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The Saudi International

The Saudi International Golf Tournament starts later this week in Saudi Arabia, sponsored by a government that:

Murdered and dismembered Jamal Khashoggi, an act, according to U.S. intelligence agencies, that with “high confidence,” was carried out with the approval of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“High confidence” is term a intelligence agencies use to say, “We’re certain of this, but we don’t like to say certain. But we’re certain.”

Is prosecuting a proxy war in Yemen that is needlessly creating a major humanitarian crisis, the starvation of hundreds of thousands of Yemeni citizens.

Arrests, tortures, gives excessive prison sentences to, and even executes political dissidents.

Kidnapped the Lebanese Prime Minister in 2017.

Exfiltrates from the U.S., Saudi nationals studying in Oregon, arrested and facing criminal charges, flouting U. S. laws.

Yet, these golfers are signed up to play: Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, Henrik Stenson, and Bryson DeChambeau. You can see the full field here.

Rose commented, “I’m not a politician.”

Johnson commented, “Unfortunately, it’s in a part of the world where most people don’t agree with what happened, and I definitely don’t support anything like that.”

Most people would not agree with all this, Dustin? Most people? How about anyone in their right mind?

Sorry, guys, this isn’t about politics or what you don’t agree with or support.

Politics is about what federal income tax rates should be, or whether a wall should be built along our southern border. You can agree or disagree, support or not.

What’s happening in Saudi Arabia is different, It’s criminal. It is the crime of the state against individuals, and in the cases of Khashoggi and the Oregon exfiltrations, crimes against the concept of international sovereignty as well.

Mohammed bin Salman is a young man drunk on his own power, not only turning his country into a toxic state, but exporting its terror beyond its borders.

THAT is why playing in the Saudi International is a mistake that the participants have no good answer for.

I don’t expect professional gofers to be experts on current affairs or international relations.

I do expect them to be able to see outrageous behavior clearly and respond appropriately.

The money they say they are playing for?

In the fall of 2018 the Saudis sponsored a conference of world business leaders called the Future Investment Initiative. Following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, these companies and individuals pulled out (not a complete list):

Uber
Fox Business Network
JP Morgan Chase
Blackstone Investment
AOL
Y Combinator
Google
Viacom
NY Times
LA Times
CNN
BlackRock
Ford Motor
The Financial Times
Bloomberg
Siemens
MasterCard
British Trade Secretary Liam Fox
PNB Paribas
Credit Suisse
HSBC
Standard Chartered
Société Générale
The Economist
CNBC
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim

These are business that stood to make LOTS of money in Saudi Arabia, and they washed their hands of partnerships for the time being.

But there’s money to be had, so golfers are going. Tell me, how much money is Jamal Khashoggi’s life worth to you?

You guys stand to make more money in one week than the vast majority of people in the world will make in their lifetime, yet you want more.

If what the Saudis are doing is not where you would draw the line, then where is it?

I would also ask, could the winning golfer, in good conscience, stand next to the Crown Prince for a photo at the end of the tournament? Would he really not know what stain that would place on his public image?

Lining Up Your Golf Shot. By Yourself

Some of the greatest female golfers in the world are all in a tizzy because they now have to line their own a**es up. No caddy daddy to help them, and it’s about time.

And the strange thing, it’s so easy to do!

All they have to do is read this post and the ones it links to, practice a few times at the range, and they’ve got it!

I’ll be happy to teach any one of them how to do it, for no charge. All they have to do is pay my expenses.

Am I a great guy, or what?

Are you reading, Lydia?

Your 2019 Guaranteed Swing Improvement Plan

There are roughly 25 million recreational golfers in the United States. Thus, there are 25 million different golf swings. I try to put things in these posts that can be used by the greatest number of golfers, but I have no illusions that every swing will benefit from a particular post.

Except this one.

I promise you, no matter who you are, if you work on these two things, which can fit into ANY golf swing, you will see greater improvement than by working on any other swing thing.

Long-time readers of this blog already know what I’m going to say, but if you’re one of those and you haven’t worked on them yet …

If you’re new to the blog, read carefully. Magic coming up.

First: Get your tempo right. Swing tempo is the overall speed of the swing—how long it takes the clubhead to get from takeaway back to impact.

➙ Swing the club only as fast as you can to hit the ball consistently on the center of the clubface.

If you swing faster than that, golf is just one mishit after another. You lose distance and you lose accuracy.

You might have to slow down your swing a bit to get to the center, but that will be more than made up for because the key to distance and accuracy is (drum roll) hitting the ball on the center of the clubface.

Second: The clubhead must approach impact properly, and there is only one way for that to happen.

➙ Your hands must be ahead of the clubhead at impact. Your hands must lead the clubhead into impact. The hands must pass the ball ahead of the clubhead. However you want to say it.

Every good golfer does this. No bad golfer does it. It’s as simple as that.

See this post on learning how to do this.

If you spend a few months learning these two points, and get good at them, it will be like you’re playing a different game.

Ben Hogan said, “The average golfer’s problem is not so much a lack of ability as it is a lack of knowing he [and “she”] should do.”

This is what to do.

Practice Scoring, Not “Golf”

Once you have developed reasonable skills, your practice should be built around lowering your score.   By that I mean practice particular shots that will help you get the ball around the course efficiently and into the hole quickly.

You might think that the point of practice is to build skills that accomplish those two things.  But I mean the opposite.  Practice accomplishing those things then take what you practiced onto the course and use it.

I came up with this thought a few days ago when my approach into a green came up about 4 feet short and I had about a 35-foot chip. The ball was resting slightly on upslope.  The more I looked at the shot the more I liked it because I realized I practice that shot all the time.  There is no mystery in it.  All I have to do is hit the ball.  So I did and it ended up 15 inches from the hole, like I knew it would.

Another shot like this is 63-yard pitch.  There’s a flag that distance from the mats at my range, so I warm up by hitting balls at it.  Over the years I have become very good at hitting a golf ball 63 yards.

I know that if I have a pitch on the course between 60 and 65 yards the ball will end up one-putt close, not because I have a great pitching game, but because I hit this particular pitch all the time and it has become second nature to hit a ball 63 yards.

Golf has almost an infinite variety of shots that can be hit.  You can’t practice them all.  I’m suggesting that you pick a few and practice them to the extent that you know every time you step up to hit one of them something good is going to happen.

Here’s a sample list:
– 3-wood off the tee—to be used all the time or when your driver is being a bad boy.
– Advancement shot from the fairway, say of 175 yards.
– Shot into the green from 145 yards.  Once you get past the 150-yard marker, you should be thinking, “Down in three.”
– A pitch from a given distance.  Like I said above, I have 63 yards pretty well figured out.  But what if it’s 80 yards?  I’ll just take two clubs more and put the same stroke on the ball. Et voilà. Roughly 80 yards.
– A chip to a certain distance.  Same comments as for the pitch.
– A 30-foot putt.  Same comments again.
– A 3-foot putt.  Gotta sink those every time.

You can make up your own list.  The point is to get very, very good at the shots on your list.  If you have them down can’t-miss cold they will be all you need to play well.  You will never have a bad day.

Again.  There isn’t enough time to practice being good at everything.  If you try, you end up being good at nothing.  Practice shots you know you’re going to use.  When you play, put yourself in a position to hit those shots as often as you can.  That’s how to shoot low scores.

Revised USGA Rules For 2019

A complete re-write of the Rule Book and Decisions that takes effect in 2019 has been announced. It is too extensive for me even to begin talking about here.

See this summary for starters. I am sure you can find others if you browse the Net.

Best news of all: An optional Local Rule has been added that allows a player whose ball went OB to drop near the point where it went out, taking a two-stroke penalty. It’s about time!!!!!

Bob’s Books Are Now Free

In 2009 I published my first golf book, Better Recreational Golf, and its companion, Better Recreational Golf-Left-Handers Edition.

In 2013 I published my second book, on the mental game, The Golfing Self.

These books were only available on Amazon, but now I am making them available to you on the weblog as .pdf downloads for no charge.

Just go the the list of pages at the top of the page and click on:

BRG – for Better Recreational Golf (26MB),

BRGL – for Better Recreational Golf-Left-Handers Edition (26MB), and

TGS – for The Golfing Self (1.3MB).

I have long since earned back my production costs, and the revenue that trickles in is only complicating my income taxes.

So there they are, complements to Bob’s Living Golf Book, which has been free from the start.

(The two BRG files are so big because of the photos. TGS is text-only)

Play well, and have fun.

2018 U. S. Open Preview

This week the USGA will host the 68th U.S. Open that I have not played in (but I can say my name is on the trophy four times) at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.   This is the Number 1 tournament of the year and I can’t wait for it to start.

There are golf courses and there are U.S. Open courses, and Shinnecock Hills is one of the latter.  Though there aren’t really many hills to speak of on it.  But it does have wind.

Sited next to Long Island Sound, the wind will be a factor if blows, and every hole will be affected differently.  If all the holes were lifted and set down with the tees on top of each other like the hub of a wheel, every hole would be a spoke reaching out in a different direction.

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In the wind, expect par to be a very good score.  If it is calm, low scores will abound.  The prevailing direction can be seen in the photograph as a line connecting the word Range and the number 14. (Click to enlarge)

Get a close look at all the holes at the U.S. Open web site.  You’ll easily see for yourself where things can go wrong.  

The par 3s are considered to be the best collection at any major championship site.  There are several short par 4s, but they play into the wind and the safe landing zone is not generous if a player wishes to take on the hole with one shot.

The course looks like it will be a throwback Open course.  Though it’s long, 7,445 yards, the big hitters had better be straight because the fairway is very narrow when the long drives land.  But then, the tee shot is the key to scoring here.  A short, straight hitter has a very good chance at winning.

Shinnecock Hills is one of the oldest course in the country, built in 1890 and hosted the 1896 U.S. Open.  At 4,423 yards and so little of a challenge, many players shot scores below 80.  A redesign in 1931 by Dick Wilson brought the course up the level it’s at today.

For some reason, the traditional 1st and 2nd round pairing of the reigning U.S. Open, British Open, and U.S. Amateur champions will not be featured.  They usually have quirky pairings, but I can’t find any references.  If I do, I’ll update this post later in the week.

Enjoy it.  This is the finest golf tournament on a real U.S. Open course.  Who do I pick to win?  Phil, of course.  I’ll pick him until he gives up trying.

An Insidious Habit at the Range

I would assume without too much chance of error that every golfer wants to improve. A perpetual 104 wants to become 98. Books have been written, not on how to turn 95 into 91, but 93 into 89, though there is not much difference between the two differences. At the other end, championship golfers are always looking for a little something that will make even more championships easier to win.

So to the range we go, trying this tip or that hunch in search of the perfect shot, or at least a shot that is closer to perfection than the shots we’re currently most proud of. And therein lies the mistake.

We improved to our present point incrementally, never in great leaps. So, we should not be looking for improvement in great leaps. Rather, the best use of our practice is learning how to hit good shots within our present capability, one after another.

We don’t need to hit perfect shots. Golf, thy name is consistency, and hitting the same good shot time after time is the way to play it. This is what we should be schooling ourselves to do at the range.

I should clarify what I mean by “a good shot.” I mean one in which you make clean ball-first, ground second contact and the ball goes straight to where you were aiming it. The distance it travels is not important.

Occasionally the perfect shot does pop out, and we stop, trying to figure out how that happened so we can do that again. So now, instead of enjoying that perfect shot and getting back to business, we begin chasing it.

You might have a good idea of how you hit your string of good shots that preceded this one but you really have no idea about how the great one happened. Trying to figure it out is taking a detour down a dead-end road.

As you keep hitting the string of good shots that you are capable of and understand how to hit them, really good ones will pop out. Let them. Just keep doing what you’re doing. In making the gradual transition from one level of play to another, the really good ones will pop out more often. But you cannot force them or chase them. Let them emerge in their own time.

The best way to practice hitting one good shot after another is to hit them all with the same club, an easy club that you can control, such as your 9-iron. Use a different club if you like, but not if you hit only mostly good shots with it. You’re aiming for ALL good shots. Besides, if you can’t hit a 9-iron consistently well, why would you want to hit an 8-iron at all (or a driver, it should go without saying)?

Hint: The less hard you try to hit a good shot, the easier it to hit one.