Saturday, 30 July 2016

When Will They Finally Send McCord Packing?

Once again at the PGA championship they managed to have yet another rules issue with Jordan Spieth's drop.  Apparently, because I didn't see it, my least favourite announcer, Gary McCord, had lots to say about the ruling.

I only have two questions.  First, what is the point of having a rules official on the scene if people are able to question and sometimes over-rule his or her decision? This was, or at least should have been, a simple drop from casual water.  Secondly, why is Gary McCord still announcing?  Is there anyone out there who isn't tired of his schtick?  He has to be the least funny, most annoying announcer I've ever listened to.  He doesn't know when to just shut up.  He just prattles on and on, feeling the need to talk constantly when the action speaks for itself.

Remember the Open a couple of weeks ago?  No nonsense over the rules, and no Gary McCord.  Now that's the way you do it.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Another Bad Start by Rory at the PGA Championship

It was another tough start for Rory at the PGA championship.  He made four bogeys and not a single birdie.  In the post-round interview he admitted that his putting was poor and that, while he has two PGA championships, he didn't win them from way back in the pack after the first round.

It would seem to be all but certain that Rory will now be skunked for the second year in the Majors despite some of the hype thanks to Nike commercials and his expressed confidence that it would be a big year.  So, what are we to think?  Is Rory on the right track?  

We have surely not seen the last of Rory McIlroy.  But I think it's probably time for Rory to consider going back to the proverbial drawing board.  Clearly, what he's been doing for the last couple of years isn't working.  Hours in the gym and his new physique has apparently actually led to a reduction in his swing speed.  His focus on adding muscle hasn't done much for his short game either, especially on the greens.  

I kind of miss that young, mop-haired kid from Northern Ireland--the one who played Titleist and couldn't dead lift a volkswagon.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Thanks Kevin

I played with Levi today.  He had spent the week at the Canadian Open and was back in town ready to take me on.

Levi had really enjoyed the Open and had been lucky enough to have dinner on Thursday night with Kevin Kisner.  He had been talking to Kisner's caddie, and Kevin invited him to dinner.  Levi apparently told Kevin that he wasn't particularly impressed with his driver game.  It was Kisner's short game that really impressed him.  Kevin laughed and said he would like to play with Levi from the back tees.  Then Levi would know just how good he was off the tee.

Kevin Kisner did, however, give Levi some putting advice and, man, did it help.  Levi putted like a demon and, using the seven strokes I gave him, beat me like a red-headed stepson.  From nine to thirteen he won every hole and was dormie after thirteen holes.  I won the next two and then lost on sixteen when Levi drained a twelve footer for birdie.  

Thanks Kevin.  You've turned Levi into a putter.  It won't be long until Levi will be playing me straight up, or giving me strokes.  These PGA players are good.  I just wish they'd keep their putting advice to themselves.

You Don't Have To Be A Good Golfer To Be A Good Putter

Tony Lema once said, "You don't have to be a good golfer to be a good putter, but you have to be a good putter to be a good golfer."  That's the reality of the situation.  

Bobby Jones talked about golfers tendency to try to consider putting another game within the game--our tendency to suggest that someone would be a good, or great, player "if he could only putt."  Carl the Grumbler likes to say that about me, not-so-subtly reinforcing to me the fact that I miss too many makable putts.  Bobby Jones made it clear that if you want to be a good player you had better learn to be a good putter.  There's no other way.  In the end, matches, tournaments, and championships are won on the green.  It virtually always comes down to the putter.

I'm struggling on the greens lately.  Suddenly those three and four footers are lipping out, or missing the damned hole completely.  Miss one short putt and it's okay.  Everyone does it.  Miss two in a row and the wheels start turning.  For me the kiss of death is when I start changing putters and trying different strokes.  That's where I'm at right now.  I've used an old Bobby Grace putter, a Ping, a Wilson Staff blade like Crenshaw used--only with an insert--two other Ping putters, and my trusty--or should I say, not-so-trustee--Bullseye.  And that's only in the past month.  

And I do this--switching putters--despite the fact that I know "it isn't the fiddle, it's the fiddler."  Putting is all about confidence.  But how do you stay confident when the putts aren't dropping?  That, of course, is the sixty-four thousand dollar question.  Against all evidence to the contrary, good putters find a way to think about making a putt instead of trying not to miss it.  Good putters are confident.  They're all business.  You can often see it in the way they move on the greens.  It shows in their body language and in their eyes.  They are too busy thinking about making the putt to consider missing it.

I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again, but my old Bullseye is coming out of the trunk.  I'm going to give him another go because he's worked best over the years.  Then I'm going to just knock the damned ball in the hole.  If it misses, I'll just try again.  It's not like you have any choice--that is unless your opponent is kind enough to tell you to pick it up.

Tony Lema also once said, "The less said about the putter, the better."  Just keep saying to yourself, "I'm a good putter, I'm a good putter..."  And try to always think about all those putts you've made, and not the ones you missed.  Putting is a mystery too deep for most of us.  That's why I think we just need to stand over it, focus on making it, and let it go.  In the end, missing a short putt won't kill you.  It happens to the best of them--just not as often as it seems to be happening to me.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Make It Vanilla

If it's your score that you're interested in, golf demands a certain practicality.  You have to eventually come to terms with what you are capable of and play your game, evaluating the odds and picking your shot accordingly.  There are no pictures on the scorecard.

I really enjoy trying different shots.  Sometimes they come off and I look like a golfer, and sometimes I end up looking like a mug.  I think Harvey Penick had a really good piece of advice for players of all levels when he said that if you had to pick a flavour for your shot, make it vanilla.  In other words, when you're trying to score, pick the simplest, most effective, and safest shot to play.  There's no need to get fancy, unless a fancy shot is the only option available.  

Of course, when the stakes are low, and you aren't too concerned with your score, you might want to try hitting a particularly tricky or difficult shot.  It's fun to challenge yourself sometimes.  However, when the chips are down, try to remember Harvey's advice and make your shots vanilla.  Vanilla is good.

Saturday, 23 July 2016


I played at Warkworth Golf Club today with Spiros and Jeff.  Spiros is really starting to get on my nerves.  Today I gave him ten strokes and he beat me three and one, shooting 38 on the back.

I managed to halve my match with Jeff, but it was a frustrating day on the greens.  I couldn't make a putt to save my life.  Play as well as you like from tee to green, if you can't chip and putt, forget about it.

But Warkworth is an interesting track.  Even more so when it plays hard and fast like it did today.  I had better soon get my act together on and around the greens, or I'd better take up tiddliewinks.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Spiros Does It Again

Spiros and I played back to back matches and the wily Greek did it to me again.  I've been giving him fourteen strokes, and we played a stroke play match where I ran away on him.  So I suggested we stick to match play.  Match play is a much better format for a guy, like Spiros, who is prone to making the odd big number.  When you make that nine it only costs you a hole and not the match.

Our first match was going surprisingly well for me.  I was cruising along and ended up dormie with four to play.  But sometimes a big lead can lead to carelessness on the leader's part and heightened concentration on the loser's.  Sure enough, I made a couple of bogies and Spiros played his last four holes one over, including an up-and-down par on eighteen to halve the match.  Eighteen is a par three and Spiros got a stroke.  I mean, who gets a stroke on a par three?  And then to make par--it just isn't right.  I'm kidding of course.  But suffice it to say that Spiros felt pretty good about coming back from four down to halve the match.  

Yesterday we played another match.  Spiros still got fourteen strokes and I'll be damned if he didn't throw nine pars at me.  With fourteen shots, many of those pars were net birdies and Spiros ended up thrashing me four and three.  I was playing pretty well, but my three birdies didn't quite cut it against that run of pars by Spiros the--dare I say it--sandbagger.  Again I'm only kidding, but Spiros is worried he'll get a reputation if I keep calling him the S-word.  I'm actually happy to see him playing so well.

But today we are having another match and Spiros is getting thirteen strokes.  Every time he beats me, we're shaving off a stroke.  All I can say is, beware of Greeks asking for strokes!

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Touch is the Key to Good Putting

Putting is such an important part of the game.  When you're holing putts you are scoring.  In fact, Raymond Floyd believed that the most important shot in golf was the six foot putt.  

Dave Pelz studied the pros and found that they made fifty percent of their putts from six feet.  That might have been true.  But you can bet the leaders in any tournament from week to week are making the six footers at a much higher percentage.  Unless you are holing out, or chipping it in, every good hole ends with a putt.  It's the most important club in the bag.

I like what Bobby Jones had to say about putting.  Sometimes we are inclined to regard putting as more of a science than an art; thinking that we are able to be more precise than we actually can be.  Putting greens are not a perfect surface--at least most of the greens we amateurs putt on aren't.  There is a degree of luck involved in putting--just like the rest of the game.  A ball can hit an imperfection in the green that you might not even see and be deflected off line.  The same imperfection might also deflect a putt on line.  Concerning the best way to putt, Bobby wrote in his book Golf is my Game:

    "In putting, and in chipping too, it is important that the backswing should be long enough.  Nothing can be worse around the greens than a short, snatching stroke.  I have had some of the real masters of the short game tell me, and I heartily agree, that it is most helpful to swing back a little farther than needed on the first few chips or putts of any round.  In this way they can be certain of obtaining that feeling of a smoothly-floating club so necessary for a delicate touch.
     Actually, this touch is the key to good putting.  Very few putts of any length are dead straight, so that no line is right except for one speed; and the player who tries to straighten even the shortest putts by charging the hole will miss a lot of those coming back.
      I will guarantee that more putts under twenty feet--the kind you like to hole--will go in, and three-putt greens will pop up less often, if the player will forget about the precise alignment of his putter and learn to adjust his touch so that he may always keep his ball above the hole and always reach the hole with a dying ball.  A ball dying on a slope above the hole often topples in, and always stops close; nothing is more disheartening than to watch a ball barely miss the lower side of the hole and then curl down the slope some five or six feet.  And remember, even on the short putts, that the hole is of full size for the touch putter, while it presents only an inch or so for the charger who has to hit the exact centre of the cup.
     I like to think of putting as very much like rolling a golf ball from my hand across a green towards a hole.  I know I should then not worry too much about the backswing of my arm.  I think it would instinctively take care of itself.  So in putting, I don't like to worry too much about the alignment of my putter at address or about my backswing, except that it be long enough.  The picture I want uppermost in my mind is of the line I want the ball to travel on, and of how hard I want to hit it."

Like the rest of the game, there are many ways to putt--just as there are many ways to swing the club. But in putting, it's touch that counts.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Byron Nelson on the Streak

In 1945 Byron Nelson did something in golf that will never be equalled.  He won 18 times, including 11 in a row.  During that season he boasted a 68.33 scoring average--an average that was never beaten until the arrival of a ceratain Tiger Woods.  How did Lord Byron do it?

In his book entitled How I Played the Game, Byron provides his answer.  In 1944 he had won eight times in twenty three outings.  He averaged 69.67 per round.  But he also decided in that season to keep a record of his rounds.  He wrote:

    "I found two things that were repeated too often during the year, and they were 'poor chipping' and  'careless shot.'  The word 'careless' was written in there quite a few times, which often was due to    poor concentration.  Or sometimes I would have a short putt and walk up to it and just kind of slap at it and miss it.  So I made up my mind, like  new Year's resolution, that for all of 1945 I would try very hard to avoid a careless shot.
    One other thing I should mention.  My game had gotten so good and so dependable that there were times when I actually would get bored playing.  I'd hit it in the fairway, on the green, make birdie or par, and go to the next hole.  The press even said it was monotonous to watch me.  I'd tell them, 'It may be monotonous, but I sure eat regular.'  But having the extra incentive of buying a ranch one day made things a lot more interesting.  Each drive, each iron, each chip, each putt was aimed at the goal of getting that ranch.  And each win meant another cow, another acre, another ten acres, another part of the down payment.
    Finally, I had one other incentive.  I wanted to establish some records that would stand for a long time.  I wanted to have the lowest scoring average--lower than when I'd won the Vardon in'39, when it was 71.02.  And though I'd won eight tournaments in '44, I knew that the way some of these boys played, that number wouldn't stand up very long.  I also wanted the record for the lowest score for an entire tournament.  At the time the record was 264, held by Craig Wood and a few others.  So you see, I had a whole collection of goals I wanted to reach, and every goid shot I hit supported all of them..."

So we can see the importance in golf of two things--three actually--reviewing and assessing your play, having goals, and, in Byron's case, being incredibly talented.  We mere mortals may only be able to take advantage of the first two secrets to success.  But if we are honest about our play, and make goals that we truly desire to reach, we may just play harder, and better.

In case you think Byron had this incredible streak because it was '45 and lots of the top guys were missing because of the war; think again.  Snead played in twenty-six events and Hogan played in eighteen.  Byron Nelson was probably the best ball-striker that ever lived.  In fact, he tells the story of Bing Crosby following him at the LA Open.  Bing had said he would follow Byron until he hit a bad shot.  Bing followed him all the first round, and until the eleventh hole on the second round when Byron pushed a six iron into a bunker.  True to his word, Bing headed back to the clubhouse.  That's just how good Byron Nelson was.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Forty is the New Thirty

They used to say that a man reached his leak at thirty-three years of age.  In golf, that tends to hold true as well.  But watching that titanic battle at the Open between Stenson and Mickelson we see that age can be just a number.

Henrik Stenson happily said after his first Major victory, "Forty is the new thirty."  I hope he's right.  I hope he goes on a tear like some other forty-somethings have done.

Vijay played his best golf in his forties.  Phil hasn't exactly lost it well into his forties.  It took Ben Hogan quite some time to reach the height of his powers.  Not every player gets it all together until they've been around quite some time.

If forty is the new thirty, I hope 60 is the new 50 as I turn sixty next month.  One thing for certain; if you hang in there, golf is the game of a lifetime.  I can't wait to hit the links today--even if my back is hurting.

Playing a Different Game

My old mother is starting to "lose it" a bit these days.  She gets a bit confused sometimes.  It happens when you're in your nineties.  

She watched the entire last round of the Open, with that epic battle between Stenson and Mickelson.  She was totally thrilled to see Stenson win his first Major.  She loves Stenson.  And she thought Henrik's wife was "absolutely beautiful."

Last night, at bedtime, we were discussing Stenson's incredible win again.  Granny said, "I couldn't understand it, really.  He (Stenson) was playing a different game.  But I loved the result."

I assured Granny that Henrik was playing the same game as the rest of them.  But, then again, maybe he wasn't.  It might have been the same game, but it was played at a whole different level.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

The Right Stuff

In the final round of today's historic Open championship Johnny Miller, candid as ever, said he had wondered whether Henrik Stenson had the "right stuff" to win a Major.  We now know he has.

That final round battle between Stenson and Mickelson will be one for the ages.  Stenson's performance was simply out of this world, tying Johnny Miller's record of 63 for the lowest final round score in a Major.  Phil's 65 was fantastic and should have been enough under normal circumstances.  But when your opponent throws ten birdies at you on a course like Royal Troon, I guess you just have to take your hat off to him.  Stenson was absolutely brilliant.

And yet Stenson started the day with two mediocre shots and three putts for bogey, while Phil hit a magical second shot to leave himself a tap in birdie and take the lead.  I must admit that I said to myself, "Here we go again."  I figured Phil was going to steal the show and Stenson was going to still be the best player not to have won a Major.  

But Stenson had the resolve of knowing that he did have the right stuff and that his time had indeed come.  I've long thought that Stenson had the best swing and was the best ball striker in the game.  But ball striking does not win you Majors.  In the end it is the self-belief and the ability to reach down and make the putts when you have to.  Now Stenson knows he can make the big putts on golf's biggest stage.  At 40, one now has to wonder how many more Majors he can win.  It's interesting to note that it took Phil Mickelson more attempts than Stenson before he finally broke through and won his first one.

They must surely be partying in Sweden today.  And so they should.  They have a great champion.  They have the champion golfer of the year.  Henrik Stenson has the right stuff.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Kjeldsen Might Be a Good Bet

After two rounds at the Open you have to be impressed with Phil Mickelson.  I suppose he's now the favourite to win his second Open championship.  It would be a great accomplishment for the man who historically struggled in the Open, but has learned to love links golf.

It would be nice to see Henrik Stenson--the man I think has the best swing in golf--finally capture a Major.  But the fellow that just might be worth putting some cash on, if the bookies are still taking bets, is Soren Kjeldsen.  The diminutive Dane has proven, with his win last year at the Irish Open, that he can handle the bad weather.  At three shots back, he is nicely placed to challenge for the championship, and if the conditions get really nasty, he won't be likely to be dismayed.  He's got a wonderful attitude and can scramble with the best of them.

It's a long way from being over.  But it's interesting to see that the top four players in the game are not exactly tearing it up.  Perhaps the golfing gods aren't impressed with their decision to skip the olympics.  I know I've lost some respect for all of them for putting their own interests before their countries and the game.  

I may not be Phil's biggest fan, but I'm willing to bet that he'd have jumped at the chance to try to win an olympic gold.  You should never root against any player, I suppose.  But I must admit that I hope whoever manages to avoid the Royal Troon bunkers and become the champion golfer of the year is someone other than the big four.  They've definitely blotted their copy books with me by shunning the games.

Luck of the Draw

Golf is a game that requires skill and a bit of luck.  Nowhere do we see this more than at an Open championship.  Generally the best players find a way to factor in a Major; the cream rising to the top.

But this week at Royal Troon all one has to do is look at the scoreboard to realize that those who were fortunate enough to go out early today had the luck of the draw.  Virtually all the players on top of the leaderboard went out early today.  

Is this fair?  Well, no one ever suggested that golf was fair.  All you can do is the best you can with what you have to work with and try to stay on the right side of the draw and the golfing gods.

Now That is Golf

Now that is golf.  Watching the Open I'm reminded of just how great links golf is.  There's parkland golf, and then there's links golf.  They are two different animals.  And the turf: the first time you hit the ball off the fairway of a true links course you say to yourself, "This is what you're meant to play off."  It's perfect.

Parkland golf is generally played in the air.  The guy who can hit the ball high, land it on the right number, and putt, is going to do very well at parkland, or inland, golf.  In links golf he might just be blown away.  Links golf demands the ability to use your imagination to negotiate the winds and the humps and the bumps that golf on linksland presents.  

The other beauty of links golf is that you encounter a different course from day to day, if not minute to minute, based upon the vaguaries of the weather.  It's never boring.  But sometimes, like it was for Phil yesterday, it can be almost easy.  When the sun shines and the wind sits down, it's nay so bad.  But when the wind blows and the rain is coming at you sideways, it's fun.  Or you better think it's fun or you'll have a lousy day.

I wish I could play links golf every day.  If my ship comes in, perhaps some day I will.  In the meantime, I'll watch the Open at Royal Troon and, especially now that the wind is blowing and the rain is falling, wish I was there.

Monday, 11 July 2016

The Rules of Golf

Golf is a game of honour.  Real golfers respect and play by the rules, not wanting to do anything to interfere with their opponents, or gain unfair advantage.  Somehow, however, those responsible for the rule book and ensuring the fairness of play have lost the plot.

Bad enough that the rules, further complicated by having to keep track of recent decisions and amendments to the rules, are not generally understood by golfers, but the rules officials don't seem to understand the concept of fairness, or intent.  We have seen the rules applied in such a manner as to give players an unfair advantage after a bad shot, and we have seen the rules applied to unfairly penalize players for minor, unintentional breaches of the rules.  We can all think of both cases if we've been around the game long enough.

Yesterday we saw a player lose the US Women's Open because she unintentionally moved a grain of sand in a bunker.  Yes, she arguably broke a rule.  Had she been aware of having touched the sand, I suspect she would have called the penalty on herself.  She was perhaps careless, hovering her club too close to the sand, but she certainly did not ground her club in the true sense of the word, nor did she gain any unfair advantage as a result.  

Playing in this age of technology, with high definition cameras focussed on the leaders, we see this kind of thing more and more often.  It doesn't add to the quality of the competition, or the fairness of the game.  It detracts from the whole affair and rankles players and fans alike.  

If we want people to be attracted to the game, we need to start using our heads and start making the rules, and their application, simple enough that we can understand, follow and, perhaps most important, respect them.  We also have to understand that for something to be just, the punishment should fit the crime.  Unfortunately, the rules of golf seem to be presided over by a bunch of stuffed shirts.  Men and women who strain the gnat out of the soup but swallow the camel.  

USGA Strikes Again

Once again, thanks to the bumbling of USGA officials another US Open ends with controversy instead of the sort of excitement the fans and players deserve.  The assessment of the two shot penalty in the playoff thanks to another high definition video review allowed the Open to end with a whimper instead of a bang.

But this was not the only incident where the intervention of an official affected the outcome of the tournament.  Earlier in the final round the final group, with the leader and two other players fighting for the championship, was suddenly put "on the clock."  The leader was then assessed a bad time.  It was incredible.

Suddenly, in arguably golf's most prestigious women's event, we are watching the leaders jogging from  the green to the next tee.  In a situation where controlling your breathing and your heart rate are vital, the leaders are being forced to hurry up. They were all thrown out of their rhythm and each player subsequently lost two shots to par in the process.  It was outrageous.  

Now I'm no rules expert, but as far as I know there is nothing in the rules of golf that states a player must play a shot within a certain timeframe--let alone forty seconds.  This is a rule imposed to make certain the event finishes on time for the sake of television.  Once again it was imposed with no apparent thought as to the consequences it might have on the outcome of the tournament.  

The USGA has once again done itself and the players--not to even mention golf fans--a disservice.  Poor Brittanny--or is it Bethany--Lang finally breaks through and wins a Major.  But unfortunately it will be a win with an asterisk attached thanks to our friends at the USGA.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Patty-Cake It

Patty-Caking is my term for swinging comfortably.  When you watch the good players play the game the one thing you notice is how effortlessly they swing the club.  As Carl the Grumbler likes to say, they don't try to add force to the equation when they play.  They let the golf club do the work.

Most shots are ruined, as Bobby Jones said, by trying to add something extra to the hit, especially with the driver.  Bobby's advice, when starting a round, was to start easily, swinging well within yourself until you find the right groove.  Take the club you know you can get there, not the one you feel you need to muscle, or hit perfectly, to get home.  

Yesterday, when my back started hurting, I started just patty-caking the ball.  The results were quite startling.  I hit the ball higher, farther, and straighter by just gearing back to protect my aching body.  Suddenly I was letting the club do the work and it seemed effortless.

Even Jack Nicklaus once wrote about a particular shot he hit that sailed over the green because he had swung the club easily, thinking he had too much club.  Jack grew up hitting the ball hard and his father had apparently encouraged him to hit it easier.  He wondered, thinking back about that shot, whether he might have actually been even better had he not hit the ball so hard.

Sam Snead was certain that he hit the ball farther swinging at 85 percent.  He felt he found the sweet spot more often and, swinging more slowly, gave him time to correct himself if he wasn't in the slot.  I've seen it myself on a monitor.  My swing speed increases when I swing easier.

We're not all the same.  Some of us need to swing harder in order to get the left side out of the way.  Some of us overdo it and swing so easy that we get sloppy, or pull our punch.  But the best way to play this game, as Raymond Floyd said, is to "play comfortably."  If we're afraid we don't have a
quite enough club to get where we're trying to go, take more club, or pick another target.  You don't win any points for getting near the flag with a nine iron instead of an easy seven or eight.  Raymond Floyd said he could hit a seven iron 180 yards, but he preferred to hit his seven 150. 

In the end, the best advice I ever received was from my old father.  He said, "Swing easy and accept the extra distance."  You would think it would be easy to swing easy.  But it isn't--especially when you've got the driver in your hand.  But if you can resist that urge to add force to the equation it's amazing how your shots improve.  And the great thing is it feels so easy--so comfortable.  I wish I could just patty-cake it all the time; not just when my back is hurting, or when I remember.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Phil the Thrill and Martin Kaymer

I was checking on Granny, who was watching the re-airing of today's play at the Scottish Open.  Martin Kaymer came on the screen, resplendent in his yellow pullover.

I said, "There's Martin Kaymer.  You really like him don't you?"

"Oh yeah,"  Granny said.  "I just love him."

Then they showed Phil Mickelson.  I said to Granny, "There's your favourite."

She said, "He gives me a sweet pain in the ass."

I had to admit that Phil gives me a pain in the arse as well with that have-assed, smarmy grin of his.  He makes my weasel meter go off.  Great player, but he's definitely not my cup of tea.  As far as being Phil the Thrill is concerned, I'd be more inclined to call him Phil the Pill.  So would Granny.

Oh well, I'm sure Phil won't be losing any sleep over the fact that we won't be joining his fan club any time soon.  You can't please everyone.  But that Martin Kaymer is a great guy.  And yet, I once had a guy comment on my blog that Martin was boring.  So, even Kaymer has his detractors.  

Golf is All About Striking the Ball With the Head if the Club

I keep having to be reminded that, as Bobby Jones said, "Golf is played by striking the ball with the head of the club."  It seems rather obvious.  But somehow, because of the way the game is generally taught, it gets overlooked.  Instead golfers get caught up in thoughts about the swing.

Consider in a bit more detail what the master, Bobby Jones, said on the subject of striking the ball:

    "Golf is played by striking the ball with the head of the club.  The objective of the player is not to swing the club in a specified manner, nor to execute a series of complicated movements in a prescribed sequence, nor to look pretty while he is doing it, but primarily and essentially to strike the ball with the head of the club so the ball will respond according to his wishes.
     No one can play golf until he knows the many ways in which a golf ball can be expected to respond when it is struck in different ways.  If you think that all of this  should be obvious, please believe me when I assure you that I have seen many really good players attempt shots they should have known were impossible."

Yesterday we had another "practice round," which led to lots of experimenting with my swing.  Many of the results were less than favourable.  Eventually, I just went back to just hitting the damned thing--just hitting shots.  In fact, I hit three twenty to thirty yard draws into pins that barely missed the flagstick.  I was back to striking the ball, instead of thinking about swinging the club in different ways.  It's not the swing that counts.  It's the strike.

Everyone owes themselves the time to read and think about the information Bobby Jones provided in his book Golf is my Game in the second chapter entitled Striking the Ball.  I have covered that information in detail in my featured article on my blogsite.  I need to go back and read it regularly so that I can get myself thinking straight. 

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Fiddling While Rome Burns?

Occasionally I am convicted of the fact that my golf obsession is not that unlike fiddling while Rome burns.  I play, write, and think about golf while in the real world all hell is breaking loose.

In the past few days more bombs have been exploded by extremists in the name of Islam in various parts of the world.  Thanks to citizens with cameras we essentially were able to see two black men riddled with bullets by cops for no good reason, other than the fact that both men had guns legally on their person.  In America, it seems, you should feel free to carry arms in many states, as long as you aren't black.  But then that's another story.

We have an obviously deranged narcissist and crook, with really bad hair, running for President in the US of A.  Actually, in this case I'm talking about the Donald--because a couple of those qualities could probably also be attributed to Hillary.  The scary thing is, after George W, who can really say for certain he won't actually win?  Let's face it, the world is now, and has always been in a mess.  Unfortunately, if you pay attention to the news, this is all too evident today.

With all this madness in the world, am I sane to be worrying about my golf swing?  I really wonder.  But I think I'll tune into the Golf Channel and see what's happening on the European Tour.

Tee It High and Let It Fly

I just read Sam Adams' article about the one way you really can get more yards off the tee without buying a new driver, going to the gym, or taking lessons.  Simply tee the ball high so that you are more likely to catch it on the upswing and hit hit higher with less backspin.

Interestingly enough, I played with Steve and Brett yesterday and Brett was pounding the ball.  We were just out having a fun round, and Brett mentioned to Steve on the tenth tee about how he was making sure he had good shoulder tilt and teed the ball as high as he could--making certain he was hitting up on it.  I tried to do the same thing, at least as far as tilting my shoulders was concerned, and instantly saw my trajectory improve drastically.  

I was getting better shoulder tilt, but I still wasn't teeing it up as high as I could.  Today, I'm going to do both and see what happens.  My distance off the tee has dropped off dramatically.  Perhaps this might just help.

Jack Nicklaus was onced asked why he teed the ball so high with the driver.  He said that experience had taught him that the air offers less resistance than the ground.  I'm going to try to tee it high, and let it fly.  It feels strange at first if you haven't been doing it.  But most changes--even good ones--feel a bit strange, or awkward, at first.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Nothing Succeeds Like Success

We saw it in spades this week.  Nothing succeeds like success.

Dustin Johnson, with his fantastic driving, improved wedge game, and, finally, a hot putter, wins the Bridgestone in his first outing since his breakthrough Major win at Oakmont.  He's always appeared to be a cool customer as he ambles along the fairways like a gunfighter.  He's been a consistent winner, but somehow remained snake-bitten in the big ones until Oakmont.  Now, he's flying high and number two in the World Rankings.  

DJ has figured something out with the three most important clubs in the bag; the driver, the wedge, and the putter.  He's now fading it off the tee and hitting more fairways.  He's wedging it closer than ever, and he's making putts.  No wonder he seemed so relaxed and could hardly wipe the smile off his face in his post-round interview.  DJ is clearly in a very good place, on the golf course and in his personal life.  

The same appears to be the case with our little Canadian star, Brooke Henderson.  Her wire to wire win to successfully defend her title in Portland, coming on the heels of her first Major win, has her number two in the Race to the CME Globe and on her way to becoming one of the best players in the women's game.  She seems to be the complete package and nothing succeeds like success.

We've always known DJ was capable of winning Majors.  Now he knows it.  I can hardly wait for the Open.  As for Brooke--you just keep doing what you're doing, girl.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Matches With Levi

If you're paying attention, you generally learn something every time you play.  On the other hand, you often seem to have to learn the same lessons over and over again until they stick.  

I played back to back matches with Levi this weekend.  He's a fun guy to play with and has a nine handicap.  He's a young fellow--a flat-belly--and we'd played a couple of times before. But this was the first time we'd decided to play match play.  On the first day we agreed that I'd give him six shots.  

In the end, I won four and two.  This was partially thanks to the fact that Levi couldn't make anything on the front nine.  He was catching edges, but nothing would go in.  I ended up three up with four to play only because Levi made a ten footer to have the fourteenth hole.  On fifteen Levi made a great up and down for par, only to have me make a twenty footer for birdie to halve the hole and be dormie.

So today I gave Levi seven shots and he was a different man right from the start.  He was making pars instead of bogeys and he eventually ended up two up with two to play.  I managed to win the seventeenth with a par after Levi missed a five footer for the win.  But today was Levi's day.  He finished me off with a nice birdie on 18 to win two up.  

Once again, I learned that I need to trust my swing.  As is so often the case, I found myself experimenting with my swing just enough to get myself behind the eight ball.  I seem to still need to accept the fact that my natural swing is the best one for me.  It may result in a lower ball flight than I'd like.  It may also tend to produce right to left shots when I prefer a fade.  But it is my swing, and it seems to get the job done about as well as can be expected for an old fart.  I'd still love to swing like Freddie Couples.  But there's only one Freddie.

Levi learned a couple of things as well.  He learned that he needs to pick a small target off the tee, not just try to hit it out there somewhere in the fairway.  He learned that he can make a ten footer when he needs it to stay in a match.  He learned that he can get it up and down from a tough spot to keep a match alive.  And he learned that he can make a birdie on eighteen to finish me off.  After today he says he feels pretty good about his chances with seven strokes.  Too bad that it's going back to six the next time we play.

We both really enjoyed our matches.  I foresee the day coming when Levi will be playing me straight up.  In fact, the day might just come when he's giving me strokes.  And, you know, that wouldn't necessarily be such a bad thing.  

Steven Bowditch

I just read an article on Australia's Steven Bowditch.  He has apparently been struggling to break 80 of late and managed to finally do so.  He also managed to joke about it on social media.

Golf is a tough game.  It's much tougher, as I can attest, when you suffer from depression, or some other form of mental illness.  To have been able to play at the highest level while suffering from what can be a life-threatening illness is a testament to Bowditch's talent and courage.  

Many golfers battle a variety of ailments and injuries.  But, though you can't see it, depression is one of the absolute worst.  It saps your energy.  It makes concentration extremely difficult.  It makes you more vulnerable to stress.  To have made over 10 million dollars and to have won on the PGA tour while battling depression is a remarkable achievement for this very talented golfer.  

As a fellow depression sufferer, I can only express my respect for what Steven Bowditch has accomplished.  He has a tough row to hoe, but he's obviously tough enough.

Friday, 1 July 2016

"Even If It's Only a Ten Cent Cigar"

I played with Jeff at Roundel Glen, formerly the Canadian Forces Base Trenton course.  It's a grand old design with lots of mature trees and doglegs that force you to park your driver or take the Tiger route at your peril.  The greens are in great shape this year.

We played a match with me giving Jeff a stroke a hole.  This I do at my peril because Jeff can shoot 84 or 94, depending on the day.  He is, however, recovering from a nasty broken leg that required four plates and twenty four screws to mend his tibia that was broken in three places playing hockey.  

I started with a double bogey on the par three first and basically just hung on for the first seven holes before getting birdies on eight and nine to shoot 39 and be all square with Jeff, who shot 46.  After a par on ten and a quick double bogey on eleven, followed by a bogey on twelve I found myself down two again.  It was shaping up to be another one of those days.

One thing that I seem to be learning in my old age, however, is patience.  I can't hit the shots I used to be able to hit, but I'm seldom in trouble off the tee.  I can't hit it far enough to get in trouble.  Sure enough, I kept my cool and just kept hitting it and birdied fifteen and sixteen to go one up for the first time in the match.  Pars on seventeen and eighteen were enough for me to win one up.  It was a fun match that once again proved the value of handicaps.  Golf is really the only game I know of that can have any player enjoy a close, competitive game with any other player, provided the strokes are right.

My best friend, Gerry, who is sadly no longer with us, was able to enjoy competing with me, and I with him, thanks to me giving him a stroke a hole.  Provided we played match play, we almost always came down to the last couple of holes to determine the winner.  Match play is definitely the way to go for the average player, so that the occasional "snow man" or worse can be quickly forgotten and the match continue.  I really think people should play match play more often, like they do, or at least did, in Britain, rather than being worried about the score all the time.  If people played match play more often, rounds would be faster as well, with there not being the need to grind over every shot, or two foot putt.

Another thing I've come to appreciate is that golf is meant to be played competitively.  Walter Travis, who Bobby Jones said was the best putter of his day, said that you should always play for something, "even if it's only a ten cent cigar."  I think it's true.  If you aren't playing for something, you're really just practising.  Golf is much more fun when you're trying to win.  Winning really doesn't matter very much, but there's great reward in the trying.