Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Golf's Fuzzy (But True) Logic

Not sure about you but I've had many of these enlightening "conversations" on the course - ah, the beauty of golf ;-)

Cartoon care of our friends at Golf Lafs

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Duval Shoots 63 at Sony!

Did anyone pay attention to David Duval at the Sony? He made the cut AND shot a 63 on Sunday. Maybe he's getting his game back. If he does it will be a great story. If I was in the mainstream golf media, I'd start looking at this one real hard.

I read the story of David's early life in Sports Illustrated some years ago and found it fascinating. Afterwards I was much more interested in watching him play. I think it was two years ago at the PGA where he gave a couple of nights of interviews. If you remember, he was trying to make his comeback even then and not being very successful. But he stood there and answered every question over the course of an hour or more. I don't think I've ever seen an athlete open himself/herself up more honestly and in depth than David did then. The story of his rise, fall and attempt at resurrection is the human story we've all faced. Hearing his view of it added a new dimension to his game, maybe like adding an arsenal of new shots.

I hope he comes back this year, the sport needs the drama. David, if you get your game back and find yourself battling VJ or Tiger at the end, do the game a favor and keep talking to us. Breath some life into the game that's given so many so much. We need it more than a 59 even!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Will pro golf become just like pro tennis?

Who cares about pro tennis these days, at least the men anyway? There's not really anyone out there with much personality. The players seem to all look the same. And the game has changed - huge serves with one or no volley. Not too exciting, at least that's what we've got to assume looking at the falling audience figures for the last 10 years.

It's not hard to imagine that golf could go the same way. Yesterday I talked about there being very little for the audience to chew on outside of the actual play itself. And pro golfers have always looked pretty much the same. With Payne Stewart gone and Jesper's game down a couple of notches and Lee off to the Champions tour, where's the color anymore.

And the game of golf is looking suspiciously like tennis. Too often it's big booming drives and a wedge into the green. Pros in the US don't even have to work the ball that much. Where'd the 2-6 irons go? No more volleying, very little rushing the net. It's all straight face, straight shots and bigger bodies. Like pro basketball a lot of people don't watch the whole game, they are tuning in only for the last nine holes on Sunday.

Pro golfers, you'd better start seeing the big picture. Golf is a lot more than hitting shots. Perhaps more than any other game, it comes closest to imitating life. And right now the life is being sucked out of it.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Give and Take - Talking with the Masses

Most things work with give and take. Life's a two-way street. Give and take holds the social fabric together. Of course there are those who just take, and that's a bit of a ripoff in my book. We all know that pro golf wouldn't be what it is today without the great ambassadors of the past. Guys like Arnie knew that it wasn't enough to just be a great player if you wanted to make a living as a pro golfer. You had to be a promoter. Someone had to get out there and get people interested. You had to talk to the crowd, shake hands, sign autographs, show some emotion and talk to the media. Today, as a result of their efforts, quite a few people make a very nice living as professional golfers. It wasn't always that way. Go back and check your history and you'll see that most guys had to play primarily for the love of the game.

Guys that come in and win but don't stick around to do the promoting are picking the ripe fruit without doing much for future crops. If that keeps up, golf is going to find itself on a downward slide. And I think that would be a shame. It's a wonderful sport, or game if you prefer. It requires great skill under pressure and produces some incredible moments for us fans. On the other hand, as golfers start to look more alike and speak less about what they do, the sport is in danger of becoming less interesting to its audience. And who do you think is ultimately paying the bills?

Seeing pros make great shots is not enough, I want to know what they're thinking. How did the pressure feel? What do they think happened when they overcame it or it overcame them. That's human drama and that's what gets the crowd involved. Without emotional content there is little human interest in most anything. I can better relate to the pro events when the pros talk about what's going on before and after playing. It also helps to see them smiling and signing autographs for the people who pay their wages. Sing it Aretha - RESPECT!

There are no rules of course for talking with the media. A pro can choose to get involved or to turn his/her back on the whole thing. It's selfish to clam up, but there's no law against that. Let's not lose our perspective. Golf isn't brain surgery. Nobody's life is on the line. So pros! lighten up. Even if you screwed up, tell us about it. Your audience needs emotion and self introspection, good shots are not enough to keep the golden goose laying those eggs. We may not swing like Tiger or VJ, but we've got the same emotions!

Might pro golf end up like pro tennis? I'll take that one on tomorrow.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Silent Vijay

We highlighted this fine article by GolfObserver's Lorne Rubenstein the other day at our main site (GolfDash) but wanted to re-visit it just for a moment because I think it has some real food for thought - about accountability, about sportsmanship, about humility, etc.

Take a read if you have not and let me know what you think.

The article is here: Time for Singh to Sing?

Monday, January 09, 2006

The People Have Spoken About Technology

The responses are in, at least 4 or 5 anyway, AND the people say let the manufacturers take the technology where they will, just change the ball the pros use. Then we might see more shot makers win tournaments, and more grand old courses reclaim their rightful place. And the rest of us can still hope to hit a golf ball 300 yards at least once in our lives through the wonders of titanium and exotic poly-something cores.

The general opinion seems to be that the average joe's or jane's game is not affected that much by the new technology. If we hit the ball further, it means we are just hitting it further into the rough most of the time. Personally, the new technology allows me to hit a driver off-center and still get reasonable distance and end up no worse than the first cut. I know I'm playing better with my titanium humongous head thing than with the old persimmon even though my swing may be no better.

A lot of amateur golfers have to be buying this new stuff or the equipment manufacturers wouldn't keep making it. How many people do you play with that aren't using at least a 360 cc head on their driver. That size was almost unheard of 6 years ago. How long before we all have something over 400cc. Bigger is better and who amongst us can resist the urge to hit the ball a little further. Think of all your drives times 15 extra yards divided by $299 and it's not such a bad deal on that basis.

And for you who have resisted the temptation and still have your Spalding Executives, how long before you try your friend's new driver and discover you just gained 25 extra yards with nothing more than money. Will you be able to resist the temptation to buy then, especially when that 25 yards moves you up two clubs for your approach or allows you to clear the fairway bunker you've always had to layup to.

Let's be honest, let's see the hands of those who practice and spend more time on learning to work a ball versus trying to hit it further? I didn't think so. And probably for good reason. You get more bang for your buck on the average course with some extra yards as opposed to being able to fade or draw your approach shot. Not so on the great courses, but how many of us play on these regularly.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Pushing Technology Too Far?

Unfortunately we live in a world gone mad with consumerism. And it's unbridled consumerism that's killing golf. To those making the big bucks in golf, everything looks rosy. That's probably what Nero thought before he saw the flames devouring Rome.

Equipment companies are having a feast, though they probably feel more like junkies - 'wish we could stop this technology madness but I don't think we can live without it'. Golf ball manufacturers are in the midst of the 'Great Golf Ball Wars of the 21st Century'. Pretty soon even us slugs will be able to manage a 410 yard drive. Our old par 71 course will be reduced to a par 50 or maybe just 7 holes averaging about 600 yards.

And only a few have been brave enough to standup and say anything. Some who should be listened to, like Jack, are politely ignored. TV commentators, some so painfully honest that they've never seen a really great golf shot, can't be bothered. Or, maybe they fear for their jobs.

I like technology. I like my perimeter weighted clubs and I like golf balls that are really round. I enjoyed my first big bomber driver when I gained an extra 15 yards to offset my age. But we don't know how or when to stop anymore.

Where are the governing bodies? Has someone gotten to them - told them to bury their heads if they know what's good for them. There have to be some limits somewhere. Limits are good for you. I'm most disappointed by the R&A. I've always assumed that they have a much better appreciation of 'tradition' than the USGA. America has been clearly about money since the end of WWII. But doesn't 'old Europe' have a bit more common sense?

At any rate, let's have a dialogue - you know, a friendly discussion of the situation. Let everyone express themselves, hear all sides - amateurs, tour pros, club pros, retailers, equipment makers, and organizations.

Amateurs, let's not forget that we are the driving engine. It's our money that pays for everything else including the tour pros. Without us the whole thing sinks like a 55 Caddy in a peat bog. Go to the forum sites and make yourself heard and to the blogs. It's not just about saving ourselves some money, or saving courses, it's about saving the game we love. If the governing bodies won't do it, then we've got to do it ourselves fighting hand to hand combat.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Online tools to help your game - GolfDash

The interent, dummy! The place you are right now.

Information is power (who said that? was it Jack?). And what better place to find the latest, most complete information on any subject than the web. The internet can help you decide if that pain in your lower abdomin is gas or appendicitis, so why wouldn't it be able to help you enjoy golf more.

Fix a slice, plan a golf trip to Scotland, find a scholarship for your own future Anika, or get rid of moisquitoes on number 10. It's all on the internet. But I hear you exclaim, 'Alas, the internet is not so friendly to use!' Well golfers, have I got help for you - GolfDash.

GolfDash: the only web directory for golf enthusiasts. Find out about every new trend in golf, the latest headlines, who’s winning today’s pro tournament, or how to become as flexible as Tiger. With the internet becoming the de facto source for up to the minute info, here’s a directory of the best English language golf sites in the world – over 3600 of them. More golfers are realizing every week that information can improve one’s enjoyment of the game, and here’s the one place you can find it all.

Now go out and knock 8 strokes off your handicap - no excuses!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Rise Up and Save Your Sport

The more I think about the distance thing, the more I think it's bad for the game of golf - the distance thing being the more yards we can get from buying technology rather than improving our swing.

I use to race sailboats - a little. It was open racing, not one designs. Invariably the guy who spent the most money won, not the guy who was the best sailor. One design does away with a lot of that. Everyone races virtually the same boat and may the best racer win. Is golf becoming a game of distance only and distance you buy with a credit card?

In golf, it seems that these days the biggest gain to shot distance isn't from faster club head speed due to better swing fundamentals, it's coming from expensive clubs and golfballs. Want to add 20 yards or more to your drive, get a new $500 driver and use the balls that cost $45 per dozen. If you can afford it that is.

And the worst part about it is that every course has to be lengthened and/or 'tricked up' to avoid becoming mincemeat. If you want to host a world golf major, then you've got to get out the chain saws and bulldozers or you won't even be considered. Does this make for a better golf experience. It does make all us amateurs poorer if we want to stay competitive with our wealthy playing partners. And it requires golf courses to spend a lot on upgrades to length, which means their rates will have to go up. I'd rather see the local course maintain what they have and keep the playing fees within reason.

The problem is how to stop the trend. Right now money talks and the equipment folks are having the last word. Can we golfers do anything about this. Can we just say 'no' to another 20 yards or are we all too vain? More tomorrow.

Cybergolf, next best thing to being there?

Cybergolf of course. Where have you been, man?

Cybergolf is intriguing stuff. At least it was after I heard the latest US Amateur champion - Eduardo Molinaro - say it helped his game. So what is it.

Basically you play classic golf courses online. You play the holes just as they are, meaning you see the real thing online. You can play at your keyboard or even swing a real club in the confines of your living room. Space age stuff, but think of the possibilities. Thinking of a vacation to Scotland to play Turnberry? Play it online first to see if you are really going to like it!

While these simulations are limited to world class courses, they may include 1000's in the future. Playing a member guest at an unfamiliar course, play it online first. Nobody will have to tell you that your 280 yard drive is going to get wet on the 10th hole because of the hazard you can't see from the tee.

May last recommendation and another cyber tool tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Some things never change - More Putters.

There's always room for one more putter.

Even if you are a good putter, you are going to have ups and downs. Sometimes all it takes is a different putter to pull you out of a slump, at least for awhile. Nobody knows why this is; it’s just a fact of golf life. VJ slumps using a conventional putter, so he switches to a long one. Life is good, at least for a season. So he switches to a conventional and life is good, for maybe half a season. Like us, he'll probably switch this coming season and start doing well again.

You can't call yourself an avid golfer until you own at least 4 putters.

Unless you're a computer geek, you'll be surprised by tomorrow's pick.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Take a closer look at yourself - Video Swing Analysis

Or seeing is believing.

Video swing analysis: every pro uses it. If video analysis is good enough for the best golfers in the world, then why not for the rest of us? If you own a video camera you can get painstakingly detailed diagnosis of your swing online. No more guessing or trying to figure out what your pro is telling you. With new technology you can really see what you’re doing wrong and, also, if your practice is actually working. All you need is a video camera or a friend who has one. The online video surfaces will show you frame by frame how your swing compares with the ideal. You mean I come across the line that much! Fix that slice for once and for all. Sometimes all it takes for a major breakthrough is to see yourself the way your pro does.

Still more ideas to come.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Get thee to a gym!

What's really going to lower your handicap this year?

Physical training and flexibility: We’ve heard for years now how Tiger Woods revamped his game, no small part of which was revamping his physique, or how VJ Singh goes to the exercise trailer after every round. Going to the gym 3 times a week may do a lot more for the average golfer’s game than another $500 state-of-the-art driver. Look at golf specific physical training aids, they proliferate daily and some really deliver results.

The web is a great way to do research and find out what's working and what's not. New analysis of the swing indicates that flexibility and balance are more important than strength for hitting the golfball where you want to. Of course this takes work, but remember what your old coach told you 'No pain, no gain'. She was right!

More ideas tomorrow.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

What will make us better golfers this year?

What are going to be the hottest golfing items this season? The simple answer – anything golfers believe will lower their score

We all know that shooting lower scores takes work, but can’t seem to admit it to ourselves. It’s much easier to think that you can open the wallet and buy a score via technology. However, after about 10 years of expensive new technologies without a corresponding drop in handicap, most golfers are facing realty – new clubs and balls will not make you a discernibly better golfer year after year.

So here's what I think will be the items most likely to lower your score:

Custom clubs: After years of pushing by custom club fitters, and with many major manufacturers now offering some level of customization, the age of custom club fitting may be taking off. The message is that regardless of how good the new technology is, it won’t help you unless it’s adapted to you.

More tomorrow.