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Opinion & Analysis

Confessions of a Hacker

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By Jamie Katz

GolfWRX Contributor

Welcome to my first blog post for GolfWRX. If you’re looking for news on how you can plug your earphones to get MP3 tunes on the newest TM driver, or you want to read about the merits of nanotechnology shafts versus multi-material shafts, you’ll need to read something else. But if you’re interested in the triumphs and travails of an avid but all-too-flawed golfer and the equipment that has helped and hindered me, my close encounters with golf instructors, and the ways that golf can build and destroy a man’s peace of mind, then keep reading.

Most of you on GolfWRX are better golfers than I am—but I believe I can compete with anybody when it comes to loving the game. And I pledge to remember the GolfWRX creed: Golf is just a game. It’s not life and death — it’s way more important than that.

So what qualifies me to be a golf pundit?  Well, let’s start with my background and the golf demons I wrestle with. I am sixty years old with a lovely wife, an active teenage daughter, two dogs, a demanding job as general counsel at a major teaching hospital, memberships on three nonprofit boards, other family members to take care of, too much stomach, and a back that goes out on occasion. With all that going on, why, when I have a few minutes all to myself, do I spend it trying to figure out what clubs I need to fill the gap between my driver and my 21-degree hybrid? Why do I itch to buy a Tour Edge Trilogy hybrid that I’ve never hit, just because I found it for $49.99, or pine for an Adams XTD hybrid when I really don’t need the extra distance?

It wasn’t always this way. I played golf as a kid with Johnny Palmer clubs. Yes, Johnny Palmer—I had no idea who Johnny Palmer was, except he wasn’t Arnold (it turns out, for those with a historical bent that he was a good pro who pre-dated Arnie). I played on a local muni on the other side of town. I was happy just to play and it never occurred to me to think about changing clubs.

College ended my not-so-promising golf career. For over 20 five years, I didn’t pick up a stick. Then I attended a wedding of a brother-in-law in Florida and he set up a game for a bunch of us—including most of his five other brothers. I was decidedly unimpressive until the eighteenth, where I hit a lovely seven iron into the green on my second shot, 12 feet from the hole, in front of my in-laws. They kicked my butt on the basketball court, but on the golf course, I ruled. Out of the blue, I remembered the lure of the game and the bug came back.

I played for a few years with a small group of friends. We usually shot close to 100, but we enjoyed ourselves. Until one beautiful summer day, on an upscale course with a number of hard holes, my swing fell apart, totally, cataclysmically. From the twelfth hole on, I displayed no evidence that I had ever played golf before. My shots went short, left, right, anywhere but the intended direction and distance. I knew I’d developed something awful in my swing, something well beyond my knowledge or understanding.

I left the golf course that day determined to do one of two things–walk away from the game or take lessons and improve. So somewhere around 15 years ago, I found a teacher who revamped my swing and helped me back to occasional respectability on the golf course. And about 10 years ago, with a more predictable swing, I began trying out new clubs.

I now live very close to a driving range. I moved to a different instructor two years ago. I’ve been fitted for a driver and irons. I’m not able to play 18 holes more than once, sometimes twice a month, but I sneak away from work and family to the same muni I played on as a kid and play nine early on weekend mornings. In a good summer week, I’ll get to the range a couple of times and I’ll play over the weekend. I’ll buy some new and used clubs during the season, just to see if they’ll improve my game. What does this all add up to?  I’m the quintessential weekend hacker.

My 16-handicap game still bounces around. This summer, for example, I’ve hit a number of drives that are among the longest I’ve ever hit, despite my age. I had a score of 84 (good for me) on a twisting course with lots of elevations that I’d never played on before. And best of all, on that day, I blew away a couple of guys that I rarely beat. But I also had a couple of rounds over the summer where everything went wrong—indeed, on one hole, I hit three shanked wedges in a row. The three ugly shots each flew to the right, taking me halfway around a green. At that point, I picked the ball up and didn’t touch a wedge for the rest of the round.

I check in on GolfWRX regularly. I know my driver swing speed, more or less, and I know I need lower-spin clubs. But I don’t keep track of all my statistics, I don’t spine my clubs, I don’t do a lot of demoing on Trackman, I don’t switch my shafts, I don’t change my lies, and I don’t bother with adjustable clubs because my swing is not reliable enough to bother changing the settings.

But I love the game — seeing a nice drive soar and land in the fairway, hearing the sound of a solid iron shot, beating my brother-in-law in match play, finding a cool new course. I’ll never be a good player—indeed, given my age and the other choices I’ve made in life, I’ll never be better than I am now. But that’s OK. I get a kick out of the competition, I can make my own decisions on the course (unlike so many other areas in my life), I get to hang around outside, and every once in awhile, I come up with a really nice shot.

So back to the problem I started with—why am I worrying about the gap between my driver and 21 degree hybrid? I don’t know. I’m not even sure that the long clubs that I now have are significant problems — I haven’t kept detailed statistics about shots in the fairway, greens in regulations, putts made, or any of the important areas. Maybe I fixate on those clubs because most of the rest of the bag is pretty much set. Or maybe I just like to keep finding new clubs to fool around with. As it stands, my Rocketballz 3HL goes a long way, but I can lose it left or right too often (I know, it’s mostly the swing). A used Ping G20 17 degree I picked up recently goes left way too often (I know, it’s mostly the swing). So I need to work on the swing but while I do, I’ll keep thinking about the right clubs in between crises at work or while chauffeuring my daughter around. In the end, I’d love to fix the swing so I don’t need to buy new clubs. But then, of course, I’d find a reason to fool around with something else in the bag.

Come back, sometime down the road, and I’ll let you know what I do, or don’t do, about the hybrids. I’ll tell you about my experiences with different teachers and my efforts to get my teenage daughter onto the golf course. I’ve been a good putter, a bad putter, and fought back to being a decent putter — but now they may take away my beloved belly putter, so you’ll read about my adventures on the greens. I hope to entertain and enlighten a little. And if you, gentle readers, tell me I didn’t do too well in a particular post, well, clearly the problem is the arrow, not the Indian, so I’ll start thinking about which new computer to buy.

Click here for more discussion in the “Golf Talk” forum.

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GolfWRX is the world's largest and best online golf community. Expert editorial reviews, breaking golf tour and industry news, what to play, how to play and where to play. GolfWRX surrounds consumers throughout the buying, learning and enrichment process from original photographic and video content, to peer to peer advice and camaraderie, to technical how-tos, and more. As the largest online golf community we continue to protect the purity of our members opinions and the platform to voice them. We want to protect the interests of golfers by providing an unbiased platform to feel proud to contribute to for years to come. You can follow GolfWRX on Twitter @GolfWRX and on Facebook.

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Opinion & Analysis

Honoring our heroes with golf

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Mr. Parsons’ military service and the impact it made on his life is the foundation of the PXG brand. In my time with Bob, I am always excited to get into this topic because of how much passion he has for it. If you watch the initial video of this series, he goes in-depth as to just how much his service changed his life.

PXG Heroes is an extension of Mr. Parsons’ appreciation for that time and one of the many ways he is giving back to veterans and first responders. Led by 26-year Marine Corps veteran Kevin Hudson, the program has put PXG clubs in the hands of over 16,000 military veterans and first responders. This gesture has created a community of PXG Troops across the country, and in many cases brought some of our heroes back from PTSD and the challenges that our men and woman of the armed forces face upon coming home to civilian life. Truth be told, I don’t believe its the discounted clubs that are the headliner here or the ultimate difference-maker into a veterans recovery, it’s the community that is created around it and the promotion of a game that does have healing powers.

In addition to the PXG For Heroes program, the Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation has also raised more than 100 million dollars for the Semper Fi Fund, in an annual Double Down For Veterans match campaign. The Semper Fi Fund and America’s Fund help provide urgently needed resources for combat wounded, critically ill and catastrophically injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families.

Through December 31, 2019, the Foundation will once again match donations to the Semper Fi Fund–up to $10 million–with the goal of raising $20 million to continue providing vital assistance to our service members and their families.

I’ll let Kevin explain the rest to you in the video as I won’t do it justice, but I will leave you with this: In true Bob Parsons style, he dug in deep on this initiative, and of all the things we ever discuss, this topic is the one that really gets him going. It’s who he is, was, and what he wants PXG to stand for as a brand.

Enjoy the video.

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Bogey Golf

Bogey Golf: The greatness of Tiger Woods

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Larry, Pat, and new show guest Elayna talk about the career of Tiger Woods. His greatest wins, records, and shots. We then compare him to other great athletes. It’s a show befitting the greatest golfer in the world!

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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Opinion & Analysis

The sole Team USA coach: Azinger

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In all the years that I have followed Team USA in the Presidents and Ryder Cups, I’ve seen evidence of one coach: Paul Azinger. I’ll circle around to him in a bit.

Does anyone recall that the basis for these matches is the friendly exhibition? They don’t hold the key to anyone’s fiefdom, nor does the winner earn the right to rule over the loser. Let the golfers have at each other, but consider which golfers they are.

Consider the honor of carrying your country’s (or your union’s) colors. That’s a keeper for a lifetime. I’ve been in pro shops where, decades prior, the aging pro had competed for the USA side. How honored he was to display his team bag. Kevin Na, Kevin Kisner, among others, may never have that honor. They deserve to have it, as do many others.

Consider the honor of leading your side into the matches. Why should any captain have more than one opportunity at this? Thanks to the short-sighted decisions of ruling bodies, Larry Nelson and Sandy Lyle will never captain a team. They deserved to do just that.

Let’s circle back to Azinger for a moment. Remember what word he introduced into our lexicon? Pods. He divided 12 golfers evenly among three pods, and those golfers practiced and competed with only the members of the pod. Azinger put the team, the whole, above the individual. His team won, and did so in proper fashion. It was no War by the Shore (is there a shore in Kentucky?) and the team looked for all appearances, like it was having a great time. Nick Faldo and his side were helpless.

Remember how intense Captain Seve was? I loved that guy, but that was dumb. He was a captain, and he should have acted like a captain, like a coach. Instead, there he was, inserting himself into every situation, trying to intimidate. His guys still would have played great for him; they didn’t need the over-coaching.

I have to thank Captain Tiger for selecting Gary Woodland and not Rickie Fowler. Again, I like Fowler, but he doesn’t close the deal. Woodland earned his shot with his U.S. Open win. He never would have made a squad, because he’s not part of the clique. The Reed selection mystifies me; sure, Captain America has had great moments while bathed in the R, W, and B, but he hasn’t had many moments of late. Why not Na? Why not Kisner?

Don’t get me started on Tony Finau. All right, get me started. One tour win. A miraculous defeat of Tommy Fleetwood when the Ryder Cup was already lost. This is not a guy at the top of anyone’s list, and yet, there he is, selected by Captain Tiger. Utterly ridiculous. Not on form. If Finau and Reed win four points between the two of them, you shall color me astonished.

Steve Stricker remembers what it was like to drop off the face of the earth as a touring pro. I’m certain it happened to him twice. As the captain of Team USA Ryder Cup 2020, I hope that he remembers how fortunate he was to play on Ryder and Presidents Cup sides, and that he gives a guy on the edge, an outsider, a shot at something that will honor his family for generations to come.

I remember the Dream Team, that astonishing collection of USA ball players who annihilated the world. Have you seen Team USA lately? They don’t always win gold, or even silver, but the diversity of players is sizable. Guys who will always have a team jersey, the right to say that they represented their country.

Golf is so behind the times.

It’s just a game. We will still tune in, the ruling bodies will still claim their cash, the golfers will continue to eschew hunting trips in order to play in the matches. But the captain ought to be a coach and give some other guys a chance.

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