Category: Fundamentals

SVG’s Log – Stardate 070620202126

Went to play 9-holes at Pruneridge. COVID had some impact with signing in but people were out. Got in a few practice swings. Some key learnings include:

I’ve realized I do much better when I pause for 1-2 seconds on the backswing. Almost like when a quarterback checks his pass before releasing. I need to actually turn my back by tucking my right elbow even further back after pausing. Like many an instructor probably told me already, one needs to have your back facing the target to properly wind up. It also almost forces me to bend my left knee because my center of gravity has me falling backwards (or forwards) towards the target – almost making me start to sit down just as I begin the downswing. This is useful and I need to practice it more. A couple of other things too ….

  • I’ve switched to a baseball grip. It’s way more manageable and puts my fingers where they need to be.
  • I’ve come to realize what they mean by ‘gripping the club with your fingers.’ I’m reminded of a passage in Hogan’s book where he shows his right hand holding the club with mostly his two middle fingers. I did some online research. These two fingers are least likely to tug on the club. There a whole anatomical thing to it that basically explains why were not like apes and have the ability to do fine motor skills like writing and cutting a steak but also can bludgeon an enemy with hammer-like motions when holding a club (as in the weapon kind of club). This ability allows for incredible striking impact – such as when you use a hammer on a nail. The left hand is where the hammer motion is – and the right hand is where a lighter touch is needed as in when pitching or trying to skip a flat rock across the surface of a lake. The forefinger is the culprit that moves the club all over the place. The 2 middle fingers let you treat your hand more like the fulcrum or hinge used to lever the club. I wonder if that’s why pitchers do a lot of their stuff with their two middle fingers. And quarterback often try to eliminate the role of the pinky and the forefinger in order to throw a perfect spiral – at least that’s what it seems like. And all basketball players use these fingers for the final directional flip of the hand when going for the jumper or the 3-point shot. Watching Michael Jordan in the Last Dance I observed how he often made his shots with a separation between these two fingers and the others were off to the side. But I could just be trying to force a theory into a belief system – I have a tendency to do stuff like that. I always like to feel like I’m Indiana Jones finding the hidden secret to opening a vault or something.
  • My left hand? I now use the last 3 fingers to grip the club more like a hammer. My right pinky used to cause all sorts of trouble with the pink grip because my hands never wanted to align right. Now I kinda crink it and tuck it away or lightly put it around the grip. But gripping with my 2 middle fingers has made a huge difference in club control. And treating my left hand like its swinging a hammer has also helped.
  • I’m not looking at the ball so much. Not sure where I’m going to go with this new technique but I find if I look at my club head on the way back and just kinda look anywhere along the target line behind me and then turn my head to look at the ball as I make that last back tuck with my right elbow (basically the final effort of my wind up) and then start down – I’m way less nervous and anxious and I’m forced to just swing thru and forward – and I connect much better. I was pure magic on the practice matt – just drilling the ball straight with beautiful tall parabolas.
  • Starting out on the 1st hole – totally different story. You’d a thunk I just picked up my clubs for the first time. Miserable. That there was a line of waiting players because everyone wanted to golf today didn’t help. On the 2nd hole – after triple bogeying a par 3 – I was dismayed and the group behind me asked if I wouldn’t mind being the 4th. I’m as anti as it gets as a golfer – kinda funny when you think about it … it IS a gentlemen’s game for socializing after all, right? – but I found myself saying yes. One guy was super smooth, the second was a judicious laboring golfer who was successful 75% of the time mostly because he focused so damn hard and the third guy was worse than me. I went second on the 2nd hole – a par 5 – and just nailed my driver, the new Ping driver I picked up last year. It drifted right but it sailed unbelievably far. I made bogey. I was pleased.
  • The rest of the 7 holes were good and bad but I kept trying my new look-away-look-back technique and each time I did – Shazzam! It’s unorthodox but it just makes it feel more like I’m batting versus trying to avoid hacking up a chunk of earth – which is my biggest fear. I’m just terrified of hauling a pile of grass and dirt 10 yards in front of me. It’s nerve racking. If I wait to look at the ball just before I swing, it’s kinda like trying to make contact with a pitch. You only look over the plate when you want to connect and most of your swing just kinda happens on its own. It feels more kizmit. I’m reminded of how – what’s his name….. Jordan Speith (?) looks at the hole while putting instead of right at the ball. You know? What’s his name again? I’m getting senile.
  • Also – on the 4th or 5th hole for some reason I used my Ping 7 iron instead of my Titleist. My entire set is Tiltiest – D7s or D9s or some series from back when, I don’t really know – but I had this extra Ping in the bag. For some reason it felt really good. Not sure if it was because of my changed grip or what.
  • I had also changed up all the grips on my standard clubs to Lamkins – mediums. I love them but they’re thicker. That was good when I was doing the pinky grip but now that I switched to the baseball grip it’s still fine but the Ping was a smaller grip – more narrow and I felt like I had even more control with the baseball grip. But I’m not changing grips AGAIN. At least not any time soon.
  • I was pleased today despite the embarrassing start. I was doing some things that I could remember and replicate – especially counting “and 2 & 3” before completing the back-swing and tucking my right elbow to face my back towards the target. That check thing really works. It even works better if I double clutch because it forces me to re-set my right foot and push off it as my left knee bends in concert with my right elbow (it’s uncanny how those two joints work in sync when it comes to bending and having a good swing sequence) and get my weight moving forward instead of staying on my right foot which oft-times results in me falling backwards after completing my swing. The other thing I’m thinking of trying is to start with weight on my left foot and keep leaning forward through my back swing but that’s a little complicated.
  • Captain out.

Silicon Valley Golfer Daily Diary: Fulcrums, Pendulums & Grips 052120201642

Wearing a sports coat is actually a golf training tip
for keeping shoulders and arms as one unit

I’ve been hacking at improving my game

Since last I wrote, I’ve been digging and studying a practicing. This truly as an argonaut’s journey.

Couple things:

  • Mike Austin – this guy from back in the day who made some videos with himself in a skeleton body suit to discuss the pair of ball joints and motions that are involved in the golf swing. The videos are really quite informative – check ’em out. I’ve never seen anything else explain it quite the way he does. You’ve got the connection between your skull/neck and spine which is a pivot area, your shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, ankles, knees and so on. He concludes many videos by emphasizing that the swing is about the sequence of these joints operating in pronation, flexing and extensions and a bunch of other muscle-motion related terms but it all makes sense when you watch. THIS has made an impression on me and I’m incorporating it into my practices
  • My Grip – I’m done with the pinky grip. I’ve been using this grip since I’ve started learning on day one. I’ve now decided, “Who cares if Tiger uses it?! – it does not help my hands work as one!” I’ve played around and found that the baseball grip works much better for me. It was a little awkward at first but …. waddayagonnado? – it’s now quite comfortable. I can actually feel more of a pendulum motion at the top of my back swing and the bottom and the follow thru. I just have way more fluidity. In addition, after practicing with wiffle balls and a portable mat at the local university – SJSU – I made an adjustment to my baseball grip by putting my left thumb under the palm of my right hand instead of having it wrap around the club like a baseball bat. Both ways are better than the pinky but this small adjustment stops me from pulling inwards and coming over the top on my downswing. My fingers (especially my forefinger) don’t get in my way – meaning they don’t get excited and trigger happy making my arms and wrist tense up – who knew that the ability to pinch interferes with the ability to grip and hold. With this new method, I can really feel the club AND control it.
  • More on posture – when how-to instructions talk about putting your weight left or right they’re really referring to your CoG (center of gravity) which requires a different mental calculus than just shifting some weight to one leg or the other. I finding that the imagery of having my head/neck act as the fulcrum in a catapult that is trying to fling a canon ball (that is cradled to the golf head) along an arc to its destination target – this helps me understand how the whole head-neck-shoulder-armpit-arm apparatus is suppose to ‘work-as-on’ and why my head needs to stay till. It’s all about the swinging – not the pulling or the batting but the rocking motion of an oil rig or those sailing ship pendulum swing rides at the amusement park. More importantly, I’ve realized that because I’m of average height (5’10.5″ – 11″) but have a low center of gravity (maybe its my runner-thighs) that I establish a much better pendulum flow and arc if I assume a fairly – actually very – straight posture – like I’m barely leaning forward. Basically, just slightly bending my knees and tilting my head a bit. Maybe it’s because I have a fairly pronounced curvature in my lower back already or something but …. things are more natural and my swing’s more consistent and the sequence of interplay between joints more natural when I do that.
Is that so?

So it feels like the good weather is bringing back some good spirits and good willingness and aptitude for this year’s attempt at improving my golf game. Maybe it’s related to the fact that my daughter is back home studying college courses via distance learning – because it’s been some time since I’ve focused this much. Or maybe it’s COVID-19. Or maybe my brain finally got tired of me trying to mentally imagine how to improve my swing.

But I must say – today’s practice felt good and generated good results. Out of about 100 wiffle balls I had only 6-7 shanks or pulls or top-overs. I had a couple balls fly right. And the rest all fell in a radius of 8 feet about 25-35 yard straight ahead of me with about 70% of those within a radius of 5 feet.

It was a nice day on the open grass. A lot of students were taking graduation pictures since there was no graduation ceremony. The flowers were blooming and it was a classic dry, clean sunshine, cautiously breezy easy kind of day.

I’ll take it.

My Golf Swing AHA Moment at-the-Car-Wash

How to learn the illusive secrets to the ideal Golf Swing while cleaning your car?

February 26, 2020: San Jose, CA.

Abstract: Grab a car floor mat, preferably a front seat mat. Hold it as you typically would at one of its corners, prepare to thwack the dirt off of it by find a vertical surface like a wall or one of those yellow hip-height gas station pilon/pole things that protect gasoline pumps from fender benders or, better yet, something that looks like a telephone pole …… the type of pole you might find, say, at a car wash next to the big vacuum machines ….. – and then start thwacking it like you’ve done all your life – and voila!! You too may realize my AHA moment! From this silicon valley golfer’s perspective you’re (I’m) performing every aspect of winding up (with no chicken wing), pausing at the top, transferring your weight with your hips and legs, and swinging thru with perfect timing to have the club head – i mean, the surface of the mat – smack the pole perpendicular for maximum dust jettisoning effect … and you’ve assimilated all those tips and tricks every golf instructor or YouTube video has been trying to explain to you but for some reason you could never translate to your real-time golf game. Phew – long run on sentence there – my bad.

Even your fingers will be grasping the mat in a manner that amazingly matches the ideal golf club grip (you know, like those holding-a-gun analogies or a baseball in preparation to pitch analogies or a skipping stone at lakeside analogy or pick any number of mental images) that requires the cocking of the forefinger and V-shaped pressing of your thumb’s plumpy base against the base of said forefinger and where middle, 3rd and pinky fingers curl and tuck in nicely behind the aforementioned duo. (Sidenote: The only other previous best analogy for me to conjure up a mental image up until now was holding a carving knife with a nice big chef’s handle … the thumb, fore finger and other fingers seemingly fall right into place without me having to see if my second knuckle is visible and all that other mechanical garble-dee-goop). It is the perfect analog, to my mind, for what you’re trying to accomplish with a golf club from a balanced position which, by the way, you also natural assume as you prepare for maximum dust-thwacking propulsion effect. So that’s the shorthand abstract of my AHA golf swing story. But wait – I know you. You enjoy my clever anecdotes, ramblings and digression – yes? no? No matter, the long form in all its glory follows. That’s how this golf Argonaut rolls. Happy visioning!

My wind up for golfing AND playing whack-a-mole…

FULL NARRATIVE: I’m one of those people who needs to visually and mentally understand a concept before I can execute anything that is difficult to do especially when it comes to sports. This is especially true for my attempts at understanding what the golf swing is suppose to feel like.

For years I’ve struggled – even though I’ve improved – to develop a sense of fluidity with my golf swing like I have, say, for shooting a basketball three-pointer or pitching a baseball. I might not be a professional but I completely and conceptually understand the form, flow and function of every part of my body for these motions. And, more importantly, I can actually perform the proper sequence in good form too I might add. However, try as I might, this has escaped me in terms of the golf swing until now or rather until a few weeks ago when I was cleaning my car at the do-it-yourself car wash or more specifically while I was whacking the dust out of the car’s floor mats – that’s right, I found the answer I’ve been looking for low these past 5+ years while pounding out dust from a car’s floor mats – go figure. This! … after having contemplated any number of metaphors and similes and analogies and suggestions as to what the golf swing motion resembles ….. some of which are listed below.

Any number of visualizations have been offered via live instruction, books, magazines and TV shows. “The swing is similar to throwing a freebie, or like the set-up and bowling a bowling ball or cracking a whip or driving a top-spin cross-court backhand in tennis.” And the stance is all about setting up in a balanced way much like a weight lifter prepares to lift bar bells (back posture, posterior pushed back, arms hanging loosely in front, etc.). The motion is not dissimilar to the process of throwing a javelin or a discus or even sweeping the floor with a broom.

My back is killing me – how am I supposed to posture again?

Over the years, I’ve spent considerable time trying to understand the fundamentals of the grip and the angle of my back and how to bend at the hips and not at the waist and all other such basics the lack of which everyone agrees conspire to complicate one’s golf swing. For the grip, I’ve finally agreed with Curtis Strange who I believe emphasized that you hold the club with your fingers which I’ve finally taken to mean that the middle fingers of my right hand have the most grip and my fore finger and thumb play a lesser role in terms of forcefulness. In time, I eventually came to the concept that my right hand should mimic holding a steak knife (if you cut a steak in the french way that requires switching the knife from the left to the right hand as you cut and then back to the left for eating) – or, for example, if you’re slicing a tomato or an onion with a butcher’s knife. Paying attention to how I hold the knife in these circumstances is very instructive – the middle fingers have the most command, the forefinger behaves like a cradling hook that guides and navigates action and the handle sits in the crux created where the base of the thumb meets the base of the forefinger of the hand exactly as golf instructors describe the “V” that should occur as the thumb presses up against the hand. Another example might be how a well trained drummer holds drum sticks or how one might hold a flat rock before preparing to skip it across the surface of a lake. You don’t drum a drum by holding drum sticks in the palm of your hand – how could you ever play Grateful Dead drum solos or master cool jazz music and cascading cymbals with that kind of a hold ….no, it’s all in the fingers, that’s where you get the power along with the flexibility and ease of movement.

I continued to visualize other analogies for set-up and balance that included the way a tennis player prepares to launch himself towards the ball as it reaches its apex in the toss or how all athletes – football players when they set before the hiking of the ball or basketball players on defense or a tennis player preparing to receive a serve – they all establish a posture that maximizes the power of their core by having firm straight backs and balancing their weight with a wide stance so they can spring into action in any direction. Nobody bends at the waist. Each of these examples requires angles that incorporate firm control of the core and the hips. I also recall how some instructors talk about standing ‘at attention’ like a soldier – tall and straight, chest kinda out, stomach kinda in, head and eyes looking forward – and only then bending the knees and bending at the hips to reach a balanced but strong position to take action.

I’m glad I don’t have to play wearing a suit – yeeeesh!

All this is well and good and has been informative. But then, after months of randomly visiting the topic as time permitted, I found myself at the car wash – the ones where you can hand wash your car in a bay and where there are several power tube vacuums and other accouterments for detailing your car. I had pulled out the floor mats and, as everyone does, I began whacking them against a metal pole to knock out the ground in dust – and the AHA! appeared literally out of thin air.

In order to have the mat strike the pole squarely face on I noticed that my body was doing all the things in the right fluid order that seemed right for a golf swing – especially how I gripped the mat with my fingers but most importantly how my wrists behaved. Everyone talks about how your wrists are supposed to roll over as you strike the ball – from the inside of the wrist looking like its facing the sky at the top of the back swing to it turning over and facing perpendicular to the ground as you follow through – in a sense this wrist motion mimics the power that is derived from similar action when pitching or swinging a baseball bat or throwing a football (perhaps not skyward vs. ground-ward but the wrist does follow a circular trajectory to end 180 degrees opposite from where it started) and demonstrates why it’s so hard for novices to have the power to throw anything well because they only use their arms and elbows but fail to get the right wrist action going.

But as I struck the mat against the pole – it was all so natural. I drifted the mat backwards, turned it as if towards the sky – in a nice slow leisurely fashion and then my body legs shoulders elbows and core all cooperated to gently shift and fluidly re-direct it towards the pole until at the last moment – THWACK – I hit the mat straight on, perpendicular to the ground with the face of the mat perfectly up/down. Had I continued the swing as if the pole didn’t exist, my wrist would have continued to roll until the mat faced the ground. It clearly faced skyward at the top of my ‘back swing.’

So now – finally – I have a concept and a visual that I understand wholly and believe in. Instead of all that other stuff like whipping the golf club by holding it upside down or pretending to use a horse whip or whatever – if I visualize trying to strike a floor mat downward at a golf ball – I have a sense of surety and comfort and faith that I am using the right fluid motion. It inherently makes sense to me.

I think that’s what the SKLZ golf hitting practice bag is also trying to impart but this analogy just strikes home for me in a more fundamental and natural way. It’s been 2 1/2 years since my daughter started college and my efforts at improving my golf game remain as erratic as they’ve ever been despite my belief that I’d have more time during this new chapter in my life and despite the fact that I can play all year round. And although I’ve developed a method of quickly converting her room into a practice chipping green while she’s away – the truth is I’ve spent the past couple years steadfastly stuck and focused understanding how to implement the fundamentals as they must apply to my body.

I now have an understanding of how to hold and swing the club. And I’ve done some others things along the way to reaching this epiphany. I’ve changed my grips to a size larger because I figured out I have long fingers compared to the size of my palms (math and ratios play such a large yet quiet role in so much of the fundamentals) and the standard grips didn’t allow me to use my fingers as optimally as I should. I’ve learned that I’ve been bent over way too much and that I have a fairly low center of gravity which means I can and should stand much more erect – kinda maybe like Fred Couples does maybe?. This is also due to the fact that my spine really curves frontwards a lot at the base near my hips so my arms still get sufficient clearance despite my erect stature. Even though the fundamentals are the same and ring true for all players and all sports, they can be and often are implemented in very custom fashion to suit the body and preference of the player. For example, I’m reminded of how the basics of a tennis serve are the same for all players and yet John McEnroe’s set-up was radically different from most players while Bjorn Borg had a classic set-up and yet they both were great servers.

I’m so smart .. I got this… .I’m just the shizbot, yes? Please please please say yes?
My ego and self-assurance – it’s so fragile ya’ know?

So now I have a concept of how I’m suppose to handle the club, the club head and my wrists – which in turn informs my elbows, arms and horizontal motions backwards and forwards.

I just have to ‘Feel the Force’ of the floor mat thwacking the metal pole at the car wash and I’m on my way to entering a new chapter in my journey learning to play golf. And yes – that last sentence was a nod to the latest Star Wars movie in the wings. This last chapter marks the beginning of a new one for me.

Back to The Future 2017 – Part I

Back to the Future and Why a Short Memory Is a Good Thing for Golfers & Start-Up Innovators

Many times I hear a sports commentator reflect on the mental game of a good quarterback, basketball player or golfer and they’ll say something like, “He has a short memory and that’s something that serves him well.” They’ll continue and say something like “You know he’s gonna fire that touchdown in there if he’s given a chance. He’s always thinking about the next down, the next play…. and doesn’t let bad passes, turnovers or interceptions throw him – You just can’t teach that stuff!!” football-pass

Confidence and the ability to ‘get ‘er done,’ comes from constantly looking forward and letting the history a mistake or a bad decision or a lapse in performance be exactly that – history. 20/20 hindsight often offers little except stoked fires of regret, resentment and self-degradation.

I think this viewpoint also applies to my journey of  trying to get to a point of comfort playing golf. A journey that’s always exacerbated by the time commitments of working overtime in the grueling new technology economy that’s fast-paced and where often the phrase ‘everything is new and has never been done before,’ stands as the crucible of what it means to be a worker in Silicon Valley. And that applies to start-up founders as well as your run of the mill everyday employee. I’ve had the luxury of being both.

EW20th_infographic_FINALThis experiment called Silicon Valley is quite amazing if you stop and think about it. Even though there are many huge billion dollar companies in the Bay Area – many of them are no more than twenty years old and that includes household names like Google, Apply and Amazon. Old-timers like Intel and Oracle are only twice as old thereabouts. Nothing here resembles the lifestyle, workstyle or pace of change found in more traditional last- century economies.  And even behemoths like Intel are still relative newborns compared to most old-economy companies. The parlance around here often refers to ‘lava formation’ as the state-of-creation that makes up everyday life and the challenges inherit in learning how to build stuff that’s never been created before – to do something new, to learn new techniques, to improve on what’s been built and to look for that proverbial touchdown after making a series of mistakes – and failure and mistakes run a plenty in this former land of “Heavenly Delight.’ We just don’t ever hear about them.

Which brings me back to my golf game. And a recent bout of retrospection I ended up grappling with over the holidays. I’ve spent some time musing over all the things I had planned to do in 2016. This was triggered by an innocent question from my daughter while on vacation. “Dad?” She asked “did you play that tournament last year like you said you would Dad?” She added “You know, you’ll never get better if you don’t practice.”

I was going to do so many things last year. I was going to be so discplined and get to the golf course and practice aspects of my swing and stance and grip while at home. I was going to get home training equipment. I was going to practice with a net in the front yard. I would get an instructor. I would play at least once a month and my crowning achievement would be playing in a tournament – any tournament! I hardly accomplished anyone of these goals – in fact, I hardly accomplished anything the more I looked backwards. My mental judger started issuing proclamations. What a loser I am. I’m never going to get anywhere. I’ve wasted so much time. Why should I bother? Making resolutions is a pointless thing to do.

Thinking about making commitments for this year became harder and harder. And then something changed. I decided to focus on the present and realized how what I decided to focus on NOW could make all the difference in how I would feel one year from now and beyond. There’s nothing I can do about yesterday but I still can impact tomorrow by doing something now. One day maybe I will be a 65 year old Unicorn tearing it up in some senior tournament – who knows? But I won’t get anywhere worrying and feeling down about the past. My biggest challenge wasn’t to figure out where I went wrong but to make a decision to re-commit today. And I thought about the sports commentators. The difference between success and failure starts in the mind. Deciding to try again isn’t really that hard a decision to make. And after much trepidation, I did.

….continued in Part II

PGA Golf Lessons Apply to the Silicon Valley Start Up LIfe

Out here in the Valley all the news is always abuzz about a new start-up that’s become the next “Unicorn” – that rare little 4-person operation that started in a garage with just a twinkle of an idea and little faith and lots of chutzpah and a desire to change the world – and then Boom! “It’s a Unicorn!!” an unbelievable entity of the likes of Google or Instagram or Facebook Uber or whatever.  One day you’re like “Who?” and the next day everyone is using that smartphone gadget or uploading photos using that must-have app.

Myth of the Unicorn

Myth of the Unicorn

I think many of the qualities that are required to make it as a start-up founder (or start-up marketer for that matter – my bailiwick) are quite similar to the one’s that make for a pro golf contender.  Very few that apply to one don’t apply to the other.  Here are some of the mental game qualities I heard Sir Nick mention in the commentary before the start of the final round this past Sunday.  Life is golf – golf is life, is how I see it.

Courage – Whistling Straits demanded it of all players.   There was no room for error.  the Penalty for missing the fairway or the green were scary and sometimes insurmountable.  Courage and conviction with one’s shot selection and swing were key.

An Uncluttered Mind (Focus) – is how Jack Nicklaus described Jordan Speith, according to Sir Nick, and his ability to play consistently and to bounce back from a setback.  Setbacks are common when building a startup.  Set-forwards, if you will, are called “pivot-points” around here.  It means staying positive while learning from one’s mistake and making adjustments and coming back even stronger.  Jordan’s greatest quality perhaps is his ability to stay clear of mind and light spirited and to keep his mind uncluttered.

Courage

Courage

Visualize – you’ve heard it all too many times but you need to see your future in order to make it happen just right.  Same thing with the golf balls trajectory.  See it and believe it and chances are it will become.

No fear – I guess that’s the brother to courage.  It’s also a sticker found on many a car. And I guess that’s what Grateful Golfer’s friend had the other day when playing that impossible shot from deep in the woods.

Right Intention – I thought Nick made a particularly rare point here.  See the shot and adapt to the shot with the right intention.  I think that means letting go of the negative and holding on to the real goal – which is to be your best self regardless of the circumstance.  To not play from a place of anger or negativity.  There’s a little bit of letting go that is a part of this – I think.

On a mission – with all that said – you still have to have that Rocky Balboa attitude that you’re going after a goal and you’re going to make it.  Can you hear the brass horns playing as Sylvester runs up the stairs?  Often in the Valley we call it the “Stormin’ Normandy” mentality recollecting the beachhead strategy by the allies that required sheer will and determination despite the obvious downside to the strategy.  Another way to say it is “By any means necessary.”  This is about grit.  This is about believing with your head, heart and soul and beyond.  Nothing’s gonna stop you.  Jordan seems to have this.  Tiger had it (and I would argue, despite his lackluster results of late – is still really showing it, even more so because no one believes in him anymore and yet he’s still out there giving it the best he’s got).

And then ( 2 commercials later)….. I was struck by an equaling compelling thought pattern that applies to golf, life, and start-ups.  When asked how he did what he did in his 3rd round performance, Matt Jones replied he “pretended like it was a practice round, tried to relax and decided to just have fun with it.

As serious as all this stuff seems to be – in the end, as long as we remain gentlemen and hold onto our integrity and play fair….. all of it, life, golf, startups, the daily grind, – all of it is intended to be fun – it’s really just a game.  It just becomes really hard when we forget that.

courage2

SVG-out

Practice Notes to Self on the Backswing – Think Frisbee

wrist, arms, shoulders, and hips turning in sequence with a frisbee

wrist, arms, shoulders, and hips turning in sequence with a frisbee

Did some front yard practicing today with my at-home practice station. Took out my SKLZ target netting, a fairly huge contraption but easy to set up (don’t worry I don’t use real golf balls – i use the perforated plastic ones instead), and tried out my new grips and tried to focus on some backswing drills that work on the CASH principle of trying to move/turn the clubhead (in other words – the wrists) first, then the arms then the shoulders and then the hips.

I did a few swings slow motion but it was hard to think it through on a normal swing and I started to get all jumbled.

Then I remembered a thought I had after reading something online – about the swing really being all about the left arm.  If you use the left arm to move the club instead of your right arm – you’ll have a better chance of guiding the club correctly.

That’s the thing with golf – it’s such a game of opposites – swing down to get the ball up, focus on calming your mind instead of getting all pumped up, work on being more humble instead of brandishing your ego.  When it comes to the swing – I’m figuring out it’s about using your non-dominate arm instead of getting power and control from your right arm (if you’re right handed).

frisbee3So I had a little Eureka moment.  When i tried to focus on that – I came up with the thought of trying to throw a frisbee with my left hand.  I was playing with the idea that the backswing and the swing all together is more like a left-handed backhand in tennis.  I read that in one of the blogs or a magazine.  And I always heard that the swing altogether is like trying to skip a stone across a pond or similar to a pitcher throwing a baseball.  But the latter images made me focus on my right hand and action with my right wrist arm and shoulders. But when I tried to emulate throwing a frisbee with my left hand I sorta kinda really got the sensation of having to keep that left arm extended, turning my wrists at the right times and leading with my hips as I tried to shift from back to front. It was palatable and replicable and natural even if awkward.

I also got the feeling that I could also emulate the sensation of trying to hit a nail with a hammer – something you hear many pros talk about when talking about the precise nature of getting the sequence for power right…the idea that you delay the striking of the hammer until just before you hit the nail much like you need to delay the club head from swinging forward until it comes back down below your hips. The whipping sensation came about naturally when I tried to swing like I was throwing a frisbee – because the speed of the frisbee comes from delaying the flicking of the wrist until the last moment.

Anywho – the ‘throwing of the frisbee with my left hand’ seems to work conceptually for me much more so then trying to think clubhead, arms, shoulders, hips.

So my practice session was useful in that regard.  Now I’ll have to see if that sensation remains after a few more practices.  But after several weeks of feeling like I haven’t started making improvements on anything except putting, this is a glimmer of hope.

That’s golf for ya’.  Just when you start to get discouraged, she throws you a bone and you’re right back in it like its the first day. Hazzah!!

frisbee motions similar to golf swing

frisbee motions similar to golf swing

Backswing Basics – CASH into a good sequence

So I’m back into focusing on my game.  I played 9 holes a couple weeks back and although it wasn’t a great round I did notice that the one area I did well in was my putting – which is the one area I’ve been focusing on since the beginning of the year.  I can’t beat myself up too much because work’s been a grind and I haven’t been able to focus or practice much but I need to double down and re-look at my goals for this year.  But it felt great having such a grooved routine that I didn’t have to even think about for my putting.  I never 3-putted and I guess that counts for something.

I’m almost done with my batch of lessons – my very first batch of lessons from an instructor EVER! – and I have to admit that the greatest benefit from this is that I swing all the way around in one full motion now – instead of decelerating or stopping short.  My instructor’s been good with giving me mental thoughts and I’ve changed out my grips (per his advice) for the first time ever.  Who knew? (common phrase for me it seems) but grips are like running shoes – you have to replace them every so often even if you don’t play with them – they dry out from use and/or age.  At a minimum you should wash them often to get the grit off.

So now I have a new set of Golf Prides’ that are a smidge wider than my older grips on my new/used set of Titliest DC9’s.

And now I have a confidence that if I focus on a particular area of my game, I will see improvement over time – so I’m gonna focus on my irons. 3-9.

Recently I read a GratefulG blog about the many resources available to us die-hards and I decided to take advantage of online videos and such to research how to practice my backswing where I have a lot of trouble sequencing club movement and staying on plane.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that the real sequence evolves from thinking purely about the left arm’s movement and to think: clubhead, then arms, then shoulders, then hips when it comes to what rotates in what order. The acronym is CASH.  Move the clubhead to 730pm on the clock face, then move the arms to 9 oclock, then turn the shoulders until the left shoulder is under your chin/chest over your right foot, and lastly turn your hips until your back faces the target.  Also, I’m learning that the backswing is not where you get power – it’s just the set-up to get into position – like pulling the bow back before you release the arrow.  Once I got the CASH thing in my head, I saw it every where – on TV, in magazines and in a ton of online videos so this is a fundamental that I need to groove into a routine.

Anyway, that’s where I am for now.  I haven’t written in a while but I’m gonna try and get back in the saddle for that as well.

My Pittsburgh Steelers are playing tonight – whoo hoo! life is good.  I love my new grips – they feel great.  I shoulda done that a long time ago.

SVG-out

Backswing_CASH

Take a Pause & Shake A Hand

Couple of quick notes as I shake of my work week (phew – what a doozy, nothing but non-stop digital marketing stuff AND I had to compile a bunch of end-of-quarter budget and projections stuff. and i hate working with numbers (except on the course, chuckle chuckle…. “for the love!!!”).

Note #1: Hadn’t been to my favorite before-work putting green in a while but I didn’t have to drop my daughter off at summer school this morning so swung by and did a few putts trying to a do nothing but 2-putts from about 30 feet out.  Hit them all. I really developing confidence and trust in my routine.  And it’s becoming natural – I don’t think to much at all about it.  About time I guess – I’ve been working on it since January.  My first putts were all within 5 feet and I nailed them all in.  Sidenote – it was a damp morning.  I always seem to do better on damp greens (not wet enough to leave grass on the ball – just la little moist).

Note #2:  I’ve been working at my at-home practice station on pausing at the top of my swing – very deliberately – and I’m getting a much better feel for my transitions from front to back.

Greg Norman1Note #3:  Watched the shark (Greg Norman – who also makes a fabulous Pinot

The shark has a nose for good wine

The shark has a nose for good wine

Noir and you gotta love his apparel too, right?) on the Golf Channel and he talked about getting to a position halfway in your backswing where you could literally shake hands with someone standing directly behind you if the butt end of your shaft was pointing directly at the target.  To do this you have to really focus on keeping your swing low and extending that left arm so your outer circle keeps it’s proper circumference.  Anyway, I’ve been practicing that to good effect as well.  Swinging from the ground up he says – really keeps you from going inside to quickly.

Note #4: Sitting down after this long week, with nobody home, so the first thing to do is flip on the Golf Channel and the JAMESDRISCOLL-PROPEN_depth1Web.com tour is on and this golfer – James Driscoll – was sharing some practice tips for after his -7 round.  He has a club with some pebbles or bullets in it or something that makes a audible sound – he takes the club to the top, waits for the stones to drop and for the noise from rattling around in the shaft to stop, and then swing.  He was working on deliberately pausing at the top of his swing.  So that re-affirmed some of the direction I was taking the past two week.

Going slow, taking my time, learning to pause and shaking the hand of the invisible guy behind me are thoughts I’ve been holding onto with good result.  This game takes time to dial-in but persistence seems to pay off.  Maybe I’ll get to play a 9-holer this weekend before I dive back into the melee.  That’s the valley – what can i say!

The A Swing – A new approach and new book by David Leadbetter

QuDave Leadbetter_A Swing Bookick notes from Golf Central on the Golf Channel with Martin Hall.  I feel affirmed about my hunches about the backswing that I blogged about a couple days ago.

  1. New book released by David Leadbetter called “The A Swing – the alternative approach to Great Golf”
  2. DL’s 8th instructional book.  Why?
  3. It’s about the backswing – because the backswing is really difficult to repeat on a consistent basis .  Most amateurs go way inside too quick or turn too soon versus really good athletes who can compensate better.
  4. It’s all about synchronization between the inside circle (your hands) and the outside (the club head) of the body or the 2 circles of the swing.
  5. Leadbetter mentions Calvin Peete as one of his favorite players with a great swing.  Up there with Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones, Nick Faldo, Jack Nicklaus, etc.  Interestingly, Calvin swung with a bent left arm because it was broken during childhood and never re-set properly.  He died recently.David Leadbetter2
  6. Calvin Peete never let the clubhead get behind his hands.  Hands stay in and the clubhead stayed out.
  7. He likens it to a batter in baseball – go figure, just like I mused about in my recent random thoughts blog entry and I know the Grateful Golfer mentions this in his blog as well.
  8. If you keep the clubhead outside all the way to the top  you end up in a sorta natural batter’s set-up position which sets you up for more consistent down swings where the club head levels out perfectly to strike the ball.
  9. Closing comments – It’s all about simplicity.

I’m gonna take a look at some Calvin Peete swings on Youtube or something.  And next time I’m in the book store, I’ll check out the book.

David Leadbetter1

But this is re-assuring …. Leadbetter’s approach.  Because I still don’t fell ultra-confident about my ability to be consistent with my backswing.

What a nice end to what was an unusually grueling day in the Valley.

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.

9_ball_flights

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?

SVG-out