The flight to LAX was a straight-shot from Orlando and we actually got to LAX in 5 hours, but had to cycle around in the air for a little while as there was so much air traffic congestion. I always prefer the window and I like how Delta has screen monitors that will show you a map of where you are currently flying over.
Like this look at Juarez. Cue the ominous Sicario music:
I didn't reach my hotel until midnight (3:00 AM EST). I planned a visit to Fujikura HQ to get on their ENSO machine and had to leave by 8:30 AM. I was greeted by the lovely traffic on the I-405. I also rented a Camaro convertible which had no USB charger for my phone and I struggled to figure out how to get the controls to work.
The trip to Fujikura (down in Vista) took a little longer than expected. I was greeted by Marshall Thompson, Fitting and Tour Rep for Fujikura. I had shipped my clubs to Fujikura via ShipSticks and Marshall took a look at the clubs and had put together shafts for me that he thought I may like with the adapter sleeves for my Callaway Rogue Sub Zero driver. He did the same with my hybrids. My 3-wood is a Callaway Rogue Sub-Zero, but it is glued on. And of course the iron shafts (Accra) are glued on as well. But, he did have the Taylor Made P790 7-iron head and put a Fujikura Pro 115 iron shaft in there.
But first, Marshall showed me an awesome tour of the facility. Explaining so much of the equipment they use to make their shafts and their ability to customize shafts for their customers. One of the things I always remark about Fujikura is how different the shaft feels when you grab it by the fingertips. It just feels like a sturdy, top of the line shaft that won't break and Fujikura has testing machines that test against it and all of their shafts have a lifetime warranty against breakage (no, not snapping them over your knee). And all of their machines are state-of-the-art with their EI profile machine being a big highlight. Here's a video with VP of Engineering, Alex Dee...giving a behind the scenes look:
I would check out Fujikura's YouTube Channel as well for other videos. I was surprised by some facets of how they make their graphite shafts and learned a lot of things about graphite that I didn't know before. I am convinced that it's just a matter of time before graphite shafts become the majority of shafts used by Tour players. The only thing that hurts graphite in irons is that they can be too light and for the average consumer the price is higher than steel. But I am confident that performance can improve with graphite in iron shafts, even for Tour pros. And being able to not take such a toll on a golfer's elbows, wrists and shoulders is a great benefit.
After that we got on the ENSO machine. The ENSO machine has been discussed here on the blog for a while:
ENSO uses 3D motion capture by placing the motion capture 'balls' on the shaft and the head of the club. It can measure a myriad of different facets of what the golfer, shaft and club head are doing throughout the swing.
For instance, it can measure your hand speed throughout the swing. They have found that almost all golfers reach peak hand speed on the downswing when their trail elbow connects to their body.
From there, the hands always slow down. So, you could have a player with 60 mph hand speed at that point (picture above) and it could slow down to 25 mph club speed at impact. There is no 'right way' or 'wrong way.' But, that affects how the shaft reacts and that can affect the club head properties (path, AoA, face angle, etc).
There's a lot more variables, but what ENSO does is it takes all of those variables it measures and then it allows Fujikura to better determine what type of shaft is needed as well if it needs ancillary measures taken like it being tipped, soft-stepped, etc.
First up, I tried the new Fujikura Pro 115 iron shafts. While the Accra Tour 100i's are a nice shaft, they are a little light for me and that causes some issues. I could only MOI match my P790's to 2,670 MOI with the Accra shafts because the shafts are so light. And as Fujikura explained (and it confirmed for me something I've thought for years), putting too much weight in the head can be a very bad idea.
And with the clubs being so light with the Accra shafts, there is some loss of awareness of the club and that can lead to high, slight pulls with a little draw. With the Fujikura Pro 115's I was hitting them 5-7 yards further despite them being 1/4" shorter than my Accra's. But the biggie was I was piping them right at the target and they flew a touch lower (which could be used in my case).
After that we looked at my driver which had a Project X HZRDUS (X-Stiff) shaft. I really don't like that shaft. It doesn't feel good and I could be striping the ball all day with a little draw and take, what I feel, is my best swing of the day and hit a cut. We then saw that the Fujikura Speeder Evolution IV was a better fit for me.
While I liked my Fujikura Motore Speeder hybrid 8.8 shafts, they have a tendency to leave shots to the right. And that was cured with the switch to a Fujikura Atmos Hybrid blue 8x shaft that I also hit further.
In fact, here's what I was finally fit for:
I would recommend this fitting with Fujikura with my utmost regard. If you really want to get the very best information for fitting for a shaft, this is the way to do it. And Fujikura has so many models with different profiles and so many different customized options...whether it be customization for shaft performance or customization for aesthetics...you really cannot beat what Fujikura has to offer.
Afterward, Marshall took me out with Jeremy Butler (Director of Sales) and John Hovis (Tour Manager) to Shadowridge Country Club in Vista. Shadowridge is a private club and it's a very old school design which I greatly prefer. You don't see many of those designs in Florida since they are always building around water, protected areas and trying to make a golf community. I really think one of the advantages of California golf is that the land is quite good to design a course as long as you don't try to get to cute with it. And Shadowridge was just fantastic all around despite me playing lousy there. A 5+ hour plane flight and getting caught in LA traffic will do that to a golfer. I cannot thank Fujikura enough for having me and they just reconfirmed my belief they are the Rolls Royce of shaft manufacturers.
Friday's plans were to take a 2 hour lesson with George Gankas. It was supposed to be about a 1 hour 15 minute trip to see GG in Westlake Village coming from where I was staying in Hermosa Beach. That took about 1 hour 45 minutes.
From watching the videos, I got the impression that the golf club where GG teaches was a goat track. But, from the outward appearance it looked like a well kept public course.
The lesson with GG went great. There were a lot of things about what he teaches that I thought I knew and I had sorta right...but was missing some key parts. Then there were other concepts of GG's that I didn't know at all. And I think that's what made the in-person lesson worth it.
For instance, I thought I had the posture correct because my armpits were over the balls of my feet. But, what GG pointed out was my butt was still sticking too far out and I needed the butt in line with my heels as well. That new posture felt weird, but GG gave some pointers on how to execute it and I started to get the posture down pretty quick.
We also worked on my ball position as GG felt I had the ball position too far back. Something I've never been told before by any instructor. And GG explained why he wanted me to move it up a little. In all, I think the ball position being too far back helped explain why I did other things in my swing that were not as 'efficient' as I would like them to be.
We also worked on the backswing as I moved off to the right a little. GG talks about this in his video where he wants to create a 'golf ball' of distance from the right hip at the top of the swing. In the lesson, he explained that you did not HAVE to have that golf ball of distance as there were other effective ways to do it and we had to figure out what was the best way for me (we found that creating a 'golf ball' gap was best for me).
We then worked on the transition and downswing portions. A lot of this revolved around my knees needing to get more flexion. It was more knees and femurs based than hips for me. But GG had two key checkpoints for me to look for:
At P5, the left hip should be lower than the right hip, but the pelvis should be square to the target line.
At P6, the hips should be level, but the pelvis should be roughly 25* open to the target
Finally we discussed how I was going to work on these things in order to implement them and ingrain them into my swing
From there, I had to drive back to Hermosa Beach which was supposed to take about 1 hour 15 minutes, but took me 2 hours. Then I had a typical 2 hour drive to Murietta that took 3 hours. By the time I got back to Hermosa for the night...I had spent roughly EIGHT hours on the road.
In Murietta, I was at Bear Creek giving a presentation on the analytics of the game hosted by golf instructor Tyler Miller. Golf instructor Keith Morgan was there as well. We went over the analytics of the game as well as the strategy and some of the psychology that goes into it.
I'm a very strong believer that psychology and analytics in golf go hand-in-hand. Many golfers think that golfers with good performance metrics or that play the odds correctly do it because they are in a good mental state. But, I believe it can often swing the other way...the golfer that may be in a poor mental state that 'plays the odds correctly' gives themselves a better chance to start to get themselves in a good mental state.
Most good players I come across tend to be too conservative off the tee by laying-up too often. There's always that fear of the penalty of a bad shot and the idea that the golfer needs to be able to control bad shots and when they occur. But in reality, bad shots are basically out of our control.
We know that if you're 1 dimple off or 1 degree off, that can be the difference between a good shot and a bad shot. Since we are not robots, it's impossible to determine when a bad shot is going to occur as well as stopping bad shots altogether.
What we do have control over is our focus and our strategy. And if you continue to play for your average swing and you do it with good focus...that's all you can really do for now. If you hit bad shots that day...then it wasn't your day and you need to work on your ballstriking on the range so you can improve your results off your average swing.
But overly conservative strategies just mean a slow death instead of a quick death. And it never ceases to amaze me how many golfers get duped by the slow killer and cannot understand why they can't take their game to the next level.
Tyler brought me around to see the course and it is quite excellent. They played the 1985 Skins Game at Bear Creek:
As far as Nicklaus designs go, it reminds me a bit of Muirfield Village. Pretty generous driving areas for the most part. But devilish approach shots and getting up and down can be done...but, it's a chore. Plenty of awesome views to be seen along with the SoCal weather make for a great destination.
Rustic Canyon is a Gil Hanse design and it's usually the preferred, affordable public golf in the LA area. This is the first Hanse design I played and I really liked it mainly because Hanse made it a reasonable track to play despite how firm it is.
A lot of these types of American Links style courses tend to have too many blind shots (which I think are the death of good course design) and too much trouble that you don't know if it will come into play or not.
One of the things I found interesting about Rustic Canyon was the green surrounds were basically cut at almost the same length as the greens. So those that really chop down on their chips and pitches would have a problem. Given that I was coming off a lesson and some unfamiliar shafts in some important clubs, I played fairly well.
Sunday I got onto Hillcrest Country Club as the guest of Jeremy Shapiro and Spencer Torgan. Hillcrest is another old school design that is right across the street from the FOX movie studios.
Hillcrest was in fantastic condition. It's only about 6,500 yards, but it's pretty tight. It wasn't ridiculously tight which is what old school designers would usually do. In other words, if you hit the driver well you'll be rewarded handsomely. If you don't, you're SOL.
Hillcrest will be going thru a re-design/renovation soon. There is some dislike for holes #3, #10 and #17. I agree that #10 is a junk hole where you just hit 4-iron off the tee and then flip a SW in. #3 is a little better. I actually like #17, but with #3 and #10 it takes away from the uniqueness of #17.
Having said that...it was a really fun and awesome experience. I have an affection for old Los Angeles history and since I love golf I enjoy reading about the historic golf courses, stories and figures in LA. Here's a great Wikipedia entry on Hillcrest CC:
Originally I was going to play Torrey Pines on Monday. However, after way too much driving I wasn't interested in taking another 3+ hour drive to San Diego. Also, Torrey's greens were aerified 2 weeks ago.
I was going to get on Pelican Hill, but surprisingly the tee times were filled up on Monday.
That left me with going to El Dorado in Long Beach. This is a muni course and they play the Long Beach Open and I see a few golf vloggers like BeBetterGolf playing there and I wanted to see what it was about.
Muni's are weird as it seems to depend on the state they are located in when it comes to the quality of muni courses. For instance, New York State has a lot of great muni courses. Most of them are built as part of a state park.
OTOH, Florida isn't the best place for muni courses.
El Dorado was solid. It's pretty short (6,500 yards from the back tees). The front nine took 2.5 hours and then I played #10 and #11 and I quit as it was getting cold. But, it's a solid track for the money.
When I bought my new car last summer, I was thinking about getting a Camaro. I'm glad I didn't. The rental was small, uncomfortable and didn't have that much pickup. Much better off getting a sedan next time.
Where Florida weather is crazy when it comes to precipitation as it can be sunny out in one fairway and 3 fairways over it can be a downpour...California weather is really wacky when it comes to temperature. You can drive 5 miles inland and spot a 15 degree temperature change. Because I wasn't cognizant of that...I had the fun time of trying to checkout of my hotel, ship my clubs thru ShipSticks, check into the airport...all with a fever on Tuesday.
I needed to spread out my driving a little more. The 8 hours of driving on Friday really tired me out for the rest of the vacation.
May would be a better time to come to LA than April because of the temperatures.
I'm not sure how I feel about a street named Isis Avenue.
In-N-Out Burger was solid, but not unworldly as I was led to believe.
LA remains my favorite city for food. So much great competition and so many options to choose from. I could really go there for the views and the food alone.
Can't wait to get my new Fujikura shafts!