I am not a great golfer. Heck, I am not even a good golfer. What I am—like many of you reading this—is an obsessed golfer. I simply cannot get enough of the game. But that wasn’t always the case.
Nearly 20 years ago, frustrated by the fact that I would never come close to mastering this oh-so-difficult sport/hobby/self-inflicted torture, routinely posting numbers that were ideally suited for bowling scorecards, I tossed my clubs into an 18th hole greenside lake and swore off the game for good.
Recently—a whopping two decades later—I rediscovered the paradoxical love that drew me to the game of golf in the first place…
The endless challenge.
The often beautiful (and occasionally majestic) scenery.
And above all else, the enjoyment that comes from competing head-to-head (in a manner of speaking) against both the course architect and the game’s inherent difficulty.
I’ve also come to grips with the fact that I will never master this game. (Play a round with me—you’ll concur!) I’ve accepted the realization that my swing won’t ever be mistaken for Rory McIlroy’s or Adam Scott’s (or anyone else on the PGA Tour). And I’ve come to the understanding that, barring divine intervention, my only chance of becoming a scratch golfer would be to fall into a patch of poison ivy.
And you know what? I’m cool with that.
Which brings me to my association with GolfWRX…
I’m a writer. It’s what I do for a living. It’s quite possibly the only thing I’m actually qualified to do to earn a paycheck. Last I checked, all the underwater basket-weaving positions were taken. So, with the goal of playing more golf, I figured why not mix business and (yeesh!) pleasure and contribute to the biggest and best online golf community on the planet. To my amazement, the GolfWRX editorial team welcomed me with open arms — although based on some of my previous work, I’m sure they’re keeping a watchful eye on my contributions.
What you’ll get from me each month is anyone’s guess — mine included. A (terrible) player’s review of a golf course, a wacky golf adventure, an over-the-top golf trip… You’ll just have to “tune-in” to find out. And while I can’t promise that the golf you’ll read about will be worth emulating (I’m working on it, people!), I can promise that the story you read will be entertaining. At least that part I can control.
So, without further adieu, here’s my first offering…
Golfers the world over, regardless of their level of experience, handicap, or frequency of play, all have one thing in common: they will do anything– ANYTHING — to shave strokes off their cards with using an eraser. Now factor in the “fast food mindset” that dominates the human condition and the result is an “As The Crow Flies” methodology.
In layman’s terms, golfers don’t just want results — they want results yesterday. They want the fastest and most direct route to the Promised Land. And these days, it doesn’t get any faster than the Internet and a credit card or PayPal account. With just a flurry on the keyboard and a click of the mouse you can have innumerable golf-specific gadgets and gizmos delivered to your doorstep, any of which might take your game to the next level. Exactly which direction that level is, that’s on you!
So I dispatched my minions far and wide to find and procure the coolest of the cool and the best of the best golf game improvement products — items they felt would be beneficial to the average golfer (and even those below-average duffers like yours truly). One of them brought back a chainsaw and a Yo-Yo and suggested I permanently “modify” my clubs then take up a new hobby. For the record, he’s no longer in my employ.
But the others did indeed return with a veritable grab bag of golf goodies and I’ve taken the liberty of putting each and every one of them through their paces. Based on my findings (remember, these are solely my opinions), I’ve broken them down into three categories: the good, the fad and the funky.
Orange Whip Trainer — $109 — www.orangewhiptrainer.com
Simply put — I love the Orange Whip. Right away you know what you’re getting. There’s no multi-page instruction manual to consult, just pick it up, take your stance and swing. It’s that simple.
The perfect warm-up tool, the Orange Whip takes the places of stretching bands, uncomfortable quasi-yoga maneuvers, or holding and swinging a few irons. Even though I’m on the shorter side (5 feet 8 inches) I have a rather muscular build so the 47.5 inches, 1.75-pound “standard” version is the Orange Whip I preferred. They also make a Mid-Size (43.5 inches, 1.70-pounds, $109), a Wedge (39.5 inches, 1.65-pounds; $109) and a Junior (38 inches, 1.30-pounds, $99). Conjured up in the mad scientist mind of PGA instructor Jim Hackenberg, the Orange Whip is used by roughly 250 Tour players, including 70 of the top 100, and was voted the No. 1 swing training aid of 2014.
Besides the warm-up benefits (and every athlete knows you need to warm up before playing your sport), the Orange Whip will help you groove your swing by improving your balance and tempo and it will go a long way toward improving both your flexibility and core strength—must-haves for any golfer.
SKLZ Gold Flex — $69.99 — shop.sklz.com
Another strength and tempo trainer, the Gold Flex is similar to the Orange Whip with the exception of the patented counterweighted ball on the end of the grip that sets the Orange Whip apart, both visually and in swing feel. It’s also a half-inch longer (48 inches) and weighs more (2.5-pounds). Personal preference will dictate which one is right for you. Introduced in 2011 (three years after the Orange Whip hit the market) the Gold Flex is also used by numerous PGA and LPGA pros. SKLZ makes training products for a variety of sports and their golf offerings are certainly worth considering.
BirdieBall RollTech Putting Green — $34.99 to ??? — www.birdieball.com
The problem with most portable greens is that they don’t give you an accurate representation of the real thing. Not BirdieBall. Their RollTech greens are made from an aerated polymer with a thick cross-section; it compresses and rebounds when you walk across it exactly like a real green would. And just like out on the links, RollTech grass blades are cut down to the nubs, leaning at a slight angle to create a putting surface with grain, thus giving you the chance to putt with or against the grain. And the fact that you can take them anywhere—even the larger sizes roll up nicely to sleeping bag “jelly roll” proportions—means you have absolutely zero excuse for not practicing at home or on the road.
I took a 2-foot by 13.5-foot RollTech to my favorite sushi bar and challenged the owner—a fellow golf addict—for a free meal. Naturally, I got smoked and wound up paying double for my usual sashimi selections. During the post-putt-off dinner, where my victorious host graciously poured me a few glass of high-end sake gratis, he said the RollTech was hands-down the best portable practice-putting layout he’d ever tried. I concur. In my opinion, one of the best golf improvement products you can get.
EyePutter — $49.95 — eyeputter.com
Another putting aid, this one at the opposite end of the size spectrum, is the EyePutter. But as fans of Eva Longoria know, good things come in small packages. I was especially excited to put the EyePutter through its paces because it deals with muscle memory. As an avid tactical shooter, I learned long ago that muscle memory is the key to precision. Members of our elite spec ops community can tell you that no less than 10,000 presentations (drawing a firearm from a holster) are required to make the process truly fluid, where the firearm essentially becomes an extension of your hand.
The EyePutter works on that very same principle, targeting the two most common flaws in the average golfer’s putting technique. The level provides instant feedback, teaching your hands to hold the putter square, allowing for consistently clean strikes. Ditto for the mirror, which teaches you to keep your head down throughout the putting stroke. It’s a KISS-simple product that delivers immediately. And in the “bang for the buck” category it’s a definite winner.
CS2 Putting Aid — $99 — www.cs2putting.com
The Golf Digest “Editor’s Pick” from last year’s PGA Merchandise Show, the CS2, endorsed by one of the best putters on the PGA Tour, Ian Poulter, is a legit all-in-one training aid designed to help you master the five fundamentals of putting:
- Aim correctly
- Proper body alignment
- Consistent stroke path
- Square face upon impact
- Speed control
After just one 15-minute session with the CS2 I had a lot more confidence on the greens—my stroke felt like it had been professionally “grooved” to some degree—and I actually made a few putts I probably would have missed had I not practiced with it prior to hitting the links. Granted, I still have a long way to go to transform my game from an ugly duckling to a swan but a few less putts a round is certainly a step in the right direction. Supposedly, 65 of the Tour’s Top 100 players use a CS2. Based on what those guys do week in, week out on the greens and what it did for me after the first time I tried it, I’d say the CS2 is the real deal.
Ballfinder Scout — $49.49 — www.ballfinderscout.com
Let’s be honest, golf isn’t the fastest game out there. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; life moves fast enough as it is—it’s important to take time to enjoy the scenery and “smell the roses.” But anything that slows the game down even further is just plain annoying — like looking for your ball.
Unlike the pros, most of us don’t have the benefit of spotters or video replay. And how many times has your playing partner announced that he saw exactly where your monster smashed drive went, only to arrive at the spot and find nothing?
The Ballfinder Scout solves our problems by using digital imaging technology to find your ball. Look, when it comes to anything having to do with “tech” I have the acumen of a houseplant. But considering U.S. golfers lose an average of 2.5 million balls per day—I probably account for half of those!—anything that promises to cut into that number has got my vote.
Zepp GolfSense Sensor — $149.99 — www.zepp.com/golf/
Yet another “tech” product that I don’t fully understand the science behind. What I do know is that the sensor you attach to your glove wirelessly transmits all-important swing data (via Bluetooth) to your mobile device, allowing you to “crunch the numbers” and analyze it, compare your swing to the pros, or simply view it for posterity purposes. After a few swings you’ll completely forget it’s there and go on about your range session or round as if nothing were out of the ordinary. Ah, but with this gizmo you’re far from ordinary. Zepp—a familiar name in the sports training arena—helps you embrace your inner Terminator. Now if only you could find Sarah Connor!
Drink Caddy Driver — $89 — drinkcaddy.com
Even if you’re playing golf on the finest course in the Caribbean, getting a properly mixed Mai Tai, Zombie or some other exotic umbrella drink from a “cart girl” out on the links is simply not going to happen.
Enter, the Drink Caddy, one of my absolute favorite golf gadgets. A hide-in-plain-site drink dispenser, the Drink Caddy’s dispenser looks like the head of a Driver (there’s also a putter version), blending in perfectly with the other clubs. A 52-ounce reservoir holds hot or cold drinks and keeps them that way throughout the round (rated for over five hours; if your beverage of choice doesn’t stay hot or cold you’re playing too slow!). Sometimes, all the stretching in the world won’t loosen you up nearly as quickly or as enjoyably as the right adult libation.
Fans of Shark Tank will know that any time an entrepreneur comes on the show to pitch a “special formula” product promising increased physical performance and any other positive physical and/or mental benefits, Mark Cuban is on them like a fly on poop, ready to tear them asunder should they fail to provide
- Scientific evidence
- FDA approval.
For these first two products, Cuban would be all up in their business.
Golf Formula — $34.95 — golfpill.org
Promising clinically researched ingredients (Tribulus Terrestris Extract, Fenugreek, Siberian Ginseng, Cordyceps Mycelium, Deer Antler Velvet) and no harmful side effects, the makers of Golf Formula claim it will “maximize your gains on the golf course, help you gain strength and lean muscle mass, improve athletic performance by giving you more energy, endurance, stamina, longevity and speedy recovery, and boost your libido and desire.” Boosted desire? Really? I desire to avoid hazards and find my ball in the rough, not play a round sporting wood! The advertisement showcases a sexy woman pressed up against a golf bag wearing a revealing outfit unacceptable on any golf course except the TPC Scottsdale during the Waste Management Phoenix Open. How could you possibly go wrong?
Golf Fuel — $39.95 — golffuel.com
With the tag line of “Better golf through science,” I’d be far less skeptical if there were any type of FDA-approved study to examine, or if a big name PGA pro (sorry Skip Kendall) gave them a thumbs-up. Until that happens, I’ll just have to take the makers of Golf Fuel at face value that my mental focus, concentration and hand-eye coordination will all be improved thanks to their recipe. I also tried their “Focus Drink” shot and all I felt was jittery, double- and triple-bogeying the first two holes I played immediately after taking it. Granted, that might have happened even if I had consumed a glas of water instead but I guess we’ll never know.
Talking Swing Meter — $19 — www.ebbrands.com
It’s bad enough that my shots spray all over the course. The last thing I need is some little electronic wanna-be robot device adding insult to injury, telling me “Hook” or “Slice” when I can see bloody well that that’s exactly what my ball did. Sure it also says “Nice shot” when you hit it straight, but that’s not a result I’m too familiar with!
33-in-1 Golf Club — $129.95 — www.hammacher.com/product/81021
With a head that’s adjustable to 33 different loft angles, and the ability to retract to only 19-inches long for ease of transport (or hitting out of phone booths; are there still any booths around?), I have just one question: Why stop at 33?
Gotham Golf Cart — $35,000 and maybe, just maybe $7,500
Inspired by “The Tumbler” from The Dark Knight movie series, this over-the-top custom golf cart was a one-off done by a Hollywood special effects company for $35,000. Rumor has it they’re working on a kit to transform regular golf carts into Batman’s links transport but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Hovercraft Golf Cart — $32,125.09 — www.neoterichovercraft.com
Smart money says you will never become a two-time Masters winner like Bubba Watson. I could be wrong but, for the moment, let’s assume I’m right. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t own and play with some of Bubba’s favorite golf toys. His hovercraft golf cart is high up on that list and for roughly the price of a small SUV you can get a golf cart that any Spec Ops warrior would be proud to own. Since it rides on a cushion of air, you’ll never have to worry about damaging those roped-off areas around the green and, even better, if you dump one (or a whole sleeve!) new $5 ball in the drink, even the shortest golf ball retriever will fish it out—considering you can position yourself directly above it.
Soldius Solar Cart Bag — $349.99 — www.mysoldius.com
The golf course is supposed to be an escape—an enjoyable and necessary departure from the daily grind. No e-mails, no phone calls, no texts, no work. Just you, your sticks and that little white ball against the course architect’s diabolical scheme and Mother Nature. But for the tech-obsessed among us who refuse to leave their gadgetry behind, this solar cart bag offered by Soldius will keep them connected to The Grid. It’s got five interchangeable mobile phone adapters, a mini USB cable, two interchangeable iPod adapters, a mobile device-charging compartment, a rainhood, and an umbrella holder. Oh, and let’s not forget the tee holder strap!
520cc Green Monster XL — $120 — nexttgolf.com
Maybe it’s just me but there’s something cool about having an “illegal” club in my bag, and that’s exactly what the Green Monster XL is. Because of its largesse (520cc), the USGA has declared this behemoth driver cluba non grata for any sanctioned events. But that won’t stop me from grippin’ ‘n rippin’ whenever I have the urge. I mean, it’s not like I’m going to be participating in any legit golf competition any time soon. And so what if it looks like something a caveman would use to procure his dinner? In today’s society, size matters, and seeing how my golf ego needs all the stroking I can get it, the Green Monster XL has a permanent spot in my bag.
These products represent a mere fraction of what’s available to the golfing public. Jump online and explore—there’s definitely something for everyone. Hopefully I’ve given you a few ideas… If not for yourself than as a gift. And speaking of gifts, if you want to give one to yourself, check out my new book, Cracked Aces: The Wildest, Craziest, Most Unbelievable TRUE Poker Stories.
Granted, the stories are about poker not golf, but I’m hoping you enjoyed my writing enough to give it a whirl. If not, no probs. Tune in next month for my next golf piece. Until then, Happy Holidays to you and yours.
The Gear Dive: Discussing the drivers of 2020 with Bryan LaRoche
In this episode of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with his good buddy Bryan LaRoche. They chat on life and do a deep dive into the drivers of 2020.
Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below.
The Wedge Guy: The 5 indisputable rules of bunker play
I received a particularly interesting question this week from Art S., who said he has read all the tips about how to hit different sand shots, from different sand conditions, but it would be helpful to know why. Specifically, here’s what Art had to say:
“I recently found myself in a few sand traps in multiple lies and multiple degrees of wetness. I tried remembering all of the “rules” of how to stand, how much to open my club, how much weight to shift forward or back, etc. based on the Golf Channel but was hoping that you might be able to do a blog on the ‘why’ of sand play so that we can understand it rather than memorizing what to do. Is there any way you can discuss what the club is doing and why you open the club, open your stance, what you’re aiming for when you open up, and any other tips?”
Well, Art, you asked a very good question, so let’s try to cover the basics of sand play–the “geometry and physics” at work in the bunkers–and see if we can make all of this more clear for you.
First of all, I think bunkers are among the toughest of places to find your ball. We see the tour players hit these spectacular bunker shots every week, but realize that they are playing courses where the bunkers are maintained to PGA Tour standards, so they are pretty much the same every hole and every week. This helps the players to produce the “product” the tour is trying to deliver–excitement. Of course, those guys also practice bunker play every day.
All of us, on the other hand, play courses where the bunkers are different from one another. This one is a little firmer, that one a little softer. So, let me see if I can shed a little light on the “whys and wherefores” of bunker play.
The sand wedge has a sole with a downward/backward angle built into it – we call that bounce. It’s sole (no pun intended) function is to provide a measure of “rejection” force or lift when the club makes contact with the sand. The more bounce that is built into the sole of the wedge, the more this rejection force is applied. And when we open the face of the wedge, we increase the effective bounce so that this force is increased as well.
The most basic thing you have to assess when you step into a bunker is the firmness of the sand. It stands to reason that the firmer the texture, the more it will reject the digging effect of the wedge. That “rejection quotient” also determines the most desirable swing path for the shot at hand. Firmer sand will reject the club more, so you can hit the shot with a slightly more descending clubhead path. Conversely, softer or fluffier sand will provide less rejection force, so you need to hit the shot with a shallower clubhead path so that you don’t dig a trench.
So, with these basic principles at work, it makes sense to remember these “Five Indisputable Rules of Bunker Play”
- Firmer sand will provide more rejection force – open the club less and play the ball back a little to steepen the bottom of the clubhead path.
- Softer sand will provide less rejection force – open the club more and play the ball slighter further forward in your stance to create a flatter clubhead path through the impact zone.
- The ball will come out on a path roughly halfway between the alignment of your body and the direction the face is pointing – the more you open the face, the further left your body should be aligned.
- On downslope or upslope lies, try to set your body at right angles to the lie, so that your swing path can be as close to parallel with the ground as possible, so this geometry can still work. Remember that downhill slopes reduce the loft of the club and uphill slopes increase the loft.
- Most recreational golfers are going to hit better shots from the rough than the bunkers, so play away from them when possible (unless bunker play is your strength).
So, there you go, Art. I hope this gives you the basics you were seeking.
As always, I invite all of you to send in your questions to be considered for a future article. It can be about anything related to golf equipment or playing the game–just send it in. You can’t win if you don’t ask!
Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Task to target
In this week’s episode: How having a target will improve your direction and contact you have with the ball.
GolfWRX exclusive: The story behind the new Costco KS1 putter
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