive the hurricane, this golf course was the only game in town. When the weather was half way decent, there were easily, between 50 and 70 rounds played per day. The second highlight was the best 9 hole putting stretch I have ever had, and just like a lot of things in golf, it came out of the blue. We had to play the 9 hole course at South Park, because of work being done, on the front nine of the 18 hole course. I hadn’t played this nine, in about 2 years. The round started off innocently enough, when I knocked a 9 iron within about 15 feet, and 2 putted for par. On the second hole I chunked a wedge, indifferent chip to 20 feet, made it. Third hole 7 iron off to right of green, chipped up to 10 feet, made it. Fourth hole, hit a limb on my second shot, pitched up 15 feet, made it. The next two holes, I had a tap after putting from the fringe, and made a 3 footer, after a short chip from the rough. The next hole a par 5 I butchered, but made a 10 footer, for par. On number 8, I chipped up to 3 foot, made it. The ninth hole a long par 4, I made a 20 footer for par. For the 9 holes, I had 10 putts, with 5 of the putts, being 10 feet or longer. Now, I have had 9’s, when I had 10 putts, but a chip in was involved. We could not play more than nine holes that day, but it was my best putting for nine holes, by far. The final highlight of the year, was my good play, as the year wound down. My last 8 rounds of the year were 72, 76,74, 81, 81, 76,78, and 76. This finish I will blog more about, in the near future. The two 81’s were in some tough windy conditions. Even though there is some potential for a few more rounds, the 2020 golf season is basically over. The game is still mystifying to me, but at least I feel I have made some progress, as the year wound down. More on that later, see you on the links.

Golf: Stories, The 70’s

As far as golf was the concerned, the 70’s started out with a bang. In June of 1970, in a tournament called the Bernhardts, held at Oglebay Park, in a pea soup fog, I recorded my second hole in one. It was the 2ond hole, an 180 yard par 3, and all I knew from our caddies was that the pin was in the middle of the green. There was a tournament official at the green, who would just yell out, when it was ok to hit. I thought I had hit a pretty good shot, but one of the other players in the group, thought I had gone a little left. After we had all hit, we barely got off the tee box, when my caddie came bursting out of the fog, yelling it’s in the hole, it’s in the hole. My first hole in one, I did not get to take out of the hole because the people up on the green did, who had let me hit, and, of course, my second hole in one, I never even saw. In 1971, I played probably my best round of golf in a tournament. It was my first week of veterinary school, and I had not touch a club all week. This was a tournament, that was supposed to be a 36 hole, two day event, the first weekend in June, at Wheeling Park. It rained the entire weekend, and they rescheduled it for 18 holes, on the last Saturday in June. I drove home late Friday afternoon, and got home around 6:30, and immediately drove up to Mazeroski Golf Course, to get a quick nine in. For whatever reason, I just had this really good rhythm, and I played the first 6 holes 1 under par, and since the 6th hole is close to the clubhouse, I walked in, and went home. Wheeling Park is a short 9 hole course, with 7 par 4’s, and 2 par 3’s for a par of 34. Naturally, for the tournament you play each 9 twice. The next, day I had that same great rhythm, and shot a 2 under 66, to finish in a tie for second, one shot out of the lead. That was my last great hurrah for the seventies as life took over.

I got married, graduated from veterinary school in 75, and had my only child in 1977, in fact she was born on 7-7-77, a date I will be able to remember, even when I am senile. While in vet school, I played the Scarlett and the Gray courses, mostly the Gray because it was not as crowded, since it was not as renowned as the Scarlett. Both courses were great to play, when I was in school and it was a nice break from the grind. When you played the Scarlett, you often thought of all the shots that Jack Nicklaus hit some 15 to 18 years before, when he was at OSU. I moved to Pittsburgh in 1975, and I have been here ever since. As the 70’s came to a close, golf was definitely taking a backseat to my veterinary career, and family life. However, I was still playing about once per week, and in 1976, I would have my first of many experiences at South Park, the county course, in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. The first time I went to the course, I did not even play. I arrived at about 8:45 on a misty cold April morning, and when I walked up to the clubhouse by the first tee, I looked down and saw at least 30 to 40 people milling around. I immediately turned around, and went home. I told my wife, they must be having a tournament there, to have so many people, on such a lousy morning. I went back a week later at the same time, and the situation was exactly the same. The weather was a little better, but it was a mob scene at the first tee. I then decided to see what was going on. I went to the starter booth, and he told me it was like this every day. He told me, since I was a single, he should be able to get me out, in about a half an hour. Back in those days, the senior pass, for 60 and over, was only $40 dollars, and you could play Monday through Friday anytime, and everybody walked, to avoid the cart fee. The starter was right and I hooked up with these three guys who I still see today every once in awhile. I only remember the first 3 holes of that round, and here is the reason why. I bogied the first two holes, which are really easy par 4’s, particularly number one. The third hole is a par 5, and I really hit a good drive, which gave me a possible chance of reaching the green in two. I took a mighty swing with my 3 wood, and topped the ball right off to the left. It is one of those shots, that if you did not know better, you would have thought the ball went right between your legs. Now, I was about 180 yards from the green on the left side of the fairway. I took out my 3 iron (remember those) and hit it very well, and it scooted up the hill and right on to the green. It was a very nice shot. In fact, it was more than a very nice shot, because the ball went right into the hole for an eagle. How about that sport fans. I don’t remember anything else about the round, but that 3rd shot, on the 3rd hole, the very first time I played it, I will always remember. It was shortly after that round, about 4 weeks later, that I met up with the guys that I would play with, once a week at South Park, for the next 18 years. I enjoyed many a round with these guys, but those stories belong in the 80’s. I started my own practice in November of 1978 and that became the focus of my attention for next 26 years. Golf would have its ups and downs as we headed into the 80’s.

Golf: D. J. Dominates

Dustin Johnson wins the November Masters, with a dominating performance and breaks the tournament record by two shots, with a final score, of 20 under 268. I thought the scoring record would be intact, but the soft conditions, and the overall lack of wind, were bigger factors, than the strangeness of no crowds, and the long shadows. Johnson’s performance was complete. He drove the ball extremely well, and putted better than anybody in the field. He may have not had the best putting statistics, but what he did better than anybody else, was leave himself no stress second putts. His speed was impeccable. Johnson plays very quickly for all his shots, until he gets to the green, and then he takes more time to read a putt, than any player on tour. His routine is exactly the same on every putt, and with his new putting mechanics, this is the best he has putted in his career. The other big difference with D. J.’s game, is he does not seem to hit the really wild drive, that cost him in some previous majors. In a way, this Masters, was Johnson’s own kind of redemption, for a lot of heartbreak, in past majors. It was nice to see him win, with a complete performance, that left little doubt down the stretch, right now, he is the best player in the world. My four picks who I thought would do well did ok, with Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm finishing in the top 10. Rahm is going to have to figure out, how not to hit the horrible shot. The grounder on 8 in the third round that led to the double bogey cost him any real chance of putting some heat on D. J. For Koepka, he played well, but did not have that major championship putting, that he has had in the past. I thought Phil would do well, and for 2 rounds he was looking good until he went completely brain dead in the third round, and shot 79. Is it possible to be senile at 50? Collin Murikawa never could get untracked and barely made the cut. Tiger did better than I expected and played really well. His putter really let him down. In the second round on Saturday, he hit a horrible putt on 17, that cost him a birdie on one of the harder holes on the course. If he could have made some putts, he may have contended until the end, back issues not with standing. Then there was good old Bryson, and just like I predicted the ghosts of Augusta took care of him. After his lost ball he was never a factor. I think it was Bobby Jones himself, that intervened there. Now for some unrelated random thoughts on this November Masters, that was like no other, even before it started.

Many scoring records did fall but I am willing to bet that Corey Conners may have set a different kind of record. Who is Corey Conners? You do not want to ask that question to CBS. Corey finished in the top 10 at the Masters. He may have been on TV less than any player in history who finished in the top 10 in a major. I really do not remember seeing him at all. For a man who never misses, Abraham Ancer missed a lot of short putts. The one on 11 in the third round was unbelievable, which in my view ended his chances. There was this contrast, watching the best players in the world. On one side of the coin, you saw some of the most unbelievable short game shots, ranging from chips, pitches, and bunker play, only to see a lot of missed putts. It makes what D. J. did on the greens, even more impressive. Thanks to Justin Thomas, another player who did not putt well, we now know, how frustrating mud is on the ball. Then there’s Cameron Smith, who finished tied for second, with the help of some of the greatest recovery shots in the history of the Masters. The only player in history, to shoot all four rounds in the sixties. But come on Cameron, the facial hair has got to go. Your so call mustache, looks like you left hair remover on you upper lip. Just face the fact, that even though your 27, you look like you just graduated from high school. The facial hair and curls coming out the back of your hat do not help. When I graduated from veterinary school, I went through the same thing. On one of my first job interviews, I went in, introduced myself, and they thought I was there for the kennel boy job. I had to tell them I was interviewing for the doctor’s position. I was 25 at the time. This Masters may not go down as one of the great one’s of all time, but it was great to see Dustin Johnson win going away. After many setbacks it was nice to see his childhood dream come true.

Golf: The Masters

The Masters is here at last. Having the Masters in November will be unique, and having no fans, to speak of, will be really weird to say the least. There are lots questions going into this Masters, not the least of which is, will bulked up Bryson DeChambeau turn Augusta National into nothing more than a pitch and putt course, and shoot 23 under to smash the tournament record by 5 shots? I wonder what Bryson does to bulk up his head, just saying. Can Tiger pull another miracle? Augusta National has been shown to inspire the old veteran. Nicklaus won when he was 46, in 1986. Ben Hogan shot a back nine 30 in the 3rd round of the 1967 Masters, at age 54, and was in contention, until a Sunday score of 77, placed him in a tie for tenth with Sam Snead, who was also 54. I think both Bryson and Tiger will have trouble with this version of Augusta. The Masters has been a tournament of redemption for some. Tommy Aaron, who made the scoring error that cost Roberto Di Vicenzo the 1968 Masters, won in 1973. Charles Coody who finished with 3 bogies to lose the 1969 Masters, came back and won it in 1971. Gay Brewer missed a 5 foot putt on the final hole, to send the 1966 Masters into a 3 man playoff, that Jack Nicklaus won. The next year Brewer won the Masters. Some players have had nothing but heartbreak at Augusta. Greg Norman just could not win it. He bogeyed the last hole in 1986 to allow Nicklaus to win his 6th green jacket. He fell victim to the miraculous pitch in of Larry Mize in the Masters playoff in 1987 on number 11. In 1996, he blew a 6 shot lead in the final round to lose to Nick Faldo by 5 shots. We mentioned the signing of the wrong score by De Vicenzo. De Vicenzo would not come close again. Ed Sneed bogied the last 3 holes in 1979 and then went on to lose the playoff to Fuzzy Zoeller. Heartbreak is rampant at Augusta, even for people with Green Jackets. Arnold Palmer double bogied the last hole to give the tournament to Gary Player in 1961. Most recent was the Jorden Spieth debacle in the 2018 Masters, where he thought the water was the green on the par 3 12th and made a 7 to lose by only 2 shots.

A November Masters will put another chapter in the long history of Augusta National. One of the big differences is that it will be short on daylight. The final round, which still will be televised by CBS despite pro football is scheduled to conclude at 3pm. Saturday’s coverage is set to conclude at noon. It will be like watching the British Open. So what is going to happen. Will scoring records fall left and right? Will Bryson put it in the lake on 11, with his drive? Will somebody win their first major? Could one of the really old guard pull off the big victory? Before I discuss what I think will happen here is what I think won’t happen. No scoring records will be broken. I think that the whole feel of the place will be so weird, that it will have a negative effect on the scoring. Tiger will not win. I wish he would but I do not see it. Bryson will not win because the ghosts of Augusta will not let it happen. Yes, I believe in ghosts, spirits, whatever the hell you want to call it. I think Phil will contend. I would even say he has a good shot at winning. The 280 score will prevail. The greens are going to be murder. You might see a record for 4 putts. My top three picks beside Phil. Jon Rahm, the par 3 skipping the water hole in one could have been an omen. Colin Morikawa, his swing just looks so good. Brooks Koepka, because its a major and for whatever reason he plays them well. I will blog again at the halfway point on Friday night. Its time to get ready and enjoy the Masters.

Golf: The Dilemma

The dilemma in golf is very simple. We are trying to hit a target with a ball, without looking at the target. We are using a method of hitting this target, that seems to be very complicated, especially for longer or full shots, which in turn, makes hitting the target, very difficult. This makes golf totally unique. There are sports, that have some similarities with golf, which I am going to discuss, but none of them have all the elements, that golf requires to achieve the desired goal. This process, of trying to hit the target, in golf has a tendency to make the mind go in all kinds of directions. This causes both mental and physical confusion. The biggest thing golf does, is that it makes the participant try to do things, that they are not capable of doing. Nobody would ever drive the Indy 500, if they have never driven in a car race before. This might sound like an exaggeration but golfers try shots that only the best golfers in the world should attempt. They do this, probably multiple times a round. Before we get to what we might be able to do about this, let us look at sports, that come close to the golf dilemma.

The first thing that comes to mind, is the tennis serve. The tennis player needs to hit the ball to a particular part of the tennis court. In the process, he winds up and has a backswing and a downswing and looks at the ball he is about to hit to a particular target. The big difference of course, is his target does not change, and is relatively close. The environment does not have a major impact on the process. I suppose wind could be a factor, but usually tennis is played in a rather enclosed arena. So repeating the exact same motion every single time, should result in the desired result. I know the expert puts different types of spin on the ball, but the motion of the body is basically the same. This is not true in golf. The body has to go through some subtle changes, as you progress through the clubs. Another sport that seems to have a lot of similarities to golf is baseball. From pitching to batting, comparisons are made to golf. Pitching, in particular, with the wind up being compared to a backswing and downswing scenario. The big difference, the pitcher is very capable of looking at the target while he is doing his motion. There have been some great pitchers over the years, while going through the pitching motion, will take their eyes off the target. Just before they release the ball, they will pick up the target with their eyes. The baseball swing is often compared with the golf swing. The player is intent on keeping his eye and head on the ball, as soon as it leaves the pitchers hand. Of course, the batter does not have to chase his foul ball, and does not have to control the ball any where near what a golfer has to do. Hockey players are looking at the net until they are just ready to shoot and then look quickly at the puck before firing away. There are more examples I could give, but no sport encompasses all the elements of trying to hit the target that golf does. Is there anything that can be done to make this problem easier to deal with.

We will start with the green, and one method that has been done. Players have tried looking at the hole, and not the ball, while making the putting stroke. The most successful player to this was Jorden Spieth. He seemed to do this, only on short putts, but seemed to make a lot of short putts. It makes you wonder, what made him stop, since now he seems to be having trouble with the short ones. I am surprised, that this has not caught on more, on tour. A method of ball striking, that has never taken off is the early head lift, that was done by Annika Sorenstam and David Duvall. These are two highly successful professional golfers, and each one, made the unique move of lifting their head toward the target, before they made contact with ball. In her book, she writes about this as being a simultaneous lift of the head as she strikes the ball. The pictures in the book of her swing, show this to be trues. When you would see her on TV, in the heat of the tournament, the head would be coming up before she actually struck the ball. She wrote in the book, that was a method to help free up her swing, and have a full release through the ball. I have to wonder though, if this was a way to pick up the target, just like the pitchers do, when they take their eyes off the target during their delivery. She never mentions this but it could have been a subconscious behavior. You wonder if the reverse is true. You certainly can not look at the target and make a golf swing. You know I would try such a thing and it is impossible. However, you could start your swing, while looking at the target, and then let it go back down to the ball as the club shaft was getting to about parallel to the ground. Yes! Another thing to try. I think there are two other things that stand in the way of hitting the target in golf. The first, which I have discussed before, is the swing thought. To put this as simply as possible, how can you be thinking of one thing when you are trying to do something else. You are trying to hit a target, and thinking of making a complete backswing, or whatever about you swing. Let that sink in awhile, and then forget about swing thoughts. The second is playing to a wrong target. How are you supposed to hit something, that you know deep down inside, your either incapable of hitting, or is just too risky to go at. This can range from going for tucked away pins, cutting doglegs, or going over a far distance hazard. This golf dilemma has been around since the game has been invented, and quite frankly, not much as been done, to make things easier, for those of us, who struggle along with this confounding game. Um, looking at the target while you start your swing. I will let you know, maybe.

Golf: Muscle Memory?

Well, this post turned out to be more interesting than I ever anticipated. My purpose of looking into muscle memory, was to debunk a lot of practice recommendations, regarding muscle memory, since I am down on practice.  I knew there was always a lot of debate on muscle memory, whether it existed or not.  When I began to research muscle memory, I had no idea, I would be reading about zombies, weight lifting, and that it does exist, but not in the way we thought.  Even though the definition of muscle memory has changed, they still call it muscle memory.  It is like calling tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, vegetables, when they are really fruits.  Everybody is fine with it, so who cares.  Let’s forget about golf for a moment, I know it is hard to do, and just look at muscle memory in general.

The way muscle memory use to be thought about, was the more you performed a task or movement, the better you performed that movement.  This was called muscle memory.  This is really brain memory.  It is memorized motor nerve impulses sent to the muscles, to perform a certain task. The more you send these impulses, the better the muscle performs.  I will let science take over here.” Muscle memory is a type of procedural memory. However, the name of this particular phenomenon is a bit of a misnomer. Although it includes the word ‘muscle’, the memory center actually lies in the brain, not in the muscles. When we repeat an action over and over again, it gets transferred from our short-term memory to our long-term storage. In the beginning, our brain is more actively working to perform the task, but as we practice or repeat it, over time, our brain needs to pay less attention to successfully perform that task. Another way that some people express the concept of muscle memory is with the term ‘zombie agents’. Some researchers use this term to refer to agents in our brain that can carry out a particular task without us being aware of it, and without any application of judgement. For instance, imagine that you drive to your workplace every day. One evening, you need to go out for a social commitment and take your car, but something is on your mind, keeping you distracted. By the time you realize what you’ve done, you have started to drive your car on the usual route to work! Keep in mind that the muscle memory at play here is not just about remembering the route, but also the act of driving the car. You will honk when necessary, change lanes, speed up and slow down, but you still may not realize that you’re going to the wrong place. This example aptly shows just how efficient muscle memory can be’. I knew it was due to zombies why my golf game stinks.

So, if the muscle memory of performance is a brain function what do muscles remember. Again we turn to science. ” Muscles that have been trained before, find it easier to get back to a trained state than untrained muscles building up for the first time. The reason for this lies in epigenetic changes that happen at the level of each individual cell. Specific sites on each cell are responsible for muscle growth and an increase in strength. When muscles stop training there is a slow at first and then faster decline of muscle size and strength but the genes responsible for muscle growth do not go away. Muscles do have a memory of their former fitness and strength encoded in their genes and it allows them to rebuild that strength faster when they lose it.” Even though the strength of the muscle goes away from lack of use, there are still parts of the muscle that “remember” how to get strong again  faster than the first time.   Now, lets get back to golf to see if we can apply any of this, to our golf games.

The good news here, is once you get muscles in golf shape, they will stay that way, and be easier to get back in shape for a new season. Swinging a golf club every day, without hitting a ball, will help keep those muscles in shape.  The brain is still in charge of improving your golf game and golf swing.  Some other things I learned, while reading about muscle memory.  Your golf muscles will not decline until after 2 weeks of non-usage.  You will learn faster, if you allow at least a 6 hour gap between each new change of your swing.  No matter how many swing changes you think you need to do, don’t do more than one at every range session.  The bad news is the brain side of muscle memory, can slow the process of making swing changes, by ingraining  bad swing habits, if you continue to do them. This may explain why students have problems making the proper swing movements, because the bad ones are so ingrained.  This explains, in my view, why the inability to aim is so prevalent in the game.  Our muscles as it turns out, are very much like ourselves, as they do remember how good they use to be.  But unlike us, they can get back to their former selves much easier. Remember, true improvement in golf, must come from the brain, just like everything else.