Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Some Data...

Two loops of the 9-hole par three course last night. I shot 33 on the first loop, hit ZERO greens, but managed three Up and Downs. The rest were bogeys. On the second loop I shot 37, hit two greens and made only one Up and Down. The pin placements were about as tough as I've seen them since there was a tournament there recently.

I was hitting the ball pretty solid. I made only one crap shot on number seven where I tried to fly the ball over a mound onto the elevated green. I was in a darkish spot with a questionable lie (did not want to try the flop due to the lie). I didn't get under it enough and zipped it up and over into the water.

The 33 was solid since my best score there is 32. While the stats show I did not hit a single green on that loop, several were missed by 5 to 10 feet. My chipping and putting were pretty good as well.

I made a couple nice shots on number five, a 175 yard hole. Both tee shots were pin high to the right more or less. The green is slightly elevated and guarded by mounds on the back and sides. The pin was near the back of the green on the right. My first shot was right on the fringe of the thick rough with little room to swing. At a minimum, I needed to carry the ball to the top of a mound. I hit a good shot chopping down on the ball through the tall grass and it stayed on the green rolling somewhat toward the back left side.

The other shot was from a similar location, but I had more room to swing the club. I also had a good lie and choose to try the flop shot to get over the mounds. I tweaked the club face to hopefully give me enough to carry the mounds and swung about eighty percent. I landed on the green, below the hole and slightly toward the center of the green.

Both of those shots gave me 20-plus foot putts (that I missed), but I was very happy to be able to execute them as well as I did.

Hopefully I'll be able to get down there again this evening and shoot a little better - more greens, more Up and Downs (and more data!).

Wednesday I'll be leaving work early to pick up my daughter. I'll be taking her to the golf course for the first time. The focus will be on fun, so no data collection Wednesday.

My wife's working Thursday, so Friday will be my next (possibly last chance before my membership needs renewal) chance to post some solid stats.


Monday, February 27, 2006

Two Billion Mile Drive...

Some of you know I work within the Manned Spaceflight Program here in Houston. I get a daily summary of space news for review. Here's a 'beaut:

Bad Tee Shot in Space Could Pose Safety Problem


Show me the Data...

My one-month membership at Green Caye GC expires in a week. I have definitely played a quantity of golf that even the Cheap Bastard would agree justifies the $35.00 plus tax invested. The quality however remains in question. Not so much the quality of golf played, but the data that should accompany a month dedicated to irons and short game improvement.

As my loyal readers (should that be plural?) know, I like collecting data. Yet, here I am after playing a ton for three weeks and I have virtually no data to show for it. I actually only kept score for three nine-hole rounds. What was I thinking???

My swing got a pretty good overhaul and that alone is worth something, but I can't quantify it. Where is the data? How can I prove I'm making progress without data? The last two times I signed up for the month membership (July and September) at Green Caye I did keep score and I have those numbers ready for comparison. Those rounds are a little outdated, but a starting point.

I need to spend my remaining week taking data. My wife has some errands to run tonight, so I hope I have enough time to squeeze a round in after she gets back.

I need to change my focus to the task at hand: Hitting greens, making up-and-downs and recording the data.

Looking at the September data, I hit 1.75 greens per nine holes and made 21% of my up and downs. My best round was 34,my worst round was 45, and I averaged 2.5 pars per round. I should have reviewed this data the day after I signed up for a month, but I didn't. I may not have attempted a swing change had I been taking and comparing data so I'll just say all's well that ends well. Now I just need to take some data and see if all ends well.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Overdue Update...

First off, my first tournament was cancelled because of rain. I called before I left and I was told the tourney was on. I encountered fairly heavy rain on the way there and by the time I arrived (25 min trip), they had pulled the plug. The temps were in the upper 30s and the wind was howling at 20+, so it really wasn't the best day for a tourney.

That didn't stop me though. I came to play and play I did. I shot 104, hit 10 fairways and lost 4 balls in the water. I nailed my nemesis hole again almost making the green in two.

I played The Battleground on the Friday before the tournament and shot 107 after starting with a pair of nines (OUCH!!). I had completely lost touch with my driver. That was really only part of the story though...

Since I have been playing Green Caye nearly every night for over two weeks, I have learned to draw the ball with my irons. I literally learned to draw consistently the Wednesday before playing The Battleground. Prior to that I would try a little here and there with varying results. As of about halfway through my 9-hole round Wednesday night, I began hitting nothing but draws (or consciously trying to hit nothing but draws). The next night I played the entire round hitting nice draws, and the same goes for the round at Battleground last Friday. I'm also hitting the ball farther yet softer. Of course all of this hitting with just my irons wreaked havoc with my driver which I normally fade. I hit only 4 fairways that Friday and some of the misses were in the next county.

You can imagine how I felt about this the night before my first tournament. I felt pretty good about the irons. It seems that it's harder to turn a draw into a hook than it is to turn a fade into a slice. Often times, a poor draw is just a straight shot. I was completely lost on the driver though. I decided to look for the cure in a bottomless bucket at Green Caye.

I arrived at Green Caye with about two hours till closing time. After attempting several fades that sliced, I decided to try the draw. Now the draw that I've developed with my irons is a very natural draw that's more a result of a flatter swing and better weight transfer. There is no intentional "steering" like I've mentioned in past posts. I applied that same swing to the driver and WAMMO, I hit a nice straight ball. I worked on this for awhile and in just a dozen or so I was hitting I high soft draw. I then went back to the fade and worked the kinks out of that shot. Then I started alternating... draw, fade, draw, fade. While I hit a slice once in awhile, I was (and still am!!!) amazed at how well I was able to work the ball. I played an imaginary round and chose the appropriate shot type for each hole at Bayou before calling it a night.

Another shot I've learned is the flop shot. I learned this shot by trying to hit the ball into a small waste basket in our living room. I tried it outside a few times with a full swing and felt pretty comfortable with trying it on the course. I tried it several times at Green Caye with pretty good results. I have since made two great saves on the course with this shot.

So, looking at the numbers, my progress has slowed. I expect that to change drastically when I start playing regulation courses again.

I need to work on fading my irons again. I tried some last time I played and I just seem to push it. I now wish I would have done the same thing I did with the driver and keep hitting both shot types. I need to keep the fade in my bag because a draw when the wind is blowing right to left (for right-handers) is hard to manage.

I should get out to Green Caye tomorrow and I'm hoping to get a round in at a regulation course on Sunday. Next week I have a sim, so I should be have plenty of hours to sneak in a weekday round.

The next BGA tournament will be March 18th and the format will be all par threes. My understanding is that they will mark off tee areas on all holes (except the natural par threes which will remain the same) to make the entire course par threes. Guess I picked the right month to sign up at a par three course :^)

Sorry for the delayed post.
Happy that golfing was the reason for the drought.
Don't worry, if I'm not golfin' I'll be bloggin'!


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Snowing in Houston...

I've been golfing... and golfing... The pics you see in this post are of Glenbrook Golf Course. Glenbrook is a Houston Municipal course affectionately known as "The Ditch Course". You can see slightly larger images if you click on them. The person in the photos is a friend and neighbor, Hi (pronounced "Hee").

I first met Hi at San Jac. We exchanged numbers and planned to play again at Bayou. Some construction in the area prevented Hi from making the tee time and left me a little irritated. Hi calls a few weeks later wanting to play and I had a tee time for four, but two had dropped out. Again we were playing at Bayou so I sent him specific driving directions. He decided it would be best if we just meet up and he would follow me down there. I gave him my cell phone number and advised him that I would be leaving at 9:00.

Well, as I had feared, I had not heard from him by 8:55. I loaded up and just as I was reaching for the door to my truck, the cell phone rings. The time is 8:59. Normally, and initially, I was not too happy with the late call, but when I told him where I was, he said he could be there in one minute. Well, it turns out that he lives about six houses down from me on the other side of the block. Small world? I guess so!!

I played Saturday last weekend at Bayou (with Hi) with high hopes of breaking 90. I started great with par-par and then went triple-triple. I finished the front with bogey-bogey-par-bogey-bogey for a 46. I managed to bogey #6 without losing a ball. Maybe I've conquered my nemesis hole for good. Time will tell. I fell apart on the back on a couple of holes. The first was the par 3 13th. It was 4 clubs into the wind. I hooked a high flying 4i that missed wwwaaayyy left. Poor pitching put me in the bunker, and I record seven strokes on this hole. The final nail in the coffin was a triple on the par 5 15th after nearly reaching the green in two. I ended with 52 on the back for a 98 round.

I played Glenbrook Tuesday. I started out on fire there as well. The first is a 266 yard par 4 that is about a 190 yard carry over the bayou. I drove to within 15 yards, chipped to 6 inches and tapped in my career 4th birdie. I had made 42 strokes before the par 5 9th and hit to an unplayable lie off of the fairway. I laid up for the shot back across the bayou and failed to reach the other side. I carded a 10 on that hole. I played horribly on the back with two 9s. The game was not without record-breaking play though as I managed another birdie on the par 4 17th (366 yds) where my second shot landed four feet from the pin. The record is two birdies in one round!!! Too bad they were overpowered by three snowmen. I applied ESC and shook my head at the three snowmen on my scorecard - Snowing in Houston. In the end and with ESC, I scored 101 at Glenbrook (105 raw score).

I'm still having a hard time snapping my head up to see the ball. I decided that range time is a little worthless because after four large buckets, I can usually work out any problems, but it does not seem to carry over to the course. So, I've signed up for a month walking at the nine-hole par 3 Green Caye Golf Course.

I will work on hitting softer and straighter.
I will work on my short game.
I will work on my putting.
I'll do it mostly at night during the week after I put my kids to bed.

Oh yeah, I will KEEP MY HEAD DOWN!!!!

No golf for me this weekend. I'll try to sneak in a weekday round next week. Ten days left before my first tournament.



Friday, February 03, 2006

Sneaking in a Round...

Thrilled with my latest range experience, I got up well before the crack of dawn and went down to Bayou for a round. I know, I know, I'll be playing there tomorrow, but I had the hours in and hey, I hooked on this game!! Here's a shot from the second tee box:

Even though I don't care for the wet morning conditions (greens especially), there certainly is something about the golf course at the crack of dawn. I'll spare you too many details of the round, but the bottom line is that I just can't keep my eye on the ball for a second past contact. No matter what I did - arrrgh. I think part of it was that I was playing alone (behind a fivesome) and I didn't have that extra set of eyes to help see where I hit. That's just a mental thing though, because even if you stare at the ground for a second past contact, you still have plenty of time to watch the ball flight and you know by feel about where it went.

Anyway, here are the stats:

Fairways hit... 8
GIRs........... 1
Birdies........ 0
Pars........... 3
Putts......... 35
Bogeys......... 5
Doubles........ 7
Triples........ 3
Bad holes...... 2 (two par 5 triples)
Balls lost .... 2 (1 water, 1 OOB)

I couldn't really get anything going today. I always play better when I'm not alone, so hopefully the pressure of competition will agree with me.

I measured six drives 219, 240, 268, 269, 202, and 233. The air was pretty still in the morning, so those a good representation of my driving distance. My score for the day was 100 (2 over my course handicap). My handicap has gone up a point because my record round at Bayou is now 21 rounds ago. I saw this coming and had every confidence that I would shoot a 94 or better before it drifted into the past. I knew that today was do or die for handicap purposes. I am learning more about my wedge ranges. I can hit the 52* about 95 yards with a full swing. I managed to make two nice putts from 14 and 18 feet. Of course I've made a few lucky ones from well further out, but these were just solid putting.

I think trying to focus on bogeys will help. I don't know... I'm hoping to get to the course tomorrow in time to hit a small bucket. Hopefully that will help me lock in my three swing thoughts. I'll post the results.

Goal for tomorrow... 90!!!


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Range Time...

Excited about playing in my first tournament, I couldn't help but to hit the range at the first opportunity. I got that opportunity last night, so I went down to Green Caye Golf Course for the $7.00 bottomless bucket.

Primarily, I wanted to work with my wedges. I also wanted to see if I could work the slice out of my hardest hit drives. In the end I hit almost every club, going through four large buckets.

Lately, I have noticed that I have been taking my eye off the ball. Even if I think about keeping my eye on the ball before the shot, I'd often catch myself looking up. So another strong focus of the range session was to stay locked down on the ground, well after contact.

I started with the 60* wedge and quickly learned that it is difficult to hit this club with a full swing and get consistent results (definitely don't want to blade the ball with a full swing from 60 yards out). I did pretty well with a 3/4 swing or less, so I'll keep that limit for now.

I hit many shots with the 52* gap wedge. I needed this since I was a little thrown off by the smaller club head compared to my old 53* wedge. I should not have a problem with this as I was hitting the club well (as long as I kept my head down). It's hard to say how far I'm hitting this club, but I'm guessing about 90 yards. The thing about driving ranges where you hit off of the turf is that they keep moving the line so you still have to estimate the actual distance to the marked targets. To get a more accurate feel for the GW, I'll have to drop a couple of balls at the 100 yard marker when I'm out on a course during the week and see how I do.

Next I took out the 3 fairway wood to see if I could straighten my shots a bit. On the course, I generally aim as far left as I can figuring that , should the shot actually go straight, I'll still be in play. Usually though, the shot has some fade/slice to it and I end up towards the right (or worse). The last time I played Bayou, I made a beautiful shot with a bit of a draw with the 3 wood. I realized that at setup, I had my weight more toward my toes and more off of my heels. It was a real epiphany because the swing felt so good and effortless, my balance was rock solid, and contact was pure (I kept my head down). I decided to try this weight forward (toward the toes, not the target) with my 5 wood and driver and the results were absolutely spectacular!! I hit shot after shot dead straight right at my target. Sure there were some slices, and some were topped, but I always knew why (looked up, fast transition, dropped shoulder...).

After that success, I continued the same weight forward approach on all my shots. I've got to say, I felt like a pro out there. I was having the best ball striking day of my life. For those who may benefit, I'll summarize my key swing thoughts that seemed to bring it all together.

1. Address the ball with your weight somewhat off your heels and more toward your toes.

2. Keep your eye glued to the impact point from takeaway to one second past impact.

3. Make a smooth transition from the backswing to the downswing and accelerate smoothly through the ball.

I think I talked enough about the first point. The second and third can be combined in a discussion about tempo.

After a tee shot, my playing partner commented that I seemed to be jerky going from takeaway to downstroke. He was right. I applied maximum power forward while still going back. The resultant shot was not pretty.

What I needed to establish was good tempo. Last night at the range, I decided that I would do a three-count routine to help me transition and accelerate smoothly. Here's what I did (and will do from now on). Instead of one mississippi.. two mississippi... three mississippi... I say one perfect shot... two prefect shot... three perfect shot. The first count is to control my speed on the takeaway and I have a little very short hesitation at the top before I start down. The second count reminds me to accelerate smoothly through the ball and the final count is to insure that I maintain my focus on the impact point for one second past impact. I tell you, the results were amazing.

I went on to hit many outstanding shots with nearly all of my clubs. Of course by the end of four large buckets you would expect to find some consistency. What I hope to take to the course with me next time is the same mental and physical routine that I applied at the range.

Golf Outlook...

I'll be playing Bayou on Saturday and gunning hard for the 80s. I'm planning for a return to Glenbrook the following weekend. I wrote a short review of Glenbrook and mentioned it in my very first post.

Aching to get out,