Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Continued Confidence...

Went to the range last night to see if the things I have been doing are indeed the key to straight shots. I hit several with the driver and confirmed that I have found what works for me. At this point, I can send the ball in the direction I want it to go with a very playable amount of error. I also tried dropping my shoulder and letting my elbow pull away to confirm what not to do.

Next I hit a few with my hybrid which continues to be long, but lacking in directional control. I hit some straight, but many fade, slice, hook, or draw. I think the key with that club is to ease off the power a bit.

I next hit a few with the 3 and 5 woods - the Adams Tight Lies (the original ones). By applying the same techniques as I do with the driver, I get nice straight shots. I'm not too sure what distance I get with these clubs, but I'm fast approaching the point where I will use them on the course.

Finally, I hit several shots with the three iron. Results were highly variable at first, but I did manage to hit a few with good results. I'm not sure what the key is to consistent good shots with the tall irons is, but I seem to be making progress.

As I neared the bottom of the bucket, I packed up and moved over to the chipping area. I paced off three stations at 30, 40, and 50 yards. I placed my towel on the edge of the green where I wanted the ball to land and hit several shots from each station. I did poorly at first, but got much better by the time I finished.

Finally, I went to the practice green. There are three cups on a long (80 ft) and narrow three-tiered green, with one cup on each tier. I started by hitting four-footers until I made ten in a row. Then I started a circle exercise where I would try to two-putt from one hole to the next, and then to the next, and then all the way back (60+ ft). I did this until I had made three 2-putts in a row.

I will be sure to add the chipping and putting exercises each time I go to the range.

I have some follow-up stuff to add from previous posts, but I'm going to publish this post because I accidentally pressed the "Publish" button after only typing in the title.

Tomorrow I'll be playing The Battleground and looking to hit lots of fairways!!!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Post Thanksgiving Update...

The Best of Times... The Worst of Times...

Why is it that in golf you can follow your best hole with your worst hole? You can post your best nine and then finish with your worst?

My 16th Regulation Round...

I played some of my best golf Friday after thanksgiving along with a good measure of my worst. I was right on target to match or break my best score after completing the front nine at Bayou GC. My driving was straight and consistant like never before. I hit five of seven fairways, got two GIRs (one was the par 3 5th, 171 yards into the wind - which I three putted), made three pars, and hit my fourth ~300 yard drive (297). That's right, I said 300 yard drive. The big deal here is that this time, I had three witnesses and there was no bouncing on the cart path involved. Just a long, 297-yard drive that landed on the fairway a scant 112 yards from the center of the green... Then I hit it into a sand trap, then two shots later I was on the fringe, but putted in from there (for a double). But still, that was one long drive!!! I headed for the 10th with 47 strokes on the scorecard and some serious confidance in my driver.

On the 10th I hit three consecutive shots out of bounds and finally completed the hole with a 13 - my worst score ever (again!). I regrouped and managed three bogies (though two three-putts) and a triple on 14. The 15th was a replay of the 10th with three consecutive shots out of bounds on the right. I managed an 11 on this par 5, but these two brutal holes brought my game from stellar to average. My straight driving came back on 17 (double) and 18 (three-putt bogey) and I finished with 109. On the day I hit 8 fairways, got 5 GIRs, and made 41 putts (8 three-putts, 3 one-putts).

Even though the course was busy we never had to wait for more than a minute or two and we rarely had the foursome behind us breathing down our necks. In the past this has bothered me quite a bit. It might be more because it used to take me more shots to reach the green... okay, to get near the green.

I left with some disappointment because I had a shot at breaking 90 because I usually do better on the back, but still very happy with what I learned about my driving.

The "What-if" game...

OK, if I managed a double on those two holes and made half as many three putts I would have walked away with a 95. Had I bogied those holes and elimitaned the three-putts I would have carded an 89. Maybe I should have had more than "some" dissapointment? Nah, I had a great round even if I did demonstrate "how to consistantly slice" six times.

The Lesson...

What did I learn? I confirmed that keeping my right elbow attached to my right side through the backswing and contact will result in a straight drive. I can see why I slice the ball when my elbow comes away - it's because I need to pull the head of the driver towards me prior to contact which induces the spin that causes the slice. Knowing that, I wonder if I can develop a more classic swing that does not require the attaced elbow? Only range time will tell. Then again, why mess with what works? If I can hit long and straight with a short backswing, why change?

Next Stop: The Battleground...

With my wife working every weekend this month I'll be leaving the office early to get my fix. This week I'll be playing with a local who contacted me through mygolfbuddy which is a pretty cool site. Will this be the time I break 100 at The Battleground? I sure hope so. Every time I finish a round I feel I've learned something that will help my next round. This last round that feeling is very strong and I've never felt more confident with the driver. My irons have been getting better too. If I can just play well around the greens I should be able to record a new personal best. Stay tuned ;^)


Monday, November 21, 2005

Pre-Thanksgiving Update...

Range time...

I managed to hit the range the evening before my Wife left town. This would be the first weekend in quite some time with no golfing so I opted for the bottomless bucket. My main goal was to focus on the 3, 4, and 5 irons. I don't recall making any real progress on those irons, but I do recall imagining a round at The Battleground.

I've played The Battleground three and a half times and I can now picture most of the course in my mind. About halfway through my third bucket (after my intercostals and right ring finger callous started shouting "Hey Pal, call it a day all ready!!", I decided to imagine a round at The Battleground. I would imagine the fairway, hit a drive, make an approach shot, and perhaps a chip. It was quite an enjoyable exercise. The lesson on the day was smooth and easy for a straight shot. Of course I know that - I just have trouble applying it on the course.

After I finished my "round", I hit a few with the fairway woods (the original Adams Tight Lies) which I had never been able to hit. Much to my surprise I was hitting them pretty long and straight using the same swing that I use with the driver. Certainly I was not hitting every shot long and straight, but I was quite happy with what I was seeing.

Anxious to play...

During my four days with the kids, while checking my email, the weather, and slickdeals, I would browse over to PGA18.com (and Golf18Houston.com) to see what kind of deals I could find for the coming holiday. I've come to find out that the biggest shopping day of the year is also the biggest golfing day of the year. I'm hoping to get a round in that day, but I usually can't book a tee time as a single through PGA18.com.

At some point my mind began teasing me about a round Monday morning. Yeah, I could hit Pasadena at the crack of dawn, or maybe even Eagle Pointe (where I could book a tee time as a single). By Sunday night I was commited.

I arrived at Pasadena Municipal just as the sun was inching up over the horizon. I was surprised to see quite a bit of activity on this cold (for Houston - 45* F) morning. I hustled up to the Club House and paid my $9.00 to walk the course and this is what I saw when I got to the first tee:

It turns out that Monday is Seniors Day at Pasadena - Lesson Learned!!!

I made a quick decision to start at the 10th. I don't want to go into too much detail here, but in the end I had an average day shooting 113, making 2 pars, 2 bogeys, 5 doubles, 7 triples, 4 penalties (1 water, 3 OOB), and crapping out 49 putts. I finished the round in about 3hrs 20mins. It was my 15th time playing a regulation course. Five more rounds and I can have a real handicap!

Lesson No. 1: Playing golf at the crack of dawn starting on the 10th hole makes putting very difficult. What I learned was that early ing the morning there is quite a bit of dew on the greens. This makes them super slow. In addition, starting on the 10th means that most of them haven't been cut. I learned later in the day that the greenskeeper cuts the greens in the morning. This morning cut breaks the dew as well as cuts the grass. Also, as the sun rose, some greens would dry off a bit. So what I had was greens that were very inconsistant from hole to hole. I suppose the next time I play early in the morning I'll be a little more prepared, but I was not too happy with the putting.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Weekend Report...

Playing the Best Percentage Shot...

In my last post I talked about how I had done some range work with my driving. So, I hit a few straight shots (no fade/draw), and I learned that placing the ball further back in my stance seemed to produce a straighter shot that flew somewhat left of the target line. How did this data translate to my round on Sunday you might ask?

Before I answer that, let's review No. 1 at The Battleground:

Par 5, 461 yard dogleg right (at the end) with a lateral water hazard on the right, a ditch on the left, and the fairway slopes towards the water so anything that lands on the right half of the fairway plays a game of chance with the "good bounce" gods and those odds are stacked in favor of the water. Now for those who fade the ball we're talking about a hole that requires landing on about the left third of the fairway. So, if you manage a good drive, you have a good chance at a par. I often visualize No. 1 of The Battleground when I'm hitting the driver at the range.

So, how did I do?

Well, I lined up for slightly left of the center of the fairway with the ball slightly back in my stance... then I adjusted a bit more "for good measure" and hit a nice straight shot that bounced over the cart path and into the ditch on the left. Hind sight being what it is, I should have trusted the data and left the "for good measure" out.

The second hole I did a little better. It's a par 4 dogleg right with similar hazards (water on the right, ditch on the left). I learned from the first tee shot and left the "for good measure" out and hit a straight shot up the left side where it just rolled into the first cut of at the turn.

The third is a straight par 4 over with a narrow tree-lined fairway that widens a bit to the right. Somehow at this point I completely forgot what I needed to do to hit the ball straight. Bring in the baseball swing, drop the right shoulder and swing for the fences with the arms.... Not pretty. It's not like I forgot what I needed to do, I just stopped applying that knowledge.

The rest of the round was average. I managed a few decent drives that fell on or near the fairway, but the strong fade-to-slice trajectory would show up every time I stepped up to bat. Now there's nothing wrong with a fade, you just have to aim enough to the left - which I failed to do most of the time. So in the end I hit my highest percentage shot, I just didn't play it.

Note to self: Take a moment before each swing to focus on what I need to do because my instincts say swing for the fences.

The Rest of the Story...

I shot 110 with 7 penalty strokes (4 or 5 swimmers). I shot two pars on 8 and 9. I ended up with 53 on the front and 57 on the back. Not too bad since my scores there are now 131, 119, 110. I'll take it!!

The greens were like shag carpet so we instituted a no more than 3-putt rule. I think that saved me a couple of strokes, but the conditions also robbed me a couple of strokes, so I'll call it even I guess.

I had a great time playing the game. I played the game more for fun than game improvement and came out with a better score in the end. A couple of things contributed to the fun. First was my friend Todd from my old job. We simply played golf - nary a word about the office. Not that I would have minded office chat, it's just a realization about the game and where it takes you - away from everything else. I look forward to our next round. Another big contributor was the absence of other golfers. We started out with a pair in front and a pair behind, but never had to wait and never felt rushed (we rarely even saw the pair behind us). Of course a beer or two may have contributed as well ;^)

Deals on eBay...

Well, I did it. I got my 5-year-old daughter a set of junior clubs on eBay. I did my homework and got the right lengths. I'm really looking forward to taking her down to Green Caye. I figure I'll let her hit some balls at the range and play around on the putting green. Then after she has some ability, I'll take her out on the par 3 course. Hopefully she'll be able to play from tee to green, but if we get some folks behind us we'll just move right up to the green after her tee shot for a pitch and a putt or two.

I also managed a nice deal on the Olympus W-10 digital voice recorder. I should get it in a few days and I'm excited about using it for scoring, notes and photos of future rounds. Unfortunately, I'm not real sure when I'll be able to play again. My wife's going out of town this weekend, so that means Daddy duty with my little ones. Then it's the Thanksgiving holiday... Maybe I can get a round in while everyone else is kicking off their holiday shopping.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Working the Range...

I've been having problems with a strong fade creeping into my swing. I prefer to hit the ball straight (am I a genius or what?), but a little fade is fine if I can do it consistently.

Last night I went down to the range at Green Caye Golf Course to work on ball control.

I warmed up with some iron shots, then hit some with my hybrid (which seems to be waaaaaayyy more inconsistent than it's on-course performance would suggest), and then proceeded to pound bucket after bucket with the big stick.

This is what I learned.

Reference: My normal ball placement is just inside my left heel for the driver.

1. Placing the ball farther forward (toward the target) seems to be a possible cause of the fade/slice.

2. Placing the ball farther back produces straighter ball flight, but left of the target line.

3. Placing the ball even farther back (say near the center of my stance) is ideal when trying to draw the ball.

One thing that seemed to produce the fade/slice was dropping my right shoulder. I call this my "baseball" swing because I feel like I'm trying to knock it out of the park.

One thing that seemed to promote straight ball flight was to keep my right elbow tucked tight to my torso which is the opposite of what I recently read on one of the golf sites.

Here are some things to try for next time.

1. Keep the aimpoint (clubface) the same and vary the ball placement. Note where in relation to the target line the balls flies. Adjust the aimpoint and hit the shots again to see if I can get the ball to land where I want it to. I suspect that a slight adjustment (an inch or so) toward the center of my stance may sync everything up. I'm looking for the ball position that produces ball flight where I expect based on the club face. Wow these are really jumbled notes :-/

Other practice notes...

I used to practice my short game at Clear Lake Golf Club (mainly because it was free) which recently closed. They had a nice chipping green which was separate from their large putting green. I need to find a new place to keep chipping onto a green part of my practice routine.

Note taking while playing...

I always seem to have a hard time taking good notes during a round. I would like to have enough information after a round so I can review what I did right and what I did wrong. There is only so much space on the scorecard and I'd like to record more than fairways hit, GIRs, and putts. I'm considering getting a digital voice recorder so I can record additional information as I walk. I recently saw this one at Amazon for what seems like a reasonable price. It even has a built in digital camera that could come in real handy when reviewing a round. So I browsed over to eBay and found them for about half of what they were going for on Amazon. I bid on one, we'll see if I get lucky.

That's all for now. I'm not sure if I'll get out to the range before I play The Battleground or not. I'd like to see if I can answer the questions I have with ball placement with more data, but at least I have a general idea. One of these times I'll try a draw with the driver... Will this be it???


Sunday, November 06, 2005

Average Play at San Jac...

San Jacinto College has a real nice, well kept, nine-hole course. It has two tees and you're supposed to play one set of tees for the"front" nine, and the other set for the "back" nine. Playing both tees, San Jac is a short 5620 yard, par 72 course. It has a play-all-you-can fee of $10.00 on the weekends (and $8.00 during the week) and no carts are allowed. When my appitite for golf is high and my funds are low, San Jac is the place I go. The only bad thing I have to say about San Jac is that it is not a regulation course. At least it has no slope/rating (that I can find) and so it does not count toward handicap (as far as I know). They had a sign on the door stating that they would be overseeding their greens early in the week. That's a nice surprise - a course letting you know they will be overseeding. I have heard that many courses let you find out for yourself if you know what I mean.

San Jac is the first place I broke 100 with a 97 several weeks back. I have since shot a 99 there, and today I shot a 101 followed by a 96. Not too bad, but I'm really hoping to break 90 there real soon. Lately, I have been spending more time on the course, and less time at the range.

My play today was just average. My driving started out good (my normal fade), then some strong fades (not quite slices), and by the end of the day I was driving good again. My putting was pretty good with 36 putts in the first round and the second round I trimmed that to 33.

I hit several greens (one from 160); my approach shots were much better today than rounds in the recent past, and I hit a couple good shots with my hybrid (no greens though).

Of course I shanked my fair share too, I just prefer to highlight the positive. Speaking of shanked shots, I lost two balls in the water and hit one out of bounds during the first round. Then, I managed to play the same ball from the 11th hole of the first round for the rest of the day. Now that I think of it, I think that is a new record - an entire round without losing a ball. Wow, I need to reflect on that for a moment...


I think that deserves another moment...


Yeah, that was indeed a milestone considering my past history of losing balls.

More on the day, I made 3 pars per round - not the best but the bogey count was pretty solid at 15. The shanky scores were one 9 and three 8s (two of those 8s were triples) so all in all, not too bad.

I played with some real nice folks today and sometimes that makes all the difference.

On line for next weekend will be a return to The Battleground with a friend from my old job. I didn't golf when I was working with him but we ran into each other from time to time and next thing you know, we're checking our schedules for a round of golf. I'm really looking forward to it, even though this is the time of year the courses overseed their greens - it will be my third round out there.

After walking 36, I'll be sleeping good tonight...