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Opinion & Analysis

A tip to make your round better: Bring your camera

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One of the main criticisms of golf is the time it takes to play a round.

A lot could be accomplished off the golf course in those four or more hours. You could clean the house, mow the lawn or organize your garage in that span of time, or you could watch an entire Peter Jackson movie.

I share your concerns about the time spent on the course. But if I could make one simple suggestion to make the day feel more accomplished and have your round seem more complete, may I suggest using your camera on the course?

Depending on where I am in the world, I’ve been known to bring my SLR (single lens reflex) camera with me on the course to capture the essence of the course the way I see it — from a golfer’s point of view. Like most of you, I own my share of golf calendars and books full of lush, green photos of faraway golf destinations. But these beautiful photos are typically from a bird’s eye view, capturing a perspective of the course that a player typically doesn’t have access to.

We have been spoiled to appreciate the beautiful landscapes of these golf courses by these professional photos and the amazing TV coverage from cranes and the MetLife blimp. But often times the beauty of the golf course is how the players see it, at eye level staring down at the pin 100 yards away. If I can provide you some tips for taking great photos on the course quickly and easily, I would argue that most of you would be able to produce your own album of golf photos that others would enviably say, “Wow! Where is this?”

But before I get into it a bit more, I want to add a caveat by pointing out that I’m not encouraging you to spend time walking the course and looking for the right photo opportunity. I’m sure you can imagine someone wandering off the fairway when they should be playing ready golf and I’m sure you can feel the frustration as you look at your partners asking:

“Would you look at this clown? What is he doing?”

Great photographs take time to compose, whether it is the right light, the right moment or the way the wind is blowing. That is what a lot of professional photographers are doing when taking the photos you see in books, and chances are they are not playing the course nor have a group of four behind them waiting (sometimes impatiently) to take your golf shot. Please use these five tips when the time is right and when you are not contributing to slow play on the golf course. If you are able to remember some of these tips while walking or riding the course, you should be able to take a quick photo in stride and not affect your speed of play. Besides, I don’t want the golf community to be angry with me for encouraging you to wander around the course like a tourist…or a clown.

Tip# 1: The best camera you have is the one you have available

There is nothing worse for a photographer like being unprepared for a photo opportunity and having to fidget around with controls, setting and lenses to ensure they get the right shot. That takes up time and annoys even a photographer like myself. Mobile phones have come a long way and are adequately equipped to take excellent photos, just as good as a point and shoot camera and some SLR’s. And because most everyone carries a smartphone nowadays, it is already with you and ready at the hip to take a quick shot. The photo above was taken using my iPhone — no special lighting, filters or lenses. I couldn’t miss this opportunity and grabbed the most available camera I had on hand. If convenient, and you were able to bring a camera bag with you, I would recommend taking an SLR camera with a wide angle lens as well, but typically the camera on your phone will be able to capture interesting and memorable photos if you are able to see things differently, which leads me to…

Tip #2: See the course differently

What separates an amateur photographer from a working professional is the ability to see the everyday in a different way. Now that might be a mind blowing concept for someone who doesn’t take photos very often, but I am talking to golfers and I know for a fact that golfers have an innate ability to visualize – whether it is seeing how the ball will draw/fade, how to manage the swirling breeze that just kicked up or reading a 60-foot putt that appears to have a double break and two elevation changes. That ability to visualize and see things differently is exactly what a photographer does before they take the shot. No one likes a “spray and pray” golfer — same goes for photographers.

For example, it is very common to take a photo at eye level standing up. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but you can make things a bit different and interesting if you were to see the course and the image differently. Maybe stand behind your ball and give it a dramatic view by taking a photo on the ground. The ball is the focal point, but the essence of the photo is still the backdrop of the hole, keeping the viewer well tuned that this is a golf photo on a real golf course. Think about an ant’s eye view rather than the bird’s eye view we are all accustomed to seeing.

Another example would be to take photos of the interesting lies you left yourself with. Maybe you are off the fairway in the woods and there is a small bit of daylight that lets you see the pin a few hundred yards away. Take that image as if you were setting up for the shot, with the ball in the frame and the pin a sliver of color and it gives the viewer a sense of the challenge you faced. Perhaps you ended up dropping the ball in the fairway, but at least the image shows the difficulty level of the shot. And you can always lie about how you punched the shot through the branches and landed it within 10 feet to save par. Bring the viewer to the course the way you saw it and the unconventional suddenly becomes interesting.

Tip #3: Use a focal point

The reason why golf courses design a “signature hole” is to create a focal point, a chosen hole that makes the course interesting and sets it apart from other golf courses in the world. They will use images of the signature hole for promotional purposes to frame and speak to the beauty of their golf course symbolized by this one hole.

Kananaskis 

You don’t necessarily have to wait for the signature hole to take photos though. The course itself has many features that make it different from others, and it is those features that can make a photo stand out. In Arizona, you can use the cacti or the visible division of fairway versus off-fairway details of desert golf to bring interest to the photo. In Orlando, the use of palm trees to line a golf hole makes it certain that this wasn’t a hole in Canada. In Alberta, many holes are framed by evergreen trees and the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, something you would never see in Orlando. Include some golf details where possible to remind yourself that these amazing sights were taken on a golf course.

Other easy examples of focal points to compose interesting images are right in your bag. The reflection of your driver head can be used to capture your foursome and if you are really adventurous, you can hold the driver up off the ground and squeeze in the landscape into the photograph as well. This can be done at the tee box and wouldn’t take much time at all.

Tip#4: It’s all about light

Ask any professional photographer and they will tell you that the secret to taking great photographs of anything is light. Light is what enables us to see an image, and the use of light will determine the mood of a photo. Take a look at the professional golf photos in those calendars and books – you know what you will see? Almost all of them were taken at sunrise or sunset. During those two times of the day, we are given the best natural light for any photos. It is why many of us have a sunset/sunrise photo or two in our collection, we all know it is the most beautiful a sky can get.

So for the early morning golfer and the after work dusk golfer, you are in luck because most any photo you take during these times of the day will turn out really nice (light wise, composition is still up to you). The softness of the sun will always highlight objects and scenery with a pleasant warm glow that will certainly make you look like you knew what you were doing. Though the convention is to never shoot into the sun, it is during this time where you should experiment with it and allow yourself the opportunity to get the sun’s effect on the clouds and how it illuminates the sky with dazzling color.

For the other unfortunate souls who have to deal with midday light, I got nothing for you. Sorry.

Just kidding. In midday light, you will have good results when you have the sun slightly behind you or to the side. Even better is a partially cloudy day when the sun is hidden and the shade provides the best midday light possible. Without getting too technical, shaded light enables you to capture highlights, mid tones and shadows in the image which in turn provides dimension and avoids the appearance of a “flat looking photograph.” Photos at sunrise and sunset are successful because of the dramatic tones and transitions from light to shadow, allowing you to see the undulations of the fairway and greens and giving a sense of depth and dimension.

Tip#5: Take non-golf photos too

This one might take a little convincing, but if you were to enjoy the golf course as a chance to be outdoors and not just an activity where you drink and bet dinners with your friends, you will likely find it is no different than going for a nice walk or hike (just with a few tossed clubs and four letter words thrown in). And when people go for a nice walk or hike, they will take the time to see the flowers or the birds and really immerse themselves into the nature of their surroundings.

If you have a chance, don’t hesitate to take a quick snapshot of the eagle perched on the top of a tree or the flowers that greet you at the tee box. Unlike nature, golf courses are well manicured and taken care of so the flora you come across may seem too perfect. That is a perfect chance to get that image because like a food photo from a magazine, the staging is already done for you and all you need to do is take the photo.

 Stewart Creek

Similar to Tip #3, use your surroundings to remind yourself that you aren’t in your own backyard. Take photos of the interesting features that you don’t see very often at home. I’m personally fascinated by architecture and have enjoyed seeing some of the amazing mid-century modern homes from the 50’s and 60’s that lined many fairways in Palm Springs. These are homes that I only get to see in magazines, and being able to see it in person was thrilling and almost transported me back in time until I had to pull out my 2012-model driver.

Taking photographs during your round is arguably a good way to multitask and can help you feel as though you’ve achieved a lot more than just golf in four hours (and it’s way better than sending work emails). As long as you are able to take the photos within the flow of the game and not slow down the pace of your foursome, you will be rewarded with some great images to share and look back on. It can also tame the frustrations of a challenging 18 hole ordeal — maybe your score didn’t prove it, but at least your photos can provide evidence that it was in fact a beautiful day.

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Dennis lives in Calgary, Canada where golf is available (at best) six months of the year. The other six months are spent understanding the nuances of the game that make it so addicting and wonderfully frustrating. In a perfect world, Dennis would take his set of G10s and his D300S to travel the world playing and photographing the beautiful, unique landcapes of the golf world. For now, he sits at a desk and is developing an eight-layer golf ball simply called "The Tour Ocho."

2 Comments

2 Comments

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    Aug 9, 2014 at 6:47 am

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  2. T.Litz

    Jan 16, 2013 at 12:36 am

    Great points Den. Multitasking does help..in a golf course? for me it’s one or the other. First I suck at golf which I determined later and convinced that I can’t be good at everything so I slowly reduced the amount of energy trying and spend just a tad more into my photography…then there’s bliss.

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Opinion & Analysis

Is golf actually a team sport?

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Do a little research on the top PGA Tour players, and what you’ll see is that most (if not all of them) employ a team of diverse professionals that support their efforts to perform on the golf course. Take two-time major champion Zach Johnson; he has a team that includes a caddie, a swing instructor, a sports psychologist, a physiotherapist, an agent, a statistician, a spiritual mentor, a financial adviser… and of course his wife.

“I know this seems like a lot, and maybe even too much,” Johnson readily admitted. “But each individual has their place. Each place is different in its role and capacity. In order for me to practice, work out and just play golf, I need these individuals along the way. There is a freedom that comes with having such a great group that allows me to just play.”

My best guess is that Zach Johnson commits hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to this team, and I assume most players on the leading professional tours are making significant investments in their “teams.” There are three questions that jump out at this point. First, is a team necessary? Second, how can anyone compete without one? And third, how to pay for it?

From the club player to the collegiate player to the aspiring/touring professional, everyone can benefit from a team that offers individual instruction, support, guidance, and encouragement. Such a team, however, needs to be credible, timely, beneficial and affordable.

To be affordable, serious golfers should build their team one piece at a time. The obvious first choice is a swing coach. Golf swing coaches charge from $100-$1,500 per hour. The cost explains why players have historically been responsible for their own practice. The next piece, which is a newly developing trend, should be a performance coach who specializes in the supervision of practice, training and tournament preparation. Performance coaching on-site fees range from $200 to $3,000 per day.

So is team support essential for a player to be as good as he/she can be? My research says it is. When a player schedules a practice session, that session is usually based on what the player likes to do or wants to do. “Best Practices” utilized by world-class athletes suggest strongly that great progress in training always occurs when someone other than the player writes, administers and supervises the programs and sessions. The team approach says the player should focus on what needs to be done. Sometimes what the player wants to do and the things needed to be done are the same thing; sometimes they aren’t.

Now for the question of how to pay for it all. Wealthy players, or those with substantial or institutional support, have access to what they need or want… whatever the cost. If you use an on-site coach, teacher or other professional you will be paying for blocks of time. Fees can be hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly or lifetime arrangements based upon several factors. If your coach of choice is not local, you can also incur travel and per diem expenses. The process of paying for someone’s time can really add up. You can review what I charge for various services that require my attendance at edmyersgolf.com.

For those of you who don’t have easy access to on-site expertise or don’t want to incur the expense, I want to offer an approach that business, industry, colleges/universities and entrepreneurs are turning to: “Distance Coaching.” Distance learning is made possible through modern technology. In today’s world, expertise can be delivered using FaceTime, Skype, texting, email and (old fashion) phone calls. Textbooks, videos, specific programs and workbooks can be accessed from anywhere at any time by anyone with a desire to do so… and who knows what’s coming in the future. Through Distance Coaching, individuals can employ professional expertise on an as-needed basis without incurring huge costs or expenses.

The primary team expenses that can be avoided are those associated with face-to-face, on-site visits or experiences. Distance Coaching brings whatever any player needs, wants or desires within financial reach. For example, a player in Australia can walk onto the practice ground and have that day’s practice schedule delivered to a personal device by his/her performance coach. The player then forwards the results of that session back to the coach — let’s say in Memphis, Tennessee. The player is then free to move onto other activities knowing that the performance, training and preparation process is engaged and functioning. In the same vein, that same player in Australia may have moved into learning mode and he/she is now recording the golf swing and is sending it to the swing teacher of choice for analysis and comment.

So what is the cost of Distance Coaching? Teachers, trainers and coaches set their own fees based upon their business plan. Some require membership, partnership or some other form of commitment. For example, I offer free performance coaching with the purchase of one of my books or programs, as do others. Where face-to-face, on-site fees for performance coaching is available for $200 a day, the same expertise from the same coach can cost as little as $50 a month using the distance format, tools and technology. I highly recommend that players responsibly research the options available to them and then build the best team that fits their games, desires and goals. I’m happy to forward a guide of what to look for in a performance coach; just ask for it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Back to Zach Johnson; he recently admitted that his lack of recent success could be traced to his lack of focus and practice discipline. Additional, he concedes that he has been practicing the wrong things. “It goes back to the basics,” he said. “I have to do what I do well. Truth be told, what I’m practicing now is more on my strengths than my weaknesses.”

Zach Johnson has a great team, but as he concedes, he still needs to put in the work.

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Opinion & Analysis

What is “feel” in putting… and how do you get it?

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You’re playing a course for the first time, so you arrive an hour early to warm-up. You make your way toward the practice green and you see a sign at the first tee that reads, “GREEN SPEED TODAY 11.”  That brings up two issues:

  1. How did they arrive at that number?
  2. How is that information valuable to me?

How did they arrive at that number?

They used what’s known as a stimpmeter — a device that’s used to measure the speed of a green. With a stimpmeter, the green’s surface is tested by rolling a ball down the 30-inch ramp that is tilted downward at a 20-degree angle. The number of feet the ball rolls after leaving the ramp is an indication of the green’s speed. The green-speed test is conducted on a flat surface. A total of three balls are rolled in three different directions. The three balls must then finish within eight inches of each other for the test to be valid.

For example, if the ball is rolled down the ramp and were to stop at 8 feet, the green would be running at an “8.” Were the ball to roll down the ramp and stop at 12 feet, the green would be running at a “12.”

Stimpmeter history

The stimpmeter was invented by Edward S. Stimpson, Sr., a Massachusetts State Amateur Champion and former Harvard Golf Team Captain. After attending the 1935 U.S. Open at Oakmont, he saw the need for a universal testing device after watching Gene Sarazen, who was at the top of his game, putt a ball off the green. He was of the opinion that the greens were unreasonably fast, but he had no way to prove it — thus the motivation for creating the invention.

The device is now used by superintendents to make sure all of their greens are rolling close to the same speed. This ensures that golfers are not guessing from one putt to another if a green is fast or slow based on the way it is maintained. The device is also used by tournament officials who want to make sure that green speed is not too severe.

Do Stimp readings matter for my game?

Not very much. That piece of abstract knowledge is of little value until you can translate it into your own personal feel for the speed of the putt. There is a method that will allow you to turn green speed into a legitimate feel, however, and you don’t even need a stimpmeter or a stimp reading to do it. I call it “Setting Your Own Stimpmeter.”

Before we get to how to do it, the first step is to determine if the putting green is the same speed as the greens on the course. The best source of information in this regard are the professionals working in the golf shop. They will be happy to share this information with you. You only need to ask. Assuming that the speed of the putting green is close to the speed of the greens on the course, you are ready to begin setting your own stimpmeter. This is done by inputting data into your neuromuscular system by rolling putts and visually observing the outcome.

Contrary to what most golfers believe, a golfer’s feel for distance is based in the eyes — not in the hands, which only records tactile information. It’s just like basketball. On the court, you look at the distance to the hoop and respond accordingly. While you would feel the ball in your hands, it doesn’t play a role in determining the proper distance to the hoop. Based on what you saw with your eyes, you would access the data that had been previously inputted through shooting practice.

Setting your own Stimpmeter

  1. Start by finding a location on the putting green that is flat and roughly 15 feet away from the fringe.
  2. Using five balls, start rolling putts one at a time toward the fringe. The objective is to roll them just hard enough for them to finish against the edge.
  3. You may be short of the fringe or long, but it is important that you do not judge the outcome— just observe, because the feel for distance is visually based.
  4. You should not try and judge the feel of the putt with your hands or any other part of your body. You can only process information in one sensory system at a time — that should be the eyes.
  5. You should continue to roll balls until you’ve reach the point that most of them are consistently finishing against the fringe. Once you can do that, you have successfully set you stimpmeter.

The key to the entire process is allowing yourself to make a subconscious connection between what your eyes have observed and the associated outcome. You must then trust what you have learned at a sub-conscious level. A conscious attempt to produce a given outcome will short-circuit the system. When it comes to judging speed, you must be prepared to surrender your conscious mind to your sub-conscious mind, which is infinitely wiser and more capable of calculating speed. Want proof? Work through the steps I’ve outlined below. .

  1. After having loaded the data as described in the exercise above, pace off a 25-foot putt.
  2. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole as you would normally using your conscious mind to control the outcome.
  3. Mark the location of the five balls with a tee pushing them down until they are level with the surface of the green.
  4. Allow your eyes to work slowly from the ball to the hole while clearing your conscious mind of any thought.
  5. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole allowing your subconscious mind to control the outcome.
  6. Compare the proximity of the five putts that you just hit to those marked with a tee. What do you observe?

Did you have trouble clearing your mind of any conscious thought? Assuming that your conscious mind intruded at any point, the outcome would be negatively affected. You should then repeat the exercise but this time, emptying your mind of any thought. You will have mastered the technique when you are able to quiet your conscious mind and allow your subconscious to take over.

This technique will improve your proximity to the hole on longer putts. And you know what that means? Fewer three-putts!

Editor’s Note: Rod Lindenberg has authored a book entitled “The Three-Putt Solution”  that is now available through Amazon. 

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Podcasts

TG2: What is this new Callaway iron? A deep investigation…

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Photos of a new Callaway iron popped up in the GolfWRX Forums, and equipment expert Brian Knudson and Editor Andrew Tursky discuss what exactly the new iron could be; new Apex pros, new Legacy irons, or maybe even a new X Forged? Also, the guys discuss Phil’s U.S. Open antics and apology, DJ’s driver shaft change, new Srixon drivers and utility irons, and a new Raw iron offering from Wilson. Enjoy the golf equipment packed show!

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

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