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Opinion & Analysis

Confessions of a Hacker

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By Jamie Katz

GolfWRX Contributor

Welcome to my first blog post for GolfWRX. If you’re looking for news on how you can plug your earphones to get MP3 tunes on the newest TM driver, or you want to read about the merits of nanotechnology shafts versus multi-material shafts, you’ll need to read something else. But if you’re interested in the triumphs and travails of an avid but all-too-flawed golfer and the equipment that has helped and hindered me, my close encounters with golf instructors, and the ways that golf can build and destroy a man’s peace of mind, then keep reading.

Most of you on GolfWRX are better golfers than I am—but I believe I can compete with anybody when it comes to loving the game. And I pledge to remember the GolfWRX creed: Golf is just a game. It’s not life and death — it’s way more important than that.

So what qualifies me to be a golf pundit?  Well, let’s start with my background and the golf demons I wrestle with. I am sixty years old with a lovely wife, an active teenage daughter, two dogs, a demanding job as general counsel at a major teaching hospital, memberships on three nonprofit boards, other family members to take care of, too much stomach, and a back that goes out on occasion. With all that going on, why, when I have a few minutes all to myself, do I spend it trying to figure out what clubs I need to fill the gap between my driver and my 21-degree hybrid? Why do I itch to buy a Tour Edge Trilogy hybrid that I’ve never hit, just because I found it for $49.99, or pine for an Adams XTD hybrid when I really don’t need the extra distance?

It wasn’t always this way. I played golf as a kid with Johnny Palmer clubs. Yes, Johnny Palmer—I had no idea who Johnny Palmer was, except he wasn’t Arnold (it turns out, for those with a historical bent that he was a good pro who pre-dated Arnie). I played on a local muni on the other side of town. I was happy just to play and it never occurred to me to think about changing clubs.

College ended my not-so-promising golf career. For over 20 five years, I didn’t pick up a stick. Then I attended a wedding of a brother-in-law in Florida and he set up a game for a bunch of us—including most of his five other brothers. I was decidedly unimpressive until the eighteenth, where I hit a lovely seven iron into the green on my second shot, 12 feet from the hole, in front of my in-laws. They kicked my butt on the basketball court, but on the golf course, I ruled. Out of the blue, I remembered the lure of the game and the bug came back.

I played for a few years with a small group of friends. We usually shot close to 100, but we enjoyed ourselves. Until one beautiful summer day, on an upscale course with a number of hard holes, my swing fell apart, totally, cataclysmically. From the twelfth hole on, I displayed no evidence that I had ever played golf before. My shots went short, left, right, anywhere but the intended direction and distance. I knew I’d developed something awful in my swing, something well beyond my knowledge or understanding.

I left the golf course that day determined to do one of two things–walk away from the game or take lessons and improve. So somewhere around 15 years ago, I found a teacher who revamped my swing and helped me back to occasional respectability on the golf course. And about 10 years ago, with a more predictable swing, I began trying out new clubs.

I now live very close to a driving range. I moved to a different instructor two years ago. I’ve been fitted for a driver and irons. I’m not able to play 18 holes more than once, sometimes twice a month, but I sneak away from work and family to the same muni I played on as a kid and play nine early on weekend mornings. In a good summer week, I’ll get to the range a couple of times and I’ll play over the weekend. I’ll buy some new and used clubs during the season, just to see if they’ll improve my game. What does this all add up to?  I’m the quintessential weekend hacker.

My 16-handicap game still bounces around. This summer, for example, I’ve hit a number of drives that are among the longest I’ve ever hit, despite my age. I had a score of 84 (good for me) on a twisting course with lots of elevations that I’d never played on before. And best of all, on that day, I blew away a couple of guys that I rarely beat. But I also had a couple of rounds over the summer where everything went wrong—indeed, on one hole, I hit three shanked wedges in a row. The three ugly shots each flew to the right, taking me halfway around a green. At that point, I picked the ball up and didn’t touch a wedge for the rest of the round.

I check in on GolfWRX regularly. I know my driver swing speed, more or less, and I know I need lower-spin clubs. But I don’t keep track of all my statistics, I don’t spine my clubs, I don’t do a lot of demoing on Trackman, I don’t switch my shafts, I don’t change my lies, and I don’t bother with adjustable clubs because my swing is not reliable enough to bother changing the settings.

But I love the game — seeing a nice drive soar and land in the fairway, hearing the sound of a solid iron shot, beating my brother-in-law in match play, finding a cool new course. I’ll never be a good player—indeed, given my age and the other choices I’ve made in life, I’ll never be better than I am now. But that’s OK. I get a kick out of the competition, I can make my own decisions on the course (unlike so many other areas in my life), I get to hang around outside, and every once in awhile, I come up with a really nice shot.

So back to the problem I started with—why am I worrying about the gap between my driver and 21 degree hybrid? I don’t know. I’m not even sure that the long clubs that I now have are significant problems — I haven’t kept detailed statistics about shots in the fairway, greens in regulations, putts made, or any of the important areas. Maybe I fixate on those clubs because most of the rest of the bag is pretty much set. Or maybe I just like to keep finding new clubs to fool around with. As it stands, my Rocketballz 3HL goes a long way, but I can lose it left or right too often (I know, it’s mostly the swing). A used Ping G20 17 degree I picked up recently goes left way too often (I know, it’s mostly the swing). So I need to work on the swing but while I do, I’ll keep thinking about the right clubs in between crises at work or while chauffeuring my daughter around. In the end, I’d love to fix the swing so I don’t need to buy new clubs. But then, of course, I’d find a reason to fool around with something else in the bag.

Come back, sometime down the road, and I’ll let you know what I do, or don’t do, about the hybrids. I’ll tell you about my experiences with different teachers and my efforts to get my teenage daughter onto the golf course. I’ve been a good putter, a bad putter, and fought back to being a decent putter — but now they may take away my beloved belly putter, so you’ll read about my adventures on the greens. I hope to entertain and enlighten a little. And if you, gentle readers, tell me I didn’t do too well in a particular post, well, clearly the problem is the arrow, not the Indian, so I’ll start thinking about which new computer to buy.

Click here for more discussion in the “Golf Talk” forum.

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GolfWRX is the world's largest and best online golf community. Expert editorial reviews, breaking golf tour and industry news, what to play, how to play and where to play. GolfWRX surrounds consumers throughout the buying, learning and enrichment process from original photographic and video content, to peer to peer advice and camaraderie, to technical how-tos, and more. As the largest online golf community we continue to protect the purity of our members opinions and the platform to voice them. We want to protect the interests of golfers by providing an unbiased platform to feel proud to contribute to for years to come. You can follow GolfWRX on Twitter @GolfWRX and on Facebook.

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Opinion & Analysis

Faldo’s ‘commercial’ dig at Rickie Fowler was narcissistic, unfair and hypocritical

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This week, Rickie Fowler opened up on his current struggles on the course, describing the enormous frustration he’s going through and the toll it’s even taking on his life at home.

Instead of Fowler being commended for his honesty during the most challenging period of his career to date, he found himself attacked. Not just by some nameless, faceless troll on social media either, but by a six-time major winner turned talking head: Nick Faldo.

Replying to Golf Digest’s article on Fowler, the Englishman decided he’d take a swipe at Fowler’s commercial success, saying:

“Good news is if he misses the Masters he can shoot another six commercials that week!”

He then doubled down on the comment, highlighting his own excellent achievements in the sport while knocking Fowler who is still looking for his maiden major win, posting shortly after: “What would you rather have, a boatload of cash or your name in three green books?”

Had Faldo bothered to read the article in question, then he’d have seen that Fowler is extremely hungry and putting in hours of practice to get back to the heights that saw him once ranked inside the world’s top 5.

If Fowler was content to do commercials instead of grinding away on the course as Faldo suggests, why will this week at Bay Hill mark his 6th appearance in the last seven weeks on the PGA Tour?

That schedule just doesn’t fit Nick’s narrative that Fowler is satisfied with things in his professional life.

Sadly, Faldo’s dig at Rickie had nothing to do with his golf game, nor did it even acknowledge how hard he is trying to turn things around.

It was a petty knock at a universally well-liked player from his peers to fans alike because he happens to do well for himself outside of the course as well as on it.

And let’s not forget how good Fowler has been on it, five PGA Tour wins (including The Players), 2 European Tour wins, and 11 top-ten finishes at majors—and he’s still just 32.

All that the Englishman’s cheap shot at Fowler’s commercial success did was amplify the undercurrent of jealousy within Faldo, who spends the majority of his time on social media plugging and endorsing a golf shoe.

Does anyone really think that Faldo wouldn’t snap up Rickie’s commercial opportunities if they presented themselves to him?

To knock Fowler’s current level of play is fair game, but to suggest he’d be happy to miss the Masters so that he can “shoot another six commercials that week” is out of line and does a disservice to the effort he puts in each day to get better at his craft.

Fowler has demonstrated time and time again that he is a class act, an excellent ambassador for the sport, and he deserves much better than a blindsided attack on Twitter from a prominent figure in golf media.

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Odyssey Ten putter review and hitting the new Callaway Apex Pro irons

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Reviewing the new Odyssey Ten putters, and I like the overall look compared to last year’s model. The shape is a little more squared off and simple, less distracting. Callaway’s new Apex Pro irons offer a lot of distance and forgiveness in a small package, but do they feel as good as other players irons?

 

 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Understanding CG

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One of the most misunderstood concepts involved in golf club design is that of “CG,” or “center of gravity,” also “center of mass.” While this particular measurement of any golf club head can certainly offer insight into its probable performance, it is not the “be all, end all” with regard to any club’s specific launch or forgiveness attributes.

What “CG” specifically refers to is the exact center location of a club’s distribution of mass, which will generally coincide with that club’s “sweet spot”—but that’s not always true. There are lots of ways to manipulate or manage any club’s exact CG location, and therein lies a “Pandora’s Box” of misunderstanding.

Let’s start back in the very old days, when irons were single pieces of forged steel and woods were made of persimmon. Since there was no science inside the club, CG was essentially a result of how the clubhead is formed—its essential shape.

A typical persimmon driver head, for example, was sized to deliver its ideal weight without any additional weights added. The solid block of persimmon, with some kind of face insert and an aluminum soleplate was all you had to work with. So, the CG was located pretty close to the center of the clubhead from all three axes – vertical, front-go-back and heel-to-toe. If you remember, persimmon fairway woods were smaller and had a brass sole plate to add mass lower in the head and often a lead weight under the sole plate to move the CG even lower to help produce higher ball flights on shots hit from the turf, rather than off a tee.

Traditional forged irons up to the 1960s-70s typically had a CG very close to the hosel, a result of the mass of the hosel itself and the typical design that put “muscle” behind the impact area, and very little mass out toward the toe. An examination of worn faces on those old irons would reveal the wear very much toward the heel. I distinctly remember fighting the shanks back in those days, and that ugly shot usually felt very close to a perfectly struck one, rather than feeling as awful as it looked.

As metal woods and cavity-back irons became the norm, designers were able to move the CG ever lower in order to produce higher ball flight, and more toward the center of the face to put the CG further from the hosel. As technology has continued to be refined, the use of tungsten inserts has further allowed designers to position the CG exactly where they want it – typically lower in the club and more toward the center or even the toe of the golf club.

And therein lies a problem with pushing this insert technology too far.

There is no question that in addition to making contact somewhere close to the CG of the clubhead, ball performance is also a product of how much mass is directly behind the impact point. Let me offer this example of how important that can be.

Let’s assume two identically shaped cavity-back 7-irons – same size, face thickness, overall weight and a design that places the CG in the exact same spot in the scoring pattern. The only difference between the two is that one is a single piece forged or cast steel head, with the other being cast of aluminum, with heavy tungsten inserts in the hosel and toe areas to achieve the same overall weight and CG location.
Which do you think would deliver the more solid feel of impact and better transfer of energy to the ball?

Now, we could take that even further by cutting out the entire center of both clubheads and increase the mass or the weight of tungsten in the hosel and toe to bring each back up to weight. The CG location would not change, but there would be absolutely no mass at all where the ball impact location would be. That would not work at all, would it?

I’ve learned long ago that it’s not just about the location of the CG that makes a golf club perform, but also the amount of mass that is placed directly behind the spot on the face where impact with the ball is made.

Here’s a fun, “non-golf” way to embrace this concept.

Suppose we had a two-pound sledgehammer and another 2 lb piece of steel hammered into a large circular sheet 1/16” thick. And then suppose someone hit you on the head with the exact CG of each one – which do you think would hurt the most?

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