Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Think this might be a little distracting?

Aaron Stewart, the son of the late Payne Stewart, played Pinehurst as part of the North and South Men's Amateur Championship. Here's a picture of him putting in front of a statue of Payne in his famous victory pose. It scored pretty high on my creep-o-meter.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Book Preview: "I Hit the Ball Great at the Driving Range, but ..."

Everybody's favorite Chicago-area Big Lebowski fan, BeeZee a.k.a. abzgolf a.k.a Brian Zipse, has given me the honor of previewing a manuscript for his burgeoning book "I Hit the Ball Great at the Driving Range, but ...". It's a compilation of "Dear BeeZee" columns on a variety of topics.
(artwork by JT Munson)
Brian Zipse lives in Tinley Park outside Chicago with wife and baby daughter. He's a Master Teaching Professional with the World Golf Teaching Federation, a status only attained by 300 of that organization's 18,000 members. He has been teaching golf for 10 years, and he's a contributing writer to Universal Golf and The Green Links Pages. Brian's website is www.abzgolf.com.
The subtitle to the book is "The Best of Dear BeeZee", and it can be best thought of as 72 holes of golf oriented "Dear Abby" type columns. The questions and answers cover all aspects of improving both the enjoyment and the performance of amateur golfers. It deals with the mental side of the game as well as with physical and technical aspects.
To a golfer who's coming back to the game after a lengthy absence he recommends: "Most beginners would improve faster if the first motion they tried with a golf club was to swing it at chest level, like a baseball swing ... after this is comfortable, bring back the ball. Make the same easy motion, letting the ball get in the way. Yes, the golf swing can be as simple as letting the ball get in the way."
Another golfer has a problem with roller-coaster performances, and not being able to stick with what he knows is right. Brian's advice includes "Get off of this merry-go-round now! By constantly looking for a fix to your golf swing and then abandoning this fix as soon as it stops working, you are in essence not learning, not building, and you are inviting inconsistency to be your golf partner."
Those of us who pay attention to Brian's comments in the various The Golf Space forums know how passionate he is about helping golfers play better and enjoy the game more. This passion is evident in the advice he provides. For most part his tone is positive and encouraging, but at times also stern when that's called for. He definitely has the kind of temperament any good teacher needs.
The writing is casual and easy to read. I wish Brian the best of luck with the book, and with his continued contribution to the promotion of the game of golf.

Friday, June 26, 2009

You're entering a world of pain

Sometimes a story comes along that show us why stereotypes are there in the first place. While stereotypes are never 100% perfect, they rarely evolve out of thin air either. A golfer has a slow-play argument with the threesome in front of him. It continues for several holes, and spills into the parking lot at the course. The complaining golfer pulls a gun and tells them "If I feel threatened, I am morally obligated to destroy you." The guy is 73 years old. It would happen in Texas. I'm sure it had something to do with Vietnam somehow, at least in his demented mind. The man in the black pajamas. A worthy (#&$)@(#&$ adversary. http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/2009/06/25/0625golfer.html?cxtype=rss&cxsvc=7&cxcat=52 Moral of the story: Let the guy play through next time. Life's too short.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Golfer I Didn't Know - Brian Vranesh

When most people think of Q-School they may think about former winners who are trying to get back to their winning ways, or about hot young talent trying to get their tour card. Occasionally a club pro makes a run at a career as a player. Then there are guys like Brian Vranesh, who was able to rise above his "do anything play anywhere" 10 year long existence to gain entrance to the big tour at the end of 2008.
When most people think of Q-School they may think about former winners who are trying to get back to their winning ways, or about hot young talent trying to get their tour card. Occasionally a club pro makes a run at a career as a player. Then there are guys like Brian Vranesh, who was able to rise above his "do anything play anywhere" 10 year long existence to gain entrance to the big tour at the end of 2008.
Brian was born in 1977 in Northridge, California, where he still resides. He's 6'5" tall, and weigh 180 pounds.
In 10 tournaments on the PGA Tour in 2009 he's made two cuts. His best finish was in Memphis recently, where his scorecard included two 66s and he took 39:th place.
Some of the players Brian are close to on tour include Charley Hoffman and Pat Perez.
Brian has also played in five Nationwide Tour events this year, with his best finish being second place in Louisiana in March.
Brian is getting married this December, in Las Vegas.
In this week's tournament Brian is teeing off at 8:35 AM on Thursday.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

TopGolf Review

I first found out about TopGolf in checking out a profile at The Golf Space, and soon thereafter I overheard some people at work talking about it. It seemed almost like a mystical, magical place, where the ground knew who just hit that golf shot that landed next to the target.
Well, the end result is exactly that, but the method is a lot more straightforward, and one of the cooler uses of technology I've seen in some time.
It starts at the factory. Maxfli embeds microchips into Top Flite golf balls as part of the manufacturing process. These chips send out a unique signal that can be sensed outside the ball. You plug your TopGolf card into the machine when you get balls, and the machine slowly drops one ball at a time into your basket. The reason it's a slower process than at the normal driving range is that as it gives you the ball it also registers that particular ball as belonging to you.
You then go to the mats, and before you hit each ball you run it through another sensor. A video screen tells you what your target is, or which game you're playing with your buddies. You hit your ball towards graduated targets with a handful of different point categories depending on how close to center you hit, and then you get points based on how well you do. Think a "closest to the flag" contest at the range, but without the arguing. The further away the target is the more points you get for hitting it.
The games you can play can be wide open where you just gather as many points as possible, or it can direct you to specific targets depending on your skill level. Up to five players can participate in any game at any time.
All the mats are shaded, which is huge in Dallas, and there are waitresses who are very adept at bringing out food and buckets of cold beer and other libations of your choosing. The bar inside has many electronic televisions, and there are golf instructors available.
The cost is $3.50 for 20 balls, which is a bit high but still very reasonable for an urban driving range in the Dallas area. The Dallas location is fully lit and open until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. There are three locations in the UK, and three in the US (Dallas, Chicago, Washington DC).
If you like golf and you live in or you visit one of these places, I highly recommend you stop by. The staff will explain everything to you, and you'll find the time just run away from you.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hmmm, I wonder what the weather will be like

This pretty much eliminates "The Weather" as a topic of casual conversation in Plano, TX this week ...

Friday, June 19, 2009

My First Bridgestone Experience

Tony was absolutely raving about playing the Bridgestone 330 balls a few months ago, so I thought I'd give them a shot myself. Keep in mind that my shot-making and ball-striking is a lot more inconsistent than Tony's, so I won't be able to provide an exact impact on my game, but here are my thoughts after playing it once: Firstly, I played the 330-S ball. I'm a roughly-20 handicap, and my swing-speed is about 105 with a 7-iron. Distance wise I would say I hit an 8-iron approximately 150 yards. Traditionally I've played Pinnacle, and recently I've been playing the Pro-V1x.
Initially I got the impression that I had a lot more spin than normal even on very short chips and pitches. I noticed this even on the pitching green before the round, which was shots of no more than 15 yards off the green.
My second impression was that of seeing my iron shots fly 10-15 yards over the green. I would say I had significantly more distance on all irons.
On this particular course I don't get to hit driver until the 4:th hole, and I felt like the ball went further than I expected based on the kind of contact and swing I put on the shot. I had at least 3 300+ yard drives into a slight headwind.
In short, until proven otherwise, I have a new favorite ball. I just have to re-calibrate how far I hit my irons.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bushwood Black Warning Sign

I didn't even know they had a Black course at the Bushwood Country Club, but it appears that they do.

Golfer I Didn't Know - Andrew Svoboda

Born in 1979 in New Rochelle, NY. Played golf at Winged Foot growing up. Played golf while attending St. John's University. Qualified for the US Open in 2006 and 2008. He missed the cut in '06 and shot +16 in '08. Has played in two Nationwide Tour events this year. Was first alternate out of this year's US Open qualifying rounds. Initially it didn't look like he'd get to play because Brian Gay won in Memphis, but he eventually got in when Robert Karlsson withdrew with an eye infection. He played nine holes in practice with Tiger Woods this week. "It was awesome. I really learned a lot from watching him. We talked about Winged Foot. When the Open was there, I met him on the 10:th tee." Andrew tees off at 7:44 AM on Thursday, playing with Henrik Stenson and Steve Stricker.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ramblings From The US Open Rough

The weather report for Farmingdale, NY: Chance of rain every day, chance of thunder on Sunday, high temps in the upper 60s and lower 70s. 100% chance of rough.

(photo by Rusty Jarrett - golfdigest.com)

More evidence that karma works: JP Hayes, who DQ'd himself from Q-school for playing the wrong ball, made it through local and sectional qualifying rounds on the number each time. He's in the first group to tee off at 7:00 AM on Thursday. Nick Faldo was knighted by the queen, for "Significant contribution to the development of sarcasm and dry wit in the field of golf commentary" (presumably). Golf quote of the week: "There's something intrinsically therapeutic about choosing to spend your time in a wide, open parklike setting that nongolfers can never truly understand" - Charles Rosin I'm making this point one more time: I think Lefty will play very well this week. He can't tinker as much as he's prone to do, and his innate talent and golf instincts are second to none. Brian Gay is turning out to be one hell of a front-runner. I wonder if the fact that his game is focused more on accuracy and control allows him to maintain a peak of good play for a longer period. Few other players have put together a suite of four rounds this year like he did last week and at Hilton Head. Lost in the hubbub of this year's US Open Challenge event, with MJ, Big Ben, and Mr. Ball In A Box, is the fact that last year's amateur winner passed away from lung cancer. John Atkinson was 40, and a lifelong non-smoker. Many good vibes to his friends and family. Golf.com's "expert" picks include Paddy (for some reason), Poulter (based on one strong performance at Birkdale last year), and Vijay (because "he should"). Is that the best and smartest they can come up with? I think these are some of the same writers that suffer from Tiger-itis and put out absolute shite whenever he's not playing. To their overall credit, other more reasonable picks were Tiger, Phil, Strick, and Paul Casey. Why are we still talking about David Duval? Bethpage Black is listed at 7,426 yards in wet, cool conditions. That's like an 8,500 yard course in Texas in the summer time. All the best to Ken Green, who's going through emotional and physical trauma of the most significant kind. The guy's DOG even died, for crying out loud. Love the fact that over 50% of the field in the US Open is available to players who are willing to play to qualify for it. If Tiger's able to keep it in the fairway he wins by at least four strokes. That is all.

Friday, June 12, 2009

US Open T-Shirt Waiting To Happen

I'm sure someone else has thought of this before ...

US Open Pairings

The USGA just released the schedule for days one and two at next week's US Open. After much speculation they went away from last year's pairing of the #1 and #2 players in the world playing in the same group. Tiger starts at 8:06 AM on Thursday with Open champion Padraig Harrington and Masters champion Angel Cabrera. Paddy's been struggling mightily this year, and we're yet to find out if Pato is going to go into the kind if hibernation he did for a couple of years after his US Open victory in '07.

Other interesting groupings:

  • Three decent candidates to compete on Sunday afternoon are paired together at 7:55 as Geoff Ogilvy plays with Jim Furyk and Paul Casey.
  • Three Uber-kids are teeing off at 1:14, with Dustin Johnson playing with Anthony Kim and Rory McIlroy.
  • Watch out for far-flying golf balls in the other 1:14 PM pairing of JB Holmes, Alvaro Quiros, and Nick Watney.
  • Lefty tees off at 1:36 PM with two-time US Open champions Els and Goosen.
  • It's the official "Talented But Struggling" group at 1:25, including Sergio, Camilo, and Adam Scott.
  • Golf's version of NHL Greybeards tee off at 1:36, with last year's hero Rocco Mediate playing with Kenny Perry and Tom Lehman.
It's worthy of note that the USGA for some unknown reason found it necessary to play some cutesy name game, as Singh and Singh are together, as are Romero and Romero and Hansen and Hansen. They chose not to extend this game to American players (Zach and Dustin Johnson are not playing together, for instance). The All-Scandinavian, All-Hispanic, and All-Asian groups appear at best silly and contrived and at worst narrow-minded, bigoted and segregatory.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Swing of Fire (by Johnny "Nassau" Cash)

I guess I never realized that Johnny Cash was the first cousin thrice removed from Gary Player, and that his songs actually had a deep golf-related message in them.
Golf is a burning thing It can make a fiery swing Solid shots are our desire I discovered a swing of fire I discovered a burning swing of fire Went down down down And the shots got higher And it burns burns burns The swing of fire The swing of fire The joy of golf is sweet when shots and swings meet I hit the ball like a child Oh, and the swing went wild I discovered a burning swing of fire Went down down down And the shots got higher And it burns burns burns The swing of fire The swing of fire Golf is a burning thing It can make a fiery swing Solid shots are our desire I discovered a swing of fire

I Draw The Line (by Johnny "Nassau" Cash)

My buddy Pete on The Golf Space had a very good swing thought, where he felt like he was drawing a line in his backswing. This really hit home with me, and I also thought Johnny Cash should sing the theme song to his instructional DVD:
I keep a close watch on this plane of mine I keep my eyes on the ball all the time I keep the hands out for the swing that blinds My swing is fine, I draw the line I find it very easy to hit it true I find myself just swinging and swinging through Yes, I'll admit that I'm drawn to you My swing is fine, I draw the line As sure as rough is dark and green is light I keep you on my mind both day and night And shots and scores I've known proves that it's right My swing is fine, I draw the line You've got to keep your elbows by your side You give me cause for shots that I can't hide For you I'd turn my shoulders and the tide My swing is fine, I draw the line I keep a close watch on this plane of mine I keep my eyes on the ball all the time I keep the hands out for the swing that blinds My swing is fine, I draw the line

Book Review - The Caddie who knew Ben Hogan

Forbidden romance meets a caddie's pipe dream. The club pro and the president's daughter. A memorable round with the best player in the world. It all gets tossed together in the perspective of that one caddie we all would want to be, the one who's respected by the top players and who knows things about the course nobody else does.
John Coyne is an American writer of over twenty-five books, the bulk of which are horror stories. He worked as a caddie in his youth, and he's an avid golfer, and as such he has also written several books on the topic.
"The Caddie who knew Ben Hogan" is a fictional story. It was published in 2006 and is presented as "a literary exploration of golf and everyday life".
The story takes place at a country club outside Chicago that's in the throes of preparing to host the Chicago Open later in the summer of 1946. It's told in the words of Jack Handley, the young caddie who's secretly hopeful that the club's talented young assistant pro will do well in this contest. Complicating matters is that the pro is involved in an illicit affair with the daughter of the president of the club, and the caddie often has to go between the two, when all he really cares about is golf.
One day a shiny big car pulls in to the club's parking lot, and out steps Ben Hogan, stopping by to take a look at the course in advance of the big tournament. Jack quickly grabs his clubs, and they go out on the course. They play the first nine holes by themselves, but the club's pro joins them for the second nine. The round is told in intimate detail, and the pro turns out to beat the greatest player in the game.
Everything builds up to the tournament itself, and again the golf action is told with great attention to every minutiae.
Many reviewers praise this book for providing a snapshot into the country club athmosphere in the 40's, and it's also received high marks for it's portrayal of Ben Hogan. These were both things I did enjoy about the book.
The downfall of the book was it's attempts throughout to try to build up the tension to some fantastic and shocking ending. I was very disappointed to find that the author let not one but two cats out of the proverbial bag with more than 50 pages left to go. Not only did he reveal how the tournament was going to end, but he also revealed some of the circumstances around the ending. I was hoping to find some twist at the end, but it was not to be and the ending was very anti-climactic.
I felt like the author got bored with writing the book and just wrapped it up as quickly as possible. The quality of the writing towards the end was nowhere near what it was at the beginning.
The one thing I will take with me out of the book is the advice that Ben Hogan repreatedly offered young Jack, with respect to life as well as golf: "The most important shot is your next one."