Monday, August 31, 2015

The Search for Flatstick Nirvana - Part I (8.31.15)

I’ve had some good times with the flatstick and I have had some horrific times with the flatstick in my golfing ‘career.’

 One of my favorite times was sinking a 35-footer for par in a playoff that I had no business winning against a rival of mine on his home course where about 200 people were rooting for him to 3 people of them rooting for me. There was the summer when I was 16 years old and had purchased a Wilson 8802 with the old leather Neumann putter grip and I have witnesses that will tell you that I simply did not miss a putt inside 5-feet with that putter

There was the time that I carried 2 putters in the qualifier of a tournament. The Ram Zebra and the Wilson 8802. Outside 15-feet I had an uncanny way of making a lot of putts with the Zebra and I was deadly from inside 8-feet with the Wilson 8802. So, I carried them both and my friends thought I was nuts and I finished 2nd in the qualifier for the event. Eventually, some bastard with no soul stole my precious Wilson 8802 right out of my bag while I was eating lunch. I really loved that putter. One of the best short games I have ever seen belonged to a friend of mine and I remember him and another friend saying it was almost ‘unfair’ that I had that Wilson 8802 because it ‘basically rolls the ball right at the hole on its own.’ Even more unfortunate, I could never find another 8802 that felt the same much less performed the same.

I also remember putting pretty well with a Ping B61 while everybody favored the Ping B60 model. Here’s a shot of the Ping B61 model, as you can see, the hosel is more off the heel.

There was one summer, when I was 14 years old and my dad, a workaholic, had accrued something like 2 full years of vacation time and finally decided to use it for almost a full month during that summer. This consisted of me having to get up every day at 6 am to eat breakfast and play golf with him and then go home after lunch and do chores. I used to refer to that as ‘The Summer From Hell.’ One morning we got up and I was watching the 6am telecast of the British Open and saw some player using a forward press with their putting stroke. I decided to use it on the Ping B61 putter and went from putting pretty well with the B61 putter to putting lights out with the B61 for the rest of the summer. And the B61 was only replaced by my beloved Wilson 8802.

Of course, the bad times were there as well. Like the 4-putt in the lowest round of my life of 64 when the course record was 63. Diligently sticking with a Ping Anser 2 putter because I liked the finish on it and couldn’t make a thing to save my life. I eventually chucked it into a creek at Wild Wing Golf Club in Myrtle Beach. Or the time that I couldn’t make anything with the Ram Zebra and decided to putt out the back nine with my Sand Wedge (now called ‘pulling a Robert Streb’) and actually putting better with the S-Wedge than with the Ram Zebra.

Since I got back into the game in 2009, my putting has been inconsistent at best. The game has changed and especially putters. More mallet style designs. Heavier head weights and shorter shaft lengths making for lighter putter shafts. The grips tend to be oversize and heavy (i.e. SuperStroke) with flatter lie angles and more loft (The original Wilson 8802 only had about 2 degrees of loft).

I have become more interested in the feel of the putter as well. Not only in terms of the contact feel, but the putter’s heft. The modern putters feel lighter or if they are heavier, it’s usually due to counterbalancing which places the weight up on the grip end.

And with that, I’m searching for my own Billy Baroo.

I’m looking for that customized, special putter that is meant for me and fits me like a glove. Much like that old Wilson 8802 (I’ll get back to that in future posts) that just felt…well…perfect. Except I would use this putter all of the time, not just on special occasions like Judge Smails. A putter unique unto itself that when it is unsheathed from the bag like a sword from a knight’s armor, everybody knows that it’s time to see the touch of a surgeon with the precision of sniper with the magic of Ricky Jay.

A craftsman should have his own tools, shouldn’t he?


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Spin the Ball Around the Greens with James Ridyard

Here's a video from James Ridyard on altering the spin rate on short game shots around the green.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Make a Plan in Golf Like Jordan Spieth with Shawn Clement

Here's a video from Shawn Clement discussing how to plan in golf like Jordan Spieth does:


Friday, August 21, 2015

A Study in the Yips with Mackey Sasser

Here's a video with the story of an athlete with the yips.  But, not in golf.  In baseball, with former MLB catcher Mackey Sasser:

Sasser situation reminds me of a lot of golfers and athletes in that I believe a lot of the time the yips starts with an injury and compensating your mechanics to deal with that injury.  Then when the injury recovers, the brain goes haywire deciding between your old mechanics and those new mechanics being used to compensate for the past injury.  What's particularly interesting here is how traumatic events in Sasser's life also played a part in his throwing yips.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Chase Improvement at Your Own Peril

Here's a good, short article on Colin Montgomerie and David Duval advising Jordan Spieth "chase improvement at your own peril"

As a former highly competitive golfer that saw his ballstriking fall off the planet when he got into college and had to work diligently thru the years to get into being a serviceable ballstriker, I can relate to much of this.  And I agree with Duval and Monty on the key point, you have to be careful about changing anything in the swing in hopes of making improvement because it may be due to your detriment.  For any full-time Tour player, the fact is that you're more likely to regress than you are to improve if you change the mechanics of your swing.  

For every Jason Dufner who greatly improved his ballstriking once he changed his swing, there are probably 5 players that changed their swing and essentially got worse.  Either by seeing no difference in their ballstriking, but spending more time on the swing so their putting and short game suffers or the golfers that just get worse with their ballstriking.  Believe me, I see the statistics all of the time and you would be surprised of the number of players that make swing changes and see no difference in their ballstriking or get worse.


My feeling is that what most golfers that are good enough to play on Tour should focus on is sustaining their their swing over time.  I think their inability to sustain their swing over time is where most players tend to get into trouble.  And I think that was what caused the downward spiral in my own swing when I playing college golf.

For whatever reason, I started to incorporate new mechanics in my golf swing over time.  I didn't try to do anything, but my swing started to change and I didn't even know it until a friend pointed it out to me.  And even then, I still didn't believe my friend until he showed a video of my swing which looked completely different from past videos of my swing that I would film about once a year.

I was essentially self-taught up until that point.  By being self taught I had almost zero swing knowledge.  My swing knowledge was so poor that I used to think you wanted to take a divot directly underneath the ball instead of out in front of where the ball was located.  And that lack of swing knowledge put me in a precarious position because if my swing were to fall apart (which it did), I:

a)  Didn't have any idea on how to fix it.
b)  Had no idea of what instructor to see that was adept enough to fix my issues.

I think what happens with players that do not sustain their swings is that their performance finally drops off to a point where they can't accept it and then they try to figure it out, but they have no idea what they were doing in the first place.  And then they may go to an instructor and the instructor has no idea what their swing looked like to begin with and cannot reasonably get themselves swinging like they used to.  Perhaps they are able to get back into some of their old swing mechanics, but they are missing a piece or two of their old mechanics and it just doesn't work.

That's where I find quality instruction very important.  Have an instructor that knows your swing and has video of your swing (or even motion capture and Trackman numbers which are not mandatory, but can be helpful).  Then if your swing starts to naturally change and create lesser performance, try and figure out what the old swing was doing and what has been altered.


I think most people will pinpoint this change in philosophy of changing your swing despite being very successful with it on Tiger when he changed instructors and swing mechanics from Butch Harmon to Hank Haney.

However, I think the player that started it was actually Nick Faldo.  Here's a video from instructor, Lucas Wald, on the swing changes Faldo made and his success on Tour before those swing changes were made:

Faldo's swing changes along with his training philosophy changed the world of golf instruction.  Before, there were not many full-time golf instructors.  Most golf instructors actually worked managing a golf course or driving range and then they would schedule lessons to provide a little extra income.  When I think of full-time instructors during that era, the only names that come to my mind are Bob Toski, Phil Ritson, Jack Lumpkin and Jim Flick who used to have these Golf Digest golf academies.

Faldo's work with Leadbetter created a paradigm shift into full-time instructors all over the place and what we see today...instructors that almost exclusively just teach players on Tour and travel to every single event to work with their clients.

While Faldo may have started the entire philosophical shift, Tiger really popularized it.  And once he kept winning with Haney, then the belief that you could just simply change instructors and insert new mechanics without issue started to take hold.

However, if you look at the metrics that I wrote about in GolfWRX, it was not cut-n-dry as far as Tiger's changes to Haney went with his ballstriking:

Under Haney, Tiger's driving regressed considerably.  However, his iron play became so impeccable that it may have become the greatest stretch of iron play of all time.  Furthermore, Tiger's putting really took off.  When Tiger was with Butch, his putting wasn't nearly as good.  He appeared to have a couple of incredible putting years under Butch, but he also had some struggles as well.  The thing is...when you hit it as well as Tiger did and as long as Tiger did under can still dominate and not putt all that well.

As I pointed out earlier, a lot of times players change swings and their ballstriking is no better or no worse.  My judgment from the numbers is that Tiger's ballstriking probably was a hair worse under Haney, even when he was winning left and right, than it was under Butch.  So I think for all of those 'Tiger changed from Butch to Haney and had success' advocates, they really need to look at the big picture and ask 'did he really improve his ballstriking with the swing change?'  And by the end of Tiger's time with Haney, his swing looked nothing like it did when he first started working with Haney.

So improvement at your own peril.  But, you're better off focusing on sustaining what made you great in the first place.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Putting Metrics at Whistling Straits

A while ago on GolfWRX I was challenged when I made the statement that in general, faster greens on Tour will have higher make percentages from inside 15-feet.  As much as that may seem to counter common logic, faster greens are typically smoother and they also usually have less undulation.  If greens are undulated and fast, they may not hold the green or even worse, if the wind picks up the ball may move when the golfer addresses the putt, thus incurring a penalty.

This is nothing new as there have been numerous studies on the make percentages based on green speeds and their findings agree with that sentiment.  Where courses get most difficult to putt on is usually when they have undulations and are bumpy.  Pebble Beach and Riviera are the 2 of the lowest make %'s on Tour and they have very undulated greens.  The grass has been reportedly smoother at Riviera in recent years, but the make % is still low due to the big breaks in the putts.

Anyway, here's a look at the make %'s for the PGA Championship:

3-5 feet:  89.97% (Tour Average 87.64%)
5-10 feet: 59.93% (Tour Average 56.78%)
10-15 feet: 34.66% (Tour Average 30.08%)

Where golfers tend to confuse faster = lower make % is that they tend to 3-putt more on faster greens.  So while the make % gets higher, the 3% raises as well because one can hit a 40-foot putt on a fast green to 7-feet where the make % for the 7-footer is higher than on a slow green (let's say 55% on fast green and 51% on a slow green).  But, on slow greens with a 40-footer that golfer may hit that putt to 3-feet where the make % may be less than on a slow green.  Let's say from 3-feet, the make % on a slow green is 90% (avg on Tour is 92%).

Again, the make %'s are higher on the fast green, but the distance of the 2nd putt is going to be longer on fast greens.

Now, the 3-Putt percentage at Whistling Straits was actually lower than the Tour average (2.70% vs. 2.92%).  But, 3-Putt percentage's can be skewed due to green size and GIR %.  The field average GIR % was only 61%.  Thus, if you're chipping more often the first putt is likely to be from a shorter distance on average and you're less likely to 3-putt.

You can see the metrics on this Google Sheet at: Whistling Straits Player Data


Friday, August 14, 2015

Hiroshi Iwata Record Tieing Round Analysis

Here’s a look at Hiroshi Iwata’s round of 63 (-9) today at Whistling Straits.

First, the basic metrics:

11/14 fwy’s
10/18 GIR
22 putts
8/8 scramble

I think the untrained eye, people will say that he shot such a great score because of his putting and short game. While that played a big part of it, it wasn’t like his ballstriking was poor or even below average or even average. It was quite good. For instance, the field average for fairways hit is at 59% and Iwata hit 79% of his fairways. I don’t know what the field average is for the driving distance on all drives, but it appears that Iwata was not laying up too often and has ample distance. So far we have seen that Whistling Straits is a driving and Red Zone (175-225 yards) course. By Iwata being able to drive the ball so well, he has been able to gain a significant advantage over the field.

I like to look at how many birdie opportunities the player has inside 20-feet in a round. The more a player accumulates those birdie opportunities the better they tend to play. And the really low rounds tend to have a lot more of those types of birdie opportunities. Iwata has 10 birdie opportunities from inside 21 feet.

So, you may be thinking ‘he didn’t strike the ball that well, but when he found the GIR, he made it count.’

Not exactly.

Iwata had good birdie opportunities (less than 21 feet) on #4, #6 and #13 where he missed the green

It appears that #4 and #6 he was putting from the fringed where he made the putt on #4 and missed by 1-inch on #6. It appears that the birdie shot on #13 was a chip in which he made that one as well. But, again…it was only a 6 yard chip.

The 5 other missed GIR were on the following holes:

He missed the fairway off the tee on the par-5 5th hole and didn’t hit a good 2nd or 3rd shot. He was left with 107 yards from the fairway on his fourth shot and hit it to 13’2” and made the putt. From 107 yards from the fairway, the Tour average is roughly 19-feet to the hole. So, he hit that shot about 30% closer to the cup than the average Tour player.

On the par-4 8th hole Iwata has a 207 yard approach shot (Red Zone) and misses pretty badly and leaves himself with a 20-yard bunker shot. Typically, Tour players should try and avoid bunker shots for 30+ yards like the plague because they do not hit them well. So much so that I would get a bit anxious if a Tour player even had a 20-yard bunker shot. Instead, Iwata jars the shot and makes birdie.

Iwata then misses a fairway on #9 and has 173 yards into the hole (nearly a Red Zone shot). Putting your tee shot in the rough in the Red Zone or near the Red Zone is usually costly and Iwata dumps one into the bunker. This time he has 21 yards to the hole. He hits it to 9’4” which is still quite good considering the Tour average is roughly 13 feet from that distance (roughly 28% better than the Tour average). He misses the putt though and makes bogey.

He then misses the GIR on #10 despite hitting an excellent drive in the fairway with only 66 yards to go. Still, he ends up on the fringe and likely putted from there. So, it was not technically a GIR, but it was more or less playing like a GIR.

Iwata then misses the 18th GIR quite badly. Although it’s understandable as he had 252 yards into the green. Here he hits a fantastic pitch shot over the bunker from 31 yards to 3’5” and makes the putt.

Here is his putting make % for the day:

Did Iwata putt well?


But, he was not completely unconscious and his longest putt made all day was from less than 21 feet. He also missed 2 putts inside 9-feet.

Let’s not forget that he reached 3 of the 4 par-5’s in two shots:

He played the par-5’s at -3 under par by making an eagle on #11 and a birdie on #16. Often times people discount the power that hitting a par-5 in two has as it almost counts like hitting an extra GIR since you’re putting for eagle and greatly increasing your chances of coming away with a birdie.

So in essence, Iwata more or less hit 12/18 GIR with 3 par-5’s hit in two shots which is almost akin to effectively hitting 15/18 GIR.

Surely, he putted well, but his short game around the green was outrageously great. The problem is that he will be hard pressed to convert those scrambling opportunities if he has those big misses, again. In the end, Iwata proved that you must strike the ball well in order to ‘go low’ and using GIR as a measuring stick for ballstriking is not looking at the entire picture.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Thoughts on Making Swing Transformations

Here's another tremendous improvement in the golf swing from one of Lucas Wald's ( students.

I had shown Andy's swing a little while ago where he was at about 75% speed, now he's at about 90% speed.

I've continued to receive a lot of questions about practice regimens for golf. There are few key tenets to follow in this:

1. The speed of the motion makes it more difficult for the brain to process new movement patterns than the length of the motion. It's not even close in terms of which make things more difficult.

One of the most popular drills in golf in what people consider 'deliberate practice' is to use the 9-to-3 drill:

There are many issues with the 9-to-3 drill, but the big one is that it is designed to take out a key part of the swing...the motion to the top of the swing and the transition from the top of the swing.

If you're just going to the left arm parallel to the ground (9 o'clock position), the movement into that position, the structure of that position, very different than if you are going into your full swing. Going into your full length swing is important because you just don't automatically go into the top of the swing.

The other part is that the transition is critical because of the change of direction. Again, it's more about the speed of the motion than the length of the motion. And in transition not only is the speed becoming faster with the arms, but it's a change of direction as well.

Have you ever worked on new mechanics and see them fall apart either during transition or immediately after transition?

It's the speed of transition and the change of direction that is making it very difficult for the brain to process the new mechanics. There's just nothing deliberate about the 9-to-3 drill. 

2.  It's about getting in 'correct' reps as much as it is about avoiding 'incorrect' reps.

Many golfers think they will get the hang of things by just continually hitting balls and they tend to think of it as having to hit so many thousands of golf balls before things start to become ingrained.  The problem with that line of thinking is that it does not consider the amount of 'incorrect' reps the golfer is so they are only continuing to train themselves those 'incorrect' reps.

I've said this on this blog before, a golfer would be better offing hitting 100 balls and doing every single one of the 'correctly' than they would be hitting 1,000 balls and hitting 500 of them 'correctly' and 500 of them 'incorrectly.'

3.  The brain needs creativity and confidence to help ingrain your new swing mechanics.

This is why drills usually don't work.  They are designed to be repetitive and often set up for failure or minimal rewards which hurts the golfer's confidence.

I used to think you wanted to randomize practice just to get good at hitting shots you may come across on the golf course.  But, research shows that randomization helps with stimulating the brain's creativity and that creativity is needed in order to INGRAIN new movement patterns.  Creativity is like a muscle, if you don't train it, it will not develop very strongly.

Another reason why I dislike the 9-to-3 drill is that the reward for hitting a good shot is minimal since you're only taking a half swing.  A well struck 9-to-3 shot will go low and not very far.  That hurts the golfer's confidence which is needed for ingraining a swing. 

Ever have those days where you are so confident you think you cannot possibly miss a shot?  That's the confidence kicking in and allowing you to make the same repetitive good swing over and over.

4.  You will have to get new obstacles in the way in order to learn.

While I'm a proponent of slow motion practice, I'm not a fan of those that teach to close your eyes to better feel the motion of the swing.  Closing the eyes ignores new obstacles in the game like the golf ball.  When you see new obstacles, the brain goes into what it is comfortable with (old mechanics).  So, you have to practice with the ball in your way.  And you need to get out on the course and deal with other factors like wind, water, pressure, etc. 

5.  It's very much about awareness.

Slow motion movement pattern training not only allows the golfer to figure out the motion, but it allows them to become more aware of what happens in the swing.  They then take that awareness and eventually try to replicate the swing by FEEL rather than by THOUGHT or VISUALIZATION.

It's why guys like Bubba Watson and Fred Couples never seem to struggle too much for too long and talk about how they really don't have any swing thoughts going on when they are playing.  They have long sensed what type of mechanics they are trying to achieve and they use that sense to feel their way into the swing they want instead of thinking things like 'keep your left arm straight' or 'feel like you're dragging a wet mop.' 

When I learned how to type in a typing class in high school, we started off in slow motion.  After a while the students start to get a sense of what motions they need to make in order to type up words.  And they could tell when they incorrectly spelled a word because the keystrokes they were making didn't feel right.

For example, if I were to type the word 'Whistling Straits' as 'Whustling Straits', my brain will immediately know that I made an incorrect motion when I typed in the letter 'u' instead of the letter 'i.' 

The same should apply to the golf swing with proper movement pattern training.  It's not about repeating swing thoughts.  It's about doing it correctly and truly feeling the motion that you made to do the swing 'correctly' and then developing a sense of what is needed to repeat that 'correct' motion.

If you can follow that and stick to it, you'll start to make the same transformations that Andy has made.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

3Jack Golf's 2015 PGA Championship Rundown

The 2015 PGA Championship is at Whistling Straits this year. Here’s what the data shows will be the ‘critical holes’:

#2, 591 yards, par-5
#13, 404 yards, par-4
#16, 569 yards, par-5
#17, 223 yards, par-3

Here’s are my top-10 picks to win the PGA Championship:

Jordan Spieth (6/1)
Jason Day (12/1)
Bubba Watson (15/1)
Justin Rose (20/1)
Rickie Fowler (20/1)
Henrik Stenson (25/1)
Jim Furyk (40/1)
Hideki Matsuyama (40/1)
Shane Lowry (50/1)
Keegan Bradley (80/1)
Danny Lee (100/1)

Here are my top-5 dark horse picks:

Brooks Koepka (40/1)
Paul Casey (60/1)
John Senden (150/1)
Jason Bohn (200/1)
Daniel Berger (250/1)

I didn’t pick McIlroy due to his recent injury. I will say that I like how this PGA Championship is shaping up as I think there are a lot of sleepers that could get into contention for this event like Kevin Chappell (150/1), Kevin Kisner (80/1), Jason Dufner (100/1), Zach Johnson (50/1), Steven Bowditch (150/1), Soren Kjeldsen and David Lingmerth (125/1) which could make for fantastic viewing.

Here are the updated Rankings:


1. Bubba Watson
2. Francesco Molinari
3. Henrik Stenson
4. Hideki Matsuyama
5. Adam Scott
6. Shane Lowry
7. Kevin Streelman
8. Keegan Bradley
9. Jim Herman
10. Zach Johnson
11. Jim Furyk
12. Derek Ernst
13. Nicholas Thompson
14. Chez Reavie
15. Jordan Spieth
16. Russell Knox
17. Brendon de Jonge
18. Brian Harman
19. Vaughn Taylor
20. Webb Simpson

180. Andres Gonzales
181. Padraig Harrington
182. Matt Every
183. Andres Romero
184. Freddie Jacobson
185. Richard Sterne
186. Jim Renner
187. Greg Chalmers
188. Ryo Ishikawa
189. Trevor Immelman
190. Zack Sucher
191. Seung-Yul Noh
192. Luke Donald
193. Ricky Barnes
194. Derek Fathauer
195. Andrew Putnam
196. Ernie Els
197. Aaron Baddeley
198. Tyrone Van Aswegen
199. D.A. Points


1. Vaughn Taylor
2. Roberto Castro
3. Stewart Cink
4. Jason Dufner
5. Jim Furyk
6. Zach Johnson
7. Colt Knost
8. Jordan Spieth
9. Francesco Molinari
10. Justin Leonard
11. Paul Casey
12. Ryan Moore
13. Adam Scott
14. Vijay Singh
15. Rory Sabbatini
16. Nick Watney
17. Jason Bohn
18. Cameron Tringale
19. Lucas Glover
20. Jamie Donaldson

180. Morgan Hoffmann
181. Keegan Bradley
182. Retief Goosen
183. Robert Streb
184. John Rollins
185. Bubba Watson
186. Charlie Beljan
187. Andres Romero
188. Oscar Fraustro
189. Geoff Ogilvy
190. Gonzalo Fdez-Castano
191. Angel Cabrera
192. Shane Lowry
193. Patrick Rodgers
194. Padraig Harrington
195. Lee Westwood
196. Jhonattan Vegas
197. Davis Love III
198. Jonathan Randolph
199. Zack Sucher


1. Paul Casey
2. Jason Gore
3. Ian Poulter
4. Chez Reavie
5. Luke Donald
6. Henrik Stenson
7. Hideki Matsuyama
8. Francesco Molinari
9. Spencer Levin
10. Tyrone Van Aswegen
11. John Peterson
12. Harris English
13. Ben Martin
14. Jim Furyk
15. Jason Dufner
16. Ryan Moore
17. Webb Simpson
18. Russell Knox
19. Nicholas Thompson
20. Billy Hurley III

180. Richard Sterne
181. Martin Flores
182. Matt Jones
183. Chesson Hadley
184. Roger Sloan
185. Derek Ernst
186. Andrew Loupe
187. Bill Lunde
188. Aaron Baddeley
189. Oscar Fraustro
190. Jason Day
191. Jhonattan Vegas
192. Patrick Rodgers
193. Nick Taylor
194. Heath Slocum
195. Andres Gonzales
196. Freddie Jacobson
197. Trevor Immelman
198. Will Wilcox
199. Greg Chalmers

RED ZONE PLAY (175-225 yards)

1. Shane Lowry
2. Jordan Spieth
3. Vaughn Taylor
4. Jim Furyk
5. Daniel Berger
6. Louis Oosthuizen
7. Hideki Matsuyama
8. Justin Rose
9. Lee Westwood
10. Jason Bohn
11. Danny Lee
12. Jason Day
13. Paul Casey
14. Andres Gonzales
15. Henrik Stenson
16. Branden Grace
17. Webb Simpson
18. Rickie Fowler
19. Shawn Stefani
20. Jim Herman

180. Camilo Villegas
181. Hunter Mahan
182. Luke Donald
183. Justin Leonard
184. Marc Leishman
185. Aaron Baddeley
186. Michael Thompson
187. Jeff Overton
188. Sergio Garcia
189. Sean O'Hair
190. Brice Garnett
191. Derek Fathauer
192. Tom Gillis
193. Trevor Immelman
194. Richard Sterne
195. Jonathan Byrd
196. Jonathan Randolph
197. Greg Chalmers
198. Jamie Donaldson
199. Jonas Blixt


1. Steven Alker
2. Jordan Spieth
3. Jerry Kelly
4. Sergio Garcia
5. Tom Gillis
6. Luke Donald
7. Vaughn Taylor
8. Rickie Fowler
9. Freddie Jacobson
10. Chris Kirk
11. Vijay Singh
12. Cameron Percy
13. Jonathan Byrd
14. Jason Day
15. Justin Thomas
16. Kevin Na
17. Cameron Tringale
18. Trevor Immelman
19. Roberto Castro
20. Scott Langley

180. Graeme McDowell
181. Jim Herman
182. Byron Smith
183. Michael Thompson
184. Billy Horschel
185. John Rollins
186. Ryan Armour
187. Nicholas Thompson
188. Angel Cabrera
189. Carlos Sainz Jr
190. Charley Hoffman
191. Jonathan Randolph
192. Charlie Beljan
193. Charles Howell III
194. Alex Prugh
195. Joost Luiten
196. Andrew Svoboda
197. Fabian Gomez
198. Oscar Fraustro
199. Andrew Loupe


Friday, August 7, 2015

The Story of the Hustle

One of the reasons I think that golf participation is down (among other reasons) is that there is a lack of golf course gambling going on these days. When I got into the game, golf course gambling and hustling was quite common to see. We used to have some classic bets and hustlers going on for bigger money than you see today. Now, gambling and hustlers have become almost extinct. You will see the occasional $5 Nassau or more likely a group of 20 players getting together and throwing $20 in the pot and playing as teams. Hell, you really don’t see any skins games going on anymore. When I was a junior golfer, there was usually at least 1 skins game a week going on at every course.

I tend to blame fantasy sports for the decline in golf course gambling. Data shows that fantasy sports has really cut into gambling on any sport in general. The premise is similar, but it’s completely legal. The other part is that it is possible to gamble online these days and with online poker so readily available, gamblers go where the money is.

There’s not much the golf industry can do about the lack of gamblers, but they should take note that it was a solid revenue stream for them and that doesn’t exist anymore. Many of the gamblers where good at gambling at the golf course and would use it as a way to make a little extra money each year on the side. And it’s hard to hustle people on the course unless you have an outgoing personality which would always draw more people to the game.

One of my favorite gambling stories was a friend of mine who was about 12 years older than me. He had the classic hustler’s life story…started playing golf when he was very young despite growing up in a poor family. His parents were vagabonds and he started skipping school to play golf. He also had a severe drug problem.

I sweat to you that for 1 year he struck the golf ball better than anybody I have ever seen. Recently, I went on Google Earth to measure some distances of shots he hit, like driving a 350 yard par-4 with a metal driver and balata ball. Or the time that he hit his 5-iron 250 yards on a cool September day with a balata ball. And he was incredibly straight and consistent. He could also power down his wedges wonderfully. He was shooting in the mid 60’s almost every round that year. The problem was that he went to jail almost every year and as he kept coming back and getting older, his ballstriking tailed off. He could still hit it far, but not as straight or consistent. However, for that one year his ballstriking was the best I have ever seen and I’ve seen Faldo, Greg Norman, Tiger, Rory and Spieth all in their primes.

We had a new assistant pro who I thought was a bit misunderstood when you got to know him, but was well….a bit of a dick. He had played the Florida mini-tours and had some success. He could also bomb it out there quite a ways. But, in his dickhead-ish thought process, he thought there was NO WAY a local guy from upstate New York could beat him much less strike the ball as well as my friend was striking it. My friend got a backer because this backer was confident in my friend and disliked the assistant pro. But, my friend was smart enough to egg the assistant pro on and they played for $2,500 (a lot of money for upstate NY back in the late 80’s), but my friend got 10 strokes!

And my friend beat him like a drum, shooting 62.


He tied the course record, gross…and shot 52 (-20) net.


We also used to have the classic hustler at the course who had three great things going for him.

1) He was rock, solid consistent. He almost never shot over 80.
2) He could get up and down from the ballwasher
3) He was great at convincing total strangers to play for money and give him strokes.

It’s hard to hustle if you can’t keep your scores consistent. And it’s hard to hustle if you flag every approach shot. You have to be able to make it look like you got completely lucky and your luck will eventually run out so you can continue to shear the sheep over and over again.

He would convince a total stranger to play for a little bit of money and shoot 75 and get up and down from No Man’s Land a few times and act completely surprised that he shot 75. Then when the stranger wanted to play again, usually for more money, he would convince them to give him 6 strokes, he would shoot 80 gross (74 net) and just beat the total stranger.

It was beautiful to watch.

Of course, there are other hustlers that are not so subtle. Like when I went to visit my friend who was living in Orlando playing mini-tours during the winter. He would play at Timacuan Golf Club in Lake Mary and we got to the practice green and some big money stick came up to the green and laid down a wad of cash and said:

(pointing at one guy) I’ll take you for $100

(pointing at another guy) You…I’m taking for $200

(pointing at my friend) I’m taking your for $200

(pointing at another guy) I’m taking you on Fatty for $500

And so it went.


The art of the golf hustle starts and ends with appearance. You have to make the mark think that YOU THINK you are better than you really are. But what the mark doesn’t understand is that you are actually better than he thinks you are. And the appearance always seems to get the marks.

There’s an old saying my friend once said, “never bet with a guy that carries a 2-iron and a tan.”

The very last thing the golf hustler wants to do is look the part of a player. You don’t want to be bringing a bag like mine ( and expect to go far in the world of the hustle.

Instead, here’s what I’ve come up with as an appearance for the hustle.

1. Shoes – Sneakers may work out best for you. Although some cheap shoes that are worn by the masses can work just fine if you worried about slipping.

2. Shorts/Pants – Cargo shorts or basketball shorts (if you can) in the summer, jeans (if you can) in the colder months.

3. Shirt – t-shirts or jerseys in the summer (if you can). Shirt should be cheap, faded and untucked.

4. Bag – Find the biggest piece of crap you can find. But, I wouldn’t make it too obvious such as something like this:

Instead, think cheesy instead of old:

5. Headcovers – Preferably none. Just let those woods smack the crap out of each other. If you don’t want to go with none, just very bland will do.

6. Hat – none if you can. Stay away from anything expensive or anything that looks expensive like a Tour visor.

7. Glove – Preferably none if possible. At the least, something very worn and sweaty

8. Irons – The best practice would be to do what legendary hustler, the late Jeff Thomas did:

GOLF Magazine on Jeff Thomas

He carried around old Northwestern irons with grips that looked like they were never changed and beat the pants off everybody.

That’s going to the extreme, but one could grab some old sticks that were good in their heyday. I would stay away from blades because that may tip people off. And they really can’t tell if you have custom fitted an old set, like changing the lies and lofts, MOI matching (although I would stay away from lead tape and use tip weights instead). My pick?

It’s old and they are forged so they can be easily bent. It’s cavity back to help throw off unsuspecting marks.

For shafts, it’s best to find shafts that have shaft labels so you can find the shaft you want and just remove the shaft label. Tough to carry around Nippon shafts and make a mark not suspect that you are setting them up.

9. Driver – The good news is that one can probably get away with a semi-modern driver. Everybody carries them and it’s not out of the ordinary. I could probably carry my Wishon Driver since most people have never heard of Wishon and my think it is a ‘generic brand.’ But, something like the TaylorMade R7 may work.

Again, the shaft is likely to cause a larger problem. I carry the Fujikura Motore Speeder 661 (x-stiff). That’s a newer shaft model and the mark may wonder why I got an aftermarket shaft of such high quality. Luckily, you can seek out similar shaft bend profiles on Wishon’s Shaft Bend Profile. Seek out a shaft that looks more ambiguous like an Aldila NV shaft.

Or anything that looks like it was a ‘stock shaft’ at one point.

10. Fairways and hybrids – Again, older models work. Like the old Callaway Steelhead 3-wood:

Hybrids work, like the older Adams models

Some would say to go with the Ping Eye 2 1-iron.

But that may blow your cover as again “Never bet with a guy that carries a 2-iron and a tan.” With a 1-iron, no tan is even required.

11. Putter – most would say go with the old Bullseye putter

I’m skeptical of using that style of putter because if you start putting well with that and people know how difficult that putter is to putt with, they may know they are being had. The good news is that since most of the putters come from Ping’s original designs, you can go with a variety of different putters like the Wilson Staff Infinite Windy City putter

Just make sure to kick the crap out of it here and there.

12. Golf Ball – I would probably stay away from the Pro V1x although I don’t think it’s a killer because so many golfers use them. Instead, I would prefer to go with the Nicklaus black which performs similarly, but is relatively unknown and doesn’t look like a ‘player’s ball.’

Even if the mark has heard of the ball, just say “yeah, I found these online for only $32 and that’s what Jack hits, so you know they MUST be good!

And remember to say things like:

Boy, I got lucky there.”

I was reading this golf tip in one of the magazines and started to suddenly hit 300 yard drives.”

Y’know, I think the wedges is what separates the pros from the rest of us.”

I started to stand further away from the ball and that’s when I started hitting it better.

(after a purposely hit poor shot) ”MOVED MY DAMN HEAD!!!”

Y’know, I went to Dicks Sporting Goods to buy this putter and I think it’s just as good as your Scotty Cameron.


(a loving tribute to the Jeff Thomas’, Eddie Pearce’s, Carl Patterson’s, Grant Rodgers’, Martin Stanovich’s and Alvin Thomas’ of the world)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Putter Aiming Drills with John Graham

Here's a video from golf instructor, John Graham, showing some of his drills to be used to help with aiming the putter.


Monday, August 3, 2015

Sample of How I Use Google Earth to Prepare

I often get questions on how I personally strategize for a golf course. First, when it comes to strategy and golf we should accept the fact that it is fluid in nature. A lot of people go too far with that and use the old boxing adage of “everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” But by the same token I could say that “those that fail to plan, plan to fail.” I would imagine that great generals of war throughout the history of the world understood that nothing ever quite goes according to plan. But, that was no reason to not plan anyway.

This post will be done for casual rounds of golf. In terms of preparing for an upcoming tournament, I would recommend spending most of your focus on shots around the green. In general, I don’t think strategies off the tee are overly complicated and difficult to determine. One can usually see where they need to hit most tee shots even if it is the first time they have played the course. The more difficult strategy to determine is on the approach shots because you need to know where you can miss and that is often times hard to tell unless you have actually practice hitting those short game shots around the green.

For this post, I’m showing a course that I’ve played before. In a future post I will look at a course that I am going to play for the first time. Here’s how I look at things using Google Earth. The course in question is Orange County National’s Panther Lake course.


For starters, I carry the ball now about 275 yards on a good strike with ‘normal conditions.’ However, we should realize that even Tour players don’t always hit perfect tee shots and have perfect conditions. I typically give myself 20-yards, meaning that I feel comfortable with any shot that I need to carry less than 255 yards off the tee. I’m still trying to play for my ‘average swing’, but I recognize that my average swing may miss the sweet spot by a small amount or may launch lower or higher than I want or there might be some heavier wind in my face, etc.

So when I’m looking at Google Earth overviews, I’m generally looking for where to aim off the tee and how much carry I have to get over certain obstacles like bunkers and water.

Here’s the 1st hole at Panther Lake. You’re probably not going to get much roll off the tee as it slopes uphill.


To carry that first bunker is 233 yards. I know that the left rough can lead to a funky lie, but I would rather be in the left rough than in the right fairway bunker. So the play here is to probably try and hit it straight, maybe with a tiny draw and aim at the left side of the first bunker. I figure that this drive can be hit about 260-280 yards because it’s uphill and would likely leave me with about 180 yards into the middle of the green.

Here’s hole #2, a dogleg left par-5. I wanted to see what it would require to carry the trees on the left in order to take a shortcut to the hole.


It’s about 262 yards to carry that tree. While I should be able to carry that tree, there is little reason to attempt to do so because if I hit it down the center of the fairway, I’m still going to have about 210 to 220 yards to the hole. Obviously, being closer to the hole is generally better, but anytime I know I’m going to have between my 3-wood to 5-iron on my next shot, I want to keep that ball in the fairway because scores dramatically increase when you’re in the rough with a long club than when you’re in the rough with a short club. If this was a par-4 and cutting over the trees could be the difference between a 9-iron or a 6-iron, I would consider it. But with a long club in my hands, I want to keep this in the short grass. Lastly, if I happen to have a good tailwind on this hole, I know what the carry distance is just in case. That is in a nutshell is what it this is all about. It's not about guaranteeing that you'll hit great shots, but it is about being prepared so I can give myself a chance to hit great shots. I can always deal with lack of execution, but not giving myself a chance is a different matter.

From there, there’s not a lot to go over as the holes are fairly simple. I want to be on the left hand side of fairway on #3 if I can do it. I want to be on the right half side of #5 if I can help it. #7 is a little tricky…a par-5 with a large wetland right in front of the green and I might have to lay-up on the second shot:

The tricky part is that the lay-up position is well off to the right and would normally be vague. Typically, I would use Google Earth to figure out where I could put the ball that would give me 70-100 yards to the middle of the green from the fairway. However, there is a 100-yard marker stake on this hole and all I have to do is shoot my rangefinder at the stake and determine what I need to hit if I need to lay-up.

I don’t start to face another critical tee shot until the 9th hole, a 428 yard par-4 that doglegs right with water on the right.

The thing about this hole is you can’t just blindly aim left as even if you avoid the trees on the left, the lies are difficult. Unfortunately, you can’t really see it on Google Earth very well. However, I wanted to know what the carry was to the final tree on the left anyway and use it as a landmark of sorts. I know that the distance is 271 yards to that final tree.

Here’s where mental game plays tricks on people and creates bad shots which create bad scores.

Dr. Bhrett McCabe has often talked about asking yourself ‘In an ideal world, what shot would you like to hit?’ The reason for this is that too often golfers (myself included) try to do what I call ‘over-hedge their bets.’ In this situation, aiming at the final tree will likely prevent me from missing the water. But, it will also likely prevent me from putting myself in a good position on the approach. More importantly, aiming at that final tree is creating a mindset where I’m still focused on water and in the end, that’s likely to cause me to make a weak pass at the ball. So, not only can I screw myself over by aiming at that tree and making a good swing, I can really screw myself over by aiming at that tree and making a weak swing because my focus is divided between the water and the tree.

I feel the better play for myself would be to aim inside the left edge of the fairway.

Now, the battle is to get my mind straight so that I find the spot of where I’m aiming and determine the shot I want to hit (small fade). And I focus on that spot and the shot I want to hit and nothing else matters. If I go into the water, that’s just poor execution (and likely still some poor focus) and I can always work on that. As retired Navy SEAL Don Shipley has said, there’s nothing wrong with having fear. Fear of going in the water on this tee shot is a healthy thing. But being scared is another animal. And being so scared that you are going to aim so far left that you make it nearly impossible to hit a good shot is no good either.

This is also a shot that I may want to visualize trying to hit on the driving range before the round as well, so when I step up to the 9th tee, I've already hit this shot countless times before.

Now we get to the 10th hole, a 530 yard par-5 that goes uphill.

What I love about Google Earth overviews is that I can start to better see a theme that the architect is making with the course. Here we can see that, once again, it’s a tee shot where you can either try to cut over a small grouping of trees or play towards the fairway. To the spot I have shown is 282 yards. I should be able to hit it at least that far on a decent swing. That will leave me with 248 yards which means I can reach with a 3-wood. That really takes out any desire to try and cut it over the trees. So, my target is that kidney shaped bunker out in the distance.

This leads us to the 624 yard, par-5 14th hole.

This is another hole where I would not expect much roll as it is usually soft and it does have some uphill slope to it. What’s difficult about this hole as well is that missing right, even just a little, is almost certain death because it is a large hill that slopes into the fairway and will leave you with a bad lie. However, missing left is no good either.

I looked at this hole because I’ve played it on occasion when the wind was blowing very hard into me and I just found the fairway. But, I’ve also increased my distance off the tee considerably since working with Kelvin Miyahira. The point I have this hole marked to is to 280 yards which is comfortably in the fairway. I think trying to lean towards one side of the hole (left or right) is useless because missing left is only slightly better than missing right. The key here is you have to hit a good tee shot. The tee shot also throws an optical illusion at you, so I would just keep mind that I want to aim more towards the left half of that fairway bunker out in the distance and I would probably try to hit a small draw to prevent it from going right.

Finally, I finish with #18, a 570 yard par-5 with a split fairway.

So, which fairway should I choose?

It’s 260 yards to carry that bunker. I think the left fairway is undoubtedly the fairway to aim at because you only have to contend with the bunkers on the right and the rough on the left. There are some trees up in the upper left hand corner, but those really don’t come into play. If they do, I can simply aim well right of them and leave myself with a good approach.

The right fairway I have to contend with the bunkers in the middle and the bunkers on the right. Furthermore, I will actually have a shorter distance to the hole (slightly) if I were to be in the left fairway. So, my aim here at the left edge of those bunkers in the middle and trying to hit a small draw.

Overall, I’m using Google Earth as a guide. I even might be wrong on some of the strategies, but since it is a casual round I have nothing to lose and I can always learn from that the next time I play the course. There’s no reason to over-think this. It’s just something I use to better understand how to play the golf course. The next time I post something on this, I will try and take a look at a golf course that I have never played before and show how I would use Google Earth to come up with a strategy playing a course blind.