The state of Tiger’s golf game: My take

I watched the Golf Channel debate between Brandel Chamblee and Frank Nobilo following the first round of this week’s PGA championship. I listened to and read a large amount of the analysis in the day following the debate. I’ve read opinions of teachers who know Trackman numbers inside and out and players who know injury. I believe I’m ready to chime in at last.

To begin with, I am and have been a big fan of Tiger’s golf for 20 years. I have watched and learned from him that entire time, trying to understand what he is seeking to accomplish. I think it is safe to say I’ve watched almost all of his victories on TV. I’ve read what he has published and what his teachers have published. I’ve listened to him talk about his game (what he will allow us to know) and I’ve listened to and read the endless analysis of his game by the experts in teaching and playing. I agree and disagree with a lot of what I hear and see about his technique. What I want to relate here is a point that I’m not certain I’ve heard made.

Tiger Woods may know more about the golf swing, how to hit golf shots and how to score and win at golf than any man who ever lived.

Think about it for a moment. Who hasn’t he had a chance to learn from, directly or indirectly via his many teachers, specifically Butch Harmon and Hank Haney or those players he has been around? Tommy Armour, Craig Wood, Ben Hogan, Claude Harmon, Greg Norman, Davis Love, etc. via Harmon as an example. He has taken what he needed to use from every teacher he has ever had including his own father, filtered it and put it into play and won with it.

Another point on Tiger, put succinctly by a club pro I know who is friendly with Haney: Tiger does what Tiger wants. No teacher makes him do anything he doesn’t want to do.

Given all of this information, it’s short sighted to think that Sean Foley is somehow giving Tiger bad info and causing him to fizzle. Also, it would be an insult to Tiger’s golf IQ to intimate that he is going some direction with his golf game that he doesn’t believe he can make work. Who could know what it takes to make a framework function better than Tiger? Therefore the only conclusion that can be drawn is that Tiger is making adjustments he feels he MUST make to put himself in position to win. These changes must be the result of what his body will permit him to do, plain and simple. His good shots are still very, very good. Health and repetition in competition are what is required to put things back on track.

I for one hope he gets there, because I still enjoy watching him play, especially when he plays well. I also hope that someday he chooses to share what might be the Templar Treasure of golf knowledge with the rest of us. Until then, we’ll keep debating shaft lean.

How to: The hybrid chip shot

  1.  We play a lot winter golf at River Oaks, especially when we get those 60 degree days in January and February. Unfortunately the dormant Bermuda grass in the winter can make chipping difficult. I’d like to suggest an alternative. When the ball is on the fairway cut of grass around the green, putt the ball with a hybrid or fairway wood. It gets the ball airborne just a little to run over the taller fairway grass and fringe and won’t get stuck as easily as the same shot hit with a putter. The sole of the club slides along the turf so there isn’t the danger of hitting it fat or thin as there would be chipping the ball. Grip down to the bottom of the grip, holding it as you would a putter. Stand close to the ball, getting the club more vertical. From there, just swing the club as you would your putter. To control your speed, imagine the fairway grass and fringe between you and the green is just putting green and you are making a swing as you would with your putter from that distance. This will take away the urge to hit the shot extra hard and run it by the hole. Practice the shot a few times. You will find out it’s easy to do and pretty low stress.  JY

What is and what is not golf

There has been a lot of conversation about the rules of golf and how there should be one set of the rules for recreational golfers and another set for competitive or professional golfers. The idea is that most amateurs don’t play by the rules anyway, so we should just change the rules to make things “easier.”
The following is an excerpt from the late Teaching Professional Harvey Penick’s book And If You Play Golf, You’re My Friend:

I was watching four of my University of Texas players getting ready to hit on the first tee one afternoon in the early spring.  They were discussing whether to play “winter” rules or “summer” rules.  “What do you think, Coach?”

I said, “Well, you boys can go play golf.  Or else you can make up some other game and go play that, instead.”

They understood my meaning.  In the game of golf, the ball is played as you find it.  

My job as a Teaching Professional is to teach people the game.  Teaching the rules is part of that.  If people don’t know the rules it is my job to teach them the rules and how to continue to play by them.

Tiger Woods penalty at the Masters today: My thoughts

It seems that all of the pontificating and righteous indignation has died down conerning Tiger Woods and his two shot penalty at The Masters today, at least for the moment.  in the interest of not rehashing the entire story, I will simply offer my thoughts.

Given the timing of events, The Masters Rules Committee did exactly as they should have done.  I heard Charlie Rymer of Golf Channel say on the radio earlier that this is the Supreme Court of Rules at The Masters. I couldn’t agree more. Fred Ridley, Chairman of that committee summarized everything at the opening of the telecast and that should be the end of it. It won’t be, but it should.

As to whether or not Tiger should have withdrawn or disqualified himself, the chronology of events and the way the committee approached him basically didn’t require him to consider it. That should be the end of it. It won’t be, but it should.

Sometimes the rules hurt you, sometimes they save you. The Masters officials say it would not matter who it was, every competitor would be given this same consideration. I for one believe that completely. Call me naive if you will, but I choose to think that these people are acting above board, Tiger Woods included.

The clinic that nobody sees (and tilting at windmills)

I’ve been working on a few things with my own golf game that are starting to come together.  The weather this time of the year is still a bit unpredictable and so I have some opportunities to play, many times I play alone.

Last week was such a time.  I had a 7 birdie, no bogey round of 64.  I’ve scored lower than that before but it had been a while since I got to a point in a round where I had a chance to beat my personal best, which is 62.  I hit the ball well most of the day, and on the few occasions I missed I was able to use my short game to save me.  It felt great to feel in control again, and it made me think to write this.

Almost everyone who plays golf has had a day where they felt things fall into place, whether it lasted an entire round or just a few holes.  Your game at a time like this allows you to score as well as you ever have and in some cases even better.  You can see that impossible number in front of you, not just your best score, but a score you only dream about.

More often than not, we don’t quite get to that score, but we glimpse what is possible and it brings us back for more.  Like Don Quixote tilting at windmills we chase that dream round, that impossible score.  It’s part of the romance and frustration of golf.

Next time you find yourself putting on a clinic on the golf course, by yourself of with a group, appreciate it and embrace it.  Let it teach you what you are capable of.   Understand that it’s not impossible.  I have a number I’m chasing, probably forever.  Go after your windmill.

What do you want out of golf and how can I help you get it?

If you are like most golfers,  what you want out of golf is pretty straightforward.  You want to hit the ball better, shoot lower scores and have fun with friends/family.  Hitting the ball better hopefully leads to lower scores.  Lower scores hopefully lead to having more fun. 

My job as a teaching professional is to help you hit the ball better, improve your technique and strategy and as a result shoot lower scores.  That’s what lessons, clinics and camps are good for.  They help get you closer to what you want out of golf. But my job doesn’t end there.

I believe in golf.  I believe golf can help people enjoy their life and relationships more.  I help your golf game, true.  That is always my goal.  But if I can introduce you to the passion and fulfillment that golf has given me, that opens the door for even greater enjoyment of the game.

Golf and Fitness: A Brave New World

Golf Fitness is not an oxymoron anymore.  If you look at the professionals on TV both male and female the vast majority are fit and strong.  Tiger Woods didn’t invent the concept of golfers working out but he certainly popularized it for his generation and the generations to follow.  In 2013 PGA Tour corporate sponsor Humana will highlight fitness and the benefits of golf and walking the course as part of a healthy lifestyle.

It’s been a few years since I finally got off of the sidelines and put myself in the game by getting into the gym myself.  While I am not where I want to be just yet, I am much closer than I was.  As a Certified Golf Fitness Instructor (Titleist Performance Institute), I’m able to pass along how increased mobility and stability in the right places can help my students make better golf swings.  I run people through a series of screening exercises and use the results to generate a workout plan that helps them address those areas that may be limiting their golf game.  Between workouts and encouraging people to walk the course when they have the chance, I feel like I’m making a contribution to the golf fitness movement.

How the Rules of Golf can help everyone have more fun

Does etiquette in golf matter to you?  If you want to enjoy your golf more it certainly should.  Have you ever felt uncomfortable on the golf course because a group behind you is playing faster than yours?  Have you ever been frustrated because a group in front of yours is playing too slowly?  The solution is found in the oddest place: The Rules of Golf.

Section 1 of the Rules of Golf: Etiquette: Pace of Play: “It is a group’s responsibility to keep up with the group in front.  If it loses a clear hole and it is delaying the group behind, it should invite the group behind to play through, irrespective of the number of players in that group.  Where a group has not lost a clear hole, but it is apparent that the group behind can play faster, it should invite the faster moving group to play through.”   Following these instructions shows respect for other golfers and will make things more fun for everyone.

If the weather doesn’t cooperate, you can still improve your golf…

What can you do to help your game when the weather is bad and you can’t get outside to play?  Here are a few suggestions:

Spend time working on your grip.  Make sure with your golf professional that you have your hands on the club effectively then spend 5 minutes each day putting your hands on the club that same way.  After just a few days your grip will feel like second nature and when it comes time to play again you will be ready.

Use your workout to help your golf game.  A brief golf fitness screening session can help you identify the areas of your physique that may be holding you back from making your best swing.  The Titleist Performance Institute and I can quickly put you in position to gear your workout to help your game.

Putt.  Putting in the house on the carpet at the leg of a couch or a plastic cup can increase your confidence on the greens more than you might imagine.  The simple act of rolling your golf ball to the target translates to the golf course.