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

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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!

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.

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

What do I mean “I’m a Width Golfer?”

So I’m walking thru this recycled book store as I often do with my daughter – and, as I often do, I went to the golf book section to see what words of advice I might scan thru and I came across an old book that talked about the Laws of the Swing.  It’s called “The Laws of the Golf Swing” by Mike Adams.  It’s an older book but it talks about body types and various golf swings.

The basic gist of it was – there are three basic types of physics for executing a golf swing and they are based on your body type.  Many other bloggers (like Grateful G) have talked about how there are as many different types of swing set ups and such as there are batting styles or pitching styles or methods of striking a tennis ball etc.

But the reasoning behind it is as follows.  If you’re taller and thiner than you are wide you’re a leverage player meaning you use height to generate power in your swing and your swing plane will be more up-to-down or vertical.  You’ll arc your swing more than others and really reach behind you at the top of your swing.  Think Bubba or other tall golfers.  If you’re medium build you’ll have a different set up that is more fluid and circular.  And if you’re like me – less flexible, shorter than most golfers (barely 5’10.5″), and stockier – you’ll generate more power by swing side-to-side – using your width and generating power laterally or horizontally.  I was a little disappointed to have to come to terms with my body type but I tried some of the methods suggested for figuring out my body type such as folding my right arm with my thumbup and seeing if my thumb touched below, at, or above my shoulder plane – and it rang true.  The tests in the book are pretty simple and quick to do.  Plus I showed my wife the pictures of the different body types and she immediately identified me as the stockier wider type guy.  Welcome to my middle-aged-dom right?

Anyway, as I read on it made sense.  What it meant was I should disregard techniques and advice that try to make me swing very wristy or talk a lot about the top of the swing and such.  I now know that a lot of the advice dished out in Golf magazine or even by pro golfers are for a body type that does not necessarily jive with mine.

I swing best when I swing like I’m doing tug of war with a rope that runs along the the target line.  To go back to the baseball analog – If i were a pitcher I would pitch side-arm versus overhead or even at 10 o’clock.  I much prefer and have better consistency when I cock my right arm at 3 o’clock and limit my backswing so I don’t have very much turn.  If I were a batter, I would swing more like Babe Ruth – like I’m prepping to give someone an upper-cut in boxing – i wouldn’t hit the ball at the bottom of the batter’s box but would do better to swing at a fastball high because my batting plane would be much more horizontal  so I would sway or float backward than forward.

The takeaways for me were to execute a very short backswing, pushing my club away from me backwards-directly opposed to the target with my left arm and tugging it away as well with my right – trying to push the circumference of my swing to create a horizontal oval shape versus an vertical one.  I would bend at the hips and lean forward a little more to get around my somewhat wider chest which prevents me from effectively marrying my hands beyond a certain point during my backswing because to do so sorta forces me off-plane because I’m not very flexible anymore.  So my swing is faster and shorter in length and looks like I use way more chest and arms than most people do but my plane stays consistent and I’m less likely to come over the top of the ball.  It also means, I stand a little wider, have much less arc (even though I finish full swing and have no problem getting the club all the way around), and I place the ball just a little bit farther back than most – closer to center for my irons versus in-line with my left heel.  It also means I need to flare my feet just a little (my left more so than my right) so I can add some turn to my hips beyond what my arms allow me.  And I move my right foot back just a smidge to help clear my hips.

Still taking my lessons, I really didn’t want to add more adjustments to my repertoire and louse things up – but I went to the driving range to practice and I have to admit – the adjustments worked.  I had more consistency and confidence and had a much lower tendency of chunking the dirt early or coming up over the top.  I was striking 80% accuracy towards my target (within a margin of error of some 10-15 feet, aiming at a target 135-150 yards away using my 9 and 7 irons) and had only one shank out of a bucket of 50.  Maybe the first time ever  that has happened to me!!

The biggest thing for me was to consciously not try to overdue my backswing but to stop as soon as my left arm crossed my chest and lay horizontal.  I also became more comfortable bending at the hips so my arms really hung like sausages instead of trying to mimic great erect posture like an Adam Scott or somebody.  Let’s face it, many of those guys on the Champions Tour hang over the ball like gargoyles perched on a roof top more than some 20-something 360 degree swinging arch-angel.

So – I’m pleased with this finding.  It tells me that: 1) I need to filter all those magazine articles and TV shows words-of-advice because often, I imagine, their talking to that younger more agile player than someone like me; 2) It’s worth the effort to keep digging for more information all the time because the more I learn the more likely I am to find suggestions that match me; 3) if advice is going to help me, it should generate fairly immediate and visible results.  In fact, I remember Paul Azinger in one of those very same golf channel shows saying that if you don’t see fairly quick results from a word of advice (assuming you’re following them correctly) then just maybe it’s not great advice – for you.

Net net, my confidence in my swing just went up a notch.  Here’s a picture of the book cover.  Yes – I had to come to terms with the fact that I have a belly, and I’m not so flexible, and my chest gets in the way of my swing – but knowledge is power if you don’t take it personally I guess.  Besides, I’m starting to run again and I should lose 20 lbs in no time – yeah, right.  Famous last words.  Every year, I tell my wife – “Just give me a month and Shazzamo! I’ll be back to my old self !!”

The key to success is self-knowledge sometimes.

And, next to it – another picture from a Paris Golf Poster that I’m thinking resembles my style as a width player.DSCN1264Laws of the Golf Swing

Golf lesson 2b

Also, note to self – keep tension out of shoulders, and finish with elbows pointing down which is much easier if you don’t tense up in shoulder area. I got at standing workstation at work also to help counteract poor posture and muscle tension from sitting at a desk all day.

Some 18 months or more into my serious journey and I really feel like I’ve turned a corner.

Thx guys for encouraging me along and chiming in with your learnings as well

Golf Lesson #2

20150307-121641.jpg

Wow. This guy at Los Lagos GC sure is kinda different. Just finished my 2nd lesson. Will write more later but a few quick notes. Marry my right hand to the club n make sure all my fingers are on. Continue focus on holding finish. Think with your heart not your brain. The heart has more neurons than ur brain. It is a better intelligence and starting point for action. Be positive. Let go tension by breathing and thinking with a positive heart. I swung thru every ball with a trajectory that was fairly on target. No slices no chunks but more importantly much less fear and anxiety. I am grateful for my lessons. What a great Saturday. I just might sign up to play 9 or 18 holes by Tax day. And I feel like I am on track to start doing local tournaments by 2016. Who knew the heart was a better place to start any action! Yet it makes perfect sense. When the heart instructs the brain it feels so much more fluid. More later. Peace out.

P.S. the instructor’s name is Mike Flenniken. Every time I leave him I feel like Grasshopper in the old Kung Fu TV show. He really makes me think in a fresh non stressful non body mechanics way. Shazzamo ! Up up and away.