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Opinion & Analysis

A first timer’s trip to the promised land

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Hello. My name is Dustin, and much like many of you, I, um, have a problem. I am addicted to golf. I guess it all started, or rather, the first time I realized it could be an issue was in my Junior year of high school. I grew up in rural Illinois and the winters could be brutal. Sure, there was cold and wind and snow and all that jazz, but the real problem for me was the prolonged period in which I couldn’t play golf. On one sunny, crisp January morning, however, all that changed. I woke up and just knew I had to get out on the golf course, so that’s exactly what I was going to do. I wiped the dust from my clubs and snuck them into my trunk. I left at my normal time so as not to arouse any suspicion, but instead of turning into the school parking lot I drove right by. I. Drove. Right. By.

The feeling that consumed me was indescribable. I felt the shackles of society breaking away. I felt like a bird flying for the first time. I felt like nothing could stop me as I was the master of my own fate, even the entire universe for that matter, but in all of my excitement, I wasn’t watching my speed…I got pulled over about a half of a mile from my local course. So with the added weight of a speeding ticket in hand, I was escorted back to school and sentenced to the brutality of watching the rare semi-warm day fade away. Since that moment in time, my life has basically been a Groundhog’s Day version of the same day over and over again. Sometimes I am successful in my endeavor to sneak away and play eighteen and sometimes I am forced into the shackles that keep me indoors. One thing never changes though, the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is check the weather.

Back to the present day. No s***, there I was, standing on the precipice of glory, taking it all in. I was about to step foot in the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando for the 2020 PGA Merchandise Show. I would love to be able to tell you how it felt, walking into The Promised Land for the first time, but I’ll be honest, I blacked-out for a bit. The only thing I can really compare it to is that one time I rattled off an eagle and two birdies in a row before falling off the wagon and shooting a forty-nine on the back. I am sure it was a moment of greatness, but I just can’t recall. When I finally came to I was standing in front of the Holy Grail.

I lost all composure at this point and time. I started to kneel. I didn’t know what else to do in the presence of such greatness. Luckily, there was a Mizuno Rep. nearby. He graciously helped me to my feet, handed me a bottle of water, and assured me this wasn’t the first time this had happened today. I didn’t get his name, but wherever you are, sir, thank you. You may have saved my life because if not for your swift intervention I may still be kneeling there today.

I started to feel self-conscious that I was ill-prepared, that my thirty-five years on this planet training for this very moment weren’t enough, and perhaps I should’ve waited until I was seventy to attend “The Show”. A pattern appeared that caused me more anxiety than a twenty-yard pitch over a bunker with water deep. I approached a booth, got more twitchy than Kevin Na in 2012, then backed-off to the relative safety of the center aisle. This happened again and again. I was wandering aimlessly, too scared to enter a booth, too ashamed to make eye contact with my fellow patrons, and too stubborn to call it quits. And that’s when the Golf Gods intervened.

After years of being cursed by those vile creatures, trust me, I was as floored as anyone when the skies opened up and the spotlight shown on the most comforting sign at the PGA Show. It was at this moment, that I knew I was right where I belonged. It was at this moment that I knew I was amongst my people. It was at this moment that I finally achieved acceptance, and therefore the true zen of that most heinous four-letter word, G O L F.

With my new-found calmness, I resumed something of a normal temperament, albeit, with much more elevated awe and shock, I continued perusing the booths. One by one, going around and around the show again. Every time I revisited a booth, I saw something new, a new Scotty Cameron headcover, a new version of the Callaway Mavrik, a new hybrid that promised I could land it softly from two hundred and thirty yards. I went from paralysis to eagerness, greed even. I was hungry for every shiny thing that caught my eye.

At some point, my step counter started smoking and quit, but it didn’t even phase me. I simply undid the strap and let it fall to the floor, next to some schmuck kneeling in front of a blue and white staff bag. I muttered “rookie” under my breath, and continued on. After all, this was thirty-five years in the making.

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Discussing the drivers of 2020 with Bryan LaRoche

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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.

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 Wedge Guy: The 5 indisputable rules of bunker play

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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”

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

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Podcasts

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Task to target

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In this week’s episode: How having a target will improve your direction and contact you have with the ball.

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