The Immaculate Par

My fellow competitor left his first putt a woeful 5 feet short of the hole, and as he approached his ball it was clear that he wanted to finish. Finish he would – with style. As he read the break, I turned my back to the hole and began the walk down the slope towards my mark, which sat some 30 or 40 feet from the cup on the other side of the green. When I arrived, I turned back towards the hole expectingCheater! to see my competitor partway through his pre-putt routine. Turns out he’d already hit and missed the 5-footer, leaving it an inch left of the cup. I caught him just in time to witness the most ridiculous, yet brilliantly straightforward, act of cheating one could imagine: hand picks ball off of green, hand puts ball into hole, hand extracts ball from hole as if the 5-footer had dropped. Bogey magically turned to par.

“CHEATER! Are you joking? Really? I’m standing right here! Did you think you could get away with that? I’ve sweated every 2-footer all day long and you’re going to pull a f*#@ing stunt like that in broad daylight?” Continue reading

Your Golf Equipment Buying Guide, Part IV: Web Resources

Information is power, right? We’ll finish off our series on equipment-buying with a few web resources for the most die-hard wedge-heads among you. The links below represent my three favorite time-drains, ranked in descending order by hours squandered.

1. Frank Thomas – Equipment ExpertFrank Thomas
In this fantastic Q&A archive, equipment researcher and expert Frank Thomas takes questions from readers on everything from how temperature affects the performance of a golf ball to the pros and cons of wearing a golf glove. Warning: if you have even an ounce of equipment-junkie in you, watch yourself. Five minutes on this site will easily turn into three hours. Continue reading

Your Golf Equipment Buying Guide, Part III (cont): Irons Demystified

Now that you understand the basics of iron design (cast vs. forged, muscle-back vs. cavity-back, player’s club vs. game-improvement club), let’s talk about getting the right fit. When it comes to irons, you’ll need to consider the following:

1. Lie angle.
The lie angle of an iron is the angle made between the ground and the club shaft when the sole of the club rests flat on the ground (as if you were addressing the ball). When this angle is smaller, the lie angle is said to be “flatter.” When this angle is larger, the lie angle is said to be “more upright” (see diagram below). Longer clubs are flatter, shorter clubs are more upright. Continue reading

Your Golf Equipment Buying Guide, Part III: Irons Demystified

We’ve covered the driver, and now it’s time to discuss irons. In this post, we’ll address the basics. Next time, we’ll talk about how to make sure you get an iron with specs that fit your swing.

So let’s get to it. When shopping for irons, the three basic decisions you’ll need to consider are:
muscle-back vs. cavity-back
1. Cast or Forged?
Cast irons are made by pouring molten metal into a mold. Forged irons, on the other hand, are made by pounding and shaping a heated chunk of metal. Cast irons tend to be harder, forged irons softer. If you like a harder feel at impact, go with cast. If you like a softer, sweeter feel, go with forged. In the end it’s simply a matter of preference.

One other consideration is that cast irons tend to be more brittle than forged irons. While softer forged irons are easily bent to adjust loft and lie angles, cast irons are not. So, if you decide to buy cast irons that need to be adjusted (we’ll discuss the importance of getting the right fit next time), it would be wise to custom order them from the manufacturer instead of having the golf shop bend them (and possibly break them) for you. Continue reading

Your Golf Equipment Buying Guide, Part II: The Driver

Basic Factors to Consider
Is your driver more than three years old? If so, golf club manufacturers would say it’s time for a new one. I was skeptical too, but when I finally bit the bullet and bought a modern driver, I couldn’t believe the difference (and my old driver was only five years old). If you’re serious about your game, it’s well worth the investment.

Finding the right driver isn’t hard. Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need to pay anyone to tell you what you should be swinging. You can do it yourself — you just need to know what to look for. We’ll spend this post discussing the four simple factors to consider when buying a driver, and then next time we’ll talk about how to get it done.

10.5 degree loft1. Loft
The higher the loft on your driver, the higher the launch angle and the more backspin. For players who have faster swing speeds (generally better players), too much loft can be detrimental. More loft creates more spin and more height, and this leads to high ballooning shots that get caught in the wind and don’t go anywhere. On the other hand, for those with slower swing speeds, higher loft will help get the ball started on a higher trajectory, and this will increase carry distance.

Most manufacturers sell drivers with lofts ranging from 8 degrees to 12 degrees. To check the loft on a driver, look at the bottom of the club (see left). Continue reading

Your Golf Equipment Buying Guide, Part I: Myths Debunked

Thinking about spending your next paycheck on some new clubs? Great! This is the first installment of your golf equipment-buying guide. For better or worse, I spent the last year systematically replacing every club in my bag. clubsAlong the way, I learned a few things that you may find useful. Let’s clarify a few things before we even begin to contemplate heading out to kick the tires on the latest and greatest in golf equipment.

Myth #1: I’m not good enough to buy new clubs.
Another common varation of this avoidance tactic is “I should really fix my swing before I consider getting new clubs.” Here’s the thing — having the right equipment can actually help your swing. Many of us make ill-conceived adjustments to our swings to compensate for clubs that aren’t right. Maybe it’s a hunched-over posture to compensate for a 9-iron that’s too short, or an excessively weak grip to make up for a driver head that has a two-degree closed face. Whatever it is, the equipment we play often dictates the way we set up and swing. Get the right equipment and you’ll have a better shot at swinging the club correctly. Besides, there’s no such thing as not being good enough to buy a club that you love. This game is about enjoyment. The more you like hitting your clubs, the more you will enjoy the game. Continue reading

Your Golf Equipment Buying Guide

Thinking about buying new clubs? I think I can help.

For better or worse, I’ve spent the last year systematically replacing every club in my bag. Along the way, I’ve read equipment reviews, talked to club pros, hit hundreds of balls with dozens of clubs, bought clubs, sold clubs, traded clubs, gotten fitted for clubs, watched other people get fitted for clubs, spent too much time in Golf Galaxy, experienced buyer’s remorse, and finally ended up with some sticks I’m happy with. If I had to do it all again, I’d do it much differently.

In this new series of blog posts, “Your Golf Equipment Buying Guide,” I’ll share my lessons learned. I’ll assume you’re like me – uninterested in the technical jargon, very interested in finding a club that feels good and hits it straight. Here’s what you can expect over the next number of weeks: Continue reading

The Right Club

I’ve just piped a drive, and now I’m facing a short iron to a green with a large bunker protecting a front pin. My trusty range-finder gives me exactly 150 yards to the flag. It’s a simple calculation from here, right? 8-iron is my 150 club. No problem.

Five minutes later, I’m awkwardly situated under the lip of that front bunker, trying my best to remember the “how to advance the ball from a plugged lie” tip I read last week in Golf Digest.bunkerblast

Sound familiar? In any given round of golf, how many of your approach shots end up short of the green? Count the next time you play. You will likely be shocked at what you find.

For most of us, the source of the problem lies not in the swing we make but in the decisions we make prior to the swing. This should come as good news, as making better decisions is a lot easier than making better swings, especially for the average weekend warrior. So, let’s try this again. Continue reading

Masters 2010: Changing of the Guard

This was to be the week. Masters 2010 was Tiger’s opportunity to make amends. In his words, he would be more respectful of the game and more appreciative of those who have supported him. Early in the week, a softer Woods was freed up around the press, he was reportedly more generous with the patrons, and he smiled – often. The collective golf world breathed a sigh of relief as the scoreboardbeating heart of our game strolled around the grounds at Augusta with a seemingly contrite and humble outlook on golf and life. Yes, the new Tiger appeared tuned-in to the world outside of his Nike cap. Perhaps he really got it – he’d dragged us all down with him, and now he’d returned to pull us all back up. This was a promising start.

We watched Tiger on Thursday afternoon, and at times we were once again amazed by his golf. But no one ever really questioned his ability to show up and hit a low rope hook around a tree. What we sought was a Tiger we could get behind not for the shotmaking but for the example of reconciliation and humility. For once, we wanted a Tiger that was more than simply an astonishing golfer. But as the week progressed, Tiger regressed. He was back to business as usual in the media room, back to using his cold stare to put distance between him and anyone who might encroach. Then came Sunday afternoon at Amen Corner. Continue reading