I’m on a trip now where there won’t be any golf for almost three weeks. Since I live in Southern California and play year-round, this will be the longest I’ve gone without teeing it up in probably 14 years.
Three weeks seems like an eternity to not pick up a 7-iron to me, but I realized as I talked with other golfers before the trip that some of us endure even longer layoffs over the course of a year.
“I’m from New York,” Albert told me while playing a vacation round in Orange County. “I’m feeling like I’m just getting the hang of the game again after a few months off. We didn’t start playing until mid-March this year so I didn’t pick up a club from November until then.”
I asked him if he has to relearn the game each spring.
[quote_box_center]“No, I have the same swing — I just hit the ball shorter every year. No, really though, it’s the short game, the touch, that takes a while to get back to. By the end of the summer I’ll be in mid-season form, finally, and just about then it will start getting colder and once there’s frost our course closes for the season.”[/quote_box_center]
“Let’s see…the longest I’ve gone without playing is probably a month or two, but that was a few years ago,” C.J. from Long Beach said. He’s probably in his mid-40s and he’s a 5 handicap. “I usually play every weekend, once or twice, and I try to practice at least once a week.” He was on the driving range at Recreation Park.
“We have some nice short courses around here, too, so during the summer when it’s light late I’ll play there. If I had to go two weeks without playing I might go through withdrawal.”
Sometimes you’ll hear a pro golfer say after three consecutive tournaments that he needs a break, and when he comes back a few weeks later I’ll read how he never picked up a club for two weeks.
“I feel like I’d lose my swing if I went that long without playing,” C.J. said.
I found Matt at another driving range — this might sound like the set-up of a bad golf joke, but no, he was hitting balls off of the grass. “I haven’t played for like two months,” he said.
“But I’m playing with some old fraternity brothers Saturday at White Dove and I don’t want to look like a total fool,” he said while hitting driver after driver, each one struck solidly but often a little right, and then once, way right.
“See,” he said after the big slice, “that’s what I can’t do Saturday, but when you don’t play very often, it’s hard not to.”
I asked him why he doesn’t play more often.
[quote_box_center]“I like golf but it takes too much time, costs too much money, and it’s too hard to play well,” he said. “I get frustrated when I’m out there if I suck really bad. I need to play more to get better but because I don’t have much time or want to spend the money, that’s hard to do.”[/quote_box_center]
I played 36 holes one day the other week to celebrate my birthday and in my morning round one of the guys I was paired with, Rodney, said he had played golf at least once every month for 18 years and counting. That didn’t sound that impressive to me until he mentioned that he’d lived near Detroit for the first eight of those years.
“During the winter sometimes I’d drive down near Cincinnati to play if I had to, even then sometimes it was barely in the 40s outside.”
“That takes dedication,” I said, perhaps in understatement.
“Yeah, but it got me out of the house and on one of those drives I decided it was time to move to California. My wife says it was the best idea I ever had, besides marrying her.”
I asked Rodney how long he goes between rounds now. “Play every weekend and every Wednesday,” he said. “So I have no excuse for playing as badly as I am today. But Saturday will be another story, that’s when I’m with my boys and I’ll take their money.”
In my afternoon birthday round I played with a couple from San Diego. Carol made more pars than her husband, Edward, through the front nine but she confided to me, “He’s having a really bad day…”
“We’re going to play again tomorrow,” Edward said. “Maybe I’ll get my game figured out by then.”
Inconsistency is the one trait infrequent golfers usually share. They hit enough good shots to know they can do it and so they visualize and even expect that good outcome, but because they haven’t played enough to hone their skills they’ll sometimes hit embarrassing shots.
“I think if I could play twice a week every week,” Edward said on the back nine after he’d started making a few pars, “then I could really start playing well.”
I asked how long it had been since his last round.
“A couple of weeks. We’re doing some remodeling and I’ve been helping with that and it seems like there’s always something to do that stops me from playing.”
The other guy in our foursome was Evan. He told me that he played pretty much every weekend, but usually never picks up a club from Sunday afternoon to Saturday morning.
“Some Saturdays I feel like I’m just relearning the game for the first few holes, even if I go to the range to warm up before the round,” he said. “In some ways the Saturday rounds are almost practice rounds and I play my best golf on Sundays when I’ve played the day before.”
I told him I was going away and wouldn’t be near a golf club for more than three weeks.
He’d seen me kick my way around to a 43 on the front nine. “Good luck with that,” he said. “My advice: Don’t bet with anybody the first round back.”
How long do you usually go between rounds? Let us know in the comments section below. And check out the inspirational story of one golfer trying to shoot the round of his life at 7-ironpress.com. The book is called A Perfect Lie – The Hole Truth and you can get free shipping on the paperback with the code GOLFWRX, or $4 off the e-book when you enter the code GOLFWRX1 at check-out.
The Wedge Guy: A Tale of Two Misses
It seems like I somewhat “touched a nerve” with last week’s post ‘A Defense of Blades’, based on the scoring you all gave my take on that controversial topic.
I do appreciate it when you take the time to score your reaction to my work, as it keeps me tuned in to what you really want me to pontificate about. Before I get into today’s topic, I request that any of you who have a subject you’d like me to address please drop me an email at [email protected], OK?
So, in somewhat of a follow-up to last week, let’s talk today about misses. Those too frequent shots that move your scores in the wrong direction.
Early in my life, I was always part of “the group” of low-handicap players who had various kinds of “money games”, but that put me in touch only with other low-handicap players who were highly competitive. Just as I was getting fully engaged in the golf equipment industry in the early 1980s, I was blessed to be a part of a group at my club called “The Grinders”. We had standing tee times every day…so if you could get away, you played. There were about 35-40 of us who might show up, with as many as 6-7 groups going off on Fridays and Saturdays.
These guys sported handicaps from scratch to 20, and we threw up balls to see how we were paired, so for twenty years, I had up close and personal observation of a variety of “lab rats.”
This let me observe and study how many different ways there were to approach the game and how many different kinds of mishits could happen in a round of golf. As a golf industry marketer and club designer, I couldn’t have planned it any better.
So back to a continuation of the topic of last week, the type of irons you choose to play should reflect the kinds of misses you are hoping to help. And the cold, hard truth is this:
We as golf club designers, engineers and fitters, can only do so much to help the outcome of any given shot.
Generally, mishits will fall into two categories – the “swing miss” and the “impact miss”.
Let’s start with the former, as it is a vast category of possibilities.
The “swing miss” occurs when the swing you made never had a chance of producing the golf shot you had hoped to see. The clubhead was not on a good path through impact, and/or the clubface was not at all square to the target line. This can produce any number of outcomes that are wildly wrong, such as a cold skull of the ball, laying the sod over it, hard block to the right (for a right-hand player), smother hook…I think you get the point.
The smaller swing misses might be a draw that turns over a bit too much because you rotated through impact a bit aggressively or a planned draw that doesn’t turn over at all because you didn’t. Or it could be the shot that flies a bit too high because you released the club a bit early…or much too low because you had your hands excessively ahead of the clubhead through impact.
The swing miss could be simply that you made a pretty darn good swing, but your alignment was not good, or the ball position was a bit too far forward in your swing…or too far back. Basically, the possible variations of a “swing miss” are practically endless and affect tour pros and recreational golfers alike.
The cruel fact is that most recreational golfers do not have solid enough swing mechanics or playing disciplines to deliver the clubhead to the ball in a consistent manner. It starts with a fundamentally sound hold on the club. From there, the only solution is to make a commitment to learn more about the golf swing and your golf swing and embark on a journey to become a more consistent striker of the golf ball. I would suggest that this is one of the most fascinating aspects of the game and encourage anyone who loves golf to go down this path.
But today’s post is about “mishits”, so let’s move on the other and much smaller category of misses…the “impact miss”. As a 40-year golf club designer, this is the world in which I function and, unfortunately, to which I am limited.
The “impact miss” is when most of the elements of the swing pretty much fall into place, so that the club is delivered pretty accurately to the ball…on the right path…face square to the target line at impact…but you miss the sweet spot of the club by just a bit.
Finding ways of getting better results out of those mishits is the singular goal of the entire golf club industry.
Big drivers of today are so much more forgiving of a 1/8 to ½ inch miss than even drivers of a decade ago, it’s crazy. Center strikes are better, of course, with our fast faces and Star Wars technology, but the biggest value of these big drivers is that your mishits fly much more like a perfect hit than ever before. In my own launch monitor testing of my current model driver to an old Reid Lockhart persimmon driver of the mid-1990s, I see that dead center hits are 20-25 yards different, but mishits can be as far as 75-80 yards apart, the advantage obviously going to the modern driver.
The difference is not nearly as striking with game improvement irons versus a pure forged one-piece blade. If the lofts and other specs are the same, the distance a pure strike travels is only a few yards more with the game improvement design, but a slight mishit can see that differential increase to 12-15 yards. But, as I noted in last week’s article, this difference tends to reduce as the lofts increase. Blades and GI irons are much less different in the 8- and 9-irons than in the lower lofts.
This has gotten a bit longer than usual, so how about I wrap up this topic next week with “A Tale of Two Misses – Part 2”? I promise to share some robotic testing insights that might surprise you.
Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: World Long Drive! Go Mu!
In this week’s podcast we discuss Wisdom In Golf Premium, new ways to help and fun talk about rules and etiquette.
Vincenzi: How the 2022 Presidents Cup actually grew the game
As fall approached, the world of professional golf was drowning in a sea of continuous division and animosity.
The Presidents Cup, which should have been a silver lining in the most tumultuous time in the history of the sport, had suddenly become a pasquinade.
The Internationals had always been an underdog and had just one win in fourteen tries against the Americans.
In 2019, the scrappy Internationals led by Ernie Els gave the United States team led by Tiger Woods all that they could handle at Royal Melbourne. The United States retained the cup, winning the competition 16–14, but the Els’ team fought to the end. The future was bright for professional golf on the world stage.
In 2022, things were different. The Internationals had just lost arguably their two best players in Cameron Smith and Joaquin Niemann, plus a handful of other Presidents Cup shoe-ins including Louis Oosthuizen and Abraham Ancer.
The International players who had joined the controversial LIV Golf series were deemed ineligible to participate in the competition, which resulted in the decimation of what should have been a deep and competitive team of Internationals. By the time the event started, the United States had ballooned to a -900 favorite.
One phrase that’s been repeated ad nauseum over the past few months has been “grow the game”.
After a bleak opening few days at the Presidents Cup, we caught a glimpse of what “growing the game” looked like over the weekend.
There are plenty of ways to potentially grow the game of golf. One of those ways unfolded in real time at Quail Hollow thanks in part to a spirited group of Asian golfers who refused to let their team go quietly into the night.
First, there was the budding superstar, Tom Kim.
Kim scored two points for the Internationals, but the impact he had on the event dwarfed his point total. The South Korean hijacked the event with his charisma, energy and determination to help his team succeed. Golf fans were treated to memorable moment after memorable moment whenever the 20-year-old was on their television screen.
Kim had already had a handful of moments that will live in our memories for many Presidents Cups to come, but the most memorable came on the 18th hole of Saturday’s afternoon foursomes. Facing a seemingly invincible duo of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, Kim put a 2-iron to less than six feet of the hole. He then sunk the clutch putt to knock off the fourth and fifth ranked players in the world.
TOM KIM FOR THE WIN!!!
— Presidents Cup International Team (@IntlTeam) September 24, 2022
Tom wasn’t the only “Kim” to leave a lasting impact at the 2022 Presidents Cup. Fellow South Korean Si Woo Kim had his share of memorable moments as well.
Going into Sunday singles, the Internationals were trailing 11-7 and in need of a historic day. Typically, the trailing team will “frontload” their best players to attempt a comeback. When United States captain Davis Love III called the name of Justin Thomas to lead off in the first match of the day, many expected the international team captain Trevor Immelmann to call the name of Hideki Matsuyama or Adam Scott. Instead, he called the name of Si Woo Kim.
Si Woo did not disappoint. Kim took out the de-facto leader of the United States team 1-up. The 27-year-old didn’t shy away from the spotlight, and matched Thomas both in his ability to sink clutch putts and to bring energy with his animated style of play.
— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) September 25, 2022
Tom Kim and Si Woo Kim provided some of the most memorable moments of the Presidents Cup, but it’s Sungjae Im who’s been the best player for the Internationals in both 2019 and 2022.
Back in 2019, Sungjae tied with Abraham Ancer for the leading points scorer (3.5) for the Internationals during their narrow defeat in Australia. He was a rookie then, but this year he was depended upon to go against some on the United States best teams and delivered, scoring 2.5 points and knocking off young American star Cameron Young in their singles match.
PGATOUR: Winning in style @IntlTeam.
— Triple Bogey Golf Club (@TripleBogeyGC) September 25, 2022
As influential as the performances by the trio of South Koreans were, the overall impact of Asian golfers cannot be discussed without mentioning Hideki Matsuyama.
The 2021 Masters Champion has long been rumored to be interested in joining LIV Golf, but he was at Quail Hollow competing alongside his International teammates.
Stars were born at the 2022 Presidents Cup, but Matsuyama has been “growing the game” for what feels like a lifetime. Labeled from an early age as the savior for Japanese golf, Hideki has delivered time and time again. The former young prodigy has slowly but surely turned into a pillar of global golf and leader of the Internationals.
After a slow start, Hideki was able to grind out a win and a tie to help the Internationals remain competitive throughout the weekend.
While the Internationals were eventually defeated 17.5-12.5, a more important mission that cannot be measured by wins and losses was undoubtedly accomplished.
Amongst all of the turmoil and strife in the world golf, it’s easy to forget how much the game means to so many people.
Countless young golfers across the world went to bed on Sunday night and dreamt of being the next Tom Kim, Si Woo Kim or Hideki Matsuyama.
That sounds like an excellent way to “grow the game”.
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