Butler Cabin, Augusta National (c) Burgh Golfer

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Hitting down the target line

I recently had the opportunity to play in our states Mid Amateur Championship.  I was excited to play with other guys my age, and on a great golf course under tournament conditions.  One of the main reasons why I play in these types of events is to test myself but to also discover the weaknesses in my game.  When playing a difficult golf course under pressure the weaknesses in your game will come through.  In this particular event my weakness was my iron play accuracy.  I was striking the ball cleanly enough; however, my accuracy was not what it needed to be.  So, after some reflection on a cause and I came up with a remedy. 

A friend of mine always used to say “a road to somewhere leads nowhere”.  He used that in context of business planning but I also see an application in golf.  In other words, when you setup to hit a shot without an exact target you are not likely to hit it.  So, I went to the range to apply this philosophy in my practice routine.  I decided to use the same routine that Jack Nicklaus has always taught about target alignment.  Jack always says to stand behind the ball while lining up the shot and then select your target.  From there, pick your end target as well as an intermediate target such as a spot of grass in front of your ball.  The idea being that it is easier to line up to a target a few inches in front of the ball rather than a hundred yards out.  So, I employed this method but took it one step further and here is where it made the difference for me.  I not only aligned to that intermediate target but I also hit through the ball on that line to the short range target.  The positive results for me were two things.  First, my ball was starting out on the exact target line I was aiming for and ultimately, ending up at the target.  Second, my clubface was much squarer at impact resulting in a more solid strike.  This leads to better distance control and shot trajectory.  My thinking was if this drill is good enough for the greatest player of all time, then it is good enough for me.  There is one final aspect to this method that I like.  In performing this technique you will find yourself driving down the target line and through the ball.  In other words, your focus becomes driving through the ball to the target rather than the “hit” at impact.  Most of us are so focused on hitting at the ball not hitting through the ball.  Your focus becomes more target driven than impact driven.

I am not a PGA Professional nor do I claim to be.  However, when I do find a drill or tip that works both on the course and practice range I like to share it.  So, the next time you go to the range give this tip a try, you may also find that it leads to better impact and more accurate golf shots.

Let us know if this works for you, I would like to hear your feedback.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Practice vs. Preparation

            As we enter the summer golf season it is time to sharpen our games for competitive golf events.  This includes all aspects of our game both physical and mental.  I do not play that many events each year due to my work schedule however, I try and play a handful that I enjoy competing in.  I know that I am not one of those guys who has endless access to practice facilities, lessons and competitive games to prepare.  My schedule mainly consists of a few Mid Am events that I can qualify for, the Club Championship, a Match Play event and a few invitational’s.  I would love to play more competitive golf but the bottom line is that I do not have the time to spend on my game in order to prepare. Actually, I prefer to play competitive golf over social golf any day of the week but that is not an option.
I decided to write this blog because I wanted to put my thoughts down on paper describing the differences between practice and preparation as I see it.  I see practice as more of a repetitive, physical action that comes from the time spent on the practice tee.   Whereas, I see preparation as more of a mental exercise.  I truly believe to play great golf in competition you need both elements and need to prepare for both accordingly. 
Now, it is no secret that you need the physical and mental aspects of the game.  What I am suggesting however is that you need to focus on both and think about both distinctively.
For practice, there is no substitute for going the range and hitting golf balls to hone your swing.  Likewise, there is nothing better you can do to improve your scores than to spend time on the practice green chipping and putting.
The difference for me in preparation is how do you think about your practice and how do you situationally prepare?  Most of us go to the driving range or practice green and just hit balls, chips and putts repetitively.  There is very little thought on what the target is, where the ball should land or how the putt will break.  When I prepare for an event I hit each practice shot to a specific target, each chip to an intended spot and each putt on a particular line.
Another preparation tip I employ is to put myself in a frame of mind during practice to hit that specific shot, chip or putt as if it was under intense pressure during tournament conditions.  I know that is difficult to reproduce those feelings of pressure that you get when playing in competition.   However, we must make every attempt that we can to try. 
So, the next time you prepare for an event do not just stand there and beat balls.  Do not stand there and just hit chips.  Do not stand there and putt to the nearest hole.  Instead, hit a golf shot that you will face during the round.  Hit pitch shots or chips that will matter in saving a stroke or a hole.  Finally, do not just lag the putt rather, try and make it while at the same time leaving yourself a short comeback putt.

How do you prepare for golf tournaments?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Golf and Life Lessons

source: sportsillustrated.cnn.com
For those of us who have been playing golf for a long time, we know that there are parallels between golf and life.  Golf is not simply a sport or hobby as some like to call it; the game is much more than that.  At least that is how I feel about it as I have experienced many events that cross over, like dealing with adversity.  Over the past few years our family has had to deal with numerous health issues and deaths of loved ones.  That adversity makes a person stronger, teaches you lessons about how to deal with certain situations and provides you with an appreciation of day-to-day life.
Likewise, dealing with adversity on the golf course is much the same way.  Golf adversity is not as important as life; however, the process you go through is similar in both cases.  Everyone copes with adversity differently.  Some people run away and hide.  Others rely on someone else to take care of things for them.  Then there are those folks who rise to the occasion and face the challenge head on.
I would like to think I am the latter.  However, I am probably a mixture of all three depending on the situation.  On the golf course I tend to face the situation head on as I am a competitive person.  If I am down in a match or if I am struggling with my game, I am not one to give up.  If I get a bad break I may complain about it but then usually refocus and do my best to get through it.  I think match play events have taught me the most about dealing with adversity.  I have played in many match play events in my life dating back to high school.  In match play you have many ups and downs in the course of a round and you need to learn how to deal with those situations on the fly.  There is no one there to bail you out.  There is no one there to pass the ball to or substitute.  In golf, you cannot even call a timeout so you learn to deal with the situation at hand the best you can and learn from the outcomes.
Life also deals us adversity and fortunately we generally have more time to deal with the challenges that lie ahead.  We can get counsel from friends and family members.  We can reflect and consider our options.  However, in the end we still need to be strong, make sound decisions and accept the outcomes.  Just like golf, life does not always deal us a fair hand and sometimes we have to accept the outcome.  However, just as in golf, we can learn from the experience and apply it to our life the next time we are in a similar situation.
How do you handle adversity in life or in golf?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Troon North Course Review

           This is the second in a series of three course reviews from our recent Arizona golf trip.  On day two we played the world-renowned Troon North Golf Club.  Troon North features two world class golf courses; the Monument and Pinnacle.  We played the Monument Course on this outing.  The Monument Course plays to a yardage of 7,070, has a course rating of 72.9 and a slope of 147 from the Black Tees.  We chose to play the Gold Tees.  The Gold stats are: yardage - 6,716; course rating - 71.6; and slope of 137.  It was still quite a challenge from these tee boxes.
Troon North, like most great desert courses, is first class all the way.  This facility has every amenity a golfer could want.  They have a wonderful driving range and putting green that players can use to knock the rust off.  They also have a fully stocked golf shop with anything you might need in case you under packed.  If your foursome is looking for a facility that offers a great place to practice, as well as a great golf experience, you cannot go wrong with Troon North.
One of the features that impressed me the most about Troon North was that it is a true championship golf course.  This course will challenge you in every aspect of the game.  Although the greens were a little on the slow side the day we played, you can tell they can make them quite challenging for a tournament setting.  The only element of the course that I did not prefer was the surrounding residential subdivisions which took away from the natural views.  However,  I realize that in modern golf course planning, expensive homes dotting the fairways is a given.  Even with that I still loved the layout.
One element that you need to be wary of on this course is that there are a lot of forced carries off of the tee boxes.  So, if you struggle off the tee or are a short hitter be sure and take plenty of golf balls.  There are rattlesnake warning signs positioned around the course, so you might not want to go searching for your lost ball in every instance.
The Monument course has a great variety of holes.  There are challenging par 3s, reachable par 5s and long par 4s.  My favorite par five on the course was the eleventh which played to 504 yards.  This may sound like a short par five but it is straight uphill the entire way and has a pretty daunting tee shot.  The tee shot is framed by large boulders and has a fairly lengthy carry to get to the fairway.  I also really enjoyed the par three 13th which played to 206 yards. This hole is bordered by a lake on the right and plays at least one club downhill.  It offers a large green and a generous approach area where you can run the ball in from the front.  The miss is short or left where you also have a number of chipping options.
All in all there are many great holes on this course and it is a must play if you get to the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. 
Send us a comment if you have ever played Troon North; we would love to hear your feedback.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Positive Thinking on the Golf Course

I played golf over the weekend with a good friend of mine and we had the opportunity to discuss golf strategy.  I told him that I am a huge believer in the power of positive thinking.  I am no Tony Robbins but I firmly believe in the power of positive thought in all aspects of life.  I do not know where this stems from or whether it is a learned behavior or a personality trait.  You will need to read a psychology blog to get an answer to that one! Regardless, I have experienced it enough in my life and noticed it enough in other people to trust in the power of positive thinking, but on and off the course. 
Anyhow, here is how the topic came about.  We were playing a match and upon entering the eighth hole the score was tied.  We were on the par five 8th hole when my buddy hit his third shot to two feet and made the putt for a birdie four.    I missed the green with my third shot and was pin high about twenty feet from the green.  I told my buddy that I need to make the chip to tie him.  It was not a particularly difficult chip shot and one that a player could make if you get the ball tracking online.  So, I approached the shot, hit it perfectly, and holed it! 
The discussion about positive thinking began on the 11th hole, which is another par five.  As I hit my third shot the turf gave way and my ball came up about ten feet short of the green.  I then chipped the fourth about twenty feet past the flag leaving myself a tough downhill putt -- not very good.  At this point I felt like the eleventh hole owed me one.  I said as much to my buddy as I approached my par putt.  I do not know why I think that way, I just do.  I always feel like if the course delivers a bad break, it owes me.  Needless to say I stood up and knocked in the par putt to win the hole.
I explained to my buddy my theory on the power of positive thinking and how I use it on the golf course.  If you play golf long enough you almost have to think this way.  This is especially true if you play any competitive golf events.  You always have to believe that you can still win the hole, the match or the tournament no matter how dire the circumstances.  Tiger Woods is the master at this.  He always thinks he has a chance to win and usually does. 
I personally believe that players either think positively or negatively on the golf course and there is no in between.  If you ask most players if they are thinking positive or negative thoughts during the course of the round they would probably say the latter.
The next time you are faced with a difficult situation on the golf course, think positive.  Imagine yourself remedying the situation, improving your score, making a better swing, etc.  Do not let negative thinking creep into your game.  If you think positively, I promise you will play better, score better and enjoy the game much more than you ever have before.
Please share with us stories you have about positive thinking on the golf course.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

WE-KO-PA Course Review

           I recently had the opportunity to play WE-KO-PA Golf Course in Arizona.  WE-KO-PA is located about twenty five minutes northeast of Scottsdale.  WE-KO-PA offers two courses to play; the Saguaro and Cholla.  Both courses are named after a variety of Cactus that is native to the area and that can be found throughout the course.  Just a little trivia I learned during my round.
We played the Cholla course and teed off in the early afternoon.  The course is situated beautifully amongst the natural desert landscape and offers tremendous desert and mountain views.  Several tee boxes set atop mounds and knolls with breathtaking views of the natural landscape.  In my experience, most desert courses are relatively flat and are surrounded by residential subdivisions.  Although you do see homes from the course, the fairways are not lined with them.  As far as natural beauty goes, this course is hard to beat.
Upon our arrival we were greeted at the bag drop by very courteous staff members willing to help us out.  They loaded our bags and directed us to the pro shop.  Like most courses in this area during the season, the pro shop is fully stocked and has a great variety of apparel options.  After check in we headed to the driving range to warm up.  The range was natural grass and offered plenty of flag distances to hit to.  The balls are included in the greens fee so you do not have to purchase them in the pro shop.
The Cholla Course offers five sets of tee boxes making it playable for all level of players.  We started off playing the combination tees which were a mixture of white and purple tees.  However, after the second hole we decided to play the purple tees the remainder of the round.  The purple tees are just in front of the championship tees and behind the men’s tees (white).  I found this course very playable and not to brutal off the tee.  There is plenty of trouble off the tee on certain holes but it is not overly demanding.  In fact, one of the things I liked most about this course is that it was very playable.  We found that we could relax, enjoy the views and just play.  I was able to hit a combination of three woods and drivers on the par four holes which are always fun.  All in all, it was a great day, the golf course lived up to its reputation and I will certainly go back.  The next time we play, I will try the Saguaro course to mix it up.
If you get to the Phoenix/Scottsdale area and loved to play desert golf this is a must try. Before I close, I have to give props to the staff at WE-KO-PA.  Throughout the day every staff member we came into contact with was professional, courteous and helpful.   
We also played Troon North and the TPC Stadium Course on this trip which will be upcoming course reviews. 
If you have played WE-KO-PA leave us your comments.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Golf Production and Nascar

Bubba Watson (left) and General Lee. / Via @bubbawatson
Like millions of other people around the world, I recently watched the annual running of the Daytona 500. I usually only watch two races per year; the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. So, last weekend I spilt my TV-watching time between the WGC World Match Play Championship and the Daytona 500.
As I switched back and forth between the events, it occurred to me the glaring differences in television production between Professional Golf and NASCAR. I am not an expert in the field of televised sporting events so am speaking from the perspective of a viewer. The comparison between the two events left me wondering why golf production on TV has not changed that much over the past few decades. Yes, there have been a few innovations over the years to improve the viewing experience. Most notably are the Minolta Biz Hub Camera, Pro Tracer Technology and Super Slo Mo. That technology is great; however, it really does not add to the viewing experience of the shots being played as they occur. One element that the camera does not seem to capture is the contours of the golf course. I would like to see more ground level views of the shots being played. For example, why can viewers not see the shots approaching into a severely sloping green to see the ball’s reaction? Instead, we keep hearing the talking head commentators say “wow, that ball really shot off of that slope.”
If NASCAR can plant a camera in the middle of a race track I am sure the golf production companies could place a few cameras green level. This would greatly enhance the type of viewing windows we could see on TV, as well as the reaction of the ball. For years now CBS announcers have been stating how the cameras do not capture the contours of the greens at Augusta National for the Masters Tournament. Having been to the Masters, I agree. The course has a lot of hills and the greens are very contoured. Each year CBS replays the shot when Tiger Woods holed his chip shot from behind the 16th green. The camera angle was really cool because we could see the difficulty of the shot by the slope of the green. This is the type of thing we need more of and I would expect the major events to lead this innovation.
Back to the Daytona 500. Fox had a camera in some of the cars that stayed level as the cars banked into the turns. With this camera shot the viewer could see the angles of the turns of the racetrack and just how much slope there is in the corners. I thought that was a really creative way to illustrate to the viewer how steep those corners are. These are the types of visuals I wish we could see more of in golf. Ground level action, not shots from the blimp or some camera mounted 100 feet above the ground. Also, if NASCAR drivers can speak to announcers from their car during a race then why can’t golfers do the same from the fairway?
If the networks want to attract new viewers and keep the ones they already have, then they need to become more creative. Younger audiences and future generations of golf enthusiasts are much more technically savvy and have higher expectations when it comes to technology. I believe the days of showing static footage from high above the course will only have limited appeal to future viewers.
What would you like to see from television production companies to improve the viewing experience of golf tournaments?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Blue Tip Golf Course, Grand Cayman -Review

Before I get to the course review I have to sing the praise of the property.  We recently had the opportunity to stay at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman for vacation.  Before we arrived for our stay we had heard wonderful things about the resort, beach, property and service.  I am happy to report that not only was the property absolutely beautiful but the service was unmatched. 
On the property there is a nine hole Greg Norman designed Golf Course called Blue Tip.  I walked over to the course the day before I was to play to check out the pro shop and get acquainted with the layout.  As I always do on vacation I like to visit the pro shop to see what they have available and what the inventory is like.  For a resort course pro shop I was impressed with the inventory selection as well as the quality of the merchandise.  You can buy pretty much anything you need for a round of golf, with a variety of styles, colors and brands.  If you forget to pack your golf clothes do not worry they can fully outfit you for the round.
One disappointing aspect of the course was that they do not have a driving range.  That is not really a surprise since the island is not very big and space is at a premium.  However, you can warm up by hitting balls into a net next to the pro shop before you drive out to the first tee.  Near the first tee they do have a nice putting and chipping area where you can get a feel for the speed of the greens as well as, the grain.  Like most island courses I have played the grass on the greens is Bermuda which can stand up to the intense heat.  I recommend hitting a few chips and putts to become familiar with the direction of the grain before heading to the course.  Understanding the grain direction will make putting the greens much easier.  Since I did not bring my clubs I rented a set of Taylor Made woods and irons.  They have clubs for men/ women, right/ left handed and even stiff/ regular shafts.
The first thing I noticed was that Blue Tip was not your regular, lay down resort course.  This Norman design will get your attention from the first tee and challenge you throughout the nine.  The first three holes are quite challenging with plenty of water lining the fairways and greens.  There are no real bailout areas on any of these holes.  If you miss the fairway one direction you end up in the water.  If you miss on the otherside you will be in the shrubs or OB.  Most resort courses provide the player with inwardly sloping fairways to keep the ball in play.  Not here, if you miss the fairway on the wrong side the rough actually slopes away from the fairway and into trouble.  There are a number of very good holes on this course and the ninth hole is an island green that plays dead into the prevailing wind.  See photo above.
Although Blue Tip is only nine holes is has the feel of an eighteen hole layout.  With a variety of tee boxes you can play one set on the front nine and a different set on the back.  Also, please bring plenty of golf balls as you will need them.  With water on eight of the nine holes it does not take long to lose them.
If you have the chance to play Blue Tip I highly recommend it as you will not be disappointed and will definitely be challenged.