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Opinion & Analysis

Winter golf: Breaking the monotony

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Let me paint a picture of my New Year’s Eve for you: The snow is gently falling outside of my window and a small but lively group of close friends are gathered around a raging fire. Tunes are in the air, cocktails are in hand, and the roughly 1,300 children that seem to be in my house have finally settled into a movie on a different floor. Sounds delightful, right?

Wrong.

All we kept talking about is how much we wanted to play golf. Last year Kansas City was on the verge of becoming Dallas, with an average December temp north of 45 degrees and highs in the mid 60s — I had friends who played five times between Christmas and New Years. This yea,r we were all monitoring the forecast with December 30th as our only hope for a round (with a high of 42). Even though we hit our high, the inch of snow we’d gotten on the 20th hadn’t yet melted from the fairways. No golf during a week off work = a bunch of unhappy dudes.

Even more frustrating for me is that I left the season playing as well as I had in 15 years. Other than the last three holes of my last round (still trying to erase the memory of my drives on the Nos. 16 and 18), I’d been no more than six over on 18 for a couple months on my “real” rounds, and been dancing around par on every nine I’d had the chance to play. Now I’m pounding balls into a net and looking for a decent set of rock skis on eBay.

The horror.

Which brings us neatly to the point of our column: How do I keep what is an inherently boring activity (hitting golf balls into a net), into an experience that holds my attention span for more than six swings.

I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m working on a swing change over the winter (sometime between a back surgery and a couple years of ignoring golf I stopped clearing my hips), and by all logic that alone should keep me interested. But as I’ve already made the major changes, my instructor and I are now working on more minor tweaks (our emphasis this last time was largely on ball flight and trusting my ability to work the ball left to right) that require the visual feedback of watching a ball head towards a target to be effective.

So what do I work on when hitting the ball into a net?

1. Tempo

The first thing that I’ve been focusing on is tempo. In my 30+ years of playing golf (as largely a feel player), nothing, other than maybe jarring a bunch of putts, affects my day-to-day golf scores like good (or bad) tempo. This year, I dove headfirst into John Novosel’s Tour Tempo system, buying the app for my iPhone and working with it pretty extensively.

In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I’d better mention that John is a KC guy, and his sons were in my fraternity at KU (I still see Scott, his youngest son, occasionally out and around KC. He’s a rock-solid dude who walked on to my beloved Jayhawk basketball team his senior yeah and unexplainably become a momentary Japanese rap phenom a few years after that). I’d been hearing about his Tour Tempo book for years and never really looked into it because I wasn’t really playing much (let alone practicing). But this year, as I was struggling to reclaim my game, it really helped.

In 20 words or less, it’s a series of tones that lock you into a proper tempo ratio. One thing that has to be said, though, is it’s kind of an all-in app. If you’re listening to it, it’s almost impossible to work on something else in you swing, because it takes over your head. Therefore, my tempo drills have taken a back burner during my swing change, and I’m finding it very helpful to get back to them to cement my “new” swing.

2. Making “perfect” contact

I’ve approached this in a couple different ways. The first is through tracking my impact with my clubs with either impact tape or a dry erase marker. I play Ping i20s with Aerotech Steelfiber shafts, and I’d be lying if I told you I haven’t hit a few shots on the course that I though I pured, watched fly perfectly through the air and land a couple feet short of the stick for a kick-in birdie, only to look down to see I missed the ball quite a ways on the toe. While the technology that allows this to happen is awesome (especially when a gentleman’s wager is on the line), the lack of feedback on mis-hits can be detrimental to an indoor practice session.

Obviously, using impact tape doesn’t require much explanation. Buy some impact tape, put it on your club, and track where you’re making contact. If you don’t have any impact tape, however, similar results can be faked with a dry erase marker. Color the face of your club and hit the ball. The ball will take the marker off your club where it makes impact. Recolor the club and repeat. Now granted, this can lead to a bunch of colored practice balls (insert joke here), tends to lead to marker all over the hands, and is slightly ridiculous to explain if your wife walks by when you’re doing it, but it definitely works.

The second way to track contact is by hitting clubs other than your gamers. Let’s be honest, I’m probably not going to pull out my dad’s old Kenneth Smiths for a July money game, but when you’re pounding balls into a net, they’ll give you some pretty rock solid feedback as to whether you’ve hit the sweetspot or not. I can’t look you in the face and tell you that messing around with an old Staff Tour Blade or a Macgregor Tourney is going to help you come spring, but it has helped me break up the monotony of hitting the same Ping 7 iron over and over. Plus, it’s kind of cool in a golf-hipster sort of way.

3. Cheating

Just kidding (kind of). I’ve hit enough of a wall that I’ve decided to start cheating my practice sessions with a simulator. As I’m not independently wealthy (or single), the idea of investing in a Trackman or FlightScope was a no-go, which put me firmly in the Optishot camp. It’s barely out of its packaging and has been a fun little toy thus far, but I’ll hold out on a full review for our next column.

Click here for more discussion in the “Instruction & Academy” forum. 

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Dan Gedman was born in Chicago and grew up in Kansas City, which makes sense as he currently splits his time between those two cities. A director by trade (commercials, long-form and the occasional rap video), Gedman is one of the owners of Liquid 9 -- a Chicago-based production company. He is the father of 3 (8, 5 and >1) and the husband of one. He's also a proud Jayhawk, which is much cooler during the winter and spring than it is during the fall. His current home course was designed by Donald Ross in his experimental phase, and starts with a 240-plus yard par 3. Therefore he's generally (at least) one over before he hits the second fairway.

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie Review: Samsung’s Galaxy Watch5 Pro Golf Edition

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Technology has been playing a larger part in golf for years and you can now integrate it like never before. I don’t need to tell you, but Samsung is a world leader in electronics and has been making smart watches for years. The Watch5 Pro Golf Edition is the latest Samsung wearable running Google’s Wear OS operating system and it is more than just a golf watch.

The Watch5 Golf Edition is a full function smartwatch that you can wear every day and use for everything from golf to checking your text messages. For more details on the Golf Edition made sure to check out the Club Junkie podcast below, or on any podcast platform. Just search GolfWRX Radio.

Samsung’s Watch5 Pro Golf Edition has a pretty large 45mm case that is made from titanium for reduced weight without sacrificing any durability. The titanium case is finished in a matte black and has two pushers on the right side to help with navigating the pretty extensive menu options. The case measures about 52mm from lug to lug and stands about 14mm tall, so the fit on smaller wrists could be an issue. I did notice that when wearing a few layers on colder days the extra height did have me adjusting my sleeves to ensure I could swing freely.

The sapphire crystal display is 1.4 inches in diameter, so it should be very scratch resistant, and is protected by a raised titanium bezel. The Super AMOLED display has a 450 x 450 resolution with 321ppi density for clear, crisp graphics. Inside the watch is a dual-core 1.18Ghz Cortex-A55 CPU, 16GB + 1.5GB RAM, and a Mali-G68 GPU to ensure your apps run quickly and efficiently.

I do like that the Watch5 Pro Golf Edition’s white and black rubber strap has a quick release system so you can change it out to match or contrast an outfit. The Golf Edition strap is very supple and conforms to your wrist well, holding it in place during multiple swings.

Out on the course the Watch5 Pro golf Edition is comfortable on the wrist and light enough, ~46g, where it isn’t very noticeable. I don’t usually wear a watch on the course, and it only took a few holes to get used to having it on my left wrist. Wearing a glove on the same hand as the watch doesn’t really change much, depending on the glove. If you have a model that goes a little higher on the wrist you could feel the watch and leather bunch a little bit. Some of my Kirkland Signature gloves would run into the watch case while I didn’t have an issue with my Titleist or Callaway models.

The screen is great in direct sunlight and is just as easy to read in overcast or twilight rounds. The images of holes and text for distances is crisp and has a bright contrast agains the black background. The Watch5 Pro Golf Edition comes with a lifetime membership to Smart Caddie for your use on the course. Smart Caddie was developed by Golfbuddy, who has been making rangefinders and GPS units for years. I didn’t sign up for the Smart Caddie app as I did not buy the watch and have logins for multiple GPS and tracking apps. Smart Caddie looks to be extremely extensive, offering a ton of options beyond just GPS and it is one that works seamlessly with the Galaxy watches.

I ended up using The Grint as it was an app I have used in the past and was already signed up for. Getting to the app to start a round was very simple, needing one swipe up and one tap to start The Grint app. The screen is very smooth and records each swipe and tap with zero issues. I never felt like I was tapping or swiping without the Watch5 Pro acknowledging those movements and navigating the menu as I desired. The GPS worked flawlessly and the distances were accurate and consistent. With The Grint’s app you did have to keep the phone in your pocket or in the cart close enough for the Bluetooth connection. For most that is’t a big deal and the only time I noticed it was when I used my electric cart and drove it well in front of me down the fairway.

Overall the Samsung Watch5 Pro Golf Edition is a great option for golfers who want one device for everyday wear and use on the course. The Watch5 Pro Golf Edition still has all the fitness and health options as well as being able to  connect to your email, text messages, and social media apps. With the Watch5 Pro Golf Edition you won’t have to worry about buying a device just for golf or forgetting to bring your GPS to the course.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Why modern irons don’t make sense to me

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One of the things that really bothers me about most of the newer iron models that are introduced is the continued strengthening of the lofts — I just don’t see how this is really going to help many golfers. The introduction of driver and hybrid technologies into the irons – thinner faster faces, tungsten inserts and filling the heads with some kind of polymer material – is all with the goal of producing higher ball flight with lower spin. But is that what you really want?

I’ll grant you that this technology makes the lower lofts much easier to master, and has given many more golfers confidence with their 5- and 6-irons, maybe even their 4- and 5-. But are higher launch and lower spin desirable in your shorter irons? I’ve always believed those clubs from 35 degrees on up should be designed for precision distance control, whether full swings are when you are “taking something off,” and I just don’t see that happening with a hollow, low CG design.

Even worse, with lofts being continually cranked downward, most modern game improvement sets have a “P-club” as low as 42-43 degrees of loft. Because that simply cannot function as a “wedge”, the iron brands are encouraging you to add in an “A-club” to fill the distance void between that and your gap wedge.

But as you ponder these new iron technologies, here’s something to realize . . . and think about.

Discounting your putter, you have 13 clubs in your bag to negotiate a golf course. At one end, you have a driver of 10-12 degrees of loft, and at the other end your highest lofted wedge of say, 58 to 60 degrees. So, that’s a spread of 46 to 50 degrees. The mid-point of that spread is somewhere around 35 degrees, the iron in your bag that probably has an “8” on the bottom.

Now consider this: From that 35-degree 8-iron downward, you have a progression of clubhead designs, from the iron design, to hybrids, to fairway woods to your driver, maybe even a “driving iron” design as a bridge between your lowest set-match iron to your hybrids. At least four, if not five, completely different clubhead designs.

But in the other direction, from 35 degrees to that highest lofted wedge, you likely only have two designs – your set-match irons and your wedges, each of which all essentially look alike, regardless of loft.
I feel certain that no one in the history of golf ever said:

“I really like my 6-iron; can you make me a 3-wood that looks like that?”

But do you realize the loft difference between your 6-iron and 3-wood is only 12-14 degrees, even less than that between your 6-iron and “P-club”? So, if you can’t optimize an iron design to perform at both 28 and 15 degrees, how can you possibly expect to be able to optimize the performance of one design at both 28 and 43 degrees?

And you darn sure won’t get your best performance by applying 6-iron technology to an “A-club” of 48 to 50 degrees.

This fact of golf club performance is why you see so many “blended” sets of irons in bags these days, where a golfer has a higher-tech iron design in the lower lofts, but a more traditional blade or “near blade” design in the higher lofts. This makes much more sense than trying to play pure blade long irons or “techy” higher lofts.

Most of my column posts are oriented to offering a solution to a problem you might have in your game, but this one doesn’t. As long as the industry is focused on the traditional notion of “matched sets,” meaning all the irons look alike, I just don’t see how any golfer is going to get an optimum set of irons without lots of trial and error and piecing together a set of irons where each one works best for the job you give it.

If you want to see how an elite player has done this for his own game, do some reading on “what’s in the bag” for Bernhard Langer. Very interesting indeed.

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Opinion & Analysis

2022 Hero World Challenge: Betting Tips & Selections

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The Hero is the only full 72-hole tournament left of the year stateside, and the one many golf fans were excited for due to the expected return of Tiger Woods.

Unfortunately, on Monday, Woods withdrew from the event citing plantar fasciitis – pain in the base of his foot, leaving a hole in the event but we still have some big names floating about in the limited field.

I wrote last week about the context of the short-priced favourite Cameron Smith at the Australian PGA.

Comparing him with Jon Rahm when he was 9/4 for his home Open, the most recent Open Championship winner looked fair at 7/2. It was a bit of a scare, but in the end, Smith showed the undoubted class gap, sauntering home down the stretch.

This is crucial in assessing this week’s favourite, Rahm.

Neither Jordan Smith or Justin Thomas have threatened strongly to win here, Xander Schauffele has seen his finishes get progressively worse since a debut 8th, Matty Fitz looked tired in contention in Dubai, and defending champ Viktor Hovland had won twice in 2021 before winning here, that pair of victories including the week before at Mayakoba.

Now for the favorite.

2022 starts with a runner-up to Smith in Hawaii at the similarly stacked Tournament of Champions, before eight straight cuts lead to a victory in Mexico. In a disappointing season for majors, Rahm’s 12th at the U.S Open is the best he can record in the biggies, but it’s another in a series of weekends that leads to T5, T8 and T16 at the three Fedex play-off events. 7

Hardly a disastrous season, but Rahm will have felt a degree of dismay at a season bereft of a gold medal and that saw him slip outside the world’s top five, that without the likes of Dustin Johnson and Smith, both off to unranked LIV.

However, that ‘failure’ seemed to act as a genuine spur, with both him and fellow anti-LIV player Shane Lowry, exploding through the third and final round of the weather-affected prestigious BMW Championship, before winning by a street in Spain, stumbling at the wrong time when fourth at the CJ Cup, and last time proving far too good for a stellar field at the DP World Tour Championship.

For those (including myself) that felt his rant against the OWGR points distribution would count against him, being wrong was painful, but we have the chance to turn it around this week.

Simply, there is no Rory McIlroy or Cam Smith, probably the only other two players that can hold claim to being the current best in the world; the Spaniard’s current form reads 1/4/1/2; his tee-to-green figures average over plus-10 in his last three outings; Rahm ranks top three for scrambling when he misses the green; has been outside the top eight for putting just once in his last six starts, and he’s been first and second in two tries at Albany!

Sure, neither he nor Smith had such a talented field to beat at their ‘home’ events, but they both landed short prices. For me, Rahm has even greater claims, and at anything bigger than 4/1, is a must bet.

The only other player of interest is in-form Tony Finau, one of three to be beaten by a single shot by Rahm in Mexico.

The 33-year-old has always had the ability to do what he has done over the last four months, but, for whatever reason, he is now fulfilling some lofty opinions, winning three times since July.

Beaten four shots by Rahm on his debut in 2018, an opening 79 was always going to hurt any ideas he had about revenge a year later. However, he bounced back from being 18th after round one with three rounds of 68, 69 and a closing 65 to finish inside the top-10, before finishing 7th last year after a stellar opening 68,66.

Big Tone closed with a best-of-the-day 64 at the Tour Championship before looking rusty at Mayakoba, his first outing for over two months. That certainly brought him on as he waltzed home at the Houston Open, the four-shot winning margin half of what it could have been had he not taken his foot off the pedal very early on Sunday.

Finau has always been a strong tee-to-green gamer, but now he’s added confidence with the flat-stick, expect him to challenge at all the biggest events through 2023.

Having been all over Finau to do a double-double and back up his win at the RSM Classic, the ‘injury’ withdrawal was tough to take, but he’ll suit the relaxed nature of this week’s challenge and should be one of the strongest challengers to his old foe.

Recommended Bets:

  • Jon Rahm – WIN
  • Tony Finau – WIN
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