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Opinion & Analysis

Golf is what you make of it

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By Jim Wilson

GolfWRX Contributor

It had been one of those weeks. Several bad calls, some equipment failures, a patient complaint, and a critical medication shortage had all led to my now wanting to get a round in; I needed to get a round in. Big difference. The weekend could not come soon enough.

By Friday afternoon I was already in play mode. A quick check of the weather and I proceeded to go online to make my tee time. I had already called my normal foursome and none of them were available but there was no way I was going to miss out. The weather was supposed to be incredible, the rates are low this time of year here in Florida, and I was determined to marathon it at least one of my two days off.

We’ve all been in this situation. You don’t like the idea of arriving at a course that is crowded alone but at the same time you need the time on the course. Sure, I could head to the range and hit a few which would be sort of relaxing. But it isn’t the same as actually playing. Nothing is.

I arrived at the course a little over an hour before my scheduled tee time. At the tender age of 51 there is no way I can just hit the first tee without stretching and warming up. I might be able to get away with doing it once but odds are I would pay for it afterward. So, after paying for my round and a large bucket of balls, I headed over to the range.

Approaching the range there is this indescribable anticipation. The outcome in golf depends on a lot of factors. Some we can control and many we cannot. For amateurs repeating a consistent swing is sort of like buying a lottery ticket. You just never what to expect from your swing. When I was younger I somehow convinced myself that when I got older I would somehow magically have a more consistent swing. Now that I am older I look enviously at the younger players who are limber enough to have a more consistent swing. But no matter, it is still golf afterall and even bad golf is better than no golf at all.

As I was warming up the starter came over and pointed to three other gentlemen who I would be joining. I recognized two of them and had played with them before. The other young man was not familiar to me. The three of them were already chatting it up and getting to know one-another and so I decided that I too should amble on over and make some introductions. As I walked toward them I could see that the younger man, whom I had never seen before, was playing with a bit of a unique swing centered on using his one remaining arm. He didn’t hit it far but he hit it straight. And most important he managed to make consistent contact.

I walked up and said hello to all three and we shook hands. Were it not for how Jack handled himself and accepted his injury this would have been a really awkward moment for both of us. I wear a glove on my left hand and, because Jack only had one hand – his right, I quickly worked to remove my glove to shake his. He smiled and said that I “could leave it on as long as it isn’t all wet.” It was this kind of outlook and temperament that really made this round a special one.

The starter called our group to the first and we were off. I had placed my stuff into the cart with Jack and he actually asked me to drive.

“I can’t signal for left turns, ya’ know,” he said.

The entire round Jack actually made all three of us feel comfortable about just being around him. We are all, afterall, guilty of sometimes looking away. The woman disfigured by burn injuries. The man in the wheelchair. The homeless man on the corner. It is sort of human nature to try to avoid making those who in our own measure are less fortunate feel uncomfortable. Which is the irony of this sort of situation because we probably are making them feel exactly as we don’t intend. Not that we do it out of malice but the act of looking away prevents us from staring and I guess that somehow we convince ourselves that looking away is the lesser of the evils.

But this day of golf with Jack was far different. As opposed to feeling a need to look away one could not help but watch in wonder as this man accepted the challenge of playing an extremely difficult game with a physical disability. Part of the wonder of it all was his incredible attitude. It did not matter if he ball went into a hazard. And it didn’t matter that we were outdriving him by 100 yards or more. All that mattered was that it was a beautiful day and we were playing golf.

Near the end of the back nine I finally had to ask Jack about his arm. Turns out it was something rare that caused the doctors to opt to amputate. A rare form of bone cancer had left them with little choice.

“It was my arm or my life, so no brainer,” he said. “I signed the forms and told them to take it.”

There was an irony in his signature; turns out he was left handed and that form was the last thing he ever signed with his arm before they removed it. As we were finishing up Jack tapped in a short par putt on the final hole. Perhaps this was the absolute perfect finish to this round because it so perfectly defines golf, life, and how Jack has managed to accept his new life.

Both life and golf offer no guarantees nor do they offer apologies. While there are times of elation and joy often both can be unexplainably cruel. The better moments may, at times, seem outnumbered by the dark times. The key lay in placing more emphasis on those better times in order to help to make it through the difficult ones. Jack has the art of living down to a tee. Literally and figuratively.

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.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Dick Audi

    Oct 17, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Awesome article. Jack has it absolutely correct. It is not about you shoot, but that you are shooting.

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Opinion & Analysis

More Distance Off the Tee (Part 1 of 3): Upper Body Training

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If you read my previous story, Tour Pro’s Revealed: 3 Tests to See How You Stack Up, you are well aware of the fact that improving your upper body power is one of three sure ways to increase your distance off the tee. If you have not, I strongly suggest you check it out to gain some context about what is to follow and what is critical for your golf game.

Through our testing and the testing done of many of the industry leaders in golf performance, we have found that the ability of golfers to generate “push power” from their upper body is critical to maximize efficiency and speed in the swing. The way that you can test your power is simple. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Keeping your back on the chair, chest pass with both hands a 6-pound medicine ball as far as you can. When you compare this to your vertical jump as described in More Distance Off the Tee (Part 2 of 3): Lower Body Training Plan, the number in feet you threw the ball should be relatively close to your jump in inches.

If you threw the ball and it went 5 feet, you have an upper body power problem. If you threw the ball 25 feet and jumped only 14 inches, your upper body is not the problem — you probably need to focus on your lower body. It’s not rocket science once you understand what you are looking for. What can be challenging is knowing how to improve your power once you identify a problem. That is where the rest of this article comes in. What I am going to outline below are three of the most common upper body power exercises that we use with our amateur, senior and professional golfers.

The key with any power training exercise is to make sure you are as rested as possible between sets so that you can be as explosive as possible for the repetitions. Try not to do more than 6 repetitions in a set to assure that each one is as fast and explosive as possible.

Med Ball Chest Pass on Wall

This is one of the most basic exercises there is for developing upper body push power. Make sure your feet are about shoulder-width apart and don’t be afraid to use your legs to help maximize the punishment you deliver to against the wall!

Med Ball Wall Ball

Watching the video, you may be scratching you head and wondering why this is in the upper body power article when clearly the athlete is using his legs. The reason is that in the golf swing, power starts with the legs.

Med Ball Sky Chest Throws

This one is simple. Laying on your back, all you need to do is push the ball up as high as you can, catch it on the way down and the explode it back up into the air as high as you can. If you incorporate this exercise into your routine even once a week, you will see huge gains in your ability to swing faster if this was a problem area for you.

That being said, power creation requires not only speed but also strength development. It is also important that you have a solid strength program to increase your ability to generate more force. While this is beyond the scope of this article, finding yourself a solid golf fitness expert will help you create your ideal program.

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Podcasts

GolfWRX Forum Member dpb5031 talks about the TaylorMade Twist Face Experience

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Forum member dpb5031 (aka Dewey) joins TG2 to talk about his Twist Face Experience at The Kingdom. Recently, him and 6 other GolfWRX Members went to TaylorMade HQ to get fit for new M3 and M4 drivers. Does Twist Face work? Dewey provides his answer.

Listen to the podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Inside the Ropes: 5 things you didn’t know about playing on the PGA Tour

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Golf finds a way to take a hold on you… whether you become entranced by the skill of the world’s best professionals, fall in love with the feeling and beauty of a well-executed shot, or simply enjoy getting outside and having fun — the game is addictive.

I started playing at the age of 4 and began watching the pros on TV dreaming what it would be like to play golf on the PGA Tour. When I earned my PGA Tour status for the 2014 season, that dream became a reality. And like anything, it’s not until I actually experienced that life did I have any idea what it entailed.

For those of you who are curious what it’s like to be on the PGA Tour, here are 5 things to describe it.

1) The Culture

Traveling the world to various cities can be fun, and it’s an underrated part of the Tour lifestyle; you get to see new landscapes and taste the cuisines that define different regions across the country and the world. Unlike some other professional sports, where players stay in one place for maybe a night or two, we get to stay in places for a week or more, which allows for plenty of time away from the course to see the sights and get a feel for what the cities and their cultures offer.

2) The Show

The setup and time that goes into planning an event — the grandstands, concession stands, volunteers, and the whole network that makes these tournaments run — is beyond impressive. We see the finished product at the event in the epicenter of it all, but the planning goes on behind the scenes all year. When it’s game time and the golf ball gets teed up, it’s time for us players to block all of that out, but we certainly appreciate all of the hard work that goes into putting on an event. It may feel like being in a circus at times, but performing in the show is a thrill.

3) The People

The game of golf in general brings people together, but especially so on the Tour. Thousands and thousands of fans come to watch the golf action and enjoy the festivities. The Pro-Ams are a great way for the fans to get an up-close look at what goes on at a Tour event, and they’re also a great way for us pros to interact with fans and maybe provide some helpful swing tips, too. In my opinion, one of the best events of the year is the Pebble Beach Pro-Am — a gathering of pro golfers, athletes, musicians, actors and other celebrities. It’s a testament to how the game can bring people together from different walks of life.

4) Inside the Ropes

The Tour is almost like a private school of sorts. It’s a select group of a couple hundred guys traveling around playing these events. The jocks, the nerds, the geeks, the loners; you see a little of everything. As much as there’s a sociable aspect to traveling on Tour and getting to know these people, it’s a dog-eat-dog world where everyone is playing for their livelihood and playing privileges.

5) The “Pressure”

A season-long race can come down to a single shot making the difference — for some it’s between winning and losing a tournament, and others it’s between keeping and losing your card. The cameras, the grandstands, the noise… it can all be quite distracting. The idea is to block all of that out and pretend you’re playing like a kid, focusing with pure imagination for the shot. All the extra attention can help heighten the focus further, adding inspiration to “give the people what they want” and hit even better golf shots.

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