Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Spare Me The Ryder Cup Machismo

It's almost Ryder Cup time again. I like the event - many of the world's best golf pros playing a team sport. I especially love the team matches, I guess because they're so unique to competitive pro golf. Contrary to the weekly tournaments, every golfer's play counts which makes the event great for the TV audience.

So much for what I like. What I don't like is all the hype that sportswriters and broadcasters feel they have to ad. Just let the thing be, please. It's a beautiful and fun event, isn't that enough. Do we have to hear about all the nationalism involved - 'we hate the Americans, we hate the Europeans, blah blah blah'. Golf my friends isn't about hate. (Actually I do hate to shank, but we're talking human beings here.)

And how does a rivalry fueled by nationalism help anyone on this planet. It doesn't make the players play better. It doesn't help world peace or cure hunger either. Will golf audiences only tune in to see someone from a different country get his ass kicked. I don't believe it, regardless of what the media tries to sell us. Do we have to believe them when they tell us they don't really want to promote negativity, they do it only because audiences demand it.

Well, here's one viewer who hopes they'll see the light and stop the trash talk. Tell us instead about the competition, the strategy or the cigars they're smoking but spare us the Vince Lombardi hype. Here are the world's greatest golfers on a beautiful course playing the kinds of matches many of us play for fun with our friends. It's about enjoyment and that's not to say it's not competitive. Some of the most competitive matches I've ever had have been against my friends.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The X Factor and power

I'm going out on a limb again with another bit of advice on the golf swing. I won't denigrate my skill with the clubs again as I've already done that. Proceed at your own risk, check with your doctor and don't blame me if you duck hook your first drive through a course side bay window.

Actually, I think this tip is quite interesting because you don't see it mentioned alot. I was looking at an old golf article the other day about the X Factor. This is something that I believe Jim McLean came up with to explain where the power comes from in a golf swing. Basically the X describes the lines that are created if you looked down at a golfer from above and drew lines through the shoulders and hips. The greater the separation in the lines, the more power you're able to deliver to the golf ball.

Don't worry if you're confused because the tip is actually quite simple. You've got to restrict your hip turn. This makes for a bigger X and therefore more power. But, more importantly in my book, it allows you to hit the ball more cleanly and more consistently. It makes sense if you think about it. When you restrict your hips you create more torque in your torso (sounds like the tag line in a bad ad!). This creates a whole bunch of stored power and all you have to do to get your downswing started is to release your right knee towards the target.

Maybe you're scratching your head about that right knee. It is the key to restricting your hips. Watch the pros, you'll see that many actually point their right knee towards their left at setup. This braces the knee to resist all that turning you're doing on the backswing.

And finally, if you relax and release the right knee, you're more likely to swing with the big muscles of your torso. This is where the real power comes from, not your arms. When you use your arms lots of bad things happen.

Give it a try and let me know how it works.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Beta Blockers in Professional Golf!

There's a recent story out of Sports Illustrated that suggests there are drugs in golf - not steroids but beta blockers. Beta blockers are used to combat anxiety, so it doesn't take a genius to understand why they would appeal to some golfers. I've known executives to take a beta blocker before addressing a large audience to calm their nerves.

There is anxiety in every sport, but I believe that golf promotes it more than most. We can relate to placekickers being anxious because they sit on the bench most of the time, performing only occasionally but often under intense pressure. In competitive golf, most every shot must be performed under pressure since it's usually one stroke out of almost 300 that separates the winner from everyone else. And then there's all that time in between shots to just plain worry. It's easy to understand why using anything to reduce this would be tempting.

The question I'm raising is where do we draw the line. What's a drug and what isn't. Caffeine is a drug, a stimulant, and I'll bet that most golfers use it. If you follow downhill ski racing then you probably know that the great Italian slalom racer, Alberto Tomba, was famous for having an espresso just before his start. Everyone knew and no one complained. After all, caffeine is a legal over-the-counter drug. So is an antihistamine for allergies, yet in some sports taking one before competition would get you disqualified.

It all goes to show that what's accepted and what's not is a very gray area, depending on the sport and social custom. Let's make it even grayer. What if I take an herb which functions as a beta blocker. Am I illegally enhancing my performance with a cup of Kava tea. Right now the answer is - only if it is specifically prohibited by the sport's governing body.

Bottom line, it becomes an almost impossible task to decide what's allowed and what's not. If I suffer from allergies, why can't I take a doctor prescribed antihistamine. Then again, you can probably find a doctor somewhere who will write a prescription for anything, so can that be used as a criteria?

The bottom line may be in what actually works. Why ban a substance if it doesn't help athletes win. Apparently testosterone works miracles for bike racers, so ban it. Steroids work for strength based sports like football and slugging home runs in the majors, so ban them. When someone starts beating Tiger because they're on something and not because they're better, then ban it. Until then let it rest.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Heliocare - a pill to prevent sun damage?

Can a pill a day help keep sun cancer away? that's the potential of a new supplement called Heliocare, which has been shown to protect skin against the effects of sun exposure.

Part of a new trend in "oral antioxidants", Heliocare's active ingredient is an antioxidant called Polypodium Leucotomos (PL), an extract from ferns native to Central America, which have been used by indigenous people to heal skin problems such as psoriasis and dermatitis.

"Studies show that heliocare helps prevent redness after the skin has been irradiated with ultraviolet light," explains Dr. Leslie Baumann, professor of dermatology at the University of Mimami and author of The Skin Type Solution.

According to IVAX Dermatologicals, Inc, the US distributor of Heliocare, golfers who spend significant time outside should take a second pill three hours after the first dose. At $60 for 60 pills, that adds up – but the benefits could be more than worth it.

- from an article in Woman in Golf by Samantha Hallock

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

No more full iron sets!

Golf manufacturers appear to try and stay up on the latest trends in golf. You'd suppose they have to in order to compete. They spend lots of money trying to convince us that we'll play a lot better if we upgrade our 2 year old clubs.

It's not all hype. I do admit there have been some real game improvement clubs over the last 15 years. Who but the pros can't benefit from perimeter weighting. Try and buy a driver WITHOUT a graphite shaft. Perhaps one of the newest and most helpful inventions has been the hybrid club - half iron and half wood. Most everyone has one, including the PGA pros. On the Champions tour you can't find a bag without one or even more.

It doesn't take much foresight to see where this is going. I've been thinking about possibly upgrading my clubs. As I started to go through the selection process in my mind, I realized I don't really want to buy a full set up irons, 3-PW. Many of us already use wedges that don't match our set, same as most pros. And most amateurs can't and don't hit 2 and 3 irons. Some of us are seeing the light and thinking about getting rid of the 4 as well. Which leaves me wanting to buy a new iron set that goes from 5 through 9. That's four clubs less than I have to buy now, or half a set. I think I'll wait another year or so, in which time a smart manufacturer that makes hybrids and irons is going to offer me the choice to buy only the clubs I really need.