Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Golfing Garbage

            I have really become infatuated with the game of golf over the last six years.  I used to play relatively often in high school, but never really found the time between partying and school work (yeah right) to get out on the links while in college.  Only once I graduated from PITT did I find myself with enough time to really get focused on improving and become a more knowledgeable golfer.
            I have never taken one lesson in my life.  For the most part I have received some advice from my father and progressed through trial and error.  I used to slice off of the tee about 75 percent of the time.  Over time I taught myself how to correct it and would go as far as to say that now I only slice about 20 percent of the time – if not less.  I actually find myself duck-hooking more than I slice, which I’m not sure is a good thing or a bad thing.  After years or slicing, I guess I’ll live with it.  My approach accuracy and putting could always use some work, but for the most part I would say that I have come a long way when it comes to improving my score.
            On a good day I can shoot in the low-to-mid 80s.  I shot my all-time low last summer when I came in with an 82 at Indian Mountain.  On a bad day I will approach 100, although I can not recall the last time I went over the century mark.  I bet that is something most amateur golfers can’t say.  Either way, averaging in the low 90s isn’t bad for someone who has only gotten serious about the game a few years ago.
            There are so many places that a person can go to get golf tips now-a-days.  There are numbers of magazines, such as Golf Digest and Golf Illustrated to name a few.  Local courses have golf pros that can give lessons.  However, perhaps the biggest source of golf information today in the Golf Channel.  I mean you can’t really beat 24 straight hours of golf.
            I watch the Golf Channel somewhat regularly now.  I’ll stop by the Golf Fix for a few pointers, check out Donald Trump’s show or watch a bit of whatever tournament is on at the time.  I will always take heed to some pointers.  I won’t do anything drastic to change my swing, but it’s always nice to learn how to play different shots.
            Unfortunately, one can’t watch the Golf Channel without seeing advertisements or infomercials for “new equipment designed to shave stokes off your score immediately.”  Now that I have become more in tune to the game of golf, I can’t help but be disgusted at some of these commercials.  I mean I know the Golf Channel is trying to market some of its new toys and make some money for the industry, but some of the things the people say are down-right laughable.  I thought the Golf Channel’s purpose was to help its viewers, not lie to them about improving their game so quickly with the use of a special club.
            The most popular tool out there is the Medicus Driver.  This driver has several hinges on it that break if the player doesn’t swing the club on the correct  swing plane.  Here is the ad for it…
            The Medicus Driver has been chosen by pros as the #1 swing trainer club in the world. It is the best selling golf training aid ever! It is used by over a million amateur golfers and thousands of professionals and now it's BETTER THAN EVER! Once you learn to swing the Medicus Driver without breaking it you know you are swing in tempo and on plane. You'll get rid of that slice and start hitting longer, straighter shots and start shooting lower golf scores!
Yes, right away people.  The golfer will start to hit it longer and straighter and cut shots within days!
Um, no they won’t.  Not unless the Medicus Driver can teach them how to chip and putt as well.  Let’s say the driver does actually help someone and they do get their swing plane for their drive down.  So what if they crank it 300 yards.  They still have 150 yards left to the pin.  Everyone knows the saying, “Drive for show, putt for dough.”
Personally, I think the drive is the least important shot of all of the shots one would play on a hole.  Obviously the player wants to keep it in bounds and not have to take a penalty, but as long as they are in play they are in decent shape.  Regardless of whether the person is in the rough or the fairway, 100 yards out or 250 yards out, even lie or downhill lie, if they really want to cut strokes they are going to have to hit a good approach shot and be able to sink a putt.
Just because the player can hit the ball longer and straighter does NOT mean they will cut strokes.  They need an all-around game.  Having a proper swing place doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to hit a good shot.  Besides, does anyone think Jim Furyk could swing the Medicus without it breaking?  I’d say 26 pro wins isn’t bad for a person who probably taught himself his own swing.  This piece will keep coming back to a central theme: Don’t focus on what everyone says will work for you.  You find what works best for you.
Next there is GPS.  Sure, it is nice to know how many yards it is to the back of a bunker or to the center of the green, but how much does it really help?  It may help the player choose the right club, but that still doesn’t help them hit it.  It’s not like they can be like, “Oh, its 147 yards to the pin?  Let me set the dial on my pitching wedge to 1-4-7.”  Not many amateurs are going to land on the green, let alone stick it two feet from the cup.  I agree, knowing the yardage helps.  Knowing whether it is exactly 173 yards or guessing it is about 180 because the 150-marker is a little bit ahead isn’t going to make or break the player.  An amateur should just concentrate on aiming for the center of the green and go from there.
Lately I have seen infomercials for the Tour Striker and the Speed-Woosh.  Cool names, right?  The Tour Striker is designed to help a player work on forward shaft lean, which is supposed to compress the ball more and make it go farther.  The Speed-Woosh is a shaft with a movable ball on it that is supposed to show the golfer how to add more club head speed.  If the ball slides down the shaft before they reach the impact zone, it’s wrong.  If the ball snaps to the end of the shaft toward the end of their downswing then they are generating the speed at the proper time.
Whatever.  I have hit 300 yard drives before.  I have hit a 3-iron over 200 yards.  I hit pitching wedges 150.  Never have I concentrated on my forward shaft lean.  The ball is only going to go a certain distance anyway.  What’s another 15 yards?  Same with club head speed.  What does it really matter?  When a player starts trying to swing harder – that’s when things get out of whack.  They can turn their hips too quick and blast it to the right and into the woods – which usually happens to me when I try to swing harder.  They can roll their top hand over too fast and hook it.  They can torque their body and turn so violently that their shoulder height changes and they top the ball or take a huge divot.  A player should swing at whatever tempo makes them feel the most comfortable.  They should do whatever helps them keep their movements in sync and the ball going straight.  Who cares if they are hitting a 9-iron into the green or a 5-iron?  They still have a chance to make it on in two.
 My personal favorite is the ads for the ‘do-everything’ utility clubs.  The infomercial shows a guy with a 4 handicap talking about how the new driving iron has helped him out so much.  Then it shows him hitting it out of a waste bunker from 200 yards out.  I highly doubt that a guy with a 4 handicap is going to be in that position more than once a round.  Why would he absolutely need that club?  The people they use for these ads are obviously not as good as they say they are or else they wouldn’t be promoting a club that helps them escape trouble so often.  Again, why lie?  Show me a guy who shoots 120 using it.  Let him tell me how it well it actually works.
Until someone comes up with the putter that Rodney Dangerfield used in CaddyShack, I will not be spending one cent on any of these gimmicks.  I have taken off an average of about ten shots over the last three years without the aide of any tool or person.  I found out what I have to do in order to hit the ball a decent distance.  I found out what I have to do in order to hit the ball straight.  That is all that matters.  Find out what works for you as an individual and work on it until it becomes a habit.  Spending hundreds of dollars on weird practice clubs won’t guarantee a reduction in strokes.  The trial-and-error system has worked well enough for me and that is what I would suggest.
Now, if I could just find out what I have to do in order to consistently sink ten-foot putts…

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