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  1. I like this game.

    Essentially:

    • You start with six balls.
    • You start from three feet.
      • You putt from three feet until you make a putt. If you make the putt, you take that ball and all remaining balls back three feet.
      • If you miss, that ball or "life" is lost.
    • Your "score" is the farthest distance at which you make a putt.

    So for example:

    • Make from 3'. Six balls remain.
    • Make from 6'. Six balls remain.
    • Miss, miss, make from 9'. Four balls remain. Two lives lost.
    • Miss, make from 12'. Three balls remain, one life lost.
    • Miss, miss, miss from 15'. Your score is 12'.
  2. I

        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.”

        “And competition.”

        Bannar laughed.

        “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.”

        “Okay.”

        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.”

        “Inconsequential?”

        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.

    II

        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.

        “Yes, Captain.”

        “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.

        “Thank you.”

        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?”

        Harry smiled.

        “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.”

        “Why?”

        “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.

    III

        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?”

        “Yes.”

        “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.”

        “What?”

        “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?”

    IV

    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.”

    “Nor I.”

    “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.”

    “Thank you.”

    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.”

        “For now.”

        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.

  3. The place remains untouched. No construction no nothing. Good for Chelsea Piers. Bad for NYC golfers. It’s fenced off. No signs. 

    03CAB70D-E85D-473F-9DA7-D654AA6ED854.jpeg

  4. I suspect I am like many other golfers after a round.  We look at the scorecard and begin to analyze our round with a pair of rose-tinted glasses.  “If I would have just …”  If I could have …”  I should have …”  It is fun imagining how making better club selections, being more conservative/aggressive and taking a bit more time over that putt would-could-should have resulted in a score several shots better.

    Perhaps this exercise is why we often over value the “mental game” versus the physical aspects of golf.  We assign many bad results to faulty thinking.  The truth of the matter is, at least for me, that the thinking and planning is often fine; it is usually the execution that is sorely lacking.

    A good example was from my round last Saturday.  Despite a bad break earlier in the round that resulted in a double, I stood on the 15th tee at level par.  I was playing extremely well when one considers that I am an 8-10 handicapper. The 15th has OB all down the left side and the fairway slopes considerably to the left.  I told myself to keep it right since the right rough is not a bad place to hit from and then promptly duck hooked my tee shot OB.  Naturally, my 3rd shot was long, straight and ended up in the center of the fairway. My plan was fine, I just didn’t execute.

    Of course, my “analysis” after the round indicated that I should have hit my tee shot on #15 like my second effort, making a 4 instead of a 6.  I also missed a handful of 5-10 footers for birdie that could have gone in.  Finally, but for a bad bounce on a cart path that put me into the edge of a penalty area, I would not have lost a stroke or two on #6.  After all the analytics, if I would have concentrated a bit more, I could have saved several strokes here and there, and I should have shot 69 instead of 74.

    In truth, I played about as well as I can Saturday.  Yes, a few shots escaped me, but I did so many things right.  Still, in my dreams I coulda shot 69!

  5. This isn't apart of my normal road to championship stuff, but just something I thought about a lot in the Kuchar caddy payment thread.
    Part of the Kuchar issue is what role the caddy actually played, in his win.  But, it begs the larger question of what does a caddy really do for a Tour player?

    Besides the normal role of carrying a bag and raking bunkers, etc., a caddy is, imo, in essence a GPS for the player, a support person, and sometimes a coach.  Not that the player can't get the info on their own or that they don't already.  But, a player does not make it to the PGA Tour because of a caddy.  Many of these guys played in college without caddies.  They were already top athletes before they decided to hire an extra hand.  They made or bought their own yardage books and marked them up with notes during practice rounds, they found their own yardages, they decided what shots to play throughout the round, they played through any emotional stress, etc, all without a caddy to get to where they are.  

    I said before that a caddy is like a GPS.  Well, GPS's should be able to speed up pace of play.  A player using a caddy should be able to make decisions faster, and I think this is true most of the time.  But I'm sure there are cases where the caddy second guesses the player and then they sit there for 5min debating what idea is best.  The real question, I think, is how many strokes is gained purely for a caddy helping by way of being a GPS?  I'd say it's a pretty small number and definitely not a stroke per round, because all the info given is something the player can already do for themselves and pace of play is laughable on tour.

    Another part that a caddy helps with is emotion / mental support.  Especially for newer players on Tour who may have a lot of jitters, having a support person to keep the noise (distractions like all the bill boards with their name, pic and stats, all the people or audible noises, and then the typical noise like bunkers or hazards to try and ignore) in check can mean something.  Keep you focused on the game when needed and not the emotions that come with the game. After a bad shot or maybe in between shots, distracting the player to make them feel more content.  A player doesn't want to be on overdrive or pissed, there's a middle ground where the best golf can be played and having a caddy to help keep you there can save one from a stupid decision or rushed swing.  Again, how many strokes can be gained from having a caddy for emotional / mental support?  I'd say it's definitely higher than the GPS caddy, but still not a lot.

    The last part a caddy could help with is by being a coach.  This could go either way as for how helpful it is. No one should really be trying to change their swing or routine in the middle of a round as it usually creates more problems than it solves.  But like in the case of Holmes in the final round this last weekend, the caddy actually helped adjust his set up with his driver in the middle of the round, and he seemed to hit the ball a bit better after that.  It's hard to assign a value here to potential strokes gained, because I don't think it's very common.  I could be wrong. Either way, most players, I'd assume, have some sort of back up plan should their swing go haywire, so having a caddy there for this purpose may not be needed.

    As far as the local caddy vs normal caddy topic, from my own experience at Pinehurst #2, the caddy that was given to our group supposedly knew every crevasse and slope but routinely mis-read breaks on the greens.  Maybe he was doing a half-assed job intentionally or maybe he really didn't know the course.  Either way, he didn't help for being a GPS caddy (because of having a yardage book and rangefinder) and he definitely didn't help for being a support or mental help caddy.  My experience is just one example but a local caddy is unlikely to provide any emotional support to anyone unless they know each other, but may help as far as a GPS caddy.  For Kuchar's case, he played/walked the course before marking all his notes, etc.  I doubt he needed the caddy for helping with GPS-like stuff, and because the two didn't know each other, the caddy wasn't really a support person.  He definitely filled the role of carrying a bag and raking bunkers, but there likely wasn't more to it than that.

    So, what is a caddy worth?  Is it worth paying a few thousand dollars a round for the potential stroke(s) gained on the field?  I doubt it's a physical issue because those guys could just as easily carry their own super light bag with a few balls, etc (or I assume push carts are acceptable, just frowned upon).  Unless you hire a local caddy, you'd have to pay someone a livable wage for them to constantly travel with you.  Or maybe it's not about the golf at all, it's about traveling with someone instead of being bored outside of playing.  I don't know.  Either way, I think caddies play a minimal role in the performance of the player.

  6. I finally got around to playing 18 holes of golf with only 4 clubs this morning -  something I've wanted to do since early in the season. My goal was to keep the score to within 5 of my average. The 4 hybrid and 9i were shoo-ins. The 4h because I seem to hit it well, and the 9i because I can use for a short bump-and-run all the way up to a 130 yard full swing. I then had to decide on two more. I decided to bench my gap wedge, which is the go-to club from 100 yards and in, and go with the sand wedge instead. The reason being too much roll on short sided flag locations seem to be costing me strokes. Perhaps forcing myself to use a more lofted wedge would be beneficial.

    Last, I decided to go with the putter and disregard @boogielicious' advice to learn to putt with a wedge instead. This would have allowed another option for the full swing. I have to admit there was little chance the putter would be left behind. It's not that I'm at all good with the putter, but it's used from off the green a lot and it's better than trying to putt with any other club. That would turn out to be far from the truth.

    The first 9

    The first two holes were pretty typical, a couple of bogeys that resulted from less than perfect tee shots. Still, I felt pretty good about how the round was going. Then came the par 5 3rd.

    Two beautiful 4-hybrid shots left me with a short approach of around 90 yards. Time to test the SW on a shot I'd have used the GW for all-day-long. Good contact, high, and right at the flag, 2 putt for par.

    Nice, I thought. Not a bad start and everything felt good. Next up were three par 4's in a row followed by a par 5. The hybrid felt really good off the tee and whenever I needed less than a full swing, the club responded very well as did the SW and the 9i. I would hit GIR's on those next four holes. My full swing and partial swings were golden. 

    But the golf gods giveth and they taketh.

    The first par 4 had a pin location to the front of a very fast downhill green and my partial hybrid approach had found the back. To be honest, I was ok with the 3-putt bogey in this situation. Besides, the way I was striking the ball, I'd make up for it with subsequent pars.

    The pin location on the next par 4 was uphill with my SW approach landing about 25 feet below. The lag putt can only be politely described as wimpy. It wasn't a poor read, or a bad bead, I just didn't get anywhere near the speed I knew was needed to get it close. 3-putt number 2.

    Despite temps in the 30's, I was starting to get warm under the collar. It was hard to enjoy one of my best ball striking rounds when I couldn't close the deal. But c'mon, that was only two holes. Surely the putting would get back on track.

    The next par 4 included a beautiful partial hybrid, a flighted 9 iron below the pin... and three more putts including a miss from 18".

    In all fairness, I shouldn't have hit the green on the next par 5. The 4h approach to the green started a bit right, but a tree branch deflected it to the green. There was no way the golf gods were going to let this bit of luck remain unpunished. Hence, a nice 4-putt and my first double of the day. 

    https://www.gamegolf.com/player/JonMa1/round/2425607

    The second 9

    Instead of describing each of the next 9 holes, I'll only say that the golf gods had a hard-on for me today. Sure, they'd allowed decent putting this second time through the 9 hole course, but as if to say "you didn't think we were just going to give good putting back to you" they made sure to take away the good ball striking. The hole where I got my only par on first 9 resulted in a 10 the second time through. The comedy of errors leading to that wonderful score included playing bloody knuckles (literally) with two oak trees when I tried to punch out an errant 4 hybrid shot from between them.

    https://www.gamegolf.com/player/JonMa1/round/2425761

    Eat $#!^ and die, golf gods!


    As for the four-club "challenge", it should have been more fun than it was, but that's on me. There were positives...

    • My goal was to keep the score within 5 of my average and I kept it to within 1. 

    • I not only hit the ball solidly on most shots, I was able to adjust and control distance, and even shape a couple of shots.

    • In many situations, the SW is a better club than the GW around the green.

    • The 7 GIRs is the highest I've had in some time - and there were several nGIR as well.

    • The round didn't cause me to putt more poorly than usual, the GIRs only exposed my poor putting. High GIR = more putts unless you're good at both.

    This round also backed up what I believe to be true. Using a safer, shorter club off the tee doesn't guarantee a better score for everyone. I hit 71% of my fairways today, did not get any penalties, and still failed to break 95.

    Instead of leaving the driver at home, maybe I should become as skilled with that club as I am with the 4 hybrid.

  7. Hello again, I haven't written one of these blogs in a long while. I haven't really been on the site for a long while. I had been practicing and posting every day for 405 days, That streak came to an end on May 10, 2018, when I went into the hospital. The last 11 months I have been going through things outside of golf, that are more important for my growth as a human being. Golf is my getaway, my therapy, my distraction, and my hobby.

    I love the game, it sometimes doesn't love me back when I'm playing it. Whether I'm hitting a 9-iron at the second that checks up too soon or I lip out that 4-footer on 18 for a 71, Golf is hard (R). I've decided that I really don't care that it's hard, I've decided that I just want to go out and relax and have fun playing the game. In the city championship last Labor Day weekend, I made the flight finals for the first time. I've played in that tournament every year since 2010, I lost 7 & 5 (ironically I played the same guy in the finals this year as I did in my first ever match), 2011 4 & 3, 2012 I was really sick Sunday and had to W/D, 2013, I lost 1 up, 2014 I lost 2 & 1 2015 I finally won a match 3 & 2 (It helped that I was out-driving my opponent by 70 yards), then lost 7 and 5, 2016 I lost 1 up, 2017 I made the semis and lost 3 and 2, Last year I hilariously won the 12th hole of my first match with a triple-bogey 8, to go 1 up in the match. Whilst laughing about it on the way to the 13th. I proceeded to play the next three holes, par, par, birdie to win 4 & 3. In the semifinals, I was 1 down after 6, (I started terribly was something like 4 over through 6 medal), I chipped in for birdie at 7, made par at 8, made birdie at 9 after hitting a terrible drive (I knocked the third shot to 4 feet), made bogey at 10, nearly made 1 at 11 (ended up making 3 I missed a 5 footer that was already conceded), and birdied 12. I went from 1 down, to 5 up in 6 holes, I put the match away with a par on 13 and won 6 & 5.  (yes I won 10 with a bogey, my opponent had trouble with the right side trees, the only reason I made 6 was I took 3 to get down from 5 feet off the front of the green) I played the last 7 holes in 2-under and didn't even know I was playing that well until someone told me after my match ended.

    I was playing well but got tanked in the final 7 & 6. I did not play badly. I won just 2 holes, the 2nd and the 11th, however, that being said, I was losing holes to pars and birdies, I made only one double-bogey and that was on the 7th which is a par-3 (It was a good 5 too, I pushed a 7-iron into Fall Creek which is Oscar Bravo, and made 3 with the second ball, nearly holing a 15-footer to halve the hole. I think he shot 1 or 2 over, I shot 8 or 9 over and we halved #9 with birdies, which was a funny exchange, because he chipped in from just short of the green and I holed about a 30-footer on top of him. It was very different finishing second in my flight instead of last or T-3 twice. Going into the tournament, I decided that I was going to go out and just have fun, and whatever happened so be it. 

    Over the winter I didn't do much practicing, as a matter of fact, very little. If you've seen my signature, I have different clubs in play right now but still have my Exotics bag. Actually might actually switch to Maltby from GolfWorks for the time being. I don't necessarily need the best and greatest new clubs. 

    Becky and I separated for 5 months between October and March and we have since reconciled. Without getting to personal, one of our goals we came up with, was to try to do a hobby together. She tried golf a couple times with me, (she actually witnessed me birdie both par-fives on the front which I seldom do), but we decided we were going to either bowl or try disc golf. Come to find out disc golf is very inexpensive to get started in. I'm still trying to figure out the rules, but I'll get it. It's fun, it takes less time than real golf and is just as tricky. I was talking to one of our regulars at the golf course about it just yesterday, we're making predictions on which one I break par in first, disc golf or traditional golf. 

    I've played 9 holes twice this year so far. The first time out I really didn't putt so I couldn't count it, but I estimate, I shot probably 39 or 40 on the front (or white tees, Newman is 9 holes with 2 sets of tees). Yesterday I shot 38, with one of the scratch players playing skins and they we're surprised. I didn't make any birdies but my par with a half-whack on 18 was good enough for $15, and my scratch partner and I cleaned up in the side match too. for my two bogeys, I lipped out on 11 after a decent bunker shot, and I was short sided and laid-up my chip to 15 feet on 14, and singed the edge, the rest we're all pars. I covered his double on 10 and his bogey on 18 (he birdied 12, 14, and 17 to shoot 36) so we were 3-under as a best ball team.

    I'm playing well, I have a very simple pre-shot routine with one swing-thought, right foot, left foot. My balance is a lot better, I actually finally figured out where the "balls of the feet" are. The step-through is now gone, my balance is back, and hopefully with any luck at all, I might get down into the 4.x by the end of the season, it'll be difficult, but I think with my new approach I can do it. 

    I'll give you guys an update this time in May on how my game is doing to see if I've improved. 

    For those of you who are wondering, Alina shot 49 for 9 holes last week (She's 5 1/2). She went with me and I really didn't play, She did. Mike told me. "Be careful, out there" She striped he drive from the actual ladies tee on #1 over the bunker, (She carries it about 125 yards now, and she is deadly with her hybrid (She has one of those now as she outgrew her other set). I played a little (I only brought a few clubs to pitch, chip and putt with so I had my 9-iron, wedges and putter with me. She actually beat me on #7, She made par and I made bogey and I didn't let her win the hole I legitimately did make bogey. When she parred 7, I knew she had a shot to break 50. This group of ladies was behind Alina and I, and they usually would be a little snotty about a twosome in front playing slow (we weren't Alina plays nine in 1:45). Saw Alina, par the 7th. To par she was +10 through 7. (She made 9 on #1) She piped a drive and hit 2 hybrids on the green at #8 and almost made par, tapped in for bogey, She hit a perfect drive on 9 and I let Alina make this decision herself, she grabbed her driver for her second shot (She got it just short of 250 out, off a 140 yard bullet), I think she thought she needed birdie to break 50, but she only needed a 7 (I don't tell Alina her cumulative scores, I tell her at the end) She topped one down there about 50 yards just short of 200, she then hits hybrid, hybrid on the front of the green (pin was all the way back) And three-putted for double... But that was all she needed for her first sub-50 9-holes. One of the ladies behind us, came up and asked me what she'd shot, I said "49 and she started with a 9." Alina plays the par-3s well at Newman from the ladies tees mainly because, well, it's just a driver for her.

    I talked to a local pro recently about maybe getting her a fuller set, and he advised against it for now, as her game develops and when she gets older then we can revisit that then. Not bad for a kid that plays 3 or 4 9-hole rounds a year at this point. But asks me to go hit golf balls all the time. She stripes it and I mean stripes it.

  8. It looks like I am out of commission for a while. I was playing in a Quota game yesterday, and my left foot started hurting me. By the time we made the turn, it REALLY started hurting. When I finished the 14th it was almost unbearable. I couldn't get any weight onto my front foot making it difficult to make a golf swing. I apologized to my partners and gracefully bowed out. I assumed that the neuroma on my left foot was acting up, but fortunately, that is not the case. Fortunately, I have a gigantic blister on the bottom of my left foot. I've walked many rounds, but I never got a blister let alone one this large. I will spare everyone and not post a picture. I am wondering if this is from walking, or if it's a sign that my weight is too much towards my toes when I'm swinging since the blister is beside the pad. Who knows, but I it doesn't look like I will be playing this week. 😥

  9. 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.

    IMG_9101.JPG

     

    Here are some of the comments and my responses:

    Screen Shot 2016-10-06 at 9.26.36 AM.pngScreen Shot 2016-10-06 at 9.26.59 AM.pngScreen Shot 2016-10-06 at 9.27.23 AM.png

  10. 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. 

    Strokes Gained.JPG


    5 Handicap.JPG

    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. 

    Conclusion
    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.  
    GIR %.JPG

    Long %.JPG

    Short %.JPG

    Left %.JPG

    Right %.JPG

    Driver Stats
    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. 

  11. 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.  
  12. 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.

  13. 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.  

  14. I find myself looking at irons on eBay lately. It's a bad habit of mine. A few winters ago, I bought a set of vintage Hogans. They were kind of fun to kick around with for a bit. I played close to half that season with them even though they were way too much (or is it too little?) club for me. I still practice with them, but they're mostly collecting dust - some in the basement, some in the garage, and I have one (now two, actually) in the coat closet.

    Now I'm looking at Mizunos. Modern, though: MP 4s and MP 64s. Figured they're more playable than the Hogans, not that I'm in the market for new irons. Just kind of want them. I sold a set of Mizunos a number of years ago and I want another.

    I should actually get a new set of wedges if I'm going to buy new clubs, but another set of blades seems so much more satisfying for some reason.

    Winter needs to be over so I can go play and stop looking at stuff I don't need.

  15. 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. :-P  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.

  16. It's been a different kind of year for me, in regards to golf.  Just about a year ago... I found out that the job I'd had for over 7 years was going away.  With it... a decent salary and a very, very flexible schedule would be going away too.  Luckily, I had made a great friend through golf who immediately offered me an opportunity.  It was going to come with a steep learning curve and, early on... a sizable decrease in pay... but it was a job.  

    With those changes came some choices.  I decided to leave the club I was a member at... dedicate more time to work... and life was just going to be different than it had been.  Golf, which is about the only 'activity' I get out for, has taken a back seat.  With less playing time and less practice time, it means in increase in my scores when I do get to play.  Gone are the rounds in the low 80's which could creep into the high 70's if it all came together.  Instead, the scores hover around the mid 90's with the random score in the 80's on a day when I don't chunk 50% of my short game shots.  

    Still... I knew that the second half of the year would be better for my golf game.  I have plans to play both the the Champions and the Stadium Courses at TPC Scottsdale in September.  There's a 3 round tournament in Hilton Head during the middle part of October.  There's some tournaments in August that I'm looking forward to, as well.  All that aside... the big thing is that we're planning to join a club again in the coming months.  No more battling for tee times on public courses.  No more 'surprises' on the public courses where half of the fairways are gone.  I'll be back in a comfortable spot with a solid practice area and availability to get out and practice various aspects of my game on the course... and hopefully that means the return of my scores where they were at this time last year.  

    Anyway... all that aside, I have been patient and optimistic.  The Thursday before Father's Day, I was surprised by my wife when she told me to pack my clubs, my shoes and some clothes.  We were headed down to Hilton Head (which is quickly becoming my second favorite place on Earth) for the weekend to play golf!  She told me that she had made a tee time for Sunday morning.  When I asked where, she told me we would be playing Harbour Town on Sunday morning!  She knew it was on my list... and she wanted to give me an experience.  Although she's very new to golf (maybe 10 rounds under her belt)... she wanted to play too, but we were concerned that it was going to be too much for her to handle there since the caddies were going to press the pace.  After some discussion, she said she'd just ride along instead and enjoy the course and seeing me play.  

    To make up for it, I contacted Palmetto Dunes and asked if we could get out on the Jones Course at some point Saturday afternoon.  I explained that we'd have our daughters (12 & 13) with us... but that they'd just want to ride along.  The woman I was dealing with replied and said she had reached out to the director of golf there and he would provide us a four-seater cart and not charge us any riding fees for the girls.  We got a great rate... booked a 2:15pm tee time... and were ready for a great time!  

    I was a little nervous because I hadn't played in a month leading up to that weekend... and when I had played, my scores were pretty rough.  I was looking at Saturday as a way to kind of 'warm up' for Harbour Town.  Everything I had heard from friends who played it... the course was tight and scores could get out of hand in a hurry if I wasn't careful.  

    The Saturday round was peaceful and relaxing.  I didn't play well, but I enjoyed spending the time on the course with my wife and girls.  The scenery was as perfect as I described it to my wife.  She was excited to play the 10th hole and see the ocean from the green... and she was just generally excited to be playing and seeing exactly what I'd been saying to her about golf on Hilton Head.  It's just better, in my opinion.  I love the layouts.  I love the Spanish moss hanging from the trees.  I love the gators in the ponds.  It's just special to play there.  

    On Sunday morning... it was time to head to Harbour Town.  The girls stayed in the hotel while my wife and I headed across the island to Sea Pines.  My tee time was 7:39am that morning and I was in the first group off.  We arrived a little later than planned so I was a little rushed once we got to the course, but we were surprised when the attendant in the shop said he wasn't going to charge my wife the rider fee of $50 because the course was going to be slow and they had plenty of carts.  After my wife spent some time looking around in the pro-shop... I headed over to the range to hit a few balls.  After about 10 swings... I realized it was already 7:30 and I needed to get my stuff together and head to the first tee.  

    As I approached the first tee... our caddie for the day was there waiting for us.  Randy had been a caddie at Harbour Town for about 7 years and was a 2.0 index from the blue tees at the course.  While Randy and I were talking, the rest of our group showed up.  It was a father and his 2 adult sons who had surprised him with this round for Father's Day as well.  After some brief discussion, it was decided that my 13.0 handicap would best be suited for the white tees (6253 yards... 71.4 rating... 136 slope).

    I was given the honor... Randy retreated up the fairway to keep an eye on shots... and away we went.  What follows is a hole-by-hole recap.  I wouldn't be upset if you skipped past this now... but for my own selfish reasons... I'm gonna post it all.

    Hole 1 - Par 4 - 380 Yards -- Handicap Hole 11

    Tight.  That was the word that kept running through my mind all weekend.  Standing on the first tee... I could tell that it was true.  Randy's instructions were to not miss left... but don't miss right either.  At 380 yards... at 7:40 in the morning... at sea level... I didn't have another club to hit.  It was driver or bust for me.  Luckily, I made a pretty decent swing and the ball trickled just off the fairway on the left side.  As I got to my ball... I had about 100 yards to go.  I guess they had moved the tees up quite a bit!  If I had known that... I would have hit a 4 iron off the tee and left myself an 8 iron or something.  Oh well... it worked out in the end.  I was told short was better than long... so I took less club and came up a little shy of the green.  A decent pitch to 4 feet and a smooth putt and I walked back to the cart to put a par on my card.  I wish I had known there was only going to be 1 more of those on the card that day. 

    Even through 1

    Hole 2 - Par 5 - 471 Yards -- Handicap Hole 13

    This was not as tight.  In fact, it looked pretty open.  I took a more aggressive swing with my driver... and although I struck it well, I found myself up the right side, kinda blocked out.  I wanted to punch it through the pines on the corner with a 5 iron... but I topped it instead.  I was left with about 170 yards from a waste area.  Trying to play a fade didn't work out well, and instead... I pushed it and short-sided myself.  An okay pitch ran to the far side of the green and I needed 2 putts for a bogey.  It could have been worse.

    +1 through 2

    Hole 3 - Par 4 - 381 Yards -- Handicap Hole 9

    "Hit your drive up the right side so you'll have an open look at the green."  Okay Randy, thanks for the tip!  I pulled my drive low and left.  It sat in the rough up the left side.  My only shot was to aim at the trap to the right of the green and try to get up & down.  I hit my target with an 8 iron... but the ball finished just out of the bunker on a slope with a steep uphill lie.  My wedge went completely under the ball and I didn't even get the ball to the green.  My putt from the fringe came up 4 feet short and I made that for bogey.

    +2 through 3

    Hole 4 - Par 3 - 165 Yards -- Handicap Hole 15

    On our drive down, my wife asked me if there were any specific holes I was looking forward to on Harbour Town.  I told her that I was especially looking forward to 4, 14, 17 and 18.  Well... here we were!  

    What water?  The pin was right at about 158 yards from the tees.  It should have been a perfect 7 iron.  Well... it would have been if I hit it solidly.  Instead... I came up well short.  I wiped my brow when the ball landed and it was still dry.  My pitch from about 25 yards (yeah... I struck that 7 iron wonderfully) ran over the left edge of the cup and finished 7 feet above the hole.  Tricky putt coming back.  It leaked to the right at the last second and I made a 3rd consecutive bogey.

    +3 through 4

    Hole 5 - Par 5 - 497 Yards -- Handicap Hole 5

    "See those electrical boxes up the right side?  Aim for those.  They're the perfect starting line.  Oh... one last thing.  Don't go left.  You can't see it, but there's water there."  C'mon Randy!  Don't let that be the last thing you say to me!  I was focused on those electrical boxes.  Now... I'm worried about trouble I can't see!

    Well... I avoided the water.  I started the ball at those electrical boxes... and then it faded off of them and landed in the trees.  Dang!  I didn't finish my swing.  My chip out of the woods with an 8 iron wasn't great... but I was just trying to lay up to about 140 yards or so now, so... easy swing.  Whoops!  That's not the club face.  Drop 4... hitting 5.  Topped it.  Hit a low cut that finished about 30 yards short of the green.  

    My wife put her head down and put the camera down too.  She was embarrassed.  So was I.  Oh well... this is gonna be a triple now.  Time to regroup.  From 30 yards... I hit a low pitch that checked perfectly... tracked the entire way and dropped in for an unlikely double!  CRAP!  She put the camera away!  

    Stupid unseen water hazard. 

    +5 through 5

    Hole 6 - Par 4 - 373 Yards -- Handicap Hole 3

    "Aim for the last tree up the left side.  That's the perfect target for you.  It's open here so, driver is a good play."  Cool... thanks Randy!  

    I smashed my drive.  Right at that tree.  "Oh... that may have run through the waste area into the hazard."  Well... at least he didn't tell me about the hazard this time until AFTER I hit it there!  I took a drop... and had an angry white-faced hornet coming at me.  I had inadvertently parked the cart on it's nest.  My wife ran into the fairway.  The drink cart lady ran with her.  I got to the cart... put it in reverse... backed up about 10 yards... let the hornet back in his home... and then messed up the rest of the hole en route to a triple.

    Gators?  Snakes?  No big deal.  Hornets?!?  Way to rattle my nerves, Harbour Town!  

    +8 through 6

    Hole 7 - Par 3 - 160 Yards -- Handicap Hole 17

    "No real trouble here.  Just don't go in the sand that surrounds the entire hole.  It's a real tough up & down from there!"  

    The tees were up a bit... so it was an 8 iron for me.  100%... no doubt.  My wife's behind me with her phone taking pictures and/or video.  Make this a good swing.  Clearly I had too much crap running through my head this day.  My swing was okay... the contact was meh... and my 8 iron fell out of the sky 20 yards short and in the bunker.  I'll have to look at that swing on the video or pictures she took.  

    "Oh... I was taking pictures of this little toad on the tee box.  I didn't know you were hitting yet."

    I didn't want to see it anyway.  Splashed out of the bunker... nearly holed out... but it ran by about 6 feet and left me another quick, downhill putt.  Nope.  Bogey.

    +9 through 7

    Hole 8 - Par 4 - 405 Yards -- Handicap Hole 1

    Wonderful... the most difficult hole on the course and I'm playing my worst golf of the day.  "The big tree up the right side is your target.  Let it fly."

    I did just that.  I let it fly right at that big tree with a nice, tight draw.  I was through the fairway and had about 145 to the hole, out of the rough.  Tired of coming up short... I took an extra club but I flared it out to the right a bit.  I was pin high, but off the green.  As I got out of the cart, I told my wife I was going to chip in.  From behind the green, one of the guys I was playing with chipped in for par just before it was my turn.  I clipped the ball perfectly... it checked up just enough and rolled up to about 2 feet before stopping.  Close... but not close enough.  Tap in for par though!

    +9 through 8

    Hole 9 - Par 4 - 298 Yards -- Handicap Hole 7

    Easily my most frustrating hole of the day.  This hole is pretty wide open.  Not a ton of trouble.  Let it go and leave a little wedge into the green or lay back and take a full short-iron into the green.  You choose.  

    "You're hitting the ball well off the tee.  Let it go!  Rip it at the clubhouse."  Sounds good to me, Randy!

    I blistered my drive into the breeze and found the center of the fairway.  I left myself about 50 yards to the flag.  No real trouble.  Just make a nice swing and put it close.  The other option is to completely decelerate... chunk it 10 yards and hit the same shot from a little closer.  That was the path I elected to follow.  Next swing was better but tugged.  From 25 feet, I rolled the putt 2 feet past and tapped in for a bogey to close out the front side.

    +10 through 9

    So... it was pretty much what I was expecting.  I figured on a few pars and a hiccup hole or two.  Take the 5th and 6th holes out and it was not a bad score for that side.  Having now played much... those 50 yard shots that I messed up on the 9th hole are becoming my nemesis, so... I wasn't shocked by that, just annoyed.  My putting was decent.  I missed a pair of putts that should have gone in.  By my count... if I was playing or practicing more consistently, I could have been 4-5 strokes lower, but... it was what it was.  I was excited to get to the back nine and see what was in store for me there!

    Hole 10 - Par 4 - 398 Yards -- Handicap Hole 12

    After a quick stop to use the restroom, wash my hands & face and grab some water... we were on the 10th tee.  Randy didn't have much advice on this hole.  It was pretty straightforward.  Avoid the left side where the water was and you'd be okay.  

    This is a quick recap for this hole.  I put 2 balls in the water... took my maximum score and sat in the cart enjoying the scenery while the rest of the group played the hole.

    +13 through 10

    Hole 11 - Par 4 - 387 Yards -- Handicap Hole 6

    This is another fairly straightforward hole.  I made it ugly by yanking my tee shot way left.  It went nowhere, fell down in the trees and forced me to punch out.  I was kind of aggravated at this point... hit a poor 5 iron heavy and short... pitched on to about 12 feet and two-putted for a double.  Not the start to the back nine I was looking for.

    +15 through 11

    Hole 12 - Par 4 - 376 Yards -- Handicap Hole 8

    "Do not try to cut the corner.  I've only seen one person cut the corner in all the time I've been here.  Jason Day blasted a 4 iron up over the trees.  To this day, I don't know how he saw that line and decided to take it but it was the best shot I've seen on this course.  Ever."

    Okay then, Randy.  I hit about as good a shot as I could there.  I nice little fade that started up the left side of the fairway and peeled back to the center and bent around the corner of the left-to-right dogleg.  I was left with about 130 yards to the pin.  Again, I took more club because I'd been coming up short... and again, I pushed it out to the right.  I got very aggressive with my chip and it rolled 23 feet beyond the hole and led to a bogey, wasting a perfect tee shot.

    I'm definitely not Jason Day.

    +16 through 12

    Hole 13 - Par 4 - 339 Yards -- Handicap Hole 10

    "You cannot be on the left side of this fairway and have any look at the green.  Stay out to the right.  Less than driver.  If you listen to anything I've said today... make it be this.  Do not go left."

    Oh Randy... you're faith in my ability to control where the ball goes is almost amusing.  Less than driver... breeze into my face... no control with my 3 wood.  Hybrid it is.  I struck it like crap... but it stayed to the right side of the fairway.  I landed in the rough right next to a sprinkler head.  Good thing because my lie was garbage.  After a drop for relief from the sprinkler head... I was left with 155 yards or so to the flag.  Here comes Randy...

    "Long.  Do NOT be short."

    Yes sir.  Extra club... perfect flight... lands past the flag... and over the back of the green.  

    "Good.  You'll get up & down from there way easier than from that front bunker."

    My chip checked in a hurry and stopped 15 feet from the hole.  I never gave it a shot and tapped in for a bogey.  

    +17 through 13

    Hole 14 - Par 3 - 148 Yards -- Handicap Hole 18

    This is THE hole I was most looking forward to.  I'd seen it so many times on TV.  I'd played it in video games.  I just couldn't wait to get here.

    "Don't dunk it."  C'mon Randy... you're better than that!  Don't do that to me.  

    The bottom edge of my 9 iron struck the ball firmly in the equator.  The ball never got higher than my shin.  It screamed over the green into a spot that Randy said he'd never seen anybody ever play from.  Well... you're welcome for the memory, Randy.  

    Dead from where I was... I had to close my eyes because I had twigs from the trees I was under poking at them.  I hacked a wedge out of the trees but short of the green.  I then chipped to about 5 feet and made that putt for bogey.  Certainly could have gone way worse than that, but... I wanted a par at that hole.  

    Stupid golf.  

    +18 through 14

    Hole 15 - Par 5 - 541 Yards -- Handicap Hole 4

    Last par 5 of the day.  Gotta make it a good one.  Swing hard!  Wait... scratch that... that's a bad idea.  

    I did it anyway... and pulled it into the trees again.  Punch out... attempt to hit a low, swooping draw that hangs up in the rough... push an 8 iron way right of the green... flub the pitch... blade the next one over the green... chip to 6 feet... one hand it in for a triple.  

    That's my blueprint for most par 5 holes anyway.

    +21 through 15

    Hole 16 - Par 4 - 361 Yards -- Handicap Hole 14

    "The tree straight ahead is in the middle of the fairway.  There's room to either side of it.  Left of it brings the bunker into play.  Right of it just makes the approach slightly longer, but it's a short hole."

    See... THIS is the type of information I'd love to have had throughout the day, Randy!  Tell me what my target is.  Inform me what my options are and the risks and/or rewards to each option... then let me choose.  

    I hit a poor driver at the tree that faded just to the right and went into the rough, but I was left with 145 yards or so to the green with nothing in the way.  Simple game!  My 8 iron hit the green (although it was 50 feet from the hole) and I finally had my first (and only) green in regulation on the day.  An awful putt left me 7 feet and I missed that for my only three-putt of the day.  Bogey.  Dang!

    +22 through 16

    Hole 17 - Par 3 - 159 Yards -- Handicap Hole 16

    Wow.  Just... wow.  I've played a lot of golf holes.  I've played in the mountains... at the beach... in the Caribbean.  Without a doubt, this is the prettiest hole I've played so far.  It was a gorgeous day... blue skies with a few clouds.  The view was just spectacular.  The struggle throughout the round was worth this view.  The $300+ greens fee was worth this view.  Everything was perfect here.  

    I was too distracted to care that I flared another 7 iron short and right of the green.  My pitch checked up quickly again and I needed 2 putts from 18 feet for another bogey.  

    I didn't care.  What a golf hole.

    +23 through 17

    Hole 18 - Par 4 - 414 Yards -- Handicap Hole 2

    This hole is the one every golfer knows.  Calibogue Sound all along the left side of the hole.  The iconic light house in the distance beyond the green.  The reeds between the tee and the fairway... and then again between the fairway and the green.  The mile-wide fairway.  It was picture time.  Randy took photos for everybody on the tee and then said he'd do the same on the green when we finished up.  

    "It's a little down wind.  The fairway is there.  Just... hit it."

    Indeed.  My final drive of the day was my best drive of the day.  I couldn't find trouble unless I hit the ball 50+ yards offline in either direction.  Swing away!  Right down the middle.  Second longest drive of the day.  I smiled... picked up my tee... breathed a sigh of relief... and hugged my wife for giving me this opportunity.  

    Once to the ball, I still had 182 to the hole.  All carry over the reeds.  I hadn't missed an iron shot left all day so the water wasn't in play.  Start the ball at the flag... let it peel off to the right.  Tons of room over that way.  Easy 5 iron... and I pull hooked it into Calibogue Sound.  I dropped where I crossed... hit a wedge to about 13 feet... left the bogey putt short and tapped in to finish out my day.

    +25 through 18

    After we had all finished up and looked back down the fairway... it was again time for pictures.  The dad and his sons in front of the lighthouse.  Then my wife and I with the lighthouse in the background and the Harbour Town flag flapping in the breeze.  All this in a few minutes over 4 hours.  

    It was awesome.  I played like garbage... but I didn't care.  I was just happy to have had the experience.  My wife went above and beyond to get me there.  I knew I'd play there eventually... but to have it happen unexpectedly made it all even more memorable.

    As far as single rounds go... it was the most money I'd ever played for one round.  It was worth every penny.  Randy was awesome.  Great stories throughout.  Laughed with us (and at us when we hit poor shots).  He talked a little smack... told us about himself... inquired about our lives... and overall, just added an extra fun element to the round.  It was like having a golfing buddy there as a caddie.  

    My wife took a bunch of pictures throughout the round.  She and I laughed together about my bad shots (and there were plenty).  We took in the scenery.  We enjoyed the jokes in the group and had a good time.  

    After the round, I went into the locker room to clean up a little.  It was also amazing.  In addition to the lockers and typical showers... there was an entire lounge upstairs with a phenomenal view.  Down in the pro-shop, my wife bought me a polo and she bough herself a travel mug to add to her collection.  We headed out... collected the girls from the hotel... went back to Sea Pines to walk around a bit and then took the 4 hour drive back home.  

    Where The Ocean Course at Kiawah was a 10 round fight for me... Harbour Town was like a Sunday drive. 

    The rumors are true.  It's a tight course... but if you've got control of your ball, it's not that bad.  The rough isn't overly thick (supposedly because they want you further penalized by rolling through the rough and into the trees & waste areas).  The greens are as small as they claim.  I wasn't playing well, but I hit only 1 green in regulation.  I average about 6-7 when I play.  

    I'm looking forward to going back when my game is a little sharper.  Until the next one...

    CY  

  17. 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. 

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    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?

     

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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.

    Specifications

    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:

     Iron

     Loft

     Lie

     Offset

     Bounce

     Length

     SwingW

     3

     19° 

    60.5

     4.9 mm

     0.0

     38.75”

     D2

     4

     21°

     61.0

     4.4 mm

     0.5

     38.25”

     D2

     5 

     24°

     61.5

     3.9 mm 

     1.5

     37.75” 

     D2

     6

     28°

     62.0

     3.4 mm

     2.5

     37.25”

     D2

     7

     32°

     62.5

     3.0 mm

     3.5

     36.75”

     D2

     8

     36°

     63.0

     2.6 mm

     4.5

     36.25”

     D2

     9

     41°

     63.5

     2.3 mm

     5.5

     35.75”

     D2

     PW

     46°

     64.0

     2.0 mm

     7.0

     35.50”

     D2.5

     AW

     51°

     64.0

     1.6 mm

     8.0

     35.50”

     D2.5

     SW

     56°

     64.0

     1.0 mm

     8.0

     35.25”

     D4.5

    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:

    9c5b3791_SLDR4_CTaper.gif

     

     KBS Tour Shaft

     Flex

     Weight   (grams)

     Trajectory

    Torque

     

     C-Taper Lite*

    R

     105

     Mid-High

    2.2

     

    S

    110

    Mid

    2.1

     C-Taper 90 

    R

     94

     Mid

    2.0

     

    S

     95

    Mid

    1.9

    Tour 90*

    R

     95

    High

    2.5

     

    S

     102

    Mid-High

    2.3

    * 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

    825cf431_SLDR2_Pocket.gif

     

    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.

    1da42f08_SLDR3_LSirons.gif

    ThruSlot appears on irons 3 through 7 only.

    Performance

    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.

    ab36c4da_SLDR6_Views.gif

    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.

    Esthetics

    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.

    97088fda_SLDR5_3Faces.gif

     

    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.

    Conclusion

    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.

  18. 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...

  19.  

    We're in that special hell of rules controversies with the implementation of the new Rules of Golf. There have been some growing pains with the new rules, and that has allowed the golf media to tee off on its favorite target, the USGA. Which, to be fair, can make itself an easy target:

    Quote

    “From my perspective, I would say by and large they’ve been a huge success,” Davis said.

    https://www.golfdigest.com/story/despite-harsh-words-from-some-tour-pros-usga-pleased-with-roll-out-of-new-rules-of-golf.

    That aside, I wanted to talk about the "controversy" about the knee-height drop that the Rules now require. Rickie Fowler got a one stroke penalty for dropping from shoulder height this past weekend. Cue the complaining from him:

    Quote

    “I think, with the new rules that have been put in place, it’s not doing any favors for our sport. I think it will definitely be changed,” he said. “We have been making fun of the knee drop for so long that it was ingrained the first time I took a drop this year. Like, ‘This is an iconic moment. I get to drop from my knee and look stupid.’ So, no, like I said, it was on me, but I think it’s a terrible change.”

    https://golfweek.com/2019/02/22/rickie-fowler-hit-with-one-shot-penalty-for-illegal-drop-at-wgc-mexico-championship/

    I can forgive him - he just had a brain fart, probably didn't gain an advantage in this situation, it cost him money. I'm always annoyed when I get a penalty, personally, and it's absolutely never my fault, okay?

    But cue the pearl clutching from the media:

    Quote

    3. Rickie Fowler was the first high-profile player to be dinged for the new drop rule when he hit a shot OB in Mexico and then dropped from shoulder height — only to be penalized an additional stroke because he didn’t drop from the new knee-height level. Fowler described the new rule as a “terrible change,” echoing the sentiments of several others pros who have spoken about the new dropping procedure. Should pros just quit their moaning and adapt, or do they have a point here?

    Dethier: Yeah, this one’s dumb. There was no real need for the knee-height thing in the first place, but if the goal is for more lenient rules, let’s make it a strike zone, knee-high and up. Then we’d be able to stop talking about it.

    Sens: I don’t mind knee-height as the low bar, and none of this stuff is all that tough to understand. But Dylan’s right. Penalizing for a higher drop is beyond ridiculous.

    Ritter: Oh, pros are free to moan away. Their livelihoods depend on these rules. Many of the new rules are simpler and a clear improvement. The knee-high drop is a miss, though.

    Bamberger: It looks ridiculous, just as dropping blind and over the shoulder looked ridiculous. The rule should be amended, knee-height to shoulder height.

    https://www.golf.com/news/2019/02/25/backstopping-pro-tours-under-policed/

    I'm here to tell you that this is wrong, and knee-height drops actually make a ton of sense.

    One of the best things the new Rules do is simplify dropping. Now, all you have to do when dropping is land the ball in the relief area (without touching you or your equipment before hitting the ground) and ensure the ball comes to rest in the relief area. If you don't do this, you have to redrop. Pretty simple. Yes, you have to figure out what your relief area is, but that's pretty simple, too. (For a fuller explanation of this, see Rule 14 and the definitions in the Rules of Golf.)

    The old rules were much more complex. Specifically, if your ball rolled to one of 9 areas after you dropped it, you had to redrop. For example, if your ball rolled more than 2 club lengths away from where your ball hit the ground, you had to redrop. You had to know all of these 9 areas to know if you needed to redrop or not.

    So, the new way is simpler, right? Instead of learning 9 different triggers for a redrop, you only have to learn 1. Great!

    Why am I talking about when you have to redrop? This is why we're dropping from knee height. Generally, under the new Rules, your ball cannot go as far after hitting the ground as it used to without triggering a redrop. Dropping from knee height reduces the chance that a redrop will be necessary. It also means that a ball has less of a chance of embedding in sand when you drop it. It makes a ton of sense, really.

    Now, you might say, that's all fine, but why not allow dropping a ball from anywhere above knee height? I think you could easily game the rules to be able to place the ball when you really want to by simply dropping from shoulder height instead of knee height. Think about dropping on a side slope, for example. You're much more likely to have to redrop and place if you drop the ball from a higher point. Sure, this is rare, but why take the chance?

    We're all on the same page, right? Knee-height drops make a lot of sense.

    (If you want to know more about the changes to dropping, this is an excellent article that talks about this in a bit more detail: https://rulesgeeks.com/2018/12/30-days-of-2019-rules-changes-day-16-procedure-for-dropping-a-ball-in-playing-it-from-a-relief-area/)

    Now to the point of all of this: golf media, please take 5 minutes to understand the rule before issuing a HAWT TAKE about the rule. The USGA has a one page sheet that explains the rule: http://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/new-procedure-for-dropping-a-ball.html. You don't come off very well when you fail to read that. I know it's fun and easy to just mindlessly bash the USGA, but they do get things right. This is one of them.

    (Oh and by the way, the Rules are actually really good, as a whole. Maybe I'll talk about that in another post later.)

  20. “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:

    https://www.single-length-irons-guy.com/golf-scholarship/

    golf-scholarship.jpg

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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...

    Gambling.

    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.

    Nothing else.

    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?

    Certainly not!

    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?

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    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!

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    I wanted to put together a series of golf tips and strategies to help the Average Joe better enjoy this crazy game we all love. A large part of this blog is going to be short tips like "How to Get Rid of Shanks" or "Stop Picking Your Head Up," but occasionally I will write some longer articles as well.

    So to kick off this series, here's a tip that helps keep your score down that even I sometimes forget: don't take penalties. Generally speaking, penalties are strokes that inflate your score without helping you score any better. I know it may seem tempting to hit a big drive OOB and get another shot at it, but you're almost always better off just hitting a good shot the first time. The same goes for water hazards - stay out of them, no matter how dirty your ball may have gotten over the course of a round. Chances are, you're not going to be able to retrieve your newly washed ball anyway. Save yourself some extra strokes and wash your ball at the ball washer which many courses have at the tee box. Your scorecard and your wallet with thank you later.

    That's my first tip, hopefully of many. Any comments or questions, please leave them below. And if you liked this post, please give it a thumbs up and subscribe.



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