Monday, July 30, 2007

There is no "clumsy" in golf?

After hearing the Golf Channel commentators declare that an LPGA player had just hit a "clumsy" shot to, possibly, eliminate herself from a win, I thought: "Does golf, being the wicked bitch she is, really allow for clumsy shots?"

To be honest, we all hit "crappy" shots. Even more, those shots are expected--a 64 by some red-hot pro involves a double bogey somewhere. "Clumsy", even stupid, shots, happen all the time, even on a good round. Obviously golf is a game that derives a lot of its results from luck--otherwise, duffers would be making millions on the Tour. So, being that golf is a game that seems to derive its basis in the subconscious, and that we, the golfers, have the goal of hitting every shot dead perfect, can you really say that we're "sloppy"? I posit that we, the golfing masses, do not have an extraordinary amount of conscious control over our swings, and that the designation of "clumsy" is, in itself, clumsy. Of course, the offending commentators were Australian, and as it's been proven time and again that the best commentators come from the U.S.A. It's no surprise that Aussies provided the gaffe. And, no, I don't believe Aussies are inherently "anything," but they do have considerably less experience in big-time commentating. Give them a few more years, and "clumsy" might fall from the lexicon.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Sergio Gacia, "I just have to get better."

That was Garcia's response when asked what he needs to do to win a major. It's a reasonable answer, but totally evasive. For example, the rest of us, in order to shoot better scores, can and should get better--there's plenty of room for improvement when you're scores are above 80. However, when you're at Garcia's level of play, there isn't any technique you can improve to save strokes--he can hit a 2-iron 250 yards off the fairway, for Pete's sake. No, at his level, it's all about psychology.

So, let's ask Mr. Garcia the question again. "Mr. Garcia, why didn't you win the British Open?"

Mr. Garcia, "Well, that's complicated. You see, I'm young, and I've never really thought of myself as an equal to other players. Sure, I shoot the same scores, but deep down--and this is hard for me to admit--I feel like a little kid out there with the men. So at the crucial moment, I hit a bad shot."


"You've seen the outfits I where, right? Colorful, tight-fitting, gregarious. You see, I think I wear that stuff because I have to feel special, and if I don't win a major, I'm the least special of all. That added pressure--that I'm playing not only to win a tournament, but to define myself as a human being--is too much. I think I sold myself a bill of goods, and I think by losing, I'm rebelling against my own incorrect assumptions of identity."

Of course, a player doesn't have to admit that kind of stuff to the press, but he does have to admit it to himself (and probably a shrink) in order to get what he's after, i.e., a major championship.

So if any of us continually fail at something we're trying to succeed at, you have to ask the question, "Why am I really failing?"

Monday, July 23, 2007

It's the short game, stupid!

Dave Pelz has said it over and over and over: it doesn't matter how well you hit full shots. Statistical analysis shows that even the best players in the world don't hit it close enough to make birdie a significant number of times. Scoring in golf all comes down to pitching, chipping and putting--especially if you want to break 80.

For those with handicaps near bogey and below, do yourself a favor: keep track of your strokes from within 30 yards over the next five times out on the course (and if you want to help me, please post your results here in comments.) What you'll learn is that most of your horrendous scores are mainly attributable to horrible short game shots. Sure, you may have a hole where you hit into an absolutely un-savable spot, but you'll see that, on the whole, it's the straight-forward short shots that give you the most trouble.

The best way to improve is to practice, and the best way to practice, that I've seen, is laid out in Dave Pelz's Short Game Bible. Though Dave assumes everyone has enough to time to practice to achieve robotic repeatability, there are many, many good short game ideas in his book.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ballesteros retires from golf

Though Seve looks a little depressed, in an odd way, it's refreshing to watch a man leave something he loves because it's time to go. We don't see this often because American society is pathologically cheery. Watch any golf broadcast (except for Johnny Miller, of course) and you'll see that when a player is playing badly, there's usually nothing more than silence from the commentators. Which is really silly, since we golfers have a lot more in common over our copious numbers of bad shots than our small number of good ones. Even when the towers fell on 9/11, we didn't have a national day of mourning, we had Bush getting fired up and promising to catch the evil-doers. We had heroic memorials for those killed, and very few moments when we just plain mourned. If Seve is bummed about leaving golf, maybe he's beginning to learn, painfully, that he's about more than golf, and he's got way more options before him than he ever imagined.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Death to the mock!

Why is Tiger Woods afraid of collars? Why does he encourage a clothing style best left back in the 1960s, where is was invented? The mock was born in space, and there it should die.

I guess this comes down to a matter purely of taste--if one is in terrific physical shape, and is proud of one's body, then I suppose one has the prerogative to wear clothing to accent that physique. But isn't the following picture a little... obvious?

Sure, he's in great shape, but do you have to hit us over the head with your body? Tiger does not have to worry--we get it: you work out. Now go get a collared Sunday-red shirt for pity's sake.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Neurotic Golfer

Golf is a game our primate forebearers would have been only too happy to play. It has everything the tense primate could want--twitchy routines, long, stress-reducing walks, and the privacy to mumble to oneself at will. It's got lots of paraphernalia--tees, coins, lip balm, towels, and, of course, a bag full of clubs, which the discerning monkey can use to distract himself from whatever woes await him just outside the confines of the urban savanna. You see all kinds of people playing golf, from guys who think that with just a little more practice they could go pro, to players who not only don't know there are professional golfers, but don't have the foggiest notion how to hit a ball.

Which leads me to wonder if golf is good. Golf may be good for local economies and golf manufacturers, but are people better for having played golf? To hear Deepak Chopra tell it, the pursuit of golf is a mystical experience where a man has the opportunity to meet his "higher self." Sure. From my vantage point, with rare exception, golf is a game where most players hope to further entrench themselves in the notion that they are King and can do anything. Perhaps many golfers come to this errant conclusion because they are "somebodies" out in the non-golf world, COOs and the like, and assume that that supremacy should naturally translate to golf. Having watched countless playing partners flail at the ball, I can assure them that it doesn't. But even if they somehow managed to become a decent golfer (and there are plenty of Kings who are also good players) does that necessarily mean anything substantial about them as people? If Warren Buffet is also a +3 handicap, does that make him a better person? If Mother Theresa had been scratch, would the Catholic Church be rushing her to sainthood any faster? My guess is no and no. Of course, I'd be a complete liar if I said I didn't admit to feeling the prickly fingers of self-judgment creep up my neck as I hit a bad shot. We all want to be able to hold our heads high and say, "I can play better than most." Obviously it takes discipline to be a good player, and I don't want to belittle anyone's technical achievements, least of all my own. But discipline can bring skill to any activity and those activities aren't always good--just ask Charles Manson. No, any gratification you derive from pride-of-supremacy is foolish, and ultimately, damaging because if you fall into the trap of thinking because you're good at something you yourself are "good," then you have missed the forest for the trees. Maybe the USGA should distribute signs to courses across the country that read: "You are not golf, and golf is not you. Relax, keep up the pace, and have fun."

But if I don't hit a good tee shot off #1, all bets are off.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Repeated bad golf advice does not help

Here's the latest "tip" from

Tip of the Day: Bounce Out of Bunkers

The trick to sticking bunker shots is to use what's built into your sand wedge

I'm not going to get into the nitty-gritty of the tip; suffice to say it tells you your "bounce" will save you from bunkers. I've seen that tip printed countless times over the years. No doubt, the flange on a sand wedge will do you some good when hitting out of a bunker provided you use the proper technique. Let's face it: a bunker shot, despite what Dave Pelz and the above dude with the outrageous comb-over tells us, is not easy. It takes practice. It takes technique. It even takes a little faith. What it does not require is the repetition, ad nauseam, of the mantra, "use the bounce, use the bounce." Plainly said, it just pisses me off when Golf Magazine, Golf Digest, or Golf Illustrated continually print tips that are worthless. What those mags do well is travel writing, Feherty musings, and golf theory, i.e., One Plane or Stack-n-Tilt, where the writer can get in-depth into the thinking of the teacher. "Use your bounce" or "The right hand for more power" do not rate highly enough to be read. So the next time you're flipping through a golf magazine, and your eyes graze over the words "trick" or "secret," keep flipping, because if you read those articles, all you're going to do is give yourself angry indigestion.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Do you suffer from putting "blindness"?

After badly missing a putt, do you ever find yourself asking, "How could I have missed that?"

If you find you're missing putts from all over, even the short ones, you may be suffering from putting blindness. Symptoms include: leaving 20 foot putts 10 feet short; hitting 20 foot putts 10 feet past; missing everything on the low side; smashing 4 footers through the break leaving 6 foot come-backers; four-putting from 50 feet; silently wishing you'd never been born.

Most golfers use the standard putting grip:

The problem with using this grip is that it mimics the grip of the full swing, and for most players, the full swing is not a thing of deft touch or precise sensation. I have no idea how the subconscious works or what it actually is, but I do know it is something of a simple fool, and if it sees you using a full-swing grip on a putt, chances are your hands will go blind.

(Image courtesy of

Here are some other putter grip styles that have come into vogue in the last several years and are helpful at restoring putting sight. They are:

Above: left-hand-low, where you place your left hand below your right. The purported advantage is two-fold: a) it's easier to keep your wrists straight, and b) your shoulders are level.

Then there are the claw grip (and its derivations):

(Images courtesy of;;

I like to call these grips (from left to right): The Dandy, the Bludgeon, and the Glad Hand. They work because they make your brain respond to a putt in a non-full-swing manner--your subconscious thinks, "Hey, this isn't golf. It's... uh... heck, I'm not sure. Let's just hit the dang ball." And PLOP!, you start making puts.

Here's a putting grip that requires its own grip to be installed on your putter:


The creator of this putting system claims it helps with the "yips," a mythical putting ailment that has its basis in neurology.

Lastly, if you're really having a hard time, and mere putting grip changes won't cure your ills, there is the last resort of using a longer putter.

These long putters can be expensive, but if they work for you...?

Remember, 43% of your shots are putts, and they can well determine whether you're going to play to your potential, which is, as we all know and tell ourselves every time we shoot over 90, par--or better.