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.