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!

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?


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

Golf & Music & Tiger & Rory & Chambers Bay

Get it Chambers Bay – as in chamber music?

Golf and music (and cool technology innovations ) are my greatest passions hands down. If golf is truly a journey in self-competition, believing, finding, trusting and all those other internal psyche struggles then music is the soothing balm that can help capture mood feelings memory and verve in a way very few other arts can when you’re trying to be physically active and calm under pressure. Music can help climb that Mt. Psyche.

Speaking of which, here’s a pic of Tiger getting ready to practice one more time at Chambers Bay with a pair of cool wireless headphones. I can’t tell which mfg made them but their the ones that hang around your neck. Personally I like the ones from Motorola which stay on your head except the ear buds don’t stay fixed if you move around too much but they’re great for walking. Rory’s been seen in ads with a pair of Bose headphones so clearly music helps the best of the best play their best but I can’t understand why they didn’t advertise their wireless ones with him.

Needless to say, I guess I’m not the only one who gets his mojo going with a cool groovy playlist. It’s been a while so i’ll post a US Open inspirational song list in my next entry. But here’s a pic of Tiger getting ready to give it a go. SVG-out.


RETRO Entry No.2: Miscellaneous Observation – Now that’s a ‘Tall Glass of Water”

Original Stardate Jan 27th:

Duke Ellington used to have a steak, a potato and a warm glass of water for breakfast because he didn’t know when he’d eat again during the day.Duke Ellington

I heard that at the beginning of the year while on the training commuting during a radio show on KCSM and thought maybe there’s something to drinking a warm glass of water in the morning to start your day (before I have that cup of coffee).  Maybe this could be a good ritual or practice routine.

Since then, I’ve started the habit of having a warm glass of water in the morning.  Sometimes before coffee, usually after and usually with a bowl of oatmeal.  I’ll do this when I get to work.  I’ve heard from (many of my friends in….) the Asian community that having a glass of water (warm) is good for the body.  It wakes you up and wakes up your body.  Plus it helps with memory and brain functioning.  I even remember hearing Howard Stern uses it – and ,think what you may about his radio show, he’s one of those maverick personalities that seems to chart his own path, something I admire and he’s withstood heavy obstacles to get to where he is so I take that into consideration and figure all these data points point to something useful. [added comment nov 30th – i know these are dis-jointed data points and i haven’t listened to Howard in a long time but it’s weird how my brain works and associates data some times.  i’m a little like “HUH?” myself – but I guess i have no one to complain to but my younger self – haha]

Takeaway pointer – a tall glass of warm water in the morning is a good way to start the day.


A Warm Glass of Water is a Good Day Starter

Added Comments Nov 30th:  In retrospect this is the beginning of me thinking a little bit more about what I eat and how to stay thoughtful about my nutrition as it relates to my long term ability to play golf – including avoiding chronic age-based diseases that are preventable if you eat right – not to mention keeping my joints happy.  Plus I think I drink to much caffeine as it is.

Epilogue – Now, when I get to work, I have a bowl of oatmeal and a tall cup of very warm water before I have any coffee.  I sustains me right through lunch and I’m energetic and alert.  It’s a good routine.


Yummy Oatmeal