Range Work

I’ll be honest…I haven’t been playing near as often as I’d like to be.

Part of that is the weather. This year has been so strange. It’s rained more than I can ever recall and on the days that it isn’t raining, the course is having work done or I have a schedule so busy that I can barely manage to eat lunch, let alone leave a little early and play.

I have sated my need to hit golf balls by going to the range instead. My wife had to work a Saturday last week, which is rare in her line of work. I took that as an opportunity to drive the three blocks to the clubhouse and see if they had room for a single. Apparently the entire morning was booked with foursomes until about 11:30. Seeing as it was about 8:15, I decided to get the jumbo bucket of balls and head to the range instead.

I wasn’t working so much on distance as I was striking the ball solid. I was also working on my pivot. In the time since I was last at the range, I had a bit of a breakthrough with my grip that has changed how I deliver the club into the ball. You’re probably thinking exactly what I was thinking when it happened. Grip breakthrough? Who has one of those after all this time?! Answer: ME.

Anyway, at the range was great, with the exception of driver, which I believe the grip adjustment I’ve made will help. I also have a new driver coming in soon, so do keep your eyes peeled for pictures and my initial thoughts. Feels as if the shaft that is in my Bombtech Grenade 3.0 is a little too soft for me, which I might be able to fix by cutting it down about 1.25” to get it around 44.5”. That remains to be seen though!

Back to the range:

The wedges were working pretty good. The irons were mostly good, with the exception of one or two 4 irons that I hit poorly. Hybrid was a beast and 3 wood was even better. I actually burned a 3 wood a little over 245 carry that rolled up near the 265 mark. Quite an achievement for me. I did do little driving challenges against some of the guys that were on the practice tee with me, and that made it quite fun. I was able to avoid having to pick up driver to out-drive everyone, which I count as a good day. Good group of players in the neighborhood, so I’ve seen a few of them before and we’ve done similar challenges in the past.

I am planning to get out this weekend and play somewhere. Not sure where and whether or not it will be a full 18, but I will get some golf in. Also making plans to do a couple of videos to get things really started on the YouTube channel. I have a few review videos that I can do as well as a full “What’s In The Bag” type video and share what clubs, shafts and why I chose what I chose.

Until the next time!

Mid-Day Back 9

The weather in NC was glorious yesterday!

We hit a high of about 73 degrees and there was a touch of wind that made it the absolute perfect day to get out and play a few holes. The course in my neighborhood had the front 9 closed for maintenance, so I decided to just play the 9 instead of driving 7 minutes to the other course nearby and playing a full 18.

The day went fairly well after a few adjustments. I think I really do need to get out and warm up before a round if I’m looking to play my best. There were a few shots here and there that had me thinking perhaps I haven’t actually ever swung a club before and the times I remember swinging one were actually The Matrix simulating good swings.

Highlight of the 9: I hit a bad, high cutting driver to the right side rough on the first of two Par 5’s on the back 9 of this course. I was about 3 feet from the fairway and the ball was sitting up very well. There was a foursome in front of me that didn’t want to let me play through despite them playing slowly and poorly, and because only the 9 was open I didn’t want to go around and try to double back because of how the course is laid out. Lot of driving.

I took out the rangefinder and scoped the distance the flag as 265 yards. With the quality lie my ball was in, I knew it was a “green light” shot. I took 3 wood and hit it to the front left fringe, a total of about 18-24 inches off the green. I putted to the hole because the fringe here is dry and tight, plus the greens were running fast even after being sanded. The putt was about 65 feet. The ball STOPPED as if it hit a small hill about 2 inches from dropping into the cup. That would have been my first Eagle had the ball dropped, but I’m not one to shun a Birdie any day.

All in all, it was a good time and it helped identify some things I could be working on for the next round!

Third Round Down

Sunday was Cinco de Mayo…but it also felt like Sinko de Putt-o for me!

I played a round with friends at a course that none of us had played before. Usually when I play a new course, I tend not to keep score on the front 9, just to get a feel for how the greens roll and the basic layout of the course.

I surprised myself by making par on the first two holes, especially since my first shot on Hole 1 was pretty much dead left and left me having to hit over some incredibly tall trees. I smoked a 8 iron just shy of the green, only barely making through the uppermost branches of the trees, then chipped on from about 5 yards shy of the fringe and rolled in the par putt. Not a bad start considering the position that I had put myself in to begin with.

The real nightmare happened a few holes later. We were playing from the tips, which is only about 6,500 yards on this par 72. Hole 5 is a Par 3 with water surrounding the green to about 3/4 of the way back. We had weather here, and the sky had turned black and the wind was coming directly in our faces around 10-15 mph. The hole is 151 yards and with the rangefinder, I clocked the pin at 151.5 yards away.

Ball one: hook left

Ball two: wind caught it and blew it right.

Ball three: 8 iron, punched into the wind that flew and landed four and a half feet from the pin. Had it rolled forward, it probably would’ve went in for the quad-bogey-in-one ever.

Later on though, when I finally got my irons back under control, I stuck some really great shots.

My favorite was hole 17. Par 4, 401 yards.

I hit hybrid off the tee. The hole is a dogleg left with water guarding the front right and right side of the green. I didn’t hit the hybrid so well, and it left me with 191 yards to the pin which was front right and only a three yards on the green. This was a difficult shot, especially since the wind was still up, still right into our faces.

I pulled 5 iron figuring that if I tried to punch it, it would probably cut through the wind pretty well. I hit it so far off the toe, I wasn’t even sure that the club touched the ball. Somehow that produced a gentle baby draw that landed right where I wanted it to land, which was on the green. I was about 18 feet to the left of the pin, just a few inches off the fringe. I two putted for par and walked away happy.

All in all, a very good round in my book. Putting seems to be coming together a little better, though I am tempted to try a different putter again. I am also considering some additional tweaks to my clubs. The hybrid I have now seems to be the right head, just the wrong shaft. It kicks at the wrong point in the swing, so I will be looking into that. I also love the Grenade driver and 3-wood heads, but I am not a huge fan on the shafts, so I have to think about that too.

Until the next round!

The Masters 2019

I think its safe to say that we ALL were shocked watching Tiger do what he did Sunday at The Masters!

The Masters is my favorite tournament, followed closely by Pebble Beach and most of that is because of the courses themselves. Augusta National is a bear, although this year it seemed to be a little bit nicer than I recall. (Don’t trust my memory though, it has been known to be full of holes)

The most interesting this about this entire tournament was Tiger’s demeanor.

He was playing the “Elder Statesman” perfectly. He maintained his composure, made good club choices and was playing into his strengths. The Coach said it on his site: (paraphrased of course) Tiger has pretty much accepted that he doesn’t bomb it past everyone, so he’s gone to what weapons he does have. The Irons.

Tiger stuck some really good approach shots, He seems to have grasped the idea that it isnt about how far you hit it. If I were in his shoes and not wanting to switch to a Classic Golf swing, I’d refrain from pulling driver when possible. Also, I’d avoid any situation where you absolutely HAVE to kill the ball to get into a good position. He still hits it further than a lot of guys, he just needs to learn that he doesn’t have to be 20-50 yards further down. When he fully accepts that, he will start crushing the fields again. So far his back has held up, so that is a good thing. One can only hope that it still holds itself together while he adjusts to playing this new version of his game.

On the home front, golf is getting better.

I’ve been working on my putting stroke a little more. I have a bunch of different putters of varying lengths that I am known to circulate frequently. I typically carry two with me to every round I play to try to determine which is best for me. I think that the one I am using now is working well, but I may be cutting it down a little bit.

Outside of that, I am looking forward to hitting the course again to see how things are coming together. Now that its getting warmer, I have to wait for all the crazy Spring thunderstorms and such to pass!

Second Round In The Bag

Since I’m following the E=MCS swing method, this is a photo that I come back to fairly often for inspiration. The young Jack Nicklaus swing is so powerful and is the perfect example of what you would want your swing to be if you are using a good classic golf swing. This is what I have been working on for the last couple of weeks since I contacted The Coach and had him look over a short video of my swing. He let me know that I had definitely wandered away from the fundamentals and recommended making a few changes. I also stumbled across a change on my own that fixed a little problem I was having, leading me to share that with you now using Jack Nicklaus as the poster boy.

Yesterday I found myself on the course for only the second time this year and was excited to try some new clubs and new things that I have been working on to get my swing down. I set myself up methodically, putting my head and hands where they needed to be, widening my stance to be proper for the club I was hitting. Here is where the biggest change comes in. I typically will look at the back of the ball, which I recently discovered has my head cocked at an odd angle. I found that angle has lead to me looking at the very inside of the ball, which sets my whole body off on the wrong angle. That has caused my dragging the club too far inside and then coming back from even further inside. Combine that with the setup problems and you get fat and thin shots that have such a hook on them its a surprise they don’t boomerang back around to the tee I hit it off!

So I changed the angle of my head.

I looked at what Jack does when he sets up. Instead of the Mike Austin/Sam Snead forward press I was using, I waggle and then turn my head as Jack did (and still does) and found that my eye-line is now perfectly inline with the flight-line I would like, which is straight. Little did I know, but that changed much of what I found wrong!

And now, a short recap of yesterdays round!

The driver was booming, carrying further than it has before. I realized that as I was becoming tired, my mechanics would drop off, the power fade would return, later turning into a push fade from trying to swing too hard. I find it funny that I swing harder when I’m tired. I had a few truly excellent driver shots that made me feel like I was finally getting it down. My pivot felt great as well.

Irons were mostly on. I had a few shots here and there as I got tired that weren’t great, but mostly I was happy. The course was cart-path only since we’ve had enough rain to build an ark. I found myself grabbing a 5 and 6 iron along with my rangefinder and running across the fairway to shoot the distance. I zapped the guy standing over the flag on the green, the rangefinder says 235 yards. Neither the 5 or the 6 iron can get that far, but I’ll be darned if I’m not going to try. Pace of play and all that.

I take the 5, angle my stance to play into the draw that I’ll end up hitting off the sidehill lie I have with the ball above my feet, then let her rip. the ball landed approximately 210 yards away. stabbing directly into the false front and popping back out, rolling about 5 feet down the hill and holding. That was fantastic.

I also managed to hole a 40 yard wedge shot, shoot my first birdie of the year and sink a 40 footer for par on one of the longer par 3’s. I did hit a few errant shots on the back 9 as my strength failed me. I also need more work on the putter, but with a foursome slowing us down and another foursome running up behind us, I was prone to take less time lining up the putts and just practicing pace to make sure I am bonding with my new putter and golf ball. All in all, I am very happy with the round. I will be working more on my conditioning and making sure that I have more strength and wind to get through a round so I can keep up the level of play.

A little more work and I think I’ll be on to something!

Swing Check & Game Time

I finally got a chance to shoot a quick video of two swing and send it over to DJ from WaxGolf and have him tell me where I was going off.

It was a surprise to me that one of the major fundamentals had all but disappeared from me swing and that was likely what was causing me my swing woes. I was having good days and bad days, good shots and bad shots. It’s interesting how things come together.

I sent the video and just after it, I found my copy of “How To Kill The Ball”, which is Dan Shauger’s book on the Mike Austin Method. At the time I had purchased it, I was having a seriously difficult time understanding what it was that he was trying to explain. I think perhaps that was because I was still under the impression that I was supposed to rotate through and that the basis of the golf swing depended on rotation. I read a few chapters again, started watching my E=MCS videos again and slowly, things started to feel back to normal.

Here’s one thing that seriously helped:

The weight transfer to the left side is one of the things that I have struggled with. I watched a bunch of Mike Austin videos, because DJ has said that the MA method and E=MCS are 90% the same. I sometimes need a few different ways of explanation for things to make sense and watching all the video I could find of Mike Austin definitely helped me grasp the weight shift a little better.

Following that swing check from last week, I’ve started to hit the range again. This weekend I will be playing 18 with a couple buddies of mine, so I hope that I’ll be able to shoot some video of the round and see how I’m doing. I also plan to hit the driving range again this week, and that should give me a chance to get a few videos as well. I have work to do, but at least I know that it might be something as simple as just fixing the fundamentals!

Channeling John Daly At The Range

See this guy right here?

Yes, John Daly.

I would like to say that his natural skill and awareness of his own body movements is one of the most natural displays of golf that will ever be. HOWEVER….there are some things there that you can learn from!!!

You all know that I have been on a mission to get my swing figured out and gain some distance but not sacrifice any accuracy. I went to the range at the end of last week with just my hybrid, figuring that it wouldn’t be bad to get back into the swing of things (not sure if pun was intentional or not) with a longer club that wasn’t driver. (Driver and I are still getting used to each other. I’ve made a change that should make things a little better, but we’ll see what I get it out on the course) The hybrid seemed like the logical choice, especially since one of the two I have has been cut down about a half inch, making it a little more easy to work with.

That hybrid is 20* of loft, X-Stiff shaft (which I probably don’t need) and a half inch shorter than standard. The first shot I stuck with my old way of swinging, which is MCS style but short like Charley Hoffman. I recalled my thoughts on Sam Snead and having to work on my tempo and timing, leading me to think “Why not try to swing it like ole JD and see what happens?” Seemed like an innocuous thought at the time. I set myself up, waggled a few times, then drew back, letting my arms go a little longer than usual over head. I dropped in, and BANG…that ball sailed farther than it had it quite a while. Without giving it more than probably 70% I watched that ball drop out of the sky around 215 yards out and then roll out even further.

For the next couple of shots, I kept the power around 75%, just getting used to letting the club get that far over my head and feeling loose in my arms before kicking my weight down and through. By the time I reached the halfway point in the bucket, I was ready to try some serious power. I set one up, waggled, drew back…BANNNNGGGG!! That ball ended up sailing about 245 yards before finally coming down. The Pro that was giving a lesson at the end of the range said “Well Damn…” while the kids he was teaching stopped swinging and watched. Now, I didn’t go to the range to showoff, but I have to say that really greased the wheels of my ego, which got my feeling way more comfortable with this new loose JD style swing.

I finished off the bucket hitting around 80-85% power, working on keeping my head still. (That’s a serious problem for me, but I think I’m getting it nipped) I was putting the ball out there about 230 yards with each shot once I was keeping my head still.

I have to say….while most coaches and teachers would venture away for JD’s swing, it is definitely working for me. I have always had issues being a little quick because it feels more powerful. This is really starting to work for me to keep that tempo in check. I love JD and I love Fred Couples. They always look as though they aren’t really trying and that’s because they have the sequence down and their hands whip through with enough power to handle putting that ball into orbit.

This week is great weather, so I plan on hitting the range at least once, hopefully squeezing in a round this weekend since I have a 5 day weekend starting Friday night. I will get some video up soon!

Wedges Are On Fire

Although I probably haven’t made it clear yet…I ALWAYS look to Phil for inspiration on how to use a wedge and stick it close.

There was a time when I carried a 64* wedge in my bag, waaaayyyyy back in the day when I first starting playing golf at 18 years old. Phil was really getting the wins under his belt at that point, and that’s when the Majors started coming for him. I watched week in and week out wondering how he was able to do so much magic with a wedge. I found the cheapest wedge I could buy that was 64* and started practicing with it to see if I could do what Phil was doing.

These days, I don’t carry anything beyond the 60* wedge. I started to take that Seve mentality that anything beyond a sandwedge was not needed if you knew how to open the face and play the shots. I have worked hard but realized that the 54* sandwedge I carry was not enough, even with the face open, the ball forward and lofting it as high in the air as I was capable of. Sometimes the greens are just too quick, or the lie almost necessitates that I use something with a little more loft. I also find myself in some really strange predicaments on the course and the 60* is the wedge that seems to be able to dig me out of most of them.

Now with that said, I have really been digging in to practicing my wedges and learning how to control the spin. I prefer to play mid-to-high spin shots because I know my miss is short, so why not just play long and spin it back? (I’ve now got a Suaoki Rangefinder in my bag and my hope is that I’ll be able to train my eyes a little better to see distance and fix that fault.)

My older dog, who sadly passed in December, was not much for playing with tennis balls. He liked to chase a laser pointer, which worked for me because I could let him run off in the distance, hit a wedge shot to where he was standing before he turned around and ran back, then walk to the ball with him still chasing the laser and repeat. The dog we adopted in July last year LIVES for the tennis ball, which means that I now take three or four out in the back yard with us when we go outside and I hit high spin flop shots all over the yard for her to chase. The foster dog is learning too, although my suspicion is that he too will not be a bad tennis ball guy.

What I’ve learned from hitting these wedge shots is as follows:

Short swing with the proper coil can still mean good distance and high spin

Chipping is definitely a practice, much like medicine or Yoga. If you don’t practice, you will suck at it.

Opening the face can be the scariest thing imaginable if you aren’t paying attention to the fundamentals.**

**(For reference, I actually carry a PW- 46*, W -50*, SW – 54* and LW -60* but I practice in the yard with an old Cleveland RTX 2.0 – 58* wedge. That thing shows no mercy if you mishit with the face open so it almost forces me to work harder on ball position and hitting the ball correctly)

I must say that the Winter is taking much longer to leave that it usually does. I have gotten to play exactly one round of golf so far this year, and that is surprising in North Carolina. The day I did play, it was a high of 78*F and it was pretty much a perfect day to get out. I have hope that as long as the temperature is above 55* and the rain doesn’t show up, I can get out. We did just suffer through something like nine or ten straight days of rain. So here’s hoping that the weather breaks already and I can go back to playing more often.

Sam Snead Was Right!

I think the title says everything. Sam Snead definitely knew what he was doing when he had a club in his hands.

I was horsing around with the MCS swing model because I have a TON of rhythm and tempo issues that I’m always trying to work out. Most of it is because I have a hard time getting over the “hit” impulse. I mean, it did take me several months to get past the “rotate, rotate, rotate” impulse. To me, rhythm is more the flow of the swing and the tempo is how quickly you are actually swinging…if you break it all down to basics.

Sam Snead has offered what I believe he considered his best tip when he said that everyone should be using a forward press when they start their swing. I found that the struggles I have in my swing stem from starting from a static position and going right into my swing. What I was doing was setting up, getting my right side bias and kicking in the knee and then a starting from the static position like I always have with my golf swing. I wish that I would have heard this tip before.

I decided to get myself *close* to the normal MCS stance (that being slightly angled, legs lightly flexed and bending at the hips) and then doing what Mr. Snead said. Now, I think most of us would argue that this is just the Mike Austin method, which is true. I just try to set up more like Snead than MA (because there is a difference to me) and then start by kicking in my right leg and lightly pushing on the shaft rather than actually leaning my hands forward. This move alone made my swing longer and more leisurely than it normally is.

So for anyone that is looking for something to help them get their rhythm and tempo flowing, this is a great place to start. I like that despite the fact there is an absolute optimal way to swing, there is room for some “improvisation”, if you will. DJ definitely knew what he was doing when he put together the MCS method and I hope he doesn’t mind too much that I am taking liberties and making it easier for me to slow my tempo down.

And speaking of Sam Snead….

I am also scouring eBay for old Sam Snead branded Wilson clubs from the 60’s and 70’s for my own practice. I really enjoy the length, lie angles and feel of the older blades, so I’ve been looking for the perfect clubs to add to my own collection to take out and play with. I have plans to attend some tournaments with my company this year and I thought it would be fun to be the only guy out there hitting old blades, and actual wooden woods/driver! I do have some balata balls I could take with me, but I think they’ll hit my Bridgestone B330S just fine. I’ll get some pictures in when I find the right set for me!

First Round of 2019!

This past Thursday I took the day off of work because the high that day was to be 79*F. The first few days of the week had been beautiful Spring-like weather that made me fidget knowing that full on golfing weather was getting very close. So I headed out to the course I live on and played 18 holes to see how things have been going since the last time I was out on the course!

To start with, I shot 85.

The course is a par 71, a touch over 6600 yards from the back tees. It can get narrow as it runs through the back part of my neighborhood, but overall, it does have its merits and challenges. The greens were actually it really good shape this time out, and that led to me discovering some things about my putting that are very interesting. Let’s recap how it went.

The first 4 holes are Par 4’s, all in the same general yardage range. Then comes a par 3, then back to a par 4 and so on. It’s an interesting layout to be honest. It does have some very narrow spots that can be challenging, especially given the fact that houses line both sides of the fairways on certain holes.

Off the tee? Well, it took two holes for me to get back into my normal power fade. While I wasn’t really having that much of an issue trying to work the new move into my irons, the driver and three wood had different plans for me. I lost strokes on two holes because of errant tee shots and then had to rely on my wedges to make things easier for me. On the shorter holes on the back 9 I decided to switch to the hybrid for my tee shot and things got much better there.

In The Fairway? That was better than its been in a while. I was striping short irons and my hybrid was just plain vicious. I sent more than one shot dead on the line I chose and put myself closer to the flag than I’m used to. I’m guessing all that work I’ve been doing in the backyard is finally paying off. Wedges were tight and they had spin to spare. I saw one that was something Seve-esque that bounced once and damn near stopped immediately, leaving me a 3 footer for par at the par 5 with such a severe dog-leg left, it leaves you no choice but to bend it like Bubba or make it a three shot hole.

On The Green? I was carrying two putters that day. My Cleveland Huntington Beach #3 and my Odyssey Metal-X #8. They require two different putting styles, and I’ve always felt more comfortable with the Odyssey. I discovered that my putting stroke is just too damn long. I don’t remember why, but I tried the Brandt Snedeker “Pop Stroke” and suddenly the ball was rolling more pure than ever before, leading me to save most of these holes from 8 feet and in. I never would have considered that maybe my stroke was too long, but now that I’ve seen the benefit of hitting the ball with that type of stroke, there’s a good chance I’ll probably stick with using it.

Overall I was very happy with the first trip out of 2019. I’m sad that it took so long for me to get around to going out and playing, but I have plans to make the most of the Spring when work is still slow for me and make sure that I’m getting out once or twice a week, not including the weekends that I play with friends.

I get the feeling that with a little more work and maybe a quick swing check with coach, I’ll be dropping those scores fast!