Tag Archives: golf

Back in the saddle

Originally posted June 30, 2010

After more than a year of writing for the Examiner site, I’ve opted to quit writing about golf their way and return to doing what I want when I want here. I know there are exactly zero avid followers out there reading this right now, but somehow it felt more real to put it into writing and put it out there. Like that will somehow bring me back into the fold of writing on a regular basis again.

Writing for someone else was educational, and I quickly learned how to cater my writing style to garner the most clicks. Clicks = pay, and I managed to get over 270,000 clicks last year. Examiner.com bought me new clubs and bought me a new flat-screen TV. In fact, it was pretty much the day that I got said TV that I stopped writing for them.

I quit writing before Thanksgiving, so I missed all of the Tiger Woods meltdown. Thankfully. It was hard enough to watch one of my favorite sports figures fall from grace from a distance, I would have felt dirty profiting heavily from it. And judging from past results, I could have probably gotten a down-payment on a car from his indescretions.

Think of this: there was a tournament where it seemed as if Tiger farted on camera. A link to that video with a catchy headline got me $120.00 in a single day. So very sad. I can only imagine how much scrill I could have cobbled together off of some photos of his porn-star honey. I’m glad I didn’t.

The original goal was to write about golf on my terms: what I like, my own quest to get better, courses I play, etc. I may go pull down some of my equipment and course reviews from Examiner to post here, but more likely I will just keep on keeping on from here. Beautiful thing about the Internet: everything you do stays out here forever. Like herpes.

All a Shambles at Silverado

Yesterday I played in the Queen of the Valley Hospital Foundation’s Day for the Queen fundraising golf tournament. The format of the event was a shamble, which I enjoyed immensely and wrote about extensively on my Examiner golf blog. The basics of a shamble are this: everyone tees off, you choose the best ball to play from, then everyone plays their own ball in from there and you record your two lowest net scores.

It made for two shots at redemption on every hole: off the tee, and then into the green. As a team we needed to make sure we used two drives of each player by the end of the round. I’d played a similar format tournament at Sonoma Golf Club last summer, where we each needed three drives on the card. I started off hot, but my group kept opting to go for comparable drives, figuring that I’d be strong through the end of the round. By the time we made our turn, I still needed a couple more drives and felt the pressure mounting.

I related this story to my group before we started the tournament, and then proceeded to start red-hot off of the tee. On the first hole it was a close choice between my ball and another, but mine was on a flat lie, and just a little closer to the hole. On the fifth hole I outdrove the group with my 3-wood, crushing a career drive 183 yards (I measured it backwards with the rangefinders). I had my drives out of the way by our fifth hole.

Interestingly enough, as the day wore on my drives started to fade. Literally. After crushing drives straight down the pipe, I suddenly began slicing everything. Look at the setup on the 18th tee, our 10th hole of the day:

At address on the 18th tee

Setup seems ok. My shoulders are a little rounded,  and back a little bent, but I like the distance from the ball,  and stance.   Interesting to note that I’m setup for the right side of the fairway, thinking draw, then hitting slice. The top of the takeaway on the next shot is revealing:

The club angle at the top is far too upright. Looks like I am set up to return the club back to the ball outside in, playing slice only. Funny thing: on the next hole, I set up facing the left side of the fairway expecting to play a fade, relaxed, swung inside-out, and crushed it perfectly straight…out of the fairway.

My remedy was to pull out my driver and truly swing easier. I started hitting the fairway again, and managed to relax my swing overall. But I never would have known what the problem was if I hadn’t asked one of my teammates to snap some photos of me. Interesting to note, and I’m going to try and make a habit of using a camera on occassion.

My putting was on fire, until I started thinking about what each putt meant. But early on I was dropping huge putts for net birdies and even a net eagle. I missed two crucial putts on the last four holes, and re-grouped to make the only birdie on our final hole of the day, a downhill, 186-yard par-3.  In fact, it was my drive and my putt that gave us our only birdie on that hole. Gotta love high handicaps and net birds.

Techno-Love: Range Finders

When I first took up golf, my wife said, “Well, at least it’s not a gear sport.” I presumed she was kidding. It took us both a few months to figure out she wasn’t, and it is.

The product cycle of new golf technology is now down to a staggeringly short six-month time period. Drivers that used to be considered “current” for two years are now rotated out of the prime retail locations twice a year. The Golf Channel has Fore Inventors Only, a program dedicated solely to inventors who are trying to create golf’s Next Big Thing™.

I’m a technology and gadget fiend. I watched Fore Inventors Only with a passion, but have yet to buy any of the products on the show. I keep meaning to, just to support the people I rooted for, but it really isn’t that big a hassle for me to bend over and pick my clubs up off of the ground when I’m out of a cart near the green.

One of the places I did invest in golf technology, however, was a set of range-finders. I say “invest” because any technology I acquire for golf should come with a payoff. In this case, I had three goals:

1. Learn how far I hit each of my clubs,

2. Know how far I have to every target zone, and

3. Learn how to gauge distance

There are a variety of range finders on the market, and they come down to two basic types: binoculars/laser or GPS. I thought that the various GPS devices available were easily the sexiest, and not just because Natalie Gulbis is the front-woman for SkyCaddie.

In the end, however, I went with a set of Bushnell Pinseeker 1500’s, with slope. Sure, they’re not legal for tournament play, but I don’t play tournaments. And what they help me accomplish, the key differentiator between them and the SkyCaddie, was determine how far I’m hitting my clubs, each and every day.

SkyCaddie does have a function that will enable you to measure off a paced distance: click a button, start walking, and click again and it gives you the distance between the two points. Brilliant for measuring how far you bombed that last drive, not recommended for finding out exactly how far it is to the yellow flag on your local driving range. Let alone all of the flags at the range, that sand trap I keep hitting into, and how far my last wedge shot flew.

Anytime I use my range finders with a new group of playing partners it is an interesting social experiment. People who have been golfing for a long time have their own systems for gauging distance, and when my numbers don’t match up to their own I’ve learned to defer to their prior experience, for them anyway.

My buddy, Mike, for example, couldn’t believe that the white tees on the par-3 8th hole at Glen Eagles in San Francisco were 165 yards back one day. “It’s just a wedge shot!” he exclaimed. He’d played “The Eeg” many a time, and had developed his own familiarity with each and every hole. The 8th had always been a wedge shot for him. A de-lofted, full-force, guerilla-assault wedge shot, but a wedge shot nonetheless. Me? I opted for a different club. One I could swing easy, and know it would get there; my goal on every approach shot.

Having a set of range finders at the range and on the course has been extremely valuable for me, and it has increased my speed of play. To teach myself how to accurately gauge distance, I play a game called “guess the distance” on each and every shot. I’m getting better at distances 150 yards and under, but still have a hard time with the longer shots.

When it comes time to choose a club, I’m able to narrow down all of my variables quickly and efficiently, and arrive at a club selection with high confidence. The kind of confidence I lacked when I wasn’t sure if that sprinkler meant I had 150 yards to the flag, the center or the front of the green.

Of course, your yardage may vary.

In the 90’s and Sweating in Alabama

When I found out that the event I was doing in Birmingham was going to be held at Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa, I started making contingency plans in case my schedule would permit a round of golf. When it all fell into place and I got dropped into an 8:30am threesome on Saturday morning, my last hope was that my shoulder would hold up for a round of golf.

It had been almost three weeks to the day since I over-swam my shoulder, and I was more nervous about how I’d hold up than how I’d play. On the range, my focus was all over the place, and so were my shots. After I calmed down, and sweated some of the coffee out of my system, I was able to get some consistency going. I was amazed by how hot it was at 8am. This did not bode well for the final six holes that we’d be playing between 11:30am and 1pm.

The par-3 fourth hole

The course is a stunner. Part of the Robert Trent Jones Trail, Ross Bridge plays from the tips as the third longest course in the world: an insidious 8,139 yards. I opted to play from the whites, 6,200 yards with a rating of 68.7 and a slope of 118. Over the course of 18 holes there was never a repeat drive, never a repeat hole. The par 3 holes were all extremely memorable, the course a classic RTJ “tough par, easy bogey” risk/reward setup.

Not usually a fan of carts, I was thankful to have one in the Alabama heat. The temperature was 80 by the time we teed off, and was well over 90 by the end of the first nine. My shoulder actually seemed to like the heat, as if playing in a sauna was exactly what it needed. I didn’t feel it once during the round.

I kept track of fun points, but no one else in my group was really into the concept, which took some of the shine off of it. Overall, I hit some good shots, and only had 3 horrific flubs, all of them topped shots. I managed a birdie on a 163 yard par 3, knocking my tee shot to 6 feet and dropping the putt. But I was 7-over on the par-5’s alone: one bogey and three doubles. If there is anything I can take away from the day, it is a need to improve my game on the long holes.

Once again, I ended well. The final hole is a par-4 that plays over water on the tee shot, and then tempts you with another shot over water to reach the green. My tee shot was safe, a little too safe, as it left me 184 yards to the elevated green, 160 of which was carry over water. I buried my approach shot in the hillside, carrying the water but not quite making the putting surface. A chip and two putts and I was home in 99, marking my fourth round in a row under 100, and my sixth round in double-digits ever.

The Day’s Stats

Fairways hit: 6
Greens in Regulation: 1
Ups & Downs: 2
Pars: 0
Birdies: 1
Putts: 33
Fun Points: 28
Handicap before round: 31.4
Handicap after round: 30.8

Summertime, and the Body is Healing

Summertime always seems to be the time of year when business slows down, the sun stays out later, the opportunity to play more golf becomes a distinct possibility…and I injure myself. Two summers ago we got rear-ended while on vacation in Kauai, and it threw my whole neck and right shoulder out of whack. Just when I thought I was going to really get on a roll on the course, into rehab for my neck go I.

This summer, oddly enough, it was golf that put me on I.R., or at least on the road to the I.R. list. (That sentence alone would be terrifying to me, proof that when I turn 40 next year I’m going to need a walker and a lifetime supply of Advil, if it weren’t for the fact that Tiger is out for a year at age 31 due to excessive golf.) My left shoulder was a little bit sore after a round at Harding, and instead of letting it heal, I opted to swim with it sore.

Three weeks later, and I’m just starting to think about swinging clubs again. I’m sure the healing process would have taken longer, but I have a secret weapon: Active Release Technique (A.R.T.) therapy. A.R.T. was developed by a retired rocket scientist-turned-chiropractor who got tired of seeing his patients come back month after month for the same adjustments. Using external pressure points and in conjunction with movements you perform, A.R.T. breaks up “traps” (scar tissue) that is hindering movement and causing pain, freeing your system up to heal up more efficiently.

The first time I had A.R.T. performed on me was a few months after I found out I have a cracked vertebrae. I had been seeing a physical therapist, but was still limping, still in pain every day. Two treatments later and I was able to start swimming, the limp was gone, and I was on the path to a mostly-normal active life again. My wife always thought I was a little too much of a convert, until she got sciatica in her hips from always carrying our son on the same side. That was when we discovered Dr. Brian Cook, who has an office in the World Gym on De Haro @ 16th Street.

After a couple of treatments, she was calling her father, trying to get him to go in for the arthritis that has crippled his golf game and made his life miserable. Dr. Cook got my car-crash neck fixed up in a couple of visits, and he’s gotten my latest shoulder on the path to recovery as well. I swam for the first time a couple of days ago, and am taking my clubs with me to Alabama for my event there this weekend.

If age and injury are constantly catching up to you, or you simply are recovering from a recent injury, you owe it to yourself to check out A.R.T. Because it’s tough enough to be out on injured reserve for part of the summer; no-one should have to miss all of it.