Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Preview of '08 US PGA Tour

I think there were some clues to how the '08 PGA Tour in the US might play out based on what happened at the Target Championship last week. For starters, Tiger may be as good as we've ever seen him. He says he's finally put his father's death into perspective and I believe him. He's also got to be feeling that things are in good shape in his world. Tiger is content in his family life, his coach, his caddy and his game. He said as much in an interview he gave during the tournament. A happy relaxed golfer is a tough opponent. Look at what Jack Nicklaus did under similar circumstances, he had his best year on tour. Bottom line, Tiger could exceed his own standards of excellence this year. When he plays in '08 the rest of the field may have to be content playing for second place.

Jim Furyk is back from the wrist problem that effected him two years ago. His game is probably as good as it's going to get. He'll get hotter or colder from time to time, but, bottomline, he's going to have a lot of top 10 finishes that will keep him way up on the money list. His workman's attitude makes him consistently good, he just doesn't have the physical abilities to allow him to dominate the game. He'll do well at the Ryder Cup, but we still won't see him smile much.

The player that is really coming in to his own is Zack Johnson. With every passing week he proves more and more that he isn't just a flash in the pan. He played extremely well after winning the Masters, where most newbies and even some seasoned pros have let downs. He's a solid, if unconventional ball striker, putts and plays the short game well and has shown he has the nerves to be steady down the stretch. He could be the younger US player that really excels for whom we've beeen waiting for quite a long time. He seems to have a level of maturity about himself that many younger golfers don't. I look for him to have a great year in '08.

Then there's everybody else. There's very little to go on to say how some of the other top world players will fare next year. We'll just have to wait for the early tournaments to see who's ready to make a move. I like the fact that Lee Westwood has gotten himself into better physical shape. He's a consistently good player that many thought would contend for the majors. Perhaps his new physique shows a renewed commitment to take his game to the next level. Unfortunately it seems that VJ Singh, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen are all still off their games a bit. Will any one of them be able to find the old magic? All three are in need of a real boost. Sure they'll compete, but it doesn't look like any will make a charge for the top spot.

The biggest question is, as always, Phil. It's very hard to know where he's at. He's shown he can be the guy to beat and, then again, he can disappear to who knows where. Will his desire to beat Tiger push him to raise his game? Or will his desire to be with his family keep him playing in so few events that he'll never be really sharp on a consistent basis. Maybe Butch Harmon can help him with his mental demons more than his swing. Is that where Phil really needs to focus? As there's little word from the Mickelson camp, we'll just have to wait and see.

Besides Zach, I don't see much from the young golfers. Sure they'll win here or there, but like last year they'll disappear shortly thereafter. I can't help but think that it's too easy to make a million on the tour these days and that it keeps most young golfers just happy with making the cut and occasionally getting a top 10.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Why You Shouldn't Buy A New Driver

If you want to be a better golfer, don't spend your money on a new driver! I'll make one exception to that. If you haven't bought a new big stick in the last 10 years, you'll benefit from the new larger heads and more perimeter weighting. Other than that, you can do much better by purchasing a new putter. Let me explain why.

First, answer this question honestly - Why do you want a new driver? Because you want to hit the ball further. That's the honest to god truth. A new driver isn't going to make you hit the ball straighter or correct your slice or duck hook. Only a new swing can do that. So what's wrong with wanting to hit it further? It's the ultimate curse any amateur can put on their game.

Trying to hit it further means swinging harder to us amateurs and that's the biggest problem we have. If we slowed down our swings and worked on a nice smooth tempo, we'd see our games improve beyond our wildest dreams. If you don't believe me, maybe you will believe Jack Nicklaus who says the full swing for every club should be the same. In fact he suggests alternating shots on the practice range between your pitching wedge and driver to condition yourself. If you buy that new driver, you're not going to be able to stop yourself from constantly trying to get another 10 yards out of it. It doesn't even matter how far you hit it, your always going to want it to go further and in the process completely destroy your swing.

A better ideas is to put your dough towards a new putter. If you're a terrific putter and love the club you have, then don't buy anything, but I'll bet that's less than 5% of the amateurs out there. There are some terrific new putters on the market, clubs where technology and new design can really help. One of the most interesting new putters I've seen is from MacGregor. Who would have thought that? They're using something they call Face-Off Technology. I don't know how it works, but I can tell you what it does. It feels like you've hit the ball in the center of the sweet spot no matter where on the face you make contact. You really have to feel it to believe it. I suggest going to the local golf shop and trying it out. As soon as my piggy bank gets full I'm going to run down and buy one in time for next season. I'm also going to take an oath for next year that says I'll practice my pitching,chipping and putting longer than I practice the full swing. If I can do that and forget about adding distance, I should be able to lower my handicap by at least 5 strokes.

Good golfing! PS, if anybody knows of a good practice putting surface that is cheap and can be rolled out on a hardwood floor for indoor practice, please drop me a line. Thanks!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Manage Your Left Arm For Better Contact

I said I wasn't going to give people advice on how to hit the ball, BUT.... I love the game and when I find something that works for me I can't resist passing it on.

My latest and greatest tip has to do with the left arm. For me the change has worked wonders and proven to be effective the last 3 times out so I'm confident it's a real fix. I was practising a few weeks ago and not making consistently crisp contact. I was also pushing a lot of shots. As is my habit at these times, I try to put my consciousness in my body and let it find where the problem is.

What I discovered was that my left elbow was bending a small amount just prior to contact. This was probably from an overly aggressive swing and desire to 'beat the snot out of the ball', something I have to constantly fight against. My fix was to keep the left elbow straight at the end of the downswing and to make sure I pulled the outside of it (where the sharp protrusion is when you bend it) in towards my body. Low and behold! I now had something to hit against, AND the club face was squaring up beautifully.

Try this little drill. Even without a club I think you'll see why this move has to happen or your shots are going to be erratic. Make a downswing in slow motion, you don't even need a club. Bend your elbow slightly just before contact and watch were the club face squares up - past the point of ball contact. That explains your (and my) weak push. Now try the same slowmo downswing keeping the elbow straight before contact and pulling it in towards your body. Does the clubface square up perfectly? How can it not! Try this move on your chip shots and you'll notice a dramatic improvement in how crisply you hit the ball.

I hope this tip works as well for you as it did for me.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Getting the Most Club for the Money

It ain't cheap to own the latest and greatest golf equipment, but there's no doubt that technology has improved balls and clubs in the last 15 years. Anyone who doesn't know that by now has been golfing in a cave. The big question for all golfers is how to buy what will actually help, avoid what won't, and stretch your money as far as possible. Based on my own experience, I've got a few tips that may help.

Forget the $40+ a dozen golf balls. Yeah, they're nice, but for anyone with a double digit handicap they aren't going to make a noticeable difference. There are actually some good 3 piece balls for less than $26. Check out the e5 and e6 from Bridgestone for starters. They're soft, they fly long, and they spin well for the short shots. Most major golf ball suppliers have there own version.

If you have to get the latest equipment, try to wait for the sales - which happen more frequently than you may think. Lots of clubs get marked down this time of year in an attempt to move inventory for the new '08 models. Let's face it, if it was the new 'hot' technology for '07 or '06, it will be just fine for you. Before you buy, go online and check the price of your equipment at the major Internet retailers. If you don't know who they are, go to www.golfdash.com and look under equipment/ishop. It won't take you more than 10 minutes to find the street price. Your local golf shop will match it if they plan on staying in business. You can also go to the GolfDash website and find out street prices for many items under the Daily Specials tab.

My final piece of advise is for anyone looking at Callaway equipment. I just bought my wife a used Ladies Big Bertha 460 driver and saved one hundred bucks - honest. If I showed you the club, it would be impossible to tell it wasn't new. They test every club they sell and guarantee it will perform as new. If you don't mind a few cosmetic scratches, you can even save more.

Good luck shopping.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Bandon Dunes - Great Golf Destination

I have been fortunate enough in the last 4 years to play at Bandon Dunes twice, once at the Bandon Dunes track and once at Pacific Dunes. If you love links golf, then this is the place to go in the US. I can't say enough about the quality of the courses there and how much it feels like Scotland.

The property sits on the dunes, high up over the beach below - a very typical Scottish landscape. There are currently 3 top level golf courses at the resort; Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes and Bandon Trails. Though I have never played Bandon Trails, I've seen many of the holes and it looks like it's right up there with the other two. If you can only play one course and you want the toughest one, then Pacific Dunes is for you.

If you're looking for a place to play golf and also party, then this isn't your destination. This is hard core golf at a fair price. The full price in peak season is a bit stiff, but it's greatly reduced from November to April. If you're worried about the weather, then you're not a real Scottish links golfer. You may encounter a bit of wind and rain, but this is golf as it's typically played in Scotland. (I once inquired of a Scotsman who planned a week's golfing trip in Scotland for myself and a friend about what would happen if we got rained out of a round. His response, 'I don't know, I've never known it to happen' - meaning they don't stop playing for a 'wee bit of rain'.)

You can also knock down the price of a round by staying at the hotel. It's not a bad idea to consider as there aren't many alternatives in the area. A bit of advice, don't get the room my wife and I had that is over the downstairs bar, you'll be up until the last golfer's go to bed. The food at the resort is not to die for, but it's reasonable fair.

If you go, plan in advance as the course can be booked out at certain times. Be prepared to walk, I don't think they even have carts. For those of you not used to hoofing it, there are caddies available. There are also pull carts readily available. It's an easy course to walk, as most links courses are because they are relatively flat. Though I haven't played the 'Trails' course, it looks a bit more up and down than the two 'Dunes' courses.

If you can possibly swing a trip to Bandon - do it! I'm not being compensated in any way by the people who own the resort to promote it. In fact, they don't even know I'm writing this. If you get a chance to play any or all of these courses, please let me know how you fared.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Fix For Too Much Pro Distance

The PGA tour gets longer and longer. Everyone has been talking about it for at least 5 years. There have been many suggestions on how to deal with it, but the powers that be have not budged. Meanwhile top notch courses are forced to continuously add yards if they want to host the top events. Seems like an expensive way to fix a problem that results primarily from one club - the driver.

Take away the 340+ yard drives and the pro tour could continue as it has without all the expensive course modifications. The classic layouts in the game could be preserved as they are and not gimicked up as some say they've done at Augusta. Some have proposed limiting the distance of the pro ball, but this has some serious drawbacks that have been discussed at length. Why not just take the driver out of the pros' hands. I don't propose that they do it on all courses, just select ones. It would be just fine to leave some tournaments where the pros can bust the long ones. It would also work out well for the club manufacturers. They could still promote who's using their big sticks. With pros hitting their 3 woods like they did drivers about 10 years ago, we could roll back the clock with very little pain.

Who said the game can't be protected by limiting distance and still keep everyone pretty happy. And it doesn't have to be implemented all at once. Do a pilot at a couple of events next season at courses particularly vulnerable to monster drives and see how it works out.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Jack Nicklaus Please Help Save The Game

If you have read this blog over time, you know I'm a big fan of Jack Nicklaus, not only as a golfer, but for his views on the state of golf and what needs to be done to keep it great. Jack Nicklaus has done plenty for the game. If it weren't for him and Arnold Palmer, today's pros would only be making a small fraction of what they currently earn. He's also been a steadfast supporter and protector of golf's great tradition, sometime having to take unpopular stands to make his point.

So Jack, it's probably not fair that I ask you to do even more. You've done more than your share and have earned the right to live your 'golden years' in the manor you see fit and not hounded by the likes of me. But the game is in serious straights Jac, so I'm asking you to do one more thing for the game to keep it from following in the footsteps of so many other sports that are now mere shadows of what they once were.

And what is this herculean task I would give you? Figure out how to teach the average Joe and Jane how to play this game competently. Actually, that's too much to ask so I'll downsize the task, just figure out a way to teach us how to make decent full swings. If the average golfer could feel good about making a decent swing, I think he or she would learn to putt, chip and pitch on his own. I see golfer after golfer giving up the game because they can't make consistently decent contact on a full swing, even after years of playing and lessons.

Jack, you've shown that besides your prodigious playing ability, you understand so much about every aspect of the game. So who better to take on this challenge. And you'll give Tiger something to think about. Playing at the highest level is great, but can it compete with teaching at the highest level. You'd be giving the gift of this wonderful game to millions and help this sport move off it's now stagnant dime. You'd also ensure that there would be plenty of players for the golf courses you've designed. Right now, that's not a given since the sport hasn't grown its base in at least 20 years, yet new courses are being turned out faster than pizzas.

Jack, you've got the knowledge, the drive and the resources to take on golf's greatest challenge, one that's more difficult by a factor of 100 than matching Bobby Jone's Grand Slam, namely teach us poor amateur schmucks how to make a simple, effective and repetitive golf swing. Thanks, Jack - you're the greatest!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Best of Times and Worst of Times For The FedEx Cup

Tiger wins the FedEx Cup in grand style. What could be better for Tom Finchem, the PGA and Federal Express than to have the best player in the game win the inaugural competition? That takes care of the best of times. Now what about the worst of times?

First, the scoring system was of the wrong magnitude. As many times as the commentators tried to get you excited about what-if scenarios, it was still ho hum. Who can keep track or get excited about a scoring system that has tens and hundreds of thousands of points? We like small numbers for our sports.

Second, it's too much golf for one trophy. The top pros care about the Majors, everything else is a 'nice to have' not a 'must have'. The season already wears them out. And this time of year golf has to compete with the NFL and Major League Baseball. Like every pro sport in the last 50 years where a league president comes along who thinks he'll earn his legacy by extending the season, Finchem figures that more of a good thing is even better. Only if you have another major, but the problem is you can't just declare something important and have it be so. Others have tried and it didn't work for them either.

Third, Tiger isn't going to play in it next year. No, he didn't tell me that, but think about it for a moment. The tournament didn't live up to the hype. He's already won it. Next year there is the Ryder Cup to take even more out of him. And his daughter will be one year old and with Tiger's dedication to family he'll have all the more reason to skip it. He'll simply tell the PGA he's tired and banged up, needs to spend time at home and why not let someone else have a chance to win it anyway.

And there's another problem for the current FedEx format, namely a four tournament in a row competition plays into the hands of the world's best golfer. Other players get hot but it lasts only a tournament. Who's going to stay with Tiger over 288 holes? At this point, no one. Right now the rest of the pack hopes they can steal the occassional 72 hole tournament from him when he isn't looking, anything beyond that would be a miracle. Look at poor Phil, who you can argue is the next best golfer at the moment. He finally beats Tiger in a tourament on the last day, acts like he's got Tiger in the palm of his hand and can, therefore, skip Chicago and then is so far behind he's written out of the script after Day 1 at Eastlake.

The only hope for the FedEx is to rework the format. Even then it's going to be tough to make this work out. Here's my advice to the committee that will evaluate this. Whatever you come up with, run it by Tiger and see if he likes it. If he does, you can guarantee that the rest will follow. If he doesn't, then go back to the drawing board until you get it right.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Key To Hitting Down On Your Irons

For a full swing shot, I think hitting irons is the most difficult for the average amateur. There's something more natural about sweeping a fairway wood or hitting up with a driver. Good iron play demands that you trap the ball between the clubface and the turf. In other words you've got to hit down on the ball, which may be counter-intuitive, but it's also one of the most written golf instructions. So how does the average player learn this important technique?

Like many amateurs, I've struggled with consistently hitting down on my irons. Sometimes I blame it on too much practice on practice mats stuck on top of concrete, or playing munis that haven't seen rain for two months. But that's an excuse. When I do get a chance to play on a well manicured track, I still have trouble.

I've come to the conclusion that the biggest problem with hitting down on the ball is losing your spinal tilt. Change this critical piece before or at impact and it's impossible to hit down. You'll end up picking the ball at best or, worst, hitting it thin or fact. And you'll never get the trajectory or distance you should.

So how do you insure that you keep your tilt? As we all know, these things you can't just will, otherwise we'd all be scratch players. Sometimes you have to find another piece in the chain, that you can control and that ends up forcing the thing you're really trying to accomplish - in this case keeping your spinal tilt. I've discovered something that works for me and maybe will work for you too.

I've been concentrating on the palm of my right hand as it approaches the ball at impact, but before the wrist cock is released or the wrists rolled. When the hands approach the ball and the club face is about waist high with the toe pointing skyward and the shaft parallel to the target line, if the palm is facing directly at someone standing across from me and not tilted toward the sky at all, then my spine angle is likely to be correct. Try holding this angle for yourself and you'll see what I mean. If you change your spinal tilt it ends up affecting the position of your palm, because of the way the hand and arm are connected to the torso.

Try a swing in slow, slow motion. If your right palm is facing out as described above and not tilted at all upwards, where is your spine? Conversely if you tilt your palm slightly skyward you lose spinal tilt. To keep the palm of the right hand in the position described is not easy, you really have to stay down. You'll also get the feeling of 'covering the ball' at impact, something you've probably read about numerous times but, maybe, haven't understood.

This isn't a cure-all. You still have to swing on the right path, transfer weight, etc. But I believe it's absolutely necessary to staying down. It won't hurt your wood play either. Happy Golfing!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Can Clubs Make You A Better Player?

Not all clubs are created equal. Could Tiger use your clubs and shoot par - sure! But he can do better with his own clubs. And think of the pros that have switched clubs, ruined their game, and had to come running back to their old sponsor.

Of course this doesn't mean that new clubs will fix your slice or suddenly have you hitting down on your iron shots. Probably most of how you hit the ball has to do with the quality of your swing. But there is still enough variation beyond that to make club selection important. Certain types of clubs are better for certain types of games. If you are a 20 handicapper, you're not going to play better golf if you suddenly find Tiger's clubs in your car. If you're not hitting the center of your irons 9 times out of 10, then a perimeter weighted cavity back club is going to help.

And then there's the mystique of a club - how it looks to your eye, feels in your hands and whether it inspires confidence. Up until yesterday I have been playing the last 7 years with custom Ping I3 blades. The custom being an inch and a quarter longer, a bit more upright and oversize grips. I traded them in Sunday for a new set of Cleveland CG4 Tours with stiff True Temmper Actionlite shafts.

Of course I had to play them the same day. Never even went to the driving range. I LOVE them. I'd sleep with them except that my wife would make me and the golf bag use the couch. Are the CG4 Tours better than the Ping I3's? Darned if I know. I only know they're better for me. The again maybe it's just the fact that they're new and shiny.

I've got to add that the new clubs are not custom, they're straight off the rack. Not sure if I'll lengthen them or have the lie checked. I may change the grips, but even that's not a given. For now, I'm enjoying them too much just the way they are.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Perfect Your Swing With Position Practice

I can't tell you what the right way is to swing a golf club. I'm not a teaching pro and I haven't written any books on the subject. I'm not even a scratch golfer. I probably have 25 'how to' books in my own library, most of which I've been through numerous times. And God only knows how many 'how to' articles I've read in golf magazines over the years. BUT, I do have something of value to pass along - how to ingrain what you know.

First, you've got to come to grips with the basics of the swing via some means; a teaching pro, your scratch playing buddy, a book - something. From this you need to take away where the various parts of your body should be at: (1) address, (2) 90's into the backswing, (3) the top of the backswing, (4) 90 degrees into the downswing, (5) at contact with the ball, (6) 90 degrees past contact and (7) completion of your swing. I know this is a lot to ask of you, but you've got to get these right.

My advice pertains with what to do with this information. Practice holding these 7 positions every day for a few minutes in the backyard or in the house if the ceilings are high enough. Hold each position for a second or two. Your body will learn where it's supposed to be if you keep repeating the positions. So all you have to do is to figure out what they are. Good Luck

And here's the best tip I've had in the last month. It's from Tiger Woods website (www.tigerwoods.com under the Tips category). Hit your pitch shots with your chest! Not literally of course, but feel like it's your chest that's driving your arms and ultimately the club head. If you do this you won't quit on the swing and decelerate - the kiss of death. Thank you Tiger, I've saved myself a lot of strokes in the last month.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Daly's PGA Strategy

A lot has been written about John Daly's approach to this year's U.S. PGA Championship as well as his approach to golf in general. John very rarely takes the high road. He goes with what he feels, which is often high risk and low reward at best. Needless to say, the average PGA pro doesn't include overdosing on caffeine and nicotine in 100 degree August weather as part of his Southern Hills game plan. At the beginning of the week, most of them probably even chose practicing over gambling as their warm-up for Thursday's first round.

So, is John Daly out of his mind? Or more to the point, is his approach to trying to win a major wrong for him? Perhaps we can get some insight by looking at how Arnold Palmer played in his prime. Arny was a risk taker for sure. In many ways this is what appealed most to his legions of golf fans around the world. Arny was always 'charging' and making 'trouble shots' from impossible places often because he had just tried something foolhardy by anyone else's standards. In more than one tournament he tried to drive short par fours when the 'smart' play was iron of the tee for a routine par. Too often his strategy ended up in bogey golf. Many analysts have written that he could have won a lot more tournaments if he had been a bit more conservative.

When asked about this, Arny replied that risk-taking was his nature and what made golf interesting and fun for him. He concluded that if he'd been forced to play conservatively he never would have stuck with the game. I believe this speaks volumes about why players approach the game differently. As crazy as John Daly's approach to golf may be for the average pro, it may be what's right for him because it's the only way he finds the game challenging and exciting enough to keep his attention. Something to think about the next time you watch big Big John try to carry his drive 320 yards over a hazard when the other guys all lay up.

Monday, July 23, 2007

‘ESPN on ABC’ British Open Coverage

I don’t care how many media names are linked together, the ‘ESPN on ABC’ coverage of the British Open was poor. I’ve already talked about too many commercials so I won’t belabor that point. I’ve already talked about not telling the story, not selling the excitement, so I won’t go there, but what about showing a few shots from more than the top two tournament leaders and Tiger. For example, Mike Weir started Sunday just off the lead, but I don’t think there was more than one shot of him during all of Saturday. And where was Romero? Until his back nine on Sunday I didn’t even know he existed. Most golf fans are interested in more than just the two low scorers. I know it’s hard to keep a storyline going on 8 or 10 golfers at a time, but isn’t that what top coverage is supposed to provide. It’s not rocket science, if you had fewer commercials you could show more golf. Of course we all know that golf, like most things in life, is about the bottom line. Whoever is willing to pay the most earns the right to provide the coverage, regardless of whether they can do it best. Imagine building skyscrapers or bridges based only on the low bid.

However, what irked me the most was the interview with Jean Van de Velde. First, most everything on TV these days is focused on human failure. Producers have decided that no one in their right mind wants to hear about success. Golf coverage, in general, seems to be a bunch of commentators just waiting for the next golfer to choke. Success is under-played while failure is played up and repeated until you’re ready to swear off pop culture altogether.

But I digress. How dare the interviewer try to browbeat the seriously ill Jean Van de Velde into some kind of complete emotional breakdown. Talk about poor decision making, the producer of that piece ought to be enshrined in a prominent place in the hall of shame. Monsieur Van de Velde very clearly and graciously described his feelings then and now. This, however, wasn’t enough for the producers. I felt they wouldn’t be satisfied until the guy committed seppuku on screen. Adding further to the aggravation, they had to show footage of his collapse at least 5 different times on Sunday. ESPN or ABC or whoever you are, we get the picture, we know the story but this is now and that was then. Show us the live coverage, build the drama, explain the game, use the Swing Cam (or whatever it’s called), keep the commercials down and let us enjoy the terrific competition. You might also want to teach your commentators that what they don’t say is as important as what they do say. Great jazz artists discover this as they mature. The idea that ‘dead air’ is such a terrible thing has really made coverage almost unbearable at times. If it wasn’t one of the majors I would have turned it off!

One more thing for the commentators – you don’t have to pretend you know which way every putt is going to break. It doesn’t really add anything and we can all see the results and judge for ourselves. If we didn’t have to worry about line and speed, every putt would go in. We get it – don’t browbeat us! Telling us that there’s a big ridge across the green or that a put has about a dramatic break is a help because it helps paint the picture. Telling us your guess that a putt is going to break an inch left or right adds nothing.

Tiger, Strongest Golfer or Best Golfer?

I thought Tiger’s performance at the British Open was very interesting, even though not victorious. Let’s add some perspective; Tiger hasn’t one a major yet this year. Of course, that’s only unusual for him. What struck me was how big Tiger is – muscle-wise. He clearly has the most bulked-up physique of any pro golfer. While he has been buff in years past, it’s clear that he’s put on a lot of muscle mass this year. He admits that himself. There’s nothing wrong with that if you’re playing a sport where size is needed, like linebacker in the NFL.

I thought everyone knew that you can’t be a great golfer if you’re muscle bound. Hasn’t this always been taken for granted in the golfing community? Is this nothing more than a wives’ tale? Tiger’s performance this past week certainly doesn’t refute it. But maybe it was just an off-week for him. After all, he’s human. However, golf flows, it’s more about rhythm than brute force. One of the attractions of the game of golf has always been that little skinny guys could hit it as far, if not farther, than the big brutes. Just look at Gary Player and Chi Chi Rodriguez.

I’m no musculoskeletal expert, but it doesn’t seem a stretch to imagine that all that muscle fiber would be more sensitive to random electrical impulses causing it to twitch and fire at the wrong moment – just what you don’t want in a golf swing. Maybe a neuromuscular expert can shed the light of science on this, but I’m going with my gut that big humongous muscles and golf don’t mix. Don’t the big biceps just get in the way?

Regardless of my theories on physique, Tiger’s swing was way out of whack, his shots missing both right and left and we’re talking irons here, not the driver. Where there’s fluidity to most pro swings, Tiger’s has always seemed a bit strained, now more so than ever. Maybe it’s just because he swings faster (harder?) than everyone else. All I know is that I cringe when I imagine myself swinging that way, something I don’t feel with most of the other pros.

Could it be that Tiger needs a teacher? Hank Haney is his current coach, but from all accounts I’ve read, it’s the most tenuous of teacher student relationships. It’s more like ‘Hank, tell me if my hands are too much out in front’, meaning Tiger sets the agenda and Hank gets to speak only when spoken to. I’ll admit for the record that I’ve never taught anyone golf except my wife, but I don’t think it takes more than common sense to see that something is wrong in Tiger’s swing and I don’t think more muscle is the fix.

Tiger has won so much that it mutes criticism. He’s the ‘best golfer in the world’ so how dare anyone standup to him and say differently. The danger is that someday, and maybe it’s now, he’s going to need a third party critique. Unfortunately, at that point, there may be no one willing to say the emperor has no clothes on.

Tiger, maybe I’m wrong, it’s only my guess. And I wouldn’t be disappointed if you came back and won the PGA this year as well as the FedEx Cup. That sure would shut up the naysayers for awhile and might just be enough to get me to breakout the free weights.

GolfDash Website Gets A Facelift!

The GolfDash website has just gone through a major revision with significant enhancements for both visitors and members. Of course I’m prejudiced being one of the co-founders, but in my humble opinion a great website is now even better.

First, the graphics and layout are much improved. Take a look and you’ll see a cleaner website and, most importantly, one that is easier to understand and navigate. I don’t think there’s a more professional or sophisticated golf site out there in internet land and I’ve seen most of them.

Here’s a quick tour of the site and what’s changed. The GolfDash logo, Member Sign-in, Daily Headline and Featured Site are now all at the top of the site in a horizontal band. Added to this in the middle is a new feature – a Calendar - which provides a quick list of all the PGA and LPGA tour dates. With a simple click, you’ll know where the tour is in any given week.

Directly below this top section is an RSS feed for Headlines and the Weather Center. GolfDash members can customize content in these two areas as they see fit. This is a great benefit to be able to track the news and weather that’s important to you. If you only use the public site, think about becoming a member – it’s still free!

Below the Headlines and Weather is the heart of GolfDash – links to over 4000 golf related websites all nicely categorized and searchable. The left side navigation that gives access to all this content now sports a brand new look. Additionally, every heading in the left navigation can be expanded or closed by clicking the carrot next to it, allowing you to make the site as simple or complex as you need. The GolfDash Search Box is still at the top and allows users search access by keyword(s). Directly below that is a list of the major site Content Areas which facilitates navigation to every link in the GolfDash database. Frequent users will see that these major content areas have been tweaked, making the groupings more logical. Clicking on a given entry brings the corresponding Content Categories into the center section of the website.

The tabbed Content Categories across the center of the site now include a description area making it easier to understand what is included. The Subcategories and Links under Content Categories sport a new layout which makes them much easier to read and understand. Members can add and delete links as they see fit, and they have their own My Links tab where they can create their own categories and corresponding links - one more reason to become a member.

Back in the left navigation, below the site content is our Featured Advertiser. This space is for rent and any would-be advertisers can contact Doug or me directly at info@golfdash.com. This is a great way to get exposure to more than 3500 golfers daily (unique visits) in a thoughtful and prominent, yet unobtrusive, way.

Next entry in the left navigation is a list of the most recent entries in the GolfDash Blog. A click on any headline takes you directly to the blog. Below this is a list of Sponsored Links. Anyone wishing to be highlighted should contact Doug or me for rates.

Last on the left navigation is News which is a list of headlines from prominent golf publications and news services. In a moment you can quickly get a sense of what’s happening on a daily basis in the world of golf.

Doug and I took to heart your suggestions and put a lot of work into the GolfDash website to make it easier for every golfer and every industry professional to take advantage of all the great golf content that exists on the web. There are so many good golf resources on the internet that it’s a shame to miss out simply because you didn’t know they existed. As always, we want and need your suggestions. Doug and I firmly believe that we can have a great website only if we get and use input from site users! Please contact us anytime at support@golfdash.com.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Sweet Swing of Ben Hogan

Ok, there is no sound to this video (which I would love to hear) but just watching the swing of Hogan is a treat.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Golf Needs A New Kind Of Publication

I read a lot of golf magazines. Or, more correctly, I peruse a lot of golf magazines. It’s part of my job to be up on the latest in golf, so I go to the local bookstore and leaf through seven or eight different ones each month to get the latest and greatest news on golf.

I never really considered the whole lot of these publications until just recently. I was content to look through them and come away with a strange sense of emptiness, but never really question why. Maybe I’m a little thick, but it finally dawned on me. They are all marketing publications. They’re not thoughtful, unbiased journals about the wonderful game/sport of golf. They’re extensions of the golf courses, equipment makers, destination resorts, travel agencies, and teaching pros to sell us the sport.

Think about it. When’s the last time you read anything critical of the sport in a golf magazine or a thoughtful article on the state of the game. Who’s writing about slow play, the fact that amateurs never get better, how all the ‘cure your slice’ articles never reduce the number of slicers, how there’s no club that can keep you from hitting it fat, the high price of destination golf courses, or the lack of creative course architecture. They can’t. If they did, who would pay for the magazine, certainly not the current advertisers who all have a stake in keeping us all in dreamland. Think about it, there must be at least three pages of unabashed advertising for every one page of an article.

Can the sport of golf evolve sensibly and protect its wonderful heritage without thoughtful discourse on what’s right and wrong with the current game. Take the issue that many private courses around the country, with a few exceptions, are losing membership at an alarming rate. This is more than a single facility problem, it’s endemic to golf in this country in the 21st century.

Like most naysayers, I can point out problems, but I don’t have much to offer in the way of a solution. Maybe we need someone with deep pockets and a religious commitment to the game to fund such a noble undertaking. Could it pay for itself in a year or so once golfers realized how refreshing it would be to read about golf without being sold every step of the way? Maybe it could attract advertisers who want to market to golfers, but don’t have a vested interest in the sport. Look at the TV advertisers to find some likely candidates.

Honesty has to be as good for golf as it is for everything else. For every advertising dollar that honest reporting might drive away, there is another dollar lurking in the shadows just waiting to associate itself with the wonderful sport of golf.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Is The USGA Killing Golf?

From what I've read, most golf analysts think the Open at Oakmont was a fair test. I agree, but only because everyone played the same course under the same conditions. It was not the intelligent test of golf it was meant to be. The U.S. Open is the greatest golf tournament in this country and, as such, it sets the direction of the sport in general. With its handling of the Open, the USGA is turning golf into an Extreme Sport, killing what's it's supposed to be preserving.

Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade just finished hosting the CVS Charity Classic at the Rhode Island Country Club. It's held Monday and Tuesday after the U.S. Open and is one of the best golf fund raisers in the country. (It's a great venue. The players are relaxed and the spectators can see some of the best in the game up close and personal.) One of the all time greats played this year - Lee Trevino. And Lee had a lot to say about the state of the sport that has provided him a wonderful life. He's upset by it's continual decline. Bottom line for Lee; it's too hard and too expensive for the average player - the one that's the lifeblood of the game.

I couldn't agree more with Mr. Trevino and I think a lot of the responsibility lies with the USGA, particularly with how they set up courses for the Open. Oakmont was a big mistake. Unfortunately golf architects take their clues from this tournament. It seems a new course can only be among the best if it's over 7000 yards and is so difficult that you and I will lose at least a six pack of balls, shoot well north of 100 and spend over $100 (or maybe a lot more). Sounds like fun, doesn't it? As the cost of living and gas skyrockets like our handicaps, we'll still be happy to spend big bucks for five plus hours of torture, won't we. Yeah, right!

So what's wrong with the setup of the Open? It's that it misses the point of what golf is all about. It was never meant to be an Extreme Sport. The way things are going, in 10 years the rough at the Open will be stocked with man eating crocodiles. Or how about adding wind machines to every hole to simulate playing in a hurricane.

If you watched the Open you probably heard the quote from Mr. Fownes who was the course architect; 'a poorly played shot should be irrevocably lost'. Compare that philosphy to Alister MacKenzie's, the architect of Augusta and Cypress Point to name a few - a great golf hole should be able to be played by the amateur and the professional alike and be challenging to both. Maybe Mr. Fownes should have just said 'the player who hits a poor shot will be summarily removed from the course and beaten within an inch of his or her life'. Teach you to make a bad swing I will! Golf is about finding salvation from our mistakes, not about being hit over the head for them.

I've heard commentators get on Phil's case for blaming the rough for injuring his wrist. Hold on a moment, Phil wasn't the only one to be injured while playing and have to withdraw. At last count at least 6 players were injured. Is golf a full contact sport now - miss a shot at Oakmont and be prepared to take a blind hit from a Steeler's linebacker? I'm not a big Phil fan, but I'm in his corner on this one.

I believe golf was meant to be mostly a mental challenge. The great architects design courses with numerous routes to the hole, all with differing risk/reward profiles. The visual layout of the hole is meant to challenge and deceive the mind. Great golf is more like chess and less like a WWW Smackdown.

After watching the Open at Oakmont, I'm sure there will be architects and their customers planning the next 'top 100 course' where the fairways will be no wider than your sidewalk and the rough will look like a Kansas wheat field just before the combines arrive. It will cost you at least a month's spending money to play and you'll say 'never again' when you're finished and bleeding in the clubhouse.

I'm not against tough courses. I've been lucky enough to have played some of the great ones both in the U.S. and in Scotland and loved them. But it's wrong when their are only two shots possible; 1) a great one that gets a lucky bounce and 2) every other shot where you lose at least one stroke. Because of the setup at Oakmont, there were virtually no chances for great recovery shots. Yet, recovery shots are very much a part of the game and often what is most memorable from tournaments of old. Miss a shot at Oakmont or get an unlucky bounce and your only option was to take an extra shot and try again. Hit a bad shot and you should be challenged to make a spectacular shot for a recovery. There was no such option at Oakmont. Your only choice was to take your wedge and gouge it out 90 degrees. This is not exciting golf, it's actually painful to watch. If every course was setup like this, there would be no place for the Seve Ballesteros's of the world.

In the coming years, the people who are supposed to be promoting this great game will sit in their offices, scratch their heads and wonder just what went wrong. My advice to them is to go back and read how golf began, why it prospered for centuries and what was on the minds of the great course architects. And start promoting a game that a normal working family can enjoy. The professional game has to dramatize the allure of golf and, believe me, it's more about the mental than the physical. They also need to find better ways to teach the game. Most amateurs fight some kind of slice, which indicates their basic swing is seriously flawed. They rarely understand how to 'let the club do the work'. And they sure as hell aren't going to play a tight, extremely penal course more than once a year.

And if the USGA isn't going to rise to the occassion and address the problems they're most responsible for creating, then the stars and future course designers will have to. I guess this means you, Tiger. You are probably the one person who has a shot at single-handedly changing the game. When I was a kid, I played at a course that had dirt tees. My friend Robby used to bring a hammer - yes the kind you drive nails with - so we could pound our tees in. We played because it was cheap and we had a lot more fun than if our parents were members at Oakmont. Tiger, maybe you never played a course like that. If not, go out to a few local dog tracks and see what's going on. You're a charitable guy and have helped thousands of people. Why not help 10's of thousands learn the game by designing some cheap challenging courses that the average family can afford. Help us get back to the great game that golf has always been.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

US Open, There's Drama Lurking

There is no better championship in organized, adult sport than the U.S. and British Opens in golf. What other championship is open to anyone? Just win your sectional and then the regional and you're in. You can be 80 or 13, makes no difference. Anyone who thinks they have game is welcome to step-up and give it their best.

The Opens are also great because they are played on different courses each year - traditionally the oldest and most revered. To win more than one you can't have a game that's suited to just one course, you've got to have an extraordinary game.

Which is why it's rather surprising that Tiger Woods has won only once, back in '02. I was sure he had already won twice. I guess I got confused with green jackets. I'll go so far as to say that this is a watershed event for Tiger. He's 30 now and almost a parent. How many really good years does he have left? only 6 or 7 if he's like most other human golfers. That's not to say he won't win some tournaments after 37, but he's not going to reap hand fulls every year like he does now.

I don't know the stat, but I'll bet money that Nicklaus had more than one Open championship at 30. After all, it is the national championship. Tiger won 3 US amateurs in barely as many years. And he's only got one US Open championship in 10? tries. What's that about? If Tiger pulls this one out - responds to all the press and hype that Phil is getting and ignores all the guys within 5 years of his age who are figuring out how to win - then my money is on him to beat Jack's numbers when it's all over. If he doesn't win.....

Monday, June 11, 2007

Are Private Clubs The Next Dinosaurs?

More golf courses are built every year, but the number of golfers stays the same. To me that means more supply for the same demand and that equates to more courses competing for the same number of rounds. The fact that more and more private clubs are scrounging for new members seems to support that conclusion.

In New England, where I live, many (maybe most) private golf clubs are having to deal with shrinking membership. They have three choices; 1)raise rates to the remaining members, 2)try to find new members to replace those that die or leave or 3)sell the place to their local real estate developer. The problem with choice 2 is that private clubs are not on the cutting edge of marketing, having been spoiled in years past when prospective members had to literally beg to get in. Those days have been gone for a number of years now.

Today, during 19th hole discussions one often hears about local private clubs trying to actively market their memberships, particularly with rumors of reduced or eliminated initiation fees. Initially these offers sound tempting until you do some simple math to see what you're getting.

For example, one good quality local club is offering to wave the thousand dollar initiation fee. Here's what it would cost for my wife and I when you look at what's left; $7000 for golf and lockers (with some restrictions on player 2), $1000 for mandated cart fees (whether you use them or not) and $1000 for mandated food expenditures. That adds up to $9000 for a season of golf. If money is no object that may be a good deal, but for the middle class it just doesn't work. My extra money is going to increases in gasoline, home heating, health care and property tax to name a few.

My wife and I can play all season at fair to excellent courses for under $2000. That includes at least a couple of rounds at the area's best public course. How can I justify paying 4 times that for golf at one OK course? And by not going for the private course we'll have money to spend on golf if we can get away somewhere warm during the winter.

To my way of thinking, the private clubs are missing the mark big time. They have to come up with new and innovative products to sell or they are going to eventually die. There are only so many upper class golfers out there who can afford traditional private course memberships. And most of these, being older adults, already have their membership somewhere. Apparently today's younger well-to-do players don't think about private clubs the way their parents did. They don't seem interested in joining the old boys and girls clubs. Maybe because after buying the obligatory McMansion and SUV, they don't have enough left for the private club. Or maybe the value isn't there for them when they see how many good local courses they can play for a lot less. Who needs the locker room, wants to pay for carts you don't use or buy food that's not as good as most of the local restaurants.

The USGA, PGA, Club Owners Association and the like had better start to figure out how to sell rounds in new ways or a lot of golf courses are going to be left out to dry or be turned into housing tracts. Groups like the PGA, that feed off amateur golf, should put some of their creative talents into selling the game and not just making a few pros multi-millionaires.

I have a couple of suggestions for any groups that want to address the issue: 1) Focus on teaching the game. One reason that the number of new golfers each year just about equals the number who quit is because they find the game too hard. 460cc square head drivers don't seem to be the answer. All the new equipment in the world won't make up for terrible technique. 2)Make the game easier to sample in small bites; consider selling regional passes that allow a couple of rounds each at a group of local clubs, even if you have to limit tee times to low traffic periods. Sell range passes. Club pros could offer special small group lessons on weekday mornings instead of spending their free time trying to adjust member handicaps who can't quite get their scorecards correct.

Somebody, in a position of leadership, had better step-up to the problem or there will be a lot of hand wringing about the state of the game in the not too distant future.

Monday, June 04, 2007

CBS, Fed Ex, Faldo and Finchem

I love Jack Nicklaus and it was great to see K.J. Choi win the Memorial in sterling fashion - fabulous bunker play and putting on the last holes. Congratulations Mr. Choi - well done and well deserved!

Why then, did the whole thing leave a bad taste in my mouth? As I've written in this blog before, this year's CBS coverage of golf is troubling. It's not just CBS of course, but a combination of Tim Finchem, the FedEx Cup and Nick Faldo as color commentator. Here's how I see it.

The FedEx Cup has an insane amount of money at stake for the players. From a player's perspective this is where the big dollars are. That's not to say that winning a million dollar first place check isn't good pay, but you'd have to win 10 of those to earn what you can get for first place in the FedEx Cup. I think there's a limit to how much sports figures can make before the fans get turned off by excess. The game is in danger of losing some of it's appeal when so many players can earn millions in any given year and not even win. It takes away from the integrity of a sport where you got paid only if you earned it - no million dollar salaries for bench warmers.

I believe there is even a darker side to this. Most golf fans watch the sport on TV. It's the medium that creates our view of professional golf and determines if we enjoy watching it or turn on Major League Baseball instead. Many golf fans have never seen a professional tournament. Most baseball fans have been to at least a game or two and it's that live experience that colors our view of it on TV. When your watching at home it's easy to smell the hot dogs and feel the peanut shells under your feet.

Golf relies much more on the TV broadcast to set the scene and feed our imagination. How can CBS do this if they have to devote more time to advertising than to actual coverage of the competition? They're in a hole before coverage even begins. Add to this that with so many commercials they can never provide more than a few uninterrupted minutes of golf. The result is no flow, no sense for the viewer of what's happening on the course. It's just a few random shots and putts interspersed among a lot of commercials. This same approach killed the winter Olympics where you need to see a slalom heat or a ski jumping round from beginning to end to get emotionally involved. Even baseball has protected the sanctity of the half inning.

Golf has to be sold to us as drama, and it's the networks job to do this. Pro golfers are not a flashy bunch in the first place and today's young players seem to have all worked hard to take emotion out of their game. Maybe this makes them play better, but it certainly makes for a less exciting viewing experience for us. They keep to themselves with their emotions tucked neatly into their golf bags.

If there's any hope for this recipe for disaster to succeed, it falls to the commentators. They have to somehow create drama where it's all but invisible, help us forget the constant interruptions and keep us on the edge of our seats. They only seem able to do this when Tiger is in contention because of the larger than life drama that follows this era's greatest player everywhere he goes. Otherwise it's a bit ho hum, or maybe a lot ho hum. While Nick Faldo is knowledgeable and makes insightful comments they never come together enough to describe the drama that's unfolding. The great English golf commentator Peter Alliss makes few comments, but it works when the BBC pretty much lets the cameras role without commercials. Johnny Miller is much better than Nick in this department, even when he comes across as a bit superior to everyone out on the course. Don't downplay that he's helped immensely because NBC doesn't break up the coverage like CBS.

In the end, the whole ball of wax falls on the Commissioner's shoulders. After all, he dreamt this thing up, created the format, determined the purse and then negotiated the deal. While the FedEx Cup may be a terrific idea, it's execution ultimately dooms golf fans and the long term outlook for the sport. Did someone forget that you're not supposed to kill the golden goose?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Why the long face, Mr. Furyk?

Seems like there's not a lot happening on the PGA U.S. Tour unless Tiger or Phil are involved. There is no Fijian, South African, European or Australian superstar to fill the void. No one else seems able to sustain dominance week in and week out. On the U.S. front, no young guns have yet emerged to take up the mantle. Guys like Zach Johnson tease us that maybe they'll join the ranks of the pro elite, but they've got to prove they can sustain their winning ways for more than a tournament, a month or even a year.

Then there's Jim Furyk with the famous loopy swing. He has performed at the top for many years and has won some big tournaments along the way. Where stars of old like Davis Love III and Freddy C have been fading, Jim is still very competitive and always a threat to pull out a win. Year to date he is number 17 on the money list having earned a bit more than $1.6 million.

Not a bad way to make a living, considering it's just a game. It's a walk in some of the finest 'parks' in the country. It certainly is not life and death - no brains to operate on, or hearts to be transplanted.

Jim Furyk has already built his reputation as a great golfer. It could get even better, but won't really sink even if he never wins again - something not likely to happen. Jim has made 10's of millions of dollars playing a funny game where adults compete to put a little ball in a round cup on fastidiously maintained grass carpets. Only we should be so lucky.

Then why does Jim Furyk walk around with such a long face all the time? You'd think he had to clean the Porta Poddies Sunday evening, or spend 40 plus hours a week in an 8 by 10 cubicle at the mercy of a 'Nine to Five' boss. Personally, I'd clean the Porta Poddies for what Jim will make this year and I'd do it with a smile on my face.

On an individual basis, you're entitled to play the game the way you want. That's one of the beauties of golf as an individual sport. But if you think beyond yourself, how can you not see that as a leading pro you owe something to the golfing fans, those on whose backs the purses are built. And don't forget the future generations of pros who hope the tour stays as lucrative as it is. If guys like Arnie, Chi Chi, Gary and Lee didn't do more than just play great, there wouldn't be the gigantic purses there are today. They smiled and even joked with us as they played. It made them human and a little bit easier to identify with. Are there any little kids out there pretending they're Jim Furyk?

Someone has to play great and give that something extra to the fans or our numbers will surely dwindle. I'm not saying that playing at the highest level on the pro tour doesn't take concentration. There's plenty of time for that in a 4 1/2 hour round, but there's also time for some smiles and fan interaction, letting us know that under it all we're all more alike than we are different. Even Jack was smiling occasionally when he won his last Masters and no one had greater powers of concentration on the course. Even some brain surgeons have been known to smile from time to time when they're working.

Jim, you've established your reputation as a great golfer, now take it up a notch and become a great golf ambassador. Who knows, in the future there may even be kid or two out there putting on a practice green with the announcer's call going through his mind 'Jason Everykid has this 10 footer to beat Jim Furyk for the U.S. Open Championship'.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Some Michelle Wei (and Sean O'Hair) Thoughts

The Michelle Wei story, I admit, facinates me. Maybe because it has built-in drama, ie; the gifted prodigy gone bad due to misguided and overbearing parents. This, of course, is the same story line of gifted PGA tour player Sean O'Hair.

In some ways this occurrence is bound to happen. When you have a son or daughter with the talents of Sean O'Hair and Michelle Wei your mind must replicate the inside of a pin-ball machine. On one side you have the responsibility to look out for your child's best interests but you also have the tug of financial opportunities galore.

There is nothing wrong with seeking financial riches, hey, they come with the territory, and you would be foolish not to pursue the many opportunities afforded you.

But when the parents of Michelle Wei and father of Sean O'Hair tried to become their managers and financial partners something happened. I am not sure of the background of either sets of parents but you do need some degree of inner strength, business saavy and preparedness to deal with the onslaught and whirlwind of opportunities.

And being the parents I am sure they felt what they were doing was correct. But (and the verdict is still out on Michelle) it seems clear now it was not. Why? I believe they circumvented the natural development process these young adults need to go through.

Jack said he did not become serious about golf he said until he was 19. I am not saying this is an easy process to go through as a parent and there is no "How to deal with a future PGA/LPGA superstar" handbook as far as I know but you CAN learn from your mistakes and you can be open to advice and counsel from others who have been through this experience.

Unfortunately, the last (and most obvious) place to look is the one place they most need to - the mirror.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Yeah NBC - Boo CBS!

What a difference a network can apparently make in coverage of a PGA tournament. If you read this column, you know that I took offense at the high proportion of commercials to actual tournament play two Sundays ago at the Wachovia Championship. The television coverage was provided by CBS. On the other hand, this past Sunday’s coverage at The Players was excellent thanks to NBC. I hardly noticed the commercials interspersed among long stretches of PGA players actually hitting balls. What a relief!

Mr. Finchem, if you’ve got any pull with CBS please urge them to follow in NBC’s footsteps. I sure hope that NBC is doing this year’s US Open TV broadcast. I, for one, was ready to forgo TV if the CBS style coverage was all I could look forward to on Saturday and Sunday. And by the way, Wachovia, you must have some pull in this situation. Please get CBS to clean up their act or you’ll end up having a dead golden goose on your hands.

I have to take exception to Johnny Miller’s phrase ‘Winged Foot special’ in referring to what Phil Mickelson might hit on the last hole. It’s an attention grabbing line, but a bit of a cheap shot. Today’s news coverage has made every wart a headline that will never go away. Most of yesteryear’s great players made their share of bad shots and poor decisions, but thankfully we can hardly remember them because they weren’t front and center ad infinitum. It seems to me that Greg Norman was a pretty decent golfer in his heyday, but all I can seem to recall is how he choked repeatedly at Augusta thanks to the media’s pension for human failure. It’s a shame because it speaks volumes about what society really values today.

Sean O’Hair, congratulations on playing terrific golf, all the more impressive because you’re just getting started. I have my own opinions on how you played the 17th, but what’s more important is how you handled yourself when asked to explain what happened. You’re a class act and it’s hard to imagine you won’t turn out to be very successful on tour. One bit of advice, speed up your play.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Money, Money, Money.....Money

Why should professional golf be any different than most of what goes on in this country. Is it now just about the money? As a pro, you can make a darn good living and never win a tournament. Tim Finchem now thinks there should be tournament with a $10 million first prize, $1 million isn't enough for 4 days of work. Maybe in five years he can up that to twenty or fifty million. If a Wall Street hedge fund manager can make a billion a year, what's wrong with a professional golfer having a shot at a measly $50 million. It sure would create some drama - if you think golf is good only when there's obscene amounts of money on the table. I can hear the commentators now, 'that putt just cost him a million bucks'! Take that Roger Clemens, who may only get a wimpy 10 grand per pitch this year.

But not so fast! It's also going to change your viewing experience! In case you haven't noticed, the most prominent thing on TV is commercials. At one point in last Sunday's golf telecast I counted 2 minutes of actual golf coverage interspersed among 12 minutes of commercials. Sometimes all you saw was one putt before the network cut to another 3 minutes of commercials.

But what's not to like about commercials in the land of the world's greatest consumers. I lived in Europe for awhile and was shocked to find out you could watch sporting events on TV without commercial interruptions and even, dare I say it, without hardly a word from a commentator. Be still my beating heart! Almost makes me thing of taking a hotel room on the continent to watch this year's British Open in TV viewer heaven.

It's a tough job being the world's biggest consumer nation, but someone has got to do it and we Americans have never shied away from doing the heavy lifting. If the world needs 30 minutes of commercials for every minute of programming, then we'll just have to dig in and gut it out for the sake of future generations.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Worked Your Abductors Lately?

If your like me and have limited exercise time you might have ignored your hip abductor muscles. If you have, you might be making a big mistake. This blurb was taken from a recent article, "Golf's Muscle Man," in Golf Digest by Max Alder.

The report comes from Dr. Scott Lepart, who is Director of the Neuromuscular Research Lab at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Center for Sports Medicine and also operates two human-performance and injury-prevention labs for the U.S. Army and U.S. Navel Special Operations.

From the article:

Says Lephart, "Identifying and strengthening specific muscles not only improves performance, it pre-empts injury"

After plowing through data collected from 700 golfers, including 35 PGA Tour pros, the time had come to reap the discoveries.

As expected, strength and flexibility of the shoulders and torso were important in golf, but Lephart also indentified a specific pair of muscles, the hip abductors, which engage when you move your legs apart, as a key discriminator in power.

Immediately before impact, stress equal to 2 to 3 times the golfer's body weight is placed on the hips. On average, Lepahart found elite players to be 30 percent stronger in the hip abductors.

"The balance and trunk stability provided by the hips is often overlooked in golf," says Lephart. "Golfers with weak hips are predispoded to committ swing errors taht hinder theirgame game and make them prone to injury over time."

Maybe it's time to start incorporating some hip flexibility/strength conditioning exercises into your routine.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Forget The Square Heads

Seems you can't pick up a spring golf publication without a headline proclaiming the latest and greatest driver test. I've waded through my share of articles trying to figure out if there's any real information I can gleam from them. Bottom line, there's very little difference in drivers when you look at the hard data. What first appears like a big difference in distance turns out to be 6 or 7 yards. I know I work too hard for my money to spend $400 bucks on 7 yards.

I can't see any reason to buy those square headed freak clubs. Golf is about aesthetics as much as anything, and those things just don't cut it. And the sound of some of these new drivers - they're almost as disturbing as the ring from the cellphone that your partner forgot to turn off.

I'm not saying you shouldn't upgrade your 240cc driver. There are plenty of cost effective options out there that will give you more distance than your old antique, particularly on off-center hits. But take the $200+ that you'll save and buy sunscreen, a good hat or a 19th hole cocktail - something that will give you real value for money.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Chasing The Great White One

I suspect I am like many golfers chasing the elusive whale. It has always reamined in my consciousness that a number of years ago on a number of occasions I hit the ball at least 30-40 yards longer.

Now, you ask, "How can this be possible?" I am not really sure either other than a number of coordinated actions came powerfully together at once.

I remember one hole in particular that I typically would hit a 5 wood/4 iron into, I hit pitching wedge, which, incidently I probably hit about 130 yards (my normal about 110 or so) after a booming drive.

A couple swing feelings still linger in my mind. One was the feeling of being extremely grounded and really being able to transfer my weight powerfully forward. Another was a kind of relaxed fluidity and finishing tall and in balance.

At the time I was fooling around with some "Chi" exercises which involved standing, yes, just standing, with your arms in sort of a semi-circle (like you were holding a large beach ball) and really letting your weight "sink"

I am going to re-visit this and also am reading a new golf exercise book (which I will share in some future posts) that really emphasize conditioning your core. And not just "typical" core exercises but unique, deep hip conditiong exercises.

It mentions in the book that Hogan's torso was strong as a horse and how he knew part of the "secret" was in your hips (or center) and this is one part of my conditioning that I have never fully engaged in.

All I can say is the "hunt" is still on and if I catch a glimpse of the "Great White One" I will surely let you know.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

How Good Are Today's PGA Tour Pros?

I just want to cast my vote in support of what Jack Nicklaus has said about today’s PGA Tour pros - You don’t have to ever win to make a very nice living for yourself and because of that the overall quality of pro golf has declined. I can’t argue with his point that this makes many guys content to have a good game, instead of a great game. If you can go out and finish in the top 20 a fair number of times in the season you’re going to make a lot more than most of the guys you went to school with.

And how can you blame someone for that approach. They didn’t create the rules, they’re just taking advantage of them. We all should be so lucky to have enough skill to do that. I’m not sure I’d want to hit golf balls 8 to 12 hours every day just to make a few more million a year. I just wonder if it makes tournament viewing less interesting.

Jack’s point was that most of these guys don’t have what it takes to win down the stretch if they’re up against Tiger, while he knew that Arnie, Lee, Gary or Tom could all get the job done under pressure. They all had the nerve and the shots to pull it off. I can’t say I have hard data or facts to back Jack up, but it sure feels like he’s right on this.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Golfers and Bad Backs

If you follow pro golf, you've seen the reports this week that Annika Sorenstam is out with what is reported as 'one ruptured and one herniated disc in her back'. If you've ever had a ruptured disc you know she won't be back playing in a few weeks as was widely reported. I've had both a ruptured and a herniated disc (not the same disk by the way). Unless there's a new miracle procedure that's been discovered in the last week, I'm predicting she won't be back this season - if the diagnosis in the news reports is accurate.

That's tremendously unfortunate for Annika and the LPGA Tour. Things were just getting interesting with Lorena Ochoa making a serious effort to replace Annika as number one. A dual for the top spot was just what the Ladies' Tour needed to give it the excitement it currently lacks. I wish Annika a speedy recovery. A bad back is debilitating because you need your back to do most everything. If you've got a bum arm or leg, you can usually isolate it enough to get on with some part of your life. With a ruptured disc you pretty much have to lie still.

As someone who's had back problems and back surgery, I'm interested to find out what her treatment will be and how quickly she can return to competitive golf. If you haven't noticed, bad backs seem to go hand in hand with playing golf. It's a little disconcerting if you love the game. You can't help but wonder if there isn't a better way to swing a golf club and not hurt yourself. It's really time that someone did a serious study on this topic. Look at the number of pro players who have had back troubles over the years. I'll bet more than a few of your golfing buddies have had them as well.

Looking at Annika's swing, it seemed that it was quite back friendly. There was no inverted C finish. Intuitively, it seemed that her quick head release would put less stress on her spine. She's also young and in great shape. So shouldn't she have been less prone to back injuries than most? For the sake of all golfers, while respecting Annika's privacy, I hope someone follows and reports on the cause, her treatment and recovery. Annika, get well soon!

Friday, April 13, 2007

An Inside Peek at the World's Most Expensive Golf Club

I found this article by Mike Palmer on the web and thought you might enjoy it.

When we hopped out of the golf cart on the second tee, we took in one of the most spectacular views on a golf course I've ever seen – the Statue of Liberty stood right behind the pin. Beyond that, the entire Manhattan skyline.

That's when my friend, David Galland, turned to me and said: "It's just another sign that we're in the declining days of the Empire."

You see, David's had a theory for years that America's extravagances and over-the-top spending are similar to what happened in Rome 1,600 years ago.

It's hard to argue with him when you see a place like the Liberty National Golf Club...

This place is over-the-top in so many ways:

• First of all, Liberty National is as close to Wall Street as a golf course can possibly be. It rests on a 160-acre peninsula with a mile of waterfront that juts out from the western shore of the New York Harbor. The Statue of Liberty is just 1,000 yards away.

• The course sits atop an old chemical dump. It took 13 years and 80,000 truckloads of dirt to build. The cost: about $150 million (a record for golf courses).

• The 50 current members each paid a whopping $500,000... plus another $20,000 in annual dues. (The club is opening up another 100 spots soon and will cap membership at 300.)

• The details are extraordinary: The golf cart bridges are made of fieldstone... the walking bridges are granite... the golf cart paths (which alone cost more than $1 million) are made with hand-set Belgian blocks. The maintenance shed cost $2 million.

• The course provides two luxury shuttle boats (complete with full locker facilities) to whisk member to and from Manhattan. This way, when the markets close, and you've made your last trade of the day, you can be on the first tee in about 15 minutes.

Does this place make economic sense? Probably not.

But that's beside the point. Liberty National was built by an extremely rich man – Paul Fireman – who started Reebok and sold it to Adidas last year for more than $3 billion.

Paul's got plenty of money to burn... and he's sparing no expense. He'll soon break ground on a $30 million clubhouse. Right next door, they're building three 40-story towers that will look something like the Sydney Opera House... with space for nearly 1,000 condos.

The place opened for play last June – and it is truly spectacular... a little slice of golfing paradise reminiscent of the links of Ireland or Scotland... except that you've got the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline on the horizon.

Liberty National Golf Club

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Singer, Songwriter AND Golfer?

I got a kick out of this quote.

I just can't imagine what Bob Dylan's swing might look like.

"Mr Dylan would have to apply in writing just like everyone else and be vetted by the committee. If there were no objections, then he would be a member after paying the membership fee, which at present is £105"

Jack McCool, treasurer of Abernethy GC in Scotland, on American music icon Bob Dylan, who recently bought a home next to the course.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

'Best New Course' Fiasco

Why can’t a playable course be a best course? Do they have to all be 7000+ yards, where one mistake gives you a clear shot at 8 on any hole? And don’t take my expensive golf ball away from me if I make a bad shot. Having to shoot out of high rough or over and around trees should be penalty enough.

I’ve had the good fortune to play some top notch courses in my life – some old classics and some ‘best of the new’. I have a bone to pick with many of these new and supposedly ‘best’ courses. Their primary design goal seems to be to make someone’s ‘Top 100’ list. Apparently, to do this, your course must be over 7000 yards long and playable only by someone who’s at least gotten as far as Q School.

Classic Scottish courses weren’t built this way and as a result they’re actually fun for everyone. You can play The Old Course and walk off after 18 with a huge smile on your face and not feel like you’ve been in a fist fight. Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes at Bandon, Oregon are this way. Both these courses are hard, but they are also fun, easily walkable and enjoyable for high and low handicappers. On the other side of the coin, I have some friends who live in the Palm Springs area who won’t play the PGA Stadium course. They’re very decent golfers, have the money to play any course they want, but they say it just isn’t enjoyable because the course is way too penal. So they play it once and never go back.

I’d like to see someone with a more thorough understanding of golf and it’s evolution come up with a ‘Best New Courses’ or ‘Top 100’ list that doesn’t give out points just because Tiger Woods is the only person on the planet who could even hope to shoot par on the thing.

To make my list of ‘Best New’ courses, they would have to be able to be played and ENJOYED by anyone. And they have to be designed so that they can be easily and preferably walked. I wish Alister MacKenzie were still alive. He explained this concept a lot better than I ever will.

Maybe it’s just a common problem with our current era. Look at what happened to architecture in major cities in the last half of the twentieth century. To be great, all you had to be was tall. Unfortunately many cities around the world are now stuck with a bunch of hideous giants in their midst. Is the golfing landscape doomed to follow the same misguided trend?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Tiger Out Strategized

It's in the record book, almost rookie Zach Johnson wins the 2007 Masters by outplaying Tiger over the last round. Who would have guessed that last Thursday morning? Right, no one! So how did he do it?

I'm sure it is the culmination of a number of things, but it's always nice to pin it on a single factor. Is it possible that Zach played the course smarter than Tiger, the consumate pro golfer. Remember last year's British Open and how Tiger beat the field, many say by leaving his driver in the bag. He figured out the course and beat it at it's own game rather than trying to overpower it. Most of us admired the genius and iron will of the game's best current player.

Is it possible that Zach 'figured out' this year's Augusta by being content to lay-up on every par 5, instead of being lured into the catastrophies that going for an eagle at Augusta can produce. Statistically Zach played the par 5's at minus 11 to Tiger's minus 9. Those 2 strokes would have left Tiger tied at the end of regulation.

We all have our ideas on why one guy wins and the rest don't. Either way, there's a great lesson from this that we can all benefit from - take what the course gives you, not what it teases you with.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Masters - Where's the beef?

Is it just me, or is something missing from the Masters so far? Certainly the greens are fast enough, the fairways narrowed – just ask Phil – and the shaved fringe around the greens can still suck a ball into the water without much effort. My wife thinks there are too many players. Is it like the Seinfeld series with an army for a supporting cast instead of George, Elaine and Kramer. There’s no ongoing, week to week, year to year character development.

Five years ago I was hoping today would come and Tiger, Phil, Ernie, VJ and Sergio would be battling each other like dogs for the fiftieth time. What a dreamer I was.

I don’t think the broadcast is helping. The guys in the booth are alright, but none of them seem to be able to create drama. Is that their shortcoming, or maybe there just isn’t any. I thought Tim Clarke being at the top of the leader board on day two was worthy. Nick seems like an OK guy, but I’m wondering if he isn’t subconsciously downplaying everything. Is he stuck on wanting us to believe that he was better than any of these guys in his prime? When someone is trying to bend a shot around the trees while keeping it no more than 5 feet off the ground, someone has got to paint the picture for the viewer to get excited.

A note to the broadcasters, knock off the star wars movie soundtrack when you’re recapping earlier play, like you did today with Tiger. Watching the shots and listening to the commentary is enough electronic input, we don’t need the Hollywood Strings accompaniment.

Don’t let it be said that I’m only full of complaints with no advice. I think you could really add to the excitement and our understanding of the course and the changes made over recent years by inserting key shots on various holes from past competitions. Show Nicklaus hitting 3 iron where the players now routinely hit an 8 or Player in his prime blasting out to a foot from the front bunker on 18, where Monty left it 25 feet short today. The boys at Augusta own everything about the competition, so rights should be no problem.

I don’t know about you, but I hope things take a dramatic change for the better today and tomorrow.

Friday, April 06, 2007

All This AND a Trophy

In addition to the famous green jacket awarded to all champions, winners also receive:

• A sterling silver replica of the Masters trophy depicting the historic Clubhouse

• Name engraved on permanent Masters Trophy which remains at Augusta National

• Gold medallion featuring a view of the Founders Circle in front of the Clubhouse

• Honory membership to Augusta National

• Five-year exemption on the PGA Tour

• Most likely bonuses from your sponsors and new endoesement deals if you are an established player OR numerous sponsorship opportunities worth big bucks if you are relatively unknown

• Oh yeah - AND approx. 1.3 million US dollars.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The chip of all chips

Somehow I just never get tired of seeing "the" shot.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Ode to Augusta

Even casual Masters viewers have heard the CBS theme music countless times, but may not have known that there are words that go with the soft tinkling piano melody to "Augusta"

Dave Loggins, wrote the song around 1980, with lyrics help from photographer Frank Christian. They then took it to CBS, which now uses the instrumental version extensively. The words are an ode to every thing Augusta:

Spice up your Mastercard!

Payment Data Systems, Inc., recently announced an agreement with Natalie Gulbis for a Natalie Gulbis Gift MasterCard.

This athlete marketing, of course, is nothing new but a facinating science nevertheless.

Natalie is now one of the top five of Advertising Age's most marketable young athletes. I believe she has over 25 marketing/advertising deals. You can see how these marketing deals EASILY eclipse their tour earnings.

I mean, what does it REALLY matter who or what is on your plastic credit card. Soon I am sure you will be able to put your family picture or favorite pet but having a world renknown athlete on it does add a certain cliquish quality.

And, if *I* were given the choice between a nice landsape or Natalie It would be a pretty easy choice.