What is the Role of the Backswing? Some Thoughts

The master - Ben Hogan tells it like it is in pictures

The master – Ben Hogan tells it like it is in pictures

  • The backswing really shouldn’t be thought of as part of the swing – really.  It’s incorrect nomenclature in a way if you think about it.  They should call it the ‘get ready to swing –  swing’
  • It’s what gets you into position to swing.  As if you are just trying to get into position like a baseball batter after addressing the ball.  Only baseball players get to stand in the ‘correct’ ready position with the bat already at-the-ready over their back shoulder.
  • Really it’s a pre-swing. Get into position movement.
  • Just like bringing the ball back to your shoulder before taking a jump shot or a foul shot isn’t really the shot.  You pause, then you take the shot.
  • Or just like serving in tennis requires you to toss the ball up and just before you swing as the ball gets to its apex, you circle your wrists and then lunge into the shot.  It’s the lunge that’s the shot.
  • When you fail to do these things you end up throwing the ball like a novice.  Have you ever seen a kid try to throw a football or baseball before s/he understands the need to really take the arm back and get the wrist cocked into position?  It’s like they’re pushing the ball instead of throwing it.  These are the images that come to mind as I re-think the role and purpose of the backswing.
  • In fact, I wonder why one can’t just swing at the golf ball from a batter’s position. Is that like against the rules or something? Because, that’s exactly when you would get that opposite directional thingy where your hips and body start moving forward while the arms almost seem like their lilting back for a second before catching up and going forward. Transition comes much easier that way in my humble opinion.
  • I’ve tried during practice sometimes to look away from the ball and stare at the target like it’s a pitcher throwing a ball at me in a way that it would hit the ‘homeplate’ right where my golf ball is sitting so that i would start my backswing and lock into position before striking – and invariably this helps me have a better sequence of transition.
  • And when I observe LPGA players, especially women from Asia who are so deliberate sometimes in form (and to be fair – some of the PGA players who don’t have such quick swings, like maybe an Ernie Els), invariably I see them take that long very slow backswing and then almost freeze at the top before beginning the forward swing.
  • I think much of my casting or swinging outside my plane comes from hurrying my transition and not allowing for the mini-pause from back to forward.
  • And I do recall hearing many a pro or many a quick-tip on the Golf Channel talking about the need to count your tempo with a “1-AND-2” with the AND being that split second of pause before moving forward. It let’s the body really get into that position.  Just like when you’re trying to skip a stone across a pond’s surface.
  • Now that I’ve gotten much better at thinking more about my finish and the need to swing through and stay balanced – thanks to my instructor at Los Lagos Golf Club,Matt Flenniken – I might could focus more on having a slow backswing and taking that moment to pause.
  • That’s my random thought for the day.  Came to me while sitting in another work meeting trying to think of more ways to market this blimmey cloud service with a catchy digital marketing campaign that’s suppose to revolutionize the world. Oye!

C’est la vie in Silicon Valley!

Hal Sutton on the Fundamentals Of Putting, Part 1

Some quick notes on the fundamentals pertaining to putting from A Golf Channel special I watched not too long ago where Hal Sutton shared some professional tips.

Putting Routine

Part 1 – On Fundamentals of Putting:

No violence – meaning no sudden moves or shifts. Learn about speed control

A Nice Drill:

The 3 putt drill. Try to putt with the following 3 intentions – do these in a series of 10 or 20 at a time;

  • Try to hit the back of the hole (a hard putt)
  • Try to roll the ball so it dies at the lip of the hole and drops in
  • Try to putt right in the middle

This will help with finding the length of the stroke and the right speed of the stroke.

Interesting Fact – Did You Know? (I sure didn’t)

When a player puts the ballthe ball rolls the length of his/her hand in one revolution. Hmmm – I guess that means it travels often much further than you would assume so learning how this thing rolls is key. Think about it as you try to learn “true” speed.

SVG Side note: so much in golf entails getting to “true” something – true square face, true hit, a true swing (in the slot), etc…. it reminds me of truth being the ultimate ruler of all graces in great philosophies and paths to spirituality or self-knowledge or personal growth.  Truth – many paths to it (as there are many snowflakes of a golf swing) but only one truth for all.

Learn TRUE speed and you’ll learn how to putt well.  Of course, that speed changes from course to course, grass type to grass type, time of day, etc… – which is why you hear about players often finding their speed on a putting green when warming up for tournament play.

U.S. Open Report Card

A worthy unique perspective on this past week’s UP Open – broadcasters should take note, not all of us golf fans will just ingest whatever swill the powers that be want to serve up. Overall, to carry the wine analog, the nose and bouquet showed promise and seemed fresh and grassy but this medium bodied chardonnay could have been a bit more buttery and the hints of stone and gravel stayed too long in the finish. The label professed more than what the bottle delivered but overall still an approachable quaf.

All About Golf

from Golfdigest.com from Golfdigest.com

The 2015 U.S. Open was all over the map as far as major tournaments go, so let’s make some sense of everything and grade out the main components.

Sunday Theater (Grade:  A minus).  I watched hours of action each day, but always look forward to the Sunday finishes of major tournaments, and this did not disappoint.  Unlike the snoozer at the last two Masters, the back nine on Sunday was awesome.  From Spieth and Johnson’s struggles with pressure, to the mini charges by McIlroy and Oosthuizen, and the courageous effort of Jason Day to stand upright and compete, the story lines were riveting.  Gets an A plus except for the balloon-popping 3-putt finish by Johnson.  Even Spieth seemed deflated, albeit momentarily.  What a horrible way to lose.

Holly Sonders photo - awfulannouncing.com Holly Sonders
photo – awfulannouncing.com

Fox Broadcast Team (Grade: C).  Way too many four man talking head…

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Number 9, Number 9, Number 9 – Why this number is fundamental to Golf?

Number 9, Number 9, Number 9 – Another Who Knew?-Certainly not me!-Aha moment Blog Entrynumber_9_green

This is a bit about golf swings and how many unique types of ball flights are generated from a classic golf swing.  I may have written about this last year but I think it’s worth repeating – for my practicing’s sake.

But first, a little bit about that title? – Yes, I was one of those music fans who contemplated the notion that John Lennon may have taken out, offed, rubbed out (call it what you want)  Paul McCartney back in the day (for those of you too young to remember the Beatles craze, there is lore concerning the White Album’s song that repeats the phrase ‘Number 9’ for like 100 hundred times and ends with a muffled voice that sounds like John Lennon saying ‘I buried Paul’ or ‘I murdered Paul’ in slow motion – it was a street myth that went on for years) and that the living bass player is an impostor.  Takes you back to those brilliant 70s radio daze when DJs would do anything to keep their listeners tuned in and once in a while blessed us with a full weekend of nothing but Beatles day in day out.  Not so much these days when Silicon Valley innovations  have practically mummified “by-appointment radio music listening” habits by supplying music subscription services for our mobile phones like Pandora, Soundcloud, Spotify and Itunes.

But I thought of that song title when researching the golf swing and what the basic patterns for golf ball flight are.  So when I stumbled on this seemingly common data point regarding the 9 fundamental swing paths for a golf ball, I figured why not tie in my crazy brain-connect-the-dots machine to come up with a catchy title.

Swing batta' battah!

Swing batta’ battah!

But it’s true.  About the 9 fundamental flights that is.  After getting over the fact that shanks and wicked hooks don’t count, I’ve come to realize there are only 9 true ball paths.  And, more importantly, as I getting better at actually striking the golf ball, I’ve also come to realize it’s important to try and effect one of these paths while practicing and aiming for a precise target on the driving range – versus just wailing away and feeling great that I didn’t clock the guy standing just 10 feet to my right with an errant knuckle sidewinder  – and there’ve literally been times when I was truly afraid that might could happen, much earlier in my practice days but nonetheless still haunting my brain cells every now and again.

So – if you weren’t aware there are 9 fundamental golf ball flight paths that should be part of any proficient ball strikers repertoire – the execution of which would prove one’s mastery at effectively controlling the golf swing.

9 ball flights 2

The 9 swing paths are

  1. Pull Hook
  2. Pull
  3. Pull Slice
  4. Draw
  5. Straight
  6. Fade
  7. Push Hook
  8. Push
  9. Push Slice

This website explains the ‘who-and-a-what-now?’ details http://www.tutelman.com/golf/ballflight/ballflight.php

By the way – a fade and a draw are the most minor deviations from a straight correct ball flight that lie within the first off-axis flight types – the hook and the slice.

I like to think of these ball flight paths as being analogous to the various travel paths of a tennis ball and their associated spin: such as cross-court top spin, straight center flat, under-spin cross court, down the line etc.  Another analog might be the various ball placements for a pitcher as he tries to place the pitch down the middle, inside right, outside left, high/low, etc.  There are only so many fundamental ball paths that need to be mastered and executed – after which you’re in outlander territory including beaning the batter, throwing fouls, or spinning up dirt.

There are other golf ball paths or variations like a ‘cut’ or even a ‘chardonnay fade’ (I heard that one on the Golf Channel) and so on – but it’s the little tidbits like this that make me always say “who knew?”  As an amateur, this stuff just doesn’t come up while talking on the range or flipping thru mags.


This game of golf, no matter how accessible the USGA and the PGA and other organizations are trying to make it, is full of fundamentals that are so numerous, I consistently find myself saying “who knew?”  Learning it is definitely not for the faint of heart.   And I haven’t even begun to read up on the rules of golf.  I mean, for realz – this is not a sport for someone who just wants a few pointers and then they’re off.   It is complicated, complex, befuddling, mathematical, precise, and filled with painstaking minutia.  Look at how changing the grass to fescue in the US Open befuddled some of the world’s top players.  What sport do you know of – other than maybe tennis – that can change the actual playing surface type on you, not to mention the entire set-up from one tournament to the next?  Chambers Bay was the trifecta on that score – actually changing par on some holes from day-to-day.  What the?  They actually changed par for the holes 1 and 18!  A baseball field is always the same (sure there are some minor deviations but they mostly affect things like hitting a home run).  A basketball court is always the same and all tennis courts have the same dimensions even if some games are played on grass or clay. But not golf.  No siree.   The depth of knowledge and ability to adapt required to execute, understand and excel at the game is substantial.  And that’s before you get into the inner psyche-ego-id challenges one needs to be aware of and overcome in order to maintain some level of decorum and consistency while executing said swing.

So what is one to do?  Keep on learning I guess while reminding oneself that golf isn’t a destination – it’s a journey – like life, love and dare I say, enjoying music – a journey in search of a holy grail, I guess, but a journey nonetheless that mandates a desire for continuous seeking and discovery.  I’m not giving up.  But I think I’m gonna create a new music listening station on my Pandora titled No.9 and I’ll playing it the next time I’m looking for my golf ball in the trees somewhere well off the fairway.  I wonder if any of the fab four were ever smitten by the siren song of mother earth meeting time out of mind?


Titleist Fitting for New Golf Clubs

This is great and depicts what a true fitting should be like versus some of the 10 minute stuff you might experience at your local popular golf store – no offense intended to these purveyors of golf goodies but suffice it to say it’s worth one’s while to get the real deal that covers things like lie, shaft type, flex points, height – all of it. This was so informative I’m re-blogging it. I had a mini version of the same during my recent lesson and it’s uncanny the things I learned – things like not even shafts are always perfectly balanced (think how you have to balance your tires when they’re mounted… well club shaft can wobble imperfectly around their own full-length axis as well which can seriously impact your swing – who knew?) – there’s so much to adjust that it is well worth the time and money to go to a fitter who really knows what he’s doing. Great stuff as always Grateful G!! Thx

The Grateful Golfer

DSCF4824Last Saturday, I took the opportunity to be fitted by a master golf club fitter. Jeff Stephenson, the Titleist Rep, took 1 hour and 45 minutes to fit me for irons, 3 hybrid, 3 wood, and a driver. He was professional, patient and extremely knowledgeable! I found the entire experience educational, enlightening, and just plain fun!

When I first arrived at Trillium Wood Golf Course, I met with the General Manager Greg Seemungal. He knew I was coming because my home course General Manager, Mike Claire, ensured all was good for my appointment. (Have to love great customer service!) Upon my arrival, Greg set me up with a bucket of balls so I could warm up prior to the fitting. The facilities at Trillium Wood Golf Course are first-rate and I highly recommend it be a golfing destination if you are in the area.

DSCF4825DSCF4821After introductions, Jeff asked me what…

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Chambers Bay US Open – Get Your Groove on Music Play List

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a playlist.  Often I like to post tunes that get me in the groove when I’m heading to the driving range or the putting green.  Many a time, I’ve found myself pinching myself at how lucky I am – even as an aspiring amateur – to walk to lovely greens on a dewy crisp Silicon Valley morning and to be ensconced in nature’s beauty and surrounded by uplifting or cool riffy music.  Often too I find myself walking down memory lane to days gone by in ways that only music can provoke and smiling at the tapestry of thought wrapped in ambiance and reflection.

I just posted a pic of Tiger heading out for his last practice session with a pair of wireless headphones dancing around his neck.

I imagine there is many a golf player out there in the northwest doing the very same thing – turning to their go-to playlist and finding their jam or getting their groove and putting their heads on straight – in between pointers from their coach and media interviews.  I sure do wonder what they listen to and I wonder if the media might ever ask questions like that during the press conferences – it would definitely be something different to know about and could help mix up our understanding of these blade wand titans.

But I digress.  Here’s a melange of tunes (and album covers) I think are appropriate for the novel golf course and 1st-time tournament in Washington state.  Hope you enjoy it.  Being my typical self-indulgent self, I added personal notes here and there.  Who knows, maybe my daughter might read this blog years from now and she’ll at least have any idea what was making me tick all those times I insisted on going to the putting green.

Turn on your Spotify or Pandora or iTunes & Listen on  – SVGout.

(P.S. there are 15 songs and 15 is the age of the youngest player out there playing the US Open and it also represents the number of majors Tiger will have won if he wins this one and this is the 115th US Open.)

  1. Walking On A Dream by Empire of the Sun on Walking On A Dream
  2. A Fuller Moon by The Sea And Cake on Car Alarm
  3. Concrete Seconds by Pinback on Blue Screen Life (get it?  your computer goes blue screen just before it crashes and you have to re-boot.  wish life could actually work like that sometimes especially here in the Valley. but that really only applies to PCs not Macs so i guess i’m dating myself and maybe someone in the band)
  4. Dragonfly on Bay Street by Ron Sexsmith on Cobblestone Runway (upbeat but kinda lonely.  one of my favorites for putting.  wonder if Tiger feels like a dragonfly walking down a mainstreet right about now?)
  5. Breakdown by Miguel Migs on Outside The Skyline (good beat)
  6. Something About You by Daft Punk on Daft Club (total chill and memory lane tune)
  7. Year of The Cat by Al Stewart on Year Of The Cat (classic retro-tune from the days when analog and tape-to-tape ruled and there really was such a thing as a singer-songwriter.  it’s a shame they don’t make music like this anymore)
  8. Remind Me by Royksopp on Melody AM (always makes me think of flying out of SFO International Airport and traveling round the country and globe.  kinda existential.  it’s also the tune in the background of one of the GEICO commercials with the ape-man getting all flustered about something)
  9. Lasso by Phoenix on Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (good tune for the driving range)
  10. Winter Nights by Cloud on Exceptionally Remixed 2 (think midnight, all is quiet and that single-malt scotch is just sublime)
  11. Let Go by NRBQ on Keep This Love Goin’ (dreamy, hopeful – everyone needs a little hope now and then, especially us amateurs, reminds me of moving alot and of some times in Boston, MA)
  12. New Frontier by Donald Fagen on The Nightfly (life is always a new frontier, especially around here where half the things you do and use weren’t even invented a decade ago – where’s my cheese?  we’ve gotta have some music on the new frontier!)
  13. Guess I’m Doing Fine by Beck on Sea Change (sad but positive)
  14. This Is The Life by Two Door Cinema Club on Tourist History
  15. Lisztomania (Classixx Version) by Phoenix on Kitsune Maison Compilation  (this one never gets old for me. snap your fingers, think those thoughts, get that groove, tap your feet and feel the techno hipster gidget gadget sound…)
Dragonfly On Bay Street

Dragonfly On Bay Street

Phoenix_Lisztomania_Wolfgang_Amadeus_Phoenix Daft Punk Cloud_Winter Nights Two Door CinemaThis Is The Life Royksopp-Remind Me BeckGuess I'm Doing Fine Al Stewart_Year of the Cat