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.
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.
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.
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).
So 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!!
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.
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.
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 Web.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 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!
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.
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.
The 9 swing paths are
- Pull Hook
- Pull Slice
- Push Hook
- 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?
[Stardate: sometime last late-spring/early summer.]
SVG Practice Target Tidbit – who knew? There are 9 fundamental golf swing paths of ball flight.Logged sometime last spring/summer….. (side note: the constant discovery of fundamental truths in golf just kept coming as I continued working on my pitch shot) sidenote2: actually – a lot more than just a tid bit but a very usefully chunk of information).
Maybe it’s common knowledge but it wasn’t to me. Knowing these 9 fundamental golf swings and fundamental ball flight paths will help me practice smarter. Instead of just aiming for a target with my long irons, I can aim and practice deciding the best ball flight to get these.
Step 1, however, what the heck are these 9 ball flights and why ONLY 9 not more or less? Basically, I guess it’s like the other “small object” sports – I’m thinking baseball and tennis. There are only so many pure ways to strike the ball efficiently and place it within a targeted space. Dead straight, slight right or slight left on slight up and slight down.
So in tennis you can hit a ball flat straight, down the line or cross-court. You can hit it topspin straight, down the line or cross court. And same for underspin or drop shots. These are similar in concept to the fade, draw, dead-on etc. (side note: gotta love my vocabulary huh?).
Same could be analogged when thinking about pitching in baseball and strike zone and such. Why it gets to 9 I guess has something to do with the 3×3 strike zone boxes kind of thing.
Plus I remember watching a Golf Channel special with Bernhard Langer on flight paths and he kept showing how by shifting your toe-line’s relationship with the ball’s target line (dead-parallel, closed or open) you could consistently change your ball flight path from fade to draw, push or pull, high fade/ high draw, etch. It was quite uncanny and all how deceptively simple it was to do that – for him at least, on camera no less – by just swinging the same but just changing the alignment of his toe line by some 20 degrees – facing inwards or out from parallel..
So maybe that’s why those practice line-sticks are so important! (SN – funny, I ended up buying a pair of yellow sticks about three months ago when picking up some used Titleist performance enhancing clubs in preparation for my first set of golf lessons. I think they really help with immediate corrective feedback).
Go figure. It was totally news to me. (SN: I really should be thinking more in terms of those fundamental flight curves when visualizing ball flight and breathing so I can play more with my heart and lower body tension like my new instructor is saying)
Had a decent day yesterday. Went to the range with my PW and 7-iron. Perfect crisp 70 degrees clear blue sky. Just butter!
Took time to stretch – including my fingers and wrists. With a bucket of 40 balls I’d say 50% had good flight path and fell within a respectable margin of target. Another 15% were tugged left but hit far and straight. Another 15% fade/sliced right. A couple just shanked to the extreme right. And a good 5-8% were like dead on. Not too shabby. I’ll take it for having just introduced a new swing adjustment. Here’s a quick pass at the gory details for learning’s sake… thinking about it I did a lot better when I finally established the pre-swing routine and when I took less of a backswing but tried to focus on keeping my right elbow close to my right hip, focused on a full follow-thru AND trying to keep my left hand on or inside a line across my toes during the backswing. I know, that last one sounds weird but that’s my attempt at trying to think my body to swinging inside-out.
What else did I do?
I made sure to swing thru and hold my finish until the ball landed. I also followed GratefulG’s routine of starting to go thru a routine for each or almost each swing……
- stepping back,
- finding my line,
- finding a very precise target
- and then walking up and placing my clubbed down the line with my right hand and my feet together facing the target.
Then I move my left foot over until my left heel lines up with the golf ball and I step back with my right foot until I feel planted.
I was kinda making it up at first but then I got a rhythm going. If it’s putting I can tell you I’ve got a real good routine for that since that’s much of what I practiced on this winter – but I decided I should try and make one up for irons. So after set-up, I borrowed from my putting routine – I just stepped back to a parallel line and did 1-2-3 (sometimes 4-5) easy mini swings just to get a feel for when the leading edge would sweep the practice mat. When I got it close to my left heel without chunking or digging but just swishy – usually that happens in the 1st or 2nd practice if I really just swing like it didn’t matter – I would step back up take one more gaze at my target and then swing with full intent to turn and hold a full finish. I Don’t know – but it felt good towards the end of the bucket when my consistency started to dial-up.
And then – I went home – all jazzed at what I thought was respectable practicing session and ended up practicing my chip shot in the front yard with this new sturdy practice mat. Work is still crazy but I’m happy I forced myself to get back into practice after a couple weeks off.
And here’s a song list of stuff I was listening to – just for grins…..
- Time Out of Mind by Steely Dan on Gaucho
- Sky High by Donald Byrd on Black Byrd
- I.G.Y. by Donald Fagan on The Nightfly
- Satellite by Günter on Ganging Up
- Who Makes Your Money by Spoon on Transference
- Static Society by King Kooba on OM10 A Decade of Future Music
- Optimistic by Tom Middleton on Lifetracks
- III Street Blues by Moonrock on Café Del Mar Volume Series
Continuing with my self-indulgence of documenting my “retro-notes” from my golf and observations notebook from last year – below are some Leadbetter notes that I gleaned once again by watching TV. I’m not doing this just for grins. I know I wrote these down because I either found the points interesting or thought provoking but also because I thought they’d be worth remembering as I sought to take my practice regimen seriously. Of course, at the time – for a variety of reasons including money, time commitment and maybe even a belief that sheer will and desire could help me improve my game along with a little help from TV programs and magazines – I was not willing to entertain formal golf instruction. That changed towards the end of the year and maybe one day I look back and think of 2014 as a pivotal year in my golfing golfiness apprenticeship journey.
- First – analysis has improved – thanks to pervasive video-access and smartphone apps and things like, Trackman.
- Second – equipment is far more precise and varied to the point that each player can get what fits him/her exactly
- Third – physical readiness is important (hmm – I guess way more so than just a few decades ago? – golfers sure seem hecka way more athletic these days AND bigger, as in, taller -)
- Fourth – the common uncommon observation – equipment, technique, physical, mental and nutritional aspects are all important.
- Tangent – Calvin Peete – a golfer worth looking up and reading about
- The importance of glutes in your swing? They let you shorten your backswing.
- On the backswing – Shorten it. (self note: hmmm really?). Importance of arms and body to sync. The swing of the club and the body rotation must sync. (self note:– I guess what he’s saying is it’s better to have a shorter swing and keep everything in sync than it is to try and over-extend the backswing in order to improve something like power.)
- On the biggest mistakes by Amateurs
- The grip. Check it. Grip with your fingers (NOT your palms).
- Keep club head outside the hands – for example like Jim Furyk, Jack Nicklaus or Calvin Peete all of whom kept the club head outside. (note: he seemed to suggest this is contrary to more classic training methods).
- Pursue a simple back swing – just stand the shaft up.
While in the fair city of Paris I kept scouring around for anything golf related since I obviously couldn’t bail on the family to go find a local golf course and practice a bit. One of these days – but this was not one of them. So we’re walking along the Seine checking out the street vendors with all their kitch chotskey stuff, paintings, photos and interestingly enough old poster replicas of classic rock bands like the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendricks and the Beatles and then I stumbled onto 2 posters that I just had to buy. They had depictions of golfers from back in the day with funny little captions.
- Poorly taken snapshots of which are below for your gandering pleasure.