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Opinion & Analysis

Mizuno Sticks and Mile High Golf

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Winston Churchill is credited for saying, “Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an ever smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.” Is it fair to say that the last piece of that quote applies to life as well?

I recently spent a few days in the Rocky Mountains. Colorado Springs, Colorado, to be precise. A business trip landed me in a government hotel that looked more like an abandoned asylum than it did a hotel. If it had been on my dime, I wouldn’t have even walked into the sad excuse for a lobby. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have even tapped the brakes as I drove by in my rental car. This place was ill-equipped to be a hotel.

51179990374__38ACAE47-DA5E-4400-BC24-2C6F07309B1EUsing my years old keycard, with which I’d gotten the warning, “Don’t put it in the same pocket as your phone or it will deactivate it and I’m only allowed to give you two extra ones,” I entered my room with minimal hope that the renovation just hadn’t made it to the outside of the building. My hopes were dashed when I saw floral border, a window A/C unit and a Sharp tube television resting on a piece of furniture that resembled something I’d once placed on the sidewalk after moving out of a college apartment. But the mountains have a way of forcing the give-a-damn out of you.

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The first couple of work days ended a bit early and around 3:30 p.m., so on Wednesday I found myself suddenly with about four hours of daylight to fill. What better to do than play golf, right?

I found the local course and walked into the clubhouse, which, much to my surprise, was infinitely nicer than my sorry excuse for lodging. I asked what rental clubs they had expecting to hear only one option: Callaway Strata 12-piece men’s set. Also to my surprise, they offered premium rentals that included a Titleist set of either AP1 or AP2 irons, all 2017 Titleist woods and hybrids and a Cleveland milled putter. They also offered the new Mizuno JPX-900 irons in both cast and forged models (with Project X 5.5 shafts) and the new Mizuno JPX hybrid and woods. “I’ll have the Mizunos, please.” Those weapons are not ill-designed for the task.

IMG_0783Earlier that day I’d been driving back from eating lunch and the Rockies were on the right side of the road. As the radio shuffled through the playlist on my phone, an old Vince Gill song came through the speakers, “Go Rest High On That Mountain.” When that song came on the radio I found myself about halfway through singing along with Vince. And before it was over, I had to wipe my eyes. (If by some stretch of the imagination you’ve never heard this song, you must watch this video of him doing it in tribute to George Jones, you can skip to 7:20 in the video.)

What you must know about me, though, is that I’m a broken man. In 2013 my wife and I brought a little girl into this world. She was about seven pounds with dark hair and beautiful eyes. In 2014, while I was deployed to Afghanistan, she got really sick. So sick that I had to leave Afghanistan to be by her side. After many weeks in the hospital, she didn’t make it. A terrible combination of influenza and a respiratory virus was more than her nine-month-old body could handle. It was, and continues to be, devastating. But there are two ways you spiral after a family tragedy of that magnitude: up or down. There’s little room to stay in between.

Over the next three years I would write a lot and play golf, often doing one or both of those things at the expense of spending time with my family. As Churchill said, we are often using weapons in life that are ill-designed to deal with such an event as the loss of a child. In that video Vince Gill says, “Brother George [Jones] taught us all how sing with a broken heart.” If we can learn how to play golf with a crooked stick, then we can learn how to go through life with the broken hearts we pile up along our path. It’s just that sometimes we need reminding.

As I pulled the cart strap around the bag and clamped it down, I looked up at the mountains that embrace the property and thought about the Vince Gill song. I also thought about my daughter. It’s hard to convey the existential things that happen on a golf course when you play by yourself. It doesn’t happen all that often, but when it does you can’t help but share it with someone. When I rented the Mizunos in the clubhouse, all I was trying to do was take an opportunity to play golf and try out some clubs that were creating buzz in the golf world. What ended up happening was some unexpected healing.

My opening tee shot went a little right (I blamed it on the new driver). I hopped in and steered the cart to the opposite side of the hole, veering off the cart path to find my ball in some slight rough. I promptly hit a wedge just short of the green (my altitude calculations for yardage weren’t very precise), jumped back in the cart and drove to the green. Pumping the parking brake on the cart, I got out and saw the marshall approaching the green. He said, “It’s cart-path only on the course today,” and I apologized. At first, I was annoyed because neither the pro nor the marshall had given me this information and, had I known that I wouldn’t have paid for a cart.

With bygones being bygones, I went about my round. It turns out, the cart-path only status gave me more time to walk and take in the scenery, so there’s the first uptick in the spiral. Since I was alone, I started playing music through my iPhone and kept on rolling. As I tell you the next part of this story it will be hard for you not to think I made it up, but I promise, it happened just as you read it.

I played the first 11 holes just letting one of my playlists cycle through some ballads (I’m a ballad kind of guy) and I pulled up to the par-4 12th hole. When I stepped out of the cart I grabbed my phone out of my pocket to take a picture and that damn Vince Gill song came on again. While the intro was playing, I took this picture.

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I had to reset over the golf ball three times because I couldn’t keep my composure. Finally, on the fourth attempt, I striped a drive right over that fairway bunker you see, almost directly in line with the top of that mountain. When I got to my ball the song was about halfway through and Vince Gill was in the middle of a silky guitar solo. I played the shot to the front of the green and it bounced up to about 25 feet. To that point, I hadn’t made a birdie in the round and didn’t expect this one to fall either. (I wasn’t worried about the score all that much with rented clubs at 8,000 feet above sea level.) The universe had other plans.

I parked the cart and walked to the green with my Cleveland milled putter in hand, pulled the flag and lined up my putt. I set up over the ball and took my practice strokes looking at the hole (as I always do). As I placed the putter behind the ball I could still hear the song playing in my pocket. I made the stroke and the ball took off. It broke about six inches around the halfway mark (not what I read) and fell into the hole. It would be the only birdie I’d make all day.

As I replaced the flag and walked off the green the music stopped. I’d reached the end of my playlist.

I finished the round in quiet solitude, admiring the mountains and the lesson they’d taught me. Sometimes, in order to move forward in life, ill-designed tools are the only thing you need. And sometimes, they aren’t so ill-designed. Maybe golf is a game where we play with weapons better suited for chopping down baby trees or tilling a garden, but if it were easy it wouldn’t be something you did for a lifetime.

I’ve been playing golf for over half my life to some degree, and it’s never meant more to me than it did that day. Not because of any specific shot, but because of the power residing in the desire to improve at something. I walked into the clubhouse expecting to get some rentals and play a round of golf, then grab some dinner and spend the rest of the night in the room. I did those things, but somewhere in the middle of the round I realized that I’d been trying to avoid dealing with something terrible that happened to my family, something I couldn’t control and can’t change.

That’s why we love golf, right? Because we think that we can control the outcome with enough grinding and mindless practice. As we all soon learn, though, mindless practice will get you nowhere in this game… and that’s the same in life. I don’t want to build up the moment on 12th hole as something that will will forever change my life; it’s too early to tell, but it did change my day and my week.

Churchill was right, we’re trying to hit a “very small ball.” The last time I checked, though, the hole was bigger than the ball.

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Adam Crawford is a writer of many topics but golf has always been at the forefront. An avid player and student of the game, Adam seeks to understand both the analytical side of the game as well as the human aspect - which he finds the most important. You can find his books at his website, chandlercrawford.com, or on Amazon.

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Rev G

    Apr 27, 2017 at 8:24 am

    I’ve always enjoyed your articles Adam, but for many reasons, this was your best.

    • Adam Crawford

      Apr 27, 2017 at 8:04 pm

      Thanks, man. Really appreciate that.

  2. Dan

    Apr 26, 2017 at 11:47 am

    Probably the best article I’ve read in a long time.
    I can only try to imagine the pain you’ve been through.
    Though, I felt like I was feeling the same emotions reading thru paragraphs.
    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful thoughts, Adam.

  3. Edge of Lean

    Apr 25, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    Adam, there is a saying in the Christian world that “Joy shared is double joy; Sorrow shared is half sorrow.”
    It may seem like emotional tripe, but the sentiment is real. Having lost a child, I share your sorrow. But, to quote the Good Book again, “Joy comes in the morning.” I wish you strength to go on, until that beautiful sunrise.

  4. Jim H

    Apr 24, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Somebody must be cutting up onions in here. Anyone with kids truly understands the anguish you have been experiencing Adam. Please keep that spiral to the high side, as though seeking the Rocky Mountain peaks. Living south of Denver for almost 40 years, the mountains are truly a magical sight for me on a daily basis. But now I will also think of you and say a prayer for you, your wife and your other children that God will ease the pain in each of your hearts. You are a very talented individual Adam, and I thank you for serving to protect us all. Keep playing and writing about this wonderful game we all love so much. God bless you.

  5. David Ciccoritti

    Apr 24, 2017 at 11:12 am

    Why is this delusional idiot still not yet banned?

    • Adam Crawford

      Apr 24, 2017 at 3:51 pm

      Bubba, I’m not angered by your political views. All of us who serve struggle with justifying war at times. The only problem I have with your initial comment is that you either didn’t read the article all the way through (which is fine), or you did and chose to disrespect my daughter’s memory by making your comment about politics and not about the message I intended. If you failed to receive the message, then that is the fault of this writer, and for that, I apologize. I’ll work harder next time. However, if you did understand the message and still chose to make your comment about politics, then I’m sorry that you live in a reality that seems tortured. I hope some day you can find something to look up too, something that brings joy to your heart. To live without joy is not living at all.

      • BW

        Apr 27, 2017 at 10:52 am

        Good lord I like you, Adam. Amazing response to a terrible troll.

  6. David Ciccoritti

    Apr 24, 2017 at 11:11 am

    Hi Adam, thanks for sharing. Although your daughters time was short, I don’t think she could have picked a better father. The amount of hurt is a testament to the amount of love. Also, even though I’m Canadian, I also want to thank you for your bravery and service. God Bless.

  7. Sully

    Apr 23, 2017 at 8:44 am

    Bubba, the only reason you get to live in the best country in the world is because people like Mr. Crawford voluntarily go across the world to fight your enemies for you.

    Keep up the great work Adam. If Golfwrx keeps posting articles like this I might come to the site more often and deal with the pop up ads.

    • The Dude

      Apr 23, 2017 at 8:10 pm

      take time to think……………

    • Daniel Boyd

      Apr 24, 2017 at 1:06 pm

      Bubba,

      How original. Another idiot using this platform to promote stupidity.

      To enlighten you. There are billions of people that live in this world who are productive, armed and do not rely on others to protect them or tell them how to think yet they live in extreme poverty and persecution just because of the country that they live in.

      Newsflash – You are not blessed because of ANYTHING you have done! You are blessed simply because you live in the United States of America and only have the rights that you have because of the men and women that have served and are serving currently in our Armed Forces. Without them you would have nothing!

      RESPECT. Something that you lack much like normal brain function.

      Adam,

      Thank you for you service and for the article above. Prayers and love go out to you and your family as you continue to seek peace in has to be the greatest tragedy any Mother and Father can experience.

  8. Pete

    Apr 23, 2017 at 6:38 am

    Bubba – you’re a wanker. Adam, best wishes to you and your family……

  9. Hardcore Looper

    Apr 23, 2017 at 12:15 am

    Adam, I truly hope you find peace. Thanks for sharing this with us. Golf isn’t just about getting another six yards off the tee.

    • Adam Crawford

      Apr 23, 2017 at 8:34 pm

      Peace is a strong word. However, articles like these are like opening a relief valve a tiny bit, just to let out a little steam. Through my wife, my other children, writing and the game of golf, there is a certain level of normalcy to be found. One also has to be thankful for where I am now. I could have easily fell down a dark hole never to resurface.

  10. Austin

    Apr 22, 2017 at 11:34 pm

    Dude? Seriously? I’ve never replied to a comment before but get a life.

    Adam, thank you for your service and I’m sorry to hear about your daughter. Glad you found some comfort

  11. Ronald Montesano

    Apr 22, 2017 at 11:34 pm

    Adam, I don’t know that I could ever share what you shared, and I pray for you and your wife, and for your beautiful daughter. I do hope that golf and life bring you repair to as great a degree as can happen. Selfishly, I hope that you continue to write for GolfWRX.

    RM

    • Adam Crawford

      Apr 23, 2017 at 8:32 pm

      I hope the same thing, my friend. I truly enjoy it.

  12. Justwin

    Apr 22, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    Adam,
    I accidentally clicked on “report comment” when I scrolled down. Didn’t mean to and I apologize. I would like to thank you for your service and express my condolences for your families personal tragedy. I wish you all the best in the future and ignore the “haters”.

    • Adam Crawford

      Apr 23, 2017 at 8:39 pm

      It’s all good. Thanks for the comment and the best wishes. Lotta life to live!

  13. LaBraeGolfer

    Apr 22, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    Adam I travel all over Northeast Ohio playing golf, my job affords me a weekday off a week so very rarely do I get to play with someone. However, I have got to play some truly incredible courses and it really is an incredibly religious type of experience sometimes playing alone, I can’t imagine what you have gone through. Thank you for your service!

  14. Butch

    Apr 22, 2017 at 8:09 pm

    Sorry for your loss. I have been in the military for 17 years and understand how being away from your kids might be the hardest and worst thing you can ever experience. Sorry for the above comment. I guess the 12-14 hour days in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot entitle somebody to getting off at 3:30

    • Adam Crawford

      Apr 23, 2017 at 8:40 pm

      No doubt being away from the family is the hardest part. But I think the military has done a good job in recent years of acknowledging the sacrifices made by military families.

  15. Adam Crawford

    Apr 22, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    I’m truly sorry that’s what you got out the article.

  16. Frozengolfer

    Apr 22, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    I enjoyed your story, thanks for sharing part of your private life. I too have had occasion to be on the golf course after some trying times and it was a comfort to me as well.
    Cheers,
    Tim

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Equipment tidbits for you to think about

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One of the most fun things about being a golfer is that we all want to get better–hit drives longer and straighter, iron shots that find greens more often, pitches and chips that get closer, and putts that go in more often. And we all seem to take great pleasure in finding that next “missing link” in our bags that will help us achieve one of those goals.

Today I want to share some thoughts about how little things can often mean a lot when it comes to tweaking your equipment. On the surface, a golf club seems to be a pretty simple thing—a piece of metal, at the end of a tubular piece of metal or graphite, with a rubber-like handle at the end. But when that golf club is put into motion at 100 mph or so, a lot of dynamics begin to happen.

As we ponder the dynamics of the complex action of swinging a golf club and the broad set of mechanics that come into play on every shot, I thought I’d share some random observations I’ve made over the years about equipment cause and effect:

Increasing your driving distance: The industry has taken us on this dramatic quest for distance and power, and the average driver sold today is over 45” long. That’s two inches longer than the standard of 25 years ago. And while the humongous driver heads brag about “forgiveness”, the fact is that your longest drives (and straightest) will always come from dead center hits. It’s still a fact that a sweet spot miss of just ½” will cost you 7-9% distance loss, and a miss of 3/4” will increase that to 12-15%. I suggest you try gripping down on your driver an inch or more the next time you play and see if you don’t hit the ball closer to the sweet spot and see it consistently going longer and straighter. It’s been proven over and over again.

Examining iron specs: The “standard” way a set of irons was engineered for decades was that the irons vary in length by ½”, and in loft by 4 degrees. But the past few years – driven by the relentless quest for distance – we have seen the loft gaps increased to 5° at the short end of the set and as small as 2.5° at the long end. The harsh reality of this geometry is that almost every golfer will have much smaller distance gaps at the long end of the set than at the short end, where distance precision is critical. I have tweaked my irons for years so that I have smaller length and lie differences at the short end than the long, and that allows my distance gaps to be more consistent. Most golfers could benefit from examining their TRUE carry distances from club to club and then tweaking lofts and lengths to fix their gapping.

Fit your putter. It amazes me to watch how many golfers–even some of the pros on TV–and see the toe of the putter up in the air at address. Simple fact is that this makes the face point left because of the loft. I’ve become a true believer in putter fitting. A good fit will ensure that your putter really is aimed at the target, and that the lie angle allows the ball to come off the putter straight. Yes, the style of putter is a matter of personal preference, but a putter that is accurately fit to you makes this maddening part of the game much less so.

Watch your grips. We spend hundreds of dollars on a driver or set of irons, and we get disposable “handles”. It’s a fact that grips wear out. They get dirty. And they need replacing regularly. Take a close look at yours. Worn, dirty grips cause you to grip the club tighter to have control. And bad shots are much more frequent because of that.

Experiment. The toys are a big part of the fun of golf, so don’t be afraid to experiment. I’ve long suggested all golfers should try the blade style short irons of one of your better player friends or pros, but experiment with other clubs, too. Hit your buddies’ hybrids, fairways, irons, drivers. Try different golf balls. [But I just can’t buy that tees can make a difference, sorry.] It’s fun.

So, there you have some random thoughts of the hundreds that swirl around in my head. Let me know your other questions about equipment, and I’ll try to address them in future columns.

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Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Off-Season training + Exciting announcement for Wisdom in Golf

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There’s a time to play and perform in golf. Then there is a time for a break and group; then there is a time for training so that when the season for playing golf returns you are more PRO-ficient than ever. This is the anti-stagnation system.

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On Spec

On Spec: The DIY episode talking fitting, and personal launch monitors

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This episode is all about giving you, the golfer, the opportunity to better understand your equipment and club fitting. Topics range from club length, lie angle, wedge fittings, all the way to diving into personal launch monitors.

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