Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What To Look For: The Shell Houston Open

The Tour heads to the Golf Club of Houston for the Shell Houston Open.


The Shell Houston Open starts all the way back to 1946. The event was played at several different Houston area which included the famous Champions Golf Club which was founded by the legendary Jackie Burke and Jimmy Demaret.

In 2006 the event moved to Redstone Golf Club and has remained here since. The only difference is that they changed the name from Redstone Golf Club to the Golf Club of Houston. The course plays to 7,457 yards and is a good tune up for the Masters as it has some similar traits to Augusta in that there is virtually no rough and shots from 175-225 yards are at a premium unless a golfer bombs his way past those shots.

Generally, the course is well received. Personally, I think the design is so-so, but when it’s well received it usually means 3 things:

1. It’s in great condition
2. There’s a lack of tricked up holes
3. There’s a lot of good courtesy stuff given to the players and the wives.

Despite the Masters taking place next week, the field is pretty strong. It also helps that they just got done playing the match play in Austin which is only about a 2 ½ hour drive away.

I strongly feel the Tour needs to re-work the schedule in order to get strong fields in both the Texas and Florida swings. They may want to go from Riviera to do the WGC-Mexico the following week. Then hit Houston after that and follow up with the Match Play in Austin. Then make the trip over to Palm Beach, then to Tampa and finally to Bay Hill before the Masters.

Anyway, the course will generally favor long hitters due to the length and the lack of rough. However, shorter hitters have some chance due to the difficulty of the greens. The weather forecast looks pretty good, although some wind may pick up. The winning score here is pretty steady, so I don’t expect anything vastly different.

The 18th hole is a great finishing hole as it is the last Critical Hole on the course, so if it’s a close tournament on Sunday, you can see a dramatic finish.

Projected Winning Score: -16


Jordan Spieth +650
Jon Rahm +1,000
Rickie Fowler +1,400
Justin Rose +2,000
J.B. Holmes +3,300


Jimmy Walker +6,000
Jason Kokrak +10,000
Jim Herman +10,000
Luke List +10,000
Kyle Stanley +10,000


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ben Hogan on Trackman? My Thoughts...

Here's a fun article by Guy Yocum on what some instructors think Hogan's data would read if he were on Trackman:

The general consensus was a square path with a clubface about 1 degree left of the target.

I thought Sean Foley brings up a good point with of Hogan possibly zeroing out both the face and the path with him hitting the ball slightly off the heel.

The 'Hogan hit if off the heel' theory has been bandied about for years as anybody who has ever seen his personal irons saw a wear mark towards the heel.

The only issue with this is a better understanding of the equipment at the time.

For the longest time an issue that manufacturers had with equipment is that the epoxy was not strong enough to hold shafts installed in hosels by itself.  They needed to use epoxy and then drill a hole on the side of the hosel to stick a pin thru to ensure the shaft would not come loose.  You can see the pin hole on the picture above.

In order to do that, they had to make the hosels longer in length.  You would see hosels vary from 2.5" to 3.5" in length.  In fact, Hogan started to popularize a shorter hosel length with his Hogan irons.  These days companies make their hosels much shorter.  With muscleback blades, many OEM's will make the hosel longer because the blades player generally seeks a lower ball flight.  However, the hosels are still shorter than the irons from yesteryear.

As the hosel length gets longer, the Center of Gravity moves up higher on the clubface and also moves more towards the heel.  Thus, Hogan 'hit it off the heel' is a bit of a fallacy that was where the 'sweetspot' was located with those irons.

However, we should remember that the 'sweetspot' is essentially the size of a needle point and as great as Hogan was, it's not hard to imagine that he may have missed that spot on occasion.

I do tend to agree that Hogan likely hot a fairly low Spin Loft number:

Spin Loft = Dynamic Loft - Angle of Attack

The low Spin Loft has a tendency to produce high launch, low spin numbers with the driver.  But, it's also characterized with better impact sound, smaller divots and less spin.

The issue with the old balata balls is that they used to spin like crazy (they also only lasted well for about 3-5 holes).  Combine that with the grooves on the driver, that meant the golf ball was hard to control the curve for us mere mortals.


The only issue here is that Trackman only tells us so much and in the case of Hogan, it doesn't tell us nearly enough.  There have been plenty of golfers that could hit similar numbers on Trackman and are nowhere near the ballstriker that Hogan was.

I tend to think what the article missed out on are other key aspects to Hogan's swing.

3-D Flat Spot

There is a 'flat spot' in the golf swing located near the low point.  In recent years, researchers have discovered that there is a scientific advantage to having a longer Flat Spot.  It can help with the Spin Loft, but also give the golfer more room for error in the process.  I believe we tend to see longer flat spots with golfers like Hogan who had a pronounced lateral move in transition and then started to 'back up' their Center of Pressure as they go into impact.

I feel the video below explains a major difficulty of people trying to emulate Hogan's swing.  Most of the Hogan copycats focus on the address position, having a flat backswing and a flat shaft plane in the downswing and trying to create this massive amount of lag. (along with wearing the white cap which is a must for a Hogan copycat).

But, what they miss out on is how much his Center of Pressure (aka weight) shifts towards his front foot in transition and then 'backs up' as he continues to rotate the pelvis and go into impact.

Vertical Swing Plane

This is one of the key elements that Trackman actually measures but was not mentioned in the article.

The flat shaft plane allowed Hogan to move and rotate his body like he did and that worked into an elongated Flat Spot.

Here at about p6, his left wrist is still in flexion.

And if there was anybody that got their Center of Mass of the club moving 'below' the net force of their hands...Hogan's swing was it.

Rate Of Closure

His pivot action helped ensure a slower rate of closure.

These factors helped Hogan reach those numbers and be able to do it with an amazing level of consistency.

That's usually what I find the problem with the Hogan copycats...they look at the wrong things and then to make matters worse, they try to emulate them to a tee.  If they more carefully examined his hand path, wrist movements, lower body motion and his pivot in general, they could end up finding that golf swing they have always wanted...even if it looks nothing like Hogan's.


Air Compressor Shaft Puller by Holtzman Engineering

Here's a neat little product I saw a few years ago.

Shaft pullers are really needed for graphite shafts.  It's too easy to overheat the hosel and cause the graphite shaft to splinter and ruin the tip section.

With steel shafts you don't have to worry about the shaft splintering, but if you're looking for more of a professional job and not singeing the hosel, a shaft puller works.

Most shaft pullers require some manual pulling of the shaft.  But, the Holtzman shaft puller is hooked up to an air compressor and as they demonstrate in the video below, with a minimal amount of heat the shaft can be easily removed like a professional.

The Holtzman shaft puller is available for $119.  You can find it at this link:


Monday, March 27, 2017

Clue Collection, Correlation, Correction with Cameron McCormick

Here's a video with Jordan Spieth's coach, Cameron McCormick, discussing Clue Collection, Correlation and Correction using the Swing Catalyst system.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Cost for Dying the the Ball in the Hole w/John Graham

Here's a video from John Graham discussing the cost of trying to die the ball at the cup when putting.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Flop Shot is Dead

This has actually been going on for a while, but it stood out on Tuesday when I was at Bay Hill watching the practice round and then watching various golfers on the short game green.

For all intents and purposes...the flop shot is dead.

There's little reason to hit the flop shot as pros have discovered and mastered the high spinning pitch shot instead.  I use Calvin Peete's definition of a 'pitch shot' as any time the wrists bend and start to cock.  A chip shot has little to no bend of the wrists in the backswing.

With Tour players, anytime they get into the pitch shot territory the last thing they want to do these days is to hit a flop.  They would just rather hit a lower trajectory shot that spins a ton and stops on a dime.  My guess is that when you get at lower trajectories, it's easier to control the distance than the high launch flop shot.  One of the players I noticed doing the high spinning, low trajectory pitch shot beautifully was Matt Every.  Every even opens the club face a bit, but still gets a lower trajectory that stops in a hurry.

Here's a video from Martin Chuck discussing this shot and hopefully you can add this shot into your game for better and more predictable results:


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What To Look For: Arnold Palmer Invitational

The Tour heads to Bay Hill for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The Arnold Palmer Invitational was originally The Citrus Open at Rio Pinar Country Club on the east side of Orlando until 1966. In 1978, the event moved to Bay Hill which is on the west side of the city and where Mr. Palmer made his residence. Mr. Palmer preferred the Orlando area due to the close proximity to Orlando International Airport as he owned and flew his own airplane. This set off the influx of Tour players and mini-tour players chosing Orlando as the preferred area to live in the state of Florida from the 1970’s to the 2000’s.

Bay Hill was originally built in 1956 by well known architect, Dick Wilson. Eventually Mr. Palmer made some changes to the course. The big issue they had over recent years was the quality of the greens, but they completely renovated the greens to a TifEagle grass which doesn’t quite roll as fast as some of the modern bermuda grass types, but it is the most durable of the bermuda putting surfaces. This works for Bay Hill because they do have a substantial membership and one can play the course if they pay to stay at the lodge. So, the foot traffic is a little more at Bay Hill than most Tour courses.

Having been at Bay Hill, yesterday…the course was in fantastic condition and I have various Tour players and caddies tell me that they think these are the best greens they have played so far this season.

This is not a strong field with most of the top-20 players in the world deciding to skip the event. The main complaint is the schedule with having come off Mexico two weeks prior and then the match play in Austin the next week which starts early. Bay Hill is also a bit polarizing in that players tend to either strongly like or strongly dislike the layout. Shorter hitters may not like it as much because the course plays soft as holes #3 thru #6 sit in a ‘bowl.’

The 18th hole gets all of the fame, but the 17th hole is incredible in it’s own right (click to enlarge).

What I also like about the 17th hole is while it’s a difficult shot into the hole, the green has a very high make percentage. In essence, the classic use of ‘form follows function.’

While the 16th hole is a fairly easy hole, it does get golfers into a situation where a good drive can mean going for the green in 2 shots with an iron or a hybrid and between 16, 17 and 18 you really have a fine stretch of finishing holes. If there’s one thing I strongly dislike about that stretch is that from a casual fan’s perspective the 17th is not very friendly because almost all of the seating around the green is taken up by corporate sponsors and there’s only seating for about 40 people while the rest of the fans have to stand the entire time to see the hole.

Other than that, Bay Hill is easily one of the best fan experiences on Tour. Easy course to walk, free on-course parking Monday-Wednesday and excellent bleacher seating behind the driving range. A great spot to watch players on Tuesday and Wednesday is between the 3rd green, 4th tee and 6th tee. So you can watch approach shots come in on the 3rd hole, see tee shots of the par-5 4th hole and tee shots on the famous par-5 6th hole all by walking roughly 30 yards.

The course has changed over the years in terms of critical holes. The 18th used to be the featured critical hole, but now the last critical hole is the long par-4, 15th hole. However, if the winds continue to be breezy like they were on Tuesday, you should see a momentum change and the 18th become a more critical hole.

LOCAL EATS: Orlando doesn’t have the selection of local eats like Tampa does. This is commonplace in resort areas.

The good news is most of the quality local eateries are near Bay Hill like The Chatham Place, Kokino’s, Rocco's Tacos and the Pharmacy Restaurant.

If you want some places more off the beaten path, I would suggest Graffiti Junktion in Thornton Park, Cuban Sandwiches to Go of Lee Road (they only take cash) and Il Pescatore in Winter Park.

PROJECTED WINNING SCORE: -15 (if it continues to stay breezy and cold, expect winning score to be higher).


Rory McIlroy +700
Henrik Stenson +800
Rickie Fowler +1,600
Justin Rose +1,800
Tony Finau +4,500


Zach Johnson +5,000
Adam Hadwin +6,600
Russell Henley +6,600
Keegan Bradley +8,000
Marc Leishman +10,000


Thursday, March 9, 2017

New GolfWRX Column is UP!: Looking at Golf's Next Superstar

My new GolfWRX column is up....looking at Golf's Next Superstar....John Rahm.

I personally feel that pro golf is coming close to reaching a new golden age. While I could appreciate the brilliance of Tiger and Phil Mickelson, the lack of sustained competition from other top players at that time always felt hollow to me. These days we have numerous world class players with incredible golf games who are vying for the No. 1 ranking in golf such as Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Hideki Matsuyama.

The only potential negative issue is that some players may get overrated and overhyped despite not actually deserving it. One could make a case for the 22-year-old Jon Rahm as the young player that is overhyped because he has yet to win a major. However, I think a look at his metrics show that he’s on a path to being worthy of being mentioned among the names I listed above

Rahm is currently ranked 25th in the world and is only 22 years old. I wanted to compare his metrics thus far versus the metrics of Jordan Spieth’s 2015 season when Spieth turned 23 years old, won more than $12 million and also claimed a Green Jacket and a U.S. Open victory

 Read More:

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

What To Look For: Valspar Championship

This week the Tour heads to Tampa for the Valspar Championship at the Innisbrook Resort. The event is growing in popularity because in general the players like the course and many have played it in junior and college golf. The issue is that it struggles to draw the stars now with the WGC event in Mexico the week before.

Innisbrook holds special for me as a few years ago when I did my first interview with Matt Adams on his Fairway of Life radio show, I predicted that Kevin Streelman would win the event. That may not seem like much, but at that time Streelman had never won a pro tournament of any kind and was a 200/1 long shot (meaning if you put $10 on him to win, you would get $2,000 for winning).

The pros like the course because it’s fair, it doesn’t overly favor bombers nor does it favor short, but very accurate hitters of the ball. It also features four par-5’s which is a little refreshing givne that they only play two par-5’s at PGA National, 3 at Riviera and then you get the unusual schedules of Pebble Beach. Innisbrook is in Palm Harbor which is actually northwest of Tampa, so the traffic is a little more relaxed to the player’s liking.

Tampa remains one of my favorite cities in the country with plenty of beaches and people with a very laid back view on life in the St. Pete, Clearwater and Rocky Point sections of town. There’s plenty of good food, old fashioned southern, Cuban tradition combined with post-modern city life to experience. Some of my favorite places to eat are Kojak’s House of Ribs in South Tampa, Bella’s Italian CafĂ© in Hyde Park and the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City (pronounced eee-bore). There’s also Whiskey Joe’s in Rocky Point as a good hangout place right off the beach.

The Par-5’s end up being the big part of the story here. In fact, the last Critical Hole on the course is the par-5 14th hole. The course hasn’t recorded a lot of low scores recently often due to the wind picking up in The FLA this time of year and we can still have some very damp and cool mornings. The wind has been blowing quite hard in Florida recently and that has been causing a lot of brush fires, so I expect the scoring to stay high.

Projected Winning Score: -8


Justin Thomas +1,000
Gary Woodland +2,500
Patrick Reed +3,000
Graham DeLaet +4,000
Bubba Watson +4,000


Martin Laird +6,600
Russell Henley +6,600
Charley Hoffmann +8,000
Tony Finau +8,000
Harold Varner +20,000


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Developing Kinesthetic Awareness in Your Golf Swing w/Tony Luczak

Here's a video from golf instructor, Tony Luczak, on developing your proprioception in the golf swing.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Rambling About Flattening the Shaft in the Downswing

One of the things I've been discussing since getting back to the blog is the flattening of the shaft angle in the downswing.  This has been prompted by Joe Mayo's and Dr. Sasho MacKenzie's video Understanding Torques and Forces in the Golf Swing.  In the video, the discussion is very much focused on flattening the shaft, but it describes how and why you don't need to flatten it like Ben Hogan in order to strike the ball brilliantly.  And you start to understand why Tiger in his prime and Nicklaus were such great ballstrikers despite having a more vertical 'plane' than Hogan.  Or how somebody like Miller Barber who looked like he was using the 'guillotine plane' was able to strike the ball so well.

I'm a big fan of Joe and Sasho's video, but having readers ask me questions about it, I started to think a little more about the subject and where I think golfers (including myself) are having a disconnect between understanding the move and actually executing the motion.

The big part of this move as far as what needs to happen in order to flatten the shaft is the rear shoulder has to externally rotate.  Joe discusses this more extensively in another video Wrist Angles, Swing Plane and Trail Shoulder Rotation (

Using the lead wrist torque action can greatly aid in rear shoulder external rotation, but if you can't get that trail shoulder external rotation, you're just not going to flatten that shaft to your liking.

First, here's a diagram showing 1 version of external vs. internal shoulder rotation.

In this motion, the arm is moving vertically.  And in this motion, the external rotation movement would be to rotate the arm upward.

Kelvin Miyahira referred to this as the 'Stop Sign Move' because it's like a Crossing Guard that pops up their stop sign to tell cars to stop.

So the external rotation move will look like the rear forearm is more vertical as we go into roughly P4.5 (p4 is the top of the swing, p5 is when the lead arm is horizontal to the ground in the downswing)

I'm going to really generalize this concept here, but I'm going to label golf swing positions at p4 in 2 ways:

1.  'Slanted P4' - The rear forearm at the top of the swing is more at an angle with relation to the rearm humerus.  This creates more of a 'across the line' look and the golfer has more internal rotation of the trail shoulder

In order to get the shaft to flatten out, the golfer requires more external rotation.

My friend Victor Rodriguez is a good example of a 'slanted P4.'  But, look at how more vertical his right forearm gets in transition.  This allows him to flatten the shaft.

(click picture to enlarge)

2.  Vertical P4 - These are golfers with a rear forearm that is more vertical at the top of the swing.  They have more of a 'laid off' look to their swing and are more into external rotation with their rear shoulder (as opposed to internal rotation for the 'slanted P4').  In order to keep the shaft flat in transition, they simply need to sustain the vertical angle of their rear forearm in their swing.  Sergio Garcia is a good example.

(click picture to enlarge)

Now, Sergio's right forearm gets a hair less vertical in transition, but it's still very vertical.

But take a look at one of the worst cases of being over the top in Charles Barkley.  Take a look at his right forearm in transition.

Is it really the 'swing yips' or more about awful swing mechanics that will make it impossible for ANY golfer to hit the ball consistently well?  Sure, he hesitates to hit the ball, but I would like to think his mechanics are so poor and the club is in such a poor position that his brain is going haywire because it knows it can't hit the ball with the club in that position, it just struggles to instantly figure out what he needs to do in such a short period of time.

In the end, when it comes to solely flattening the shaft, it doesn't matter really how you do it, but the one common element is the ability to either make the rear forearm more vertical (Slanted P4) or have the rear forearm in a vertical position (Vertical P4).


Thursday, March 2, 2017

My Thoughts on Proposed USGA Rule Changes & How the Ball is Affecting the Game

Yesterday, the USGA proposed the following rule changes (

  • A player will not receive a penalty if the ball (or ball marker) accidentally moves on the putting green or in search of a ball.
  • Players can leave the flagstick in the hole while putting.
  • Players may repair spike marks or other damage, including foot prints, on the green with no penalty.
  • Caddies will no longer be able to line up a player. This will be a big change on the LPGA tour, where many players have their caddies line them up before stepping away just before the player makes a swing.
  • Players who have trouble in bunkers could get relief. If you want, you can remove your ball from a bunker (and place it in the fairway or rough behind the bunker, depending on where the bunker is) and accept a two-stroke penalty.
  • A new procedure for how to drop a ball in a relief area.
  • Time searching for a lost ball would go from five minutes to three.
  • There's a proposal calling for players to take no more than 40 seconds to play their shot.
Most of these rulings I like, except for the new procedure to drop the ball which says the player can drop it from any distance above the ground.  I think this allows the player to make a better drop when usually the drop is occurring from a poor shot.  The rule should be simple...the player must drop the ball from above their waistline.

I also thought the time search for a lost ball going from 5 minutes to 3 minutes brings up another discussion....the impact the cost of golf balls are having on the game.

The goals of these proposed rule changes was:

1) Cut down the rule book

2) Help pick up the pace of play.

But, what gets overlooked in all of this is that the cost of the golf ball has greatly hurt the popularity of the game and has greatly slowed down the pace of play.

Recently, the big craze in golf was when golfers started to see that Costco's Kirkland Signature golf ball performed roughly as well as the Titleist Pro V1(x) models.  The difference was in the price as the Kirkland cost only $15 per dozen ($1.25 per ball) to the Pro V1(x) which retails for $48 per dozen ($4 per ball).  That's nearly a 70% price drop.

The Kirkland ball exploded in popularity where in just a couple of short months, Costco ran out of the balls even though the general consensus was that the Kirkland was very slightly inferior to the Titleist Pro V1(x).

That does indicate how a cheaper alternative is important to golfers.  In fact, it appears that Costco is set to bring back the Kirkland ball, but rumors have it being re-priced at $29.99 per dozen because according to Dean Snell of Snell Golf, any company would lose too much money until they start pricing balls at around at least $30 per dozen for a 'tour quality' golf ball.  

And this is not a knock on the other ball makers like Titleist...if it's not feasible to make 'tour quality' balls at under $30 per dozen with no endorsements and advertising, just imagine what happens when you pay Tour players to endorse your product and then have to advertise.  In essence, outside of the alternative companies like Costco, Snell Golf, Nicklaus Golf, etc., the high priced golf ball is here to stay and it will only increase as time goes by.

With the high priced golf ball here to stay (and it's not like $32 a dozen for alternative golf balls is cheap), that means more golfers are going to take more time to find that ball.  And whether the USGA likes it or not, golfers are not going to stick to the old 5 minute rule to look for their ball and moving it to 3 minutes is a good try...but laughable.  

And that's where the USGA needs to tackle the bigger problem....

We need better course designs.  And since courses are rarely being constructed in the US these days...we need more courses re-designed.

Growing up in New York, I grew up playing a course designed by local designers that was built in 1957.  Across town was a course built all the way back to 1897.  Both of them were easy to play quickly because they were walkable.  So if a course was easy to walk, just imagine how quickly you could play in a golf cart.

The two biggest influences on golf course design in the area were Donald Ross and Robert Trent Jones.  Both had differing philosophies, but their courses were relatively easy to play quickly.

Ross wanted a golfer to hit every club in their bag at least once in a round.  He offered a few tee shots that required something other than a driver.  His greens were usually on the small side (very popular back then) and usually crowned a bit.  RTJ's concept was 'go long or go home' with courses met to hold big crowds that rewarded the longer hitters, especially if they could get out of the rough.  But generally were fair designs to all golfers and featured enormous greens that were flatter.

What they had in common that made the courses easy to play was smart use of bunkering and water.  A lack of blind tee shots and tee boxes that were very close by to the previous green, making the walk to the next tee box very easy.

What has been lost on the USGA over the years is the major influence that Pete Dye has had on golf course designers.  Often times, golf organizations only count the architects that directly learned under an architect like Pete Dye.  What they miss out is that many courses are designed by locals who are greatly influenced by big name designers that they never met.  Just like so many local courses I grew up playing in New York were designed by locals who were big fans of either Donald Ross or RTJ.

Dye's courses place a heavy emphasis on driving the ball well.  They feature a lot of blind tee shots where there is often trouble on both sides and love for water and bunkers.  Most of Dye's courses feature 'hit or miss' routing where he may make 6 excellent golf holes and then come up with 6 crummy/tricked up holes that were basically made due to him shoehorning those 6 excellent golf holes.  This often means a long distance from one green to the next tee as well.

And the end results is golf balls go missing.  It's more difficult to find your ball when you can't see it land due to a blind tee shot.  And the Dye/RTJ philosophy is more of 'if you hit a bad shot, you will be punished, but you can still find and hit your golf ball.'  Often times in the Dye philosophy it's more like 'if you hit a wayward shot, you're not likely to find your ball.'  

The reality is that the Dye philosophy means more potentially lost balls and more golfers looking longer for their expensive golf ball.  

You really can't change the price of golf balls by much, but the USGA can change the philosophy of golf course design and in turn encourage more current designs to be get renovated.