All posts by recgolfer

The Journeyman Pro

I don’t spend much time at all on this blog talking about professional golf. That’s because there’s so much of it online that you don’t have to find it. It finds you. No, wait. That’s porn. Oh, well…

I came across this fascinating post written by Phil Blackmar about how good Tour golfers are.

You have to be really good even to think about it. Then you have to be really, really good to be in position to get there. Then you have to be 3r good to get on, 4r good to stay on, and to be a champion is beyond my comprehension.

There’s a list of all the players who have been in 250 or more PGA Tour tournaments since 1980, including one who has made over 800 starts. There are many names at the top of the list you would not think to see there.

This all puts my single-digit handicap earned on fairly easy public courses in perspective, as I needed it.

A Few Odds and Ends

I was looking through a notebook I keep that contains notes from golf lessons I have taken. The last playing lesson I took emphasized the tee shot. My note says, “Tee shot is paramount to making par. Work on these.” So work on your driver, but work on hitting it straight, not far. If you can hit your irons straight, but not your driver, get a lesson. You’ll never figure it out yourself.

There are several other notes that pertain only to me, but another general note is, “Make your targets very precise from the tee and the fairway.” Think not only of which direction you want the shot to go, but on what spot do you want the ball to land. And it’s a spot, not an area.

You know the bottom of your swing needs to be ahead of the ball. How do you do that? I practice this indoors with a fairway wood. I set up and take note of the place where the leading edge of the sole is. Then I make a slow-motion swing and try to lightly tap the rug with the sole of the club ahead of that place when I swing through. Hint: if you’re not getting your weight to the left in the forward swing, and early in the forward swing, you won’t be able to get the club out there.

I’ve been playing around with a short stroke for short putts this past week. It started out as the old pop stroke, but I quickly found out that the rapid stroke and percussive hit the word “pop” suggests is the wrong way to go about it. I’m finding success with a rhythmic stroke that nudges the ball to the hole. That might be a better starting point for you if you want try this out. I should also mention my upper arms rest against my sides for security. The advantage of a short stroke (about six inches for a 10-foot putt) is that the clubface stays square throughout. I’m only using this stroke for short putts I think I can sink. For longer putts, I go back to my sweeping pendulum stroke and the TAP method.

I read a tip in a current golf magazine that I thought might help. So I went out and tried it. The results were terrible. What I realized very quickly is that I was already doing what the tip suggested. In trying to follow the tip I did more of it and that was too much. Beware of tips you read in golf magazines.

Fixing the Fed Ex Cup – II

A few years ago I wrote about how to fix the FedEx Cup. The way points are rigged and adjusted during the four-tournament competition is too confusing for anyone to follow, and players can sit out a tournament and still be in it. The last thing we need to generate interest at the end of a long season is four more four-round stroke play tournaments. You might want to read my brilliant plan before you read this brillianter one.

Here goes. You start off with a 144-man field, composed of the top 144 golfers in FedEx points acquired during the year. The golfers are seeded, high to low. The first tournament is a set of matches according to standing. #1 plays #144, #2 plays #143, etc. The 72 pairs of golfers would play four rounds of stroke play, but only against each other. Four days of man-to-man competition against the same man. The winners of these 72 micro-tournaments move on to…

…the second tournament, a collection of 36 two-man mini-tournaments in the same format–two golfers playing four rounds against each other, stroke play, the pairings seeded by season-long FedEx points earned. No adjusting of the points. The 36 winners move on to…

…the third and final tournament. FedEx Cup points are thrown out, and the 36 remaining golfers play four rounds against the field straight up, winner gets the Cup.

What do you think?

The idea here is that to win the Cup, you have to win all along the way. FedEx points give you an advantage in the first two tournaments, but you still have to WIN to advance.

Could a long shot win? Could the #144 golfer win it all? Yes, but let’s go back to the Tiger Woods era to see clearly what would be required. #144 would have to play Tiger man-to-man four straight rounds and beat him. Then he would move on and play, say, Phil Mickelson four straight rounds and beat him. Then he would have to play against 35 very good golfers and beat them.

Maybe #144 could do one of those, but all three? Those are long odds. L-o-o-o-ong odds.

The FedEx Cup has become a snooze. Actually, that’s what it has been since its inception.

My plan solves three problems. First, four tournaments are too many. It becomes three. Second, fans would understand the format. I say again, does anybody understand how the points are adjusted, or why, and why someone can lose the Tour Championship, or even sit out a tournament, and still win the FedEx Cup, and is that right?

And finally, it would be DIFFERENT. You want to generate interest? Do something DIFFERENT. The four-round stroke play format is really kind of boring. This new format isn’t.

Tim Finchem made a game effort to keep professional golf relevant after the PGA Championship and before the Ryder/Presidents Cup by creating the FedEx Cup. But the current format ain’t doin’ the job. This one might.

(But then what do I know? I’m just a recreational golfer.)

What I’m Going to Do This Winter

Well, the rainy season has landed on western Oregon with a vengeance. It’s either too wet to play, or when it isn’t raining the courses that don’t drain well are too soggy to play–standing water covers the fairway or tee shots bury themselves in the fairway upon landing.

What’s a golfer to do? I think daily practice at home is the key. The practice I’m going to be doing isn’t about improvement, but consistency. I know what my best swing is. I know how to chip and putt. It’s just that those strokes are not automatic, therefore, inconsistent.

I want to get it right the first time, every time, instead of most times. Is that too much to ask? Not if you put in the work.

So today I’m going to do this, in the confines of my house:

1. Swing a golf club a number of times
2. “Hit” pitches and chips
3. Putt across the carpet.

These are the things I want to make automatic:
1. Handle leads the clubhead; rhythm is right and tempo is appropriate; the swing is connected–no bumps or jerks; clubface square to club path; be totally relaxed at address and do not add tension while swinging.
2. The sole of the club brushes the ground every time, at the same depth every time, on the same spot every time.
3. Align the putter face, then myself, square to the staring line; make a smooth, rhythmic stroke; keep the putter low going back and low going through.

4. In all three areas, think no technical thoughts–just feel the stroke.

All that might take maybe ten minutes a day.

It is one thing to say “I’m going to do this every day,” and another to actually do it. The way to get it done is to make a series of one-day commitments. In the morning, commit yourself to doing it today. The next day, do the same. It will also help if you practice at the same TIME every day. Adding to the commitment makes it easier to honor the commitment.

So here it is. The four basic strokes of golf. Join me in performing them today. And again tomorrow. And the next day, one day at a time until the rain has stopped and the courses have dried out.

Perhaps you live in a part of the country where you can play in sunshine and warm weather all year round. Lucky you. But I still invite you to join our daily performance. We’re doing it because we don’t have a choice. You should do it because it’s the right thing to do. Deal?

2017 Christmas Offer

I hope you have started your Christmas shopping. Mine is almost finished.

For the golfer on your list, which can include yourself, here’s my 2017 Christmas Shopping Special as a way of saying thank you for being a reader:

Buy a copy of Better Recreational Golf (regular or left-hander’s editions) from Amazon.

Forward a copy of your Amazon purchase receipt e-mail to me at olp@wvi.com, and I will send you, for no charge (!) a copy of The Golfing Self, my book on the mental game.

Supplies are limited, and I must receive your Amazon receipt no later than December 16 so I can mail your copy of TGS in time for the 25th.

Click now! And thanks again!

Triangulated Approach Putting (TAP)

Often I will try something out for a few weeks and if it seems to be a good thing I will write a post about it. This one is different. I discovered it in 2015. I didn’t want to let you know about it until I was sure it was sound.

It is.

The method, which I call Triangulated Approach Putting (TAP), will revolutionize your approach putting.

The commonest reason you three-putt is that you leave your first putt too far from the hole. You get the distance wrong. TAP lets you leave that first putt right beside the hole. It is almost scary how good you will get.

TAP is based on this axiom: For any length of putt, if the length of the putting stroke is the sole distance generator, there is one, and only one, length of stroke that will send the ball that distance.

TAP shows you how to find the length of that stroke. I’ll explain the theory first and then get into the fine points.

In the diagram below, you see a line from the ball to the hole. That is the baseline of a triangle. The spot marked apex is where you stand to find the length of stroke. The line from the ball to the apex is the eyeline. The line from the apex to the hole, not being a factor, and is not labeled. Distances are exaggerated for clarity.

lateral bend stretch

The apex is located at a standard spot, half the length of the baseline and offset three paces to the left (to the right for left-handed golfers). These distances are adjustable.

Stand at the apex and swing your putter back and forth while looking at the ball. Make a stroke such that the clubhead intersects the eyeline (an imaginary line coming straight at you from the ball). That stroke will send the ball the exact distance from where it now lies, to the hole.

That’s the theory. Here’s the practice.

(1) The length of the swing must be the sole distance generator. You cannot add any “hit” with your hands. That would be introducing another variable, which we do not want to do.

(2) You must hit the ball on the same spot of the putter’s face every time. The sweet spot is best. Erratic contact in this regard plays havoc with how much energy is imparted to the ball, and thus how far it goes.

(3) The speed of your putting stroke must be constant. Otherwise, you will unknowingly impart more or less energy to the ball, again affecting the distance it travels.

(4) The location of the apex is not fixed.
(a) If greens are slower or you are putting uphill, the apex must be more than halfway to the hole–point (A).

(b) If greens are faster or you are putting downhill, the apex must be less than halfway to the hole–point (B).

(c) Your putter can make a difference. If you are consistently leaving putts too long or too short, stand more or less than three paces from the baseline–closer to make putts go farther, or at more remove to make them travel shorter.

(5) An essential point is remembering the length of the stroke. After all, you have to walk over to the ball to hit the putt, and in that time you might forget. While at the apex, make several strokes that intersect the eyeline and pay attention to how that stroke feels to your body. There might be a slight stretching somewhere in your back, or your arms might brush against you in a certain way. When you get to the ball, recreate that sensation.

(6) Hit the ball with trust. TAP works if you let it.

Regarding the adjustments in (4), the more you practice TAP, the more accurate your adjustments will become.

Use TAP when distance is more important than line. How far from the hole that switch gets made is up to you, but ten feet is not too close.

I have tried this method on different practice greens, on different courses, and after I have adjusted to the conditions it always works.

You could take out all my posts from 2009 to date and nothing would be missing because you can read all of it somewhere else. I have just been adding emphasis or perhaps clarity.

But TAP is new. There is nothing remotely like it to be seen anywhere else. If you want to save strokes on the green starting almost overnight, here’s how. No kidding.

The Vanity Handicapper-in-Chief

It try so hard to stay out of politics when I’m online. No matter how egregious someone’s behavior is, there are legions who think it’s all right.

But this is a golf blog, and one of the things I hold most dearly as a golfer is respect for the game.

You know how you hear all the time that you learn a lot about a man’s character by playing golf with him?

That takes me right to the Vanity Handicapper-in-Chief. His GHIN listing was released today. An even though he has played golf at least 30 times since January, this is his first posting in that period.

Now you build a vanity handicap by only posting your better scores. But the assumption is that you actually shot those better scores.

Have you ever seen this man swing a golf club? You have? Then you would know.

It reminds me of when Kim Jong-Il shot a 38 on a par-72 golf course in 1994 in North Korea, a round that included five holes-in one.

Good absolute grief.

What to Aim For When You Swing

Here’s another brilliant idea that might help you, or maybe not, but try it out anyway.

When we swing a golf club at nothing we make a flawless swing. When we swing at a golf ball, well, that’s a different story, isn’t it? The ball makes us do crazy things and we just can’t help ourselves.

Here’s this week’s expert advice guaranteed to solve that problem. Don’t look at the ball when you’re swinging to hit it. Look somewhere else.

If you’re hitting an iron from the fairway, you know you’re trying to hit ball first, ground second. So be looking at a spot perhaps an inch in front of the ball. Hit that spot with the leading edge of your iron and you will make outstanding contact.

Fairway wood? Same thing. Look at a spot on the ground an inch or so ahead of the ball. There’s a trick to it, though.

When you swing the club back, it’s a fairway wood. You’re looking at it. You can’t deny it. But just before you swing the club forward, think “7-iron,” and swing forward to hit that spot with the much sharper edge of your “7-iron.”

Works like a charm.

What about balls on tees? Be looking at the spot where the club would hit the ground were the ball not on a tee, and that is about an inch behind the ball.

Pitches and chips are a bit different. In these shots, you slide the sole of the club across the top of the grass. So look at the ground underneath the ball. It takes a little imagination to focus on the ground under the ball without noticing the ball, but you can teach yourself to do it.

Looking at a different spot does two things: it stops you from being ball-bound, and it helps you aim your stroke to where it should be aimed.

No beating down on the ball! And remember, swing with good rhythm and let the handle lead the clubhead.