Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 Texas Valero Open

The Tour comes to San Antonio for the Texas Valero Open which dates back to 1922.


The Texas Valero Open is held at the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio which plays at 1,100 feet above sea level. Combine that with the gusty winds in the area, this can lead to some monster drives on some tailwind tee shots.

That wind also reeks havoc on the players. The 3rd hole routinely has one of the largest deviations in score for any par-3 on Tour. It’s a very shallow green where the players have to hit over water and if the tailwind is blowing hard enough, it can be impossible to get the ball to stop. It plays 213 yards from the back tees, but often times the tournament officials move the tees up to roughly 150-160 yards because the hole can play so impossible that it will greatly slow up the pace of play.



The course is a Pete Dye design which comes up this time of year with Harbour Town last week, TPC San Antonio this week, then TPC Louisiana the following week and TPC Sawgrass coming up 2 weeks after that.

I’ve played some Pete Dye links style course (yes, this isn’t a ‘true links’ because it doesn’t have the ocean nearby). Most notably Kiawah Island and The Dye Course at PGA Village. They are not exactly fun to play, particularly when the wind is howling. It can be nearly impossible to hit the ball to the fairway and I carry it about 275 yards on average. And then you can hit some very good drives on tough driving holes and end up with a goofy lie in the middle of the fairway.

Most players don’t like those features either and that makes for a weaker field.

This course is mostly about long and short approaches. Typically the top finishers drive it well here, too. But, there’s some luck involved due to the wind gusts.

PROJECTED WINNING SCORE: -12


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Luke List +2,200
Kevin Chappell +2,800
Adam Scott +3,000
Billy Horschel +3,000
Chesson Hadley +3,500


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Zach Johnson +4,000
Keegan Bradley +5,000
Kevin Streelman +5,000
Ryan Palmer +5,000
Andrew Landry +15,000







3JACK

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 RBC Heritage Classic

The Tour comes back to Hilton Head for the 49th RBC Heritage Classic.


Harbour Town Golf Links was built in 1967 designed by Pete Dye with the help of Jack Nicklaus. Many people don’t realize that Nicklaus’ architecture mentor was Pete Dye.

The course plays to 7,099 yards at a par-71. It features very narrow fairways with some hazards, but dense trees lining the fairways as well as some oddly shaped greens. Harbour Town ranks as one of Dye’s best designs and is almost universally beloved by golfers of any handicap.

Personally, I’m undecided by Dye. I’ve played many of his designs that I thought were exceptional (Harbour Town, Old Marsh and Kiawah), many of them that I thought stunk (Pound Ridge) and many of them I found to be middle of the road (Dye Preserve and TPC Louisiana).

Dye’s courses often have very basic holes that were made due to him making the big splash with a few feature holes. That doesn’t quite bother me as in all likelihood, not every hole is going to be a home run and he can create a nice ebb and flow to the weaker designs compared to the feature holes. I tend to have a bigger issue with the blind tee shots to narrow landing areas where there is hazards on both sides and long of the landing zone. I think it’s very important to be extremely judicial with blind tee shots in golf and Mr. Dye certainly doesn’t share that opinion.

But, he designed a great one here and the players love it as well. The only issue is that it’s so tight that the bombers tend to stay away from it and it also comes right after Masters week, so the field isn’t the strongest one.

Most of the shots lost or gained will come from mid-approach shots and watch out for greenside bunker play as well if it gets windy and players struggle to find the GIR.

Projected Winning Score: -12


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Paul Casey +1,200
Matt Kuchar +1,600
Webb Simpson +2,500
Cameron Smith +2,800
Tyrrell Hatton +3,300


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Emiliano Grillo +4,000
Jason Dufner +6,000
Si Woo Kim +8,000
Charl Schwartzel +9,000
Davis Love III +40,000




3JACK

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Berckman's Place at Augusta with Fried Eggs Golf

Before I get to the awesome video from Randy Smith from Fried Eggs Golf, I did have a couple of columns that I posted this week with regards to the Masters.

First up is my annual Players Who Can Win the Masters on GolfWRX:

The 24 Players That Can Win the Masters

Next up is my article for PGATour.com on Tiger's performance this year and how it stacks up against Tiger's performance from 2005-2009 as well as how well his top competitors performed in 2005-2009 vs. the top players in the world today.

Can Tiger Woods Win the Masters?

Here's the video from Fried Eggs Golf.  Just an incredible experience to hear about.









3JACK

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Width in the DOWNSWING by Chris Ryan

I liked this video by Chris Ryan and it has helped me quite a bit recently, including shooting a 65 (-7 under) at Victoria Hills this past Saturday.



When most people discuss 'width' in the golf swing, they inevitably discuss it with regards to the backswing.

Part of what has helped me recently is this video from Athletic Motion Golf:


It's not that I was consciously trying to make my downswing narrower.  But, I wasn't aware of what was happening (right arm was folding and causing the right shoulder to go into Internal Rotation instead of the preferred External Rotation).

Now I work on the left hip rotation, chest rotation while *feeling* like I'm straightening my right arm in transition...all before I get to P5.


By the time I get to P5...between the rotation of the lower body and chest and the straightening of my right arm, the right shoulder will go into external rotation with the left wrist going into flexion.  If I am able to do that by P5, I'm in good position to hit a nice shot.  If I'm late then bad things can happen.







3JACK

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

What to Look For: 2018 Houston Open

The Tour is at Houston this week for the 72nd Houston Open.



The Houston Open was sponsored by Shell since 1992, but ended its sponsorship last year. The Tour is currently seeking out a new sponsorship.

The event is held at the Golf Club of Houston, formerly known as the Redstone Golf Club. GC of Houston was built in 2003 and designed by Rees Jones and David Toms. It follows a Rees Jones type of design…very long (7,422 yards), pretty wide open and one drive-able par-4 (#12).

A couple of weeks ago I made this tweet on designers:



I did get some people putting Rees Jones as ‘the worst’ or ‘most overrated.’ Personally, I’m not a huge lover of Rees Jones designs, but I don’t think they are anywhere near the worst. They can be a little boring, but I would rather take a little boring than a bunch of gimmicky holes or the designer that designs a bunch of bad holes just so they can design 1 or 2 beautiful holes. Or the designer that creates a torture chamber or the designer has zero clue about how to create a nice ebb and flow to their design.

The general consensus I’ve received on Tour is that GC of Houston is fairly well received. It does tend to favor the long hitters because it’s so open and there’s virtually no rough on the course. But a mid-range power player can win here as well.

What I also like about GC of Houston is that it’s a great warmup for the Masters the following week as the courses have that similarities of being long, wide open and virtually no rough on the course. Also, the 18th is the final critical hole on the course and it provides for some excitement on Sunday.

PROJECTED WINNING SCORE: -16


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Justin Rose +1,000
Daniel Berger +2,500
Rafa Cabrera Bello +3,000
Byeong Hun An +4,000


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Charles Howell III +5,000
Thomas Pieters +5,000
Jamie Lovemark +6,000
JB Holmes +7,000
Rory Sabbatini +10,000
Corey Conners +12,500







3JACK

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Season to Date Top-15 Green Zone Players on Tour 3.18.18

Here's the top-15 Green Zone (75-125 yards) performers on Tour. Green Zone has the lowest correlation to success on Tour, mainly due to a lack of frequency of shots per round as well as the lower deviation in performance.  For example, by the end of the season the typical worst performer from the Green Zone is still hitting their shots to roughly 28 feet to the hole.  That is still good enough to find a green and likely 2-putt (88% odds).  And the best performer from the Green Zone will likely end up around 16-feet to the cup which has 78% chance of 2-putting.

Green Zone success is important for shorter hitters who cannot reach par-5's in two as well as long hitters who struggle with precision off the tee (punching out to this distance to hope and save par).








3JACK

Season-to-Date Top-15 Yellow Zone Tour Players 3.18.18

Here are the top-15 Yellow Zone (125-175 yards) performers.  Yellow Zone performance often correlates to Birdie % as this is the range where golfers are more likely get inside 17-feet which provides a statistically significant higher make percentage.

Essentially, good Yellow Zone performers start to gain an advantage as they will have more makeable birdie putts than lesser Yellow Zone performers.

Yellow Zone performance also ties into driving accuracy.  Players that can find the fairway on Yellow Zone shots can have a distinct advantage over those that find the rough.











3JACK

Season-to-Date Top-15 Red Zone Players 3.18.18

Here are the top-15 players from the Red Zone (175-225 yards) as of 3.18.17.  This could play a great influence at The Masters given how many shots, particularly critical ones, come from the Red Zone at Augusta National.  This is also likely to show up later on in the season for players that are not gaining a lot of FedEx Cup points.  History has shown that these players start to eventually pick up points...particularly in the summer months.


The easiest course to play from the Red Zone thus far has been Palm Springs (37.8 ft prox 2 cup average).  The most difficult thus far has been at Waialae (45.5 ft prox 2 cup average).






3JACK

Season-to-Date Top-15 in Tee Shot Aggressiveness 3.18.18

Here is the top-15 in Tee Shot Aggressiveness.  Tee Shot Aggressiveness is an algorithm used to determine how often the player is laying up off the tee versus hitting driver.


The least 'aggressive' player on Tour has been Henrik Stenson.  The 2nd least aggressive player on Tour has been...

Tiger Woods.








3JACK

Season-to-Date Top-15 Players in Adjusted Distance to Edge of Fairway 3.18.18

Below is the top-15 players in Adjusted Average Distance to the Edge of the Fairway.  This measurement is based on when a player MISSES the fairway and how close to the edge of the fairway they are.  This is an important metric due to the likelihood that the further the player is from the fairway the more difficult the lie in the rough tends to be.  Some courses like Houston this is not much of a factor.  Other courses such as Harbour Town this is not much of a factor since the course is so tight due to the trees and hazards that the Missed Fairway - Other % becomes a bigger factor in driving effectiveness.

This also can change depending on the size of the course's fairways.  Narrower fairways tend to yield larger Distance to the Edge of the Fairway than wider fairways.

For longer golfers, Distance to the Edge of the Fairway is more important since they are likely to miss more fairways due to smaller margins for error.  For shorter hitters, it's more important to actually find the fairway a higher percentage of the time.  They simply cannot afford to miss too many fairways given their lack of distance off the tee.









3JACK

Season-to-Date Top-15 Adjusted Hit Fairway % Players 3.18.18

Here's the top-15 in Adjusted Hit Fairway Percentage.  Torrey Pines had the lowest hit fairway percentage for a field (49.99%) and Sea Island has had the highest hit fairway percentage for a field thus far (71.31%)


Chez Reavie is having a tremendous year at finding the fairway.  He ranked 162nd in Adjusted Driving Distance and that is why he ranks 10th in Driving Effectiveness:






3JACK

Top-15 Players in Driving Effectiveness Season-To-Date 3.18.18

Here are the top-15 players in Driving Effectiveness, Season-to-Date thru 3/18:










3JACK

Top-15 Players in Adjusted Driving Distance - All Drives 3.18.18

Since we are getting close to The Masters, I figured I would give some metrics of the year-to-date performance on Tour.

First up, Adjusted Driving Distance on All Drives.

This metric takes the total distance off the tee on All Drives measured by the ShotLink laser.  This is different from the traditional driving distance measurement which uses 2 holes in each round to measure driving distance.  Thus a long hitter can lose distance if they are laying up more often and a short hitter can gain more distance if they are hitting driver when others are laying up off the tee.

The adjustment is based on how far the average player in the field was hitting the ball in the events the player has played in.  For example, the average distance on all tee shots at Pebble Beach was only 271.9 yards while at WGC-Mexico it was at 304.2 yards.

Here's the Top-15 players as of March 18th:


I will provide more top-15 metrics year-to-date on the blog throughout today.






3JACK

Sunday, March 18, 2018

TrueSpec Golf Iron Fitting Review


A month ago I got a woods fitting from TrueSpec Golf (http://3jack.blogspot.com/2018/02/true-spec-golf-woods-fitting-and-review.html).  The fitting recommended me a Callaway Rogue Sub Zero driver and 13* 3-wood.  It reduced my spin rate from 2,800 rpm to 2,000 rpm and improved my carry distance by roughly 10 yards.

I was interested in getting an irons fitting as I was looking to move on from current gamers, the Srixon Z945's:


For those not familiar with TrueSpec Golf, it is a 'brand agnostic' fitting where they carry heads, shafts, grips, etc. from all sorts of OEM's.  They are not a single licensed dealer of a OEM like Ping where getting a fitting from a Ping dealer would consist of finding the best Ping products.  Instead, the idea is to fit the golfer for the best possible product.  If it happens to be a Ping G400 driver with a Mitsubishi shaft and a Titleist 3-wood with a Fujikura shaft...so be it.

What I prefer about TrueSpec Golf is that it's an outdoor fitting with a fantastic facility.  And in this case, they are at Lake Nona, arguably the premier golf course in Orlando.


***

I was looking for new irons because I was looking to lower the spin rate a little bit and hopefully gain some distance.  Typically, the Center of Gravity on blades is higher up on the face which makes the ball launch lower and spin more.  High club speed players tend to prefer the blade because of the lower launch angles.  For me, I launch the ball about 4-5 degrees higher than the Tour average with the irons.  Therefore, I estimate I need to have a spin rate of 1,000 to 1,300 rpm less than the Tour average.  If I don't, I feel that it makes for some real problems hitting approach shots into the wind.

The other thing I was interested in was graphite shafts.  I have had shoulder and elbow issues the past 2 years and I think a slightly lighter and better vibration dampening shaft could take the toll off my shoulder and elbow.  Furthermore, there have been great advancements in graphite iron shafts from even 10 years ago.  Graphite iron shafts are now heavier, more stable and can be changed to provide a variety of launch conditions depending on the player's needs.

A week ago, I got my FlightScope Mevo and here were my #'s with each of my irons:


After some initial warm-up, we decided that I would hit my own 6-iron to draw a baseline performance.

Unlike the woods fitting, the iron fitting was on a mat.  They have you hit inside their bay to the outdoors.  I was hitting outdoors on a mat with my Mevo as well.

Here were my 6-iron #'s on Trackman with my gamer Srixon Z945:

Club Speed: 91.2 mph
Ball Speed: 122.3 mph
Smash Factor: 1.34
Launch Angle: 19.2 degrees
Spin Rate: 4,850 rpm
Max Height: 106 ft
Carry Distance: 182.1 yards

Thus, my FlightScope Mevo numbers were very close to what Trackman was reading.


***

We tried the following heads:

TaylorMade P790
Srixon Z565
PXG 0311T
Callaway Rogue Pro


The shafts we tried were:

Accra Tour 100i
Mitsubishi OT 105
UST Mamiya Recoil 125 Prototype
UST Mamiya Recoil (95 grams)

Right away we noticed the difference with the P790 and the Accra shaft.


There is a lot of talk with golfers about lofts being 'jacked' up and it providing false distance gains because the golfer is deemed to be hitting...for example...a 6-iron instead of the 7-iron that is stamped on the club head. 

But, what I learned from various club engineers is that is not always the case.  Because the Center of Gravity can be put in a location that can cause for a similar launch angle and landing angle as a higher lofted blade iron.  One of the big differences that the loft can make is in helping reduce the spin rate.  And changing the spin rate can have a greater affect on distance than the launch angle.  I checked with FlightScope's Shot Optimizer and found this to be true according to their calculations:

Click Pictures to ENLARGE



So, all I did was change the Spin Rate by 1,500 rpm and the ball carried 6 yards further.

Obviously, irons are not about hitting them long.  It's about directional and distance control.  But, if the shaft length, launch angle, spin rate and landing angle are similar...it's not really a 'false distance gain.' 

After the P790 and Accra combo we tried the Mitsubishi shaft that produced similar ball speeds (130-ish), but flew too high.  We were trying to keep the landing angle between 48-50 degrees.  More than 50 degrees would start to get into 'ballooning' range into a wind.  Less than 48 degrees and with the lower spin rate I may have trouble getting shots to hold the green.

I cannot remember which Recoil shaft was which, but one produced a landing angle that was a smidge too high and the other produced a landing angle that was a smidge too low. 

We then moved to the Srixon Z565 and that produced 128.5 mph ball speed and with the Accra shaft flew a little too high.

This was the first time hitting a PXG iron.  The 0311T was getting about 129 mph ball speed, but was flying too high as the Spin Rate got up to 5,300 rpm.  Then I went to the Callaway Rogue Pro and that produced the most similar numbers to the P790, but too many shots would fly too high.

In the end, I was recommended on the following setup:

TaylorMade P790, standard lie and loft
Accra Tour 100i shaft (x-stiff) +1/2"

I hit a few more shots with the P790 and the Accra shaft to confirm.  There has been a couple of swing mechanics I was working on and my final shot of the day I focused on them and I got up to 133.4 mph ball speed with the 6-iron.

TrueSpec Golf also measured the loft on my P-Wedge and my 52* wedge as I had yardage gapping issues with those clubs.  They have a digital lie/loft machine and the P-Wedge came out to 46.25* loft.  Then Miura K-Grind loft was right at 52 degrees. 

The 9-iron was at 41 degrees, so perhaps some of the distance gapping issue with the P-Wedge is that the loft needs to be at 45 degrees.  If not, then it may be time to look at the possibility that MOI matching may add too much weight to the head on the wedges.

Overall, the fitting only took 45 minutes.  I was swinging quite well and only missed a handful of shots.  It also helped that the fitter was able to guestimate the right combo for me on his first try.

Here's the pricing from TrueSpec:


The P790 pricing is fair as that is what you will find in retail shops and most online retailers. The Accra shafts go for anywhere from $205-$525 for a set of 8 shafts.

Assuming that the distance gains will remain the same when I get the irons here is the projected change in how I would play a 450 yard par-4 prior to coming to TrueSpec.

BEFORE

Drive - 264 yards carry, 18 yards of roll...282 yards total

Approach Shot 168 yards to the hole (7-iron)

7-iron average carry of 170 yards, 50* landing angle, 6,428 rpm spin


AFTER

Driver - 274 yards carry, 23 yards of roll = 297 yards total

Approach Shot 153 yards to hole (P-Wedge)

P-Wedge average carry of 150 yards, 49* landing angle, 8,000 rpm spin





3JACK

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Yardage Gapping Test with FlightScope Mevo


This past Sunday I decided to get on the FlightScope Mevo and check my numbers for each of my irons in my bag. I am going to get fitted for irons at TrueSpec Golf this weekend and I wanted to see what my current performance looked like.

I hit 37 shots with clubs ranging from my 4-iron thru my SW (52 degree SW).  You can check out the data, here:

Richie3Jack FlightScope Mevo Shot Data 3.11.18

Yesterday, I discussed this on my Twitter feed.


The issue with many fittings is that it is easy to get tired doing them. So 5-6 shots per club will not overdo it. For those not as into math as I am, the median helps offset the anomalies in the data compared to using the mean. Here are my median #'s on the Mevo:


I hit these balls off a mat, so the ball is likely to launch a little higher and spin less because of the tendency for the mat to compress as you're striking the ball causing strikes higher up on the club face.

Here again are the PGA Tour averages on Trackman:

Click picture to ENLARGE:

Of course, I'm using a Mevo instead of a Trackman. I'm also not sure how Trackman determines the PGA Tour averages with the irons. My guess is they are doing them on Par-3's. Anyway, here is the difference between my median #'s and the Trackman PGA Tour Averages:


And here is the standard deviation in each of the metrics with each club:


Here are some of my opinions on the numbers:

1. The immediate issues are the distance gaps between the 9-iron and PW (23.9 yards) and then the SW (52*) to the PW (20.3 yards).  I want those closer to a 1-club difference (10-12 yards).

2.  I will be interested in seeing what the lofts are on my PW (Srixon Z945) and my 52-degree wedge (Miura K-Grind).  If it's not a loft issue, it may be specific swing mechanics issues and/or perhaps my MOI matching of clubs puts too much weight in the head with the PW and the SW.

3.  The 5-iron is a bit of an issue as well.  The standard deviation in carry yards (6.3 yards) along with the deviation in the Spin Rate (1,018 rpm) furthers the belief I have had that the lie angle and/or loft may be off.  I think it's a lie angle issue given how I was able to hit one shot 192.3 yards and another 199.4 yards with my 5-iron.  I'm guessing the club is too upright and that effectively raises the loft thru impact if I'm a smidge off with my swing.

4.  The S-Wedge reading may be false due to the bad reading of 67.5 mph club speed on shot # 24.  I think with the full swing the ball launches perhaps too high with the S-Wedge to get accurate readings.

5 .  My club speed and ball speeds were not too far off from the Tour averages.  I am curious to see how much the launch angle increases versus the spin rate decreasing when hitting off a mat.  My contention is that my launch angle tends to be high and I need to keep the spin rate down to not lose to o much distance.

6.  The club speed numbers do get bunched together.  This may be part of the MOI matching with the irons, particularly using 3/8" shaft increments on most of the irons instead of 1/2" increments.  However, I took the maximum club and ball speed numbers and we see more of a reasonable gapping between club speed numbers:


In the end, a lot of it comes down to improving swing mechanics and consistency, but the issues with the PW and SW yardages was an eye opener as well as the confirmation that there may be some spec issues with my 5-iron.







3JACK

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill

The Tour comes back to one of my favorite Tour events, The Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill:



Why do I like Bay Hill so much?

Obviously, it being Arnie's tournament is a big reason.

But, it's also the most spectator friendly event on Tour.  The parking is the best, it's one of the easiest courses on Tour to walk as a spectator.  There are bleachers and upper deck seating right on the driving range.  And during the event it's quite a party atmosphere with the surrounding houses celebrating the event with viewing parties throughout the course.

It's also a very good design.  I've always felt that Arnold Palmer is the most underrated course designer.  I think because he doesn't quite have the history and mystique of Tillinghast, Ross or MacKenzie and doesn't have the vast array of Tour designs like Dye, Fazio and Jones that Mr. Palmer usually gets overlooked.  But, he was one of the more clever designers out there that was good at keeping his designs fair.  Hit bad shots and you're punished.  Hit good shots and you're rewarded.  Some holes are not what they seem and he really wanted you to keep the ball below the cup.

A few of my favorite holes at Bay Hill are the par-5 4th hole.


It goes uphill, but is still reachable in two on occasion.  It's easy to miss right which has a better angle into the hole, but there is water on the right that comes into play.  Left provides a worse angle, but the bunkers can also come to play.  The green is elevated and makes approach shots for those that lay-up more difficult.  But a good drive and 2nd shot can really swing the door wide open for competitors.

Then there's the par-4 8th hole:



The fairway is settled down a bit and the green is more elevated.  You will see a lot of players lay-up off the tee here, but the closer they can get to that fairway bunker on the left without going in, the better off they generally are.  It may only put the golfer 30 yards closer, but the approach shot is more difficult than your average 180 yard approach shot and that is what many golfers don't account for.

Then there's the par-4 13th hole.


This is a hole where almost the entire field will lay up.  The reasoning is that if they lay-up they will only have about 135-155 yards into the hole and that is 'no big deal.'  But what is not accounted for is that this is a more difficult 145-ish yard approach shot than your normal approach shot from 145 yards.  That and a lay-up shot puts the fairway bunkers into play.  Obviously, some players are too long to hit driver with the water coming into play.  But for the others...the players that hit driver tend to play #13 far better than the rest of the field.

And then there's the par-3 17th:


The video doesn't do the hole justice of how daunting and beautiful the hole is.  The bunker off the water is a unique and gorgeous touch as well.  This is a very difficult approach shot.  But, Mr. Palmer countered it perfectly by making it a very flat green that has a very high make percentage for putts.   In other words, it's difficult but fair.  And it's breathtaking and exciting due to the possiblity of ending up in the water off the tee and the putts that can fall either leading to a key birdie or double bogey down the stretch.

And the 18th hole is the last 'Critical Hole' on the course and between 16, 17 and 18 you have a terrific stretch of finishing holes. 

If there's a problem with the event it's that the tickets are not cheap.  A practice round ticket costs $55.  You can go to a practice round for The PLAYERS Championship for $15.  And the field is usually only 'okay.'  Hopefully with The PLAYERS Championship moving to March next year...that will entice more of the world's top talent to add Bay Hill to their schedule.

Most of the strokes will be lost and gained on mid-to-long approach shots:

PROJECTED WINNING SCORE: -13


3JACK'S FAVORITES

Tiger Woods +550
Justin Rose +1,600
Marc Leishman +3,500
Patrick Reed +3,500


3JACK'S DARK HORSE PICKS

Cameron Smith +5,500
Jason Kokrak +7,500
Sam Burns +8,000
Kevin Na +10,000
Russell Knox +12,500
JB Holmes +15,000






3JACK

Friday, March 9, 2018

Rant: Soft Tip Golf Shafts Need To Stop Ruining Our Industry

Here's a great video from golf instructor, Michael Manavian (https://greenwichdxsportslabs.com) on the issue with OEM's continuing to create soft tip golf shafts:



As I have preached since the first edition of Pro Golf Synopsis, driver fitting is a must for any golfer that is serious about improving their handicap regardless of their level of play.  My research has found that as the handicap increases, the more important driving becomes with regards to improving your handicap by the greatest margin and permanently improving your scores. 

The latest research showed that the average Tour player's driver was 44-3/4" long compared to the OEM drivers which are almost always at least 45" long and more closer to 46" long.  But the same goes for the tip stiffness of the golf shaft.  And it's impossible to make substantial, long term improvements when you have a shaft that is too long and too tip soft for your swing.

For golfers where money is a little tighter they may not need that iron fitting, particularly if they are using steel shafts.  But because driving is so important to amateurs, they really need to be fitted for a driver and in the end, a properly fitted driver will save them money and help them improve their mechanics much more quickly.







3JACK

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 Valspar Championship

The Tour hits Tampa for the Valspar Championship:


The tournament was founded in 2000 as the Tampa Bay Championship. They have played the tournament at the Copperhead Course at the Innisbrook resort. The course was designed by Larry Packard back in 1974.

The course is very well received by the players although it can get a little soft to the point mud can get on the golf ball. The big thing to watch for is the par-5’s as no course emphasizes the par-5’s on Tour like Innisbrook. For the par-4’s, it’s mostly about mid length approach shots.

PROJECTED WINNING SCORE: -10


3JACK FAVORITES

Jordan Spieth +850
Paul Casey +2,500
Ben An +4,000
Gary Woodland +4,500


3JACK DARK HORSE PICKS

Kevin Streelman +6,000
Scott Stallings +6,600
Martin Laird +7,500
Bryson Dechambeau +9,000
Chesson Hadley +9,000
Rory Sabbatini +17,500





3JACK

Athletic Motion Golf Videos - Pieces to the Transition

Here's a couple of very good videos from Athletic Motion Golf:





What I like about the videos is that they address key components of the transition phase which I believe is the most important part of the golf swing.  I feel the transition really dictates the downswing mechanics as a whole and in particular what your impact conditions are going to look like.

I believe that a reason why golf is so difficult is because of the transition motion is difficult to master and that is due to the sudden change of direction and speed that is occurring at.  If I put in enough range practice, I could 'master' any backswing change I wanted to make.  The speed of the backswing is slower and speed plays a large role in how quickly you can learn new movement patterns.  Not only is the downswing faster, but it mostly starts with the transition move and that area has speed and a change of direction and that's why golfers struggle and good golfers can struggle to make changes to their downswing.

In the first video, I like how they address 'weight shift.'  In particular WHEN it needs to happen (prior to P5).  Here's a video of Victor Rodriquez on Swing Catalyst to help illustrate that point:



Victor uses what is called a 'fish hook' CoP trace.  This is quite common for the super long golfers like Victor where their Center of Pressure trace goes towards their lead foot in transition and then as they continue to rotate the body into impact, the CoP traces back towards the middle of his stance.

The second video destroys the idea of 'wide to narrow to wide.'  This is something I never quite understood as when I worked with M.O.R.A.D. one of the things that was preached was to straighten the right arm out in the downswing and not pull the hands into the body.  You could clearly see the best ballstrikers doing that, but you couldn't understand why their hand path got narrower.

The only thing about the 2nd video that needs to be re-emphasized is that there is a blended motion the shoulders make in the downswing.  One is that they will tilt.  This comes from the arms pulling down.  If you're at P4, the rear shoulder will be higher than the lead shoulder.  As the arms pull down, the shoulders will tilt to the point where the rear shoulder is lower than the lead shoulder.


The other motion that good ballstrikers make with the shoulders is they rotate them (thru the rotation of their upper torso).  See how Dustin Johnson's shoulders are open at impact, below.


The reason why many teachers like George Gankas are now preaching to 'leave your hands up' and 'don't pull down' is because the vast majority of golfers always get the shoulder tilting motion and do not get enough of the shoulder/chest rotation motion.  There is little in the way of blending the shoulder tilt and the shoulder rotation and it's mostly all tilt and little rotation. 

So these instructors work on exaggerating the rotation and trying to FEEL like the golfer is not pulling down the arms in order to not tilt the shoulders too quickly. 

I tend to look at it like a race.  My arms are going to pull down and tilt the shoulders eventually.  My goal is to FEEL like my shoulder/chest rotation is beating my shoulder tilt.  In reality, when I'm swinging well it's almost like a synchronized blend of both motions. 





3JACK

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Swing Journal 3.4.18

Here's my latest swing videos:






These weren't very good swings for the following reasons:

1.  They were recorded when the wind was blowing about 25 mph and it was difficult to feel the swing.

2.  I've had issues with shoulder and neck pain the past 2 weeks.

3.  There was some new things I was working on that are different from these swings.  But for the purpose of this journal post, I wanted to go back to how I was swinging before I started to experiment with some new mechanics and I was a little rusty.  I hope to go into some of the new things I was working on later this week on the blog.

So, let's look at the big changes in these videos.  The biggie being how upright I have the shaft in the backswing with a more 'across the line' look at the top of the swing:


Here's an old swing from December:


It's not that one is 'right' and one is 'wrong' or one is 'better' or 'worse' than the other.  In fact, the bottom (December) picture looks prettier.  But, what I am using is the Stretch Shortening Cycle.  The SSC is defined as:

An active stretch (eccentric contraction) of a muscle followed by an immediate shortening (concentric contraction) of that same muscle.

A simpler way to think of it is when you 'torque' a muscle one way in the backswing, it will 'un-torque' in the opposite direction.

So, if we want External Rotation of the right shoulder in the downswing a good method of doing it is to internally rotate the right shoulder on the backswing.

Fred Couples is a good example of this:



And so is Ryan Moore:


Now, in the December swing I had the right shoulder internally rotated in the backswing:



As George Gankas has explained, you can have this 'look' and have the right shoulder internally rotated as there is some rotation/roll of the forearms that go with it.  The reason why I changed is that when that picture was taken I was having issues getting the forearm rotation/roll right and for me...it was a maintenance issue. 

With this type of move:


There's less maintenance for me.  Mainly because if I over-do it I can still recover. With the December swing (green shirt), it's too much about getting the forearm rotation just right. 

The only issue with the more across the line move is that you really cannot have a short backswing with it because you need to have time to allow the Stretch Shortening Cycle to go into action.  As you can see, neither Moore nor Couples have short golf swings.



So while it doesn't look pretty, it works better for me because I don't have the time or talent to work on it.  And a lengthy backswing isn't an issue for me.

The ballstriking has been pretty good.  With this swing, my Trackman numbers were the following at a True Spec Golf fitting:


One of the positives is that depending on the missed shot, I can better gauge what caused the issue:

Struck Well but Offline = Left arm jutted out too quickly in transition and chest did not rotate fast enough

Struck Poorly and Offline =  Left arm pulled down too much, too soon in the downswing.

Toe Hook = Left hip didn't clear soon enough and right femur kicked in on transition (causing right pelvic tilt and the chest can't rotate and I get too steep)

Fat = Shoulders tilted down too quickly and chest did not rotate

As a result, the ball flight is better as it is usually not so high.  And this shows up in the release as I don't have a 'flip' release:


But there's a good amount of a 'roll release' and thus consistency is not quite there.

The stuff I have been experimenting with success is how the quads and femurs move in transition.  I really believe that if I don't pull down the arms too soon and rotate the chest, I'm likely to hit a pretty good shot.  The issue for me is the lower body movements that prevent the chest from rotating or stall the torso rotation and then the arms eventually pull down rapidly to get the club head on the ball.

I will go into that in a post later on this week.





3JACK

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

What to Look For: 2018 WGC - Mexico



The first World Golf Championship of the year takes place with the Tour making a stop at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Naucalpan, Mexico. This is the second year in a row they have played the event at Mexico as it was previously a stop at Doral.

Thus far the course has gotten a lot of praise, particularly over Doral where players did not care too much for the Gil Hanse renovations. Chapultepec was designed by former US Open winner, Willie Smith. Smith moved to Mexico in 1904 to be a golf pro and was later injured in the Mexican Revolution as he refused to leave his post (https://www.geoffshackelford.com/homepage/2017/2/27/welcome-wgc-mexico-citys-club-de-chapultepec.html)

Smith passed away in 1914 as the course design was not completed. His brother, Alex, finished the design in 1921.

There’s a great story about how the pros are rushing to their launch monitors due the extreme altitudes at Chapultepec that can be found here:

Pros Running to Launch Monitors for WGC Mexico

A lot of this reminds me of Castle Pines which was one of the best courses on Tour with its old school design and high elevations.

Anyway, last year’s data shows that the course was very much a long approach and quality driving course, so that is the golfers I’m most interested in.


3JACK FAVORITES

Dustin +650
Thomas +800
Rahm +1,100
Fleetwood +1,600


3JACK DARK HORSE PICKS

Pieters +3,300
Henley +10,000





3JACK


Friday, February 23, 2018

3Jack's WITB 2/23/18

Here’s my current WITB and my examination of it as well as future things to come:

DRIVER – Callaway Sub Zero Rogue, 9* loft, 45-1/4” Project X HZRDUS 76 shaft (X-Stiff), MOI 2795


This was the driver I was fitted for at True Spec Golf except for the shaft which was an Aldila Rogue 65 Elite Blue X-stiff shaft. My purpose of the True Spec fitting was to find a lower spinning driver head that I could bring to Fujikura when I get fitted on their ENSO machine in April. I purchased the driver at Edwin Watts as they had an X-Stiff shaft options, but it was only between the Project X HZRDUS and the Project X EvenFlow.

The EvenFlow is too boardy for me, so I took the HZRDUS which isn’t the greatest of fits, but it will suffice for now. The HZRDUS originally came in at 2,865 MOI at 45-3/4” long (too long for me). I cut it down ½” and it got the MOI to 2,795. I prefer 2,825 with my drivers, but this is close enough for now.


3 Wood – Callaway Sub Zero Rogue 3+, 13.5* loft, 43-3/4” Project X HZRDUS 76 shaft (X-Stiff), MOI 2725



This was what I was fitted for at True Spec, except for a Veylix Rome 788LR shaft. I can handle the length of the shaft, but it is very light and I don’t quite feel comfortable hitting shots with it that have a higher degree of difficulty. It also launches higher and spins more than the Veylix shaft. But when I catch it pretty good, it performs much better than the old Cobra F7+. Again, I’m awaiting on the fitting with Fujikura to find the right shaft for me.


2-Hybrid – Titleist 816 H1, 17* loft, 41” Fujikura Motore Speeder HB 8.8 Tour Spec shaft (stiff), 2775 MOI

3-Hybrid – Titleist 816 H2, 19* loft, 40-3/4” Fujikura Motore Speeder HB 8.8 Tour Spec shaft (stiff), 2775 MOI



As I’ve said often times, I believe that the club you should play best in your bag should be the hybrid. It is the club that is often used to hit the ball the furthest from the worst of lies and you need to be able to hit a variety of shots with the hybrids. I like the performance of the Titleist hybrids. They may spin and launch a little too high to get that extra distance, but I’m not looking for extra distance with the hybrids…particularly when I am trying to get the ball to hold the green.


4-iron thru Pitching Wedge – Srixon Z945, True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 shafts. Variable shaft increments, standard loft and lie, 2,725 MOI





I will probably be looking for a new set in the Summer or Fall. I have come to believe that while I prefer the turf interaction with blades, the high spin rates is a problem for my swing. So, I want to look at a CB head with lower spin rates. Forgiveness in an iron head is not very important for me since I’ve been playing blades since was a junior golfer and you’re really trying to hit the sweetspot anyway.

I will probably see what graphite shaft options are out there to help with elbow, shoulder and arm pain that tends to flare up. I’m interested in the TaylorMade 790, the Titleist T-MB’s and even PXG although I will have a difficult time justifying their price point. But lately I have come to believe that when it comes to fitting you’re probably better off fitting to find the right club head for your swing, first. Then seeking out the shaft to go along with it. I used to be more of the other way. The True Spec fitting just re-confirmed my thinking.


SW – Miura K-Grind, 52*loft, 8* bounce, 36-1/8” Nippon Modus Tour 125 Wedge shaft, 2725 MOI



Some may remember that I had a 56* K-Grind a few years ago and I really loved it. However, I decided to go to a wedge setup of PW, 52* and 60*. At the time, Miura did not have a 52* K-Grind. When they created the K-Grind in the 52* I was skeptical of the low bounce as I prefer the 12* bounce in the 52* wedge.

However, I tried the K-Grind 52* at the PGA Merchandise Show and loved it. The biggest difference is that it performs entirely better out of the sand than my Vokey SM6 or SM5. I think I finally found that 52* that meets all of my needs.


LW – Edel Digger Grind, 60* loft, 22* bounce, 35-5/8” Nippon Modus Tour 125 Wedge shaft, 2725 MOI



Still the best LW I have ever hit. The ability to hit so many different shots from difficult lies and it’s fabulous out of bunkers. I don’t plan on ever removing this from my bag. I typically find a replacement after one year is good. However, in the last year I have not played as much golf, so I may not seek a replacement head until 2019.


PUTTER – Bettinardi Queen B #9, 34” long, 71* lie angle and 3* loft, ½ shaft offset.





This is a putter I am using for now as I get my putting mechanics sorted out before I start to get fitted for a putter from Bruce Rearick (https://bargolfinstruction.blogspot.com/). I have taken a liking to the ½ shaft offset designs. This is not a face balanced putter, but it only has a smidge of toe hang. It’s also buttery smooth. Even softer than most Bettinardi.


BALL – TaylorMade TP5x or Bridgestone B X

I have found these golf balls to be a bit more preferable than the Pro V1x although I would like to test them more using the FlightScope Mevo. At the True Spec fitting we were using the TaylorMade TP5x. The Bridgestone is softer and performs nicely. When the courses die down come summer, I will get more time on the course to test them out with the Mevo.


Future Plans

1. Shaft fitting on driver and 3-wood with Fujikura in April

2. Shaft and Iron Fitting come Summer or Fall

3. Putter fitting with Bruce Rearick come May

4. Ball analysis come summer





3JACK

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 Honda Classic


The Tour makes the Florida swing starting with the Honda Classic at PGA National. The tournament was founded 46 years ago and is a staple in south Florida golf. Now with Doral out of the Tour lineup the crowds will be bigger as from Naples to Miami to Palm Beach it is the closest event residents can go to.

I think another reason for the big crowds is that the practice rounds are practically dead. Most of the field will either be coming in from LA after Riviera or going to their home course nearby to practice on Monday and Tuesday. Then they are obligated to play in the Wednesday pro-am if they are scheduled to do so.

PGA National has a pretty good reputation on Tour. It’s always in fantastic condition and none of the holes are gimmicky. You won’t catch Tour players that live in the area playing it because it’s open to the public (if they stay at the resort) and it’s one of the most difficult courses on Tour.

While the Bear Trap gets a lot of attention, it’s so difficult that the deviation in score is small. The last critical hole on the course will be the par-3 15th hole. That’s an interesting hole because it’s a high make percentage putting surface and there’s a high scramble conversion percentage out of the back bunker. But, it’s so easy to miss the green and end up in the drink that it can make for a double or triple bogey quickly.

The course really revolves around long approach shots, but the winners really take advantage of the par-5’s. This is typical of most par-70 golf courses where the winner can gain key shots on the par-5’s.

Projected Winning Score: -9


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Rickie Fowler +800
Justin Thomas +1,000
Tommy Fleetwood +2,600
Gary Woodland +2,800
Daniel Berger +4,000


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Thomas Pieters +6,600
Byeong Hun An +7,500
Chris Kirk +8,000
JB Holmes +10,000
Sung Kang +12,500




3JACK

Monday, February 19, 2018

True Spec Golf Woods Fitting and Review

On Saturday I got my woods fitting at True Spec Golf (www.truespecgolf.com) at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club True Spec golf is another high end custom fitting company with all of the latest technology in helping custom fit clubs along with an abundance of heads and shafts to choose from. I was interested in checking them out because they are an outdoor fitting studio (and at Lake Nona) and I was looking into possibly getting fitted for irons there in the future as well as their unique putter fitting studio. As I’ve mentioned, being at Lake Nona has its perks. Lake Nona is my favorite course in all of Central Florida and you know you’re not at your local muni when there is a helicopter pad right next to the clubhouse.


The main goal for me was to find a lower spinning driver and 3-wood head. I will certainly take their suggestions for shafts, but I am set to be fitted at Fujikura HQ on their ENSO machine in April.

My current gamer was a Callaway Epic (non-Sub Zero), 9* loft with a Fujikura Atmos 7x Blue shaft. When I’m swinging poorly, my attack angle gets too far upward (+6 degrees) and the the launch angle starts getting over 16 degrees while I start hitting shots thin and generate a spin rate of 3,200+.

When I’m swinging well, I can lower those launch metrics…get the launch angle closer to 13 degrees with 2,800-ish spin rate. So the goal was to find a head and shaft combination that I could get closer to 2,000 to 2,500 rpm’s while sustaining a launch of no more than 14 degrees.


***

The True Spec studio is located at the back of the range of Lake Nona. The staff at Lake Nona are eager to help as I had to be shown where the studio was. The range was pristine as always. The grass was very tight, yet plush. And they not only mow the grass at the range, but they have an air-blower that makes sure the grass clippings are blown to the side.


We started off with the driver. I got some warm up in as the fitter went to get a bunch of heads and shafts. One thing I warn to golfers going to a high end fitting place is to conserve their energy. You’re going to make a LOT of swings in a small period of time and it’s easy to tire yourself out. I was hitting the ball well in the warmup and after 7 swings I stopped to conserve myself.

Of course, as I told the fitter that I have a problem with generating too much spin and launch AND after I struck the driver well in my warmup…my swing goes to hell on Trackman and the Trackman numbers look like this:



But again, I was swinging the club poorly. A bad habit I have is that my right femur/right hip goes into internal rotation too soon in the downswing and at this time when I do that it is Smother-Hook City. I didn’t do that ONCE in the warm-up. Fortunately, I regained my swing and started to hit more typical shots with radar metrics that looked like this:


In the end, I don’t think my current game was a bad fit for me. The Epic head (not the Sub-Zero) is more of a higher spinning head so the head could have used an adjustment.

The selection of heads we went to were the:

Callaway Rogue 
Ping G400 LST (Low Spin Technology) 
TaylorMade M3

We tried a variety of different shafts. The Ping G400 LST I just didn’t hit it well. It launches too high and I would lose shots to the right with it. I was skeptical about the M3 at first because I know it’s a higher spinning head than the M1. I hit it well, just it launches high. I could keep the spin rate under 2,500 rpm and I really like how forgiving the club was. I think TaylorMade is really onto something with the Twist Face technology.

But, in the end, the Callaway Rogue with an Aldila Rogue Elite Blue 65 (X-Stiff) shaft was the best fit. Here were the numbers I had with this fit:



In the end, the comparison of when I started to swing well with my gamer versus the fitted Rogue looked like this:



***

The 3-wood we saw problems with right away. I was using a Cobra King F7+ with a Fujikura Atmos 7x Blue shaft. I had suspicions that I could hit my 2-hybrid (Titleist H1) as far as my 3-wood at times and that is only 41” long compared to my 43-1/4” 3-wood. And my suspicions appeared to be correct as here were my numbers with my gamer:



We tried the following heads:

TaylorMade M4 
Cobra F8 3+ 
Callaway Rogue 3+ 
Ping G400 3+

We tried a variety of shafts, but the two shafts that worked best for me were an Accra shaft and a Veylix shaft. The Veylix shaft ended up winning out. We found similar results in the Ping G400 and the TM M4 that we did with the drivers. The Ping missed high and right. The TaylorMade performed pretty well, but launched too high. It then came down to the Cobra and the Callaway Rogue and they have very similar launch numbers, but for whatever reason the Cobra carried about 5 yards shorter on average.

Here were my numbers with the Callaway Rogue:



And here’s a comparison between my gamer and the fitted Rogue:



The final fit was for the following:

Driver: Callaway Sub Zero Rogue, 9* loft w/45” Aldila Rogue Elite Blue 65 (X-Stiff)

3-Wood: Callaway Sub Zero Rogue 3+, 13.5* loft w/43.75” Veylix Rome 788LR Wildeye shaft

I think in the end I was not too far off with my driver, just the head fit was more problematic as the Epic is a higher spinning head. However, the 3-wood fit was dramatic as I added 18.7 yards of carry and 22 total yards. What was crazy was that I was not used to seeing a 3-wood fly like it did.

If there’s a downside to these high-end fitting studios is that they use ‘ala carte’ pricing and everything is at Retail.

I was quoted for a driver at $810. The head was fairly priced ($499.99). But the shaft was priced at $299.99 when I could find it at GolfWorks for $175 (GolfWorks Aldila Rogue Shaft)

It also charged $10 for the grip (Golf Pride Tour Wrap 2G midsize) which go for $6.99 retail.

The 3-wood head was fairly priced ($299.99), but the Veylix shaft was priced at $350 compared to $250 the shaft can be had at thepeoplesclubs.com (People's Clubs Veylix Rome Shaft)

The value of places like True Spec Golf is their selection of equipment and the technology to help find the best possible fit. Having been to numerous places like this, the sticker shock can turn people off to he product, but if you’re seeking to find the best possible fit and find the components on the internet or on eBay, it can be very beneficial.





3JACK