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Mizuno Sticks and Mile High Golf

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Winston Churchill is credited for saying, “Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an ever smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.” Is it fair to say that the last piece of that quote applies to life as well?

I recently spent a few days in the Rocky Mountains. Colorado Springs, Colorado, to be precise. A business trip landed me in a government hotel that looked more like an abandoned asylum than it did a hotel. If it had been on my dime, I wouldn’t have even walked into the sad excuse for a lobby. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have even tapped the brakes as I drove by in my rental car. This place was ill-equipped to be a hotel.

51179990374__38ACAE47-DA5E-4400-BC24-2C6F07309B1EUsing my years old keycard, with which I’d gotten the warning, “Don’t put it in the same pocket as your phone or it will deactivate it and I’m only allowed to give you two extra ones,” I entered my room with minimal hope that the renovation just hadn’t made it to the outside of the building. My hopes were dashed when I saw floral border, a window A/C unit and a Sharp tube television resting on a piece of furniture that resembled something I’d once placed on the sidewalk after moving out of a college apartment. But the mountains have a way of forcing the give-a-damn out of you.

IMG_0772

The first couple of work days ended a bit early and around 3:30 p.m., so on Wednesday I found myself suddenly with about four hours of daylight to fill. What better to do than play golf, right?

I found the local course and walked into the clubhouse, which, much to my surprise, was infinitely nicer than my sorry excuse for lodging. I asked what rental clubs they had expecting to hear only one option: Callaway Strata 12-piece men’s set. Also to my surprise, they offered premium rentals that included a Titleist set of either AP1 or AP2 irons, all 2017 Titleist woods and hybrids and a Cleveland milled putter. They also offered the new Mizuno JPX-900 irons in both cast and forged models (with Project X 5.5 shafts) and the new Mizuno JPX hybrid and woods. “I’ll have the Mizunos, please.” Those weapons are not ill-designed for the task.

IMG_0783Earlier that day I’d been driving back from eating lunch and the Rockies were on the right side of the road. As the radio shuffled through the playlist on my phone, an old Vince Gill song came through the speakers, “Go Rest High On That Mountain.” When that song came on the radio I found myself about halfway through singing along with Vince. And before it was over, I had to wipe my eyes. (If by some stretch of the imagination you’ve never heard this song, you must watch this video of him doing it in tribute to George Jones, you can skip to 7:20 in the video.)

What you must know about me, though, is that I’m a broken man. In 2013 my wife and I brought a little girl into this world. She was about seven pounds with dark hair and beautiful eyes. In 2014, while I was deployed to Afghanistan, she got really sick. So sick that I had to leave Afghanistan to be by her side. After many weeks in the hospital, she didn’t make it. A terrible combination of influenza and a respiratory virus was more than her nine-month-old body could handle. It was, and continues to be, devastating. But there are two ways you spiral after a family tragedy of that magnitude: up or down. There’s little room to stay in between.

Over the next three years I would write a lot and play golf, often doing one or both of those things at the expense of spending time with my family. As Churchill said, we are often using weapons in life that are ill-designed to deal with such an event as the loss of a child. In that video Vince Gill says, “Brother George [Jones] taught us all how sing with a broken heart.” If we can learn how to play golf with a crooked stick, then we can learn how to go through life with the broken hearts we pile up along our path. It’s just that sometimes we need reminding.

As I pulled the cart strap around the bag and clamped it down, I looked up at the mountains that embrace the property and thought about the Vince Gill song. I also thought about my daughter. It’s hard to convey the existential things that happen on a golf course when you play by yourself. It doesn’t happen all that often, but when it does you can’t help but share it with someone. When I rented the Mizunos in the clubhouse, all I was trying to do was take an opportunity to play golf and try out some clubs that were creating buzz in the golf world. What ended up happening was some unexpected healing.

My opening tee shot went a little right (I blamed it on the new driver). I hopped in and steered the cart to the opposite side of the hole, veering off the cart path to find my ball in some slight rough. I promptly hit a wedge just short of the green (my altitude calculations for yardage weren’t very precise), jumped back in the cart and drove to the green. Pumping the parking brake on the cart, I got out and saw the marshall approaching the green. He said, “It’s cart-path only on the course today,” and I apologized. At first, I was annoyed because neither the pro nor the marshall had given me this information and, had I known that I wouldn’t have paid for a cart.

With bygones being bygones, I went about my round. It turns out, the cart-path only status gave me more time to walk and take in the scenery, so there’s the first uptick in the spiral. Since I was alone, I started playing music through my iPhone and kept on rolling. As I tell you the next part of this story it will be hard for you not to think I made it up, but I promise, it happened just as you read it.

I played the first 11 holes just letting one of my playlists cycle through some ballads (I’m a ballad kind of guy) and I pulled up to the par-4 12th hole. When I stepped out of the cart I grabbed my phone out of my pocket to take a picture and that damn Vince Gill song came on again. While the intro was playing, I took this picture.

IMG_0785

I had to reset over the golf ball three times because I couldn’t keep my composure. Finally, on the fourth attempt, I striped a drive right over that fairway bunker you see, almost directly in line with the top of that mountain. When I got to my ball the song was about halfway through and Vince Gill was in the middle of a silky guitar solo. I played the shot to the front of the green and it bounced up to about 25 feet. To that point, I hadn’t made a birdie in the round and didn’t expect this one to fall either. (I wasn’t worried about the score all that much with rented clubs at 8,000 feet above sea level.) The universe had other plans.

I parked the cart and walked to the green with my Cleveland milled putter in hand, pulled the flag and lined up my putt. I set up over the ball and took my practice strokes looking at the hole (as I always do). As I placed the putter behind the ball I could still hear the song playing in my pocket. I made the stroke and the ball took off. It broke about six inches around the halfway mark (not what I read) and fell into the hole. It would be the only birdie I’d make all day.

As I replaced the flag and walked off the green the music stopped. I’d reached the end of my playlist.

I finished the round in quiet solitude, admiring the mountains and the lesson they’d taught me. Sometimes, in order to move forward in life, ill-designed tools are the only thing you need. And sometimes, they aren’t so ill-designed. Maybe golf is a game where we play with weapons better suited for chopping down baby trees or tilling a garden, but if it were easy it wouldn’t be something you did for a lifetime.

I’ve been playing golf for over half my life to some degree, and it’s never meant more to me than it did that day. Not because of any specific shot, but because of the power residing in the desire to improve at something. I walked into the clubhouse expecting to get some rentals and play a round of golf, then grab some dinner and spend the rest of the night in the room. I did those things, but somewhere in the middle of the round I realized that I’d been trying to avoid dealing with something terrible that happened to my family, something I couldn’t control and can’t change.

That’s why we love golf, right? Because we think that we can control the outcome with enough grinding and mindless practice. As we all soon learn, though, mindless practice will get you nowhere in this game… and that’s the same in life. I don’t want to build up the moment on 12th hole as something that will will forever change my life; it’s too early to tell, but it did change my day and my week.

Churchill was right, we’re trying to hit a “very small ball.” The last time I checked, though, the hole was bigger than the ball.

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Adam Crawford is a writer of many topics but golf has always been at the forefront. An avid player and student of the game, Adam seeks to understand both the analytical side of the game as well as the human aspect - which he finds the most important. You can find his books at his website, chandlercrawford.com, or on Amazon.

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Rev G

    Apr 27, 2017 at 8:24 am

    I’ve always enjoyed your articles Adam, but for many reasons, this was your best.

    • Adam Crawford

      Apr 27, 2017 at 8:04 pm

      Thanks, man. Really appreciate that.

  2. Dan

    Apr 26, 2017 at 11:47 am

    Probably the best article I’ve read in a long time.
    I can only try to imagine the pain you’ve been through.
    Though, I felt like I was feeling the same emotions reading thru paragraphs.
    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful thoughts, Adam.

  3. Edge of Lean

    Apr 25, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    Adam, there is a saying in the Christian world that “Joy shared is double joy; Sorrow shared is half sorrow.”
    It may seem like emotional tripe, but the sentiment is real. Having lost a child, I share your sorrow. But, to quote the Good Book again, “Joy comes in the morning.” I wish you strength to go on, until that beautiful sunrise.

  4. Jim H

    Apr 24, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Somebody must be cutting up onions in here. Anyone with kids truly understands the anguish you have been experiencing Adam. Please keep that spiral to the high side, as though seeking the Rocky Mountain peaks. Living south of Denver for almost 40 years, the mountains are truly a magical sight for me on a daily basis. But now I will also think of you and say a prayer for you, your wife and your other children that God will ease the pain in each of your hearts. You are a very talented individual Adam, and I thank you for serving to protect us all. Keep playing and writing about this wonderful game we all love so much. God bless you.

  5. David Ciccoritti

    Apr 24, 2017 at 11:12 am

    Why is this delusional idiot still not yet banned?

    • Adam Crawford

      Apr 24, 2017 at 3:51 pm

      Bubba, I’m not angered by your political views. All of us who serve struggle with justifying war at times. The only problem I have with your initial comment is that you either didn’t read the article all the way through (which is fine), or you did and chose to disrespect my daughter’s memory by making your comment about politics and not about the message I intended. If you failed to receive the message, then that is the fault of this writer, and for that, I apologize. I’ll work harder next time. However, if you did understand the message and still chose to make your comment about politics, then I’m sorry that you live in a reality that seems tortured. I hope some day you can find something to look up too, something that brings joy to your heart. To live without joy is not living at all.

      • BW

        Apr 27, 2017 at 10:52 am

        Good lord I like you, Adam. Amazing response to a terrible troll.

  6. David Ciccoritti

    Apr 24, 2017 at 11:11 am

    Hi Adam, thanks for sharing. Although your daughters time was short, I don’t think she could have picked a better father. The amount of hurt is a testament to the amount of love. Also, even though I’m Canadian, I also want to thank you for your bravery and service. God Bless.

  7. Sully

    Apr 23, 2017 at 8:44 am

    Bubba, the only reason you get to live in the best country in the world is because people like Mr. Crawford voluntarily go across the world to fight your enemies for you.

    Keep up the great work Adam. If Golfwrx keeps posting articles like this I might come to the site more often and deal with the pop up ads.

    • The Dude

      Apr 23, 2017 at 8:10 pm

      take time to think……………

    • Daniel Boyd

      Apr 24, 2017 at 1:06 pm

      Bubba,

      How original. Another idiot using this platform to promote stupidity.

      To enlighten you. There are billions of people that live in this world who are productive, armed and do not rely on others to protect them or tell them how to think yet they live in extreme poverty and persecution just because of the country that they live in.

      Newsflash – You are not blessed because of ANYTHING you have done! You are blessed simply because you live in the United States of America and only have the rights that you have because of the men and women that have served and are serving currently in our Armed Forces. Without them you would have nothing!

      RESPECT. Something that you lack much like normal brain function.

      Adam,

      Thank you for you service and for the article above. Prayers and love go out to you and your family as you continue to seek peace in has to be the greatest tragedy any Mother and Father can experience.

  8. Pete

    Apr 23, 2017 at 6:38 am

    Bubba – you’re a wanker. Adam, best wishes to you and your family……

  9. Hardcore Looper

    Apr 23, 2017 at 12:15 am

    Adam, I truly hope you find peace. Thanks for sharing this with us. Golf isn’t just about getting another six yards off the tee.

    • Adam Crawford

      Apr 23, 2017 at 8:34 pm

      Peace is a strong word. However, articles like these are like opening a relief valve a tiny bit, just to let out a little steam. Through my wife, my other children, writing and the game of golf, there is a certain level of normalcy to be found. One also has to be thankful for where I am now. I could have easily fell down a dark hole never to resurface.

  10. Austin

    Apr 22, 2017 at 11:34 pm

    Dude? Seriously? I’ve never replied to a comment before but get a life.

    Adam, thank you for your service and I’m sorry to hear about your daughter. Glad you found some comfort

  11. Ronald Montesano

    Apr 22, 2017 at 11:34 pm

    Adam, I don’t know that I could ever share what you shared, and I pray for you and your wife, and for your beautiful daughter. I do hope that golf and life bring you repair to as great a degree as can happen. Selfishly, I hope that you continue to write for GolfWRX.

    RM

    • Adam Crawford

      Apr 23, 2017 at 8:32 pm

      I hope the same thing, my friend. I truly enjoy it.

  12. Justwin

    Apr 22, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    Adam,
    I accidentally clicked on “report comment” when I scrolled down. Didn’t mean to and I apologize. I would like to thank you for your service and express my condolences for your families personal tragedy. I wish you all the best in the future and ignore the “haters”.

    • Adam Crawford

      Apr 23, 2017 at 8:39 pm

      It’s all good. Thanks for the comment and the best wishes. Lotta life to live!

  13. LaBraeGolfer

    Apr 22, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    Adam I travel all over Northeast Ohio playing golf, my job affords me a weekday off a week so very rarely do I get to play with someone. However, I have got to play some truly incredible courses and it really is an incredibly religious type of experience sometimes playing alone, I can’t imagine what you have gone through. Thank you for your service!

  14. Butch

    Apr 22, 2017 at 8:09 pm

    Sorry for your loss. I have been in the military for 17 years and understand how being away from your kids might be the hardest and worst thing you can ever experience. Sorry for the above comment. I guess the 12-14 hour days in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot entitle somebody to getting off at 3:30

    • Adam Crawford

      Apr 23, 2017 at 8:40 pm

      No doubt being away from the family is the hardest part. But I think the military has done a good job in recent years of acknowledging the sacrifices made by military families.

  15. Adam Crawford

    Apr 22, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    I’m truly sorry that’s what you got out the article.

  16. Frozengolfer

    Apr 22, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    I enjoyed your story, thanks for sharing part of your private life. I too have had occasion to be on the golf course after some trying times and it was a comfort to me as well.
    Cheers,
    Tim

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The great Butch Harmon is was honored at the 2019 Houston Open, and he shares his experiences from a lifetime of golf with host Michael Williams, including what’s in the bag for the greatest teacher ever. Also features PGA Tour winner Troy Merritt talking about wining despite adversity and his work with Galvin Green golf apparel.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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In this special edition of On Spec, Ryan has the chance to interview recent PGA Tour winner Lanto Griffin. Lanto talks about what it’s like to stand over an event winning putt, finding the right wedges, and how testing gear sometimes happens right out of another player’s bag.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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The “70% Rule” is still the winning formula on the PGA Tour

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In June of 2010, a year before the Tour launched Strokes Gained Putting analysis, I published an article on my blog (www.NiblicksOfTruth.blogspot.com): “PGA Tour Winner’s – 70% Rule.”

I had been studying the winners of each tour event for years and realized that they all had specific success in three simple stats–and that the three stats must add up to 70 percent

  1. Greens in Regulation – 70%
  2. Scrambling – 70%
  3. 1-Putts from 5 to 10 feet – 70%

Not every one of the three had to equal 70 percent, but the simple addition of the three needed to equal or exceed 70 percent.  For example, if GIR’s were 68 percent, then scrambling or putting needed to be 72 percent or higher to offset the GIR deficiency—simple and it worked!

I added an important caveat. The player could have no more than three ERRORS in a four-round event. These errors being

  1. Long game: A drive hit out of play requiring an advancement to return to normal play, or a drive or approach penalty.
  2. Short game: A short game shot that a.) missed the putting surface, and b.) took 4 or more total strokes to hole out.
  3. Putting: A 3-putt or worse from 40 feet or closer.

In his recent win in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Kevin Na broke the rule… by a bit.  He was all good on the 70 percent part of the rule

  1. GIR’s: 75 percent
  2. Scrambling: 72 percent
  3. 1-Putts 5-10 ft.: 73 percent

But not so good on the three-error limit

  1. Long game: Two driving errors and one approach penalty (three errors).
  2. Short game: A chip/pitch shot that missed the green and took FIVE strokes to hole out (one error).

No wonder it took a playoff to secure his win! But there was another stat that made the difference…

The stat that piqued my interest in Kevin’s win was connected to my 70 percent Rule.  It was his strokes gained: putting stat: +3.54, or ranked first.  He gained 3.5 strokes on the field in each of his four rounds or 14 strokes. I have never seen that, and it caused me to look closer. For perspective, I ran the putting performance of all of the event winners in the 2019 Tour season. Their average putting strokes gained was +1.17.

Below, I charted the one-putt percentages by distance range separately for Kevin Na, the 2019 winners, and the tour 2019 average. I have long believed that the 6–10 foot range separates the good putters on Tour from the rest as it is the most frequently faced of the “short putt” ranges and the Tour averages 50 percent makes. At the same time, the 11-20 foot ranges separate the winners each week as these tend to represent birdie putts on Tour. Look at what Kevin did there.

All I can say again, I HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS. Well done Kevin!

For the rest of us, in the chart below I have plotted Kevin’s performance against the “average” golfer (15-19 handicap). To see exactly how your game stacks up, visit my website.

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