Butler Cabin, Augusta National (c) Burgh Golfer

Friday, January 21, 2011

2011 Golf Goals

As January gets under way it is goal setting time. I usually lay out my personal, professional, financial and golf goals for the year each January. In 2010, like most years I achieved some of my goals and missed others. There are usually a few “left over” goals that seem to be on the list every year. One that seems to make the list each year is to improve my lag putting. I learned in a management class a long time ago that if you write down your goals you are more likely to achieve them. So, since then I have been doing so and it has become part of my New Year routine.

Here are a few of my golf related goals for 2011 and some other good ideas. If you have never set goals before, take some time, reflect on what you would like to achieve this year and write them down. At the end of the year it is fun to see what you achieve or accomplish versus what you still need to work on. The key to this exercise is to periodically look at your list to make sure your focusing on the goals. Use your own results to see if this is a good tool you can add into your life for improvement.

Some of the goals may be general

• Improve my lag putting

• Reduce three putts

• Focus on the shot at hand, stay in the present

• Turn pars into birdies, bogies into pars, double bogies into bogies, avoid the big number

• Focus on hitting the fairway off the tee

Some of your goals may be more specific but they may also require that you keep some stats

• Improve average score from 85 to 82

• Reduce your handicap from 15 to 12

• Get up and down out of the greenside bunkers 33% of the time

• Average less than 34 putts per round

Other Goals may include personal achievements

• Win your club championship flight

• Enter three competitive events in 2011

• Get some lessons from your PGA Professional

• Take a golf trip with some friends

• Read some instructional books or magazines

• Commit to practicing your short game for at least two hours each week

What are some of your golf goals for 2011?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

2011 Golf Predictions

Well, 2011 is finally upon us and in the world of professional golf it does not take long to get started. The PGA Tour was in Hawaii last week for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. So, with 2011 off to a good start, I thought it might be fun to throw out some of my predictions for this year in Pro Golf.

• Tiger Woods will win a Major Championship (ok, I said it).

• We will see some more 59’s. The once allusive number is now suddenly en vogue to obtain. With the equipment, training, talent, and quality conditions, the number of players who achieve this will grow.

• Rory McIlroy will win multiple PGA tour events this year. I believe he is probably the greatest young player in the world and his second year on tour will pay dividends.

• Comeback Player of the Year; Tiger, Boo or Anthony Kim – they all had sub-par years in 2010 and considering they all have high expectations of themselves, each has a reason to play well in 2011.

• Rookie of the Year; Jamie Lovemark –I am betting on him to win the award.

• Scoring Title; Phil Mickelson – I’m not sure why but I believe with Tiger coming back full time this year, Lefty will have a little extra motivation to play well in the big events. Who knows, maybe he can grab the No. 1 title before Tiger takes it back.

• Tiger retakes the position of No. 1 player in the world –with the personal issues behind him, a new coach, and a lot of motivation, I’ll be watching out for him to climb in the rankings.

• LPGA Player of the Year; Michelle Wie – she has enough experience as a pro and combined with her school load winding down , I believe she is poised for a great year.

• Graeme McDowell continues his good play with at least one win on the PGA Tour and multiple wins in Europe – why not; the guy rolled into 2011 right where he left off in 2010 playing great and making a ton of putts.

• Champions Tour Player of the Year; Fred Couples – now that Freddie has seen the course and is familiar with it, he could be dominant.

• The International Team will win the Presidents Cup – for one, it is in Australia- Greg Norman’s home country and I believe his mates will play hard for him. Plus, it is not easy for the US team to make that trip and play refreshed.

• Dustin Johnson and Natalie Gulbis will not be dating this time next year.

• Champions Tour Rookie of the year; Tommy Armour III – because he knows how to cash in week after week and is pretty consistent. You could argue Kenny Perry because he is still technically a rookie, but I believe he will still play very few events on the Champion Tour to focus on the PGA Tour.

Do you have any predictions for 2011?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Book Review; The Art of Scoring by Stan Utley

Over the past few days I read the book “The Art of Scoring”- The Ultimate On-Course Guide to Short Game Strategy and Technique” by Stan Utley. I have read dozens of golf books by famous players like Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Ray Floyd. I would have to put this book in the upper echelon of books I have ever read on the short game.

Most authors cover a lot of ground in their books and only spend a small amount of time on the short game. What is great about this book is that it is solely focused on the short game. This part of the game is where amateur golfers struggle the most and waste a lot of shots. Stan does a great job of breaking down the game into simplistic, easy-to-understand concepts. He draws mental pictures with words in describing how to get into the proper position to perform the stroke. He stresses the importance of feel and visualization over talent or technique throughout the book, which I really like. He begins with this theme on the very first page of chapter one when he states “I’d put more weight on their ability to see what shot to hit than I would on their ability to understand the mechanics of how to hit it.” I agree with this advice and wrote a piece this summer about the why in golf instruction, not just the how.

I am a big believer in knowing why an instructor is asking you to approach a shot a certain way or to make a certain change. Stan does a great job of explaining why and how. The book doesn’t just tell you how to get into position, grip the club, or make a stroke. He outlines why you should make a change or approach the stroke in a certain position.

Another great point he makes in the book is setting proper expectations about the results of a short game shot. Very few players are scratch golfers or professionals. So, the average to high handicapper can get a lot out of this book in course management and expectations. He explains that sometimes just getting the ball on the green is good enough. He also relates how to turn double and triple bogies into bogies and pars. That is a lesson we all need to follow a little more closely.

In speaking about bunker play, Stan challenges the conventional notion of how to setup to and position the golf ball. He teaches playing a square stance when conventional instruction always teaches approaching a bunker shot with an open stance. I found this very interesting and am curious to try it on the practice ground myself. He also spends time going through how to diagnose sand conditions when you enter the bunker. It gives information on how to play the shot, how hard to hit the ball, and where to land it.

In my opinion, one of the most important points in the book is regarding lag putting. Stan makes it very clear that the key to good lag putting is sound contact between the putter face and ball. He stresses the importance or hitting the ball in the middle of the putter face every time. For someone like me who struggles from time to time in gauging speed on lag putts, this is music to my ears. I experimented with this very concept last season as I was tired of three putting and I have to say it works like a charm. Consistent, clean contact on the ball is crucial to rolling the ball the correct speed on a consistent basis.

To conclude, I think this is a great book and instruction manual for mid to high handicappers, which defines most of the golfing world. If the average player takes his advice and follows the tips he outlines, I believe they could make a dramatic impact in lowering their scores and handicap. If they do that they will have a lot more fun playing this great sport.