Friday, December 30, 2005

Handicap Systems For Everyone

Some teaching pros have turned to using the new handicap systems to help their students figure out where to spend their practice time. It also shows if practice is effective on the course where it really matters. Once you start to track drives in fairway, putts, up and downs from the sand, and scoring average on par 3's, you quickly find out the truth about your game - like maybe it's time to leave the driver in the bag. Did the new $500 driver really help you hit it longer consistently. Did the switch to a new ball give you better feel around the green. Is the new Two Ball putter reducing your total putts per round.

For the pro shop, there's even a space to advertise on the custom score cards based on an individual golfer's needs. What if you could advertise a special on size 13 Nikes to your golfers with big feet, or maybe a new sand wedge for someone having trouble getting out of traps. How about if you could track play. Why are so many members playing twilight rounds across town. Maybe you should offer a cheaper twilight rate.

The list goes on for what you can do with a computer and a database in the age of the internet. And why should the USGA try to master something that's not their core expertise. They should stick to determining how the handicap is calculated and then let someone else do it. They can still collect a royalty from every handicapped golfer in existence through licensing agreements. And the game of golf might become a little more honest and a lot more fun.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Golf Cheats and Sandbaggers

The USGA implementation of its handicap system makes cheating easy. Enter your own score. Puff, you're done. Who's looking over your shoulder - no one. When is the last time a handicap oversight committee bagged someone. Oh it happens - about once in a blue moon.

The new systems that are available offer some good checks and balances, like having to enter a score for every hole. Hey, you want a handicap you will use to compete against other golfers for money and glory, then what's an extra minute to enter a score for each hole. By entering a score for each hole you can also learn something about your game. Some systems have analysis tools that will let you look at trends and more. It's called game management and can help anyone become a better golfer. These systems also automatically make the adjustments, so your true score remains. Sophisticated algorithms can catch cheats that no oversight committee will ever find.

These systems also allow you to track more information, like number of putts, drives in fairway and more if you so chose. This may seem like a lot of work, but there are even tools to make that easier. At least one product from New Level Golf allows you to print out a custom score card for over 30,000 courses. And it's easy to add a new course. These cards have places to record things like putts and they can even be read by an HP scanner so all the work of entering a score is almost non-existent.

Tomorrow I'll look at what's in it for pros and pro shops.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Fixing the Handicap System

Golfing times have changed; new clubs, balls, training aids and courses to name just a few. The number of courses and golfers has grown dramatically in 40 years. The USGA implementation of the handicap system hasn't changed since who can remember when. Though they have started to use the internet - a little - they are really missing the boat.

I don't blame the USGA, their expertise is not the internet, it's the game of golf. However, they need to know when it's time to get help. There are a number of handicap tracking tools available on the web, and they all offer significant advantages over the USGA system. Make no mistake, they all follow the USGA rules, they've just updated how scores are entered and tracked.

The USGA gets significant revenue from every golf club/group that uses their system. I don't begrudge them that. The game needs them along with the R&A to manage the rules and promote the game. They could still generate revenue by subcontracting the handicap system for someone else to execute. And they could make a significant improvement in the value and integrity of the handicap itself.

Tomorrow I'll talk about some of the advantages of these new systems.

Monday, December 26, 2005

USGA Handicap Tracking System is Broken

There's nothing wrong with the way the USGA calculates handicap, there is everything wrong with the way they've implemented the tracking system. It's old, outdated, and makes it easy for folks to cheat. Yes, cheat. What golf club or league doesn't have a sandbagger - the guy who claims a 12 and plays to an 8?

Most clubs have a computer in the locker room where members post their own scores. Their score means just their total score, one figure. Every golfer is supposed to know the required deductions for their level of play and calculate these in advance. Ask any golfer in your group what these are and 9 times out of 10 I guarantee no one really knows. And there's no oversight. No one really checks the scoring history and if they did, how would they know what's right and what's not.

There's a way out of this mess if the USGA opens its mind and does the right thing. And golf will be better for it. More tomorrow.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Isn't There Anyone Who Knows What Christmas is All About?

Maybe Linus of Charlie Brown did give the most eloquent speech of what the True meaning of Christmas is all about. Happy Christmas and warm wishes from all of us here at GolfDash!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Protect A Badge

I just received a scorecard protector from Protect A Badge in the UK and was amazingly impressed with the service and the quality. I asked the owner (Nick) what might be a good choice and he recommended the alligator over the lizard (what a nice choice!). Alligator is just very cool to look at and it wears amazingly well where its lustre increases over time. It is also feels a bit special, unique and sophisticated - it was worlds apart from the utterly generic ones I have seen at Target or WalMart, local pro shops, etc. I am going to be a getting a few more to give as gifts. And at $17.50 each (including shipping) it is quite reasonable for the quality (or you, golf shops, companies, can order in bulk) I recommend you take a look and then pick one up for yourself (mandatory) or purchase a few to give to friends or impress clients. Tell Nick that GolfDash sent you!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

FREE GolfRound Towel!

GolfDash is currently offering a FREE GolfRound towel for new members of GolfDash. Membership is free so you can hardly go wrong with this limited time deal. If you are not familiar with the GolfRound towel it is simply one of the most useable and innovative new golf products on the market today. Here's how it works:

The GolfRound is made with a water repellent material on the outside and an absorbent terrycloth on the inside. Lightly moisten the center, fold it twice and carry it in your pocket. When you get to the green you have a damp towel to clean your ball with. It's that easy!

"I love the GolfRound!! This is one of the most innovative golf products invented! All my golfing buddies want one!" - Kevin O'Banion, CA

Get one for yourself or give it as a holiday gift! They're going fast so sign up now!

So get access to the "Intelligent Golf Directory" where you get the best quality golf information on the web today and some very cool webtools including customized weather center, one-click customization, RSS center, archives of our "Sites of the Day" (many new and cool proucts/sites hand picked by our editors here!) and more.

PS: please confirm that you have registered (remember it's FREE) by sending an email to:

Monday, November 28, 2005

December GolfDash Newsletter

Please check out our inaugural GolfDash Newsletter. Content includes Member Benefits, Featured Site, Coming Soon, Sneak peak, 19th Hole and Special Offer. Check it out here: December GolfDash Newsletter and let us know what you think.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"Alternative" Golf Power Using Martial Arts

Curious out there how many folks practice some type of alternative exercise to increase your golf swing power. By this I mean aikido, chi gong, tai chi, etc. I practice aikido so I have some direct experience. It is a type of "power" that you develop over time. One of the keys in any of these disicplines is, of course, you have to practice it but it very much has to do with working on a way to relax your body so you have "effortless" power. I have glimpsed this only a few times in the last couple years and if I had the chance to play a bit more would pursue this adamently. I was actually testing some exercises from Ken Cohen's book, The Ways of QiGong, and did a number of standing postures. Just standing (although in a certain way)and letting your energy or "chi" sink to your center or "hara." It is VERY difficult to just stand for say 20-30 minutes but when I was practicing semi-regularly and played golf I would have that feeling of power coming from my center (hips) and not from the top (which is what I usually do) with a totally relaxed, (almost felt like I did not have a club in my hand) full swing. I easily gained about 20-30 yards. It was almost magical. However, it was VERY fleeting. But I often think back and wonder about how I could tap into this "hidden" power source more often.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Getting Up and Down by Tom Watson

Of all the golf books I own, Getting Up and Down, by Tom Watson, has the most wear and tear, the most coffee stains and (dare I say) the most used. Why this is so is something I have, honestly, never given much thought but I believe it has to do with it's simplicity and directness. The short game, as we all know, can be one of the squirreliest parts of the game due to the myriad of lies and obstacles (sand, water, deep rough, short rough) one has to consider and negotiate. What I think makes, Getting Up and Down so unique is it's simple focus on these challenges. Like to get out of thick rough around the green Watson recommends picking the club straight up and straight down (obviously lessening the grass/clubface contact) - but when I first read this tip many moons ago it didn't really shock me or surprise me (I mean it is JUST a tip) but when out on the course trying the technique it felt completely odd, counter-intuitive and scary. The first time I attempted it (in competition no less)the ball came out high and fluffy and dropped like a feather inches from the pin ;-) The short game demands all sorts of precise club positions, angles, swings that it is truly a science. In my humble opinion it is a must have golf book for your collection and will hopefully bring you years of short game satisfaction. And if budget is a concern, head over to Amazon where used copies start at 95 cents!

Friday, November 04, 2005

East Lake Golf Club

Some (possibly) little known facts about East Lake Golf Club, host to this years Tour Championship in Atlanata, GA.

  • East Lake itself, was
    originally the site of an amusement park in the 1890's

  • In 1904, a country club was created, engaging golf architect Tom Bendelow to lay out the course.

  • In 1913, famed golf course architect Donald Ross redesigned the Bendelow course at East Lake

  • Bobby Jones "Home Course" - who also served as it's president

  • Hosted the 1963 Ryder Cup

  • By the 1980s, once proud East Lake was a tired, mostly forgotten golf course, seemingly as hopeless as the surrounding neighborhood

  • In 1994, Rees Jones restored Donald Ross's original golf course layout

  • Measures 7,112 yards from the championship tees and plays to par 72 (Par 70 for the Tour Championship)

  • Current Course Record - Bart Bryant - 62 (set Thursday, Nov. 3, 2005)

  • The course has hosted 17 major championships

  • The most talked about hole on the front nine is the 165-yard, par-3 sixth

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Tiger "Twirl"

Ever noticed the distinctive Tiger "Twirl" after Woods stripes a shot? Woods once said. "Every time I hit a good shot I give the club a twirl." He is 'tagging' the shot, attaching significance to it. This helps him recall it when he needs to draw on positive imagery for a similar shot. So take heed if you haven't 'tagged' a shot in the last 3 rounds ;-) there is always a good one around the corner!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Who's Using Hybrids?

I am in the market for a new hybrid and am curious what other are using and why. Do you have a favorite hybrid? The market is rapidly becoming saturated and fast with these new "wonder" clubs. My Adams 5-wood I consider a hybrid but shots tend to come out low and of course run when the ball hits ground. It also has a very dull sound, not that energizing "click" you get from some other clubs. Some club that hits it high and drops the ball feathery soft would be ideal :-)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Callaway Golf Magazine

I mentioned Callaway Golf Magazine in one of our recent featured "Sites of the Day" at but thought I would mention it here as well. the magazine obviously promotes Callaway products, players, technology, etc. but the articles, interviews, tech-talk, new products are terrific. CGM is also beautifully designed so it is very easy on the eyes. The best part, however, is that it is free. Either give them your name and address to get the print version mailed to you or download the magazine instantly via PDF file and read online or print it out. I wish someone would have told me about this earlier.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Did Anyone Notice - Ballesteros and Duval

Two previous stars of golf played in tournaments this past weekend. What can we gleam from their performance?

For those of you who know and love Seve's work, he returned to the European tour this last week for the Open de Madrid. Seve has long suffered from physical ailments and maybe a few personal issues as well. In his heyday he played the brilliant golf that only a Spaniard can - with flair, emotion and a joy that seemed to flow directly from his heart. And the shots Seve could make! Unbelievable recoveries from places on a golf course that no pro is supposed to see. He was a swashbuckler if ever there was one. Anyone who saw him at his peak can only hope that Seve can come back, we want more!

Seve didn't make the cut in Madrid. He finished second from the bottom. But that doesn't mean he's not going to come back. Pro golf is tough. As we've seen with many great players who've stopped play for personal and physical reasons, you don't just start again at the top. You have to work your way back. So who knows, maybe there's life yet in the greatest Spaniard to play the game. I'm not discounting Sergio, but he's still young and has a lot of holes to walk before he reaches the rarefied place where Seve is.

And how about one of the great enigmas of golf - David Duval? I just find his story fascinating and I've been rooting for his successful comeback for the last couple of seasons. You see some of his scores over this period and you begin to think he's finished as a tour pro. Then you hear another pro say that he's still got game. What's really going on?

Perhaps some good news about David in last week's Michelin. He didn't make the cut, BUT did you check out his scores? Thursday he shot a 73 and Friday a 65. A 65 is not too shabby! Maybe he is finding his game. It's almost the end of this year's golf season. Is a 65 enough to inspire David to really get on it during the offseason, to come out guns blazing at next year's Mercedes kickoff? I for one sure hope so. How about this for a list of top 10 names for next year; Woods, Singh, Els (talk about coming back), Couples, Daly, Montgomerie, Furyk, Mickelson, Goosen, and Garcia. And maybe, just maybe, a certain Mr. Duval.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Titleist on Top

According to Sports Marketing Surveys (which produces data on the equipment players use) Titeist came out way on top as the ball most pros prefer. Points were awarded as follows: 10pts for the brand used by the winner, 8pts for the runner-up, etc., etc. Due to Titleists' Pro V1 and Pro V1x models comfortably out-scored the competition. The premium ball market has seen some serious launches in recents years but it appears Titleist clearly leads the way.

  1. Titleist - 807
  2. Callaway - 218
  3. Srixon - 77
  4. Top-flite - 44
  5. Nike - 43
(source - Golf Monthly, October 2005)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Wie Wie Wie All The Way Home

We've all seen it now. Michelle Wie has turned pro and after only a couple of days is a millionaire. This despite the fact she has never won a tournament as a pro. What does it all mean?

I have nothing against Michelle. She's an extremely talented golfer, personable and well-spoken. She's already done some amazing things on the golf course at a very young age. She has as good a chance as any female to crack the men's tour if she so chooses. But how does she get millions of dollars before she's even started.

Michelle Wie is not unique in this respect. We see the humongous contracts that young athletes routinely get every day. Young basketball players are famous for getting dizzying sums just because they 'might' turn out to be superstars. But a lot of them don't. Still the marketing firms don't lose. It's liking investing venture capital in startup companies. You back 10 and if just one turns out to be the next Microsoft or Google you make out like a bandit. So maybe Michelle is the next Google of the golf world.

But does it make sense, or has the power of the dollar run amok? Reminds me of a tag line for a clothing store ad run frequently on a NJ radio station in the 60's - Money talks, nobody walks'. Was there ever a society more focused on the dollar. It's not that money is bad, but should it be at the very top of any society's list of 'What's Important'? And when it is, isn't that a surefire sign that it's about to crumble?

So how does this relate to our favorite subject, Golf? I'd like to think that golf owns the high moral ground compared to other major sports. I don't think there's a steroid problem, players don't get paid unless they earn it and what major sport raises more money for charity. And no matter how much endorsement money Michelle gets, she won't get a place on the roster unless she earns it. Ok, there are sponsors exemptions, but there aren't many and they do serve a purpose - I think.

My plea is for those who manage professional golf to keep the game's integrity. Don't start rigging the rules because the sponsors who pay the hopeful superstars apply pressure. That's the temptation that has taken most every other major sport down the proverbial primrose path. Golf by it's nature is a game of character. You who keep the clockworks oiled please keep it that way.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Golf Biomechanics

Wanted to follow up on a site we featured recently in GolfDash about Biomechanics. This was from a UK publication called, Play Better Golf. While most established tour pros have a coach and a psychologist but very few have a biomechanics expert as part of their team.

It seems your golf technique is often compromised by poor biomechanics. So, in other words, no matter how hard you try to emulate Tiger Woods' rapid hip clearance or Fred Couples' flexible turn, you won't be able to achieve it if you don't have the physical capability to make those movements.

Biomechanics experts, unlike PGA professionals (who have a detailed knowledge of golf swing fundamentals) golf biomechanics experts use advanced physical assessment and training technique to improve flexibility, muscle performance and joint stability. Then, according to the results, a program (personalized exercises) is established that targets your physical weaknesses.

The line often gets blurred when you "think" you are suffering from bad golf swing mechanics (poor weight shift, for example) when the real issue might be an inflexible pelvis. Some common physical problems that can interfere with your golf swing mechanics are: one leg slightly longer than another, tight nerves in arms and legs, poor "core" abdominal muscle control, limited flexibility and incorrectly positioned pelvis. Further, these issues can also cause injuries due to compensatory muscle group movements.

If you're curious about the company featured head over to GolfDash and you can find the company in our Featured Sites Archives (just click on the green circled capital A) - However, you must be a member to do so. Register here (it's free) to get access to the archives (and other goodies)

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Wine & Golf

I seem to be seeing more and more professional golfers involved in the wine business. One of the first, I believe, being Greg Norman. Personally I am a pretty big fan of his reds, my favorite being the cabernet/merlot blend and for approximately $17 or so a bottle it is a terrific value. Recently Ernie Els and Mike Weir have put there names (and bucks) into blends bearing their names. I have not tried these but would be interested if anyone has. Another professional, David Frost has also been in the wine business for quite some time. It often seems an odd juxtaposition for me, wine & golf but let's face it, it's business.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Membership Has It's Privileges!

You're invited to become a member of, "the intelligent golf directory". It's free and by becoming a member you receive some cool tools like:

1. "One Click Customization" - you can add your own links and personalize the layout

2. Customizable RSS Ticker - Track the latest news & sports headlines from your favorite sites.

3. Access the archives of the ‘Daily Headline’ and ‘Featured Site’ for a quick look at all the newest and most interesting golf web sites and feature stories.

4. Customizable Weather Center. Keep track of the weather conditions at your favorite courses. Very cool!

5. Many new, exciting tools to help you find, organize and manage your favorite golf information will be released soon!

Help us build GolfDash.

Here's the link to join

Monday, September 26, 2005

Duval Makes Cut!

David Duval has finally made a cut. He ended up tied for 60th at the Valero Texas Open this weekend. Started off with a very respectable 68, 69 and ended with a 70,74. These certainly seem like consistant scores to me. Duvall says: "It's a cycle that needed to be broken, but I've been playing a lot better than my scores have reflected for the last six weeks," Duval said after making the cut. "Each day I seem to hit the highest score I possibly could, the last six or eight rounds I've played. It's no different this week so far. I've hit it really well, just made a couple stupid mistakes." - Here's hoping Duvall is starting to feel and believe in his game again. It certainly would be one of the most dramatic comebacks in golf. I don't know about you but I'm secretly hoping there is more great golf within him.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Driving Ranges Don't Cut It

Let's face it, most public driving ranges aren't much good. That's not to say that I don't use them and that I am not appreciative that they are there at all. Given the choices they are a blessing. But in the grand scheme of things, how nice would it be to have a range nearby with grass tees, lots of greens for targets at different yardages, bunkers and even places where you could work on hitting lies that aren't flat.

Unless you play at a private club, why is it that most ranges are thin little mats on concrete pads with a couple of flags stuck here and there. Is there no money in owning a range? There are even some private clubs with questionable ranges. And sometimes they don't let you hit off the grass if they do have it. They save it for weekends and tournaments. How does hitting a ball off concrete prepare you for hitting it off grass? I'm not sure it's ever helped me very much.

A good practice facility needs some acreage. It also needs decent grass to hit from. Now maintaining sod isn't easy, but is it so expensive that it's prohibitive in all but the high end clubs. Of course 'nice' greens out on the range are going to cost you extra, but they don't have to be real greens. Just push a little earth around to make a raised target. I have seen some very nice public practice facilities, but they are few and far between. I haven't tracked them over the years to see if they've stayed in business, but I'd like to think they have.

Here's my idea, build a nice enough practice facility that you could sell memberships to it, just like a club. Of course you'd let people walk in and use the facility, but they'd pay more for single visits. Maybe they'd only get to use part of the facility or maybe make them hit off mats. I'd join a facility if there was one like that around and it was reasonable. If I add up all the buckets of balls I've bought during a season, I know I'm spending more than $200, maybe considerably more.

I don't believe I get a lot better when I just play a round. You need to hit the same type of shot over and over to get it grooved. That only happens on the range. And you need to practice lots of different types of shots - uphill, downhill, above and below your feet. Let's face it, you need to practice every type of shot you're going to encounter on the course and that includes hitting from the rough.

How about the short game, where most of us take most or our stokes. How can you consistently hit good approaches from 20, 30 and 50 yards if you can't practice lots of shots like these under course like conditions. How many weekend warriors are really good at getting up and down from 30 yards? Now you don't have to be in great shape or even very flexible to be good from that range, you just need lots of practice.

If anybody out there owns a range, please let me know how it goes. I'm really curious. I'd also like to hear from anybody who owns or uses a nice public facility. Are there any out there? And has anyone heard of memberships to upscale practice facilities?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Faster Pussy Cat, Kill Kill - Ryder Cup Agida

Is it just me, or are golf 'Cup' competitions like the Ryder and Solheim becoming more aggressive. I haven't been to recent competitions, but to read the mainstream media you'd think golf was a full contact sport.

For tour events, you rarely ever get the sense that one player is out to beat the bejeesus out of another. Everyone wants to win, but the players that don't always talk about 'beating themselves'. You'll hear comments like 'so and so played great down the stretch, and I just couldn't make key putts'.

I've never felt like someone beat me in the men's league I used to play in. I beat myself. I didn't have my A game. I couldn't make a lousy 3 footer. I shanked that last chip. I was hitting it fat. That's why I lost. I've rarely seen animosity between two players on the course, the way you see it in a basketball game for instance.

Why then, has aggression been injected into the Cup matches? And I don't hear it from the international side. It seems to be an American thing. 'We're going to kick their butts'. Maybe it's the result of 'what an honor it is to play for my country' thinking. Don't get me wrong, I think it is a great honor, but is that thinking what puts so much pressure on the American players. If they loose, are they forced into thinking they've let their team and country down. Because of that, do they figure aggression will help them play better? If the recent Ryder Cup competitions are any indication, then this attitude doesn't help you win.

Because the Europeans are from many different countries, does that take some of the pressure off them? It's not 'their' country against another country. So if they lose, the local press isn't clamoring what a dark day it is for Spain or Ireland. Because their side is a collection of countries, maybe that spreads the blame around so no one really takes it personally.

Or maybe we Americans are just more aggressive. If there's a war going on somewhere in the world, it's a good chance the Americans will be there. We were all raised on cowboy shoot-em-up movies. Hey, if you've been done wrong you do the manly thing - strap on a six shooter and take it out in the street. And when we take it to the links for team competition it's us against them, a fight to the death - no quarter to the enemy.

Golf isn't an aggressive sport and it never seems to be you against the other guy. It always you against yourself. So what's with this 'we're going to kick the stuffing out of those guys' attitude? It surely doesn't help American teams win in golf. Yes, the US ladies did win the recent Solheim Cup, but I think it was in spite of the tough talk, not because of it. Golf is great at showing ones true character. Wait until you see your friend miss an important 3 foot putt to find out what they're made of.

I've got some advice for the President's Cup team. Go out and enjoy yourselves. Feel good that you've played well enough to make the team. Be glad you're alive with most of your body parts working. And look at the 'office' you report for to work. Don't go obscuring all that because a few media folks are calling for blood. Wear some more 'fun' clothes, joke with the crowd and somewhere during the match do something nice for the guy you're playing against. It certainly didn't hurt the Europeans to do this in last year's Ryder Cup and I'd say most fans really appreciated it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Final Word On Playing Better Golf

I promise this is the last word I'm writing on how to be a better golfer - at least for a little while!

Beyond technology, beyond teachers, beyond mindset and beyond understanding mechanics there are two important issues that limit our ability to get better. I'll even go out on a limb and say there are none more important.

First, our flexibility. Look at today's professionals. They are more athletic and better conditioned than ever before. They run, lift weights and stretch out. Like great swimmers, the best are extremely flexible. The flexibility gives them a range of motion that allows them to create tremendous power while maintaining key body positions. Think about that last idea - create power while maintaining key body positions. Once you turn, rotate, stretch or twist beyond your flexibility you end up destroying a key body position. And once you've lost the body position the body mechanics no longer work.

We all want to hit the ball farther. We are never satisfied with the current distance we get with a particular club. In the back of our mind we are always looking for another 10 yards. So we reach back a little further and destroy our good body mechanics. And we all know what the result is. Flexibility is extremely important to high level golf. Swinging within our flexibility limits is crucial for playing good golf at every level.

Lastly, what holds us back as much as anything are good practice facilities. Most golfers don't belong to a private club. Even then, many private clubs have so so practice facilities. Hitting off mats is not good for your game. I believe it was Lee Travino who said 'Never hit off a mat'. Yet most weekend warriors have no alternative. It's hit off a mat to warm up or don't warm up at all.

And mats are only the tip of the iceberg. I've been rereading Pelz's book on the short game. By the way, if you want to improve your play around the green (read if you want to reduce your handicap) get this book. It's factual and will really open your eyes about how to build a pressure proof short game. The key to Pelz's approach is ultimately to practice - practice on real grass to real greens hitting hundreds if not thousands of shots. Better golf is about repetition under real conditions. Great golfers warm up before they play and practice after they're finished. They always hit off grass and they practice under 'course like' conditions. They chip and pitch to greens of all different yardages. The hit balls out of traps on to real greens.

Unfortunately, good practice facilities are generally not available to the average amateur golfer. Until they are, golfers aren't going to get better, regardless of the club and ball technology available or the skill of their instructors. In a future blog I'll look at golf practice facilities in more detail. Tomorrow let's talk about the increase in aggression in international cup events such as the Ryder and Solheim.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Ingenious little product - GolfRound towel

Doug here, another member of the GolfDash team. I will be focusing on the latest and greatest new and cool golf products and accessories. Stay tuned - it's going to be fun. And please share your comments, suggest a product or accessory or ask any questions.

I just recently found this GolfRound product when I was playing in Myrtle Beach. It is a small round piece of material that has a water repellent outside and a terry cloth inside. All you do is wet the terry cloth portion fold it up and put in your pocket. Makes life much easier when you are trying to clean a golf ball or a club - no racing back and forth to your bag for that big horsey towel.

The Golfer That Has Himself For A Teacher Is..

..A fool? Maybe not. In the end, we all teach ourselves. Who else is going to get us to the right teacher, make us practice and give us the drive to get better? Maybe we just need a little help.

As I've said before, our knowledge of the golf swing is changing. I think we're starting to understand the real mechanics of a good swing for the first time. Sure, there were great teachers who had a feel for it, and players that could capture it for brief periods, but I think we are close to having tools that will give us the real mechanics. But that in itself doesn't make us better golfers. Even if you know the mechanics of a perfect baseball swing, that doesn't make you a .400 hitter. There's a lot more to any sport or game than just mechanics.

It will take time for a new breed of teachers to adopt the new tools, but it will happen. I still think there's some magic in the game that needs to be uncovered. The golf swing is very complicated when you look at mechanics, what amateur among us can learn the game that way. I think we're more likely to learn by understanding some key imagery that will put our minds in the right place for our bodies to execute.

That's a bit obtuse, so I'll try to explain it with an example. Let's say the correct image is of throwing a golf club towards your target. Think of a clock around your body while you're swinging. 12 is over your head and 6 is where the ball is. The image is to swing your club like your objective is to throw your club when it gets to, say, 8:30. Only you have to hold on. Maybe that's the way to learn golf. (I do recall in the far reaches of my brain that someone was actually having their students throw clubs.) Perhaps the mechanics only come in when trying to correct small things.

I envision a machine that is able to capture all your mechanics on a good swing. There are video tools out there now that go a long way in this direction already. When your swing goes off, they'd plug you into the machine to see what small things might be out of wack. Most often I think they are in the setup - grip, stance, alignment and posture.

Or maybe you'd just go back to your 'image' again and practice that. Throw the club. Forget everything else. Leave the mechanics for a 'tune-up' teacher. You'd be your teacher for the basic imagery. I had a decent 'arm' as a kid. I could throw pretty hard and was accurate. I never thought about mechanics, I just thought about a throwing image. If only I could hit a golf ball as consistently as I could throw a baseball, there'd be hope for me.

If anyone out there has a key image that works for them, please write in. I need some help!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

A Good Teacher For My Horse

If I had a horse, I'd trade him for a good teacher. But only if the price of gas goes below $3.00 again. So we've decided that there are at least a few good teachers out there. I'll posit that most are where the serious money is - teaching the pros and opening up golf schools. That way they can stay away from us, the pitiful golfing public. I mean, they tell you to do one simple thing, give you two weeks to practice and you still can't do it when you return. That's got to wear you down. You tell a pro to practice something, most of them are going to do it at least 6 days a week since it puts the food on the table.

And why won't we practice? Because you have to practice a lot to get a little bit better. And then, your likely to lose it anyway if you take just a week off. Or maybe you'll lose it anyway, even if you don't take time off. Two weeks ago I played a good round of golf for me. Then I took a week off and went to the range this Monday. I felt like I'd never swung a club before. I swear some joker changed all my clubs for brooms.

Look at Tiger Supremo at the Deutsche Bank tournament last weekend. After Friday, he was deigned to be all the way back, his game at a higher level than everyone else. Then he woke up Saturday and it was gone. Tiger probably knows his game better than any other golfer in the world knows theirs and he probably hits more balls, except for maybe VJ. So how can he wake up Saturday and have lost 'it'. And how come he couldn't make a simple change and be back on track for Sunday and Monday. And if he can't do this, then what the heck am I beating my head against the wall for. How can I, average Joe or Joyce, expect to ever improve?

Tomorrow it's back to teachers, tools, practice and a new vision.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Right Teacher Is Key To Instruction

I took a little break from the blog. It was hard to think of golf while the tragedy of Katrina was unfolding. If you haven't already, think about foregoing a round and contributing the money to Katrina victims instead. And something is bothering you today, just think how much worse off you'd be on a cot in the Astrodome.

Thought we'd take on the golf instructors of the world. If you remember a couple of blogs back, I quoted a statistic (sorry I can't remember where I read it) that the average 18 hole golf score has only improved by half a stroke over the last 30 years. And that's with all the advantages that new technology has brought us. Granted, most of us don't take professional instruction on a regular basis, but there are thousands of instructors out there making a living so enough of us are going to keep them employed. Why, then, hasn't that score dropped more than half a stroke?

If some guy in your league improved his handicap by 8 strokes in one year and credited it to a teacher, tell me half the guys or gals in the league wouldn't beat a path to the instructor's door. So are there good teachers out there and, if so, where?

As in any profession there are those that know and those that don't. How comfortable would you feel just picking a dentist's name out of the phone book and having her go to work on your teeth. I didn't think so! There are plenty of dentists out there, but only a few I want to trust my choppers to. So we can assume that this is the same for golf instructors - a few bad, a few good and most various shades of so so.

Tomorrow we look at good instructors and ourselves as the students. If there are some good instructors out there, and I'm sure there are, how come students aren't lined up in the parking lot and down the road. Who wouldn't part with some serious scratch to get really better at this game? Before you say no, go look at that high priced titanium monster driver in your bag.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

What's Wrong With Small Balls?

Yesterday we looked at why it might be good to limit the pros ability to hit the ball so far. The easiest way to do this appears to be to give them a ball that won't travel as far. We just change that one thing and, voila, it's all good again. But hold on, it might not be as easy as it sounds.

How would you restructure the rules to produce a ball that doesn't go as far. Right now there are limits on ball weight, size, spherical symmetry, initial velocity and overall distance. Now a limit on overall distance sounds like we have a spec for that already, but it's not as simple as that. The actual distance is 296.8 yards - someone tell John Daly he's not conforming! Actually he does conform. The distance is measured under laboratory conditions with a machine that hits the ball consistently but only so hard. Obviously most pro male golfers (and some females) can make a ball go further. And both the USGA and the R&A are looking at increasing the test distance to 320 yards - the balls might soon be going even further. The bottom line for us is that manufacturers are free to compete to make the best ball within these guidelines. And that's why there is a very competitive ball manufacturing market out there. And all of us 'free market' freaks know that competition is always good.

But, put a restriction on distance only and you get some problems. Even if you reduce only the size (assuming a smaller size will mean a shorter distance) how long would it take the manufacturers to make these small balls go just as far. And then you're back to limiting distance. Once the restriction becomes a particular distance, every ball starts acting the same. They'll all end up with the same spin options very quickly. No differentiation, no market! Maybe we're already there and just don't know it. Do I score any better with a Bridgestone than a Srixon? Me thinks not.

What drives us to use certain balls? Certainly our pocketbook, but after that we want to use the ball the best golfer uses. If Phil wins with Titleist, then that's what I want. Or if I'm a Tiger fan, I'll take the Nike. But in our brave new world we won't be playing with the same ball the pros use. There will be no correlation to the Titleist I use and the one VJ uses. And no incentive for the ball manufacturers, which means the death of the market which ultimately means less sponsorship money and smaller purses and a shrinking pro sport.

Maybe I've painted too glum a picture, but I don't think the free market forces will ever let us have a separate ball for the pros. The manufacturers are too strong and have too much power and it's not in their best interests. If we want to see the pros not hit the ball so far, which in effect lessens the impact of new club technology, then we are all going to have to use balls that don't go so far. And how bad is that? Is my problem an extra 10 or 15 yards? No, my problem is hitting the ball straight (my swing), getting out of sandtraps, hitting my wedges with half and 3/4 swings and, of course, my putting. And a change in the ball isn't going to affect these areas at all. So maybe we need a good scientist to figure out a ball construction guideline that will shorten the distance of all balls, but still allow the manufacturers to compete for our sentiments. So all we have to do is find the guy who can write the specs. Someone call the commissioner!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Are Small Balls Good Balls?

Are the pros hitting the ball too far for existing courses? How many of the classic courses have been lengthened in the last 10 years. What tournament courses haven't had fairways narrowed and greens hardened to try and keep winning scores higher. And the question that really matters to most of us, should we care? Most of us don't play on these courses, so what's the difference. Maybe we should let the pro game be what it is and just watch it on TV. Hey, but don't we actually pay the money the pros make. That makes us their employer, so why shouldn't we have the primary say?

Jack Nicklaus says the pros are hitting the ball too long and something should be done about it. If any pro has the credentials to speak his mind on this it's Jack, the best player of our time. (Tiger you're great, but you've got to keep playing at the top level for at least another 15 years.) I won't put words into Jack's mouth, but I believe his thinking is that too many clubs are being taken out of the pros hands. They don't have to hit the whole bag like they used to - no 3 irons into a postage stamp par 3. Today they just hit their 300+ yard drives and at most hit 7 irons to the green. (A 320 yard drive plus a 195 yard 7 iron = 515. That's a par 5 hole for most of us amateurs.)

And many can even let the shaft out more when they need to and knock it 340+ on the 'long' par 5's. There are lots of why's - better conditioning, better coaching, greater flexibility, digital video analysis, high tech club faces, high tech shafts and 'juiced' balls. More tournament courses are lengthened every year, with more yardages surpassing the 7200 mark. How often do the 'shorter' hitters now contend in the majors? The Corey Pavin's of the world seem relegated to top 20 finishes at best.

I've heard speculation by some golf writers that the situation will only get worse as the best golfers get 'bigger'. Maybe our new champions will be the guys that used to play B-ball, all 6'6" + and over 240 lbs. Goodbye to the Justin Leonard's of the world. I've read that this is the coming trend because in the past tall players were limited by the ability to build clubs their size that actually worked. Now with new materials, the experts say this has changed. A 6'6'' guy can get a club his size with the correct swing weight. We certainly have seen more 'big' guys winning lots of tournaments in recent years. Just look at the likes of Faldo, Mickelson, Singh and Els. I think it would be a shame to turn golf into another sport that favors size over so many other attributes.

Back to our original idea, why should we care what the pros do. Who cares if just big guys win, or just big hitters or the pro that gets sponsored by the best equipment makers. I think we should care because that isn't the game we love. There are many things that make golf unique among sports (or among games for you purists). For amateurs, we all seem created equal. Can you say there is any common physical characteristic among the best people in your league. In many cases the smallest player with the strangest swing is the one who scores best week to week. And of course, there's always the 'handicap' - the great equalizer among honest amateurs.

And I like the idea that I get to watch the best in the world attempt the same shots I have to make. First I get to see how they do it. And I might even learn something. And I also appreciate their tremendous skill more when I see them have to hit a 3 iron out of a fairway bunker to try and get on a green in regulation.

So, is the fix that easy? We just mandate that the pros have to use a ball that doesn't go so far and all will be right with the world. Tomorrow we'll take a look at some of the pitfalls behind this approach.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Unabashed Advice On Learning The Game

First, let me apologize for being about 4 days late in publishing. I've got excuses like a new kitchen countertop, busted toilet and a clogged kitchen sink. Anyone out there any good at cutting cast iron pipe? BUT, there's a payoff. I'm actually going to tell you how to improve at golf. Worth the wait, right? Time will tell.

Maybe there's no silver bullet for becoming a better golfer, but I think there are some basics that can help most anyone. The bigger question is - will you do it? I mean losing weight is easy for most people - just eat fewer calories than you burn up. But, but, but........there's always a but.

In no particular order, here's my guidance. Work on tempo. However you swing, fast or slow, make sure your tempo is the same on the backswing and downswing. Count to yourself, use a metronome, sing a tune in your head. Just manage the tempo. That goes for every club in the bag including the putter. While you are out on the course make consistent tempo your goal.

Mind set - means give your mind very specific tasks while on the course, the practice range is a different matter. The old bean is good for strategy and it's good for observing. How do I feel, am I comfortable, am I remembering that it's just a game, look at the beautiful sunset, how does the grip feel in my hands. You get the idea. Just don't let it start giving you swing instructions. If you want to know more about how to use and not use the mind in sports, try reading something by Tim Gallwey.

Find out what's really going on in the golf swing. There are millions of books with millions of suggestions and I think most will confuse you on the basic swing. Try checking out Carl Rabito, his website is I don't know the guy and I don't get any money from him. I've only recently discovered him, but I think his modern scientific approach to golf gets as close to the 'truth' about the swing as anyone. And it looks pretty simple. Know how the knees, hips and torso move in relation to each other (the torso must move faster than the hips on the downswing because they have further to go). The arms are almost passive. Know what the correct wrist cock is.

Want to use some science to understand the short game, take a look at Dave Pelz's stuff. He is 'the man' on the short game. He used to work for NASA many years ago and has used a scientific approach to understand what really works and what doesn't. He's helped many of the top pros, just ask Phil. Again, I have no connection with him. Hell, I don't have a connection with anyone in golf for that matter so I'll stop adding that in.

Swing a club every day. Four or five minutes is enough, but do it every day. It's kind of relaxing. Almost as good as a martini for unwinding. Swing a weighted club every other day, it will help build your golf muscles and might even help stretch them out.

Know about the adrenalin effect we talked about last Thursday. When you step up to that first tee, you're going to have some of it flowing through your veins and it will effect your swing. The more you swing with your torso - the big muscles - the less it's effect will be.

Video yourself if possible and then compare it with a good golfer's swing. There are lots of tools for doing this. You can do it online at I haven't them, but it looks like a professional operation.

Once you start playing a real round of golf, 'dance with who brought you'. In other words, use whatever swing shows up, don't go trying to correct everything during your round. And have fun, unless you play golf for a living. That's what we go into the coal mines everyday for. It would be a shame to waste those precious days off just making ourselves miserable! Work does that for most of us, so don't let it on the course.

Tomorrow let's look at the controversy regarding the pros hitting the ball too far and whether it makes sense for them to play a different ball. We indirectly pay them so why shouldn't we have a say!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

We Can Figure How To Play Better

If we start thoughtfully, think clearly and use the facts, can't we get to the heart of golf and figure out how to play well? Let's look at what we know.

Is it true that if you play everyday you'll get better? Or maybe it's better said, 'the more you play the better you'll get'. Well, to a point. Diminishing returns seem to set in pretty quickly. And if I have a flawed swing, aren't I just training the flaw during the extra 18 holes a week I start playing.

Rhythm is the most important part of the swing. Given you know some basics like how to stand in relation to the golf ball and the hole, I'd have to say that rhythm is the number one skill in golf. Ever hit a bad shot and feel your swing was smooth and flowing? Not me. If you've played just a little golf and are paying attention, I think we all know we've hit a bad shot by the time we've made contact. Sometimes you know you're going to hit a bad shot before you get to the top of your backswing.

How about mind set - or where your mind's at while you're playing. If we're beating ourselves up on the course and golf feels like a root canal will we ever get better? I don't think so. You might improve for a shot or a hole, but that's probably just coincidence. How can you get better at something that's killing you inside. And if golf is all about rhythm, stress or frustration isn't going to help.

What is the mind good for in golf? Certainly not thinking about the last shot. And not for trying to tell the body how to hit the next one. The best golf I play is when I am not 'trying', or better said, when I'm not thinking about it. Take my conscious mind away from shot making and I'm probably better by 7 or 8 strokes a round.

So what's the mind good for? - golf strategy for one. Figuring out how to intelligently play a hole. Meaning, don't leave your approach above the hole if the green falls steeply front to back. If your favorite yardage in is 100, then don't hit a club that will take you to 80. Leave the driver in the bag on the short dogleg par 4. If you get in trouble, take your medicine and use a stroke to get out instead of taking a double or triple because you tried the heroic save. The mind is helpful if it's kept in check and focused on what it's good at. You're in trouble if you're thinking at setup 'right elbow in, slow takeaway, weight on the inside of the right leg, resist at the hips' and on and on. Ever chase and catch a fly ball in the outfield. Has your conscious mind ever helped you during that act? I didn't think so.

Let's not forget flexibility. Golf requires a lot of unnatural twisting and turning. When we're young we get ourselves in trouble by twisting and turning too much and when we get old we can't do it enough. But this ultimately relates to rhythm. Somehow you have to twist and turn rhythmically within the limitations of your own body. And that can change from day to day, at least as you get older. So golf is about adapting to your daily physical condition/limitations.

I've got to include anxiety or it's counterpart,adrenalin, as a core factor. David Pelz says this is what happens between the range and the course to change your game. You practice swinging without adrenalin on the range (or for your practice swing on the course)and then with it while you play. And adrenalin changes the way your muscles work, even the way the nerve impulses get sent and delivered. Which means anxiety changes rhythm. Maybe that's why my best golf occurs when I'm not thinking, because it's the conscious mind that triggers the anxiety or fear that releases adrenalin.

So far we've got rhythm as the key skill and the need to keep the conscious mind out of the actual swinging process. Tomorrow I'll add in a couple of more core basics and try to pull it all together.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

David Duval As Teacher

For me, David Duval's struggle to get back to being a top level tour player is fascinating. It looks very much like what we average golfers are constantly going through. You make a good shot, or birdie a hole, or even keep it together for most of a round, only to loose it again. If I can play 5 holes in a row well, why can't I just keep it up. How can I know how to hit a shot, only to forget it?

I know no network is going to cover David's struggles and if I was him I'd probably want it that way. But I'm dying to know what he's struggling with. Is it his driver, or his putter or perhaps he can't psyche himself up to stay in a competitive mindset. Maybe knowing what he's struggling with wouldn't help me so much, but if he does get it together, wouldn't you love to know how he did it? And speaking of that, what exactly did Tiger do recently to tame his driver. It wasn't long ago that it seemed every drive of his was way gone. He'd waste a shot a hole just trying to extracate himself. Recently he's belting the snot out of the ball and they're mostly in the short grass. I know he's been remaking his swing, but what exactly did he do with the driver besides getting a new one (and how important was that). What did the change feel like, when did he know he had it, and how does he hold on to it now?

What is a good golf swing composed of? Too many damn things for one. Read any instructional book and you'll come away with at least 100 key points to remember. Somebody needs to prioritize these things. There must be 10 things that are absolutely core, but which 10 are they. You can read chapters on the grip alone. Isn't there a definitive answer by now on what the 'right' grip really is?

Maybe there's too many human physical variations for there to be one 'right' grip for everyone. But if that's the case, why aren't there more ways to throw a football or hit a tennis ball? (Come to think of it, maybe there are if you were to look at it in very small detail).

And think about this one, maybe we will always continue to make golf as hard as it is. Could that be the soul of the game. Holes will get longer, greens faster, traps bigger or deeper as need be to keep the average golf score at 99.5. As soon as a course gets easier to play, doesn't the membership or ownership always start thinking about making changes. Isn't that what we want? Personally we want to get better, but do we get better if everyone else does at the same time.

Tomorrow we'll get a little more specific by looking at the physical and mental components of the game. I promise. Yes, I was buying myself some time today as I get ready to go right to the heart of things tomorrow.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Where's David Duval?

Ever wonder what happened to David Duval? Don't forget that he was the number one golfer in the world just before Tiger's record breaking reign began. If you've been paying attention, and most probably aren't, he's been trying to get it together as a Tour professional for about a year and a half now after a series of injuries and personal setbacks. I'm not writing about David to look at his personal life or delve into his psyche. From the average golfer's point of view, what I think is interesting is how fleeting golf skills can be even for someone who was number one once and how this might help us understand our own game better.

David played at the British Open this year. He didn't make the cut. He didn't score nearly as well as Jack Nicklaus who is now 65 (or thereabouts). David is somewhere around 30, just about Tiger's age. If he's not still injured and was once the world's best, how could he be that far out of form?

How many top golfers have 'it' for only a fleeting second or two. Look at Mike Weir. Great to see a Canadian win a major! He seems like a really nice guy and I liked that little half back swing rehearsal he does. He strikes the ball well, but when is the last time he was seriously in contention? And when he won, he didn't just get lucky, he played great golf for 4 rounds, earning every bit of his Green Jacket.

Why is a golf swing so elusive? How many times have you thought you found 'the secret' only to discover the next day that you still can't hit the ball the way you want. Or how about hitting those beautiful shots on the practice range only to have the driver feel more like a broom on the first tee. Even Tiger talks about that. At the British Open he spoke about being 'Ranger Rick' on the practice tee and then having it disappear by the time he teed off. He said he won on Sunday because 'Ranger Rick' actually showed up on the first tee.

If having and then losing 'it' happens so frequently and to every golfer, then there must be an explanation for it. Tomorrow I'll give you my best shot at why this happens to all of us. Someone tell Tiger and David to tune in.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Scottish Course Design

Today we'll look at the design 'theory' behind many of the world's best courses. I'm talking about the old classic courses. That includes all the old greats in Scotland and Ireland as well as notable US courses like Cyprus Point and Augusta National. The man behind many of these classics is Dr. Alister MacKenzie.

I highly recommend reading his 1920 book 'Golf Architecture'. In my opinion no one should be allowed to design a course until they've read and understood this book. It's as much about the game of golf and its role in society as it is about golf course design. If you read the book, you'll see that these two concepts go hand in hand for MacKenzie.

Here's what I remember from the book: A golf course should be designed so it's challenging and fun for both the amateur and pro. Imagine that, a course that Tiger and I could both play and both enjoy in our own way. Not many US courses fit that description. If you closely watched the British Open at St. Andrews this year, I think you'll see what the honorable doctor meant. Any of us could play that course and have a blast. Score becomes less important and enjoyment zooms off the charts.

Dr. MacKenzie thought most holes should have a number of ways they can be played - all various combinations of risk and reward. Many of the Scottish holes have more than one 'fairway' to the green. You might tee off on a hole and not see your playing partner until you get to the green. In MacKenzie's book he mentions that Bobby Jones said it was a woman who best played number 15 at the Old Course. I apologize that I don't remember her name and it might have been the 14th, but you get the idea. Imagine Tiger Woods saying that Jane Doe plays the 15th hole at Baltusrol better than anyone. I credit the woman and the golf course designer in the case of St. Andrews.

There have been a number of world class US pros who 'didn't get' the Scottish courses the first few times they played. Then the light bulb went off and they fell in love with them. Tom Watson is a perfect example. The old course at St. Andrews being the classic case. Each hole has so many options on its own, then throw in all the variations of weather and you see how you could play that course every day and never get tired of it.

Dr. MacKenzie did his designing before the invention of all the big earth moving equipment. He had to fit the course into the natural lay of the land. He had to figure out where Mother Nature had already laid out the holes. And they didn't try to flatten the fairways. They were left with every little ripple, roll and undulation. This in itself adds a whole new dimension to the game. You have to really learn how to hit the ball under any condition, not just off a manicured flat lawn.

And the early Scots didn't believe in taking your golf ball away from you. They thought you should be able to play the round with the same ball. Sure they designed plenty of places on the course where you didn't want to hit your ball, but the penalty is not a lost ball. Your penalty is having to climb down into 'The Coffins' and play out backwards.

Just looking at the names of the holes and their prominent features, you can see how much the Scots love this name. Who wouldn't have fun playing Cartgate, Ginger Beer and Tom Morris. And who else names traps with gems like Admiral's, The Beardies, and The Principal's Nose. 'Hey Joe, how'd you do today?'. 'I had a right good round going until I put my drive into The Beardies'.

So the Scots have these easy walking courses, with hundreds of variables per hole, played under wildly changing weather conditions, where you can use a putter from 20 yards off the green, with bunkers you can get lost in, and holes that are fun for you as well as Tiger. Throw in the hospitality and the scotch and you have the perfect equation for fun on the golf course. I just don't get why modern architects don't have the smarts and/or guts to try this combination. Maybe it takes a whole different level of understanding to see where Mother Nature has already laid out the holes. Build it and we will come!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

"Mo Better' Golf in Scotland

And a few more reasons why Scottish golf courses are more fun. Maybe this explains why it's their national sport and pastime - it's much more fun to play there, plus having access to good scotch doesn't hurt.(remember the old saying about why a golf course has 18 holes? because that's how long it takes to drink a bottle of Scotch for a foursome) Anyway, back to the facts.

There are no golf carts in Scotland, at least none that I've ever seen. You have three choices when playing; carry, get a caddy, or take a trolley - meaning a pull cart. I played at an upitty US course this summer where they told me I had to take a cart. After some arguing we got them to agree to let us walk, but we still had to pay for the cart. It's easier to walk seaside links courses, they are relatively flat. I was no more tired walking 36 holes at Western Gales than I was walking 18 holes at my local course in Connecticut. And we all know inside that a golf course is meant to be walked. Somehow walking suits the overall tempo of the game. Most golfers I know think they play better when they walk, it gives you more time to 'think' about the next shot. Have you noticed how a lot of the new courses often have more than 100 yards between the last green and the next tee box. What's with that? Plus in Scotland, walking the course is akin to walking the dunes at the beach. And what's more fun than that?

At many courses in Scotland they don't really have 'club houses'. They often have a starter's shack because the courses are public and that's all they need. In place of club houses the have private member clubs. These are ordinarily houses along the 18th hole. And although they are private, each day one is designated to take in visitors. Now they don't do this begrudgingly like you are invading their privacy. You get treated like you're a member of the family. I've had a barman tell me that I had to have a pint after my round and even if the door was looked to knock on the window and someone would let me in. When's the last time that happened to you?

When there is a real clubhouse in Scotland, I've found that the head pros couldn't be nicer. I played Prestwick, the club where something like the first 20 British Opens were played. In other words, it's where competitive golf began. It's like playing at Augusta or Pebble Beach. After our round we must have spoken with the pro for 20 minutes and it was initiated by him. Where we playing next, how did we like the course, and on and on. My friend was renting clubs and when we told him we were playing Western Gales the next day he let us take the clubs because he was 'pretty sure they didn't have rentals there'. 'Just drop them off on your way to Turnberry on Saturday'. My experience here is that your lucky to get a cursory hello from any head pro other than your own.

Were we talking about rental clubs? You can only rent top of the line clubs in Scotland - the likes of Callaway, Taylor Made, and Mizuno. And I mean their top-of-the-line clubs. At one course where my friend rented, the pro went around the shop and asked him what he wanted and then proceeded to take clubs off the shelf. They 'love' the game in Scotland, not just 'like' it. They want anyone who's willing to travel thousands of miles to play in their country to have a great time.

I did digress a little, so back to the courses. How about those sandtraps, those pits, those bunkers that you could take shelter in should another war break out. There aren't a lot of them, but those they have are not to be trifled with. How could you take a bunker casually where you have to use a ladder to get in and out of the thing. But I have to tell you honestly that they are fun. Really! Get in to one of those and a match can turn in an instant. And it makes great photos when you get a picture of your playing partner in a trap where all you can see is the top of her head. Want to hone the mental part of your game. Play in Scotland and you can't afford to just aim straight ahead and blast it. You had better know where all the bunkers are first!

And lastly the weather. I'm convinced that golf is meant to be played outdoors in the elements. I mean all the elements, not just when it's sunny and windless. It always blows in Scotland. A steady wind of 10-15 mph with gusts to 20-25 mph is just a nice typical day. Once you lose your fear, playing in the wind is fun. You can actually use it to your advantage when you start actually thinking. And you're forced to learn new shots, like the knockdown. If you are like me and you are not the world's greatest golfer, you feel like wind actually helps level the playing field for you.

Then there's rain. On the last trip I planned to Scotland my friend from the States asked a logical question when I was confirming our plans, 'What if a round gets rained out?'. I hadn't considered that and it seemed a fair enough question, so I called and asked the guy who set up our trip. His reply? 'I've never had a tee time rained out in 20 years.' In other words, it's part of the game. The courses being primarily on sand along the coast, you can see that drainage probably isn't an issue. So what's a little rain? Put on a slicker and take and extra nip of Scotch and get on with it.

Tomorrow we'll look at Alister MacKenzie, one of the classic Scottish golf architects and his philosophy behind course design. Along with many of the great Scottish courses, this is the guy who did Cyprus Point in the US and co-designed Augusta National with Bobby Jones. I think most of the US architects today have forgotten the wisdom of this great man.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Scottish Courses Are More Fun

Say it ain't so you say. Oh, but it is. Read here to find out why and start putting pressure on golf course developers so we can all go out and have more fun.

I lived in Europe a few years back which made it possible for me to go to Scotland on a couple of occasions to play golf. What a treat! First the Scots must be the nicest most friendly people in the world. And, when they find out you're a golfer they take it up a notch. If you can afford it, and it does cost to fly across the pond these days, you won't be disappointed. Because the people are great and the courses are great fun.

In the US we play target golf, maybe not TPC target golf, but target golf nonetheless compared to Scottish golf. Most holes have a clearly defined tee, fairway, rough and green. The fairways are pretty flat by Scottish standards and the greens are fairly small. They are protected by traps at better courses and have a nice little fringe around them. All pretty straight forward stuff. After awhile the average courses most of us play begin to look a lot alike, the only difference being the quality of the turf,length of the rough and how many stones are in the traps. Well, not Scottish courses.

The first thing you notice looking at a Scottish links course is - where is it. Often it's hard to discern tees and greens. What you do see are sand dunes and scrub next to the ocean. With very little imagination you feel it probably looked exactly the same 1000 years ago. The fairways are not clearly distinguished. Standing on a tee it's a bit difficult to see the greens even though they're basically in front of you. There are often two or three viable paths to the green, separated by gorse, heather and what look to be Viking burial grounds. And each path has it's own risk and reward. That means the fairways alone give you many different holes disguised as one.

And then comes the real fun part - the greens. Sometimes big undulating things with a million different scenarios depending on pin placement. Often, shooting for the pin is not an option. You must decide whether you want an uphill put with a 15 foot break, or a downhill put with a ridge between you and the pin.

And that's only half of it. Wait until the wind starts blowing. Actually it most always blows, you have to wait for it not to blow and in that case you had better be prepared to stay a month or two. If you don't have a knockdown shot, don't bother to go. Loft a full wedge up in the air and it may not even come down in the same county. But then again, with many holes having open fronts you can often use a putter from 20 yards off the green.

It all takes me back to miniature golf. Don't get me wrong. There is nothing tricked up about these courses. But you find yourself smiling even if you make a few snowmen. It's fun, it's whacky, it makes you feel like you've invented the game - 'Hey Joe, see that rock way over by that gorse hummock, let's see who can take the fewest shots to get there.' It sure doesn't hurt knowing that there's always a couple of good pints waiting for you when you finish.

Tomorrow I'll explore more of the charm and fun of Scottish golf. We'll look at sand traps, starters' shacks, member houses and rain. And if you know any golf course architects, please tell them to have a look at this blog.

Monday, August 15, 2005

New Learning Tools for Amateurs

First let me say I'm sorry that tomorrow turned out to be about 6 days later. I could say I got caught up in the PGA or that it was too damn hot for the brain to work. Well, they'd both be accurate, but I mostly I was trying to figure out what to say. I did kind of leave myself a big task - how the average golfer can get better. So here goes!

I know what you're thinking, if there was really 'A Way' to get better in golf, some guy or gal out there would be richer than Tiger. You couldn't build a practice facility big enough to hold all the people who'd be throwing money your way. In spite of that reasoning, I d0 believe that major improvements for golfers are just around the corner. We, or at least the golfing scientists among us, are really starting to understand what goes on in the golf swing thanks to high tech analysis tools.

But it's going to take time for it all this knowledge to trickle down. New younger pros are going to have to come along who have grown up with this knowledge. The average golfer is going to have to see the high man in his weekly foresome take 15 strokes off his handicap in a season while still using the 'same old driver'. And look at the video swing analysis they use during pro tournament broadcasts. That technology isn't out of reach of your local pro. Once he sees his club golfers flocking to take leasons from the guy down the street who has the new gizmos, he won't be able to buy it fast enough.

And speaking of gizmos, why hasn't someone invented a biofeedback device for golfers? OK, there are a few things that vaguely look like biofeedback. But I'm talking the real thing here, something that would make a psychologist proud. Take the club back too far to the inside and you get zapped. Use enough juice and you good stop Godzilla from coming over the top.

Anybody who's interested in where this new technology might be heading ought to check out the Carl Rabito training videos on the Golf Channel Web Site. Now here's a guy who knows golf, human anatomy and has access to state of the art scientific tools. You might just understand for the first time in your life why your slice is sticking to you better than one of those things you get from your nose. And you might just be able to get rid of it - finally and for good.

For the rest of this week, let's try comparing Scottish links courses with American target golf setups. If you haven't played a true links course you might discover you're missing the most fun rounds of golf you will ever have!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Why Amateurs Don't Get Better

Since everybody else seems willing to pontificate about what's wrong with the amateur golf swing, I might as well give it a go. Here's the inside scoop; It's all about knowledge of what really happens in the golf swing. Up until the last few years, golf teaching has been based on what a star player felt or what a star teacher thought he saw a star player do. Unfortunately golf is too fast to really see what's going on with the naked eye. And what a star player thinks he's doing is often quite different than what a video shows.

It's only been in the last few years that technology has provided the tools for scientifically analyzing good golf swings. Tools like high speed cameras, muscle electrodes and video x-rays have all given tremendous insight into what is really happening. We are just now finding out that much of what we thought we knew about hitting a golf ball is just plain wrong.

Did you know that 76% of your power comes from cocking and releasing the wrists. Another 11% comes from the elbow hinge. Now there's 87% accounted for and we haven't mentioned the torso at all. Shocked? I was when I heard that statistic. Now I know why Bob Toski was able to hit a driver 240 yards from his knees. I know it's true, because I saw it. Because of these recent discoveries, we now see many of the pros changing their swings. Have you noticed that they're getting simpler all the time? We can now eliminate many swing doodads that we used to think were critical.

The most common fault for the amateur golfer is coming over the top, right? Did you know that this isn't caused by the shoulders. It's anatomically impossible for your shoulder rotation by itself to get the club out in front. It's the hips where the problem is. Rotating the hips early on the downswing moves the shoulder arc out over the ball causing the outside in swing. (By the way, I charge for my instruction so be sure to put the check in the mail.)

So we're finally learning what really goes on in the golf swing, tomorrow we'll talk about why the average golfer isn't yet benefiting from this.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Amateur Golfers Don't Improve

OK, maybe stink is a little harsh. But, fact of the matter is that the average amateur golfer has only improved his game by one half a stroke in the last 30 years. Let me say that another way, the average amateur score as gone from 100 to 99.5 in the last 30 years. Why is this a thought provoking statistic. you ask? Because every aspect of golfing tools has improved over that time period - balls, clubs, club heads, shafts, grips, training tools and teachers to name a few. Even tees are claimed to have been improved giving you more yards on your drive.

So why aren't amateurs scores plunging like an elevator in freefall? Ah, that's the question we should explore. But be prepared to look in the mirror to find the answers. I'll use my own sorry golfing ability, as my unselfish gesture to help the average golfer understand why they're getting nowhere as well.

I know balls go further, and that graphite shaft in my driver has added yards. My putter is perfectly balanced and my perimeter weighted clubs make hits on the toe and heel a lot less bad than they used to be. So why aren't my scores better? Because golf is harder than it looks and we all suffer from bad swings. And no technology that's been invented yet can really correct our bad swings.

Let me go out on a limb and say why I think our swings suck. We can't make our clubs go on an inside out path through the hitting zone. How many golfing buddies do you have that don't have a slice or a week fade? Counted them all up on one hand didn't you? The only ones that escaped that list are those with such bizarre swings that no self respecting golfer even wants to be seen in the same foursome. Maybe the body isn't supposed to operate that way, but it is one of the hardest things I've ever tried to do.

And yet, we see a wide range of professional golfers of all body types and athletic ability knock the snot out of the ball and look effortless. And they don't even all swing in the same way. How can this be? Stay tuned, we'll try to answer this and other sacred questions of the universe during the rest of this week.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Let's Play Nice

So how should pro golfers, the golf media and golf audiences all get along? It's quite easy, treat each other like you'd like to be treated. Back to the little Rule of Gold again. Well, why not. It works doesn't it? Yeah I know, it's so simple. But what's wrong with simple.

If you're the golf media, make sure you know what's going on. Don't ask the pro the same question he or she's been asked each of the last 10 weeks. Do some work. Figure out an interesting question that the pro can really sink his teeth into. Remember Tiger and 'the slump'. The press wasn't asking me, but even I was getting tired of hearing it. Where were questions such as 'what part of the swing are you trying to fix?' 'Are you experiencing some wear and tear on the body that you're trying to address with a swing change?'

And what about Us, the golfing public? I don't know about you, but I hear at every British Open how knowledgeable the British fans are. I don't doubt it, I mean the Scots invented the game and it's their national sport. You'd expect them to be on top of it. And those link courses, now those are fun to play, much more so than most US target courses. But I digress (I'll get back to this topic in a future blog). You even hear the pros say in 'those after round interviews' how knowledgeable the local fans are. Even if they're rooting for Monty they'll give you applause for a deftly executed shot. And they don't yell 'Get in the hole'. Even as a TV spectator I've about had it with that phrase. What motivates that mindless screaming? the desire to have your voice heard by millions?

And then you pros. Yeah you, I'm talking to you. Take a course in how to speak with the media. It ought to be part of your training regimen. With the right approach you can make the media your friend. Honest! They're just trying to make a living. They've got a cigar smoking boss somewhere who is screaming at them daily to get a good story. So give them one. When they ask you an embarrassing question just deflect it and start talking about something interesting. (By the way, this technique works well with kids.) Like how Andrade went from 100+ in putting last year to number 1 this year because he got new sunglasses (that's true by the way). You might even talk about the subtler parts of the game and in the process help educate the US golfing public. In time we might even start to understand it the way the Scots do. And one more thing - please get it together for the next Ryder Cup. You're embarrassing us. Not your play, your attitude. Get loose, wear funkier clothing, be nice to the crowd, joke around AND have a good time. Don't look like you're getting an enema, it doesn't do your image any good. I know you're 'playing for your country'. Well you can do that and have a good time too. Leave those pained expressions for the brain surgeons.

Next week let's look at why amateur golfers haven't gotten better over the last 30 years even though the technology gets better every month. Don't know about you, but I'm taking the weekend off, maybe even get out on the course. If I could just find the 'slot'............

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Common Sense & The American Way

Or maybe we should just consult the Golden Rule - the 'do unto others' thing. Would I want someone to approach me for an autograph - or 10 - every time I went out to dinner or the grocery store? Asking for an autograph at a tournament is a different matter. Most have setups so that the gallery can get close to golfers as they walk from the practice tee to the putting green. Those who want to sign a few programs can.

Everyone has a right to privacy. Hey, isn't that what the Founding Fathers were about in at least some of the provisions within the Bill of Rights? Golfers are public figures and it's the public that makes for the big purses they can win. Therefore, I would reason, the public has some right to know about the professional lives of golfers. The operative word here is 'professional'. And any 'true' pro knows the value of the public. None of them know it better than Arnie, a one man marketing tsunami for golf. The winningest golfer of all time, Sam Sneed, earned less than a million dollars total in purses. Now a professional golfer can earn more than that with one win in a major tournament. And inflation only counts for a small part of that difference.

I don't know about you, but I get a lot of enjoyment following pro golf. Some of the best sporting events I've ever seen are golf tournaments. Anyone remember Jack's last win at Augusta? Tough to top that one. I still get a tingle thinking about it. So we get to see how the game can be played and the best golfers in the world get a very nice lifestyle. Fair trade?

Tomorrow we'll look at the components for a win win contract among golf pros, the media and avid golf fans.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Where To Draw The Line

Everyone has a right to some privacy, but where to draw the line. Much of the media doesn't seem to care. Money talks, right? If I can get a story about what Tiger sent his mother on her birthday, why not publish it if I can get paid. But of course, don't tell the world what I sent my mom, unless of course I can afford diamond earrings.

What about approaching our golf idols in public? If I see Tiger at my favorite restaurant, can't I go over and tell him what an inspiration he's been to me. He makes tens of millions a year, doesn't that allow me special access to him. Doesn't it come with the turf. Just because you're homeless, does that mean that CNN should be able to stick a TV camera in your cardboard box. Just because your Tiger, should the world be entitled to the details of your hemorrhoid surgery. How about if it affected your play on the last day of the Open, causing you to lose by one stroke.

If it affects my golf, the way in which I earn my living in a public way, then perhaps it's fair game. If it has nothing to do with golf, then it's off limits unless I choose to make it public - like deciding to let the Interior Design channel do a tour of my new mansion in Orlando.

Tomorrow we'll take a closer look at where to draw the line.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Professional Privacy

This week we'll look into the issue of privacy for professional athletes, specifically golfers. Are they entitled to have parts of their lives off limits? Or does having everything you do discussed in public come with the turf, a trade off for making sums that go beyond Everyman's dreams.

Tiger is the number one golfer in the world right now, and the number one draw among professional golfers. He's worth - well we don't know exactly - but it must be in the 100's of millions. Does that entitle the media to discuss what he and his new wife do at the breakfast table? Or should only the professional side to a golfer's life be fair game for public speculation.

Most of us want to know why Tiger changed his swing. Has it taken him to a new level? Why did he sever ties with Butch? Does he get along in private with Vijah? But what about viewing pictures of his wedding, or trying to figure out if he and his wife will start a family. Or what does he think about our President?

Check in this week as we attempt to find answers to these questions.