Playing plays out, finally!

 

I have to say it’s difficult to accommodate a full job, a family, a house, multiple hobbies, friends and a sport like golf – oh, and sleep too.

As a consequence I don’t play as often as I wish but just so often that family is happy, I’m happy and I get enough sleep at night to be fit for the office. So training is pretty much out of the picture.

To put that in perspective: I’ve hit the range three times this year, short course once, private rounds three times and played nine tournaments so far of which one was a fun tournament with my company and all the others had effect on my handicap.

If I could chose I would play golf twice a week, but currently that’s not in scope so I have to life with it. What I do miss as well is coming around a bit, traveling here and there, taking my clubs with me, checking out new courses, new resorts, being on the road with my sticks. That would be cool again…

But not now. I get some rounds in, mainly through the tournaments I play in the German Rhine-Main area.

Couple of weeks ago I played Zimmerner Golf Club. Nice course, not spectacular but interesting. I played 45 stableford net points and won 1st prize. My handicap came down by 2.7 to 13.9.

I was over the moon because for the last months my game struggled – I mean I struggled with my game.

I didn’t practice much. But playing constantly, making the right adjustments here and there progressed and I do feel much more comfortable with everything now. Played more with thy hybrid, and plan to make my way up to the driver in multiple iterations.

I have time.

*dreamingofscratch*

More focus on training and the handicap this year

Couple of days ago I tidied up the basement and found old golf membership cards. I tend to collect them in one place but apparently I had a bunch of them in a different spot – like always when you are looking for something.

What I realized to my surprise was that my handicap, not that long ago, was much better than the one today. I play tournaments regularly and my handicap is adjusting to that, but it seems that for too long now my handicap only knew one direction: up.

So this is going to change now.

More focus on training, a more reliable swing, intelligent course management and ball striking with the longer woods. That’s my approach for this year.

Needless to say that most of the deficiencies have their origin in suboptimal striking, a non-consistent swing and too little training or play, but the equipment of course plays its role, too. So I’m happy to trust my PING G400 set: driver, 3-wood, 5-wood, 19° hybrid, irons from 4 to 9, then W, U, S and L from the same set, plus my trusty Scotty Cameron California Del Mar putter.

Off to a new handicap in 2018, new personal records and a new small number on the 2019 membership card! #project12 #break80

2015 mid-year lessons learned

11393083_966368240051416_7386756144405641580_n

Luckily I was playing quite a bit lately, not too much, but I managed to get at least one round of golf scheduled in a week—which is quite an achievement for me. Anyway, I played often, practiced more than usual on both range and the putting green and I do see some improvement. Yes, I still do some stupid shots like anyone else but I feel more confident with my swing, get back to the touch and feel around greens I once had and my long play becomes more predictable.

One lesson learned is definitely that it was a good thing to decrease swing speed. This helped me a lot swinging on the right plane, creating a repeatable rhythm and a way to get the club to the ball always in the same horizontal and vertical axis. As well has this created a possibility for me to synchronise the upper, lower body and arms a bit better. Now I can swing easier from the outside to the inside in order to create straight shots where in the past particularly woods went way left. And in terms of distance, I might lose some metres here and there, but I’m still long enough, longer than average and I really prefer 200m straight like an arrow over 230m but 50m off line into the next water hazard. Smart course management, keep it in play, that’s what counts!

Furthermore I started to use a laser rangefinder which definitely helps on the range a lot to practice with a certain goal. Instead of just hitting bucket after bucket trying to shoot as straight as possible, I pick special targets, get the exact distance, pick the club I would have taken on the course, align and shoot. Three or four balls max, probably play around with different trajectory and backswings and then look for another target and do the same thing again.

Many more rounds to come! Surely have to do some severe putting sessions: (1) sloping and (2) distance control are on the agenda. Sometimes I struggle with wrong green reading in combination with wrong speed. Especially on very contoured greens this becomes an issue, and 3-putts are the result. In the second half of the year I try not to leave my putts short to give each and every one of them a chance. This in combination with better green reading should bring down my putting average of 36 down to something more like 30 over the next weeks.

Given the above, I’ve written down my main factors or goals I’d like to achieve over the next, say, 12 weeks:

  • No triple-bogeys anymore, safety first, no snowmen on par-5s, play such a hole with one stroke more in mind, this releases pressure for the third shot into the green
  • Not more than three 3-putts in one round
  • Try to make at least five 1-putts
  • Less than 36 putts on average per round, e.g. five 1-putts, ten 2-putts, three 3-putts (=34)
  • Aim for 50% GIR, easier for par-3s and par-5s but in my case pretty tricky with par-4s
  • Break 90 on every round, sounds high but actually is not easy to achieve every single round. Obviously depends on the course, but with my handicap on my home course taking into account the course rating, it’s exactly 90 what I would be allowed to score.
  • Less than four strokes penalty, as well highly dependent on the course but we have water everywhere and four balls lost to water is pretty normal. But penalties kill the score and therefore should be avoided at all times.

Keep your fingers crossed!

A new laser rangefinder to further improve the game

image2

Today I hit the range with a goal. The initial idea was to just go 18 holes today and then head back home. But I reconsidered and thought I do some very useful stuff for a change.

So I packed my clubs, left my trolley at home and made my way to the club in order to do some serious training. Usually I combine a quick range session and some chipping/putting with a common round of golf. No question I look forward to the round and need the range session just for a warm-up. I think it’s fair to say that I rarely just go practicing rather than playing.

Today was one of these days though!

Very recently I got a new golf toy in my hands. And to give you a quick background, usually I use a Garmin GPS watch on the course for my measurements. I’m playing a 15 handicap so the accuracy was absolutely fine for me. Goal is to get the ball on the green, 2 metres or 5 metres next to the pin, I didn’t care.

Well, I should! Putting is currently not my strength and every stroke that I can save is well played. More and more players these days use these golf lasers, or DMDs (Distance Measurement Devices) as you call them. Some of my golf mates use them for nearly every shot. I don’t think that’s necessary but I started to understand why DMDs can in some cases really be much better than GPS devices like my watch.

(1) is the accuracy: once the device tells you the flag is 148 metres away, you most likely use another club than if your GPS tells you the green centre is at 140.

(2) is the flexibility as you not only have the chance to measure the distance to the (front and back of the) green or a layup distance but also measure the distance to a bunker, a water hazard, a tree, a dogleg, etc. You just get so many more options to play save, because you can trust the yardage and then the only thing is to trust your swing too.

image1

Laser rangefinders are not new to the market, brands like Bushnell have sold their products for quite a while now but as I said I never saw any value in it as I was pretty happy with my GPS watch. What I learned today is that a laser rangefinder can really benefit the game.

On the range, I was able to precisely choose my targets, pins for example, and then practice on hitting clean shots to come up as close as possible. Usually I just focus on being straight but since earlier today I might change my range behaviour because I felt this really makes sense: you act the same being on the course, why should we practice different from what we need.

So, if you ask me, I’m sold. I’ll now carry my new toy with me on all rounds to come. And by the way, the device is super easy to use. It just needs two buttons and some minutes to get used to it. It features a pin seeker system which automatically detects that you’re trying to measure a pin and gives exact distances.

I have to admit that I have very little comparison but I can absolutely recommend the GolfLaser brand. Design is slick, it’s not super heavy, works correct and the price is much less than most of the big brands as you just order via their website. Give it a try.

By the way, just yesterday I saw an article on the internet that the pro tours might think about allowing DMDs during pro tournaments. Currently they are just allowed in private rounds, amateur tournaments or the practice days of pro tourneys. This might change soon and we potentially see Rory, Tiger and Bubba use their tool during whole of Thursday through Sunday. The Senior Tours will start making a move already this year.

More information:

Golf Mentoring to grow the game

Golf currently suffers from declining numbers of golf players around the world and even golf courses here and there have to close their doors forever sometimes. A positive boom definitely looks different!

But what’s the problem? What creates such a big downswing in people being interested in the game? I have my personal opinion but obviously there are regional differences. In countries like the UK, the US or other (former) British colonies golf pretty much remained a sport for everybody. OK, point taken, not all folks are admitted in upscale country clubs or snobbish suburban clubs but in general you’ll find more the average guy on the down-to-earth golf course plus some others who would (love to) consider themselves as upper-class.

If you take other countries into account, there golf always had a label as being a rich man’s sport. For good reason I have to say as in the past golf actually has been very expensive and the combination of membership fees, joining costs, equipment, training etc. made it impossible for the average (wo)man to chose golf as the next sport project.

So we have a money issue.

10342883_770218179666424_5122697408290424236_n

We all know that golf can be a frustrating game and it definitely is a huge time-consumer. For those among you who live in a close relationship, have kids, have a regular job, then you know how tricky it is to get out on the course once or twice a week for a full round of golf, for some training sessions, for some beers with your golf mates, it just takes ages. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that it takes so long, but family members who don’t play with you would most likely complain for you being away for so long.

So we have a time issue.

But there are other challenges as well. Golf is not a sport that you can play in your backyard, it deserves heavy practice on a range and once you’re good enough, you wanna go and play a proper golf course. There might be regions in the world where there are no golf courses but I guess it’s fair to say that mostly one course is reachable in a decent drive by car. But what about the kids, they can’t drive themselves. If parents are not willing to give their kids access or a ride to a course, wait for them a couple of hours and then take them home again, then these children won’t have much chance to start playing golf.

The closer the proximity to a course the more likely that a child is picking up the game and is staying with it. No wonder that some current tour pros, now earning millions and millions, originally grew up in families who literally lived on a golf course, when parents used to be responsible for green keeping, managing the club or any other job. Those would hit some balls after school, would find friends being interested in golf as well and so forth…

If one has no contact to the sport or knows somebody who has contact, then it could be quite difficult to get the thing started. Yes, technically it’s absolutely possible to call up the club, get a membership, get some trainings with the pro scheduled, visit the range on a regular basis, become better and better,  and finally play some tournaments and get a proper handicap—all without talking to other people.

But golf is a communicative sport, people generally like being around with some other folks, but at the same time golfers are sort of their own species. Some are really nice and open, some others might be quite reluctant talking to others, probably enjoy their own little inner circle and wouldn’t let anybody else in. I understand the criticism that golfers can be very weird.

So we have a personal issue.

10421108_770217462999829_2395573587703624225_n

What to do now with people having general interest in the sport but at the same time had no contact to a club or club members before. They would probably figure out “it’s expensive, it takes ages to learn and the other club members are pretty strange”…

This statement obviously would hinder those to make the first step, to get started, get trained and get better and spend time with this beautiful sport. And this is exactly what has to change. We have to make golf attractive to anyone out there, we have show interested people that golfers are a helpful, nice and joyful bunch of athletes and that it’s quite easy to make the first steps without much cost.

If I look at the average age of a golfer in a central European golf club, I believe it’s something in the mid-sixties! So we are properly talking pensioners here! I mean it’s good they found something they can be good at, at their age, but we have to make this great athletic sport attractive to all sorts of people: young, old, tall, small, men, women, everybody.

There are so many positive side effects to playing golf which I won’t touch on here but I know that the massive majority of golf players love their sport, try to play as often as possible and simply adore everything about it (possibly apart from the fact that they have to stop playing in winter). Why does it have to be so extremely difficult to enter for new-joiners, why is it to tricky to explain the beauty of golf and why does everybody believe that golfers are rich weirdos and the sticks are super expensive?

The answer could be very easy: just break the ice, approach people and make them aware that golf is cool, that playing golf is one of the greatest hobbies on the planet, that it’s actually quite cheap to get started in terms of equipment, talk to people and introduce them to other club members, be nice, show them around, explain club house facilities and amenities, explain how easy it is to find like-minded people, to play tournaments and become better. Sounds easy? Yes it is. Sounds like much work? Well not so much.

I’m quite an open person. Yes I do have my close friends but I like spending time with others as well. Every time they ask me what I do, I tell them I golf. In most cases these people had no contact to golfers before and are super interested in how you play, how you count and whether everybody has to wear checked trousers. Seriously.

In order to bring all this to a new level, Carsten Moritz, a fellow golf blogger, initiated a golf mentoring concept. It started with collecting golfers across the country who would be willing to have their names displayed on a website being ready to be contacted by anybody out there and answer questions around golf. Could be quick questions like “how can I start, what do I have to buy, can I get a test membership somewhere”. Something like this. Not more. Just being available for people being interested in the sport and the question how to make first steps. No question that I am a golf mentor as well and no question that I try to promote golf wherever I can. Carsten further created a Facebook group, sends email newsletters across, distributes information about upcoming open days, etc.

If you live in Germany then you should have a look at the Golfmentor website. If you live somewhere else and you want to grow the game of golf again, want to get in contact to some new people, want to be as productive and helpful as possible to support prospects then you probably should think about your own little local mentoring. All your future golf mentees would love it, sure thing!

Wrong direction, dear handicap!

11329931_956202944401279_2895333812364265229_n

In the beginning of the year I was pushing myself into as many tournaments as possible in order to gain some important tourney experience and to bring down my handicap to the level I was hoping for.

12 is the magic number for 2015, #project12 it was called, my pursuit for greatness. I’m practicing a lot, playing as often as I can (once a week) and try to get better in all aspects of the game.

In the early period of the year I slightly changed my swing rhythm. I’m swinging much slower now, earning much more consistency off the tee—and I was happy as it always has been the long game I was struggling with.

So from one day to the other I was dead straight and even single handicappers envied my consistency. Funnily enough this came with a complete loss of putting abilities. Don’t ask me why, but for years I had decent touch around and on the greens and now, I was just not able to execute accurate putts anymore. 3-putts and even 4-putts been the result.

Last week, first sight of a weird change. Not doing anything differently, I somehow couldn’t play long shots anymore (my driver doesn’t count, I can’t hit it anyway), no 3-wood, no hybrid, no 4- or 5-iron! But my putting became better I have to say…

Whatever that is, and whatever I have to do to get rid of it, it came at very unsuitable time; my tournament season. I was down to a handicap of 14.6, now 15.1 again, although 12 was the overall goal for this year. Seems like I have to practice bit harder.

Last week’s tournament has been no exception. OK, I had a little hangover and my hay-fever is killing me currently but after a stretch of good holes and 18 stableford points on the front 9, I broke down to, I don’t know exactly 9, 10 or 11 points for the second half. My game was completely wrecked, and I went home ready to cry.

Next steps to work on:

  1. Getting the long game back on track
  2. Do some fancy putting drills because standard putt training is so damn boring
  3. Never leave it short at putting again
  4. Not neglect chipping/pitching
  5. Try to get the holy 1-wood work again

Nothing stops me from #project12!

Tom’s lessons of a lifetime

91Yey12Bw5L._SL1500_It’s a bit weird and psychologists would have a say but always when I see Tom Watson on TV I immediately feel sort of connected to that person. He’s a charming old chap, very experienced and successful, always smiling and being nice to other people. He’s like the grand dad everybody wants but nobody has. And he’s still very good at golf. Seeing him in contention at the 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry was the first time it really got me thinking about him.

We all know the issue with the 2014 Ryder Cup captaincy but this doesn’t belong here. In short: he’s a classy guy, very keen golfer with a tremendous experience on the course.

Couple of years ago he created a video series: Lessons of a lifetime, which I had on my Amazon list for quite a while. Then last September, on my honeymoon, I was sitting with my wife in the Business Class of an Emirates Airbus A380 upper deck in our comfy chairs (after we had our cocktails in the sky bar) on our way to Mauritius. We enjoyed the cosiness and the relaxed atmosphere, had another wine, a superb dinner and as always I wanted to check out the entertainment system. Usually before watching one or two movies I go through the comedy and sports section and look for interesting stuff. And there it was: Tom Watson’s Lessons of a lifetime. And I felt connected again.

No question that I watched Tom explain all nitty-gritty details about swing planes, target lines, postures, and so forth. I watched what later turned out to be the first DVD and once back at home after the trip I ordered the complete box to learn more about the swing. It worked I have to say. In total Tom has so many great advice in this DVD series, that I might watch them again some time soon.

He touches on swing characteristics, bending and shaping the ball, about timing, putting, green reading, bunker shots, chip shots, pitches etc. Simply the whole repertoire. Even putting in cross winds!…

If you want to learn more about the swing how it should be and in case you struggle with a special thing in your game then the DVD can possibly help you diagnose or even heal the problem. Obviously it’s not easy to self-teach in such a difficult thing as the golf swing, but it provides valuable information for beginners and detail knowledge for all keen golfers who are willing and able to adjust nuances in their own swing patterns.

To find out more about it please follow this link.

And FYI this is the full list of contents of all three DVDs:

Continue reading Tom’s lessons of a lifetime

Denis Pugh’s 0 great golf tips

denispugh100tipsNo neither did I miss anything, nor has my keyboard a problem with numbers. It was on pure purpose that the heading reads 0 instead of 100 great golf tips—because that’s what it is: a pretty useless collection of advice, put together on 3 DVDs: one for the long game, one for the short game and one for putting.

Don’t get me wrong, I would appreciate a good educational golf DVD even if I might not need it anymore, but nothing of this was helpful at all. Poor beginners who need to rely on such piece of… lousy work.

Denis Pugh is a nice guy, he really is, and I came across some of his work earlier when I discovered some interesting videos together with Luke Donald, but this here is different.

One of the annoying things is that Denis constantly refers to Mizuno products and how important it is to get to the pro shop, buy the newest sticks, get fitted and that’s more or less all you can do, a bit of practice, good mental strength, always Mizuno rain gear in the bag and nothing could go wrong eventually.

That’s the simple world of Denis Pugh’s 100 great golf tips. One waits for advice on how to strike the ball, how to curve the ball, how to adjust and improve swing planes and weight transitions, how to read putts properly and how to tackle difficult bunker shots. All this is somehow covered in the videos but not at all as convincing that someone could argue they’d do it better after watching Denis Pugh talk about it.

When I bought the DVD box, I ordered ‘Tom Watson’s Lessons Of A Lifetime’ as well. And I’m not yet through that one, but that’s what I call an educational golf instruction video. A review will follow shortly.

Denis, please watch Tom’s videos and then try harder next time…

That feeling when you put your clubs away for the winter

November is almost over and the mercury is falling. I’m a nice weather weekend golfer I have to admit and playing in 0°C is just not right in my opinion. On those days I wish I had a golf trip planned and would play beautiful courses in bright sunshine. I just need summer to be happy!

Unfortunately usually winter hits us hard here in central Europe and it’s time pack away the clubs for some months… and I don’t like it!

I might hit the driving range from time to time though. Switch on the heating, the light, get my winter gloves on and then rip it!

How are you tackling the winter season?

Everybody should practise on grass only

I was astonished today by a TrackMan tweet which showed the comparison between hits from the ground (grass turf) and a mat (artificial turf). I’m sure everyone has own experiences but we all stood on the driving ranges where players were forced to use either the one or the other alternative. And there are people who prefer the one over the other–probably without good reason, most of the time I would assume it’s just a question of feeling or personal habit. Effectively playing from a mat comes with less effort and burden; no tees needed, no divots, same ground condition every single time. Sounds quite good to me…

Looking at the stats, you see that golfers gain much more consistency and accuracy when playing from the grass. And in the end, from a round preparation session standpoint, all this is very obvious. When you play from the grass on the regular course (as you do), why should someone practise from artificial turf only? Doesn’t make sense.

What’s your opinion? Are you the mat guy/gal or do you prefer real grass, even on the range? Curious to see!