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Opinion & Analysis

A golfing memoir in monthly tokens: February

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As some might say, if you don’t take the plunge, you can’t taste the brine. Others might not say such a thing. I’m taking the plunge because I want to taste the brine.

Here you’ll find the second installment of “A Golfing Memoir” as we trace a year in the life of Flip Hedgebow, itinerant teacher of golf. For January, click here.

He could never explain his given name. Why would a German family name their son “cirE”? Some mistook it for Sire and thought him presumptuous. As a lad, with fingers crossed, he hoped that other kids hadn’t the intellectual gumption to search a Gaelic dictionary, where they would find the translation of … wax.

Why do mothers name their children such odd names, and why don’t fathers object? Flip’s father had made a career of objecting to every sincere and frivolous pursuit the boy had undertaken. Why not object to cirE? Flip stared into the morning sun, preferring the more-than-momentary blindness, and surmised that the old man knew that it was a battle he couldn’t win. Carry this bowling ball around for nine months, pulling on organs, muscles, and bones, and don’t let me pick his name? uh-UH. Stored it all up and took it out on the kid.

Considering the brief nature of February, cirE “Flip” Hedgebow feared that planning was overrated, and that much was beyond his control. He had transitioned many times before, from south to north and from north to south. After a few years, he gave little thought to each move. Yet, despite experience and wisdom, he felt possessed by neither. Flip was not wrong; the turbulence roiled beneath the surface of his calm demeanor. Work a pro shop long enough, and you learn to pass emotional tsunami off as a wink and a nod.  If you can’t, you don’t last.

February was an odd month in the Sunshine state. The amateur snowbirds had departed, and the fairly-experienced ones began to arrive. Difference? Amateurs arrive for the first month of the new year, bask in the warmth, then head home for two or three more months of cold, and get sick. The fairly-experienced brood (usually 4-5 years into retirement or freedom) had figured this out, through pain and suffering. They made their reservations one month later, stunned that time was available for them. There was a reason for that, but Flip wouldn’t consider it for a pair more of fortnights. What the departure of the amateurs meant, was lower revenues, across the board.

Amateur snowbirds bathed in the deceitful glow of recent loosenings. They spent like there was no tomorrow when, for most of them, there were too many tomorrows. Their departure meant that registers wouldn’t ring (his mentor used that expression) like the chapel on Sunday. In the world of cirE, registers were tablets that used Square, and chapels didn’t do business like they did in the past.

The fairly-experienced crowd had settled into a February routine. No longer trying every new thing, they spent their Valentines month in nearly-perfect symmetry. They knew which restaurants to frequent, and which sales would appear in windows, at which appointed hours. Frivolous purchases were no longer their wont, as the writing on the wall began to show in greater clarity. Flip cared nothing of this…he cared about the diminishing returns and the lightening of his pocket clip. This generation suspected that March was the better month for rolling into northern Spring, but those who held those dates, weren’t giving up before a literal fight to the finish. So February it was.

Something else that the February armada offered, was time on the lesson tee. They weren’t giving up on youthful potential and conquest, at least not on the golf course. What they could not offer in the clubs, they could occasionally summon when money was on the line, and that would have to do. The majority of them accosted Flip over matters of distance and new drivers. The savvy ones asked when he could show them a shot or three around the green, or from the trees. If Flip ever had to run a Calcutta to save his life, he lived in the certainty that those savvy ones, those scramblers, would be the ones to back. Since all of them paid, the lesson tee was a bonanza.

No matter the month, Florida was a gold mine compared with New York. No taxes, and even the most frugal snowbird tipped and bought more than folks in rural Empire state. Flip’s nest egg needed to swell a few sizes, like the Grinch’s heart, before April Fools’ Day arrived. Something else that needed to swell, was his peripheral vision. For the second time in as many months, the potency and potential of the red-haired woman escaped his notice, as did the farewell wave she gave to Flip’s next student. Good things come to those who wait, but do they also come to those who miss?

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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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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