Monday, September 25, 2006

The Rain and Working the Ball...

The Weather Mocks Me...

A cold front and the accompanying thunderstorms pushed through Saturday night. The rain had stopped before daylight, but I had no idea how much rain fell.

I have been trying to play Tour18 for three weeks. I have been trying to play on Monday because it’s the cheapest and least busy day of the week to play. The rain has put and end to my “Amen Corner” dreams each time. My next chance to play Tour18 will be in three weeks.

I knew it would be wet, but I went down to Green Caye on Sunday to get a loop or two in before the Monday’s round at Tour18. I figured I’d be okay as long as I could reasonably hit he greens or close to the greens. While driving along Hwy 646, I saw the roadside ditches were rivers filled with water.

What I saw when I pulled up to the course answered the question of “How much rain?” real quick. The driving range was pretty much under water. The ponds were overflowing. The only thing above water on the seventh, eighth, and ninth holes were the green and tee boxes. The course was closed.

However, the driving range was open (mats only), so I decided to stay and hit a few buckets. I have been hitting the ball very well lately. My last money game we played 16 holes and I won 13. We just play for quarters, but we play greenies and birdies and I have been a greenie machine lately. The last few money games have really been making my bag heavy because I have a ziplock sandwich bag almost half full of quarters in there.

Working the Ball...

Over the last month or so, I have been practicing “working the ball”. I have been hitting draws and fades with my irons on the range with a good bit of success. I have taken those shots out on the course the last few times and it has been working out very well – especially in the wind.

I decided to concentrate on “working the ball” after reading several reviews of my irons where the writers state that my clubs are good as a first set, but forget about “working the ball”. There are plenty of good reviews there too but I got to thinking: Can a beginner slice or hook the ball with “beginner” or “game improvement” irons? Sure. So why, with a little experimentation, would I not be able to hit a draw or fade? I know those shots have come off of these clubs; I just have to figure out how to control it. Well I did, and here’s how:

First a little disclaimer. These are merely my observations. I am not stating that this is the "proper" way to work the ball, I am just sharing my experience.

The ball will initially fly along the line that the club head travels at impact. Hopefully this line points at your target, and neither and out-to-in nor in-to-out path.

If the club face is square and the swing path true (neither and out-to-in nor in-to-out path), the ball will fly pretty straight.

If the club face is not square and the swing path is true, the ball will curve along a hook, draw, fade, or slice trajectory. This trajectory is dependent on a closed (hook, draw) or open (fade, slice) club face.

A square club face can produce a curving trajectory if the swing path is out-to-in (fade, slice) or in-to-out (draw, hook) path.

My preferred method to draw the ball is to slightly close the club face and use my normal swing. Similarly, I slightly open the club face to fade the ball.

I spent several days on the range to get the hang of this. Getting the ball to fly left-to-right or right-to-left is rather easy using this method. The hard part is learning how much to open or close your stance so the ball lands in the right place. Care must also be taken to ensure a swing that is true because you can undo or exaggerate the spin with the swing path.



I recommend that all beginners experiment on the range and see what different stuff does. Try changing the club face orientation at address and watch how the ball flies. Try to produce an out-to-in or in-to-out swing path and observe the results. Try moving the ball forward or back in your stance and see what happens. Try a stronger or weaker grip just to see what happens.

The important thing about experimentation is defining the boundries of an acceptable shot. Here's a great example:

Next time you practice putting, try a few four-footers (short putts). Try to determine the minimum force needed to get the ball to the cup. Then try to determine the maximum force that drops (see how hard you have to hit it to hop it off of the back). You might be surprised that there is a pretty wide range in how hard you can hit a four foot putt. Now you can hit the minimum force on a short downhill putt and you know how aggressively you can hit an uphill putt or a breaking putt (to take the break out).

So, to folks that think you cannot "work the ball" with “game improvement” irons, I beg to differ.

Then again what do I know?

I’m New2golf,


Saturday, September 23, 2006

What's Your Golf Handicap?

A businessman was attending a conference in Africa. He had a free day and wanted to play a round of golf. He was directed to a golf course in the nearby jungle.

After a short journey, he arrived at the course and asked the pro if he could get on.

"Sure," said the Pro, "What's your handicap?"

Not wanting to admit that he had an 18 handicap, he decided to cut it a bit.

"Well, its 16," said the businessman, "But what's the relevance since I'll be playing alone?"

"It's very important for us to know," said the pro, who then called a caddy. "Go out with this gentleman," said the pro, "his handicap is 16."

The businessman was very surprised at this constant reference to his handicap.

The caddy picked up the businessman's bag and a large rifle; again the businessman was surprised but decided to ask no questions. They arrived on the 1st hole, a par 4. "Please avoid those trees on the left,"said the caddy. Needless to say, the businessman duck-hooked his ball into the trees. He found his ball and was about to punch it out when he heard the loud crack of the rifle and a large snake fell dead from a tree above his head. The caddy stood next to him with the rifle smoking in his hand. "That's the mamba, the most poisonous snake in all Africa; you're lucky I was here with you." After taking a bogey, they moved to the 2nd hole, a par 5. "Avoid those bushes on the right," says the caddy. Of course, the businessman's ball went straight into the bushes. As he went to pick up his ball, he heard the loud crack of the caddy's rifle once more and a huge lion fell dead at his feet. "I've saved your life again," said the caddy. The 3rd hole was a par 3 with a lake in front of the green. The businessman's ball came the edge of the water. To take a shot, he had to stand with one foot in the lake. As he was about to swing, a large crocodile emerged from the water and bit off much of his right leg. As he fell to the ground bleeding and in great pain, he saw the caddy with the rifle propped at his side, looking on unconcernedly. "Why didn't you kill it?" asked the man incredulously. "I'm sorry, sir," said the caddy, "this is the 17th handicap hole, you don't get a shot here.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Trust your swing and leave the "umph" at home...

I've identified a cycle that I seem to have been going through the last several months. Looking back, my trend has been to sign up at Green Caye about every other month. I would spend a month on the par three course, then venture out on to the regulation courses. I would always be driven back to Green Caye because my iron game would fall apart.

I can play Green Caye pretty well. I have likely made over 1000 strokes on that course. I know how to play in the prevailing wind, in no wind, in wet conditions, in dry conditions. I know the safe shot, I know the disastrous shot, and I know how the greens break. I am comfortable playing at Green Caye. I trust my swing at Green Caye.

After a month of play at Green Caye, I'm confident with my irons, my short game, and my putter, yet soon after I venture away and on to regulation courses, my game tends to fall apart. I think I have a good idea why this happens.

When I step away from Green Caye, I step out of my comfort zone. It's not that I'm uncomfortable playing other courses. I feel plenty familiar with Pasadena, The Battleground, San Jacinto, and the other courses I usually play, yet somehow I don't feel as comfortable as I do at Green Caye. Then doubt creeps into my mind and into my swing and I loose trust in my swing. I somehow come to the conclusion that I need to hit the ball harder, which leads to more fat shots, more thin shots, less accuracy, and less confidence. Sometimes this breakdown occurs over a series of rounds and sometimes within the span of a single round.

The solution is simple:

I must trust my swing.

This breakdown happened within a single round when I played Senic View in Wisconsin with my Father-in-Law. I started out on fire and then completely fell apart after the 8th hole.

Was I comfortable playing with my Father-in-Law and six of his buddies on an unfamiliar course with a loaner set of clubs? Not really.

Why did I do so well on the first eight holes?

I trusted my swing.

If you think about it, I really had no choice (initailly anyways). I was on an unfamiliar course with unfamiliar clubs. I had to pick a club and trust my swing. Even though I missed all but one green (and you may recall that the one I hit was because I got a good bounce out of a tree), I still managed to shoot 3 pars and 5 bogeys on the first eight holes. I trusted my swing. Then I tried to make things happen. I started to feel comfortable, so I tried to squeeze a few more yards out of a shot, tried to fade a shot around a tree, tried to hit a 3i 225 yards out of the rough... etc. You know where the round went from there - more fat shots, more thin shots, less accuracy, and less confidence.

So this was a case where I was definitely a little nervous, yet trusting my swing produced great results.

Another example came on the 45th hole (yes, I played 45 holes that day - 63 holes is my record) at San Jac a couple of weeks ago. I had posted some pretty good scores, but I was really strugling with my irons. The 9th at San Jac is a 175 yd par three that has you hitting down a narrow tree-lined chute. I was tired, so I decided to hit the 6i instead of the 7i that I would normally hit. Since I had clubbed up, I figured I'd just hit it and let fatigue take some distance off. Well, I hit it four feet left of the pin just off the back fringe where to rolled 30 feet down the hill aff the back of the green. I trusted my swing and the ball went where it should have. Had I chosen the 7i, I would have felt the need to put a little extra "umph" on it. That extra "umph" is a killer.

I'll have a good opportunity to test this theory out at Tour18 next Monday. This weeks' round was rained out and next week is my last chance to play out there during the week because I'll be training hard for STS-116 which is expected to launch in December.

I must trust my swing and save the extra "umph" for mowing the lawn,


Friday, September 01, 2006

Cool Stuff...

OK, so it's sure hard scheduling some golf with the launch delays, but it goes with the territory. Looking to play Sunday, then I'll be heading to the MCC Sunday evening. Hope we make it this time, I have a tee time at Tour 18 for Tuesday!

For those interested:


Here are the STS-115 event times for a Saturday 9/9/06 launch:
9/09 SAT 1015 Launch
9/11 MON 0008 Begin RNDZ Checklist
9/11 MON 0136 NC4 Burn
9/11 MON 0308 Ti Burn
9/11 MON 0425 MC4 Burn
9/11 MON 0443 RPM
9/11 MON 0546 Dock
9/17 SUN 0750 Undock

You can watch all the fun on NASA TV or on the net here.


PS - My golf has been rubbish. 102 and 105 at The Battleground, 95 at Pasadena... I managed an 87 at San Jac. I've identified a cycle that I seem to go through and I'll share that when I get some time to sit down and blog in earnest-o.