Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What To Look For: The Honda Classic



The Tour makes the move to the Florida swing after it's West Coast tour of events and plays the 45th Honda Classic.  The Honda Classic was originally the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic at the Inverrary Golf Club down by Ft. Lauderdale.  It then became the Honda Classic and moved up a little north to TPC Eagle Trace and then moved to other south Florida courses like Weston Hills and TPC Heron Bay before planting itself at PGA National in West Palm Beach.

I generally like the design of the course and most of the Tour pros do as well, but it's not something they would want to play every week given its difficulty.  As a Tour event, it draws huge crowds usually near 60,000 per day.  Lots of people with money live in the area during the winter months.  Also, the Tuesday practice round is usually a great time to go to a Tour event as Wednesday is Pro-Am day.  But, with all of the players coming over from Los Angeles and so many players living nearby, they usually skip the Tuesday practice round and stay home and then go to practice at their nearby home courses like the Bear Club, Dye Preserve or the Medalist Club.  So the Tuesday practice round at PGA National doesn't attract as many fans and that may provoke them to come over for the tournament instead.  Also, with Doral no long a Tour stop, we may see a major increase in attendance.

There has been a sizeable shift if Tour players living in the Palm Beach area compared to the Orlando area in the past 10 years or so.  Some players complained about Orlando traffic and crime, but the traffic is actually far worse in Palm Beach (I lived in Boca Raton for 6 months) and in some areas (particularly where fans have to park, which really sucks), it's not exactly a posh country club atmosphere.

Instead, the reason for the move to Palm Beach has mostly to do with the lack of private clubs that can cater to the Tour players.  In Orlando, you have Isleworth, Lake Nona, Interlachen, Orange Tree (very difficult) and Country Club of Orlando (too short).  There's plenty of golf in Orlando, it's just mostly open to the public.  Compared to the Palm Beach and surrounding area where most of the quality golf is very private country clubs that have helicopter landing pads, full-time locker room attendants and bathroom sinks that you need to be a genetic physicist to figure out how to turn the water on and off.

The course is wet due to the rain today and it should rain a bit tomorrow.  However, in the FLA rain doesn't mean necessarily soft conditions as the heat and wind can dry the course up before noon.

This is an approach shot course, particularly from 175-200 yards.  In fact, Padraig Harrington won almost solely on these shots two years ago as his driving was awful and he didn't putt tremendous either.  But, he was hitting these shots nearly 50% closer than the field average which allowed him to beat local Daniel Berger.

While The Bear Trap (holes # 15, 16 and 17) get most of the attention, the last critical hole on the course is #14.  Essentially, yes...the Bear Trap is very hard.  15 is a par-3 surrounded by water that is hard to hit the green in regulation, but is a flat surface green with a very high make percentage.  16 is a difficult par-4 with water in the way and then 17 is ridiculously difficult, especially when the wind blows into your face.  But, the deviation in score is small on these holes and therefore are not likely to decide who wins the event.

Projected Winning Score: -9


3JACK'S FAVORITES


Adam Scott +1100
Justin Thomas +1600
Russell Knox +2500
Thomas Pieters +3300
Paul Casey +3300


3JACK'S DARK HORSES

Ollie Schniederjans +5000
Seung-Yul Noh +8000
Harris English +12500
Luke List +17500
J.T. Poston +20000




3JACK

Microsoft Azure--Sensoria Smart Connected Golf Grip

Here's an interesting new piece of technology that you may have seen commercials for, the Sensoria Smart Connected Golf Grip with Microsoft Azure.  They have teamed with Bryson DeChambeau to develop and promote the product.



Here's an article on the subject.

http://www.geekwire.com/2016/microsoft-sensoria-partner-pga-pro-bryson-dechambeau-create-smart-golf-grip/




3JACK

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Preston Combs on Creating a Stable Environment w/ SAM Puttlab

Here's a video from Preston Combs on creating a stable environment with the SAM Puttlab in order to improve your putting:







3JACK

Monday, February 20, 2017

Swing Catalyst Tip with Andrew Rice

Here's a video from Andrew Rice showing a lesson he had with one of his students who was shifting the Center of Pressure too early in the downswing:





3JACK

Friday, February 17, 2017

Flashback Friday: 1991 PGA Championship w/John Daly



Here's videos of the 1991 PGA Championship where a young upstart named John Daly won his first tournament of his career:







Some thoughts:

1. Gee, do you think Daly was feeling it with his putter?



The red dot is where the cup was on this putt. John starts to walk to the cup knowing he made it when the ball is about 5-feet from the hole.


2.  As nonsensical as the Dustin Johnson decision was at Whistling Straits in the 2010 PGA Championship, it would have been colossally moronic to penalize Daly for the Squeeky Medlin incident.  Although it does make me wonder why Medlin ever grounded the flag stick as he had to know how sensitive the rules committee is to any perceived rules infraction.


3.  I'm guessing Daly dominated this tournament off the tee.  He may have had one of the all-time performances off the tee in an event.  It had to be tough for Kenny Knox to watch Daly fly it 40-yards past him and still find the fairway.  Daly shows one of the things I've researched statistically...the biggest advantage of length off the tee is with putting.

As Mark Sweeney (www.aimpointgolf.com) showed a few years ago, there's a strong indirect correlation between driving distance and length of average birdie putt.  Longer hitters are more likely to have shorter length birdie putts on average.  Thus, longer hitters can putt worse and still be successful on Tour.  And when you combine a long hitter that is putting well, you can get a powerful combination...especially when that long hitter is finding the fairway off the tee.


4.  Following Daly's career, I would label his release as being inconsistent.  When he playing well, like here, he had a little bit of an under-flip release.  When he wasn't playing well, he had a flip-roll release.  With the underflip release, it would just make his dynamic loft inconsistent and he wouldn't always control his trajectory or distance control (as we see in the videos).  But, he could hit the ball straight with the under-flip release.


5.  We'll never likely see a crowd like the Crooked Stick crowd was that week.  Even the 1986 Augusta crowd (which was awesome) still wasn't like the Crooked Stick crowd due to the sheer size of the crowd.  Ordinary people could buy a ticket and watch this John Daly guy hit the ball further than they had ever imagined because he was doing that in round 1, round 2 and round 3.  Augusta has limited availability on tickets (although back then you could get them much easier) and Nicklaus caught fire in the last 11 holes of the event.  And what was great about the Crooked Stick crowd was they were entirely respectful.  Hats off in making one of the very best crowds in golf history.


6.  Daly was using the Cobra Ultramid driver:

 
The driver was made out of Kevlar (what they use for bullet proof vests) instead of metal.  However, the smash factor on those drivers S-T-U-N-K.  It made Daly's prodigious length even more impressive.

Daly supposedly used the Cobra Ultramid because he kept cracking metal and persimmon drivers and he couldn't crack the Cobra Ultramid.






3JACK

Thursday, February 16, 2017

What To Look For: Genesis Open at Riviera CC



Riviera was created in 1926 and designed by renowned architect, George C. Thomas.  It has hosted 3 PGA Tour majors and will also be the site for the 2017 US Amateur.  This is one of my favorite Tour stops because the Tour is more or less done with playing events on multiple courses like Pebble Beach and Palm Springs.  But, I also enjoy the history of the even and even more the design of Riviera.

Old school courses (pre-1980) were usually designed with small greens that were very undulated.  They usually feature much less water and more straight forward and simple hole designs as well as being able to get in trouble off the tee, but still find the ball.  Modern designs feature greens almost twice as large and much flatter surfaces.  There's a premium on making picturesque holes, so we see more tricky hole designs which often bust more than they boom.  And there's a higher odds of lost golf balls and with the golf ball market so pricey, I think it adds to less participation and slower play.

Riviera is a hybrid of those theories.  It has some very small greens and then some very big ones.  The make percentages on the greens are usually lower than normal, but not horrifically low as they are at Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach.  It also has some tricked up holes like the 6th, 8th and 10th holes.

The 6th hole features a bunker right in the middle of the green.




The 8th hole features a split fairway.



And then there's the infamous 10th hole which I've written about on GolfWRX.

http://www.golfwrx.com/69945/the-numbers-behind-going-for-it-or-laying-up-no-10-riviera/

Years ago, the course used to have a good mix of golfer skill sets that could win here.  It had enough holes to favor long hitters.  The greens could favor the better putters and the approach shots could favor the good ballstrikers that don't hit it long.

Some renovations have been done over the years and that has made the course more of a bomber's course.

The Tour players generally like the course and getting out to LA with all of the history, Hogan's Alley and Bogart's Tree.  However, the course conditions are not always up to snuff and nobody likes the LA traffic.

The course conditions make this a difficult course to project statistically because if the course is firm, the scores rise and it favors the shorter hitters.  If the course is soft, the scores are low and it favors the long hitters.

The weather forecast is calling for heavy rain in the next few days.


Projected Winning Score: -11


3JACK'S FAVORITES

Jordan Spieth +750
Dustin Johnson +800
Hideki Matsuyama +1000
Byeon Hun-An +6600
Shane Lowry +7000
 
 
 
3JACK’S DARK HORSES
 
Pat Perez +7500
Webb Simpson +8000
Ollie Schneiderjans +10000
Seung-Yul Noh +12500
Graham DeLaet +15000




3JACK

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Looking for Instruction? My Thoughts (Part 3)

In the final segment of this blog series, I want to look to what to expect after you receive instruction along with some tidbits to help you improve and take full advantage of the instruction you have received.

Part 1: http://3jack.blogspot.com/2017/02/looking-for-instruction-my-thoughts.html
Part 2: http://3jack.blogspot.com/2017/02/looking-for-instruction-my-thoughts_14.html



Changes are worthwhile if you start seeing better results on your new ‘good swings’ than you did with your old ‘good swings.’

Most golfers are too worried about improving consistency instead of improving their high end results. Chasing consistency is Fool’s Gold because you’re always going to hit some poor shots and what separates the better players from the inferior players is their ability to hit better high quality shots. Most Tour players can pipe 300-yard drives down the middle quite frequently while a 10-handicap may achieve that once a year if they have a huge tailwind and are playing on hardpan. The Tour players simply counter poor shots by hitting more good/great shots.

But, the bigger picture is that if you start seeing better high end results, improved consistency will follow.

Too many golfers judge changes by their poor swings. When learning a new movement pattern, there is going to be some difficult in executing the movement time-after-time. So don’t worry too much about those bad swings.

However, if your high end results are not any better (hitting it further or straighter or with a better trajectory), then in all likelihood you just as good with your old swing and you either need to get more reps in with your old swing or find a new instructor.


Working on the grip is the most crippling piece to work on.

I thought my friend and golf instructor, George Hunt (www.georgehuntgolfacademy.com), had a great theory on how to teach any grip changes…save the grip change for the end of the lesson instead of the beginning or the middle of the lesson. George’s reasoning is that if you teach a grip change then the golfer will be handcuffed by the change and will focus only on the grip and not the other parts of the instruction. By saving if for last, the golfer could learn other aspects of the instruction and then better incorporate the grip change.

A grip change is very crippling mentally, but the good news is that you can figure it out in about a week or two by simply gripping clubs or wooden dowel rods or alignment sticks or anything that resembles a stick just around your house. It’s just for that week or two, it’s going to be very difficult to make that change in the grip.

And again, any change we make should be for a GOOD reason.



Don’t expect to play great golf if you’re working on your backswing.

From my experience, there’s something about working on the backswing that equates to more inconsistent golf and a greater learning curve. Provided that you’re working on the backswing for a good reason, don’t expect to play good golf right away until you start to become unconscious competent at it.

Downswing changes are only a little easier to execute, but usually the golfer can play much better golf working on just downswing changes.


The goal is to swing without swing thoughts…and it CAN happen.

I used to think that you couldn’t hit balls without swing thoughts or some type of ‘feel’ (which is really a swing thought in itself). The goal is to be able to have unconscious competency with the changes you make in your swing. I believe that with randomization and slow motion practice you will find yourself being able to swing the golf club without relying on swing thoughts and ‘feels.’


I’m not a fan of drills and training aids.

As sacrilegious as it may sound, I don’t like most swing drills and training aids. I find that drills and training aids in general work best for putting than the golf swing. If you do utilize a swing drill, it’s best to find one that will allow you to take a full swing with an actual club and to hit a ball and be able to do the drill in slow motion. The same goes for training aids…full swings, something that resembles a club and something you can do in slow motion.

For example, I like Kelvin Miyahira’s ‘bucket drill’ because it allows the golfer to do it with a real club, a real golf ball, in a full swing and in slow motion:



A little bit a day is better than feast or famine.

If you’re making changes and want to make them more quickly and permanently, you’re better off practicing a little bit a day over practicing on the range for 2 hours, once a week.

You’re better off spending 5-10 minutes at home utilizing slow motion practice than you are to go out and hit balls for 2 hours on the range on a Saturday and not do anything until the next week when you hit balls for 3 hours. It is literally better to take 5 simple minutes of your day just to get better. Develop a plan to improve your swing with the instructor.

Generally, I’m still a firm believer that you change the swing in order of what occurs first. If you want to work on your takeaway and your transition, you should work on the takeaway first (remember, work on it only if it is for a good reason).

In this example, you will often see good instructors have the student work on the takeaway in order to improve the transition. Once the student improves the takeaway, the changes in transition may be slight or none at all. However, once the golfer focuses on transition with their new takeaway, they should be able to more easily execute the new transition move.

So have you and the instructor determine a plan of what you want to happen and how you want to get there. If you want to improve your club speed and club path, what do you need to change in order for that to happen?

I generally recommend most golfers see their instructor once a month. You’re going to need to fail at some of the movement patterns in order to finally ‘get it.’


Golf instruction is not like going to the chiropractor.

One thing I fell victim to was over-coaching and over-analysis. If you have ever gone to a chiropractor, they will start you off by having you go to the them 3 times a week as they adjust your spine. The idea is that they have to constantly adjust your spine so it stays in the proper place. After about a year of going to the chiropractor 3 times per week, the vertebrae start to stay in place better and now you go to the chiropractor 2 times per week for about a year.

Golf instructor doesn’t work this way. You can’t have a teacher that instructs you every time you make a poor swing and going to a teacher once a week is just a bad idea. You have to fail, be aware of your failure and then allow your brain to adapt and you will start to figure it out more quickly. If you taught step-by-step after every failure, too many thoughts will creep into your mind and you’re not allowing your brain to adapt properly to doing it incorrectly.



You will likely get into a rut with the same instructor after a while

I’ve found that golfers like myself can work with an instructor for once a month for a year and see rapid improvement and then eventually they will plateau and have some stumbling block that they can’t quite get over with the instructor. And then they will discuss ‘leaving their instructor’ like they are some top tier PGA Tour player and the instructor was no good.

A better tact is if you find an instructor that improved your game and you eventually get into that rut, find another instructor with a similar swing philosophy. You’re not deviating too much from what helped you get better and it should be fairly easy to learn a similar philosophy while a new set of eyes and opinion can greatly help get over that hurdle. And when you start to plateau with that new instructor, you can always go back to your first instructor and see if his eyes and opinion will rekindle that improvement.




 3JACK

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Looking for Instruction? My Thoughts (Part 2)

In part 1 I looked at the possibility of not needing a new coach with better practice habits: 

http://3jack.blogspot.com/2017/02/looking-for-instruction-my-thoughts.html

 In Part 2, I look at (from my experience) on what to look for in a coach.



The GOLDEN RULE in golf instruction is to have a GOOD reason for ANY changes you make.

Just like in Million Dollar Baby when Frankie tells Maggie to repeat the mantra ‘always protect yourself’, golf students (and coaches) should repeat the mantra ‘any change I make is for a good reason.’

Perhaps the largest battle in coming up with new mechanics to improve ballstriking is to not fall into taking style over substance. For the golfer looking for an instructor, it’s best to avoid the instructors that make changes because ‘that’s what Tour Player X does.’

Instead, you want to know what exactly a recommended change will do to the main factors at impact. Speed, face angle, club head path, attack angle and dynamic loft. If the instructor changes something to prevent a bad shot such as a hook, they should be unafraid to explain in detail why that change will alter your impact conditions to prevent a hook.


Don’t be afraid to learn the ‘advanced basics.’

If you want to save time, money and aggravation and find the best teacher for you off the bat, I would advise understanding the following:

· CORRECT ball flight laws
· Read a Trackman/FlightScope club data report.
· The CoM of the club versus the Net Force of the hand path.
· Center of Gravity on a club head
· Vertical Gear Effect
· Horizontal Gear Effect

Understanding these concept will help you better decipher if the instructor is making changes for a good reason or just saying that they are for a good reason. It can also help you determine what swing philosophy you believe is best for your since they still have to adhere to all of these concepts.

If you go into a lesson thinking that the sweet spot on a club is the size of a dime and that the ball curves due to the face angle and starts out due to the path and a steep shaft plane always equals a steep attack angle, then you’re going into the lesson misinformed.

What’s great about the internet is that this information is available on the internet and thorough enough to make it easy to understand and all for free.


Don’t worry about facilities, technology, etc.

I’ve seen plenty of teachers that have state-of-the-art facilities with the latest technology that I wouldn’t take a lesson from them if they paid me to do so and I’ve seen plenty of teachers that are in a beat down, old driving range with no grass and none of the latest gizmos and be able to consistently improve students by more than they ever imagined.

Getting on the best facilities requires networking and often times being at the right place at the right time. However, not all of the excellent facilities are all that great for the instructor. At a top notch facility an instructor may have to pay a steep fee to teach there as well as if they want to purchase a launch monitor or some latest piece of technology they may have to go thru the facility first to see if they will allow them to get one. And I’ve seen some facilities that will want the instructor to buy the launch monitor and if he/she leaves the facilities, it’s now theirs to own. So if an instructor gets the chance to teach at a run down facility that is in an excellent location and won’t charge him a fee for lessons, many will jump at the chance.

Technology is expensive. A Trackman goes for about $25k. The same with Swing Catalyst which I feel is the premier force plate technology. You can go cheaper with other products, but you’re still paying thousands of dollars. If an instructor has a lot of familiarity with Trackman and has great experience as a teacher, the benefits of a launch monitor are diminished because they can usually get a decent idea of what is going on with your swing. Would a Trackman help? Sure. But at that cost it may simply be cost prohibitive for a good instructor that continually improves his students.

Tiger Woods sought out Butch Harmon who was working at a driving range at the time.  Had he judged Butch by his facilities, he may have never played the best golf of his career.




On the flip side, don’t judge an ‘advanced’ book by its cover. 

I think too many golfers fall into one of two categories…they either overvalue technology or the unfairly criticize technology and want nothing to do with it.

I will say this, I really don’t believe you much better by practicing on a Trackman/FlightScope. I think the launch monitors help provide the golfer and instructor with basic information and it helps a golfer who does not understand club data and the ball flight laws to better visualize and eventually understand them.

I think you get better by taking that information and working towards a goal and then utilizing efficient practice (without the launch monitor) and after you get enough reps in with your changes…you can re-measure and re-access.

But for the golfers that are against all of this technology it is likely due to the worry of the instructor being too complicated for you to understand. I have found this to be the case on occasion. However, many instructors are very easy to understand using the technology and have developed a keen sense of how to improve golfers by using the technology and also understanding when not to use it.

For example, here’s a video from Andrew Rice using the Swing Catalyst. His ideas are not difficult at all to understand and could help a golfer with an issue that they cannot see with the human eye.



In the end, results are what counts

Not the facility, not the technology, not the certifications, not their playing credentials, etc. And the end of the day, instructors are judged by how much they improve their golfers.

So, ask for before and after’s of their students. Talk to old students and current students. Focus on students of your handicap. But, the wider variety of golfers the teacher has improved shows greater teaching competence.

PART 3 COMING TOMORROW




3JACK

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Ultimate, Spare-No-Expense eBay WITB

I wanted to come up with the most expensive WITB on eBay. The conditions are that each club has to be useable and it cannot be a collector’s item. For instance, putter made out of crystal isn’t really useable. Or a driver that Jack Nicklaus owned is for all intents and purposes…a collector’s item. Lastly, we need to get ‘fair value’ for the club. Some clubs from Japan may cost more because of shipping and thus they are excluded.

 So, let the silliness begin.

DRIVER: 2016 Ryoma Maxima Driver Type-V ($816 head only)



Driver Shaft: Crazy Golf Japan 9 pt Carbon Shaft ($1,606)



3-wood: TaylorMade M2 Jason Day deepface Tour Issue ($375 head only)



3-wood shaft: Fujikura Six shaft ($225)


Hybrid: Muzik ‘On the Screw’ I.C.E. UT Full Titanium Hybrid ($360 head only)



Hybrid Shaft: Oban Kiyoshi White shaft ($399 shaft only)



IRONS: Limited Edition George Spirits Sakura CB Forged Irons ($2,799 heads only)



Iron shafts: Graphite Design Tour AD Iron Shaft ($2,279)



S-Wedge: Titleist Vokey 2011 Prototype 56 TK Sand Wedge Rioja Copper Finish ($350)


L-Wedge: Titleist Vokey Signature Series Lob Wedge LIMITED EDITION 1 of 25 ($780)



Putter: Scotty Cameron High Buffed Newport 2.5 GSS ($12,000)


Golf Bag: Scotty Cameron Staff Bag ($5,160)



Wood/Hybrid head covers: Scotty Cameron Rickie Fowler patchwork ($4,000)



Putter head cover: Scotty Cameron headcover ($4,000)



Shoes: Walter Genuin Tour Issue Ostrich Golf Shoes ($600)



Ball Marker: Scotty Cameron Handmade Welded Painters Palette ($850)



Ball Divot Repair Tool: TITLEIST 2016 VOKEY CUSTOM BALL MARK REPAIR WEDGE DIVOT/PIVOT TOOL ($55)



Rangefinder: Bushnell Pro X7 Slope Golf Laser Rangefinder with JOLT ($617)



Glove: Zero Friction Mens Motion Fit GPS Golf ($153)






3JACK

Friday, February 10, 2017

Flashback Friday - Sam Snead and Celebrity Golf



Here's a bunch of videos from the TV show Celebrity Golf which featured Sam Snead playing 9 hole matches (giving strokes) to celebrities like Dean Martin, James Garner and Harpo Marx.







There are several more of these videos available on YouTube.

IMDB has the series starting in 1960, when Snead was 48 years old.

Some of my observations:

1.  Sneads pre-shot routine was 1 warmup swing that probably served to get the blood flowing, loosen the joints and get a feel for the club and then he stepped up to the ball, took a few waggles and ripped it.


2.  His driving was disappointing for the most part.  He could certainly pound a golf ball and hit some beautiful drives, but he missed to the right...a lot.  I'm guessing that is what cost him a victory at the US Open.


3.  Sam was noticeably bigger than all of the celebrities.  You probably don't think of a person with their pants pulled up as high as Sam did and wearing a fedora as an athlete, but watching him play golf and move around you could see the athlete in the man.


4.  I thought Snead's iron play and short game (around the green) was hit main strengths and they were exceptional.  He repeatedly stuck his irons close despite having many unfavorable shots due to a poor drive.  His bunker play was spot on as well.


5.  Interesting to see how he didn't use a SW around the green and opted for the PW instead.  Of course, back then the lofts on PW were more like today's GW.  But, he was still very adept around the greens.


6.  I thought his putting was better than expected.  Snead always complained about his putting and eventually switched to a style where he putted between his legs (which was later outlawed).

We see Sam make a good amount of putts, rarely miss short putts and leave a lot of putts just on the edge.  With today's technology, a Tour player can look at putts gained and get a good ballpark for how well they are putting.  In Sam's day, it could be easy for a golfer like him to hit so many approach shots close and just miss some putts and have the mis-perception of being a poor putter.

I believe it was Byron Nelson who said that Snead was a very pessimistic thinker and that he thought it carried over into Sam's putting.  I tend to agree with Mr. Nelson in that regard.


7.  Comedy doesn't age well.  Oof.





3JACK

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

What to Look For - Pebble Beach Pro-Am



The Pebble Beach Pro-Am is played on 3 different courses (Pebble Beach Golf Links, Monterey and Spyglass). There is a 54-hole cut with the players making the cut playing Pebble Beach twice and those that miss the cut only playing Pebble Beach once.  The real course to get on was Cypress Point, usually ranked in the top-5 golf courses in the world.  The PB Pro-Am used to play Cypress Point, but the course was dropped from the rotation for refusing to accept blacks as members.


The pro-am is less celebrity than it was in the past and is more about wealthy CEO's and hedge fund managers that most have probably never heard of.  On Tour, typically the main Pro-Am is on Wednesday (they also have a Monday Pro-Am).  I know that for 1 person to participate in the Wednesday Pro-Am at Bay Hill the cost is $8,000.

The Tour players are a bit torn on playing here because they like the courses, but the weather is really iffy there this time of year and playing 6 hour rounds isn't exactly the most fun thing out there.

It's also a group of courses that don't really favor any particular golfer.  Expect the make %'s to be way down because of the old school design which features small and very undulated greens.  Typically, Pebble has the lowest make %'s on Tour from 3-15 feet.

Furthermore, the ball doesn't get driven as far as you will be hard pressed to see players average more than 290 yards on all of their drives.  This is due to the weather, the softness of the course and having to lay-up on quite a few holes.

While the socres are low here at the Pro-Am, they rise dramatically when Pebble hosts the US Open due to the rougher conditions and they move the tees further back.  The US Open tee on the par-3 17th is about 50 yards back from where the Pro-Am tees are.  That's why Mr. Nicklaus hit that 1-iron while you'll see much shorter irons in 17 this week.

The course tends to favor golfers with a lot of experience on the course.  That's why Cali guys like Mickelson, Woods and Charlie Wi have played well here.

18 is a historically great hole.  Unfortunately the ball flies so far thee day that it takes some of the competitive beauty away from the hole.  Then you have the legendary 17th hole and the very underrated 16th hole.  Watch out for the 14th hole where the field average is greater than par which is rare for a par-5 on Tour.

Projected Winning Score: -17

3JACK'S FAVORITES

Dustin Johnson +800
Jordan Spieth +800
Phil Mickelson +1600
Brandt Snedeker +1800
Webb Simpson +5500


3JACK'S DARK HORSES

JJ Spaun +6600
Daniel Summerhays +15000
Brian Stuard +20000




3JACK

Looking for Instruction? My Thoughts (Part 1)

I saw this question the other day on GolfWRX ‘should I leave my instructor.’ I’ve got 20 years of experience as a consumer of golf instruction and have noticed a thing or two, so here are general guidelines and thoughts I follow in part 1 of this series:


MAYBE YOU DON’T NEED A NEW INSTRUCTOR, YOU JUST NEED TO PRACTICE BETTER 

 I find this one of the largest problem for golfers getting lessons…very little time is spent on how to practice and how to find a regimen that can work with the golfer’s schedule. I’m a believer in 3 major practice principals.

1. Slow Motion Practice
2. Randomization of Practice
3. Practice Based Golf Rounds

Golfers tend to fall into trouble of not being able to ingrain the motions that the golf instructor teaches them or if they do, they have difficulty taking them from the range to the course and then being able to consistently do it when you have a difficult lie, increased pressure or a shot that does not fit your eye.

If you’re struggling, there’s a chance that you’re not able to ingrain the swing that your instructor is teaching you. There’s also a chance that the swing instruction uses flawed information and you cannot ingrain the swing motion because of the flawed information. The best way to find out is thru better practice methods that will allow you to more easily ingrain the new motion and if you can’t, then you should look elsewhere for instruction.


SLOW MOTION VS. CHECK-SWING PRACTICE

What I see out of lessons that teach ‘drills’ is they usually teach a check swing drill going from P3 (lead arm parallel to the ground on the backswing) to P9 (trail arm parallel to ground in follow thru.



The idea is that you swing at your normal speed at a short swing length and then as you get that down, you move to a longer swing to complete more of your full swing.

Having spoken to some experts in the fields of Neurobiology and Motor Skill Learning, that’s not a very good way to practice because the speed of a learning a new motion throws humans off more than the length of the motion.

I asked one researcher that I observed that when learning a new swing motion, things really tend to break down in the transition phase of the swing. His reply was that you had a few things working against the golfer in trying to learn the swing in the transition part of the swing:

A) The speed of the motion is fast
B) The motion is quick, in some instances it’s like trying to get a car to go from 0 to 60 by flooring it
C) There is a change in direction that occurs with that speed.

Thus, you can see why the speed of the motion is so critical in learning and not the length of the swing. It’s not that going from P3 to P9 can’t work, but it’s simply going to take a longer time with more reps compared to slow motion practice.

Here’s a video from instructor Dan Whittaker going over slow motion practice:




RANDOMIZATION OF PRACTICE

Here’s what may sound like sacrilege, but I really do not like most golf swing drills. Part of the reason is that the practice of drills is rarely randomized; you’re usually just doing the drill over-and-over again while hitting to the same target.

Mike Hebron has found thru research that creativity stimulates the brain which allows for humans to learn new movement patterns more quickly. So that stationary practice drill is a bad idea.

My experience is that if you get on a range and get your initial warmup and start to get some swings in to get into a groove, start randomizing your practice.

You want to still continue to work on whatever you have been working on, but hit shots to a different target on each shot. Move the ball forward and back in your stance on each shot. Change clubs on each shot. Change ball flight curvature and trajectory on each shot.

Don’t be afraid to a high fade with the ball well back in your stance to a flag on the right side of the range with a 3-iron on one shot and then try to hit a low draw with a 7-iron to a left flag with the ball well up in your stance. Just try and do it while working on whatever motion you have been practicing. You’ll start to figure out more about the motion you are trying to ingrain and hitting your stock shot with your normal address position will become a piece of cake.


PRACTICE BASED ROUNDS OF GOLF

Another aspect of trying to ingrain new movement patterns is that when new stuff is added to the environment, the golfer is more likely to revert back to their old habits in order to ‘survive.’ It’s one thing to hit balls on the range and hit an entire bucket beautifully to the target. It’s another to go onto the golf course where there is more severe consequences for poor shots, uneven lies, wind, etc.

It’s good to get some actual golf over a session on the range. Just go there with the purpose bringing whatever you have been working onto the course. Again, this stimulates the brain with creativity and while you may play poorly, you’re now 1 step closer to ingraining your new mechanics and being able to fully translate that to the course.

The beauty of slow motion practice is that one can do it from home for 5-10 minutes a day and see it have a tremendously positive effect on ingraining that new motion.  While I would recommend hitting some balls once in a while, if you don't have the time to do so, getting 5-10 minutes every day will ingrain a new motion more quickly than hitting balls once a week for an hour.

That may allow you to actually make the changes your instructor advised which may get you the results you wish for and seeking a new instructor may not be necessary.

Part II Coming Soon



3JACK

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Looking at a Steep Attack Angles on Tour

After watching Understanding Torques and Forces in the Golf Swing (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/forcesandtorque), I started to ponder what was going on with some of the players on Tour that had the steepest attack angles. As Dr. MacKenzie notes in Understanding Torques and Forces, out of the 30+ Tour winners he studied, only 1 of them did not get the Center of Mass below the Net Force. Dr. MacKenzie wasn’t telling who that was, but did note that he was known as a poor driver of the ball (I think I know who it is).

 I wanted to see the commonalities of these steep attack angle players and I started to see a common theme. One that didn’t surprise me after watching the video and the other that I didn’t think about, but made sense.

One player I looked at was Trevor Immelman. Golfers rave about his swing, but his ballstriking has been very poor for quite some time. Look at the YouTube comments and most golfers think he has an ideal swing.



However, here are his key radar metrics that are the best indicators of attack angle:



Carry Efficiency is Carry Distance divided by Club Speed. Immelman during these years has been either last or second to last in launch angle and is one of the worst on Tour in Carry Efficiency. I have a proprietary algorithm to project attack angle and from 2012 to 2015 his Attack Angle projected at -7 degrees with the driver in competition.

(Click the picture to enlarge)



This is something that Dr. MacKenzie and Joe Mayo mentioned in their video; a player can flatten out the shaft in the downswing and not look ‘over the top’, but if their hands are traveling on the same angle as the club head is traveling, they are not getting the Center of Mass below the Net Force. This means a steep attack angle and leftward path.

One thing I noticed about Immelman’s swing was the clubface angle. Immelman came originally from the Leadbetter school of teaching which wanted the toe straight up at P2 (when the shaft is parallel to the ground in the takeaway)



That makes for an open clubface at the top. While I don’t always agree with the concept that slicers slice the ball because of an open face, I do believe that there are many golfers that will react to an open clubface by swinging more left like Immelman does to get the ball to start on-line.

Here's another steep attack angle player in Ricky Barnes. Here’s Barnes’ radar metrics over the years:



Again, one of the lowest Launch Angles and Carry Efficiencies on Tour. His projected attack angle using my algorithm in 2016 was at -8.4 degrees.

What I see is the same symptoms….he flattens the shaft out in the downswing, but it’s basically on the same angle as his hands are traveling.



(Click the picture to enlarge)



And like Immelman, we see the similar issue of the clubface being open in the backswing.



I know other instructors have been teaching the dangers of an open clubface in the golf swing and have also been teaching how it forces steep attack angles with Tour level talent for the reasons I had mentioned. I think for the average reader that is not in the know, they can see that an open clubface in the backswing presents many problems which includes hitting the ball lower than having a closed club face because the attack angle can steepen.





3JACK

Monday, February 6, 2017

Thoughts on Short Game Technique

About a year ago I altered my short game mechanics that resembled more of what you see out of a player like Brett Rumford:



Short Game play has probably been the best part of my game over my playing career.  I practiced it a lot as a junior golfer and then heavily needed when my ballstriking went to hell in college.

My old technique was an open stance at address, little wristcock in the backswing and then a big slide forward in the downswing while I un-cocked my right wrist to get the shaft to stand vertical instead of having forward shaft lean.  Vastly different from Rumford's technique, but it still worked very well (obviously, not anywhere near as well as Rumford's technique).

Here's a great video shot with Joe Mayo, Brian Gay, Grant Waite and John Riegger explaining the technique that is similar to what Rumford uses.

https://www.periscope.tv/TrackmanMaestro/1rmxPrkVLlnGN?autoplay&t=0

There's some basic concepts to this technique.

1.  Having a shallower attack angle

2.  Having the club head hit the ground more with the sole/bounce than the lead edge.

3.  #1 and #2 will allow for a larger margin for error so if the golfer is off they can still hit a quality shot and they are not hitting a divot which means more friction when the ball hits the club which means a higher spin rate.


A while ago I watched the Be Better Golf vlog where golf instructor Tim Yelverton did a great job of explaining how attack angle and margin for error work hand-in-hand.



I thought the airplane analogy was brilliant.  Of course, you can land an airplane perfectly with a steep angle of descent, but you're decreasing your margin for error.  The same works with the short game.

So while my old technique was effective for me, it really boiled down to lots of practice, particularly when I was a young kid.   The only problems I found with my old technique were:

A)  Muddy, dead grass lies which are commonplace in the winter in The FLA.

B)  Relying more on hitting the ball with a higher trajectory since I was getting less spin.  Again, I find getting distance control down with a higher trajectory requires more practice.

It took me about 2 months to start to nail the mechanics of the Rumford style swing.  Where the lightbulb went on for me is what Grant Waite talks about in the Periscope video, you have to get that wristcock in the backswing and keep the radius narrow.

I found that without the early wristcock you are going to widen the radius in the backswing and are now more apt to float load on the downswing and thus steepen the attack angle and hit the ball more with the leading edge.  The float loading may not even be noticeable with the naked eye, but it's just enough to steepen the attack angle too much.

The other issue I found was using this technique on higher launch shots.  While I was becoming very good at low and mid-trajectory short game shots...I was struggling a bit with the flops and lob shots.  That's when I started to notice that the speed of the cocking of the wrists plays a factor.

On higher trajectory short game shots, I needed to increase the speed at which I cocked the wrists.  For me, I started to feel this on the short game range where it felt like I had to speed up the wrist action in the backswing to get the club head where it needs to be in the downswing.  But, when I looked at some videos on Tour, I started to notice much of the same...a quicker backswing than downswing on flop shots:






So, here's a final summation of my thoughts on the subject:

1.  More Tour players have gotten away from the higher trajectory short game shots in favor of a lower trajectory, higher spinning shot.  This makes distance control easier because the carry distance is easier to feel on a lower trajectory and the spin will stop the ball rather than hitting a high trajectory and using the angle of descent of the ball's flight to stop the ball.


2.  The modern technique is more about early wristcock and keeping the radius in the backswing narrow.  Then creating a shallow attack angle and having the club head hit the ground more with the sole/bounce of the club head than the leading edge.  This allows for a greater margin for error and higher spin rates.


3.  The more difficult the lie, a shallower attack angle helps more.


4.  The higher the trajectory of the shot, the faster the wrists need to hinge in the backswing.






3JACK

Friday, February 3, 2017

Flashback Friday: 1982 LA Open Coverage


A new piece I wanted to add to the blog is call Flashback Friday.  Here I look back at old school televised rounds, clinics, etc.  Today, here's a look at the 1982 LA Open which featured a duel between Johnny Miller, Tom Watson and Tom Weiskopf.  Some great ballstriking on display here:



While I don't think the old school players were infallible in their mechanics, I do think they were generally onto something.  People forget that the driving range was still not the most popular concept.  As the great Al Geiberger once told me, he had to pick up his own range balls when he was on Tour!

Combine that with the clubs they were using, it's hard to deny that some things they did mechanically were superior.

Another aspect that golfers often forget is the greens. As I have mentioned on various occasions in Pro Golf Synopsis, the modern greens are smoother putting surfaces, with less slope and are nearly twice the size of the old school courses.  We will see that up close next week at Pebble Beach.

This means in order to shoot low score, it may be even MORE dependent on ballstriking 'back in the day' because not as many putts were falling.  Players were less likely to hit GIR and less likely to convert their scrambling opportunities.

A few things I noticed about this was:

Johnny Millers left foot action - I've seen players move their left foot as they come into impact, but I've never seen an action quite like Miller's.

Pace of Play - these guys didn't take too much time out there and were ready to go.  Is it just me or do the truly great ballstrikers always seem to the be faster players and the great putters tend to be the slower players?

Lack of Worrying About Swing Mechanics - You don't see these guys have these elongated pre-shot routies where they are checking their positions.  Some of these guys didn't even take practice swings.  Unconscious competency at its finest.





3JACK

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

What to Look For - Waste Management Championship

A new series to the blog, briefly going over some of the things to look out for each week at each Tour event.  
THE COURSE

TPC Scottsdale is known for the famous stadium hole 16th hole.

 

 While the 16th gets the hype, its design is very bland. A lot of golf’s higher ups don’t like the atmosphere at the 16th. I can understand being a bit leery of the behavior of the fans as it’s almost like you are waiting for something disastrous to happen. However, this is a once a year tradition that takes place when golf is taking a backseat to the Super Bowl and in reality the fans generally handle the 16th really well. They are more or less ‘perfectly rowdy’ which can’t be said for the 17th at the old Buick Open which went overboard.

Most viewers will focus on the 16th at TPC Scottsdale and for good reason, but the 17th and the 18th hole are well designed holes with the 17th being a possible eagle to bogey scores and the 18th being a difficult finishing hole. So between the rowdy 16th, the do or die 17th and the difficult 18th, you’ve got a nice finishing stretch of holes. The 17th is one of the critical holes on the course.

The course was renovated and re-designed in 2014. It turned the course from a pure bomber’s course to more of an iron play course, although the long hitters can still get away with long and inaccurate drives here. They put the waste bunkers more into play off the tee to take away some of the reckless bombing. I’m all for renovating to take away reckless bombing, but personally I think the re-design is a bit tricked up and driving the ball effectively here can often come down to luck.

The greens grass is a mix of various grasses. The greens are also much flatter than the previous event at Torrey Pines. Torrey Pines usually has the second lowest make %’s from 3-5, 5-10 and 10-15 feet on Tour. Scottsdale usually runs near the average for Tour make %’s. However, there’s often a sizeable adjustment and players that played at Torrey Pines the previous week can struggle to make that adjustment to the slope and speed of the greens.

PROJECTED WINNING SCORE = -15


3JACK'S FAVORITES

Jordan Spieth +800
Hideki Matsuyama +1000
John Rahm +1800
Keegan Bradley +5000


3JACK'S DARKHORSES

Marc Leishman +7500
Sean O'Hair +10000
Grayson Murray +12500




3JACK

Thoughts on the PGA Merchandise Show & FlightScope Mevo


I did not attend this year's PGA Merchandise Show since I just started my new job and could not get the time off.  The overwhelming consensus was that the show was the worst it has been in a long time.  I had seen pictures of the demo day at Orange County National and was surprised to see so much space on the range.  As enormous as that range is, normally the range is jam packed with tents from different companies allowing people to test their product.  

What I have seen from the PGA Merchandise Show is it has become more boutique when it comes to the equipment and many of those boutique companies are charging outrageous prices.  In fact, the Seven Dreamers shaft, sells for $1,800 a piece. 


Yes, that's $1,800 a piece for even iron shafts.  So, get used to ponying up $12,600 just for a set of shafts for a 4-PW set.  Combine that with PXG 0311 heads and you're looking at about $15K just for a set of irons.

We have seen this phenomenon the past few years as Japanese companies like Honma, Epon and Yonex have made it over to the PGA Show and while they provide a quality product (I think Yonex is vastly underrated), their price points are quite high.  And many of these companies are not at demo day and it provides little reason for people to go to the show or if they are at the show, little reason to be excited.

Friends of the blog, MyGolfSpy had some good takes on the show:


Where I really agree with MGS is that the date of the show may need to be changed.  There's little incentive for a company that releases a new product in November to pay that much money in the 3rd week of January when half of the country has already seen and played with that product.  The PGA Merchandise Show in January only helps the small boutique companies possibly get noticed at first and helps the massive OEM's continue to establish brand dominance.

There are a few issues that I feel arise from this:

1.  Once the boutique company gets noticed, the next year they are likely to be in limbo unless they come out with a new product that runs in interest.  If they don't develop another product of interest, the brand is no longer that appealing and they are not getting their return on investment for the show.


2.  The major companies who often release their new products in October or November can afford to participate in the show if it helps sustain their brand dominance.  However, if a company like Titleist does not participate in the show, the people at the show will start to question what is going on with Titleist.  For the companies that are big in the industry like Mizuno, they are in a pickle of there being a question if they are really going to see a return on their investment.  

Everybody views Mizuno as a very strong manufacturer and designer of irons and wedges, but are not that hot on their woods, hybrids and putters (I'm not saying they don't make quality woods, but the perception is not that great).  

Thus, for a company like Mizuno where their latest products have been out for months and they are not likely to change the perception of their brand and to be at the show is expensive, the show is less appealing.

Where I do disagree with MyGolfSpy is moving the show to Vegas.  The Orange County Convention Center is spectacular and there is far more golf available in Orlando than in Vegas. You also have the Orange County National driving range which is the largest driving range in North America that can be used for demo day.  Plus, more PGA Tour players live near the Orlando area than near Vegas, so they are more likely to attend and participate in the show.

I am obviously biased because I live in the Orlando area, but the fact is that it is a golf show attended by golf people who will want to play golf, hold golfing clinics, attend demo day and meeting PGA Tour golfers.  In fact, many people involved in the golf industry from the cold weather states end up living in Florida during the winter months as well.

Orlando has all of those accommodations in spades compared to Las Vegas and Orlando has been running this show for decades.  The real crux of the problem as MGS pointed out is the time the show is help and the expenses the show carries.


***




One of the interesting products of the show is the FlightScope Mevo, a personal launch monitor that will retail for only $499.  It is set to be on sale come March 1st.  GolfWRX had a good article about the Mevo, here:

http://www.golfwrx.com/426162/flightscope-to-sell-mevo-a-500-launch-monitor/

The Mevo won't provide Attack Angle, path or club face.  But, the data it provides at that price could very well make it a tremendous value.

If you're worried about attack angle, you can probably reverse engineer your way into it thru the smash factor, launch angle and spin rates.  Let's say we are hitting a driver, we know that in all likelihood a downward attack angle will promote a lower smash factor, a lower launch and a higher spin rate.

And if you know the correct ball flight laws and spent any time on a Trackman or FlightScope Xi or Foresight, it's not overly difficult to understand what the face and path are doing by looking at your ball flight.

Will you be precise with your attack angle and face/path presumptions?

No.

But, it's good enough.

What I've found over the years of using Trackman is that focusing too much on the numbers is counterproductive to the learning process.  If you want to improve your attack angle from -3 to +2 degrees with the driver, you're better off determining with your instructor what needs to be done in order to accomplish that, work on that diligently and then once in a while get on the Trackman and check your progress.

That beats the 'traditional' method of hitting shot after shot and looking at Trackman each shot to see your progress.  I mistakenly believed that the 'traditional' method was the way to go, but from my experience as well as reading about subjects such as learning new movement patterns...it's actually very counterproductive and will take longer to achieve.

I think the club speed metric is important because it helps a golfer understand how hard they have to swing to achieve certain club speeds.  The launch and spin will help with fitting and the carry yardage will help proper yardage gapping.





3JACK