I recently played in the Oakland City Championship at Lake Chabot Golf Course. The finishing hole is one of the most interesting golf holes I’ve played. It’s a downhill 673 yard par 6! If you hit the tee shot right, it is actually possible to reach in 2. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you must play this fun, unique, hilly, and undulating public golf course nestled in the Oakland hills.
Last Saturday I geared up to play in the Davis City Championship, my hometown tournament. I know the course really well and was really excited to play two solid rounds of golf. Unfortunately, it did not pan out that way. I’m currently in the process of making a swing change but I told myself just to go out and play golf. My tournament got off to a good start with a birdie on the opening hole, and a solid scrambling par on the second. I putted decently on the whole first round but I just wasn’t hitting the ball good enough to shoot a decent number. I ended up with a disappointing 75. After the round, a went back to the range and made some adjustments to my posture. The session left me confident that my swing was moving in the right direction.
In the second round, I hit the ball much better, but I putted abysmally–42 putts in all. Nothing much I can say about that. A two round total of 156 put me near the bottom of the rankings.
It’s easy to get down on yourself after such a result. But after the initial disappointment, I can tell you that I’m more determined than ever. I personally believe that you can learn something from every tournament you play in. This one in particular taught me that every part of the game plays an important role in putting together a good round. It’s not just about driving the golf ball well, or hitting good iron and wedge shots, or putting. It’s all of the above. In practice, I’ve always emphasized ball striking, but have often neglected practicing putting. My goal moving forward is to devote equal time to every aspect of the game and have a well-balanced practice routine–one the emphasizes every part of my game. Hopefully, this will help better prepare me for the challenges that I will face ahead.
Every time I watch golf on TV, I marvel at how tour pros putt–they seem to always make those critical short putts, hole a significant number of putts outside 10 feet, and almost never 3-putt. Looking at the stats, the biggest disparity between the tour pros and your average amateur is 3-putt avoidance. Tour pros, on average, 3-putt only 3.3% of the holes they play (about once every 2 rounds); your average 10-handicap amateur 3-putts 14% of the holes they play (about 2 or 3 times a round). That’s a huge difference!
Putting is something I’ve continued to struggle with so recently I came up with a few fun games to play on the practice putting green to help me become both a better lag putter and a better short putter. My favorite one is a game I like to call “5.” The goal of the game is to get to 5 points, hence the name. 1 point is earned if you successfully lag a putt from at least 40 feet to within 3 feet, and then make the subsequent short putt. 2 points is earned if you hole the first putt. If you are not able to successfully lag the first putt to within 3 feet of the hole, you are at risk of losing a point. 1 point is deducted if you do not make the next putt; if you are able to make the next putt, neither a point is added nor subtracted. 1 point is also deducted if you are able successful lag the first putt to within 3 feet, but you miss the subsequent short putt. 2 points is deducted for 4-putting a hole. The game is won if you reach 5 points, but is lost if you get to -5 points. I think this game is very effective because it ensures that both your first and second putt are executed properly.
Here are the rules for “5” more clearly laid out:
2 points: 1-putt hole-out
1 point: successful lag putt to 3 feet and hole-out on the second putt
0 points: unsuccessful lag putt to 3 feet, but successful hole-out on the next putt
-1 point: unsuccessful lag putt and unsuccessful hole-out on the next putt
-2 points: 4-putting
The game continues until you reach 5 points or -5 points: 5 points constitutes a win, and -5 constitutes a loss.
I hope this game will help your putting, and lower your scores.
Last Thursday I played in the qualifier for the Northern California Public Links Championship. Unfortunately I shot about a million, and didn’t qualify. I’ve been working hard for the last few weeks on some changes to my golf swing–specifically I’ve been trying to maintain my spine angle a bit better, and get my hips in the correct position. Needless to say, I had a bunch of things on my “checklist”; I worried so much about making a good golf swing, I stopped playing golf. Instead, I was playing golf swing. And let me tell you, this style of play is not conducive to going low.
This week, I’m playing in my hometown tournament, the Davis City Championship. Played at what my friends and I joke is “the Augusta of Davis” (minus Magnolia Lane, 2,500 yards, majestic rolling landscape, and lightning fast greens), this weekend is my Masters. It’s a great local tournament with a lot of quality players in the field. In fact, the Davis Municipal Golf Course is where Nick Watney honed his game during his junior years. My goal this week is to stay patient, hit one shot at a time, hopefully drain a few bombs, and have fun just playing golf. If I can do that, I think I just may have a shot. We shall see how it turns out.
It’s Masters week! I am very excited to watch this years Masters–Tiger is in tip-top form, and looking prime to end his major championship drought. We all know that whenever Tiger is playing his best, he is pretty much unbeatable. But I say, don’t count out Phil! Although inconsistent at times, I believe if anyone is going to give Tiger a run for his money, it will certainly be Mr. Phil Mickelson. Since 2000, Phil has finished in the top-10 11 times, and has slipped on the Green Jacket 3 times (slightly better than Tiger during the same time span–Tiger has had 10 top-10 finishes at Augusta, including 3 wins). They will without a doubt be in the mix come Sunday afternoon. In fact, I hope to see them paired together in the final group come Sunday, duking it out until the 72nd hole.
We all know that the grip is one of the most important aspects of the golf swing. Why? Because your hands are the only thing that is connecting you to the golf club. Also, the grip also dictates how the rest of the body moves throughout the golf swing. But what is the correct way to grip a golf club? Is there even a correct way? Well, there is a lot of information out there about the proper golf grip, but a lot of misinformation as well. So many people worry about where the Vs are pointing, whether to interlock or overlap, or maybe even just to go with the 10-finger baseball grip! Personally, I believe the correct way to grip a golf club depends on the individual, but there are a few important fundamentals to a good golf grip. So let’s get to it, shall we?
Fundamental #1: Strong, neutral, weak, interlock, overlap…the choice is yours.
I personally the believe that there is no set golf grip. Many instructor will advocate a neutral grip where the Vs formed by the thumb and index fingers point towards the right shoulder. The fact is, a variety of grips are seen at the highest levels of golf. Many players use a strong grip, meaning their hands are more underneath the club. These players square the clubface by clearing hard with their hips, ala Dustin Johnson or Zach Johnson. Some use a weaker grip, meaning their hands are more on top of the club. These players have quieter body action and square the face more with the hands and arms, ala Jack Nicklaus. Ben Hogan used a weak grip because struggled with hitting the hook; the weak grip allowed him to keep the face square or slightly open. So the lesson here is, find out what your tendencies are and find a grip that fits you!
Fundamental #2: Grip the club the same way every time.
So many people play around with their grip when working on the golf swing. I am not a real big fan of this. As I have noted, the grip affects everything else in the golf swing. The goal of the golf swing is to train the body to make the same move every single time. If we are constantly toying with our grip, we can never become consistent.
Fundamental #3: Two hands should be combined into one.
It is really important to unite the hands when gripping the golf club. Many high handicappers hold the club with a significant gap between their hands. This creates inconsistency because the club is more apt to move around. When gripping the club, make sure the hands are united, either by interlocking the pinky and index finger, or overlapping them. Also, makes sure that there are no gaps between the thumb and index finger. This makes sure the club is stable throughout the swing. Remember, stability = consistency.
I find that the Hogan grip is a good one to copy, in terms of how the hands and fingers come together. Notice how solid it looks and how there are no gaps between his fingers. I would, however, not advise one to grip it as weak as he did. This is simply because most of us already struggle with the slice, and his grip would only promote more of a slice. Also, if you find that you must change your grip to become a better player, do it a little bit at a time. Bernhard Langer said that it took him 20 years to change his grip from strong to neutral!
Starting this week, I thought it might be a cool idea to start a weekly journal about what I’m working on and the tournaments I’m playing in.
I’ve been working hard the last few weeks on a minor swing change. In my old swing, I had the tendency to lose my spine angle, move my hips towards the ball, and straighten my arms far too early, resulting in inconsistent ball contact. Basically, my swing predicated on timing; on good days I was able to hit good shots, but on bad days, it was a whole different story. I think my hard work is finally starting to pay-off. I can feel myself using different muscles and my ball flight is becoming much more consistent. Of course, taking a swing change to the course is a difficult, and the change is still something I have to ingrain.
This week, I’m playing in a one round qualifier for the NCGA Public Links and a two round amateur tournament. Both are played at Boundary Oak Golf Club in Walnut Creek CA. The course definitely presents a challenge at 7,100 yards. The green complexes are also tricky–putts are lightning quick coming from above the hole, so approach shots must be well placed. I’m definitely looking forward to the challenge of taming this difficult course.
Wish me luck.