Saturday, August 8, 2009

Don't be a Tin Cup

If you haven't seen the movie Tin Cup yet (and if you like golf movies you should see it), then be aware I'll be discussing the climactic scene forthwith so let this function as the official --SPOILER ALERT--

Ok, now that that's out of the way, I want to talk about Tin Cup which was on the Golf Channel the other night ("movies that make the cut") so I had to watch. If you recall (assuming you've seen it), the movie features Kevin Costner nicknamed "Tin Cup" as the washed up pro of a run down driving range, and Rene Russo as the love interest, not to mention Don Johnson as the PGA tour player and Cheech Marin as Costner's side kick and caddie.

Let me get to the point, "Tin Cup" blew it. Sure he got the girl in the end, sure maybe he'll go down in history as the only person to try to hit the same shot like 6 times and eventually hole out with a score of 12 on the last hole of the US Open. But let's face it, he had a chance to win and he let himself get in the way.

The climatic scene has Costner, who qualified (on a whim pretty much), at the US Open on the 18th hole tied for the lead with Peter Jacobson. He hits his drive in the fairway and has like 250+ to the hole for his second shot, with water in front of the green. He's been in the same situation for each of the 3 preceding days of the tournament, and each day he's hit it into the water from about that position.

So what does he do? He goes for it, he goes for the green. Now that I can live with actually. I mean its stupid, but I can live with it. Even "Molly" (Rene Russo) told him to go for it. He needs birdie to win the US open, but he wants eagle or a chance at it. So he hits the shot, ball makes it to the green but then rolls back and falls into the water.

Ok, good try, he made a bad choice, but he can still win the US Open for gods sake. How? By just dropping a ball right near the green (since the ball landed on the green and rolled back, he'll be able to drop right near the water on the side closest to the green), and either chipping it in for the win, or chipping it and 1 putting to tie, which would force a playoff (18 hole playoff). Worst case he probably finishes second in the US Open.

But he doesn't take that option, instead he elects to hit the same shot over and over because he's convinced its a shot he can make. He finally hits the shot perfectly (I think on his 6th try) and it goes in the hole from 250 yards.

Look, sometimes you have to go for it, because that's just the way you do things. Phil Mickleson made similar mistakes in the 2006 Open where he blew a 1 shot lead by using driver off the tee (which was giving him trouble all week) and then trying to hit the miracle shot to the green around trees after his tee shot went way way left. He lost the US Open, but at least tied for second.

If your nature is to take a chance, well by all means, who am I to stop you. But if it doesn't work out, and you want to try try again, do it in the next tournament or in a practice round. The point is, we can all do amazing things, we just don't always do them when we want to or need to. Hitting it perfectly after 6 tries doesn't prove much. Practice so that you can hit it right that first time.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Different Game : Travelers Championship 2009

"These guys are playing a different game than the rest of us", that was my thought to myself as I watched Anthony Kim and Hunter Mahan make their way through the Traveler's championship this past Sunday in Cromwell,CT. By "the rest of us" of course I mean any amateur golfer with a normal handicap.

If you've never seen a PGA event live, I strongly recommend it. You have a lot of freedom as a spectator to wander around, follow any group of golfer's you want, or just find a spot (18th hole is popular) and watch everyone come through or finish.

As a golfer, its great to see these guys swing the club up close. You can often get within 6 feet of a player, the spectator crowds are spread out enough (18 holes, fairway's, tee boxes, greens, concession stands) that you can usually get a good view. You can get up close on the tee box pretty easily, or move down the fairway before they tee off and try to predict where it will land.

I followed Anthony Kim and Hunter Mahan most of the way through the course. Even though Kenny Perry had the lead, I was hoping Mahan (who's done very well on this course in the past) would mount a charge and we could have a dramatic finish. Also I wanted to see Kim play. Plus Perry and Goydos (his partner that day, and who was also in contention at the start of Sunday) have swings I'm not really trying to emulate. Perry has a funny way of taking the club back (from what I've heard its due to an injury earlier in his life) and Goydos has sort of a quick swing that I felt I couldn't learn much from.

I got to see Anthony Kim play some great shots from tough positions. Check out what he did on the 10th hole:

His tee shot went off to the right and landed in the rough. What the picture doesn't show is that there are trees lining that side of the hole. He had 2 options, 1 hit it straight (the way the yellow line looks between 1 and 2) which would mean going right through a small opening between a few trees, or try to "hit a cut" shot around a tree and get the ball to come back to the right. As Anthony put it to his caddy (yes I was that close), "I have 2 options and I don't like either of them". Then a few seconds later "what do you think of the cut?", Caddy: "I like the cut". And so that's what he did. His ball basically followed the red line I added to the picture, lands it just short of the green, then a chip and a put and makes par. Incredible.

The 13th was a similar situation:
Except this time he hit it to the left of the fairway off the tee. Again, shottracker doesn't show the trees he was faced with nor the line the ball actually flew. This time Anthony played a draw shot, making the ball go right to left. The red line I added shows the approximate actual ball path. Landed it just short of the green, chip and a put for birdie. Unbelieveable.

Anyway, Perry ends up winning, Mahan tied for second, Kim tied for 11th. All in all a nice day.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Rip apart your Speed Stik !!!

For those of you who got sucked into Vijay's commercial or just thought it looked like a good idea, I have a suggestion for you. Take it apart! I'm talking about the Speed Stik here, and I took mine apart the other day because I wanted something better. I'll show you what I did here, and frankly I think you should do the same.

First some background. The Speed Stik as you may know is a golf training aid designed to teach/train you to swing the club faster (and therefore hit balls longer). That's great, really, just what I wanted.

But there's a few problems. One is the Speed Stik looks more like a baseball bat than a golf club (by the way the same company does make a version just for baseball). Next there is the grip, which is nothing like a golf club grip (wrong diameter, wrong material, no taper). Finally there is the weight (comes in 4 different weights, but I have the 24oz one).

Ok, so what's the problem with all of those things? Well 2 big complaints really.

1) The grip throws me off, and makes holding a real club feel weird (never something I want to feel when on the course). After all you can't even hold the Speed Stik with a golf grip, you have to use a baseball grip.

2) Ok this is sort of a biggie. I think its dangerous. And I'm not saying that because you'll hit something or someone while practicing with it. I'm saying it because I think its bad for your back, at least it was for mine. After all, this thing weighs more than a traditional driver, and then encourages you to swing as fast as you possibly can. The combination of those means that you will end up swinging a heavier than usual club at a higher speed than your body is used to. Recipe for injury? I think so. I stopped using mine after a nice fast swing left me with a nice twinge in my spine after I undoubtedly over rotated (due to the speed and weight) on the follow through.

So my back recovered, and I just sort of let the Speed Stik lie around for a while. But then I got to thinking, maybe there is a way to fix all of the problems with the Speed Stik.

The Speed Stik is based on Patent 4967596 which is the swing velocity indicator inside it. If you look at the orignal patent images, you'll see that the inventors (John F. Rilling et al) had envisioned that the device be attached to a real golf club. So I decided to do just that.

To do it, I had to break out my hack saw and start cutting up my not so beloved Speed Stik. Now I can't say that you'll be able to replicate this procedure exactly. It took me a bit of doing, and I was constantly nervous of breaking or cutting into the speed indicator. So you'll have to be a bit daring and definitely don't do this if you actually like your Speed Stik and plan to use it again.

To extract the swing speed indicator (measurements are for the red 48" Speed Stik only):
1) cut through your Speed Stik at about 41.25 inches from the bottom of the handle (should be 6.75" from top end).
2) Take the small part (with the speed indicator in it) and cut through that at about 3/4 inches from the end (not the end you just cut).
3) Use cunning and guile to extract the indicator from the remaining metal housing.
4) Use a small allen wrench to loosen the set screw holding the aluminum fitting on the the end of the indicator (actually I never did this cause I couldn't find my wrench set).

That should do it. Note that there are a couple of screws on the Speed Stik at the far end, that I had no luck in loosening. So I basically hacked through the thing such that I really cut right through the screws themselves. Maybe you'll have better luck or can figure out a more graceful way to pull this off.

If you make a mistake and cut through part of the indicator you still may be able to fix it (actually I cut off part of the bottom of the indicator and had to re-glue it, measurements above were adjusted to help you avoid that problem).

Next step, attach your liberated speed indicator to one of your golf clubs (while this part shouldn't really harm your club, you might want to pick one that you don't use as much. It might get a scratch or two). You can do this using: 2 cable ties, and some foam padding.

That's it!! Now if you were successful like me, you can swing a real golf club, still get your speed feedback and not have to worry about swinging a weighted club too fast and throwing out your back. I've been practicing with mine for a few weeks now indoors. I can't tell you if you can hit balls with it or not, since its still winter here. I might give it a try in the Spring though.

Good luck and happy swinging.