Warning: Swanson, the author of this story, does not exist… except in his writing. His character is completely imagined, but that doesn’t mean his opinions aren’t real.
Recently, I shared with the GolfWRX community my golden nuggets for selecting the 14 clubs in your bag, as to abide by the USGA maximum club rule. Some of you were astoundingly unappreciative. I’ve been getting hate mail and negative comments since it’s been published.
Therefore, I’d like to use the first half of this story to address the responses, which are utterly appalling. The second half of this week’s article will be dedicated to an equipment tip for Jordan Spieth to improve his game and avoid any future meltdowns.
Responding to the Hate
Swanson: “Duffer,” you sound like quite the stick. But think about this: If I couldn’t hit a 1-iron better than Hogan (he actually hit it too low), would you care what I had to say? Golfers always complain that the best teachers can’t play a lick or hit it out of their shadow. Consider me your saving grace. How’s this: I’ll play each of the top-100 teachers in match play, and we’ll see who knows more about golf.
Swanson: Loser? I remember the last time I needed a 2-iron to reach a par 5. It was around when Bush was in office… Bush Sr. If you want to play for big prize money, you can find me at my country club every week with a locker full of cash and a tee time.
Swanson: 17 handicap, yes. When I play the entire round with a putter.
Swanson: Stab at Ian Poulter? Uh no, he’s a family friend. My father sold Poults his first Ferrari back in ’92 before my father bought Ferrari (the company).
Swanson: Funny story. I’m good buddies with the character on which Spaulding Smails is based. He’s a “good egg,” as they say. And in case you haven’t noticed, I’m named after the driver of the boat in Caddyshack, since my father loves boats and yachts.
“Move over Swanson, I’m driving!” Just never gets old!
Swanson: They’re handmade by the Dalai Lama’s right-hand man, and I have his cell number if you’re serious. Message me and I’ll get you a price estimate.
Swanson: The last part of the last sentence was spot on.
An equipment tip for Jordan Spieth
I actually feel bad for Jordan. He probably thinks he choked The Masters away. I mean he did, but it wasn’t his fault. I went through literally the same exact thing, so I know what happened.
You see, I’ve also hit a tee shot into the water on No. 12 at Augusta National (I also used the drop zone and got up and down for bogey, but that’s not the point). I got fit for new irons the week before I played Augusta for the first time. Admittedly, I wasn’t the stellar ball striker I am now, so the fitter put me into a set of game-improvement style irons. You know, thick top line, cavity back, thin face… the whole works. They were basically garbage cans, but who was I to question the fitter, right?
So I get to Augusta National with a bag full of shovels, and I struggled a bit on the front nine and made the turn in a few under par. The par 5s are basically par 4s, and the par 4s are basically par-3.5’s, so nothing special. I just wasn’t catching the new irons flush, and didn’t have the precision I had with my forged blades.
Nos. 10 and 11 aren’t nearly as difficult as the pros claim, so I cruise through those with easy pars. But then I get to the 12th.
The pin was all the way on the right, similar to where it is on Sunday for the Masters. The hole was playing 154 yards and the wind was swirling. I decided to try and take the wind out of play, and went with a low-slinging draw with my 9 iron. It’s a shot I’d hit a million times with my forged blades, but the ball floated out to the right and never drew back to the pin.
I knew immediately it was the club’s fault. The forgiveness of the irons kept the ball from drawing back to the pin.
I went onto birdie 5 of the last 6 holes (I missed 3-foot eagle putts on Nos. 13 and 15 because I was flustered), and would have had the course record (which is only 63) if it wasn’t for my irons.
But I learned my lesson. That was the last day I ever played an iron with even an ounce of “technology” in it. In fact, after the round I took a NetJets home to get my forged blade irons, and played the course again the next day. I couldn’t get it going with the putter and shot 66… but I made a hole-in-one on No. 12.
They say there’s only been three holes-in-one on that hole, but there’s actually been four. When I told the committee at Augusta National I made a hole-in-one there with a low-squeezer 9 iron, they didn’t believe me, and no one was there to attest. They no longer allow me on the premises because of the dispute, but if you jump into the pond in front of the green, you’ll find a set of game-improvement irons.
And that’s where Jordan Spieth’s irons should be, too. If he wants to win any more majors, he needs to ditch those irons with all that forgiveness and switch to blades. It’s no wonder he hit the worst tee shot I’ve ever seen there, he had zero ball control.
Please email ([email protected]) or tweet me (@longballswan1) with questions you’d like me to answer for a new segment called “Yo, Swanson!” I’ll answer anything you want since I know pretty much everything about everything golf-related, and I can help you avoid you’re own major meltdown.
Longball Swanson, out.
Ways to Win: Risk management – Cink uses experience to beat the young guns
In “Ways to Win,” we track the PGA Tour winner’s rounds using the V1 Game mobile app and then analyze how they got the job done using the same tools available to V1 Game users.
Following up his earlier victory this season at the Safeway Open, Stewart Cink did it again and ran away with the RBC Heritage this past weekend. This time, he essentially won the tournament by blitzing the field on Thursday and Friday with a pair of 63s to set the 36-hole scoring mark for the tournament. Cink made it look easy those first two days with his well rounded game, allowing him to coast down the finish. He was never truly challenged on Sunday and cruised to a four-stroke victory and his second of the season as a 47-year-old.
Using the Strokes Gained analysis from V1 Game, it is clear that Cink did the separating with all areas of his game on the first two days.
Cink was hitting it close and making putts, a time-honored recipe for success. Interestingly enough, his putting started to wane over the weekend despite his irons staying relatively hot on Saturday. He actually lost over a stroke to the field on each weekend day with his putter. Still, by that point, Cink just needed to avoid mistakes and force someone to make a big run to catch him. That big run never came and the leader did an excellent job of avoiding mistakes over the course of four rounds. Part of minimizing mistakes is a newly-implemented risk system created by Cink and his son, now caddie. Cink simply takes environmental and course condition factors into play and grades the shot as red, yellow, or green. This helps him pick conservative targets that he can be aggressive to and prevents costly errors.
In fact, using V1 Game’s Virtual Coach, Cink had zero three-putts, zero two-chips, and only a single penalty on the week. He played nearly to his potential and maximized his return on the excellent ball striking.
If there was anything to improve on for Cink, V1 Game tells us it would be driving, followed by putting. However, that would just further elevate him above the field. He led the week in Strokes Gained Tee2Green and in Greens in Regulation (GIR).
Not only was Cink hitting greens (almost 80 percent of them), he was also hitting iron and wedge shots close. Using the V1 Game proximity view, Cink averaged six feet for shots inside 75 yards and just 24 feet for shots from 175-200 yards. Talk about stuffing it! This takes a tremendous amount of pressure off of his putter where he was not challenged to lag from great distances.
The histogram view from V1 Game shows Cink gained significant strokes on the field from each yardage bucket under 200 yards. While he lost strokes off the tee and with mid-range putts, Stewart was solid throughout the bag with no real weakness. When he did miss the rare green, his short game was up to the task and made it easy for him to scramble for those crucial par saves.
Most 47-year-old PGA Tour players have more of an eye towards the PGA Tour Champions, which becomes available at 50 years of age, however Cink has found a way to compete with the young guns. Consistent golf and solid ball striking is always rewarded. His golf was impressive and the change to his son as caddie seems to be paying dividends. If you need your own caddie that can help you choose the right targets and pull the right club, download the free V1 Game app today and take advantage of the Virtual Caddie. Virtual Caddie learns from your golf and helps give specific advice tuned to your game, much like a seasoned caddie on the PGA Tour. Whether you are learning the game or a seasoned veteran like Stewart Cink, V1 Game can help you play your best golf at any age.
Best irons of 2021 Part 1 on GolfWRX Radio
What are the best irons of 2021? GolfWRX Staffers Brian Knudson and Ryan Barath break down the 2021 Best Irons lists that were published this week.
The Wedge Guy: Playing your best
No matter what our experience, ability and handicap, all of us golfers have one thing in common–we want to play the best we can every time we tee it up. But unfortunately, that is not always the case. Having a bad day on the course is just part of the game, it seems, regardless of your skill level. But there are things we can do to make that happen less often, and other ways to get back on track when a round begins to go awry.
Let’s start with giving ourselves the best chance of a good round every time.
Setting up a good round
It all starts on your drive to the course, or even when you are getting dressed to go play. Think about good shots you’ve been hitting recently, and good swings you’ve made. Picture drives that were long and straight, iron shots that just hunted the flag, recovery shots that saved par and putts that dropped. I know it’s a cliché, but there really is no substitute for positive thoughts when it comes to golf.
When you get to the course, whether you change shoes in the parking lot or the locker room, S-L-O-W….D-O-W-N. Savor the fact that you have a round of golf in front of you —not work, not yard or house chores. It is time for F-U-N!
Give yourself a chance to perform your best golf right from the first tee
If it’s worth taking a few hours out of your day, it’s darn sure worth taking an extra 10-15 minutes to give yourself a chance. Stretch your legs and back/shoulder muscles that have shortened up from a few days or a week at the office and/or even a few hours of sleep. This is crucial to performing your best. Take a dozen or two back and forth horizontal swings with your sand wedge to get the blood flowing. These aren’t “practice swings” but more like baseball swings to further stretch out your shoulders and back and upper arms and get the feel of the club in your hands.
And for Pete’s sake, hit at least a dozen or so shots before you go to the first tee. At least a few chips and/or pitches and some putts. You have to get the feel of impact refreshed to have a chance.
Getting the derailed train back on track
We all are going to hit bad shots, no matter what kind of game you have, but what wrecks a round is when you get it going sideways for more than one hole. When that happens, the round can still be saved, but the key is to remove the stress caused by the bad shots or holes and build on something you can believe in. It is normal to find yourself tightening up as a result of a bad hole or two, so take an extra minute to “step outside”. Walk away from your group (since you are probably last to hit now anyway), and take some deep breaths. Get your tension down and get positive thoughts back into your head. Take some practice swings with those positive thoughts back in mind.
Here are what I find to be four keys to getting the train back on track
Reach for the 3-wood. If you have hit a couple of bad drives, drop back to the 3-wood, and get one in the fairway. It won’t be all that much shorter than your driver, and it will build some confidence. If the driver is the problem, in fact, bench it for the rest of the round.
Play to the “safe” side. If your iron shots are not sharp, play to the safe side of the greens and give yourself a chance to avoid the big number and put a par or two on the card. When you get your “mojo” back, you can fire at the flags again.
Play the fault. If you are blocking shots right, or a hook has raised its ugly head, play it! That is, if you can’t find the fault and fix it quickly. The range is the place to fix things, the course is for scoring. Unless you can find the fix quickly, just “dance with who brung you.”
Loosen up. A few bad shots will cause us to build body tension, and the first place that manifests is in our grip pressure. You cannot hold a golf club lightly enough, in my opinion–your body won’t let you. But you sure can get into a death grip quickly when the tension mounts. Run a mental check on your grip pressure and lighten up, particularly in the right thumb and forefingers. It will change things immediately.
So, there are my thoughts on playing your best. I’ll bet the readers have their own suggestions, too, so let’s all share our ideas, OK? This should be fun and informative for all of us.
And as always, if you have a topic you would like me to address in a future column, just shoot me an email to [email protected].
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