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The Promise of the New Year – 2012

New Year 2012

It’s been a month or so since I posted.  Christmas is past us, we are in the new year…football is coming to and end, March madness is around the corner, and spring is coming soon!  It’s been a little frustrating watching the tour in Hawaii and California.  I just made a trip out west to Miramar, CA just north of Torrey Pines and was about 5 minutes from the Air Station golf course, but alas, I could only find time to visit the pro shop. 

Third Week of the Golfing Year

This week brings the 2012 debut of Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, but in different tournaments.  Phil will play in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines (with Rickie and Bubba and Bill Haas and Keegan).  Also in the mix is JB Holmes!  This is his return to tournament golf since his brain surgery late last year.  He says he’s ready, I’ll cheer for his success with all the vigor I cheer for his (and my) favorite college basketball team – the UK Wildcats.  Tiger begins his season in Abu Dhabi, UAE at the HSBC Championship (with Luke, Lee, and Rory).  Some estimate that Tiger will receive $3 million just for showing up!  Let’s hope Tiger’s game of old also shows up and that his win late last year wasn’t an anomoly born from a short field and tired players.

Promise for the Rest of the Year

Ahhhh… so it begins with great wins in Hawaii and California for Steve Stricker, Johnson Wagner, and Mark Wilson.  Will Rickie finally win one at home?  There better be some wins this year for Watosh (me)!

Thanks Mr. Floyd – Man Behind the Putter

As an update to my recent putting post, I shot a 73 today and it was almost exclusively because of much improved putting.  Thanks to the changes I made described in the “Man Behind the Putter” posting AND a tip Raymond Floyd provided on television.

The Golf Channel’s recent 7 Nights at the Academy series aired this past week and featured tips and instruction by Sir Nick Faldo, Johnny Miller, and Raymond Floyd.  I watched some of the shows and they were very insightful and interesting.  A tip that resonated for me was a very simple one from Mr. Floyd in his putting segment.  He said to pick a very specific spot on the back of the ball when putting and stroke the putt.  How simple is that?!  I birdied the first hole, made 3 more birdies in the round and a bunch of “comeback putts” because of it.  The tip seems to focus your attention at what it should be on and keeps your head down throughout the stroke.

Sure,  I still had a couple of troublesome holes, but birdies sure help make up for some of those mistakes.  Thanks Mr. Floyd!

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.

 

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.

Review: Golf’s Sacred Journey

I was at the movie theater a couple of weeks ago and learned about a movie coming out soon based on Dr. David L. Cook’s book, Golf’s Sacred Journey – Seven Days at the Links of Utopia. I normally love to watch the previews at the movies, but this time my wife and I finished the “Tub O’ Corn” before the previews were done and I wanted some more. (I know – it’s a pitiful thing…) About the time I was leaving, the preview for the movie Golf’s Sacred Journey was coming on. All I saw as I left was that it was a golf movie and Robert Duvall was in it (I really wanted that popcorn). Afterwards at home, my wife googled the movie and we learned it was based on the book I described above. I immediately ordered the book from Amazon.com. I knew I would see the movie and I wanted to read the book beforehand. I am glad I did.

In one day during a two-leg flight from Norfolk, Virginia to Pensacola, Florida I read the book cover to cover. There is a foreword written by Tom Lehman, acknowledgements, an introduction, the text, and finally an epilogue. As I began reading the text I was thinking, OK, here we go again with another “golf is like life” parable. But, as I moved deeper into it all the while keeping an open mind there were some clear messages that spoke to me. I had some “aha moments” that kept me thinking and the story line itself was interesting and compelling enough to keep me entertained. The messages in the book were really thought provoking for me. I reflected a great deal on them. I will read it again.

Without getting into any details, I will provide some insight into the book provided by the author himself on the cover.

“You never really know when you might meet someone who will change your life. More importantly, you never know when your influence might change another life. This book is about influence. The story is based on thousands of athletes David Cook has counseled, and the great mentors and teachers from whom he has learned, told through the lives of two characters – a rancher with a passion for teaching truth and a young golf professional at the end of his rope.”

As the book’s cover says, it is about influence. Why do we do things? What is important? A notion not from the book, but one I derived in reflecting on the book, is that oftentimes when we want to do something or cause something to happen it is the opposite of that which we initially think of as a solution that is a key in actually making it happen. Like in golf when you want to hit the high shot, you must hit down on the ball. When you want the swing to be correct, you don’t “control it,” you actually have to let it go (a very Hogan-esque idea).

Utopia is a real place. I think the two major characters are real also, only they are a compilation of individuals from the author’s life and work. Oh by the way, since I knew Robert Duvall was going to be in the movie, as I read, it dawned on me how perfect he is for the part. Think of a wiser, tamer Gus from Lonesome Dove.

Interestingly, Tom Lehman won the Regions Tradition at Shoal Creek in Alabama this past weekend. It is a Champions Tour major and his third win this year. He believes in what Dr. Cook writes in this story. In his foreword he states, “Only you know your character, the person you see when you look in the mirror. Your reputation is who people think you are. Don’t confuse the two. Dr. David Cook is a man of character. I have learned from him. You will too.”

I took the messages from the book to heart and to the course last Sunday. In first application on the golf course I think I did okay shooting 74 at my home course. I found myself straying from what is really important a couple of times and the score on these holes reflected it. More importantly, I am also incorporating the messages into my life. I have made some major changes in my life in recent years and this is important I think.

The book: is it a story of golf with parallels to life or is it a story of life using golf as its form? It is all of the above. I highly recommend it. The movie: I’ll let you know.

Poor Man’s Club Fitting

When I was young and drinking (I quit when I turned 50 last year), I came up with a cocktail that is perfect for hot summer afternoons, I call it the Poor Man’s Margarita.  Great for those moments right after mowing the yard in 90 degree heat.  It’ll take the edge off the pending heat stroke, take your mind of the chigger bites, and give you another reason to be dizzy.  Oh yeah… it’s good.  The drink is made by mixing a shot of tequila in a glass of iced Fresca.  Sometimes a little more tequila than that, it depends on how many you’ve already had prior to mixing this one.  As you probably know, Fresca is a carbonated lime aid drink of sorts and tastes somewhat like, well a little like anyway, a margarita mixed with 7 up.  Yes, Fresca is still available, but you have to look for it.  Throw in an optional slice of lime and you have a perfect and easy drink for a hot afternoon, but never use salt.  Why do I bring this up?   Well, like making a real margarita can be a bit expensive and getting the right mix of ingredients can be tedious, club fitting can be expensive and tedious as well.  Like I usually opted for the Poor Man’s version of the drink, in club fitting I have also opted for the poor man’s version for my irons.  I’ll explain.

I have been doing a bit of research into the variables involved with proper club fitting.  I am not an expert, but I am a weekend golf warrior and know just enough to be dangerous and this is what I know.  Follow me here…  You’ll contact your local pro or fitting expert and get a quote for an iron fitting, driver fitting, putter fitting, or all of the above.  The costs can range from $300 down to about $100 depending upon the technology used and the fittings desired.  I’m sure there are those who will fit you for more $, but I have a place I trusted and $300 is what they charge now for the ‘full monty.’  Let’s just say you go for an iron fitting.  When you go for the fitting they will measure your height, arm length, wrist to ground distance, and the span of your hand to start the process.  This will give them a starting point for a grip size, shaft length from standard, and the appropriate lie angle.  You’ll get a couple of clubs – say 7 irons of differing makes – and hit some balls from a lie board.  Based on the marks on the taped sole of the clubs from the lie board he will refine a lie angle to your swing (assuming there is a club with the length shaft you require!).  Now that you have the right lie angle and length shaft, you’ll hit some balls to determine your swing speed which will give the pro an idea of the shaft type you require.  By shaft type, I mean should it be a regular flex shaft, a stiff flex shaft, and so on.  It can also be either graphite or steel, but for the purposes here, let’s just say steel.  Here’s where the technology comes in.  He may have a custom sensor golf simulator package that when you hit a ball will tell him club speed, launch angle, ball speed off the club face, spin rate, distance, shot shape, shot dispersion, which testicle hangs lower in the follow through, and the list goes on.  Now the pro will tell you that there are no industry standards to shaft flex.  A Ping stiff may not be a Mizuno stiff (if they are different shaft makers), that is, one may be subtly softer than another .  So, if you are getting fitted because you are looking to reshaft an existing set or order new,  he will recommend you get the shafts frequency matched and spined.  Oh yeah, you’ll also of course need shafts with the correct kick point (oh I am sorry we call it ‘bend profile’ now) so that you get the correct shot trajectory.  So now we have chosen the maker and flex of the shafts and will frequency match them.  The pro (or company you order from) will individually fit the shaft on an apparatus that attaches to the butt end extending the shaft horizontally so that the tip is free and unattached.  He will then put a standard weight on the tip, pull it down a standard distance and it will begin to oscillate.  The oscillation rate is measured on each shaft to determine stiffness.  Depending on the rate of oscillation and desired stiffness, the pro will then enter into a process called tipping.  He will cut the correct amount of shaft to length from the butt and the tip to establish the desired oscillations which will translate into the desired frequency or stiffness.  Once that is complete, he then spines the shaft.  Spining is accounting for inaccuracies in manufacturing of the shaft where stiffness may be different depending upon the side of the shaft that must bend during the swing.  He is effectively finding the spine of the shaft so that when the club head is attached, the spine is in the appropriate position.  Does your head hurt?  Do you want a stiff Poor Man yet?

Now, let me give you the poor man’s version.  You already own a set of irons, but you are not quite sure they are right for you.  Let’s take a look at a website that will help us out.  A great site for this is the PING website: http://www.ping.com/fitting/default.aspx.  They have a terrific web fitting program you can use to get you into the ballpark for grip size, shaft length, lie angle and stiffness for all of your clubs – irons, driver, etc…all you have to do is get someone to assist you in the measurements (it can be difficult to get accurate measurements by yourself).  Based on these measurements the program will recommend shaft length, grip size, and will give you a color code for lie angle –  the associated lie angle is available on the site that follows..ie…white is equal to 3 degrees upright and so on (http://www.ping.com/pdfs/PING_Color_Code_Chart.pdf).  Now if you were like me, you took the advice of a friend, bought irons off the shelf several years ago and have been playing with them since.  I bought a set of PING i3’s, black dot and standard length.  It turns out I require white dot (+ 3 degrees upright) and plus a ¼” to ½” in length.  That my friends is a great deal of difference.  Okay, so I sent my PING i3’s to PING and had them bent to a white standard (they can bend them max about 3 degrees because they are cast, not forged).  I did not change the shafts.  I have JZ Stiff which are correct for me, but a little short.  I went to the Golfworks website, purchased some simple shaft…don’t laugh…butt plugs and added ½” in length and regripped them myself with standard size golf pride New Decade Multicompound (half cords) – the size grip PING recommended.  Now I haven’t had the shafts spined, oscillated, frequency matched, tipped, dipped, or slathered in rattlesnake oil (although the rattlesnake oil sounds kind of cool) and I have been hitting these irons unbelievably well since the changes.  These i3’s are so much more satisfying to hit, and the extra length of the shaft and better fit has translated into added distance for every club!  Nice.  One other thing to note.  For every ½” you add to the shaft length, you will also add a couple of points of swing weight.  Most modern irons come off the shelf at about a D1 swing weight.  Add ½” and they will be at about a D3.  I found the difference to actually feel better.  If you are buying new clubs, but do the fitting yourself, then you can specify swing weight desired and they will manage it. 

Maybe someday I will have a more detailed fitting done and shafts frequency matched for my swing…maybe… someday.  But for now, I will try and do it or arrange for club changes myself.  So, I would at this point when I was about 28, fix myself a Poor Man’s and sip it in celebration of a poor man’s fitting well executed.  But alas, I am not 28 and no longer a drinking man so I will merely bask in the pungent odor of Golfworks’ environmentally safe grip tape solvent and dream of birdies to come.

David Feherty & IED Golf Days

I just viewed a story about David Feherty online that brought tears to my eyes.  I received it as a link from a friend via email (thanks Frank!).  It is a story from the Golf Channel’s website: 

http://www.thegolfchannel.com:80/human-energy/?select2=14760 .     

I truly admire the celebrity who for unselfish reasons brings light, hope, and dignity to others.  Please take a look.

For those who don’t know him, David Feherty was a professional golfer and is now a TV golf analyst and columnist/humorist.  He came to this country from Ireland and became a citizen early last year.  He became a citizen because he admires Americans and the things America stands for – he gets it.  He especially loves military members and their families, a love born of a desire to contribute to freedom’s efforts by visiting the troops in Iraq in 2007 (and subsequent trips) to thank them for what they have done and are doing.  He has embraced those who serve, especially those who have been injured in the process. 

David’s friend Rick Kell has established a foundation for these service members called Troops First Foundation.   David, in partnership with Rick bring together these wounded warriors and their families for sporting event days.  David calls these days Improvised Explosive Days (IED) of Golf or Cycling or Hunting.  This is an obvious play on the term improvised explosive device, the mechanism by which many of these service members received their wounds. 

Visit Rick’s foundation website at http://www.troopsfirstfoundation.org/.  It’s mission:  “Troops First Foundation develops, operates, and supports a synergistic group of wellness, quality of life and sport-based initiatives in support of today’s military personnel.” 

God bless David Feherty and Rick Kell.

2011 PGA Merchandise Show: Great Expectations

I had the great pleasure of attending the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Florida this year, a first for my wife and me.  This year was the 58th PGA Merchandise Show and it was very exciting and absolutely huge!  I have attended many major defense industry shows during my 28 years in the military and this rivaled all and outdid most.  There were companies there from the very largest to the newest start-ups.  In addition to the merchandising, there were also seminars, media opportunities, demo opportunities, and much more.   

“Nearly 42,000 PGA Professionals and industry executives from every U.S. state and 88 countries filled nearly 10 miles of aisles while previewing the latest products and writing orders from nearly 1,000 golf companies and brands, Thursday through Saturday, Jan. 27-29, at the 2011 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla.   All of golf’s best names in golf manufacturing joined with its brightest stars for equipment introductions, product testing, fashion presentations, industry announcements, a series of education seminars and networking special events to set the tone for golf business in 2011.”  (PGA Merchandise Show Press Release)

We arrived late Friday and stayed through Saturday afternoon.  Our plan was to go and just check things out – I had no great expectations.  I wasn’t sure what story line I would take for this blog, so we just waded in.  The PGA Merchandise Show was a first class event – from the constant running shuttle busses to and from nearby hotels to the extremely well organized system of assistance and credentialing of attendees and everything in between.  The floor layout made sense, organized categorically with apparel at one end to the indoor range facilities on the other.  My wife and I were mesmerized by the size and scope of it all…well, I was mesmerized, she was just curious and hoping I wouldn’t want to buy anything for myself. 

As I said, we attended without a specific plan except to know that there would likely be lots to talk about here in the blog.  I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew there would be all the new golf technologies available to inspect, hold, and talk about first hand with industry representatives.  While all that was interesting, as I wandered the aisles I found myself particularly drawn to the booths of some small companies with some great, interesting, and wonderfully simple ideas. 

I have always been a gadget guy.  When I walk through a store and see a gadget I haven’t seen before, I will stop and take a look.  There were lots of gadgets to be seen at the PGA Merchant Show.  But there were a few that stood out for me. 

Get SQRD Up!  As you may imagine, there were all manner of alignment tools on display at the Show.  The gadgets designed for alignment could have been a show unto itself!  Alignment sticks of every imaginable color and style – how many ways can you market a stick?!  There were also alignment tools to attach to your putter or iron.  There were alignment tools with lines, plastic boards, and mirrors.  Then I happened upon the one that struck that “why didn’t I think of that” cord in my mind.  Mike and Randy Bowman of SQDRUP have developed an alignment tool that integrates portability and simplicity with laser technology.  (Photo)

SQRD Up - Portable Laser Alignment

SQRD Up - Portable Laser Alignment

Mike told me he was using the crossing lines in his driveway to work on his set up and alignment one day when he realized that he could create something with lasers that he could take and use on the practice range to achieve the same kind of sight picture.  He built the prototype in Randy’s basement and they created the business and website just in time for the PGA Merchandise Show.  Tap on the top to the T-Shaped device with your club and the lasers come on.  They stay on for a period of time and then automatically turn off.  Another tap on the top of the device with the club and the lasers are back on.  The key word here is SIMPLE.  No bending over to adjust sticks, just set the device down and align it with your target and you’re swinging away.  Does it work in the sunlight – YES.  Mike and Randy will make them available on their website very soon.  From the interest I saw at the show, you may see them available retail right away!  (www.sqrdup.com)

Look for “the Mully!  As I was walking through the labyrinth of products this thing just jumped out at me.  Brothers Jeff, Rick, and Matt Mullen and their pal Darrin say “Don’t Play Dirty!”  They have, within the past month, fine-tuned a terrific product and managed to debut it at this year’s PGA Merchandise Show.  The product – the Mully – is a small golf towel attached to a thin retractable cable that you can attach to your belt.  You merely reach back for it, pull it forward, wipe off your club and let go.  It retracts back into position and away you go onto the next thing.  What a simple yet elegant idea for golfers.  (Photo)

The Mully

The Mully

Born from recurring discussions on their annual golf trip together through the years, the brothers finally created the product and established the company.  The Mully’s debut has created great interest from a major retail sporting goods chain.  There are also companies at the PGA Merchandise Show who showed interest in the product as a company logo’d gift for golf outings and marketing at other events.  The bottom line is this is a product that I know I will use on the golf course and I believe most golfers will like it as well.  The key word is SIMPLE.  Check out the website for more information on purchasing and logo/color options.(www.themullytowel.com)

Hang onto your head cover with CoverGuard.  Alan Codkind, Founder and CEO of Visioneering Sports Products has developed a very simple, yet effective method for preventing accidental loss of your head covers.  The product clips to the head cover(s) and tethers them either together or to hardware on your golf bag.  There is another clip mechanism to detach a single cover from the tether if you like.  (Photo)

CoverGuard

CoverGuard

I, for one, have been the victim of the falling putter cover.  How frustrating is it to be walking the course only to find you must walk back a few hundred yards to recover your putter cover?  Worst yet, you find it is missing, retrace your tracks in your cart and can’t find it at all.  Just peak behind your local pro shop’s counter and you will probably see a box full of lost head covers.  I have the clips on my bag now.  It is a great idea and again, the key word is SIMPLE.  Check out the website – you may purchase the clips in different numbered sets and many different colors to match your bag’s color scheme.  (www.visioneeringsports.com)

It appears that I have succeeded in my quest for a theme for our visit to this great show this year.  If you haven’t figured it out, I am a champion of the underdog and the little guy.  Heck, I think of myself as one of those guys.  But you know, however small these ideas may seem on the surface, you have to admit that they are the kind that make you wonder “why didn’t I think of that?!”  I like smart and simple and these products are certainly smart and simple.  These entrepreneurs have proven that there are still untapped opportunities out there in the golf industry, amazing as it may seem.  Yes, there are lots of golf gadget ideas that get introduced that are crazy or in the “what’s the point” category.  But, at least in this PGA Merchandise Show’s world of big companies and high technology, these guys have proven that there still is a place for the little guy with “great expectations.”