Long, Belly, Standard or Garrigus!

Putter with Insert

Image via Wikipedia

What do we do when our putter fails us? How do we feel when that once beautiful piece of shiny exotic metal lets us down? Or that putter you’ve had for years and years that has always been the one club you swear you’ll never replace in your bag becomes replaceable, and no longer easily guides your ball into the hole?

So starts the agonizing search for the new “it” girl in your golf bag to cure your newly found yips.

We have all found ourselves on the indoor putting green in a local golf superstore wading through 400 putters heavily promoted by 10 different mega brands? You get basically three choices: those that are identical in some way to Karsten’s original Ping Anser style putter, those that look identical to the 8802 iconic putter or the ones that look like a spaceship on a stick?

Fourth option … Have you been glancing over at those hot new belly putters that will make you look cool like Keegan Bradley or Webb Simpson, or the senior tour broomstick long handle putters that make you look like Bernhard Langer? Did you actually pick one up and strike a ball with one secretly praying none of the sales guys would see you? Worse yet, a member from your club witnesses you taking a rip with a 43″ spaceship made out of outer space alloy.

Don’t fret, I’m here to help … hopefully!

Like most of you I have gone through many, many putters. My collection sits at about eight right now. I play a mallet style from TaylorMade. I also have two putters that I am in love with that I purchased only as collectors pieces — a Ping A1 with the sound slot and an Acushnet Bullseye a la Corey Pavin. I also own a few Anser style putters including a broken Scotty Cameron, a Rife 8802 copy, and now a 41” replica of Fred Couples’ belly blade putter. And oh, a 27″ blade I cut down to see if Robert Garrigus was on to something (turns out he wasn’t, and my back still hurts from that experiment).

I think I am a pretty good putter. I can read greens well, I have an amazing number of putts that I make from 20 to 40 feet, I lag very well, I tend to consistently start my putts on line, but my ego shattering misses are from inside 4 feet. That last part has become so insidious that naturally I started the search for the putter that could make me putt like Freddie Couples.

I was incredibly uncomfortable in the local shops testing the belly and broomstick models, especially the broomstick conceding in some way that I was a lousy putter and needed a crutch. I also felt dumb since I basically own one of each style already including a heavy putter. So why was I here?

Every week on the TV we hear how the long putters will fix the yips, and how they have resurrected careers like Langer, Senior, Scott and Couples. The R&A and the USGA haven’t outlawed them (yet) and they have had some newly found success on the tours. So I built a belly putter that is 41″.

I tested every belly putter in the usual stores and found 41″ to be well suited to my build. I took it to a course I don’t play and spent days testing the new weapon against my arsenal of dust collectors. What did I find? I found out quickly I needed to add weight since having the ability to manhandle the thing was a bad idea. I added a lot of lead weights, and the putter is now nearly 400 grams total.

Results: I loved it from 40′-4′. I made a ton of long distance putts, and I start the ball on line very well. With it, I am a great lag putter, but I wasn’t very good from 4 feet and in and was still pushing the ball to the right.

Turns out after four weeks practicing and tinkering, I was the same putter as I was with all of my other putters. I spoke to a PGA professional and within five minutes he had me rolling in 4 footers like they were 6″ putts.

My ball position was too far back which encouraged me to push the ball and to take an ever wider open stance to counteract the push.

So do the longer putters help amateurs? I emphatically say no.

Adam Scott, Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer, etc. are still far better putters with a standard blade than you or I are with our best putter. To them and to you, your best putter is going to be the one that feels the best in your hands and allows you to make a smooth tension-free stroke that inspires confidence.

If you are going to venture into the belly market, understand that a belly putter swing comes from the shoulders not the hands. They do promote a much more relaxed swing, so if you find one that just feels better than what you have, you will in fact putt better.

Go see a professional and have your favorite putter fit to your swing, posture and grip. Then instead of dropping $300 on a new flatstick, pay the pro to give you a lesson after he or she sees your flaws.

Finally, and here is the absolute secret to GREAT putting … PRACTICE. Stop machine gunning 100 balls with your driver once a week and wonder why your putting doesn’t improve and spend some quality time on the putting green practicing distance control, starting putts online and reading greens.

Practice with one ball, not three. Put together a practice routine that adds pressure and covers distance, line and touch. You will save a ton of money and will actually lower your handicap.

P.S. If the fine folks at Cameron are reading, I could be persuaded to put that Taylormade putter back in my collection if a 34″ or 41″ Kombi shows up at my doorstep! Turns out my broken Studio Select 2.5 Cameron was a fake … but that’s another story!

Advertisements
Posted in Golf | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

New Tech Every Year, Same Ole Handicap

As an avid golfer and equipment junkie, I feel I am easily persuaded by and feel profound guilt for not being the first to purchase and proudly own all of the new technology on the market today.

Let me rephrase that … ahh hummm, as an avid golfer and “former” equipment junkie, I feel I am no longer hornswaggled by the advertisers or tempted by a clubmaker’s new adjustable face, lower center of gravity, reduced spin, longer carry, lighter shaft, more penetrating flight, whiter club head for better contrast, higher MOI/COR or similar spacecraft technology on the market today nor do I feel like a loser for not having the latest and greatest! Golf balls are purposely not included in this discussion as they are replaced after just a few holes or every shot in some cases depending on your level of slice.

Let’s start with the iron. Face it, if we weren’t all searching for the magic swing bean, or “The Secret” we would still be playing those now illegal high tech square groove Ping Eye 2s from the early 80s. I constantly hear people talk about the old I2s. They were well balanced, the distances were on par with forgings, they stuck like super glue on the greens and were actually easy to hit. Do we replace the irons like we do the beloved driver that we adore so much we get a new one every year six months? No. Do we toss them out, give them away or throw them in the woods/water/trash after a bad round and chastise them like we do our collection of 10 putters that essentially are all the same? No. We tend to buy things in patterns and the club manufacturers know this, but they want us to feel inadequate or under equipped and reduce the time between purchases. They know that the average golfer will buy a new set of irons about once every four or five years, drivers about every two years, wedges every three years and putters every two years or when they throw one in the pond, whichever comes first. Those who play more often or who fall for the sales pitch will replace their equipment sooner than those who play less or are more frugal (I didn’t say cheap) and don’t fall for the hype.

So when do you replace your irons? I believe the purchase of irons is different from drivers, wedges or putters. We don’t tend to buy irons because they will help you gain distance or because they get rid of your slice. I think we break down and replace irons because we are either getting better or are getting worse and react accordingly to save or enhance our game.

An aside … many iron manufacturers are advertising longer hitting irons but they are really just lengthening the shafts and strengthening the lofts. I don’t know why we get so bent out of shape by how far we hit irons anyway. You hit them how far you hit them. Live with it.

So we intuitively know that we aren’t going to purchase a set of irons and drop 10 strokes off our handicap.  The bottom line is that while they may actually allow you to pick up a few extra yards there hasn’t really been that much done to the technology of irons since the Ping I2, at least not as much as they would lead you to believe. There are different metals, dampeners, groove formations, cavity inserts, blade size and shaft optimization, but the basic cavity shape for game improvement or muscle back design for blades is the same. Look at pictures from old MacGregor or Titleist blades. Do they remind you of Mizuno blades or Nike blades? My advice, replace your irons every 250-300 rounds or so and don’t forget to regrip your clubs every six months or 30 rounds.

Wedges — are they really part of the iron set? Aside from Vokey and the 588s, there haven’t been many innovations since. Why so much iron innovation for the high handicapper yet we still ALL play blade wedges, one of the hardest clubs to hit and arguably the second most important club in the bag. The little advancements are removable face inserts, crazy offset hozels, spinner shafts and progressive bounce formation — none of which really take strokes off your game. My advice, get the removable face insert wedges so replacement is far more economical when the grooves start to fail. Note: for you high handicappers, take out the 60-degree wedge and replace your 4 iron with a hybrid. You will score lower and will send me a thank you letter for no longer sculling or chili dipping your wedges.

Driver — let’s take a poll, how many drivers do you have? Five, eight, 10 or more? How often have you found yourself saying, “If I only had that new TaylorMade R11S I could blast it past all of the fellas.” Also how much did you pay for those eight irons compared to what you pay for one driver? Drivers are the largest consumer cash crop market. For guys, we simply can’t resist hitting something farther than our competitors. They play on our ego. They claim every year to add 10 percent, or 12 yards or 30 percent tighter dispersion than previous models for which they still charge $299. The bottom line is that there is a maximum C.O.R. (coefficient of restitution). This is how far a ball will go after colliding with the driver face at a fixed speed. They can’t make them go farther. Shaft innovation can help but the driver itself can’t be made to break the rules. My advice, replace your driver every five years or until you can use it as a beer mug.

Next, I’ll quickly go over putters. As I alluded to above, we may be more unfaithful to our putters than we are to the driver, wedges, irons, soda, beer, gas stations, car manufacturers, cell phone providers and spouses combined. Do you have three different Anser style putters? Do you have an 8802 of some sort? Do you have a space ship on a stick? Are they face balanced, heel balanced, toe hangers, low MOI/High MOI, polymer insert, CNC milled, plumbers neck, swan, offset, straight, forged, cast, steel, copper, long, belly, standard or Robert Garrigus? Can you make the ball go toward the hole and stop just past it? My advice, pick up all of your putters and pick the one that looks and feels the best to you at address and then go get it fitted for loft and lie.

Worldwide the average handicap for men is about 17 and women about 29. Why has this number not changed in 100 years? I thought we had these new adjustable drivers that promise (every year) to have a bigger sweet spot, hotter face and longer carry with less spin and straighter flight. We have irons that have more feel, are easier to hit and get the ball in the air faster, go farther and straighter (every year). We have wedges that are more accurate, spin more and are also easier to hit. There are a bazillion putters that are easier to align, better feel due tuned inserts, have larger sweet spots and that encourage a more solid strike. Why are we still falling for the advertiser’s promise of a better game? Here’s why … we are looking for a quick tip, a “golf fix”, a magic cure, a holy grail, pleasure without pain, an enlightenment without study.

Here’s my advice, stop spending your money on new equipment. Get fit with the equipment you have now and spend forty bucks a month on a range membership. Also, find an instructor that doesn’t charge an arm and a leg for a RECURRING package of lessons who gives you reachable goals, practice drills and a routine. How is that self taught swing working for you? Set up a practice schedule within your limited free time and dig it out of the dirt. Read one golf book a month. There is a 10,000-hour rule in all professions and trades. If you want to get good at doing something you have to learn the correct way to do it, then practice that learned motion over and over again. Is a 16-year-old or a 40-year-old a better driver? I know golfers who have dropped 30 strokes in three years by having a focused practice routine, spending a half hour or more four or five days a week working on fundamentals, chipping and pitching from inside 100 yards. Don’t waste your entire bucket of balls pounding driver after drive while on the range, and hit the putting green for 40 to 50 percent of your practice time. Luke Donald could take any of your foursome’s bag of clubs and beat you handily with them.

Final thought: Technology changes to make more money, but handicaps stay the same because we want to buy a better game instead of putting in the time. Getting better is easy if you are willing to endure the pain to get there. The golf swing is not free, nor can it be purchased. It must be earned. That’s what Mr. Hogan meant by “digging it out of the dirt.” I still think I could get an extra 20 yards with that new TaylorMade 9.5 degree R11S Matrix Ozik TP 7M3 X-Stiff!

I would love to hear any funny stories about your driver or putter collections gathering dust or any success or failures in your quest for a better game!!!

Thanks for reading.

Posted in Golf | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why I play at 7:30 a.m.

I’m not the grizzled angry guy who stabs people with a broken 6 iron if someone won’t let me play through. I’m also not the U.S.S. Nicklaus firing shots down range to send a message to the seemingly oblivious group ahead to let me play through. But I do enjoy a faster pace of play than spending nearly six hours on a Sunday afternoon to complete my round.
I have played rounds with friends that have taken no more than two and a half hours, but have also spent the better part of an entire Sunday waiting on Ricky Routine, Every Angle Andy, Cell Phone Steve and I’ll Wait In The Cart Till You Bring Me To My Ball Then Get A Distance Then Choose The Wrong Club Cause I Think I Can Hit My Six Iron 180 Yards Cause Once Down Wind In Denver On A 40 Yard Downhill Par Three I Hit A Ball 180 And Still Think I can Do That Every Time I have 180 Yards In Then I Come Up Short On Every Approach On Every Hole On Every Course I Play Except That One Time Charlie. (Breath).

It’s called SLOW PLAY! I don’t think most golfers really know what causes slow play or even how to speed up. My solution is to play at 7:30 a.m. or whatever the first available tee time might be.
Obviously, this is to keep from having anyone ahead of me and my quick paced “ready” foursome. Are we all scratch golfers? Do we run in between shots? Do we not have drinks, talk, cut up, get angry and tirade about missing 3 footers (John), not have routines, use the cell phone, read greens, find yardages etc.?

No!

We are a 5, 7, 15 and 17 handicap. We use a cart, we walk to shots, sometimes a cell phone is used and we even have routines and read greens. Why then do we not take dog years to complete the round? The Holy Grail is about to follow so get ready, here it comes … we play our shots when we are ready and are ready to hit shots when it’s our turn. That’s it! Every course can mail be a big old check for the ten extra rounds a day they can book because of my sheer genius!!!

Here’s the skinny. First, go to the range and hit 15 balls with every club in your bag to figure out your TRUE yardages, not what you think you can hit. You’re welcome, I just saved you 10 strokes.

Next, have a routine that from pulling your club to hitting the ball takes about 15 seconds. So what should you do before your routine? While your cart partner, all the way across the fairway, is doing his thing, gauge the wind, grab the laser or GPS or find a marker and make a decision on club choice and shot shape. After he hits his shot you are up … 15 seconds.

Third, after you and your cart mate hit just get back in the cart with your iron in tow. Choose and swap your next club at your next shot. If putting, pull the cart to the rear of the green so when finished, the green is clear and you are moving toward the next hole and have cleared the green for the next group.

Fourth, when all players have holed out and are back to the carts, do not record scores on the green! Move along to the next tee box and then record the scores.

Just an aside, and this is a huge pet peeve of mine … If you use a glove, take it off or put it on while riding to the next shot in the cart not on the tee box or on the green! Also if you slice a ball in the spinach, take a quick look, you’re going to take a penalty of some sort anyway and trying to hit out of the junk will undoubtedly end in a higher score than simply taking your medicine and moving along with the round.

Lastly, and I think this is the most important, if you get to three strokes over par or will be hitting a shot that results in triple bogey then pick your ball up and put it in your pocket. It won’t count on your handicap anyway, it will save you from breaking clubs, it will save you money on extra golf balls and it will save TIME. I don’t think anything good comes of taking any score over triple.

So to wrap up … Know how far you hit your clubs, be ready to hit when it’s your turn, know when it’s your turn, use etiquette with a golf cart, swap clubs at the next shot, use your glove and the obnoxious Velcro appropriately, record score on the tee box not the green, pick up your ball at triple bogey.

Occasionally look behind your group. If you look back and I am standing around waiting on your group to finish putting on consecutive holes and you can’t see the group ahead, please let me play through. Unfortunately it probably won’t be me because I teed off at 7:30 a.m.

Posted in Golf | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Hello world!

Hello!

Thanks for taking the time to view my blog. This will predominantly cover the world of golf, but will also be peppered throughout with other national sports views and opinions along with personal anectdotes and hopefully interesting observations and colaborations.

My goal is to share thought provoking and editorial opinions on professional golf from a local and national point of view with anyone willing to read my ramblings. I will try not to speak poorly about anyone who doesn’t deserve it nor will I praise those who need to be exposed. I am paid by no one nor am I endorsed by or treated to equipment or freebies to “enhance” my opinion.

I encourage responses for or against my work. My goal is to see how others see the same things I do. I have a great love for a few sports, golf being my favorite. I am also an avid player. Please keep comments constructive!

I am not a professionally trained writer so please acept that I am a student of AP Style and am trying to write better with each piece. I am also apt to do a bit of wandering with my thoughts at times but I will get around to my point eventually.

If you are a representative or editor for a media outlet and would like me to write a slant or a column for your publication, please contact me about the details.

With that said … Enjoy!

Posted in Golf, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment