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This is the AFTER golf swing of a guy in my PGA classes. The player was hitting the ball a bit low (I wasn't able to record an initial video, but I didn't see a lot of axis tilt and someone told me he had reverse axis tilt at A4…).
The instruction he got? Go to the top by not rotating his hips, but by "loading" into his trail side, from the top "stay behind the ball" and throw the clubhead at the ball.
With the ball on a tee, this raised the ball flight. Absolutely. On the shots where he didn't hit several inches behind the ball.
The instructor mentioned Johnny Miller as a sort of role model for "keeping your weight behind the ball." Johnny Miller had one of the most powerful leg drives forward ever. His pressure and weight are both well forward.
Clue: if you have a pet theory, go on YouTube or load up your stored swings in Analyzr or V1 and see how many pros actually exhibit the thing you're thinking about. If it's none, as would be the case here (with irons, anyway), perhaps move on to something else instead of making it a core piece of your instruction.
Dinosaurs don't do that. Not every old instructor is a dinosaur, but dinosaurs eventually died off. I just wish it would happen much sooner in golf than it appears to be… I'll be dead and we'll still have dinosaurs out there roaming the lesson tee. Fewer than we have now, but they won't be extinct.
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My Plan to Get Better at Golf
By Shane Jones
After over two decades, I have decided that I am not very good at golf. I mean at all, I am a terrible driver of the golf ball (If you look at my strokes gained statistics), I don’t gain a lot of strokes with my approaches. I am a terrible wedge player. I’m a decent putter, but anyone who plays miniature golf with a four-year-old child can do that. With all of stuff I’m bad at, I needed to find some things that I was good at to build on. I was reasonably long, both off the tee and with the irons. I am decent from 100-125 and 125-150 (I don’t gain a lot of strokes to a scratch, but I’m good enough to gain strokes against a 5 handicapper), I usually don’t have a lot of blow-up holes, and I know how far each of my clubs go with a normal swing.
In the days, in which we are analyzing everything, you wonder, how you will ever get better at golf. I think that I may have devised a plan in which to do this. I will get into a more detail with each of these later in this blog. First, I’m getting lessons. I’ve already started this part. Next, realize that just because I can hit it 270 yards off the tee, doesn’t mean that I necessarily would need to. This isn’t the Soviet Union in 1947 after World War II with Joseph Stalin telling me, that I must hit it 270 yards on a hole with a 14-yard wide landing area, while having a firing squad locked and loaded at me. Furthermore, I need to have a better practice plan. I used to practice whatever I felt like that day. That doesn’t work especially if you want to get better. I’m trying to embrace the Five S’s of practice, so when the money down in tournaments, I’ll have dealt with it in practice. Practice isn’t just hitting balls either. As @iacas and @mvmac have preached, practice can be rehearsing a motion while waiting for a bus, getting a motion down in front of a mirror, or a golf specific workout. Finally, I need to GamePlan better. I need a back-up club to advance the ball safely, when my driver goes awry.
You’ve made it through my first two introductory paragraphs without going to another blog or thread. Here is the meat and potatoes of this blog. Explaining myself about how I plan to get better.
The biggest obstacle, I’ve had in my lifetime for golf is that I’ve never taken a lesson. (As of this posting, I’ve taken three). I asked all the questions in Lowest Score Wins to a few instructors. I accidently came across the instructor that I choose. I went into an indoor golf center and saw a sign for a 5-lesson package for $250. I received a $300 gift certificate for Christmas from a family member who knows how much I love golf. I was just trying to get some launch monitor time and the Pro there and I struck up a conversation. He asked if I had ever had a lesson. (I’m paraphrasing for time’s sake) I said no. He said, the launch monitor time would do me some good, but lessons would probably be better. He’s a younger guy (a bit older than me, probably Erik’s age or so). I asked him my questions, he asked me his. We went on like this for about 15 minutes and I decided it after a few days of going through the data, that he was right. So, I called and signed up for some lessons.
The first lesson, was a “figure out where I was” and “where I want to go” lesson. So, he had me hit 3 solid shots with each of my clubs. So, we got my distances down, and he noticed that a lot of my shots were leaking to the right. That’s where the first seeming monotonous drill came in. They have the “Eye Line” training aid that you see advertised on TV and Internet. Craig is more old school… He pulled out 4 water bottles. (If you’ve read the “5 Minutes Daily Practice Challenge” thread the last couple months, you know what I’m talking about) he placed a ball down. Placed 1 bottle in front of my left foot and one in front of my right foot a little further from me. He says, take a waist high swing and don’t hit these bottles, once you can do that consistently 10 times in a row, for 3 days. You can move to a half swing (9:00). If you can do that, move to a three-quarter swing, if you can do that, you can officially hit a draw. I asked, “What about a full swing?” He grinned and said, “Your three-quarter swing, looks like a full swing to me”.
After a month of getting this drill, down to a science, I go back. The results were amazing. Longer and hitting draws very close to the center line on some, relatively close with others. He complicated it for the next month. The hardest shot in golf to hit. The straight one. All four bottles. In a 6” X 6” square. Can’t hit the bottles. Nothing longer than a 9-iron, for a month. (It’s the hardest damn drill to get perfect that you will ever see.) After a month of that, I go back. I’m doing all that right. Craig notices that my body is a little out of sync with my arms during my transition.
Now he has me doing this “Arms lead the body drill”. It’s not a hard drill to master, but I think he’s up to something. I don’t have another lesson until April (he’s going down to Florida for a month for a tourney or two and to see some family). I was second guessing myself for a very long time. For once, however I’m trusting the process. I DO believe this is making me a better golfer.
Next, having a better practice plan. I used to practice whatever the hell I felt like. It was like okay, If I hit balls, I must drag the net out, put it up, hit balls and take it back down. (A pain in the ass if I ever knew one). This is related to getting lessons, either directly, or indirectly. I’m a believer that now that I am receiving lessons, I’m practicing better. I’m working on the two “SV4” skills for sure with what I am practicing.
The bad thing is, no one ever really taught me how to hit a bunker shot. I kind of picked up things on my own. Then, the skills with less separation value, I’m left to practice on my own. Will I? I will, at some point. My pitching and chipping need some work. I guess when Craig comes back, he’s going to work with me on that. I need to plan better. I DO believe I am on the right track though,
I’m getting tired, and my paragraphs are getting much shorter. The third thing is having a back-up club when my driver goes awry. (Sounds like something Tiger needs right now). My home course is 9 holes with two sets of tees. 6,385 yards. If you divide that by 28. It’s around 228 or so. I don’t need my driver (270 yards total) to necessarily get around. If driver is putting me into trouble, why be a stubborn ass and keep hitting it? I’ve found a “magic club” that can get me 220 yards or so off the tee and I can choke down to the graphite and hit it 180 yards if I must. If driver is causing double bogeys or worse, the 20-degree hybrid will be the way to go. (Mission accomplished there).
Finally, I need to GamePlan better. I need to get my Shot Zones down to a science. Even if I must get some ¼” grid paper, a ruler and a compass and draw this out and keep the paper in my bag I will. If it helps me get better, damn it, I’ll use it.
Well of all the blogs on The Sand Trap, this one may be close to the longest. I typed it up on Word so that I would have a spell check and such. But there you go, that’s my “Plan” to get better at this beautiful game. I want to thank Erik, Mike, and all the golfers and other members that keep the Sand Trap going. I’m sorry I wrote a damn novella for a blog, everyone.
Just as it does for most golfers, winter brings about a lot of free time when golf is not an option. Sure, there’s practice, simulators and launch monitors, but for me, limited practice is about the only golf I see from December to April.
I should be spending all that extra time going to the gym, or investing in some decent boots and bindings so that I can get back into X-country skiing. But I haven’t done those things.
So I find myself looking for projects in hopes of carrying me through to when the courses open.
A few years ago, I bought a few books and re-learned how to sight read music for the guitar. I then bought a cheap second-hand bass and started recorded songs using the GarageBand app. I have a brother down in Florida who, unlike me, is a skilled guitarist. We collaborated on a couple of songs and it became a very fulfilling hobby. I don't do lyrics so the song titles came from Urban Dictionary terms. I figured if “Steely Dan” can become a household name for a band, Paddling the Pink Canoe, Wisconsin Bubbler, and Chinese Lantern would serve as song titles. This activity lasted a couple of years and I’ve yet to get back into it with as much ambition. Even the most enjoyable activities seem to pale in comparison to golf.
Last year, I downloaded a 3D drawing application and became just knowledgable enough to draw some relatively simple objects — a case that holds my calipers, a prototype part design for a co-worker’s presentation at my company and a golf club head that I never completed.
Again, once golf season started no other hobby could hold my interest.
This winter I decided to learn about what many might consider an extremely boring subject – Lean Six Sigma. I chose the “Green Belt” certification.
While never having been the sharpest tool in the shed, I’ve always enjoyed math. That said, I never took any sort of advanced math in school. Relatively speaking, statistics are not easy, IMO. Some of the formulas and concepts can be what I’d consider advanced and when charts or graphs are posted here at TST, they can sometimes be difficult for me to understand. Needless to say, this course would be a decent challenge.
I finished the course this week and scored very high on the exam. As it turns out, there wasn't the need to learn a lot of the complex formulas because Excel, Google Sheets and online calculators can do a lot of that heavy lifting.
After finishing the course, I was struck by a couple of things.
First, these tools and methods have a substantial impact on improving a process. They can settle a lot pissing contests at an organization as they offer fact-based and statistical information instead of memory and an opinion or sense of what’s going on (feel ain't real).
Secondly, Erik and Dave must have used some of this when writing Lowest Score Wins. Separation Value or “SV” and “SCOR” (which help defines SV) reminds me of Risk Priority Number in Six Sigma which assigns a value to a problem based on severity, occurrence and detection. Practicing with a purpose and working on a priority ties into this as well. (I have to admit to using some of the concepts of LSW when writing "how to" guides at work, simply because their approach is so logical.)
In another month or two, the weather will clear and the field behind my house will thaw. The Six Sigma course will be a memory. I’ll collect all the lost golf balls and start my spring practice. This year brings a different approach to what I’ve tried in the past. Repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting a different result is nuts as they say. So instead of improving my indoor swing, I want to figure out how to take it — however bad it is — outside. I’ll evaluate the results using ball flight. If the results are as good as they feel hitting into the net, I’ll try like hell to make that the swing I use at the course instead of reverting back – as I always seem to do – to a poorer swing that just seems more natural.
Maybe I’ll gather some data…create some control charts to evaluate how I perform the keys and the ball flight results... establish a mean and standard deviation. I’ll create a linear regression model to see if there’s any correlation or significance between certain keys, consistency of how well I execute those keys, and the resulting ball flight. These all seem like good ideas when I have all the time in the world.
Or, I could just enjoy hitting golf balls outside again, keep track of my scores, and be glad I'm not stuck in front of my computer all the time.
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Today was a nice day. One of the nicest days in the last few months in terms of both temperature and lack of precipitation. Because of that, I had to find a way to get out to the course. I had played in a tournament on Saturday and a few things 'clicked' with me, so I was excited to get back out and see if I could put it together on the course rather than imagining it while taking slow motion swings in my living room.
Anyway... there was a ton of promise early on. Tee shots were solid... and my misses were just left of the fairway, which was a welcome change since I had been battling a fade/slice over much of the last 2-3 weeks. Irons were, far and away, the best I've hit them since early October. Everything had a nice little draw on it. The things I had been practicing in my living room seemed to be good changes.
Hole #1 - Par 4 - 355 Yards
I opened with a good drive into the middle of the fairway followed by an 8 iron from about 138 yards that I pulled left of the green. Anxious to try and get it close, I flubbed my chip. I then nearly holed the next chip for par but settled for a bogey from 3 feet.
Hole #2 - Par 3 - 165 Yards
The pin was up front and we were into a slight breeze. Still, I hit my 7 iron from the tee which is typically a 160 yard club for me. It hit the green about 7 yards beyond the stick and finished just off the green. My putt from the fringe hit something and popped straight up, taking all the speed off of it. I still managed to jar the left-to-right putt from 16 feet for par.
Hole #3 - Par 5 - 504 Yards
A solid tee shot drew slightly and finished just off the fairway in the left rough. There is a big tree up the left side and I was still forever away, but I hit a low, running 3 wood that left me about 60 yards from the hole. I then all but sh--ked a lob wedge that skidded off the right side of the green. My chip didn't get close and I took 2 putts from 13 feet for bogey.
Hole #4 - Par 4 - 331 Yards
This was the first in a list of questionable decisions I made throughout the day. This hole should either be a 4 iron or my 18 degree hybrid. I hit 3 wood and tugged it a little left. I got lucky and it finished to the left of the fairway bunkers that dot the left side. I also had a pretty unobstructed look at the hole from about 90 yards. My sand wedge hit the green and stuck. The 14 footer for birdie was in the center of the cup but finished a roll short. Tap in for par.
Hole #5 - Par 4 - 389 Yards
This hole is difficult. It's only 389 yards but for some reason, with the slight incline, it plays a LOT longer. My drive was hit well and finished sitting on the 150 yard marker on the cart path. I took my drop and was left with about 155 to the flag. My 7 iron started slightly right of the hole then drew back, finishing on the left side of the green. The 31 foot putt ran by a few feet and I was able to make the 4 footer coming back for par.
Hole #6 - Par 3 - 179 Yards
I believe it was playing the exact yardage today, although it was slightly downhill and into a breeze. I hit a 6 iron 170 yards on average, and I knew I didn't want to be long, so I elected that club. I hit a high, slightly drawing shot that landed on the green and didn't advance any. From 34 feet, I lipped out for birdie and tapped in for another par.
Hole #7 - Par 5 - 486 Yards
My tee shot into the breeze was solid and finished in a great position in the fairway. I was left with about 225 yards to the stick. I caught my 3 wood a little on the neck of the club and pulled it just a touch. I was in the bunker front and left of the green. I blasted out and nearly holed the putt, but it ran 12 feet past. Another lip-out for birdie and a tap-in par.
Hole #8 - Par 4 - 397 Yards
This is listed as the #1 index hole on the course, but I love it. I blasted a drive that again drew into the left rough. I was blocked from going at the green by some overhanging limbs, so I tried to hook a 9 iron. It started at the greenside trap and just stayed there. I hit a decent shot out of there to about 4 feet, but it was a tricky, curling putt that I just didn't make a good stroke on. Bogey.
Hole #9 - Par 4 - 342 Yards
I hit an awful tee shot here than I never saw. Nobody else did either. It didn't hit anything and it didn't find the pond up the left side... but I hit another to be safe. That one found the fairway. As we approached that one, we saw my original ball well back in the fairway. I was about 175 yards away from the hole at that point. I hit another high, drawing 5 iron that found the green. A horrid first putt from 38 feet left me 6 feet for par, but I was able to make that.
So... the front nine was a resounding success. It's the best 9 holes I've had in 3 months, give or take. Take away a poor shot from 60 yards on the third hole and it had a chance to be my lowest 9 holes ever. At any rate... a 39 was great and I felt great heading to the back.
Hole #10 - Par 4 - 349 Yards
My tee shot with a 4 iron for position couldn't have been any better. I very likely would have just dropped it in that spot if given an option. It left me a pitching wedge from 130 yards, downhill and with the breeze. I caught it well but didn't get 'all' of it... so it hit the front of the green. As I began walking back to my bag, it began to trickle towards the false front. Ultimately, it trickled off the green and just barely into a hazard. I was able to play it from there and pitch to about 9 feet. With the hole cut where it was... no putt was easy. I proved that by needing 4 putts from just 9 feet. Triple bogey.
Hole #11 - Par 4 - 401 Yards
My drive faded around the tree at the corner and finished just off the fairway. The ball was a little below my feet and I made a poor swing with a 7 iron. I topped it, basically. From 65 yards, I hit a lob wedge that landed 2 feet to the right of the pin and sucked back to 12 feet. My par attempt dipped low and I tapped in for bogey.
Hole #12 - Par 3 - 164 Yards
Things really started to take a turn here. After watching 2 of my playing competitors put the ball in the water (a large pond runs all along the right side of this hole)... I started my ball at the hole and turned it away from the water. I turned it too much and it finished to the left of the green. I had a fairly easy pitch onto the green from that position, but I managed to push it right just a tiny bit. That was enough to feed it off the green due to the false front. I putted from the fringe but absolutely blasted the ball 10 feet past the hole which left me an ultra-fast putt downhill and down grain. I never got it started on line and took a double bogey.
Hole #13 - Par 5 - 525 Yards
This is where I began struggling with my driver. I started my ball left of my intended line and watched it draw well left. On this hole, left is not good... but I did have an opening to try and punch the ball up the fairway to leave myself a wedge in. I absolutely pured my shot but started it just a little right of where I wanted (maybe 2 feet off). The ball slammed into a tree and kicked left and out of bounds. My second attempt wasn't nearly as solid, but it made it through the window and into the fairway. From about 160 yards, I hit a high 7 iron that found the green. Unfortunately, it left me a very quick 17 footer which I was unable to make so I tapped in for another double bogey.
Hole #14 - Par 4 - 339 Yards
This is a hard dogleg to the left which requires a nice draw or a shot high enough to get over the tree guarding the corner. Another poor choice here as I tried to hit a 3 wood instead of hitting a 4 iron that I KNOW I can draw around that corner. The 3 wood was tugged and clattered around the tree before being spit out well back. I hit a wedge back to the fairway and then made my worst iron swing of the day with a 6 iron that never got close to the green. When all was said and done... I took a triple bogey.
Hole #15 - Par 5 - 462 Yards
Another hole where position is more important than distance. Knowing this... I STILL elected to hit driver. It was left, low and hooking... and it found the hazard. Instead of being smart and hitting a 7 iron up to the right of the fairway traps, I tried to hook a 4 iron low and under the trees. I hit it low... but it stayed right and went out of bounds. Attempt number 2 was fine... then I hit a wedge onto the green and two-putted from 20 feet for another triple bogey. I was beginning to feel a little sick about how I was playing, so I had a pep-talk with myself heading to the next tee.
Hole #16 - Par 4 - 309 Yards
Another big dogleg to the left that requires position... another poor decision. Typically, a good 4 iron leaves a low iron into the green. Although this hole is listed at 309 yards, it's certainly a little longer than that. I decided that I needed to get aggressive... so I hit my driver. I got lucky as it skimmed past the tree and drew around the corner. I was left with only 75 yards to a tricky green. My lob wedge is a 75 yard club... but I hit this one 95 yards. I hit a pretty good chip that just missed the cup but then trickled out to 16 feet. The par putt slipped by and I tapped in for a bogey.
Hole #17 - Par 3 - 138 Yards
With the breeze into our faces here, I kept going back and forth between an 8 iron and a 9 iron. I ultimately decided on the 9 iron, which was the correct club... but I left the face open and put myself in a nearly impossible position. I was on a slight downslope, below the green, with a bunker between my ball and the hole. I got the ball up onto the green but watched as it trickled down the other side and into a trap there. I blasted out to 14 feet but couldn't make that so I tapped in for another double bogey. I was now +13 over my last 6 holes.
Hole #18 - Par 4 - 312 Yards
Mercifully, the last hole was finally here. Uphill all the way... this 312 yard hole plays more like 375. My tee shot was blasted and dead center of the fairway... finally. I was left with 97 yards to a flag that was all the way back on the top tier. My wedge as low and scooted past the hole and into the back fringe. I was left with a slippery little putt from there that I hit beautifully and left myself a 4 footer. I made that for par to close out a horrible back side.
The back nine was awful from start to finish. I did very little correctly throughout and it showed in a final total of 53 on that side. The 39 - 53 = 92 was pretty sickening to look at on the card. Although I'm sure I've probably had a larger front-to-back difference in the past... this was the worst in recent memory. I actually had to add the back nine score multiple times because I couldn't believe I was +17 on that side.
It's back to indoor practice for the next few days as the weather is supposed to be pretty ugly until Friday... but I'm looking forward to getting back out to the course for some redemption. I feel like, despite the horrible back nine yesterday, my game is actually pretty close. Some tweaks here and there and I'd like to believe I may finally break that 80 barrier!
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Well winter has really set in, here in Western Washington, with snow a week ago and now blustery rainy days that won't end until April. I've done a lot of reflection after the Newport Cup because of how well I played that final day. It was a good way to end my season. I knew that my swing had been coming around and that there were only a few swing thoughts I wanted to keep track of. I had a good warm-up that day, not doing anything special. Just getting finding the rhythm and the way the ball was flying.
I know I've had rounds where I had flow from hole to hole or through a series of holes, but I never thought I was in the zone. The more I look back at the NC, the more I think I was firmly in the zone that last day. The first hole I can remember being in that zone was hole 12, a straight, longer par 4. I remember thinking about my aim point, on the tee, and just telling myself to swing the way you've been doing all day. I remember thinking the same thing on the next tee too and both were nearly perfect drives. I'm pretty sure, though, that after the first tee shot on hole 1, I entered that zone. Everything seems a blur now. No particular shots stand out. It was all thinking about my aim points and hitting them almost every time. It was a feeling of, almost, non-awareness. Just a aim and shoot, knowing that it will be just fine. It seems so strange, because I've never felt that way about a round. Every round is usually a battle to find the cup. I'm hoping I can retain that feeling and find it again next season.
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Although my injury really didn't completely stop me from golfing, it caused me to be apprehensive with my swing. However, tomorrow's surgery will leave me in a cast for a week and a brace for at least 8 weeks or maybe more. This surgery is going to be a test of my fortitude. I don't know if I will be able to work, I know I can't lift weights, drive a stick or golf for 3 months. We shall see if I survive. It sucks to be self employed in these circumstances. I will keep you posted...
It is always fascinating to me how all sports seemed to have developed a structure that tests the participants for a sufficient length of time to separate the wheat from the chaff. In football one has to play both halves. Remember the Super Bowl? The seventh inning stretch doesn’t end the game, the 8th and 9th innings must be played. Long ago when the game of golf was being formed, somehow the founders knew that 9 holes would not require the consistency a truly sound golfer must have to succeed. No, the test would have to 18.
A recent tournament in which I played reminded me of what I might call “The Nine Hole Conundrum.” The “NHC” is that a double-digit handicap player can play almost like a scratch player, but only for nine holes. If 18 holes are played, the longer contest inevitably sees the player revert to the norm.
In the tournament, Greg had a rough start Wednesday. Our shot gun start began on #16 and he was 5 over par when we made the turn to #1. At that point he became a changed man. He shot -3 for the front nine. Every shot was struck crisply, putts were holed and he even chipped in for a birdie. Then, when we moved to #10, he fell back to his original form. At the end of the day, he had shot 33-49-82.
Most of us can probably recall how we once (or still?) were in search of “breaking 80” (or 90 or 100). We could perform admirably for 9 holes. It was totally frustrating to know we had the skills to reach our numerical goal but lacked the consistency to hold it together for a full round.
I don’t have the answer. While I do have those consistent 18-hole rounds, there are many times where I fall prey to the “NHC” and turn a promising front side into a mess.
I have struggled hitting my only FW metal from the deck for a while.The last few times I've played, I focused on contacting the ground at the point where the back of the meets the ground. It seems to have helped me make solid contact. I'm not sure why. Comments? Thoughts?
So today I had another lesson and we worked a ton on alignment, and making sure that my upper body doesn't lean too far away from the target. This causes my centered turn to end up being around my hips and spine, but keeps my chest behind the ball which causes chunks, no matter how far over I slide my hips. Instead, now my hips slide and as a result my chest hangs back but is slightly ahead of the ball giving me clean contact. Not to mention, controlling my starting line is getting much easier. Every once in a while I still get shots that start just left and hook farther left, but overall most of my shots go straight and barely move or just draw a tad.
With my driver, I feel like my right leg is almost extending and my weight is turning around that. Similar to what happens in Justin Thomas's swing. In fact, my 'homework' was to watch JT bomb his driver to get an understanding of proper hip turn while my torso 'hangs back' and my right leg extends.
Oh, and I can hit my 3 wood!
“From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.” ~ Arthur Ashe
I overheard the golf coach at my daughter's golf camp say that he can get any girl with average golf skills a scholarship to college. But I thought to myself, what about the rest of the aspiring young golfers out there?
So here is my way to help give back -- the first (of hopefully many) golf scholarships for high school/undergraduate students who are on their school's golf team.
The $1,000 scholarship will be awarded to the best golf essay submitted. The golf essay topics may include, but are not limited to:
- How you and your team overcame overwhelming odds
- How your personal journey led you to embrace the sport of golf
- How the game of golf has helped you in your studies or in preparing for your career after school
- How you can personally help grow the game of golf
Plus, all entrants have the option to publish their essays published with links to their social media profiles, providing vital exposure for applicants looking to make a name for themselves in the golf industry.
For more information and to submit essays, please visit the website:
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I am subtitling this: “the Tao of Cipher”
Last week I was able to play my first full round of golf in over two years. It was not pretty, but it was so much fun. I completely chunked about nine shots and I took at least 4 penalties. I had the absolute best time doing so. A co-worker and I took a couple business partners out and it was very rewarding to be able to do that again. All the hard work, patience and time weighing the tough decisions have been to the benefit of playing again without a concern at this point and without any sort of swing alteration to do so. I am incredibly pleased with the result and with being able to play again.
It gives me great joy to know there are many days including yesterday in which my wife will mention the positive change she has seen in me. I don’t want to keep bringing up perspective, because I think it is and has been the least relatable thing in this blog so far based on the reactions and comments. I will just leave this series to be for now with a few final thoughts. This is probably one of the best things that ever happened to me, even if my wrist decides to give out next week. If everything continues to go well don’t be surprised if I play quite a bit less than I did in the past, but also enjoy the game more than I ever have. Don’t be surprised if I do not work on the swing at the same level or someday soon really at all. Don’t be surprised if there are days I would rather go throw a disc into some chains or go fishing with my son and daughter nearly every weekend. Don’t be surprised if I have little to no interest in playing competitive golf. I will however probably try and get the game in shape enough to qualify for and be part of the Newport Cup if I am lucky enough to be chosen. I was looking forward to that the last time and I would like to redeem that missed opportunity. I am most looking forward to meeting some of people I have not met yet from the site and also seeing those again that I have.
Thank you to all who have read this series and have wished me well over these past couple years. If anyone comes across this blog in the search for information on this injury, please reach out to me if you are experiencing the same thing. I know the information out there is not great.
I will possibly try and continue with another series of blogs in the future, but for this series on the “Reflections on Golf and Life After ECU Injury” I am signing off, for now. Wishing you all great health and don’t forget to take a moment to enjoy each day you are.
Bannar had a manservant waiting for her when she had knocked on the front door. He was tall, and thin, and clean-shaven; he smiled when he saw her.
“Sarah, I presume? I apologize for the familiarity; Ser Bannar did not give me your family name,” the man said.
“Aden, ser,” Sarah said.
“Madra Aden, my name is William. Bannar said you might be coming by this morning. Would you like something to eat?”
“That is far too much trouble, William. I’ll just wait for Bannar, if that’s alright.”
“It is no trouble at all, madra. The food is already on the table. You can eat while you wait, if you so choose.”
William bowed, and led her from the front room. Bannar’s home wasn’t the opulent palace that Sarah had believed it to be. He was the one of the richest merchants in town, and he lived in a house not much nicer than Ian. The trappings were nicer, sure; the table was polished wood, infused with gold and silver, and the plates were not cheap wood or heavy stone, but of bone, and some silver.
She wondered, too, about the stone he had taken from them. She had touched it, and that mattered to him, and it made her nervous. She had been too busy helping Alex and getting through the night to really focus on it at the time, but since she woke up that morning it had been weighing on her. She would have to ask Bannar about it, if only for her peace of mind.
“Do you like roast?” William said.
“I do,” Sarah said.
William cut a piece off a giant slab of meat, and put it on a plate, and handed it to her. The food on the table was fresh; steam still rose from it, and the smell of baked bread and cooked meats made her mouth water.
“I hate to trouble you, William,–” she began, but William poured her a goblet of water.
“Ser Bannar does not drink wine or beer or ale anymore, I’m afraid. Just water,” he said.
“Perfect. Thank you.”
“You are welcome, Madra Aden. He will be with you shortly.”
William bowed again, and left the room. Sarah took a fork and knife from the table, and cut up her roast; the first taste was almost more than she could handle, and she was reminded that she had not eaten in almost a full day. Merchant Turo had been murdered, skull smashed into small bits, and Sarah had spent much of that day reconstructing his head for the funeral. She was close to finished when Harry had carried Alex in, near death, and broken-bodied. She wondered what would happen to Merchant Turo now; they had moved him when Alex came in, used that room for Alex’s recovery.
“Good morning,” said Bannar, sitting down at the table with her.
“Good morning, Ser Bannar,” Sarah said.
“I see you’ve been speaking with William. Only he and the guards call me ser anymore.”
“I think more people call you ser than you realize. Ser.”
“An unnecessary title, but I would be lying that it doesn’t puff an old man’s chest at the sound of it. Do you like the food?”
“It’s delicious, ser,” she said.
“No more ser, please,” he said, cutting off a piece of roast, and a few vegetables. William came in and poured him more water, and did the same for Sarah. They ate for a moment, and the quiet in the room was filled by clinking forks and spoons, and the raising of goblets.
“Do you have an update for me?” Bannar said.
“Oh gods, I’m sorry, Merchant Bannar. He asked for you,” Sarah said, embarrassed. She had begun eating, and had forgotten the purpose of her visit, and to ask about the stone. It reminded her of her first night in Toha, after Ian had pulled her from that caravan; she had ate, and ate, and ate, and for a while couldn’t remember where she was, or where she came from, or even her name. That had been a good night.
“It is fine. Do you mind if I call you Sarah?” he said.
“Sarah is fine,” she said.
“Well, Sarah, if you have eaten your fill, I would like to see Alex.”
Sarah looked wistfully at the food on the table, but stood anyway. Bannar came over to her, and they linked arms, and they walked out of the house and into the sunlight. Ian’s house wasn’t far from Bannar’s; they lived only a few streets over from one another, bracketing the edges of the nicer homes in Toha.
“How long have you been here, Sarah?” Bannar said.
“Twelve years, kind of,” Sarah said.
“Longer than even I and Alex.”
“Only a few, I believe.”
“I don’t believe you and I have ever met before, which I find strange, in all this time of overlap.”
“When I was twelve, Ian– Ser Hansa sent me to study as a healer in the Four Corners. I spent five years there,” she said.
“And then came back here?” he said.
“No, I went to Boros. Or, was supposed to go to Boros, but my group came across members of the Royal Army, bogged down after battle. We were a group of healers, some of us even trained in battlefield medicine, and they conscripted us then and there. I spent three years, until the end of the war, working for them.”
“You’ve lived quite the life so far, Sarah Aden.”
“Enough of one, Ser Bannar.”
They walked in silence for a moment, arm and arm. People were out and about on this day, this perfect, cool morning. They were all the genty; all the genteel upper class of Toha, or what passed for genteel this far from the capitol. They came to the end of Bannar’s street, and made a left, walking down the main road of Toha, the only cobblestone road in the entire city. Bannar had some trouble picking up his feet, and they moved slower than they had on the firm dirt. A few times, Sarah thought she caught him stealing glances, but she was not sure.
“The war did not reach us here,” he said.
“I am not surprised,” she said.
“I expected it to, to tell you the truth. I expected that we would have to fight, whether in large or small numbers. But, no; the barbarians were driven backwards, about ten leagues from here.”
“Not so close.”
“Close enough to see Spahn go up in flames. The loggers brought back burned, warped wood from the edge of the Grenwood; it was a novelty for a while, a thing to say that you had a souvenir from the Burning of Spahn. A disgusting practice,” he said.
“Did you take any?” she said.
“Oh, of course. I sold it at a high price at my shop. Let no one say that I am adverse to making money.”
Another merchant, a young man in silk robes, bowed as he passed Bannar, who bowed in return.
“I’ve never see him before,” Sarah said.
“He sells weapons. Took over from his father. Danne Wallen, I believe,” Bannar said.
“He bowed to you.”
“And I bowed in return. We are acquaintances.”
“Oh no, Madra Aden. I sell clothes and pots and pans and boots to the good folk of this town. I do not sell weapons. He is very much not my competition, and he won’t ever be, if he knows what he’s doing.”
They came to the end of the cobble road, and took a right. There were not far from Ian’s house; she could see the front door from where they were.
“May I ask you a personal question?” Bannar said.
“You’ve asked me several personal questions,” Sarah said.
“One more, then.”
Bannar looked at her. His gaze was intense, and Sarah felt uncomfortable underneath it.
“Did you have any family in Boros? An aunt, or a grandmother, or anything of that sort?”
“My family is from Northmount. I was the first, and as far as I know, last person to leave the town. If I have family there, I do not know of them. Why?”
He looked at her again, and smiled sadly.
“You remind me of someone I knew. A spitting image of her, almost uncomfortably so. I was wondering if the two of you were related. Hopes of an old man, it seems.”
Sarah put her hand on the door, but stopped before opening it. She turned to Bannar, who looked at her with hope, as if she had remembered something. He looked younger, more vibrant; whoever this woman had been made a difference to Bannar. But she hadn’t remembered anything; she just had a question.
“May I ask you about the stone, Ser Bannar?” she said.
The hope fell from his face, and it became old, and gray, and tired.
“You are not in danger, Madra Aden, if that is what you were wondering,” he said.
“You asked who touched it.”
“And you did, and nothing happened. That means one of two things, both of which are inconsequential at the time being.”
Bannar’s lips tightened, and his jaw flexed. He put his own wrinkled hand on the door handle, and pushed it open.
“If I felt it necessary, I would tell you,” he said, a different man than the one who stumbled along the cobblestone. He pushed past her, and went into Ian’s house.
Harry downed his last beer; an early morning jog of the mind. Helena had cleaned him up, and the beer grounded him back in the work. Or, at least, that’s what he liked to think. Harry just liked to have a little hit in his neck when he went on early morning checks; it made him feel like he was ready to fight.
Outside of the bar, he passed by three beggars. One of them, with long red-brown hair, had a cap in front of him. Harry bent down and put a coin in it, and the young man peered up with his dirty face.
“Thank you,” said the beggar, and looked back down. The beggar next to him made a face. Harry nodded, and kept going.
Nobody had come storming into his house that night; a victory, all things considered, though Harry thought it possible that they had all been covertly murdered. But it was a happier outcome; he saw Thomas at his post, arms heavy with sleep. He clapped the glass-eyed boy on the arm, jolting him awake.
“Captain,” said Thomas, a second slow, with three blinks too many.
“Have you been out here all night, Thomas?” Harry said.
“Thank you. Find Wotom, tell him to take your post. Then go home, and don’t report till tomorrow morning.”
“Yes, Captain. Thank you, Captain.”
Thomas slapped his right arm over his chest, grabbing his left bicep; a formal salute, created and implemented by a commander long-dead on the battlefield. Harry had outlawed it long ago, but he just smiled at Thomas, and let him walk away.
Harry went next to the Greased Pig. It wasn’t open for business, not yet; but this did not stop some of the regulars, like Water Dick and Swamp from lounging around outside. They had beers in old wooden cups, and had already drank their fill, if the sway of their legs as they tried to stand still was any indication.
“Where’d you get the beer?” Harry said to Water Dick, who pointed inside.
“Gita serving, but not inside,” Water Dick said. Harry went past them, and opened the door.
Gita was in there, in breeches and a sleeveless shirt, scrubbing the blood off of the floor. She had bruises on her arms, to go along with the ones on her face; her right arm was pinned to her chest by a piece of cloth, and a knife hung from her waist. At Harry’s entrance, she stopped, and looked up at him. He thought for a moment that she would attack him, but she relaxed, and went back to cleaning.
“Thought you might be someone looking to have a go at this place,” she said. “Was preparing to gut you.”
“Just coming to check on you,” Harry said.
“My arm is broken, but otherwise, I’m alright.”
“Did you see the Healer?”
“Saw you dragging bodies inside, figured it was best to leave it be for now.”
“He probably has some time now. A lull in the action, as it were.”
“More coming, then?” she said.
Harry leaned against the bar. The blood where the young guard had been impaled was mostly clean, but the outline of his corpse was forever there, at least in Harry’s mind.
“Yeah, more coming, I think,” he said. He stood up straight, went over, and stuck out his hand.
“I’ll go later,” she said.
“I’ll get someone to take care of this. Go get patched up, take some time. If action comes, everyone is going to need you at full strength,” he said.
Gita looked up at him. She was not a woman who liked pity; none did, really, but she especially. Harry had never asked, finding that he liked his jaw and nose intact and clear of bloodstains, but he suspected Gita had come from somewhere foul, and wasn’t anxious to go back. A lot of those here in Toha, he thought.
“Alright. But I’d like this place to actually be cleaner when I return, not just look it,” she said.
“It will be. I promise,” he said.
Gita stood, and brushed herself off. She and Harry went outside.
“You’re not coming with, are you?” she said.
“Until you make it safely to the Healer’s, yes,” he said.
“What about Water Dick and Swamp? They’ll break into anywhere for a beer.”
“Hey!” said Water Dick.
“That’s not true!” said Swamp.
Harry turned to them both. Short, stocky, fat bastards; they drank more than anybody in Toha, or at least acted as if they did. He pointed at Water Dick.
“If you go in there, I will hang you from a tree by your balls,” Harry said. He pointed to Swamp. “And you, I’ll gut with a cheese knife. Understand?”
They both nodded quickly, and sat down in front of the Pig, straight down into the soft dirt. Harry rolled his eyes, and he and Gita set off.
“****ing drunks,” he said.
“Those drunks pay me more coin than ten other customers combined. Try not to scare them off,” she said.
“Well, if the smell is any indication, I believe I emptied both of their bladders. They’ll be dying for a drink by the time you get back.”
She was in more distress than she let on; she moved slower and slower the closer they go to the Healer’s. He saw her bite back a yell more than once, as her foot caught on the ground, and her arm jostled against her chest. She was pale, and tired, and Harry wanted to carry her, but suspected he’d find his balls on the ground shortly thereafter.
At the Healer’s, she didn’t speak a goodbye, or a thank you; she just went into the open door.
“Can you help her?” Harry said.
“I’ll do my best,” the Healer said.
The Healer nodded, and led Gita deeper into the house. Harry closed the door, and let them be. He had a few more things to do before he checked on Alex, as much as he wanted to go now. Those seven men that had come in the night before would need to find somewhere to bed down, and were almost surely being watched; Toha had a strange relationship to foreigners, keeping a tight eye on anyone out of place, and seven men armed to the hilt looking for a warm place to sleep would send murmurs through the less reputable channels. Harry passed by a group of merchants in fancy silks, tittering amongst themselves. Harry had never seen them before, but they struck him as strange.
The closest inn was the Frogs and Fingers, a converted mansion that once belonged to the head of Toha. He and his wife were thought to be Channellers, the kind that kidnapped little children and frogs for their spells and potions; they were drug out into the street, and sodomized, and burned alive. It turned out they were spies for the Korodan, so, there’s that.
The Fingers always had a guard out front; it was mostly for show, to make those few passing-through travellers think this was a place where they were safe. But in truth the Fingers regularly stole from it’s patrons; caravan merchants resting for a night woke up with lighter wallets, but none of that money was ever found. Anyone with experience (sense, after stepping in the place), would go a few streets over to the Sunshine, and pay extra to not get Fingered.
“Morning, Sam,” Harry said to the guard outside.
“Morning, Captain,” said Sam. “You here about those boys that came in last night?”
“As a matter of fact, I am.”
“Lady Andrea said you might. She’s out back, tending to the well.”
“Thanks, Sam. Be safe.”
“You too, Captain.”
The Fingers did have one distinct advantage: they had their own well, and no other inn could boast of such a luxury. Most houses shared a well, set on a piece of land in the city shared in ownership by those houses, but a lucky few owned land where houses had been built around or next to a source of groundwater. Those houses often went for twenty times the price, and the owners had to be careful about where they left the deed; should you find a magistrate looking for coin, and have a talented forger at command, one could steal it out from the proper owner. The penalty for such malfeasance used to be a fine, and a two month expulsion from Toha, but Harry had executed one thief and his forger for the crime, and it had become less common in the five years since.
The well was in a covered portion of the inn; it was not apart of the inn, per se, but built around it and attached to the existing structure. Lady Andrea took care of it herself, not trusting anyone else to maintain the well, which was smart; should some worker poison the water, finally running off the last gullible customer (or putting them in the ground), then Lady Andrea would have to sell; she would find no shortage of buyers.
“They’re in the second room on the fourth floor,” Lady Andrea said when Harry stepped into the well room. She was fixing the crank on the well, replacing it with a new one. She was a muscular woman, with dark skin, and dark hair, pulled back into a ponytail. A sword sat against the wall, bigger than Harry’s.
“May I say hello first?” Harry said.
“Hello, Harry. They’re in the second room on the fourth floor.”
“Any trouble with them? “
“None. But I suspect they know we’re watching them.”
“I’m an professional thief, allegedly. I can tell when someone is hiding secrets,” she said.
“Quite a power you have, Lady Andrea,” he said.
“That,” she said, “or I have ways to listen into their conversations. They know, and do not care that we know that they know.”
“Any word on what they’re planning?”
“Nothing. Just keep your eye out. If they were to disappear, and, say, the Grenwood bears got a nice, hearty meal, I wouldn’t be off-kilter.”
“They just might. Morning, Lady Andrea,” he said.
“Morning, Captain Reyna.”
Harry left her to it.
Something struck him as off about the whole thing. It was a trap, but not; a taunt, but a shrug. He did not know what the point of all of this was; if they wanted to spring an attack on Toha, take whatever it was they came for, there were myriad ways to do it. But to come in, armed, and then not care about being surveilled puzzled Harry. The only people who would even notice them would be those who they would eventually have to answer to, and though he was no tactical genius, he was pretty sure that giving up the element of surprise was a bad idea.
He went up the stairs, heading to the fourth floor; his stomach rumbled, and that early morning beer came back to his throat. He felt nauseous climbing the stairs; felt something deep underneath; he felt fear has he made his way to that fourth floor. He stopped, and caught his breath. This felt off, and he did not like it, and so he went back down the stairs, and out the front doors.
Outside, he saw those men in the silks, putting money in the hats of those beggars he had seen before. But something was off there, too; they seemed to be actively hiding themselves now, positioned in a darker corner, partially behind some barrels. The men in silks were also strangely positioned; backs mostly turned to him, all three bending over to put money in the cap. The only part of them he could not see were their faces.
Around him, the rest of the world took no notice, not of one another. They all freely showed their faces, let their eyes and ears and mouths and noses be lit up by warm sun. But not the beggars, and not the men in the silk robes. And then one of them shifted, one of the beggars, and looked up at him, just for an instant, and he knew: they were watching him.
His heart turned hot, and his fingers tingled. He walked on, smiling at the passerby, and made his way down the road. They would not follow him again, of that he was sure; they had slipped up, for some reason; they had shown their hand, and he did not know why. But this much was certain: he was a target, and if he was a target, it meant they were here for something larger. That fear from before, that fear as he climbed the stairs, returned, and washed over him. But along with it came a thrill, and Harry thought of the man with the hammer, and the way his head hung half off his neck; he found himself anxious to do it again, to these men; and that, more than anything else, sent a chill down the back of his neck.
They were at Ian’s worn dinner table, Alex and Bannar, and neither of them could find the words, at first. Alex wanted to apologize, but had been struck dumb when he saw Bannar; he wondered if the man who had pulled him from the dirt was mad at him, and he wondered if he would be able to withstand it.
“Alex,” Bannar said, finally.
“Yes, Merchant Bannar?” Alex said, fearful.
“How are you feeling?”
“Better than yesterday.”
“I am very glad to hear that, old friend. Very glad indeed.”
Bannar reached out across the table, and gave Alex’s hand a squeeze; Alex felt hot tears in his eyes, and he blinked them back.
“I thought you were going to be upset with me,” Alex said.
“Gods no, Alex. Why would you think that?” Bannar said.
“I was supposed to protect the store, and your things, and–”
“It’s okay. I promise.”
Alex nodded, a weight lifted. He felt stupid, now; of course Bannar wouldn’t be upset. He had pulled him from the ****ing dungeon in the capitol; would he really be phased by a small explosion? Absurd to even consider it.
“I do need to ask you a few question,” he said. Alex nodded.
“Okay,” Alex said.
“Did you touch the stone?”
“Did you blow up the shop.”
“Yes,” Alex said, reluctantly. Bannar smiled, squeezed his hand again.
“It’s alright,” he said, “thank you for answering truthfully. Now, Healer Ian told me that you experienced a warmth when he was using his mending spell on you. Is that true?”
“Yes. Is that bad? Am I okay?”
“You’re fine, but it does tell us something important.”
“One more question: have you been having strange dreams since you touched it? Have you seen things that you’ve never seen before?”
Alex nodded, and Bannar sighed. He sat back in his chair, and rubbed the bridge of his nose. He knocked on the table, and Ian came in.
“It’s what you thought,” Bannar said.
“Then we need to get him out of here,” Ian said.
“What? Why?” Alex said. Ian turned to Alex.
“There are two kinds of magic users, or Channelers: those with a well of natural magic within, and those who draw it from themselves,” Ian said. “I have no well of magic, no reserve to pull from; each drop I use comes from my own body. Someone like Healer Oros in the Four Corners has a reserve of magic to use; it’s like writing a pen that has ink pot to fill it, versus one that writes with your own blood. You have a magical reserve.”
“We know,” Bannar said, as Alex opened his mouth, “because you were able to feel the effects of that mending spell. Most do not feel healing spells; they feel a tingling, or something like it, and they’re healed. But those with reserves feel it almost as an emotion; almost as a state of mind. It leaves you open to extra anguish when hit with something evil, or dark, as well.”
“Did the stone give me this magic?” Alex said.
“The stone activates magic within those who have it, but in whom it lays dormant. They are rare, indeed, and worth a fortune. They are also dangerous, as you experienced, for anyone who touches it that has no magic within will be badly injured, as the Void Shadows made the stones, and they were unpleasant men. For those who already have magic already, it does nothing at all, ” Bannar said. Alex saw Ian’s eyes widen, and something flash across his face; but just as quickly, it was gone.
“Excuse me,” Ian said, and left the room. Bannar watched after him, and then looked back at Alex.
“I can use magic?” Alex said, and Bannar nodded.
“You’ll require training, lest you hurt yourself and others, but that seems to be the case. But that will have to wait for now. We’re going to get you out of the city, into the Grenwood, until you can recover,” Bannar said.
“Why would I got into the Grenwood?”
“That stone just woke magic up in you. Many people have magic reserves that the magic itself did not see fit to activate. It takes a massive amount of power to wake up a Channeller, and people are bound to notice. I do not want anything to happen to you again.”
Bannar stood, slowly. He looked tired, and worn.
“Can I help you, Ser Bannar?” Alex said.
“Don’t call me ser, for one. But thank you, Alex. Just rest. That will be enough for me,” Bannar said. Ian came back into the room. He looked troubled.
“May I speak with you for a moment, Lucas?” Ian said.
“Of course,” Bannar said, turning to Alex. “Rest, please. You’ll be moved tonight.”
Bannar and Ian walked out together. Alex remained at the table. His head was spinning, and he felt nauseous. He felt a laugh bubble up his throat, and it came out as a half-cackle, and that half-cackle made him laugh again, and before he knew it, he had laid his head on the table, laughing so hard that he began to cry. Eventually, he sat up, and contained his laughter to a few chuckles, and gasps. He wiped his eyes.
“Gods above,” he said, sniffling, “what the **** is going on?”
He had peeked. Joseph knew that Ethan had peeked, regardless of protestations to the country. Ethan had peeked, and there was no doubt that the old guard knew that they were following him.
“I doubt he knows,” Ethan said.
“You saw his demeanor, Ethan,” Joseph said. They had relocated from the Frogs and Fingers, outside of the city. The four men disguised as rich merchants had changed their disguise, and moved over to the Sunshine; the weapons had left with Joseph, Ethan, and Tenzo. They were in a makeshift cabin, once owned by a family of loggers, now buried in the backyard. Tenzo was outside, packing snow to melt down for water; tomorrow, he would go down to the river and bathe and clean the weapons, and bring water, too; but it was too dangerous for them to move around like that now.
Joseph and Ethan were fixing dinner for that night.
“He was probably spooked by those fools in the silks. Bloody fools probably tipped him off, which would be why he didn't go up to the bloody room at the inn. Surprised us all,” Ethan said.
“You looked at him,” Joseph said.
“So what? You weren’t looking at him? Tenzo wasn’t looking at him? You think Hiseni or Itho or the others weren’t staring?”
“Not one of them stared so brazenly. You made an error, and have put this operation in danger.”
Ethan slammed a dish down as he cleaned it, and it broke on the table.
“You put this operation in danger when you hired mercenaries to find the merchant. They made a ruckus, and put the town on alert!” Ethan said.
“The town being on alert was an acceptable outcome, as you very well know,” Joseph said.
“You deny your failure, but accentuate mine? Cowardly, Joseph. Cowardly.”
Ethan swept the pieces of broken plate off the table. Joseph’s mouth tightened, but he said nothing. Ethan cared not for this house; he had been the one to find it, and the one to gut those who lived in it, but Joseph did care. Blood spilled should be blood earned; that is, a fair fight, with reasonable motive, should be the only reason a knife or sword or bow is drawn. But Ethan trained under Master Gramma, and Ethan killed whatever stood adjacent to him, regardless of the consequences.
“They will prepare for us now,” Joseph said.
“Good. I grow tired of waiting. We should just take the town, and execute anyone who will not lead us to the stone and the magic it awakened.”
“We are seven men. Not enough for a town as large as Toha.”
“Then we call our brothers, and we take the town then.”
Ethan placed out more plates, leaving them intact this time. He went outside, and took the pig he was roasting on the spit, and brought it inside. Joseph cleaned up the shards on the floor, and then laid out the cutlery. The family had no silver forks and knives and spoons; just rough wooden utensils, probably cut by the family themselves. Joseph’s father had been a sculptor, and he admired the craft work. He would’ve liked to meet the person who cut the forks and knives and spoons
Tenzo came back with melted snow He set down two large buckets, careful not to slosh them. He came to the table with a smile, enjoying the warmth from the fire, and from the satisfaction that came from completing a task.
“Pour the water,” Ethan said to Tenzo, who did, though Joseph saw anger on his face. He wished, not for the first time, that he had brought a youngling along instead of Ethan. Ethan was a talented swordsmen, one filled with a bloodlust so great that he could take down ten men and feel no fear nor fatigue, but he wore on the nerves; had Hiseni been here, instead of Tenzo, Ethan would’ve long been buried, facing the sun, as were his wishes.
Tenzo poured the water, and they sat down at the table. They each ate slowly, and in silence. Tenzo prayed first, as he always did; he was a devoted follower of the Smiling Gods, while Joseph had been raised as a worshipper of the Bloodied Four. He no longer practiced, not since he joined the Rei, but he still remembered the prayers at the table, and the sacrifices after every meal.
Joseph had never seen Ethan pray, though he knew that he had been in seminary for the Smiling Gods, before joining with them. The Rei attracted all types, all for various reasons, and rare was the man that was turned down. Joseph disagreed with allowing all willing to become members, but he was a good soldier, and he followed orders.
Ethan finished first, and went outside to piss. Tenzo looked at Joseph when he was gone; he was upset.
“He told me to pour the water,” Tenzo said.
“I heard,” Joseph said.
“He does not like me.”
“I think I should kill him.”
“Not now,” Joseph said.
“If he touches one of the people who gave coin, I will kill him,” Tenzo said.
“I know. I am not against it.”
“He is too angry for this mission. Too angry, and too proud, to believe in the cause.”
“Perhaps. But his strength in battle is worth the agony he causes. At least for now. I will speak to the Council when I return.”
Tenzo stood. They had stashed their bedrolls against the wall, and Tenzo unrolled his. They had started a fire in the fireplace, and Tenzo laid his bedroll in front of it. He crawled upon it, and closed his eyes, and, within moments, was fast asleep. Joseph envied him. He could not fall asleep so easily.
Ethan came back inside, still stuffing his cock back into his breeches. He sighed upon seeing Tenzo.
“Little bastard finally fell asleep,” he said, slumping down at the table.
“You should be nicer to him,” Joseph said.
“The nicest thing I could do would be cut his throat. A believer in the Smiling Gods. What a moron.”
“All religions are welcome in the Rei.”
Ethan grabbed his bedroll, and placed it in the corner.
“Tomorrow,” Ethan said, “I am going into town to look for that merchant. Are you coming?”
Joseph looked at him. The plan they had all agreed upon, when leaving Toha, was to lie low for a few days. But Ethan was impatient, and desired to rule over Joseph and Tenzo, and the rest; he would go regardless of orders, or the like.
“Tenzo and I are coming, yes,” Joseph said. Ethan nodded, and laid on his bedroll, and rolled onto his side, back facing Joseph. He thought he was shaming Joseph, showing that he was unafraid to face the wall, unafraid to show his vulnerable back; but it was a relief for Joseph, for every time he saw Ethan’s face, he wanted to drive a knife straight through it.
Joseph went outside, and took a piss.
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Posted this on IG yesterday, just something I thought would be interesting to throw out there. I could be completely off but when you look at players that have had long, relatively injury-free careers they tend to have more "freedom" with their lower body (Phil, Jack, Sam Snead, Vijay). By freedom I mean allowing the hips to turn, trail knee losing some flex and the lead knee moving inward. I've also felt Tiger's swing, especially in recent years, is too restrictive and hurts his downswing sequencing.
Someone commented that it wasn't a good comparison because the swing of Tiger's isn't a driver swing, it actually is but I'll also share this driver swing from last year in Phoenix.
Here are some of the comments and my responses:
There have been 2 or 3 threads lately of guys that are getting burnt out on golf, or don't know why they are still playing.
I cant say I am at that point, as I still average over 120 rounds a year. I guess with my hype of getting ready for the US Mid Am and my Club Championship this year, I've been so focused on the goal. Well, now that those have past, I am simply playing to play. Have some fun. You never know what "winter" will be like in Arkansas. Last year we had 1 day where there was a very light snow that melted the next day, so golf improvements over the winter were pretty possible. The year before last we had 4 or 5 days were the area shut down since there are no snow plows to clear the 4-5 inches we got. It was damn cold for a long time.
Ill continue to keep up with evlovr monthly hoping to come out in the spring ready to fire some great scores. The good news is, the best time of year is starting. Cooler temps & thinner rough are fast approaching. No more helping people search for balls in the rough on every hole, and literally grip it and rip it without much worry of missing the fairway. Fall golf is great. Setting my sights on 2017 and overall improvement. Very proud of the 2016 season, but ready to turn the page on this chapter in golf.
It has been a while since I've looked at my Game Golf stats. Here is a run down.
Strokes Gained versus Scratch (Future Goal) and versus 5-handicap (current)
The major area of concern is my Short Game and Putting. I will say the downfall of Game Golf's strokes gained is that it doesn't take into account if you are behind a tree or in a difficult approach shot situation. I would suspect the "Off The Tee" stat is a tad higher, and the Approach is a tad lower. I had a situation the other evening where I hit a drive that put me on an uphill lie, about 25 yards behind a beat up pine tree, about 145 yards from the green. I proceeded to destroy a lower tree limb and my ball went only about 30 yards forward of the tree and to the right. I believe Game Golf puts that as strokes lost on the approach shot not the tee shot. The change might be a small number depending on how often you end up in a bad spot.
Approach Shot Charts
Game Golf's "Approach the Green" insight page shows percentage of shots that end up with in 15 yards of the pin. I kinda wish they allowed you to change that 15 yard number. Then I could get my average leave from the pin based on yardage from the pin. I took my stats from Game Golf and plugged them into excel.
The 125-175 being above 60% pretty solid. The drop off from 125-150 to 100-125 is concerning. 70% of the time from 50-75 yards is probably not that good. I need to really work on my feel with my wedge shots at all distances.
As shown below I do not miss that 15 yard circle on the short side often. As the yardages get closer to the pin the more often I miss the shot long.
I find that I rarely miss a shot towards the left side of the green. I find that the longer the club the more rightward I will end up. Maybe the lie angles are off for me? Though i just had those checked a few months ago. I wonder if it's related to over-swinging as well. I do need to start adjusting my aim now on my irons. It could be I am expecting more draw based results when I am hitting more fades now as well. It might be time to look at my shot zones as well. Even with missing the ball more rightward then leftward I still get the ball with in 15 yards over 60% of the time from 125-175 yards.
Shots with in 75 yards are compared at a 5 yard circle from the pin. From 25-50 yards I only get the ball with in 5 yards 33% of the time. From 0-25 yards I get the ball inside 5 yards 93% of the time. Clearly my short game is a struggle.
1. I need to work on my distance control with the shorter irons and wedges. The miss right and miss left are not high compared to the miss long.
2. I need to adjust my shot zones for my mid and long irons.
Here are my driving stats. 32% fairway is not a good number, but on most courses it's serviceable with how far I hit the ball. Rough has never been a big problem for me. I equally miss the ball left and right. Its' pretty much equal probability the ball will go left, fairway, or right. I really would like to take one side of the course out of play. I would really like to get near 50% FIR sometime. I would like to change from the 33% across the board to something like 10% Left, 50% Fairway, 40% right. With right not being off the course right.
I hope this helped those who have Game Golf in a way they can look into trends of their own game. Hopefully others will look at Game Golf in the future as a tool that could hep their game.
It has been exactly 6 months after I retired. Here's what happened to my golf after I have retired.
- I have been playing 5 - 6 times a week. However, a simple majority of the rounds have been less than 18 holes. I simply quit when I get too tired, get hungry, etc.. Being able to play everyday, I don't feel I need to finish around.
- With more time, I thought I'd get warm up before a round but I don't. I feel I can learn more by playing. Instead, I go to range practice whenever I can't play a round - raining, course bought out, etc..
- I avoid playing during busy hours, like Saturday. That means I am playing a lot by myself or with my wife. This gives me time to focus more on each shot. When I play in 4-some, sometimes, I get distracted.
- My HI improved immediately after my retirement. Playing 5 - 6 times a week helped me improve on my short game, and course management. HI improved by about 4 - 5 strokes over the 6 months, not all at once though. However, I don't think it will continue to improve unless I do something different.
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Welcome to my blog. I've decided to do something a little bit different from a normal golf blog by focusing a bit more on the Rules of Golf.
The impetus behind this blog is that I volunteered to be the Rules Chairman for my men's club this fall. Now, I am of fairly sound mind, but volunteering to do that is probably a bit crazy. It is fair to ask why I volunteered. Well, I've been interested in the Rules of Golf since I started playing golf seriously. I never really had them introduced to me, so I've been mostly self-taught. They aren't some arbitrary gobbledygook to me - I intuitively understand the reasoning behind most of the rules. Instead of learning as an 8 year old that you can't step on the line of your putt without understanding why, I get why that is a rule. I'm also a lawyer, so the rules do not intimidate me. They are very straightforward compared to what I deal with. I have a book of regulations that is 1003 pages long and contains 10 regulations. This tiny book that is what, 150 pages long, is no big deal in comparison to that. I have, on multiple occasions, been able to read the Rules on the course and figure out what to do quickly enough to not delay play. One time, I found a dead fish on grass within the margin of a water hazard, and wasn't sure what I could do, but I figured it out after quickly reading the rules (bonus points if you can tell me the answer below).
That said, our club is lucky enough to have an experienced and knowledgeable professional rules official in it. He was the former Rules Chairman, and I can lean on him for any help. Which I will likely need, as you'll see in a second.
To prepare for this redoubtable position, I have started to follow the Rules of Golf section here more closely. I have been learning a ton by the rules questions asked in there and finding the answers on my own. I also took a 2 day rules seminar put on by the Colorado Golf Association. That was ... fun. A bit dry, to be honest, but I learned a lot of nuances in the rules. I also affirmed that I had a decent, although not spectacular, handle on the rules already. So, I should be pretty good at this, right?
Well... our club has a biennial (every other year - I had to look that up originally, too) rules requirement. You can fulfill it by taking an online rules quiz (I'll have a post about that later), or be attending 1 of 2 seminars we host during the year. Last weekend was our first seminar. Fortunately, the experienced rules official ran it, so I didn't have to do much besides introduce him and help his explanations when needed. But, as I held myself out as an expert, I had a couple of people ask me questions after the formal presentation was over. One asked me about whether the nearest point of relief from an immovable obstruction could be in a hazard. I said, without consulting the Rules, that it could be in a hazard. Taking relief from an immovable obstruction doesn't guarantee you a good lie or line. Well, I was right about the second sentence, but not about the first. Turns out the nearest point of relief when you're taking relief from an immovable obstruction can't be in a hazard. D'oh. Sent an e-mail, with my figurative tail between my legs, later that day to apologize and correct myself. In my defense, that situation rarely, if ever, occurs at my home course.
So, lesson learned. Read the rules before opining on a nuance like that. Probably better that I learned that lesson when it didn't matter as opposed to when it could affect someone's score.
That's probably enough for me. I'm going to try to update this periodically with tales from rules questions at my club. Please comment away. I welcome all criticism, although I strongly prefer positive.
This isn't meant to be a partisan discussion, simply a statement of the law. It bugs the shit out of me when people cite the First Amendment incorrectly. Here it is, verbatim:
A good resource can be found here at the Cornell University Law School website:
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Every golfer has the thought at some point..
"If only I could consistently shoot in the 70s, then I would enjoy golf more."
We get lost in our heads, dreaming of a fantasy where golf was one day an easy game.
What if we didn't have to worry about water hazards, sand, or OB?
What if 3-footers didn't bring us anxiety?
What if we could enjoy that pure strike that we long for on every single shot?
I'd argue that the better a golfer gets, the more enjoyable the game is.
But.. not in the way that most golfers imagine.
In this post, I will be examining our love affair with golf, how we can enjoy the failures that the game inevitably brings us, and why golf will never get easier (but can become more enjoyable).
Why Do We Love Golf?
What is fun about slicing a golf ball into the window of a house, or duffing a chip into the bunker?
If you're a bit more experienced, what is fun about making a triple bogey on the last hole to shoot 82?
Even at the highest levels, what is fun about missing a 5 footer to make the cut in a big tournament?
Golf is a game of heartbreak. For every great shot, there are five bad shots. You will fail by most standards 99% of the time. You might spend hours on the driving range, and perform worse the next day. If you hit one shot in the wrong place, your entire round could turn for the worse.
So why?? Someone explain to me why we love this game so much??
From another perspective, it does feel amazing to hit a pitch shot off tight turf, watch it bounce short of the hole, spin, and stop an inch from the cup.
It also feels rather pleasing to hit a low stinger down the middle of the fairway on a tight par 4.
Heck, it even feels great to make that dead straight 3-footer on the last hole to shoot 72!
In reality, our love affair with golf comes from something completely out of our control.
In pyschology, this external force is called "operant conditioning."
More specifically, as we practice golf, our behavior is being reinforced on a "variable-ratio" schedule of reinforcement. In psychological terms, this means that our behavior (hitting another golf ball) is reinforced after an unpredictable amount of responses (you never know when that "pure" strike is going to come). This reinforcement schedule is often noted as producing a high and steady rate of response (why you can't get yourself to stop hitting golf balls).
What you might not realize is that this type of operant conditioning is seen in one of the most addictive activities known to man...
Just like we pull the lever on the slot machine over and over, waiting for the symbols to line up, we also stand on the driving range, hitting ball after ball, waiting for that "pure strike" to happen.
In other words, we are literally addicted to golf.
Fortunately, golf is quite a productive and healthy behavior!
But like all addictions, it can take control of us sometimes, and we find ourselves wishing it was the other way around.
How can we improve our games to the point where golf doesn't take control of us? Wouldn't we enjoy it more if bad rounds and bad shots didn't bother us so much?
How to Love this Brutal Game
If you have read any number of golf books, business books, goal setting books, etc., then you understand what "the process" is.
I know how redundant it may sound, but "the process" is the key to enjoying this game AND being successful at it.
In our society, external outcomes are praised. We chase after these desires like mad men, and then when we finally achieve them, there is only a brief moment of satisfaction.
Golf is no different. Each and every one of us are striving for a better game, and often have a specific level that we would like to reach.
It might be breaking 90 for the first time, breaking 80 for the first time, or even winning a competitive tournament for the first time.
Unfortunately, in the midst of these desires, we find ourselves judging every single shot we hit, every single score we post, what others think of us, and even becoming self critical during practice.
In the end, where the ball lands, what score we shoot, and what our handicap becomes are not in our direct control. They are external to us.
They aren't part of the process, and therefore will not produce lasting satisfaction if we choose to focus on them.
The process is something more elusive, complex, and demanding.
So What is "The Process?"
In order to truly love golf and improve your game, you must dedicate yourself to a mindset that is common among elite performers.
And that mindset is one that doesn't fear failure.
It is a mindset that enjoys the process more than the results.
Finally, it is a mindset that falls in love with endless improvement
Notice that I did not mention anything about shooting good rounds of golf, winning tournaments, or beating your buddies on the weekend.
All of these things are out of your control, and will be products of an effective process.
Instead, you must focus on what you CAN control, and then TRUST that your preparation will produce the results that you so desire.
By adopting this care-free (not care-less) attitude, those bad shots, bad rounds, and negative thoughts won't seem so damaging.
Remember, the number on the scorecard is your compass. It tells you where you are pointing at the moment, but certainly does not require you to keep moving in that direction. If you shoot a high score, that simply means you have some thinking, learning, and practice to do.
Making up an irrational story in your mind about your lack of skill as a golfer is a waste of time and mental energy. When you notice that you have started to think in a destructive way, simply bring yourself back into the moment, take a deep breath, and move on. Remember, golf is just a game.
If you can understand this concept, you WILL enjoy golf more, and you WILL improve.
Does Golf Ever Get Easier?
You might look at the pros on T.V., and think to yourself:
"If I could hit it like that, golf would be easy."
What you don't realize is that each of these professionals is grinding over every shot, whether you see it in their eyes or not. Sure, they are more confident off the tee than 99.9% of the world's golfers, but that doesn't mean that golf is "easy" for them. Just like your home course provides you with challenges, the USGA/R&A provides these tour pros with challenges such as long rough, lightning fast greens, and humiliating pin placements.
Rather than wishing golf to be easier, why not learn how to enjoy the challenge more?
As a golfer who has shot 64 all the way to 104, I have a general understanding of what each stage of the game feels like.
From my experience, if you focus on the process, and fall in love with continuous improvement, golf does become more enjoyable.
Think about it in terms of money. In the book "Happy Money" by Michael Norton and Elizabeth Dunn, the authors report that once the average household reaches a minimum threshold of income ($75,000 in the U.S.), they experience a greater satisfaction with life. As the household increases over this threshold, happiness no longer correlates with rising income.
For most people, golf is the same.
Once you reach a certain skill level (usually when you can break 90 consistently), golf does become more enjoyable. At this point, you are able to get off the tee, keep the ball in play, and make a few putts here and there.
Unfortunately, everything past this level becomes pure desire, and will inevitably bring a golfer frustration more often than not.
So what are you to do after passing this satisfactory level of skill? Are you doomed for the rest of your golf career?
You are just going to have to focus less on results, and more on the things you can control.
Golf is enjoyable as long as you constantly seek ways to refine your process. Bad scores don't matter given you focus on improving your method of preparation and mindset rather than your score.
Sure, there will be brief times where you might feel the game slipping.
At these times, ask yourself what things you can control.
Focus on the process.
Be ambitious, yet detached from the results.
Do something every day to improve.
If you do these things, golf will remain the most difficult game known to man, but you will enjoy it.
What do you think? Why do YOU love golf?
We learned this week that the Fox Network has severed ties with Greg Norman, who served as the network's lead analyst for their broadcast of the 2015 US Open. This news prompted me to think about golf broadcasting and sports broadcasting in general. I think it is time for a change. But before we get to that, I think it's a good idea to look at how much better sports and golf broadcasting is today, compared to how it was just a few short decades ago.
I grew up watching sports in the 1970s. Things were clearly different then. Some of the biggest differences between now and then are attributable to technology. There are more cameras now, so we see the action from many more vantage points than ever before, in all sports. The cameras are better...meaning we see clearer, sharper images, both in real time and in slow motion. Sound is much better. And of course the delivery system and the end-user view are radically changed; anyone who remembers adjusting an antenna or the "tuning" knob on and old TV knows that we are now spoiled with what are, in general, universally good, sharp, interference-free views of sporting events. The icing on the cake had to be large screen televisions, with sharp, colorful displays that we could only dream about when watching Jim McKay on "Wide World of Sports" or Keith Jackson do a college football game.
Golf broadcasts today are a visual treat. In the 1970s and 80s, and even to a degree in the 1990s, there were far fewer cameras covering the action. We can see action on all 18 holes, and mobile cameras give us close up shots of the lie of the ball, the golfer's perspective, his or her reactions to the shot, etc. Even the camera angles are better: at one time, the target-facing cameraman seemed to always position himself somewhat off to the side of the player, so that every shot looked like it was going dead right. Graphics are better, particularly overhead shots and flyovers where stats about the hole are given, lines are drawn indicating carry distances, etc. And let's not forget shot tracer, a technology that seems universally loved and adds an exciting element to watching a shot in real time.
Yet with all of these improvements, we still hear many, many complaints about golf broadcasting. Many of the complaints are sort of universal complaints that people might have about any live event coverage, i.e., too much advertising time, [insert announcer's name] has an irritating voice, or is stupid, etc. Here is a critique of CBS's coverage of the 2016 Honda Classic, replete with a laundry list of complaints big and small, many of them quite compelling. While it would be impossible to make everyone happy with respect to these sorts of complaints, I think there are ways in which golf coverage could be improved.
I think the main problem with golf broadcasting on the major US networks is simply that they talk and analyze too much. It is just the natural culmination of years of "improvements," such as more cameras, more on-course reporters, more tower commentators, more sound, etc. There is a point beyond which any pleasant thing starts to lose its appeal, or even become unpleasant. Like that 20th cigarette your Mom made you smoke when she discovered the pack in your pocket, or the 4th piece of pie you ate on Thanksgiving Day.
They simply talk too much. For any given shot, we might have non-stop talking, beginning with Johnny Miller or Jim Nantz in the 18th tower, to Koch's or Maltby's description of the lie, to a question by Miller about some aspect of the shot, to Maltby's answer, to the filling in of other information (club selection), to the conversation between player and caddie, continuing after the shot to an in-air description of the trajectory, followed by commentary and analysis of the result.
This happens over and over and over, and to me, it's lost it's appeal. In fact, I'm sick of it.
There are so many people, so many voices, that between the shot coverage, the comments on the players' personalities or outside lives, discussions of their swings, witticisms from the various court jesters (Feherty, McCord), the broadcast is a virtual verbal assault with almost no breathing room. They seem to enjoy hearing each other talk.
European Tour broadcasts - perhaps because of a more limited budget - are much more Spartan. An entire shot might be taken without any commentary whatsoever, except for maybe "he'll have that for par to remain on 7 under." The experience is refreshing.
To be clear, I'm not "venting" a dislike for any individual announcer (although I could...there are many who drive me crazy). I think that the overall broadcast formula has evolved into something which detracts from the viewing experience.
Part of the fun of watching sports is the excitement, not knowing what will happen next. When I watch sports, I'm always wondering to myself, what is the player thinking, what is he trying to do, what might he be coping with in this situation? To do this in silence as you watch can make the experience richer, more dramatic. When someone other than the player is constantly talking about these things, it takes your focus off the player, and your own, unique reaction to the experience.
Sometimes, less is more. It's true in so many areas of life. They need to understand this when they cover golf. It's ok not to talk. It's ok not to analyze a result. We don't need to hear why the shot went off poorly, or that you think it was the greatest shot you've ever seen. While all of these comments have their place and can have entertainment value, their extreme overuse has robbed them of almost any impact whatsoever.
Take the experience of an important putt. Typically, there is the "what's he got Roger, left edge? Yeah Johnny, I'd say it's inside left if anything, not much there. Yeah Roger but he needs to hit this because it's into the grain...." followed by "this is on a really good line.....!!!" etc. For me, it would be far more dramatic to cut to the putt as the player is in the last few seconds of his preparation, and have the announcer say "from 22 feet, for birdie to take the lead." Then, simply watch and listen. A good camera angle can add much the drama. And the latter is important, too: Great quality sound, catching as much of the gallery reaction, as the putt approaches the hole, as possible.
Some will say "then why don't you just mute your TV....I like the broadcasts the way they are." Fair enough...there is a workaround. But not really. Nobody wants silent broadcasts. Announcers and analysts are important. The issue is that I think the directors are placing too high a value on analysis, and are overusing it to the point of distraction.
To me, the modern golf viewer experience has been spoiled in a fashion similar to how I believe smartphones have spoiled experiences like graduations, childrens' plays and recitals, etc. Being able to record something on a smartphone is a powerful, seductive thing, and few of us can resist it. Yet, when doing it, I find myself coming away feeling as if I missed actually experiencing and feeling the event, because I was distracted by my role as filmmaker. Similarly, when we watch golf, our attention to the shots and the drama of the tournament is diluted by the talking, the analysis, and the descriptions. Yes, we need some descriptions, and yes, the broadcasts would become very boring if all they did was describe results. But I think a significant amount of this chatter could be eliminated and it would improve the experience tremendously.
I hope the TV networks will be willing to take a fresh look at their methods. It's not just a matter of finding the right person for the tower or a clever or funny on course commentator. It's about the golf, and the best way to deliver it to the viewer. I think they have some work to do and much room for improvement. What do you think?
I was glad to have moved on from Dons craziness but my swing was still a mess. My wedges and short irons weren't horrible but I struggled with distance on clubs longer than a 7i. The season was close to over so I had stopped playing golf and was spending most of my time reading golf books and watching golf swing videos when I wasn't on the golf range trying to apply what I'd seen and read. I was also reading a lot of golf magazines and websites about new equipment. I read about how much more forgiving and longer new irons were and the importance of being "fit" for the clubs. I started thinking that maybe the problem wasn't my swing but the clubs so I went to Golfsmith to get fit for new irons. Based on my research I knew I wanted either the Titleist 712 AP1 or Mizuno JPX-825. I tested both along with the Nike Coverts at the urging of the salesperson. I decided I liked the JPX-825 best and got fit for them. I was hopeful that these new irons that were fit for me (interestingly fit for me meant standard out of the box with a regular shaft) would improve my golf game. The season was close to over so besides a few range sessions I never got to test the irons on the course.
Our accountant convinced my business partner and I to join his home golf club. It's a fairly exclusive club on Long Island and in addition to the cost I was a pretty concerned that I'd embarrass myself given the mess of my golf swing. We were offered a good deal to join and I'd have the winter to work on my golf swing so we went for it. I convinced myself and my wife since we were part of a country club I'd have to get some new clubs to replace my old driver and woods, a new golf bag and a new putter. Over the course of the winter I'd purchased a Titilest 910 driver and 3 wood, TaylorMade Rocketballz hybrid, Vokey SM4 wedges, a Scotty Cameron Newport 2 putter and Ogio Chamber bag. I spent close to $1200 but I had a nice bag of clubs, now I'd just have to play better.
I spent all winter looking at my new bag and reading about golf. I was looking forward to the new club and start of the golf season but it was delayed since we had a rough winter in NY that year. I did manage to get some range time in March and the new clubs weren't doing much for my game. I still struggled with distance on anything longer than a 7i, I sliced my driver and 3 wood but could hit the hybrid pretty well. The club was officially scheduled to open the course on April 10th, so we reserved a tee time and headed out there.
I was pretty nervous, new country club, new golf clubs and upon our arrival at the starters shed we were assigned a caddy. No one had mentioned that except for Tuesdays and Wednesdays members were required to use caddies. The last thing I wanted was someone from the club to watch me hack up their nice golf course. The caddy took our putters and headed out to the fairway while he waited for us to tee off. I was used to first tee jitters but this was worse than I'd ever experienced. The caddie was out in the fairway and other members were waiting for us to tee off. I could hear them making comments about my new shiny clubs and new golf bag and then realized that I was so nervous, I had grabbed my driver when I went to the tee box. I watched my business partner hit a nice drive right into the middle of the fairway and then it was my turn. I'm standing over the ball thinking to myself, you dumb ass why did you take your driver, you never hit your driver well. Of course with swing thoughts like that I hit a huge slice into the trees. They encouraged me to hit another but I knew it would be no better so I declined and rushed to my cart driving away as fast as the cart would move.
My nerves settled down a bit as the round progressed but overall I played poorly. I decided to show some mercy to our caddy and teed off with my 7i on the back 9 so he could take a break from hunting for my ball in the woods. I finished the round with a 105, certainly not my worst score but not what I was hoping for given all the money I spent of new clubs.
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Note: This review was originally posted in June 2014. @saevel25 also reviewed the SLDRs.
@WUTiger 's review
TaylorMade SLDR Irons Review
June 21, 2014 By John P. Orr
Another TM club hits the market. Can the SLDR iron replace the R11 and hold its own in game-improvement land?
TaylorMade and parent company Adidas-AG have been in the news this spring, both for financial shortfalls and innovation. For finances, The Wall Street Journal reported on May 6 that Adidas had a 34% drop in first-quarter profits, which Adidas attributed in part to the sales downturn at TaylorMade.
For innovation, TM has put a steady stream of new club models on the market, including the SLDR family of a dozen driver models including the SLDR Mini Drivers – and assorted fairway woods. Also the Tour Preferred line of player’s irons has three flavors.
So, enter the SLDR irons. (In case you’re wondering, these irons contain no moving parts as do the SLDR drivers and fairway woods). The game-improvement SLDRs rank as successor to the popular R11 irons, falling between TM’s super game improvement Speedblades and player’s Tour Preferred trio of CB (cavity back); MC (muscle cavity); and MB (muscleback).
In the past, I played the TM Raylors, and had a season of RBZ fairway woods. For TM irons, however, this would be my first significant encounter. My current irons are game improvement X20 Tours - originally fitted with Project X - and recently reshafted with lighter NS Pro 8950 GH (regular). The NS Pros are in the same shaft band as the SLDR’s new KBS Tour C-Taper 90 shaft, which should set up some good comparison points.
The SLDRs have a sleek look, and sport a new C-Taper variant as the stock steel shaft. So, do the SLDR irons have what it takes to stand out in the TaylorMade club line, and game improvement land in general, or will these irons get lost in the product shuffle? Let’s see how they tested out for some clues.
The SLDR model offers a 10-club arsenal, from 3 iron through SW. TaylorMade offers eight-club SLDR sets for $899, or $112 a club. I received the 4i – AW mix with a Regular shaft. Here are the overall specs:
Golfdom’s standard 3 iron measures at 39 inches long, and the SLDR shafts are a quarter-inch shorter than “average.”
Let's compare TM 7 irons : the SLDR has slightly more offset than the TP.CB (3.0 to 2.8 mm), but less bounce (3.5° to 4.5°). The SLDR’s lesser bounce may be compensated for by the extra camber - the rounded front-to-back arc on the sole – which would help the user-friendliness of the clubs.
Stock grips are the Golf Pride Tour Velvet. TM kindly fitted the irons with the Midsize grips I normally play. The Tour Velvets have a modest softness, and mesh with the glove hand well when I grip the club. The grips have a pleasingly solid, but not harsh, feel during the swing.
My set came with the stock steel shaft, the KBS Tour C-Taper 90 designed for TaylorMade. Stock graphite shafts include the SLDR by Fujukuri shafts, with 77 (X), the 67 (S) and the 57 (R) flexes. Custom steel shafts include other KBS at a $7 per club upcharge, three Project X for a $25 to $35 upcharge, three Dynamic Golf varieties and NS Pro 950 for $7 upcharges. Also, a Matrix Ozik 95-gram graphite is available.
The stepless C-Taper 90 blends the control of the C-Taper Lite with the higher launch of the KBS Tour 90. The table below shows the specs of these three taper-tip shafts:
KBS Tour Shaft
C-Taper 90 †
* KBS website. // † TaylorMade Asian website
Note: Several weeks after writing this review, I got an e-mail from a TM tech rep concerning the C-Taper 90 shaft. He said the exact specifications were proprietary, but the shaft was similar in performance to the KBS Tour 90.
Design and Technology
Like many in the game improvement category, these SLDRs offer a thin, flexing face and somewhat different design for longer irons compared to short irons. The thin face arrangement is backed by the Speed Pocket, pioneered in last year’s RocketBladez. The pocket, a hollow cavity that runs behind the clubface, allows the face to flex and deliver increased ball speed. This supersedes the Inverted Cone Technology used in the R11.
And, as with all TM iron models this year (except for MB), irons 3 through 7 have a polymer-filled ThruSlot that extends all the way through the back of the clubhead to the sole; it situates parallel to the Speed Pocket. This Thru-Slot promotes faster ball speed on the lower half of the clubface, where TaylorMade found 72% of golfers hit their shots.
SLDR irons 8 through SW omit the ThruSlot, which has diminishing benefits as lofts get higher. The Speed Pocket and ThruSlot also
function as part of the model’s vibration damping system, which helps with the club’s feel and sound.
The Speed Pocket and the ThruSlot, combined with the KBS Tour C-Taper 90 shaft, give the ball a very high launch. This high launch means the ball comes down steeply, helping it to stop on target. This is critical with irons fitted with low-spin shafts.
Designers produced a set which has loft differences of 3°, 4° and 5°, and half-inch shaft length increments through most of the set, until the 9 iron and wedges. Despite the unevenness, TaylorMade designers worked to tweak the faces and clubheads to ensure consistent distance differences up and down the set.
ThruSlot appears on irons 3 through 7 only.
I tested out the SLDRs at my golf club in a two-day trial. The first day I primarily hit them on the range, alternating with my current irons and comparing the two models. On full shots, the wedges were a bit short of my current ones, and short irons were about equal. In irons 4 through 7, however, the SLDRs started gaining yardage. The 4 iron was about a club longer than my current one.
The 4 iron pretty well matched my slightly longer-shafted 4 hybrid on distance, and on a couple of teed shots actually edged it with high, almost scary-straight shots. The hybrid was more reliable, but not as accurate. With the ensuing on-course performance, I would foresee this: If I’m playing twice a week, the 4 iron goes in the bag. If it’s twice a month, probably fall back to the hybrid.
For short game, the SLDRs showed well on chip and run shots. The ball came out low, checked once, and then released smoothly toward the hole. The 8 iron worked well if I had 25 feet or more to the cup; it came out hot, and was hard to control on shorter distances. The PW and AW, however, worked great for the shorter chips.
Also, SLDR has a solid approach wedge – gap wedge. I’m not normally a fan of stock iron set gap wedges, so the SLDR AW was a pleasant surprise. Gets the ball out of fluffy stuff well, and if opened up a degree pops almost like a lob wedge. The PW and AW gave me good line, but I’ll need to zero in the distances for partial wedge shots.
I had wanted to try the SLDR sand wedge at a local demo day. The SW only has 8 bounce, so I was curious about how it would perform. I couldn’t work it in, however, due to my volunteer shifts at the Curtis Cup, which the U.S. women amateurs won.
The next day I took the SLDRs out for a round. My tee shots were adventurous on several holes, so the SLDR irons got a varied workout. I hit the 8 iron into the par 3 No. 2, and for my approach on the following hole. Both shots landed pin high, but off the green to the left. On No. 3, I chipped with an 8 iron but ran it long, resulting in a bogie.
On No. 5, an uphill par 5, I hit a drive offline left into two-inch deep rough. I chose the 7 iron to try my escape, and hit a solid fade that stopped in the fairway at the top of the hill on one bounce. I then overclubbed on the approach, flew the green and ended up with a bogie.
The next hole, an elevated par 3 with a lake to the left, called for another 7 iron. I hit a shot long and left, which landed on the fringe and bounced into the lake. This being my third left miss, I did a check to see if my face alignment was perpendicular to the target line. When the club was square to the target line, it looked a degree open to me. So, I just need to retrain my eye and not slightly hood the club on set-up.
No. 9 saw the SLDRs shine. I pushed my drive into the medium rough, onto a ridge above a fairway bunker. With the ball above my feet, and 180 yards out, I expected a flier shot. But, the 5 iron went high and fairly straight, hit the false front of the green and spun back six feet into the fairway. From there, I had plenty of green to work with, and ran an 8 iron chip over a ridge and four feet below the hole. Sank the putt for a scrambling par.
The following hole I had an 8 iron into the wind, uphill from about 125 yards out. The shot hit the toe side, but carried up pin high into a greenside bunker. I came out of the bunker too strong, but picked an AW off the bank and rolled up 3 feet away, saving bogie.
The next was a short par 4 of about 300 yards. I teed off with a solid 4 iron draw, which left me 110 yards out. Since I was going into the wind, I hit a full PW. A nice high shot sailed 25 feet past the hole. Line was superb, but I was surprised I overcooked the shots going into a headwind.
A few holes later, I had laid up to 55 yards out on an uphill par 5. Laying three, I hit a half PW, normally 65 yards with my old clubs, but the ball bit about 15 feet short of the cup. I got an easy bogie, but could have been a par with better distance control.
No. 17 proved fruitful for the PW. I hit it into the short par 3, the ball landing 10 feet in front of pin and backing off the green. I then kept the PW and hit a short chip and run out of a swale, stopping it a foot to the left of the cup for a tap-in par. I just had to figure out when to chip with 8 iron vs. PW.
Overall, I had a pleasant first SLDR experience on course. It didn’t take long to get my basic setup – I like the low offset head design. And, the clubs will clear the ball out of the medium rough without having to muscle it – a benefit for those pursuing better swing tempo. Also, I actually overclubbed twice, a pleasant change of pace.
I especially like the 4 through 7 iron. Good distance, in part because rather strong lofts, but very reliable. As TM advertises, you don’t lose much distance if you hit it on the toe half of the clubface. It might not be on the green, but often will be pin high.
These irons have a distinctive look without glitz. Chrome head with satin clubface, black letter and number accents with a distinctive blue trim line on the back of the head, and black polymer inserts on sole and back of irons 3 through 7. A pleasant departure from the Halloween-orange trim that crept onto certain 2014 irons.
SLDR is kind of like a cross between a sports car and a fine scientific instrument. Some golfers will complain that chrome finish would keep them off the pro tour by reflecting too much sunlight into their eyes. I didnot find this a problem - the satiny clubface doesn’t reflect.
For golfers with topline angst, fear not! The topline is slightly narrower than comparable GI irons.
One attractive feature is the back of the clubs, which have a narrow rectangular tunnel slot rather than a deep cavern. This makes it less likely that grass and debris will get caught in the back of the clubhead after shots.
In addition, one feature which will protect the esthetics of the clubhead is the positioning of the Thru-Slot and polymers. These features are on the bottom half of the clubhead. So,if you need to fix a broken shaft, or decide to reshaft the SLDRs, you have less worry that the clubsmith will accidentally melt the polymers when heating the hosel to break the epoxy seal.
This club should appeal to a fairly wide range of golfers. I was able to hit quite a few decent shots on my first round with the SLDRs, and the club has enough forgiveness that players “on the cusp” of game improvement should try it. At the other end of golfdom, SLDR has one PGA Tour pro on board. D.A. Points put them in his bag on June 2, swapping out the custom Ping i5 irons he had played since 2010.
Reminds me of the Ping G15 from a couple of years back. A St. Louis golf pro told me he had fitted everyone from scratch golfers to 22 handicappers with the G15 – you just had to select the right shaft.
Basically, SLDRs fit what a competing company’s rep recommended for me: a game-improvement head with a lightweight shaft.
I will continue to play the SLDRs, and as I get used to them, recheck out the lie angle and shaft length. Any adjustments here could be made at regripping time.
The SLDR C-Taper 90 steel shaft is light, but not too light like the 85-gram steel shafts several companies inserted in irons starting in 2012. I proved wild with 85 gram shafts, and actually got a bit more distance with slightly heavier ones. A Golf Digest report explained the problem: average golfers can’t feel when they’re at the top with the 85s, and have trouble dropping them in the slot on the downswing. Low handicappers – most of whom don’t need the superlights - often get better results with 85s and such due to their their well grooved swings
What I like best about the SLDRs is the extra lift longer irons – 4 through 7 – with the ThruSlots. These play more reliably than most GI counterparts, and have less distance dispersion than my current irons. So, SLDR irons should serve the game improvement area well, and, with a variety of stock and custom shafts, likely attract golfers from other neighborhoods also. I expect SLDR to enhance the TM iron mix, and to hold its own against other company’s GI offerings.
I have come to be a big fan of sports on the other side of the globe. Or, basically, any sporting event that I can watch live at night. Starting at 7:30 pm is OK, but 8:30 or 9:30 is better. At these times, I end up really enjoying events that may otherwise not be on my sporting radar. The Australian (tennis) Open is the first that comes to mind. Sitting on the couch, bored, and flipping stations to see if Princess Bride or My Cousin Vinny is playing on one of the stations I pay entirely too much money for, only to accidentally stumble across live tennis, is an almost euphoric feeling - especially if Maria Sharapova or Eugenie Bouchard happens to be on the card. Just last year, I also got really into the stretch of Australian golf tournaments, as well as just about any European Tour event in Southeast Asia, in the winter. This also holds true for college football games being played in Hawaii (if they happen to have an interesting opponent - sorry Colorado State), the Tournament of Champions and Sony Open (also in Hawaii) in January, and, of course, most recently, the Presidents Cup in Korea.
In some cases there are two reasons for the added excitement. This is not true of the Presidents Cup, but for many of the others, I may have forgotten about it until the very moment that it's on. In which case, the feeling is not unlike the one you feel when you wake up dreading another grind, only to belatedly realize that it's Saturday! The other reason is the big one, and it is the main reason for this story; the kids have gone to bed. Let me repeat that last part: The. Kids. Have. Gone. To. Bed. Those of you that have kids know this beautiful silence very well. It is all too fleeting and it only occurs twice a day on weekdays, and once on the weekend. Every Monday through Friday morning there is the pleasant drive to work after dropping the last one off at school, and every day of the week, there is that moment that occurs sometime between 8 pm and 9:30 pm when you get to walk down the stairs, plop down on the couch, and take a deep breath that you can actually hear. No matter how tired you are at that point, there is no way you're going to go to bed and miss this! Let's see what's on?? YES!! The Presidents Cup is just starting to get good!
Our kids are pretty good about sleeping through the night at this point (ages 6, 4, 10 mos) so the debacle of last Friday night came as a bit of a surprise. As the morning session foursomes were winding down, sometime between 11 and midnight I think, our daughter (the 4 year old) came into our room and announced that her bed is no longer comfortable for her, and proceeded to climb into ours. If she's tired and stationary, this isn't a problem, however, when she's restless and performing karate kicks on your back, this is very much a problem. So I took her back to her room and laid with her until she fell back asleep. Problem solved, for now.
Round 2 wasn't much later because, surprise daddy, the bed is still uncomfortable. This time our little guy decided to wake up as well, and my wife was soothing him ... also in our bed. Now there are four of us in there. It's a California king, sure, but come on people?!?! My daughter is, again, thrashing about but I'm "saved" from having to deal with this because the baby needs to be walked around. (I think we're somewhere in the 2 or 3 o clock hour at this point) The bright side is that Friday night was the night that they played two sessions in the Presidents Cup, so we went downstairs, drank some milk, and watched Spieth and Reed wrap up their fourball match in the dark to maintain the U.S.' slim one-point lead.
After I got him back in his bed I tried, briefly, to fit back into mine, only to find my daughter still doing cartwheels or spinning back kicks, or who knows what else. Well you know what young lady? Two can play at that game. You can have my 7' long bed with the down comforter and many many thread count sheets, and I will take the twin bed with the purple comforter, scattered Barbie Dolls and the Elsa themed pillowcase, thank you very much. Many might say she won, but for the last two hours of that night - I slept in peace. OK, that's a lie - 90 minutes later my older son realized I was in their room instead of his sister and so he came down and joined me in her bed for the last 30 or so minutes.
Luckily for me, like I mentioned, that is not an every day occurrence. Thankfully, it's rare enough that I deem it worthy to be written about. We were proactive and did make an attempt to fix the uncomfortable bed problem that day ... by switching out mattresses with her brother. He did make a comment the first night but none since, so I think it's worked.
All parents probably have very similar versions of the same story, and the best part about it is there is always a happy ending. No matter how freaking annoying they can be at night, they are angels when they're asleep and everything is great again by morning. But those nights - ugh, those nights! As a parent, your world may revolve around your kids, but sometimes it's nice when there is an eclipse.