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Matt Adams and Damn Near-isms, etc. etc. etc.

I was listening to Matt Adams this morning on Sirius/XM’s PGA Tour Channel “Fairways of Life” on my way to work and it struck me how many “Damn Near-isms” he managed to lay out there in the span of a couple of minutes. Matt was excited to talk with a caller about Rory McIlroy’s win at The Honda Classic and his becoming the number one ranked golfer in the world.  He was also incorporating the ongoing topic of a single hegemonic player versus player parity on the tour in the discourse.  (You know – was it better when Tiger was the lead dog or is it better now that so many different players can actually win each week? I would personally like to see another “big three!”)  Now, “Damn Near-isms” are nothing new for Matt. I hear them all of the time on the show, in fact there is one enduring “Damn Near-ism” that he just continues to use almost every other sentence.

I suppose it is time I tell you what a “Damn Near-ism” is.

Definition: Damn Near-ism – a word or phrase that when spoken or written elicits an initial or basic understanding of the intended meaning; however, when a quick mental review is made the listener/reader then realizes that the word or phrase was actually not quite right. Example: I love dogs, in fact, I once had a Labrador Repeater (intending Retriever).

So, in addition, Matt is a New York Times best selling author and I think sometimes he overplays the accomplished writer thing in his speech patterns and the language he uses.  For example, how many times do you use the word “thus” in normal conversation?  Play a drinking game during the show sometime and take a shot of tequila every time Matt says “thus.”  (“Thusly” counts…yeah, I know)  You’ll wake up the next day with a serious hangover, walking bowlegged, and sporting a tattoo of a spiked dog collar on your neck that you have no idea where it came from.  (Not my experience, but I hear Feherty spent a lot of money removing that tattoo.)  All this to say that once he gets excited, words just flow and sometimes they fit…and sometimes they don’t.  I’m just saying.

In the dialogue referenced in the first paragraph, Matt was excitedly waxing eloquent that since the “fall” of Tiger there has been great parity amongst the players on tour and that it has been “almost gladatorial” out there. I got the gist, but in my personal Scooby-Doo way I went, “huh?” to myself in the car. I knew there was something wrong and I was right – it is actually gladiatorial. He then pressed on to say that so far this year we have seen a resurgent Tiger, a resurgent Phil, and now Rory’s rise – it will surely be a “season of our content.” Okay, I get that too. And, I suppose one could say that it is a loosely appropriate reapplication of  Shakespeare’s “winter of our discontent” but, I am not so generous and it smacks of that “I am a best selling writer use of language and references thing.”   It is nothing less than a high brow “Damn Near-ism.”  Finally, the pizza resistance (I couldn’t resist). Matt is continuously ending his sentences with ex cetera, ex cetera, ex cetera.  Matt – it’s ET CETERA, ET CETERA, ET CETERA. Axe anyone!  Rent the 1956 movie “The King and I” and Yule Brynner (as the king) will clear it up. In fact and better yet, here’s a sound clip that should help: just click etc.

I love the show. I like listening because in many ways Matt and his call-in guests sound like the guys at the course talking about the week’s events on the PGA tour. Matt is very experienced in golf business and broadcasting and he is always informative.  It is interesting and sometimes funny to hear what people have to say when they call in and the commentary Matt provides as a result. And, if some of those conversations took place near me and we were the guys at the course, I would give the “Damn Near-ism” user no end of grief – on the spot. But, since I am a mere listener, I’m giving grief here.

Love the show, the banter, and the “Damn Near-isms.”  Can’t wait to hear the next one.

The Man Behind the Putter

I’ve been toying with my putter grip and changing out putters during the last couple of years. I owned only one putter for many years, a classic Wilson 8802 blade – it has a name, “The Great Santini” – I still have him. I was always an “it’s the man, not the putter” believer. I don’t know when exactly that changed, but now I own several putters (and a PING putter collection to boot) and have switched game putters out about 6 or 7 times in the last 4 years. What’s going on and why did I stray?

I have only started playing real tournament golf the last few years. Before that I basically stayed at my home course and played the same greens throughout a season. They tended to be of average speed, not fast but sometimes slow. It is easy to become accustomed to conditions and comfortable with putt speeds when you play the same course all of the time. As I graduated to tournament golf I found myself putting terribly because routinely I was playing greens much faster than I was used to. Putting stroke faults seem to really amplify on fast greens. I would blow putts by 4 or 5 feet or leave them alternatively well short. My feel for fast greens was not there, so naturally it couldn’t be me…it must be the putter!

I’ve used a PING iN half mallet for awhile, a PING Crazee (my wife calls it Mickey Mouse), a Rife two bar mallet, a Rife Martinique (Anser style), and now a Scotty Cameron Laguna. I have also moved to a course that has fast greens as the norm, and sometimes they are REALLY fast. I am working on my putting faults and I have committed to a single putter – the Rife Martinique. So, how do I fix my faults? Both speed (pace) and direction have been suffering – nice. I have been missing an inordinate number of 3 and 4 footers! It has not been uncommon for me to have 3 or 4 lip outs a round. Man!

I don’t have the yips, I feel comfortable over the ball, but my putting has not been working well. So, I did a little research about putting basics to include the putting grip. Seems there are as many opinions on the grip as there are putter styles. I keep finding that putting is an “individual thing” and that I should improve upon what feels comfortable to me. OK. Not so much help. Then I found an article by Joe Sullivan on GolfLink.com that resonated with me and I am trying it out, so far with pretty good results. The article (http://www.golflink.com/golf-tips/tips/sullivan018.aspx) suggested that one might consider Corey Pavin’s style of gripping the putter. It is simply and essentially to hold the putter in your hands with the palms facing out (away from you). This makes it impossible for your wrists to break down and creates a nice “Y” for you to use your shoulders to move the club head. Combining this with good fundamentals such as eyes over the ball, forearms in line with the putter, and more thoughtful green reading and it is getting better.

I have taken it out on the course a couple of times and find my distance control has improved dramatically. Direction is coming, but I am still making some subtle adjustments to the grip to get it “locked in.” First I had both thumbs down the center of the grip, but now I have my left thumb over my right hand middle fingers and my right thumb down the centerline. Also trying less right index finger trigger, seems to inadvertently steer at times. I need to eliminate that. And finally, for the first time, my putting grip has an interlocking grip.
I am at a stage now where repetition and practice must take over. I am excited about my improved distance control and improved 3-4 foot putt accuracy. My goal is to eliminate three putts – a round killer every time! I will probably not reach the 100% accuracy on 3 foot putts Luke Donald managed to execute the 2011 season, but I think I should make at least 8 or 9 out of 10 anyway.

Interestingly, in light of the long/belly putter these days, it’s not for me. I have toyed with them at golf shops and they never felt “right.” In addition, I am of the opinion that you should not be allowed to affix the putter against your body. Besides, if you believe the data derived by Marius Filmalter (great name) in his article in the Jan 2012 Golf Magazine, the results of a switch from short to long putter wouldn’t make much difference anyway. His “long-standing teaching philosophy” is that “every golfer has a signature stroke pattern that’s so hard-wired it’s impossible to change it with a simple putter switch.”

So, “thumbs up” to the Pavin grip. It is, in fact, the man not the putter. And, Santini, you may be back in the bag someday, but I’m not ready for you yet.

All-Marine Golf

I tried out for the All-Marine Golf Team and I did not make the cut.  But, that’s OK.

Service Sports Teams

Many don’t realize that there are world class atheletes in our military.  These servicemen and women answer the call for service to our country and many still have a burning desire to compete at a high level.  They have opportunities within each service to compete at the service level, the inter-service level, and even the international level.  Sports teams and individual events include most sporting activities to include, of course, golf.  It is a big deal to make a service team or compete for your service on an individual level.  There have been, in past, service members who have actually qualified for and participated in Olympic competition.  It is a big deal.

Tournament Play

I am a real 2 handicap.  I can play just about any course and score in the mid 70’s the first time I play it.  But that is not tournament golf we are talking about.  If it rains too hard in casual play, you stop or you quit and get a rain check.  Unless lightening is in the area or the greens have standing water in tournament play, you keep going.  There are also pressures that exist in tournament golf that don’t in your weekend game.  I like to think it doesn’t affect me, I’ve been shot at many times for goodness sake, how can golf make me nervous?  It isn’t about the nerves, it’s about the pressure you put on yourself to perform – related but slightly different from the nervous tension.  I am a real 2 handicap, but I played like a 10 or 12 this past week at the tryouts.  It was somewhat embarrassing, but I was not the only one.  Another player mentioned to me that when he told his wife his scores she said, “what’s wrong with you?  You always play better than that!”  I heard the same kind of thing when I called home.  Not in a negative way, but in a truly quizzical not understanding way.

The Legends

The team try-out consisted of 2 days of practice on the course and 4 days of tournament play.   My problem wasn’t the golf course in terms of pre-weather condition.  The Legends Golf Course at Parris Island, SC  (yes – the famed Marine Corps Recruit Depot) is a fantastic course with fast and challenging greens and a great pro and staff.  The course is marvelous.   Andy Hinson and his team were terrific hosts and put on a truly professionally run event.  Have you ever teed off after being announced to the crowd?  It was run like a professional event.  Each day on the course brought its own new challenges.  One day there were lightening delays (three), another 15-20 minute heavy rain showers off and on throughout the day, and yet another a soggy drenched golf course.  This is a walking event and slogging along an almost 7000 yard course in your wet shoes and socks begins to wear on you after a couple of days…especially if you’re 51 years old.

All Services Tournament

Ok, I have deftly plugged in my many excuses in the text above.  But, there really are no excuses as we all played the same course under the same challenging conditions brought by weather.  While no one played under par, a few played right at par or just over.  There will be 6 quality players out of the 35 who tried out going to the All Service tournament at Fort Jackson, SC this week.  These players are of all ranks, from young NCOs to officers of varying ages and ranks (one Marine is a Drill Instructor there at Parris Island playing between duties!).  I hope they do well this week…at least beat the Air Force.  In the years since the inception of All Services Golf (1977) the Marine Corps has managed only 4 second place finishes and has never won the  All Services tournament.  There are probably lots of reasons for this not the least of which is the oft mentioned manner in which the Air Force builds and maintains bases.  It is said that they get the property, build the Officer’s Club and the Golf Course, then when they are out of money lobby congress for more funds so they can build the runways.  Judging from their record at the All Services golf tournaments through the years, there may be a little truth to that legend.

Marines

There was a special additional benefit to playing at Parris Island this week.  I got to be around Marines and recruits.  Driving onto the base and through it to the golf course before daylight each day, I passed scores of recruits already out in formations marching, running, and being “molded” into Marines by the most able and dedicated Drill Instructors in the world.  These shaved head youths volunteered to serve and to have the chance to be Marines.  Not all of them will make the Marine Corps team, but the Marine Corps is the most elite service in the world.  Those who try and don’t make it can be proud that they tried, and those who do make it will talk about becoming Marines the rest of their lives.

I tried to make the golf team and didn’t make the cut, but I am happy and proud I tried.  Those who did make the team, like the graduating recruits who became brand new Marines this past Friday, will also talk about it the rest of their lives.

 

Tiger at the Crossroads

Tiger in a Dream

I had a vision this morning in that dreamy state you can get into sometimes when the alarm goes off and you hit the snooze button.  My vision included Tiger making a deal with the devil…kind of like the blues guitar player at the “crossroads” or even “Damn Yankees” (the musical).  Think about it, Tiger as a boy approached by this seemingly kindly old gentleman about a deal.  Yes, Tiger had already shown some talent, but man! Oh to be as good as Jack…and even break his records! 

A Musical for Tiger

In the musical “Damn Yankees,” an aging real estate agent named Joe Boyd is lamenting about those Damned Yankees always beating his team, the Washington Senators.  If only…Joe wishes for a slugger for the Senators under his breath…then Mr. Applegate arrives (or Beelzebub, Satan, Old Horn and Hoof, the Devil) and he offers him a deal.  Long and short of it, Joe Boyd is transformed into Joe Hardy and is a batting and fielding phenom for the Senators.  Tempted by Lola (“What Lola wants, Lola gets…”) and then forlorn for his wife and home, he returns to become Joe Boyd again but only after he tricks Applegate to get his soul back. 

Tiger Makes a Deal

Now fade in to Tiger.  Imagine Tiger sitting forlornly as a young wannabe with promise…Damn Jack…if only…poof!  Here’s the devil.  Deal done, 71 tournaments and 14 majors later all is going to plan.  But while he is winning…“What the waitress wants, the waitress gets…” and another and another and another…and the Devil warns him.  “Hey Tiger!  Don’t take this thing too far…I have a plan for you.”  “No worries Devil, I got it under control.”  BAM!  We know what happens next…

Then the Devil punishes Tiger. “You’ll get it back son, but not for a little while, you’re going to feel lots of pain when you play.  More than before, this time it’ll be too much to deal with.”

Now fade in to Tiger again a couple of weeks ago.  The Devil says, “OK Tiger, I think you’ve learned your lesson.  You can play now. But first you gotta lose the caddy, he knows too much.”    

Tiger Back on Track 

Tiger wins at Bridgestone!  Waaaaaa!  How’d he do it! 

Tiger wins the PGA!  Waaaaaa!  How’d he do it? 

Tiger wins the FedEx Cup!  Waaaaaa!  How’d he do it?

Tiger is comeback player of the year!  Tiger is player of the year! 

Oh my, things are back on track. 

Ahem, but it was just a dream, wasn’t it Tiger?

Tee It Forward

Tee It Forward Initiative

I first heard of this initiative on the Sirius/XM PGA Tour Network shows Fairways of Life with Matt Adams and Teed Off with Brian Katrek.  In their respective shows, Matt and Brian each invited callers to comment on the concept – Tee It Forward.  Then, a couple of days ago I stumbled on a GolfWorld.com article addressing the initiative as well and thought I would put some brain cells on it myself.

Essentially, the concept is that the majority of golfers out there should move forward one set of tee markers to “boost fun and speed up play” during 5-17 July 2011 (Golfworld.com/The Game July 4 2011).

I think the desired effect is to bring awareness to leisure golfers that golf courses designed for championship play are not necessarily suited (from the back tees) for the games of the average golfer.  As reported by GolfWorld.com, an article in Golf Digest attributes the idea to Barney Adams (Adams Golf).  Mr. Adams calculates “that the amateur who drives the ball 200 to 230 yards should be playing courses measuring about 6000 yards.”  Essentially, this is an effort to encourage average golfers to play the course from a tee that best suits their game.  In theory, this will make the game more fun for them and speed up play.  I think it is a great idea, but how to implement it and see that it has lasting effects?

Tee It Forward –Implementation

Golf is a game that has been in a bit of a down swing (so to speak), with the economy such as it is and the expense of playing (golf is generally not a cheap sport), the rising tide of new joins to the game from the “Tiger Era” has been ebbing.  The following link will take you to an interview of Brian Katrek regarding Tiger pre-Masters, but what is important in the interview by Fox Business News is the commentary by Brian on the current state of golf – http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/4627876/brian-katrek-tigers-not-ready-to-retire-/.  This is excellent commentary and clear and understandable reasoning – thanks Brian.

Jack Nicklaus and others think that perhaps 18 holes is too many for the masses and that there should be an intermediate number available – say 12 that one could purchase to play – not too much and not too little for those who don’t have 4.5 to 5.5 hours to burn.  I have heard discussion on the PGA Tour Network regarding the need to get more women involved in the sport, make the sport more “female friendly.”  Now, Tee It Forward comes to the fore as an initiative to make golf “more fun” for the masses (and potentially provide for more through-put on the courses positively affecting revenue?)

How does one get traction on an initiative like this so that its positive effects last?  GolfWorld posits three areas of refinement to the existing plan (which seems somewhat voluntary and without a lot of marketing):

  1. Somehow change mistaken mindsets that shifting to forward tees for players within a group takes more time and slows play.  As they put it, gain “permission to play shorter tees.”
  2. Create and “include a chart correlating 10 driver distances to a similar number of recommended 18 hole yardages.”  That is, I suppose, if you hit a driver 200 yards you should play an 18 hole length of 6000 yards, 220 yards is 6300 yards, etc…Perhaps even a “professional assessment” provided by a course pro with a range of clubs.
  3. Finally, charge differently by tee marker…the shorter, the less you pay.  (This has the most promise in my view.)

Tee It Forward – More Ideas

We already have a handicapping system.  Why can’t courses check handicaps?  Limit play on select back tees to certain handicap levels – always, sometimes, whatever….  If you don’t have a handicap, it is likely an indication that you aren’t necessarily a serious golfer and that perhaps you should be on one of the forward tees.  The course at Camp LeJeune, NC has two 18 hole tracks – the scarlet and the gold.  The gold is the championship course and the scarlet is a bit shorter, but both are equally playable and enjoyable.  The rule there used to be anyway that during certain hours on Saturday and Sunday, you (and your group) must have established handicaps to make a tee time on the gold.  Everyone else plays the scarlet.  Now, I realize that there aren’t many courses out there with multiple tracks, but the idea can be implemented as part of the tee it forward program.  Rather than restricting the golf course, restrict the tees so that non-handicap holders play to the forward tees during the busiest weekend hours.

Also, maybe we should standardize tee colors as well.  I venture that a lot of players see white tees and use them.  White is somewhat universal for ‘average player tees,’ but the difficulty is not all courses use the same colors.   I think it somewhat universal that ladies tees are red, senior tees gold, forward men’s tees white, and then you have one or two sets back beyond that – normally blue next, then black championship tees.  What’s wrong with establishing a standard in the industry?  Even if you have something cute as tee markers – cannons or rocks or garden gnomes – they can have the standard color motif can’t they?

Finally, change where you set the tees.  Move the ‘standard’ white ones up permanently from where they have been historically if the yardage at the old place was too long by Mr. Adam’s standard.  It may cost a little to recalculate slope and rating and publish the new yardage on the score sheets, but If it achieves the desired result, it would be well worth it.

Tee It Forward – Bottom Line

There are probably a myriad of ways to implement, but there will still be those who want to play the full course no matter their skill level.  In the end the customer is right, right?  Well, maybe on a municipal course or even a resort course, but I venture a country club can do what it wants provided the constituency allows.

I think the effort has merit, but it will require a multi-faceted approach.  First, standardize tee colors to eliminate confusion – I mean establish an industry standard.  Next, just move a set forward of where they are now (white ones) to better fit the 6000-6300 yard model.  Then, communicate with your customers.  Illustrate why it makes sense with charts that show with common sense language why it will be more fun to change – it has to be direct, simple and to the point.  And finally, there must be monetary incentive to change.  If you simply charge more for each tee back from the white, then you punish good players.  Perhaps you can charge more unless you have an established handicap that is below a certain threshold that allows you to pay the same as those on the white. People who do not belong on the back tees should pay more… I think that is the point.  But, make no mistake, managing price by tee will create the quickest change.

The “Golf Boys!”

Golf Boys Debut

There are some stodgy old golf purists out there that are spewing coffee through their nostrils this morning after watching the latest video Ben Crane (and sponsor?) has put out. But it isn’t only Ben Crane  now – he has enlisted (or they have jumped on the wagon) some of professional golf’s best young players to take part in this hilariously funny, self-deprecating, and dare I say it – exciting – video.

Golf Boys Intro at U.S. Open

I get the electronic version of Golf World Magazine via email and came across this in their 6/16/2011 “Things We’re Talking About” article.  There is a great photo of the Golf Channel guys (Rich Lerner, Brandel Chamblee, and Frank Nobilo) and our 4 amigos Ben Crane , Hunter Mahan, Rickie Fowler , and Bubba Watson at the desk with Congressional in the background laughing it up over the video.  I clicked the link to the video of the “Golf Boys” that Golf World provided.  My first impression was, Man, I want to watch these guys play golf!  My wife watched the video with me, she is not a golfer, and she had the same reaction.  To quote the Guiness guys – Brilliant!”

Golf World – “…this is probably not a video Hogan would have made.”

Watch the Golf Boys video (below)!  Ben Crane is consistent with his wardrobe of a red wetsuit and black open face scooter helmet from previous hilarious videos.  But then there is Hunter Mahan in tights, a furry jacket, and a scraggly beard looking like a “mod squad Viking”…hey Hunter, what’s in your wallet?” And Bubba Watson, of course, Bubba is from Baghdad, Florida and in Baghdad everyone knows that denim over-alls is the way to go to get that “feel all free underneath feeling.”  If you need advice on getting that feeling, just call BR549 – Junior may answer, just ask for Bubba.  And finally, there’s Rickie.  Isn’t it most appropriate that Rickie looks like he just stepped out of a session with the Backstreet Boys?  If only his lip synching was as good as theirs – : )

The Golf Boys Video

Golf Boys for Fun and Charity

This is masterful marketing, fun, and good for charity.  Yes, if anyone buys the song “Oh Oh Oh” on iTunes, all proceeds go to charity.  Farmer’s Insurance will certainly benefit from some You Tube play – this thing has probably already gone viral.

It’s something to see these guys loose and off the course and the humor makes you want to root for them.  Now, I am not going to go out and buy an orange get up to play golf in, but I am now more of a fan of these guys than I was before.  Thanks again Ben for bringing out the best…well, the fun and personality.  Everyone knows the players work hard, but it’s good for the public to see their “other side.”

Ok, enough of the open shirt stuff golf boys, follow Ben’s lead and get a wet suit – but not too tight.

(Look for “The Making of Oh Oh Oh” with the Golf Boys on Ben‘s website:  http://www.bencranegolf.com/)

Tournament Experience

Golf is a Game of Opposites

I have stated this in the past, golf is a game of opposites and counterintuitive realities.  You want the golf ball to go up, hit down on it.  You want the golf ball to go where you aim, relax and let the swing happen (don’t try and control it).  It is difficult to remember this sometimes on the golf course and intuitively correct thoughts and actions (but, incorrect thoughts and actions) begin to take control during a round.  I found myself in that quandary last week during a Virginia Amateur qualifying tournament.  I did terribly.

Golf is Unforgiving

Princess Anne Country Club is one where apparently (to me anyway) the golf course was put in around and through the surrounding community.  Every fairway was lined with out of bounds (OB) markers and many of the tee boxes were set so that the tee shot was hit out over a road.  The fairways seemed generous enough, but the ever present thought of OB lurking on every hole somehow overcame my usual let it go attitude.  I shot a 90 on the first of two rounds last week and an 88 on the second – I am a 4 handicap.  I actually birdied 4 par 3’s in the first round.  I became victim of the issues I described in the beginning of this post.  The club gradually slid deeper and deeper into my palms without my knowing it because of my unconscious desire to control the shots.  With each errant shot came more desired control – I hit probably 6 or 8 shots that were 1 foot out of bounds.  In the end, I began hitting shots that I had no idea I could still hit (in a bad way).  Confidence went to hell.  Finally, during the last 9 of the 36 of the day my “give a crap” factor was pegged and I began letting go again.  I actually played much better and more consistently.  Interesting.

Golf can be a Forgiving Mistress

I played an emergency round late this past Wednesday afternoon at my home course.  I needed to because the next morning I had knee surgery and would be out for a couple of weeks at least.  Midway through the first 9 I remembered that I forgot to keep the club in my fingers and all became good with the world.  After a few birdies to make up for a couple of early bad holes, I rolled into the last hole needing a birdie for a 73 and I made it.

Yet Another Golf Lesson

What happened?  The pressure of a qualifier?  Playing on a strange golf course?  Maybe some of that…but, I had no illusions of qualifying, I simply entered to gain experience for the All-Marine Golf Trials this fall.  Nerves are not really an issue for me.  I get excited, but after doing the things I have done over the course of 28 years in the Marine Corps, golf doesn’t really make me nervous.  I guess I just let the moment get the best of me at Princess Anne and didn’t stay within myself.  Also, maybe I should take another read of Ben Hogan’s FIVE LESSONS.  Variables like the grip shouldn’t fall apart so easily…a golf lesson well learned, again.

Myrtle Beach 2011

Last weekend I participated in my first “Myrtle Beach” guys’ golf weekend – ever. I have had many opportunities in the past to participate with groups, especially this group of guys, but could never find the time between work and personal schedule conflicts. This year I made the time and I am glad I did!

As in most years over the course of the last 6 or 8, I received an email from Steve asking me if I would like to join the group for their annual golf excursion. I was in Fort Worth, TX at the time on a business trip and I happened to have taken my wife with me – so we discussed the possibilities. I did have a conflict during the week in question, but this year I figured I could miss the business trip in May and finally participate. Katie could take some time also, so she planned to travel with me en route to Charleston, SC to visit a close friend.

Steve is a retired Marine Huey pilot and one of many golfers I used to play with on Saturday mornings when I lived in Quantico, Virginia on the Marine Corps base.

Welcome to McDonald's Steve - Please Change Your Socks

Some in the group on this trip were a part of the Quantico Saturday morning gang, so I really wanted to join them on the trip and catch up. There were others in our group of 28 who came from all over the country. It was great seeing my old friends and also making new ones. To a man, everyone I hadn’t already known before was also very friendly – it made for a great experience. I was not the only first timer, there were a couple of others. Perhaps they were only as friendly to me as they were because I was new to them and they were being polite. Maybe next year the “digs” and “jabs” will be more pointed, I hope so. I will come armed and ready now that I know them…

The group was established over 20 years ago, I think I heard a figure of maybe 25 years ago, but no matter, suffice it to say it has been going on quite some time. The organizer – or “Committee” – is Dave, a retired Marine pilot also. He, with his brother Tom (the Volcano), did the leg work and rules making for the group (Ryder Cup format and skins). This year Steve happened to be the Marine Corps team captain and, of course, the Navy team had a captain as well – Gary (retired Navy). The committee established email communications with all, crafted and promulgated a Letter of Instruction (LOI) for the trip (fashioned from USMC administrative processes), and arranged for accommodations and play. The days would be filled with golf and evenings with dinner. This was not a younger man’s trip with carousing, strip bars, and drinking to all hours. After 36 holes and warm chow in my belly I was ready to hit “the rack” (Marine for bed). That said, there was a distinct difference in how the teams approached preparation. Apparently, for the Navy guys, preparation did include drinking to all hours – at least for a key core number of them. In golf, it’s always nice to have a routine, and they had one.

The trip was not really to Myrtle Beach proper, but to the most southeastern part of North Carolina just above the state line and North Myrtle Beach. We stayed in some condos very near Calabash, NC and played all but one round at the Big Cats Courses – Lion’s Paw, Tiger’s Eye, and Panther’s Run. On Sunday we played the final round at The Thistle, just up the road. I must note that the service at the Big Cats and The Thistle were outstanding. The course conditions were fair at the Cats (Panther’s Run had young greens and overly watered fairways), but the Thistle’s was great.

The format for the outing was Ryder Cup style with teams consisting of 14 Marines & 1 other (a FBI man) and 14 Navy & others (a Montana rancher, some government civilians, etc…). We played 4 Ball, 2 Man Scramble, and Singles matches. Each day where it made sense, we also had skins which were tabulated and paid out each evening following dinner. The Volcano (Dave’s brother) was in charge of skins. On the first night after finding out one of his skins was cut he asked, “who’s the son-of-a-bitch who cut me?” I raised my hand and he then said, “sorry Chris, your new, nice hole…” Next year, I’m sure I will be a full-fledged “son-of-a-bitch.”

There are some funny things about a trip like this that struck me as I lived it. The first is bringing a bunch of middle aged men together to sleep in the same spaces together. The condos were two bedroom affairs with two beds in each room. It’s funny to think about stories that come out of guys bunking in the same room who may not have known each other at all prior to meeting at the door. Airplane lottery came to my mind as I began meeting the guys…that is, you know, when you have your seat on the plane and people are boarding and you’re silently hoping you don’t get the mom and baby or the huge seatbelt extending dude with body odor to sit next to you. My roomies were great. Apparently a couple of years prior, Steve had a roomie that was an insomniac. It can be disconcerting to wake up at 2 AM and see your roomie standing in his black banana hammock (underwear) scratching his balls and staring at you. I still laugh when I think of it. Personalities can make for some funny situations. Like, Ed complaining out loud about being put on the ground floor again next to the pond because “those damned frogs” keep him awake at night. Here’s a guy who retired as a Marine Colonel with 30 years in the Corps complaining about frogs. I am chuckling as I write this.

I am sorry I waited so long to make time to do this. I will do it again.

Range Balls and Distance

I have seen a lot of questions and discussions on range balls and distances in the Blogosphere. Seems there are a lot of golfers out there that are not aware of the distance differentials you can expect depending upon the kind of range balls a given range provides. I have found myself frustrated at the range until I took the time to really think about it and do some research.  When you think about it, a person should expect that balls hit day in and day out at a driving range, even if they are the kind you buy off the shelf for on course play, will not fly as far.  Now factor in those balls manufactured for the range with durability, not necessarily performance, as the primary quality and you can see that you should probably expect even less distance than your “gamer” ball.  I am speaking of golf balls manufactured with “RANGE” painted on them – normally a TOP-FLITE or SRIXON or WILSON ball. Finally, you may be at a range with limited acreage where they provide limited flight range balls.  These too will be manufactured with “RANGE” painted on them as well as some acronym or wording identifying them as limited range, limited flight, or restricted flight balls.
So, first thing to do is look at the balls. If they are old performance balls (shag bag balls) that may or may not have stripes painted on them then some may perform to standard, but you can expect some degradation – perhaps up to 10%. If they are standard RANGE balls, look for 10-15% degradation in distance. Finally, if they are limited flight balls expect to realize about 20-25% degradation in distance.
Now, the next thing to understand is that unless you are fortunate enough to be practicing at a high end range or country club and using Pro V-1 practice balls or some other top tier practice ball or performance ball, don’t count on zeroing in on distances with your clubs for on-course use. Use the range time to work on contact, direction, and ball flight – however, especially with limited flight balls, ball flight may be a waste of time as well.
So, unless you are independently wealthy, belong to an exclusive club, or have your own practice facility, you will likely be using a range that provides balls that give less performance than the ball you use on the course. Determine the kind of range ball you have and factor it in.
I put together a little cheat sheet for myself accounting for the simple average percentage degradation of 12% for RANGE Balls and 22% for Limited Flight RANGE Balls. This way, when I am at a range and I am hitting RANGE Balls with my 7 iron 145 yards when I normally hit my Pro V-1s 165 yards with the same club I can assume I am in the right neighborhood for distance. I have provided my simple cheat sheet below:

Personality on the Tour! Thank You!

Ben Crane is a personality!  You have to go to his website and watch all of his videos – http://www.bencranegolf.com/ .

If after watching this you don’t like him – then there is something wrong with you!  He’s been getting some “talk time” on the PGA channel (Sirius XM Radio) and a few quips from the announcers during golf telecasts, but this guy should get more attention than that.  This guy is 35th in the Official World Golf Rankings for goodness sake.  We seem to be enamored with the pink and orange pants wearing “personalities” and the perfect swing crowd, but what about those golfers out there that are a little different? 

Speaking of  a little different, what about Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey – http://twogloves.com/.  Here’s a guy who finished 1 stroke behind Brandt Snedeker (I like saying that last name) and Luke Donald at Hilton Head last weekend and I had the feeling the announcing crew would rather he fell on his face than win.  He has an unusual swing (looks like he could take a divot with his right elbow), wears two gloves (hence the moniker), and was a contestant and winner on The Golf Channel’s “Big Break.”  Boy did he take advantage of his “big break.”  What’s not to love about this guy?  Maybe if he sported a mullet a la John Daly in the day he would get more love coming his way.

Here’s a call to “fan up” these unconventional players.  While Tiger is in pursuit of the perfect swing, spitting hockers on the fairway, and dropping clubs, these guys are having fun and doing the best with what they have…and doing well.